History professor reflects on end of the Iraq War

Terry Anderson

Terry Anderson’s research on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq reached an apex in December 2011. Less than one year after Anderson published his latest book “Bush’s Wars,” the United States Armed Forces left Iraq, ending the eight-year war.

“Bush’s Wars” is a comprehensive overview of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan begun during the presidency of President George W. Bush.  It has been well received by critics such as George C. Herring and H.W. Brands.  Last summer The Christian Science Monitor named the book number two in its top nonfiction reads, while this month, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries declared it “highly recommended.”

The history professor at Texas A&M University is a veteran of the United States Navy and was involved in combat operations during the Vietnam War. He was thrilled to learn that the Iraq War was coming to an end, even if it means the future of that nation’s government remains unclear.

“No matter what happens in Iraq, the American people have no stomach to go back,” Anderson said.

According to his research, war was unable to unify the nation and instead has led to civil strife and the deaths of over 125,000 Iraqi and 4,400 U.S. soldiers, with many more wounded in action. He also argues that the war created significant American animosity abroad.

“In 2002, the Turkish opinion of the USA was about 70% positive. A year after the U.S. intervention in was about 7%,” Anderson said.

Anderson believes the end of the Iraq War will have a very positive impact on America’s relationships with other countries. 

“As a person who has traveled to 77 countries, it is very nice to have people give you a thumbs up when you say you’re American, instead of looking away,” Anderson said.

He also blames the war for the United States’ economic problems: the war and the deregulation of the financial markets were major factors in the creation of 2008 recession. While the Bush administration said the war would cost no more than $60 billion, Anderson estimated the U.S. paid closer to $900 billion.

The return of the troops means the government will be spending more money to ensure veterans receive proper medical and psychological treatment. Anderson said he was unscathed by his service in the Vietnam War, but he understands the anxiety many soldiers face when they return from combat. He has never seen such high levels of post-traumatic stress.

“After rebuilding our military and paying the veterans compensation and medical bills, many economists have put the cost [of the war] at two trillion dollars,” Anderson said.

Anderson predicts the war in Afghanistan will come to a close by the end of 2013, one year before the Obama administration originally promised.  He plans to publish a second edition of “Bush’s Wars” not long after that. He expects many new historical overviews and opinion pieces will be published by then and is excited about including them in his book.

This spring, Anderson is teaching two classes on U.S. History in the Graduate School of American Studies at the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Indonesia as a Senior Fulbright scholar.