"...A more recent proxy failure occurred in Iraq. For years after the 2003 invasion, American policymakers uttered a standard mantra: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down". Last year, those Iraqis basically walked off.
Between 2003 and 2011, the United States pumped tens of billions of dollars into "reconstructing" the country with around $20bn of it going to build the Iraqi security forces. This mega-force of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police was created from scratch to prop up the successors to the government that the United States overthrew. It was trained by and fought with the Americans and their coalition partners, but that all came to an end in December 2011.
Despite the Obama administration's efforts to base thousands or tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, the Iraqi government spurned Washington's overtures and sent the US military packing.
Today, the Iraqi government supports the Assad regime in Syria, and has a warm and increasingly close relationship with long-time US enemy Iran. According to Iran's semiofficial Fars News Agency, the two countries have even discussed expanding their military ties...
Africa may, at present, be the prime location for the development of proxy warfare, American-style, but it's hardly the only locale where the United States is training indigenous forces to aid US foreign policy aims. This year, the Pentagon has also ramped up operations in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean...
The evidence for this conventional wisdom, however, is lacking. And failures to learn from history in this regard have been ruinous. The training, advising and outfitting of a proxy force in Vietnam drew the United States deeper and deeper into that doomed conflict, leading to tens of thousands of dead Americans and millions of dead Vietnamese. Support for Afghan proxies during their decade-long battle against the Soviet Union led directly to the current disastrous decade-plus American War in Afghanistan.
Right now, the US is once again training, advising and conducting joint exercises all over the world with proxy war on its mind and the concept of "unintended consequences" nowhere in sight in Washington. Whether today's proxies end up working for or against Washington's interests or even become tomorrow's enemies remains to be seen. But with so much training going on in so many destabilised regions, and so many proxy forces being armed in so many places, the chances of blowback grow greater by the day."
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