On March 19, 2003, U.S. and Coalition forces invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and his government. A nine-year war resulted from the aftermath, which grew more unpopular as it dragged on. Now, ten years later, the conflict has left an indelible mark on American culture. It has changed the country forever, and not necessarily in a good way. Since the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is right around the corner, it is a good time to reflect upon the war's legacy and how it has changed American culture and how it has eroded faith in the all-wise and all-powerful federal government.
1. Increase in drone use
Drones had been in service prior to the Iraq War, but they became widely used as the military fought the Iraqi insurgency. They evolved beyond their initial surveillance roles to use against enemy combatants. This practice extended beyond Iraq and even Afghanistan as military leaders sought to target the insurgency's support base in other countries.
Ten years ago, the idea that a person could be killed by a giant flying robot seemed ridiculous. Now Congress is debating the legal and moral ramifications of doing exactly that, and it is become an extremely contentious piece of foreign policy. Like it or not, the Iraq War brought drones into widespread use and they're here to stay, at least for the time being. Most disconcerting of all is the ramifications drone use has upon civil liberties, especially since they emerged in war that started with the philosophy “shoot first, ask later.”
2. Civil liberties began to fall by the wayside
The government amassed a wide array of tools to fight a loose-knit, international enemy, such as warrant-less wire taps, search and seizure without due process, and even the authority to assassinate U.S. citizens under extraordinary circumstances. As the tools amassed, the government began sending a clear message; civil liberties are no longer important. Even more disturbing is slippery slope this message teeters upon, and that is specter of worry that these tools may one day be turned on citizens for reasons other than fighting war against foreign enemies.
3. Pervasive doubt
Doubt is probably the most enduring legacy left behind from a decades long conflict. It may not have coalesced into a nation-wide phenomenon and different political persuasions express doubt in different ways. The seeds of doubt have been sown. Doubt about whether the nation's leaders have all the answers. Doubt about the government's seeming ability to accomplish anything. Doubt about the inevitable justness of the nation's cause. Whether those seeds take root and grow into a large-scale movement or slowly grow into something more is anyone's guess. What is certain is that it has forever altered the way Americans perceive their government and its actions.