But wars of this magnitude never leave countries fully where expected, and in Iraq the variables of violence and popular disillusionment have been felt most tragically by those who live in the battle theater – Iraqis themselves.
"Given the blood and treasure expended on all sides, it's a pretty poor outcome," says Toby Dodge, an Iraq specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "We've got a prime minister with distinct dictatorial tendencies, an army that's coming to the same size [as Saddam Hussein's], multiple intelligence services ... the Iraqi state has been reconstituted to look very similar to the one under Saddam, without the more egregious aspects," says Mr. Dodge, noting that levels of corruption also far exceed those before the war. "If you were a poor Iraqi who has gone through 13 years of sanctions, a major invasion, a civil war ... it's not a very rosy picture."
There have, in fact, been many failures, among the most prominent the inability to keep Baghdad's lights and refrigerators humming for more than a few hours a day. Iraqis frequently express anger over poor infrastructure despite all the money spent. Their fears are confirmed by official news of episodes of poor auditing – such as a July report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which found that the Pentagon could not account for its use early on of $8.7 billion of Iraqi cash, which "left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss."