This chapter examines the various exit strategies pursued by the United States following its invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It argues that preinvasion planning was shaped by a naïve optimism and an ideological vision about the reform of the Iraq state once the Ba’athist government was removed. This agenda was never supported by the resources, troop numbers, or political resolve needed to see it through. Once this ideological vision collided with Iraqi realities, the United States tried a number of exit strategies—from regime change on the cheap to the imperial interregnum of Paul Bremer, to the final application of counterinsurgency doctrine. These different policies were confronted and undermined by the insurgency and then the rising tide of civil war. This chapter also examines the ignominious exit of British forces from Basra because their government in London lacked the political resolve or troop numbers to stabilize the city, let alone follow through on the ambitious agenda of neoliberal reform set out by Tony Blair and George W. Bush on the eve of invasion.
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