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After Iraq: What will history say?

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For Americans and Iraqis, the departure of the last US military units from Iraq starts the slow fade from present tense to past.

History’s first draft is a journalistic specialty. Revision will follow revision over the coming decades as historians argue the causes, context, meaning, and ramifications of Iraq. You can see how tortured the process of historical analysis is with Vietnam. Even 38 years after the official end of US military involvement, the lessons are still being debated. Conscription armies, mission creep, mistreatment of civilians, Agent Orange – most people agree those were bad ideas. There’s still debate, though, on questions such as whether the rest of Southeast Asia might have fallen to communism – or whether the tiger economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea would have roared – without a US military firebreak in Vietnam.

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