For years we at ARI have challenged the moral propriety of the Iraq war and its conduct. The basic reason: the war did not aim at advancing U.S. self-interest (the protection of the lives and freedom of Americans). We continued speaking out — even as the celebrated “surge” of thousands more troops prompted many other critics to concede that the tactic was turning things around. But at best it bought a temporary lull. That policy, which essentially bought off hostile fighters, was a form of appeasement. The surge, and the war overall, was a debacle.

Steve Dobransky, writing in the Middle East Quarterly, carefully lays out the evidence for judging the Iraq war. His analysis confirms that the surge was a failure, noting how “The vast majority of insurgents never surrendered or left Iraq and definitely were not removed.” They stuck around. Many groups have been able to grow stronger with time. Moreover, the chief beneficiary of the war has been the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has consolidated its influence in the post-Saddam period. This article should be required reading for anyone concerned with forming an objective evaluation of Iraq, and drawing lessons for the future. (While ably critiquing the conduct and consequences of the war, Dobransky concedes in passing that its “claimed objectives . . . were commendable” — a point that I reject. In my book I argue that the war’s objective of promoting “democracy” and nation-building was in fact inimical to our security.)