The Big Picture: Who Won and Lost in Iraq


Open Source
, an always insightful public radio program, aired last week a show that took a broad look at the winners and losers of the Iraq war. Taking up a theme that was also recently explored in an edition of Foreign Policy magazine, the host, Christopher Lydon, spoke with a panel of experts from respected think tanks, universities, and newspapers, and, together, they drew conclusions about winners and losers, some of which aren’t so obvious. Here’s a quick recap, but we recommend giving the show a listen (iTunesFeedMp3) and taking a look at its well-done blog.


  • Iran & Shiism: With Iraq, its traditional rival, in chaos, Iran is now free to project its power across the Middle East and tilt the balance of regional power in favor of Shiite Islam. It’s partly because Iran is making such a strong showing that the hawks in Washington may feel the strategic need to eventually use military force against Iran. In this sense, the US is playing out a more extreme version of the strategy it used during the Iran-Iraq War that dragged on through the 1980s. Weaken one power, then the other.
  • China:  No one is noticing it now, but down the road, we might be writing a history that talks about how the US adventure in Iraq gave China the room to emerge rapidly as a new superpower — a superpower that could plausibly present itself to the international community as more diplomatic and peaceful than the US alternative.
  • al-Qaeda: The Iraq war has helped al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts, precisely as many warned, and, if the US eventually abandons Iraq, they’ll feel emboldened no doubt.
  • Arab Dictators: The heat had been ratcheted up against many Middle East dictators, but with everyone distracted by Iraq, they are able to perpetuate their corrupt rule for yet a while longer.
  • Multi-Lateralism, Old Europe & the UN: They were all dismissed by the Bush administration in the run up to the war, but they’re all looking better and more worthwhile with each passing day.


  • Iraq & The United States: Two obvious picks.
  • Unilateralism & The Neo-Cons: The neo-con approach has splendidly discredited itself, but the rub is that neo-cons still sit in power and they may unilaterally force their way into Iran before the people get to the ballot box again.
  • Tony Blair & the Special Relationship between the US and England: Tony Blair is saying his long goodbye. He’ll be gone before too long, and, with him, may go the only other substantial member of the "Coalition of the Willing."
  • The Price of Oil: It’s a loser if you’re a consumer … but not if you’re an executive at Exxon.

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