[I]t has become all to clear that the fall of Baghdad and Tikrit, and the Coalition victory over Iraq’s conventional forces, did not put an end to the fighting. Instead, the US, Britain, Australia, Poland, and the other allies involved in nation building have found that this process must take place in a climate of low-level asymmetric warfare. As has been the case in Afghanistan, even dramatic military victory does not mean the conflict is over, and has been the case in so many other peacemaking efforts, armed opposition changes and mutates.
[N]o discussion of the lessons of the Iraq War should ignore the continuing value of alliances and foreign bases, and the need for coalition partners. Equally, it should not ignore the value of decades of military relations and engagement with friendly Arab states, and the willingness of those states to support the US even when they sometimes opposed the war or this presented serious problems in terms of domestic political opinion.
It is all too easy for the US to be blinded by the beauty of its weapons and ignore these lessons. Regardless of force transformation and any new way of war, US strength remains dependent on coalitions, even when these are coalitions of the partly willing. To be more specific, the defeat of Iraq also does not justify any negligence in rebuilding the relations that underpin the US alliance with Europe, efforts to strengthen relations with Russia, or efforts to strengthen US ties to the Arab world. As the next chapters discuss, it is all too easy to talk about transforming Iraq and the Middle East, and far more difficult to achieve even moderate success. The success of US arms has not been matched by the success of US diplomacy and nation building not only is not a science, it is not yet an art form.
Stable war fighting outcomes can only be achieved if the country defeated or fought over becomes stable after the war. Put differently, even the best military victory cannot, by itself, win the peace.
This requires both political decision makers, and military planners and commanders, to accept the lesson they must make the same commitment to winning the peace they make to military victory. The only justification for war is the pragmatic result. Simply defeating today’s enemy without creating the conditions for future stability is a near certain recipe for future conflict. As a result, peacekeeping and nation building are even more essential aspects of grand strategic planning by political leaders as for the military.
The U.S. military may be capable of defeating Iraq or other rogue states in war, with or without the assistance of allies. It is less clear that the U.S. can win the peace after war, if it limits its wartime objectives, empowers others with the initiative, or fails to act now to develop the doctrine which would be necessary for success.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.