Occupation of Iraq Geostrategic and Institutional Challenges; Strategic Insights: v.2, issue 8 (August 2003)
Russell, James A.
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The occupation of Iraq represents a profound strategic challenge for the United States as a nation, its political leadership and its military institutions. Not since decisions made at the outset of the Vietnam War has American prestige and power become so vested in achieving a singularly defined outcome in a distant land far from its shores. From the perspective of using military force to achieve national objectives, one critical difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that today's volunteer military is a totally different institution. By and large, the force is more professional, better trained and better equipped than its predecessor from the 1960s. The battlefield performance of the nation's force in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere leaves no doubt about its overall effectiveness. But unlike the draft-era military of the 1960s, the core of today's military is largely segregated from society at large--its own system within a system that operates according to its own rules and largely lives and works in its own neighborhoods. This separation creates a convenient illusion for the public that use of the force is cost free to the country writ large, and that any pain and suffering is felt solely by those paid to do the job. This document argues that in Iraq, the stakes for the country, its leadership and its military will require a unity of national purpose as the costs will invariably mount for what will have to be a long-term commitment for the entire nation.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (August 2003), v.2 no.8
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