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Five Military Misadventures: Iraq

The war that left a legacy of death and distrust.

By any standards, the Iraq war is a conflict which has had a huge financial and human cost. British involvement between 2003 and 2009 cost approximately £8.5bn. An estimated 103,253 - 112,824 Iraqi civilians perished in the same period.

Over and above the great human and financial cost, the Iraq war had a further double negative impact on the west: it damaged its reputation and inspired terrrorism the world over. In reporting on the impact of the Iraq war, the London based Institute for Science and International Security concluded that: "risks of terrorism to westerners and western assets in Arab countries appeared to increase after the Iraq war began." It also warned the US and its allies that "reputation, prestige and power can easily be squandered through mismanaged interventions and peacekeeping operations."

What started as a war based on false statements over the existence of Iraqi WMDs was shrouded in protest from the outset, including the million-strong march in London. Described as illegal by many commentators, the war ended up eviscerating Tony Blair's pretensions to the Third-Way.

If anything has been learned from the brutal conflict in Iraq, it is the folly of attempting to forcibly impose democracy. Iraq helps to explain western reticence in committing ground forces in Libya and elsewhere, but many fear the lessons have not truly been taken on board.

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