What does the US have to show for a record of militarism in the last fifty years? What does it have to show for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if Osama is no more, but the absurd and bogus 'war on terror' remains? The cases of Iraq and Afghanistan prove beyond any doubt that the US has lost not only economically, but geo-politically as well. In 2008, I argued that the US had lost the war in Afghanistan and that Iraq would be more chaotic and socially unjust after the US leaves than it was under Saddam Hussein.
In Iraq, there is no political, social or economic stability, and it seems that once the US troops leave, the situation may deteriorate further and the country that the US wanted to 'democratize' will be one of the most authoritarian in the world. Shiite militias engage in perpetual violence and assassinations. This is especially in the northeastern province of Diyala bordering Iran, and having a population of Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Kurds.
Violence is a means of forcing US troops out and imposing their authority according to U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. It is highly likely that once the US is out Iran will sharply increase trade relations with Iraq (already trade between the two countries amount to $10 billion and plan to double it within a few years). Iran will exercise enormous influence over Iraq, without the US having much of a voice in the matter. In short, the goal of moving into Iraq to determine the balance of power has not been achieved, given Iran's regional hegemonic role.
The cost to the US economy notwithstanding, the legacy of the US war is that Iraq is left in shambles, perhaps in some respects resembling China that lapsed to the fate of warlords after the Boxers' Rebellion. As much as the US tried to present an image to the world that it was interested in freedom and democracy, the legacy in Iraq is one of violence and chaos, sharp societal divisions and collapse of the entire social fabric that will take decades to repair before Iraq is restored to some semblance of a nation that exists in relative internal tranquility and relative social harmony.Of course some companies and individuals became wealthy during the Iraq war, and ideologues argue that the war was worth it just to bring down Saddam. Such are the voices of 'reason' that prevail in the US government claiming to represent freedom and democracy.
US legacy in Afghanistan is even worse than that of Iraq, partly because Afghanistan had gone through the civil war and Soviet invasion of the 1980s, followed by the Taliban era, followed by US invasion. The core country of 'the war on terror', Afghanistan will take more than half a century to restore itself into a society of some social, political and economic stability after the US-NATO forces are out. The US is pointing fingers at its European partners for not doing enough in Afghanistan, while Europeans see the situation as an American affair in which NATO assisted. Afghanistan exposed the fragile NATO alliance, especially when former DoD secretary Robert Gates criticized Europe for slashing defense budgets even before NATO hesitantly decided to attack Libya.
For its part, Europe sees the US of making decisions unilaterally and then consulting later when it demands assistance from its junior partners. In short, NATO solidarity means Europe backing the US after it decides that it needs assistance for political, economic and strategic considerations. Who is right, the US or Europe? Neither, because both sides know that the public does not support NATO, and it does not support costly military adventures like Afghanistan and Libya. NATO solidarity without public support cannot work when the policy is flawed from the start, as it has been with Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.