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Friday, November 07, 2008

Iraq War scorecard

empezando a pelear by bdebaca from flickr (CC-NC-SA)
The Iraq War isn't over yet. Wars in the Middle East have nasty tendency of being long, bloody, and reigniting long after everybody thought they're done. However I would be really surprised if anyone moved between the losers and winners part of the scorecard. So let's go.


  • Saddam Hussein and Baath Party - before the war they had a safe grip on a failed country. If they could somehow get the world to add enough loopholes to the sanctions that would be plenty of money and power. Now they're all dead or broke and powerless.
  • American economy - war spending so far has been $550 billion, with new $12 billion being spent every month. That's not even close to the total cost, as the war is fought on borrowed money. According to study by Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz total cost of war in Iraq together with interest is around $3 trillion. That's $10,000 per person or over four Wall Street bailouts. This massive debt was undoubtedly one of the main triggers of financial system collapse and global recession, and is massively larger than subprime mortgages and other small failures. It wasn't the first war that bankrupted a country, and it won't be the last one.
  • George Bush and Republican Party - before failures in Iraq and economic collapse caused by this and other economic failures (massive deficits, irresponsible deregulation, procyclical monetary policy) nothing even suggested they were heading towards their greatest electoral failure ever. In spite of four years of Bush 2004 elections were a huge success and Democratic Party wasn't able to offer any attractive alternative to the voters. If it wasn't for failures in Iraq and resulting economic collapse Republican Party would most likely still be in power.
  • People of Iraq - political rights improved, as Iraqis can now vote (along tribal and religious lines) and have access to independent media, but that's small conciliation for death of 650,000 - 1,200,000 people, 4,700,000 people losing their homes, religious persecution of minorities, gays, women, people from the wrong tribe, and everybody with bad luck.
  • United States of America - the war crushed their economy, proved their military completely incapable of running a successful occupation (but very capable of destroying conventional army in a conventional war), and completely ruined their reputation and international standing. Americans don't understand the soft power, but EU managed to annex Central Europe this way, and Chinese are going to use it to build their global dominance.


All enemies of America were big winners of the war.
  • Iran - it's always nice to see your two biggest enemies - Saddam Hussein and USA - butchering each other. Religious Shiite government of Iraq is rather friendly towards Iran, and after USA got burned they lost a lot of power and influence in the Middle East. Other world powers like EU, China, India and Russia are much more friendly to Iran than USA was, so multipolar world is definitely in Iranian best interest. It's quite likely now that the new American administration will pursue normalization.
  • China - they never had any interest in Middle East, but weakening American economy is essential to them if they want to take over as the global superpower. According to IMF Chinese economy is about half as big as American economy. That's less than a decade at their current growth rate. Most modern empires started this way - economy and soft power first, military to back it up later.
  • Russia - was in truly dismal shape before the war. It was uplifted primarily by drastically higher prices of oil and other commodities, but it would never get the balls to invade a sovereign country allied with USA if American power wasn't as completely broken as it is now.
  • Islamists - secular Baathist government of Iraq was very hostile towards religion, now Islamists dictate how people live in Iraq. They're also been a resurgence of Islamism in other countries in the region, like Lebanon and Pakistan. Not much, but it reverses past trend of secularization, and from purely demographic perspective if secularists cannot convince religious people to join them, they're going to lose big.
  • Taliban - they almost collapsed after invasion of Afghanistan, but then somehow American focus got split, and crushing defeat turned into a lasting guerilla warfare in two countries. It's not a Taliban victory yet, but they might very well at least get into a power sharing agreement with current Afghani government, and get control over Sharia courts in exchange for leaving politics to others or something like that.
  • North Korea - they got a fucking nuke while Americans were busy. That's a country with economic power (PPP) similar to Luxembourg (city of less than half million people). Only part of it can be blamed on Iraqi War, but it certainly didn't help.


  • Europe - Europeans participated in the war half-heartedly out of goodwill left from the Clinton era, sending some troops to the safest regions and trying to avoid casualties. Not only did they suffer military loses and financial costs, Americans proved they cannot even be relied as allies when they failed to protect Georgia against Russian aggression. On the other hand their loses were rather minor.
  • Israeli government - one the one hand they got rid of Saddam Hussein without paying the price. On the other hand the price was paid by their main ally USA which in future might be much less willing and able to intervene in Israeli interests. During this time Israel also lost a war against Hezbollah big way, resulting in major humiliation but no lasting damage and their PR in the region has never been good anyway.
Thinking about what various sides actually got out of the war is much more meaningful than babbling about military victories and propaganda political goals. The best example is the Second World War which was won by Stalin big way in spite of tens of millions deaths, and British Empire was a bankrupted loser in spite of not suffering too much in human or military terms. I also haven't listed Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, because on global scale they're about as relevant as trolls from /b/.