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Event Summary

Ten years ago, on March 19, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and a few short weeks later deposed Saddam Hussein. A decade after this “shock and awe,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ), General Jack Keane (ret.), and AEI’s Frederick W. Kagan sat down for a conversation on a conflict that helped shape the beginning of the 21st century in American foreign policy.

The main lesson to learn from the Iraq War, said McCain, is to be sure about our intelligence; the contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction colored American opinion of the war. Keane added that the Bush administration should have conversed more with the American people on the purpose of the war and progress made and failures sustained over its course.

Keane also touched on Iranian influence in Iraq, arguing that from the beginning the Iranians have wanted a weak and ineffectual government in Iraq to increase their influence in the Middle East. Keane maintained that the fact that the US is pulling away from Iraq rather than trying to influence it is tragic.

Kagan emphasized that this has been a long war, with the US engaged in Iraq from 1990 onward. The decade between the 2003 invasion and today has been an important period, but it was neither the start nor the finish of America’s involvement with Iraq and the broader Middle East.

–Alex Della Rocchetta

Event Description

Ten years ago, the United States entered Iraq and in a few short weeks ended Saddam Hussein’s reign of tyranny. What followed — wild swings between victory and defeat, liberation and occupation — and ended with President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Iraq in 2011, is likely to be a source of contention for years to come.

As we approach the anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, many questions remain: Is Iraq a success? What role will Iran and al Qaeda play in the vacuum left by the withdrawal of American forces? Were the war and the liberation of 25 million Iraqis worth the high price Americans paid in blood and treasure?

Please join us as we reflect on a conflict that helped shape the beginning of the 21st century in American foreign policy. Senator John McCain will be joined by a panel featuring General Jack Keane (ret.) and AEI’s Frederick W. Kagan.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


2:45 PM

3:00 PM
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
General Jack Keane, US Army (ret.)
John McCain (R-AZ), US Senate

3:55 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Alex Della Rocchetta at [email protected], 202.862.7152.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Frederick W. Kagan is the Christopher DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to conduct research for Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen. In July 2011, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the US Department of Defense. He is co-author of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2010) and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, Kagan is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.

General Jack Keane is a retired four-star general and former vice chief of staff of the US Army. He is currently president of the consulting firm GSI LLC; serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War and the Knollwood Foundation; and is a director of Metlife, General Dynamics, and AlliedBarton. Upon retiring from military service in 2003, Keane joined Fox News as a national security analyst. In December 2006, Keane and AEI scholar Frederick W. Kagan released the groundbreaking report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq” (AEI, 2007), which outlined a US success strategy in Iraq and emphasized victory as the only acceptable outcome. It additionally served as a model for former president George W. Bush’s “troop surge.” Gen. Keane has received numerous accolades for his service to the United States including two Defense Distinguished Service Stars, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Joint Chiefs Service Badge, the Humanitarian Service Medal, five Legions of Merit, a Ranger Tab, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Master Parachutist Badge, and an Air Assault Badge.

John McCain (R-AZ) is the senior US senator from Arizona. First elected to the US House of Representatives in 1982, McCain spearheaded a reform agenda to reduce federal spending and lower taxes that quickly elevated him to statewide office and the position of US senator in 1986. He is currently the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. As the son and grandson of distinguished US Navy admirals, McCain launched a 22-year career as a naval aviator before entering politics. During his notable career, he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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