Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan

Afghan casualties of war

"The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Barack Obama said in 2007.

We must recall that Barack Obama rose to national prominence via his anti-war stance as a senator. But 2 years after being elected as president he is singing a different tune.

In lieu of the Vietnam War, Congress has adopted the War Powers Act to limit the president's ability to commit U.S. forces in the absence of congressional approval. Nonetheless, Obama spearheaded Operation Odyssey dawn following UN Resolution 1973 while failing to seek congressional authorization.

Following the Libyan crisis, UN approved a no-fly zone on a pretext of protecting the civilian population. The resolution contains flight ban all Libyan-designated aircraft, an asset freeze and arms embargo on Libya, a demand for an immediate ceasefire and complete end to all hostilities. However it also authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan. 

On the first day of the no-fly zone alone the Americans fired 122 of 124 cruise missiles launched to destroy the Libyan air defense.

 Obama was resolute in saying that “Gaddafi must go”, though he could not clearly define the end-game for this battle.

The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan that were once advocated by the US President have been easily forgotten.

The mission might have been handed over to NATO, but which nation leads NATO? The United States is running the war, and will continue to do so, Stephen Carter, a professor of Law at Yale University, said. Only this country has the military might and resources to sustain an expensive and protracted war.

 Iraq War

Iraq was blamed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. It was alleged to have possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those were the reason for invading this country in 2003. Saddam Hussein was deposed and eventually executed, but no weapons of mass destruction were found.

But what was the cost of the Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Vice president Dick Cheney said the military effort would take "weeks rather than months". And assistant defence secretary Ken Adelman predicted that "liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk".

The cakewalk has already caused the American people billions of dollars. Cumulative war funding for Iraq from 2001 to 2011 based on reports by Congressional Research Service (CRS) amounts to $802 billion.

More than 4,400 Americans have died as a result of this intervention – more than the 3,000 killed on 9/11. Many have suffered from Post-traumatic stress syndrome, which led to a high mortality from suicide among the Iraq war veterans. On the other hand, over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003", based on the 2008 analysis British polling firm Opinion Research Business.

In 2008, the UNHCR reported an estimate of 4.7 million refugees and 2.7 million internally displaced people.

The violence did not end with the loss of the Hussein regime. Iraqi insurgency, strife between many Sunni and Shia Iraqi groups, and the emergence of a new faction of al-Qaeda in Iraq ensued.

Now, the US-backed Iraq’s new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is following the footsteps of his predecessor, torturing and killing those who fight against his rule. Inspired by the success of the peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest against the policy of Maliki’s government – only to be greeted with bullets.

Life in the new Iraq isn't a whole lot different than life under Saddam.

Afghanistan War

Retired Army Colonel Hy Rothstein, commissioned by The Pentagon to examine the war in Afghanistan concluded the conflict created conditions that have given 'warlordism, banditry and opium production a new lease on life' ...."

The Afghan war started in 2001, 2 years earlier than the Iraq war. Following the September 11 attack, the Taliban government was ordered to turn-over Osama bin-Laden. Failure by the Afghans to comply to the US request prompted Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Taliban regime was ousted as a result of massive airstrikes and ground forces attacks in the first phase of operation. In 2004 Hamid Karzai was elected President by the Afghan people. The US troops still remain in the Afghan soil to this day allegedly to keep peace and security by obliterating the remnants of Al-Qaeda and quelling the Taliban insurgency that emerged shortly after the regime fell in 2001.. Now, on its 10th year, Afghan war is the longest in war in US history.

With 97,000 troops still stationed in Afghanistan, this war costs the United States close to 300 million a day.
Since the invasion started in 2001 based on latest CNN data, the US and coalition forces have sustained a total of 13127 casualties ( 2378 deaths; 10,749 wounded).  

According to Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, up to 20,000 Afghans may have died as a consequence of the first four months of U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan.

In 2010 the United Nations recorded 2,777 civilian deaths, a 15 percent rise in civilian fatalities compared to 2009.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) could well increase from 320,000 in 2010 to 440,000 in 2011. 
The Afghan war shows no sign of abating. It has caused the deaths of US, as well as Afghan government soldiers and thousands of Afghan civilians directly from insurgent and foreign military action. Consequence of the war, such as starvation, displacement, disease, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness could possibly cause more deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan people in the years to come.
Both wars
According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University's Linda Blimes, the combined cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars in the long term might reach roughly $3 trillion, exceeding the cost of the Vietnam War. The Washington Post  noted that the war contributed much to the federal debt, pumped up the oil prices, all of which have crashed the global economy. The current US debt amounts to $ 14.2 trillion.

The death toll in both wars has exceeded the World Trade Center attack 303 times. Furthermore, as per data compiled by the US State Department, more than 130 times as many people have been killed in these wars than in all terrorist attacks in the world from 1993-2004 combined.