The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making
Examine key strategic decisions during one of the most dynamic confrontations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the U.S. and Iraq.
The emergence of ISIS is not the first time American policymakers have been taken by surprise by events in Iraq. Nor is this the first time that leaders in Washington have suddenly been forced to choose from a menu of seemingly bad options in response to a crisis unfolding there, with uncertain but potentially far-reaching consequences for American national security.
In fact, the United States has been militarily engaged in Iraq—in one form or another—for nearly a quarter-century. This is already more than half the length of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which ran from the late 1940s until the early 1990s.
Of course, few would claim that America’s battles in and with Iraq have defined U.S. foreign policy in the way that our “long twilight struggle” with Soviet communism did. Yet at the same time, seldom has a single country had such a disproportionate and defining impact on our engagement in the world, how we think about our foreign policy, and how others think about it.
Fundamentally, our purpose will be to examine how the United States—over a succession of four very different presidents—grappled with the challenges presented by Iraq, the decisions and strategies our leaders formulated in response to these challenges, and what then happened as they attempted to carry them out. In the course of doing so, we will hopefully come to learn a bit about how the U.S. government works (and how it doesn’t work), how U.S. foreign policy gets made (and unmade), and what the experience of foreign policy decision-making is like.
Our approach will be chronological—proceeding from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 through the present day and the crisis now unfolding.
Image courtesy U.S. Army
Vance Serchuk is Executive Director of the KKR Global Institute and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Prior to joining KKR, Mr. Serchuk served for six years as the senior national security advisor to Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut).
Vance Serchuk is Executive Director of the KKR Global Institute and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Prior to joining KKR, Mr. Serchuk served for six years as the senior national security advisor to Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut). In this capacity, he worked on a broad range of international issues, including comprehensive sanctions legislation, the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, and the U.S. response to the Arab Spring, traveling to over 60 countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
From January to July 2013, he was a Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi International Affairs Fellow, based in Japan, and a regular columnist for the Washington Post. His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Serchuk is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, and was a Fulbright scholar in the Russian Federation.
Explore major intellectual discussions underpinning the Salafi-jihadist ideology of al Qaeda and ISIS.
Consider the strategic options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
Understand the Arab Spring and how, together with its aftermath, it has changed American priorities and strategies.
Learn the theory, practice, organization, and control of war and military forces.
Lewis Libby is Senior Vice President of Hudson Institute. Before joining Hudson, Libby held several high level positions in the federal government related to his current work on national security and homeland security affairs.
Paul Wolfowitz is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He spent more than three decades in public service and higher education. Most recently, he served as president of the World Bank and deputy secretary of defense.
John R. Allen
John R. Allen is President of the Brookings Institution and a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general. He previously served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
James M. Dubik
LTG James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.) is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and a Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. General Dubik has extensive operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Bosnia, Haiti, Panama, and in many NATO countries.
Frederick W. Kagan
Frederick W. Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program at the Institute for the Study of War. The author of the 2007 report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” he is one of the intellectual architects of the successful “surge” strategy in Iraq. He is the director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project.
Kimberly Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program and founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. She is a military historian who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale, Georgetown, and American University.
Michael Doran, an expert in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, radical Islam, and the Arab- Israeli conflict, is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He has also held a number of senior U.S. government posts related to Middle East policy and strategic communication.
Martin Kramer teaches Middle Eastern history at Shalem College where he was the founding president and is The Washington Institute’s Koret Distinguished Fellow. He is the author of The War on Error (2016).
Gen. David Petraeus
General (Ret) David H. Petraeus is Chairman of the KKR Global Institute. Prior to joining KKR, Gen. Petraeus served over 37 years in the U.S. military, culminating his career with six consecutive commands, five of which were in combat, including command of coalition forces during the Surge in Iraq, command of U.S. Central Command, and command of coalition forces in Afghanistan.