United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat of New York), left, gives over his notes while joined by /United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat of Connecticut), center, and United States Senator Mazie Hirono (Democrat of Hawaii), right, during the Senate Democrat’s policy luncheon press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. (via Reuters)
Has Congress Learned the Lessons of the Iraq War?

The U.S. intervention in Iraq—one of the most disastrous U.S. foreign-policy decisions of the 20th century—commenced 20 years ago this month. 

The costs of that conflict are still with us. A new report from the Costs of War Project estimates that the wars in Iraq and Syria have cost $3 trillion to date, including both U.S. government spending for waging the war as well as ancillary costs such as taking care of veterans of the conflict and interest on the debt generated by the funding of the war. Nearly 4,600 U.S. servicemembers died, and hundreds of thousands suffered physical or psychological injuries. Most devastating of all is the fact that up to 200,000 Iraqi civilians died as a result of the conflict.

While the ultimate decision to wage the war falls to the foreign policy team of George W. Bush, a majority of members of Congress bear a measure of responsibility for voting to authorize the administration to go to war. As the war dragged on and it became clear that it was not going to be the “cakewalk” that former Reagan administration official Kenneth Adelman famously claimed it would be, a larger core of members of Congress spoke out against the war, and it became an electoral issue in both the 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 presidential vote. But little was done to implement legislative reforms that might prevent the United States from launching such ill-conceived wars in the future.

This failure to take preventive action contrasts sharply with the array of actions taken by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Congress passed reforms like the War Powers Resolution, which requires Congressional authorization of military action within 60 days of a deployment of U.S. troops overseas; the Arms Export Control Act, which for the first time gave Congress the power to veto major arms sales; and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which imposed penalties for bribery in the export of U.S. aircraft and military systems. 

Read the full piece in DefenseOne.

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