The United States fought two wars against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The first has been commonly referred to as the Gulf War. The Second War is generally referred to as the Iraq War. The difference stems from the fact that the first war was fought largely in Kuwait and the second war was fought completely within Iraq.
The roots of the Iraq War stem from two major factors. First, the incomplete nature of the Gulf War left a brutal and unstable dictator in power in Iraq, so that he could continue to destabilize the region. The second, and more immediate cause, surrounded the activities of Saddam Hussein as the totalitarian leader of a corrupt state. The fact is, Saddam would likely have remained in power had he not been so bent on expansionism and braggadocio. His insistence on maintaining at least the appearance of having an illicit and aggressive nuclear weapons program led to U.N. sanctions and ultimatums that ultimately prompted the coalition invasion.
The political build-up to war was long and drawn out. Once coalition forces from the United States under George W. Bush, Great Britain under Tony Blair, and other nations felt compelled to use military force against Iraq, the preparations for war made by both sides revealed much about the two cultures that clashed as well as the professionalism of their forces. Unlike in the Gulf War the coalition air campaign was launched simultaneous to a fierce ground war. Coalition forces, led by the United States, in a war of maneuver and fire-power, including extensive use of special forces, launched an assault from Kuwait in the south and from the Kurdish region in the north. Superior strategies and tactics implemented by the coalition resulted in the complete destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime and the swift capture of Baghdad.
The aftermath of the Iraq War had very mixed results. Saddam was defeated and ultimately hanged for his crimes against the Iraqi people. His torture chambers, prison camps, and Baath party apparatus were dismantled. The ultimate disposition of his weapons of mass destruction is still in dispute. On the downside, the new Iraqi government would remain unstable for several years, and coalition forces aligned with the new Iraqi government would be faced with a long struggle with al-Qaeda forces infiltrating the country from surrounding countries, exacerbated by separatist tendencies of the various ethnic groups which make up Iraq.
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