As the United States and its European allies launch attacks against the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddhafi, it seems almost poignant that this third military intervention in a Muslim country in the last decade began nearly eight years to the day that the United States invaded Iraq. It is a fitting reminder that even as 50,000 soldiers remain in Iraq, and American soldiers continue to be killed and maimed there, the lessons of that disastrous decision to go to war remain largely unlearned by many in the foreign policy community.
At the outset it’s important to acknowledge the key differences in the manner in which these interventions have been undertaken and the differing levels of international and regional legitimacy that they possess. But it is the similarities that are more disquieting. The U.S. has yet again become involved in a military effort of indeterminate length, justified through a questionable definition of national interest and with little forethought to the long-term consequences of utilizing military force. It seems the costs and consequences of Iraq have simply not been fully appreciated by policymakers and pundits. A full accounting is therefore in order.
The above excerpt was originally published in Foreign Policy.
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