On Wednesday, March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. As he explained that night in an address to the nation, the purposes of this military operation, known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, were “to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” To accomplish these objectives, the United States and its coalition partners used military force to strike “selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war.” By demonstrating that the same strategy of regime change that the U.S. had used in Afghanistan in 2001 was still an option that the U.S. was willing to exercise, the invasion marked a new era in U.S. foreign policy in which the Bush administration is committed to destroying regimes that support terrorism. In the case of Iraq, the strategy is to wage a counterinsurgency campaign against remnants of the Baath Party regime and foreign jihadists who seek to establish a base of operations in Iraq for war against the West. As President Bush declared, “The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory.” Since the United States will be waging a global war against terrorism to destroy regimes that support terrorism or terrorist organizations, this chapter discusses the implications of the 2003 invasion of Iraq for the development of a pretheory of victory.
The initial outcome for the United States in Operation Iraqi Freedom is broadly consistent with grand strategic victory, but there are significant doubts about what victory will look like and how long it may take to achieve it, while others openly suggest that the United States may be defeated.