John R. Nagl: What America Learned in Iraq

tags: Iraq, NYT, anniversaries, Iraq War, John A. Nagl



John A. Nagl, a retired Army officer and a research professor at the United States Naval Academy, served in both Iraq wars and is the author of “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam.”

THE costs of the second Iraq war, which began 10 years ago this week, are staggering: nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many grievously; tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis wounded or killed; more than $2 trillion in direct government expenditures; and the significant weakening of the major regional counterweight to Iran and consequent strengthening of that country’s position and ambitions. Great powers rarely make national decisions that explode so quickly and completely in their face.

It may seem folly to seek a silver lining among these thunderclouds. But there are three flickers of light that offer some hope that the enormous price was not paid entirely in vain. These coins offer a meager return on our enormous investment, but not collecting them would be an insult to the memory of all that we have lost.

The first lesson is for America’s politicians, from both parties, who pushed our country into a war that we did not need to fight for dubious reasons that were eventually proved false....



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