US soldiers take oath to the US army on an Iraqi destroyed tank in Iraq Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Lessons from the Iraq War After 15 Years

In the 15 years since former US President George Bush launched the Iraq War, the Middle East has been wracked by turmoil, and America's standing as the post-Cold War era's benevolent hegemon has been irreversibly eroded. Are US policymakers about to repeat this tragedy of errors?

MADRID – It has been exactly 15 years since the start of one of the most fateful episodes of the early twenty-first century: the Iraq War. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde famously declared, “Nous sommes tous Américains” (“We are all Americans”), and even predicted that Russia would become America’s main ally. But US President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 blew that prospect to smithereens.

We now know that the war, in addition to causing many of the Middle East’s current troubles, marked the beginning of the end of America’s post-Cold War hegemony. We also know that, though it was sold as part of the “war on terror,” the groundwork for the invasion had been laid well before 9/11.

As early as January 1998, the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC) sent a letter to then-President Bill Clinton urging him to topple Saddam Hussein. And, after winning the presidency in 2000, Bush declared Iraq one of his top two security priorities. Not coincidentally, Bush’s administration included ten of the 25 signatories of the PNAC founding statement of principles, including Dick Cheney as vice president and Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.

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