Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy

The program was made possible by a generous gift from Rita E. Hauser (shown here) and was organized in collaboration with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The war in Iraq is "a supremely serious American initiative whose outcome will have equally serious implications for the ability of the United States to act in the world and influence events in the world in the coming years," said Steven Simon, Council on Foreign Relations Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies, at a recent Council symposium, Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy. Though the symposium's four sessions focused on different facets of U.S. policy affected by the war, speakers continually considered current options for the United States in Iraq. Most participants identified three main choices: immediate U.S. withdrawal, gradual U.S. withdrawal, or the partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions that would then lead to a U.S. exit. But Michael Gordon, the New York Times' chief military correspondent, asked, "Why do you assume we get out?"

Summary Report of Sessions 1-4: Downloadable PDF

More on Iraq

The papers below are preprints of articles whose final and definitive form
has been published in Survival [2006-2007], © The International
Institute for Strategic Studies; the published versions are available at the journal's website.


"American Power and Allied Restraint: Lessons of Iraq"

The assumption that Europeans are culturally inclined to appease our common
enemies coloured many American interpretations of the transatlantic crisis
over Iraq. One problem with these interpretations is that in the decade
leading up to the Iraq invasion, there was more convergence than divergence
in transatlantic attitudes toward humanitarian intervention, the use of
force and, indeed, the regime-changing war in Afghanistan.

American Power and Allied Restraint: Lessons of Iraq (.pdf)


"The Causes of US Failure in Iraq"

Ever since US troops arrived in Baghdad on April 9 2003, Iraqi society has
been dominated by a profound security vacuum. This was created by two
interlinked dynamics that have driven the country towards civil war. The
primary cause of Iraq's problems over the last three and a half years has
been the collapse of state infrastructure in the aftermath of the invasion.
The institutions of the Iraqi state had suffered from three wars since 1980
and over a decade of sanctions, specifically designed to strip them of
capacity. The three weeks of looting across the south and center of the
country in April 2003, pushed them over the edge of sustainability.

The Causes of US Failure in Iraq (.pdf)


"Iraq, Liberal Wars and Illiberal Containment"

This paper considers the potential use of force in the aftermath of Iraq in
terms of the challenge posed to liberal values. While Iraq was discussed in
terms of the familiar tension within liberalism between its pro-justice and
anti-militarism tendencies, this war was uniquely mismanaged in terms of
speculative rationale, inept diplomacy and poor preparation for the
realities of occupation that to say it will not serve as a model for the
future is not to say much. Overstretched forces and diminished
international respect mean that there is a limited capacity for further
operations. Yet it should not be assumed that an "Iraq syndrome" will
develop along the lines of the "Vietnam syndrome" the 2003 war was supposed
to bury.

Iraq, Liberal Wars and Illiberal Containment (.pdf)


"Break Point? Iraq and America's Military Forces"

The Bush Administration came to office with a program to transform the
military. The concept was outlined by George W. Bush in a 1999 speech when
he was still a candidate. Bush endorsed the notion, long-promoted in
conservative defense circles, that the United States faced an historic
possibility to exploit a revolution in military technology, one that would
enable American forces to use precision weapons, advanced reconnaissance
and sophisticated command and control systems to achieve battlefield
success with fewer troops. The long hot summer of 2003, however, taught a
painful strategic lesson.

Break Point? Iraq and America's Military Forces (.pdf)


"The Iraq Experiment and U.S. National Security"

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States faced
an urgent need to address the potentially enormous threats that could arise
in the nexus of rogue states, radical terrorists, and nuclear
proliferation. In response, the Bush Administration adopted a set of bold
(but not novel) ideas that gave prominence to seizing the offensive, regime
change, and preventive war. This approach was believed to represent the
best way of eliminating intolerable or risky threats. The strategy was
actually put to the test in Iraq. How do these ideas look now given the
experience in Iraq?

The Iraq Experiment and U.S. National Security (.pdf)


"The United States and East Asia after Iraq"

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its violent aftermath have had an adverse
impact upon America's geo-strategic position in East Asia, but to date the
consequences have been mitigated by a variety of countervailing factors.
Even though the U.S. army and marines are overstretched due to repeated
deployments, the U.S. military position in Asia rests primarily upon air
and sea power. The ongoing transformation of the U.S. military, realignment
of U.S. military bases and redeployment of forces, and efforts to transform
U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea have arguably increased the U.S.
ability to project power in Asia. America's Asian allies and partners
complain that U.S. leaders are distracted by Iraq and the war on terrorism,
and not devoting sufficient attention to Asia. The Iraq war has had a
negative impact on the U.S. image in Asia, but this has been partially
offset by the efforts of Asian governments to encourage increased U.S.
regional engagement to balance China's growing economic and diplomatic

The United States and East Asia after Iraq (.pdf)


"America and Iraq: The Case for Disengagement"

The United States lacks the military resources and the domestic and
international political support to master the situation in Iraq. Even if the United
States had the abundant ground forces and reconstruction teams necessary,
it is not clear that the situation in Iraq today is retrievable. Washington
has already achieved all that it is likely to achieve in Iraq: the removal
of Saddam, the end of the Ba'athist regime, the elimination of the Iraqi
regional threat, the snuffing out of Iraq's unrequited aspiration to
weapons of mass destruction, and the opening of a door, however narrow, to
a constitutionally-based electoral democracy. Staying in Iraq can only
drive up the price of these gains in blood, treasure, and strategic

America and Iraq: The Case for Disengagement (.pdf)


"An Iraq Syndrome?"

The current American war in Iraq and the American war in Vietnam that ended
three decades ago have disturbing similarities. Both were wars against
ancient cultures alien to American understanding. Both gravely strained
America's relations with traditional allies and provoked political schisms
within American society. Rather than being a traditional power conflict
with a rival state, both were publicly justified as struggles against an
ideology: communism in Vietnam, militant Islamism in Iraq. In the 1970s the
schisms provoked by the war in Asia led to what was labeled a Vietnam
syndrome: a revulsion against colonial peacekeeping, nation-building, and
costly and socially divisive military conflict in distant outposts not
directly related to American security. That syndrome faded during the shock
waves triggered by the terrorist attacks on American soil in 2001. But the
subsequent American invasion of Iraq, the high human and financial toll it
continues to take nearly four years later, and the public controversy over
the justification for the war have eroded domestic support for similar
future military interventions.

An Iraq Syndrome? (.pdf)


"America in Arab Eyes"

The American failure in Iraq has had important consequences on the
distribution of power in the Middle East, on America's relationship with
states in the region, on the shape of Arab coalitions, and on Arab public
opinion more broadly. Coupled with the Lebanon war and the crisis in Gaza,
the Iraq war has revived public support for non-state actors in the region
and reduced public confidence in the existing order.

America in Arab Eyes (.pdf)


Symposium ⁄ New York

Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy: The U.S. and the Middle East (Session 1)


Toby Dodge, Senior Consulting Fellow for the Middle East, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Steven Simon, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, University of Maryland


F. Gregory Gause III, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Vermont
October 6, 2006

This meeting is on the record.


Symposium ⁄ New York

Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy: The U.S., Europe, and Asia (Session 2)


Dana H. Allin, Carol Deane Senior Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Phillip C. Saunders, Senior Research Fellow, National Defense University


Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution
October 6, 2006

This meeting is on the record.


Symposium ⁄ New York

Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy: The Direction of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy After the Intervention in Iraq (Session 3)


Michael R. Gordon, Chief Military Correspondent, New York Times, Ronald Steel, Professor of International Relations and History, University of Southern California


Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
October 6, 2006

This meeting is on the record.


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Symposium ⁄ New York

Iraq's Impact on the Future of U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy: Coping with Rogue States, Failing States, and Proliferators (Session 4)


Lawrence D. Freedman, Professor of War Studies, King's College, London, Steven E. Miller, Director, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University


Richard K. Betts, Adjunct Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 6, 2006

This meeting is on the record.