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PS21 Event Writeup: ‘Changing Face of Conflict’ (Febuary 26)

By Qistina Tengku

Photo Credit: Janosch Siepen

In the latest collaborative event between Strife and PS21, part of the ‘Changing Faces of Conflict’ series, the discussion aimed to explore the lessons learned in the Iraq and Afghan wars. The panel was moderated by Reuters Global Affairs Columnist Peter Apps.

Emma Sky, Director of the Yale University World Fellows Program and senior advisor to US officials in Iraq, said the invasion of Iraq should not have happened – but that nothing that occurred in Iraq after 2003 was inevitable. Sky explained how US policies collapsed the state of Iraq, leading to Iraq’s descent into civil war and the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. From 2007-2009, the US had the right strategy, leadership and resources – and the civil war ended. However, the failure to uphold the results of Iraq’s 2010 national elections, led to sectarian policies, an increase in the Iranian influence, and the rise of ISIS out of the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq – with a devastating impact on Syria during the Arab Spring. The unintended consequence of our interventions in the Middle East has been the refugee crisis, contributing to the rise of populism in the West.

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, former Director Special Forces and Commander Field Army, said indecisive and unrealistic decisions by politicians put huge pressure on operational commanders in both conflicts. He said modern fourth generation warfare showed state and non-state adversaries alike deliberately targeting the West’s willpower through using asymmetric tactics, a major shift from the force-on-force confrontations of previous eras. Examples of unexpected consequences included the damage to U.K. National Health Service systems from the North Korea-linked WannaCry cyberattack. Western states were increasing turning to new systems and structures such as the U.S. Cyber Command to address such threats, he said.

 

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