Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

368 pages

December, 2015

ISBN: 9781479871438



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Beth Bailey is  Foundation Professor at the University of Kansas, where she is a member of the Department of History and Director of the Military and Society Center. Her most recent book is America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force. The recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships for her scholarship, she has won two Distinguished Writing Awards from the Army Historical Foundation.

All books by Beth Bailey

Richard H. Immerman is Professor of History, Edward Buthusiem Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Marvin Wachman Director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy at Temple University and the Francis W. De Serio Chair of Strategic and Theater Intelligence at the Army War College. His most recent book is The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA. From 2007–2009 he served as Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Integrity. 

All books by Richard H. Immerman

Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2016

Investigates the causes, conduct, and consequences of the recent American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Understanding the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is essential to understanding the United States in the first decade of the new millennium and beyond. These wars were pivotal to American foreign policy and international relations. They were expensive: in lives, in treasure, and in reputation. They raised critical ethical and legal questions; they provoked debates over policy, strategy, and war-planning; they helped to shape American domestic politics. And they highlighted a profound division among the American people: While more than two million Americans served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many in multiple deployments, the vast majority of Americans and their families remained untouched by and frequently barely aware of the wars conducted in their name, far from American shores, in regions about which they know little. 
Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gives us the first book-length expert historical analysis of these wars. It shows us how they began, what they teach us about the limits of the American military and diplomacy, and who fought them. It examines the lessons and legacies of wars whose outcomes may not be clear for decades. 
In 1945 few Americans could imagine that the country would be locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union for decades; fewer could imagine how history would paint the era. Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan begins to come to grips with the period when America became enmeshed in a succession of “low intensity” conflicts in the Middle East.


  • “Smart and comprehensive. . . . An outstanding collection of essays.”

    —Marilyn B. Young, New York University

  • "A truly exceptional and immensely important contribution to the literature on U.S. foreign policy in the twenty-first century. Bailey and Immerman have compiled an all-star cast to help us better grasp the causes, conduct, and, most significantly, consequences of the recent American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This collection of fine essays will be essential reading for years to come."

    —Gregory A. Daddis, Academy Professor, West Point

  • "Today, we are engaged in wrenching debates about what to do in Syria and Iraq. This volume provides indispensable background for assessing the costs and benefits, the risks and opportunities of engaging in 'low intensity' conflicts with elusive adversaries in places in which we are unfamiliar and among people who regard us with suspicion. This is an important collection of essays to analyze and debate as we face momentous decisions.”

    —Melvyn P. Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia

  • "An impressive compendium that furthers the intellectual effort to come to grips with the roots and legacies of America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that provides a wide spectrum of perspectives on how and why the world has changed so dramatically since 11 September 2001."

    —General David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret)

  • "Bailey and Immerman’s edited collection of essays on the country’s two most recent wars is simply outstanding…There have been numerous recent accounts of both wars, but this new book brings the two conflicts together in a way not done before. For both established scholars and informed general readers, this collection is an excellent source of thoughtful and learned assessments of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A mandatory contribution to the current literature on the topic. Summing Up: Essential.”


  • “The Bailey-Immerman volume adopts a broader scope and includes chapters focusing on not only the political, military, and diplomatic aspects of the two wars but also the combatants’ experience, the opposition to the wars, media’s involvement, popular culture, and veteran’s readjustment.”


  • “This is an excellent set of essays that open many avenues of future research. It also constitutes a valuable resource for undergraduates as more people develop courses on the recent wars.”

    Diplomatic History

  • "This collection will be helpful to anyone teaching recent U.S. or international history or about war and peace in American society."

    Peace & Change