Joshua Roberts / Reuters

This week marks 15 years since the Iraq War began. In this issue, we’re looking at the ways that conflict shaped perceptions on three levels: global, national, and individual. We ask: What were the consequences of going to war without authorization from the United Nations Security Council? Why have Americans come to trust the military, an institution in which so few have served? And what were the lessons for the men and women involved in one of the war’s most controversial aspects, interrogation?

—Matt Peterson


What America Learned by Ignoring the Security Council

John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser plunges the United States back into one of the most contentious debates of George W. Bush’s presidency. Does America need other countries and institutions? Or do they tie it down like Gulliver? In Iraq, the Bush administration made a point of assembling an international coalition for the invasion. But it also sought the blessing of the U.N. Security Council, and then went to war anyway when approval wasn’t forthcoming. Three continuing consequences from that decision show the difference between the perception of legitimacy and the reality of it.

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