September 2010


In this lesson, students will:

  • Critically compare the suggested lessons of Iraq with classmates.
  • Evaluate the legitimacy of the lessons presented.
  • Analyze how the lessons of Iraq may influence U.S. leaders.
  • Apply the lessons of Iraq to other U.S. foreign policy issues.


The Lessons of Iraq

This handout includes the following articles:

  • “What Have We Learned from Iraq?,” by K.T. McFarland
  • “Obama Wants Us to Forget the Lessons of Iraq,” by Andrew Bacevich
  • “The Surge and Afghanistan,” by Senator John McCain
  • “The Lesson of Iraq,” by Don Kraus

Additional Resources

You may want to show students President Obama’s August 31, 2010 speech marking the end of combat operations in Iraq.

In the Classroom

  • Getting Started—Write the question “Why are U.S. soldiers in Iraq?” on the board. Have students brainstorm what they know about Iraq. Why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003? Why has the U.S. presence been controversial? How many U.S. soldiers are in Iraq now?
  • Document Analysis—Divide the class into small groups. Give each group copies of one of the documents. Each student should have his or her own copy. Ask students to read and follow the directions. Tell students to read and mark up the documents individually and then answer the questions as a group.
  • Group Responses—After the groups have completed the questions, break the class into new groups that have a representative of each document group. Have students share their findings within the new group. (This could also be done as a “fish bowl” activity with a single group in the center of the classroom and the other students observing.)
  • Making Connections—Reconvene the class. Call on students to identify the lessons that they believe are most important. Ask students to explain the factors that led them to their decision, encouraging them to give evidence to support their view. Invite students with contrary opinions to challenge their classmates.
  • Applying Lessons—Call on students to relate specific lessons to the situation in Afghanistan or other issues. Do students think that what has happened in Iraq will affect U.S. foreign policy in the future? In what way? Will new lessons be discovered in years to come?

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Encourage your students to express their views.

Contact Elected Officials
Students could write letters to elected officials. They can find contact information for the White House at and their U.S. senators and representatives at

Write Locally
Students could write letters to the editor of a local paper or write articles for the school or community newspaper.

photo-DoD photo by Sgt. KimberlyJohnson, U.S. Army.

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