As the 20 year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq approaches, it is important to revisit the war and its consequences - which continue to resonate today - suggests DPIR Academic and Director of the Oxford Martin School's Changing Global Orders programme, Professor Louise Fawcett.
Aside from the devastating consequences for Iraq itself, the War and subsequent occupation (March 2003 to December 2011) has transformed the region’s balance of power around a Saudi-Iran rivalry. It also produced new international alignments, characterised by a diminution of US power and influence and corresponding rise in the influence of Russia and China.
“Just as there can be no return to the ‘old’ Iraq, there can be no return to the old regional order, and the Iraq War had a decisive role to play in enduring this,” she writes.
While the war is not responsible for all the changes and instability that has taken place in the region, Professor Fawcett’s research illustrates how the war sparked off processes which have directly contributed to the current and highly volatile regional and international order:
Firstly - by reproducing a weak or ‘failed’ Iraqi state, alongside widespread instability, sectarian violence and external interventions - the war, combined with the effects of the later Arab uprisings, has contributed to a new and highly unstable balance of power, characterised by the Saudi-Iran rivalry and its related alliances.
Second, the war’s devastating cost and controversial reputation have diminished western nations’ appetites for ‘liberal’ interventions and has challenged their legitimacy. This vacuum has created opportunities for actors like Russia and China, who have forged new military, scientific and economic links across the region over the last two decades.
“Given the war’s consequences for the region and wider world, it would appear that the estimated six to ten million protesters who took place in the historic anti-war marches globally in February 2003, were ‘on the right side’ of history,” Professor Fawcett reflects.
Twenty years on from the invasion of Iraq, she hopes that her research can help policy-makers avoid making similar mistakes. “There are lessons here for policy makers about war decisions, particularly those that are based upon faulty information, poor planning and execution,” she comments.
“An ill-conceived intervention has huge repercussions for any state’s reputation and legitimacy as well as having profound regional and global effects.”
“Given the war’s consequences for the region and wider world, it would appear that the estimated six to ten million protesters who took place in the historic anti-war marches globally in February 2003, were ‘on the right side’ of history.”