President Obama announced on October 21st that nearly all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year (though a substantial force of diplomats and mercenaries are staying behind). It’s an opportune moment to look back on the conflict and the exceptional feature length journalism produced by those covering it.
The pieces collected below include profiles of individual soldiers, big think attempts to wrap our brains around the whole conflict, and everything in between. The authors include Mark Bowden, Evan Wright, Samantha Power, Seymour Hersh, C.J. Chivers, George Packer, William Langewiesche, and many other talents besides — James Fallows, for example, who is just one of the writers who tried to articulate how future generations will think of the president who started the conflict. “Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis” he wrote. “This is particularly true of what have proved to be the harshest realities for the United States since the fall of Baghdad: that occupying the country is much more difficult than conquering it; that a breakdown in public order can jeopardize every other goal; that the ambition of patiently nurturing a new democracy is at odds with the desire to turn control over to the Iraqis quickly and get U.S. troops out; that the Sunni center of the country is the main security problem; that with each passing day Americans risk being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers, and targets.”
Fallows added that “all this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack. Even now the collective efforts at planning by the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marine Corps, the United States Agency for International Development, and a wide variety of other groups inside and outside the government are underappreciated by the public. The one pre-war effort that has received substantial recent attention, the State Department’s Future of Iraq project, produced thousands of pages of findings, barely one paragraph of which has until now been quoted in the press. The Administration will be admired in retrospect for how much knowledge it created about the challenge it was taking on. U.S. government predictions about postwar Iraq’s problems have proved as accurate as the assessments of pre-war Iraq’s strategic threat have proved flawed. But the Administration will be condemned for what it did with what was known.” Don’t miss the rest of that piece, “Blind into Baghdad,” or the other stellar articles collected below.
All of the articles mentioned are at the link.