This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of what became known as “Operation Freedom in Iraq”. Between March 20 and May 1, 2003, military actions were carried out that were forcefully executed by air and land over the Arab country led by the dictator saddam hussein and finally they ended their government.
Twelve years earlier, in 1991, USA together with 49 allied countries had carried out in a coordinated manner the “Operation Desert Storm” that it did not need more than an action of infantry and armored troops and in a little less than five days it expelled Saddam’s army from Kuwait -a country that it had invaded weeks before-. Thus, the Iraqi military forces were neutralized and eliminated. The once most powerful army in the Arab world was knocked out in one of the most overwhelming and spectacular battles in military history.
Regarding Operation Freedom in Iraq, according to Western military estimates that war was expected to last no more than four weeks. However, when the residual groups of the fractured Iraqi army that turned into terrorist groups burst onto the ground, the war dragged on for seven years. and its consequences, in every order, have been complex from the geopolitical point of view and irremediable in the humanitarian field and the country’s institutions.
Officially, the war ended when Washington and its allies proceeded to withdraw their military forces. However, analyzed in terms of political crisis and internal religious conflicts, to this day it continues to be active and in the present some 2,000 US soldiers remain in the country to contain the actions and attacks of the groups opposed to the successive changes of governments that the United States proposed. However, despite supposedly rigged elections that did not escape the political and religious influence of neighboring countries, Iraqi citizens were able to choose their representatives.
Mostly the Operation It has been criticized for its lack of planning in terms of organization relative to “the day after” the military intervention and was described by various anti-American sectors as a failure in terms of the liberation of Iraq from lthe cruel dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and fundamentally for not having achieved the objective of facilitating the democratization of the country, these elements continue to have repercussions today.
The international consensus indicated that the tyrant Saddam Hussein was a dictator who deserved to be overthrown, he had driven Iraqi citizens into exile, imprisoned and murdered thousands, and made indiscriminate use of prohibited chemical weapons against the Kurdish community. of the country erasing from the face of the earth three villages of that ethnic group with a balance of more than four thousand people brutally murdered. However, criticism was directed at the way the Allied military operation was carried out. Even today criticism is directed at the way in which the United States and the United Kingdom operated without succeeding in neutralizing the political violence that gripped Iraq and continues to a large extent today. It is also insisted that after the military intervention, Iraq lost its independence and all it exercises today is a limited autonomy in its national political decisions, which are led by Tehran, which has strengthened its influence in Iraq.
He US Army General Tom Franks, defined that military operation as “shocking and disruptive.” However, several Western military analysts disagree with Franks and argue that this was not the case since the operation used overwhelming force to neutralize a clearly inferior force. The book “Shock and Awe” by the expert Harlan Ullman, explains very well the author’s theory about how massive disruption attacks became a definite existential danger for a nation fractured politically and divided along religious-confessional lines with impact for the world in general by virtue of the appearance of new terrorist groups like ISIS and other ideologically satellite groups to him in later years.
On the other hand, the commotion that General Franks described had three priority and equally important components that Ullman rightly disarticulates and develops when he explains that controlling the political-religious environment was the equivalent of controlling fundamental aspects, pointing out that the elements earth, air and sea was the ruling that meant that the primary objectives of the Operation were not achieved. The scale of the military intervention should create the conditions to dominate the enemy and generate the ability to control the adversary and his actions, but that did not happen after the military victory, much less when withdrawing most of the troops on the land.
Knowledge in understanding the environment and the local idiosyncrasy also failed, many military analysts were unaware of fundamental features of the Arab idiosyncrasy and did not speak the language, all of which was of fundamental importance. That same lack of knowledge and understanding of the environment in the military intervention was decisive. In the same way, many similar errors occurred again in the most recent intervention of Afghanistan to overthrow the power of the Taliban and until the final withdrawal ordered by President Biden in August 2021. Both experiences make it possible to observe that the West failed in its appreciation of terrorist groups by not understanding that they move much faster than those they consider their enemies in all their areas of decision.
After its appearance, China published about a million and a half copies of Ullman’s book, Beijing used it as a model and distributed it among its military officers showing the use and specific example of how to correctly employ that definition and the variety of military tools. and not military that must be used in the future so as not to fall into Iraq’s mistakes. The concept continues to be used by the Chinese People’s Army, taking the definitions from the book edition published by the American Defense University.
The post-Iraq experience shows that the US military strategy today is committed to replacing what at that time was called “overwhelming force” by the concept of “decisive force” that is based on maneuvers and operations with multiple influences. But since many of its influence operations do not require military force, they are rather preventive and indirect support that includes civilian technology to implement shock and influence and control the will and perception of the opponent, proof of this are cyber-military actions. and, to a lesser extent, also social networks.
Thus, the experience of Iraq allows the United States to face the new global strategic challenges with more resources and variables on the international stage, since in the case of China it is facing an economic superpower that has the most powerful army in the Pacific region, which even has nuclear capabilities.
On the side of Russia, another nuclear superpower and energy giant that has invaded a neighboring country, the American approach also calls for new strategic thinking in the sensitive Ukrainian arena.
Consequently, beyond the positive or negative criticisms, Operation Iraqi Freedom made it clear that operations of “shock and direct military force” as they were understood twenty years ago, today should be considered a point of reference but not a strategy that does not it can be criticized or modernized to make effective any necessary military intervention in the future.
This is how a war begins: chronicle of the first bombs that fell on Baghdad 20 years ago