"I’ve realized that most Americans don’t understand that Iraq used to be a modern, Westernized and secular country. From the 1930s to the 1980s, Iraq’s neighbors looked to it as the example. People from different Arab countries came to Iraq to attend university. The country had an excellent education system, great health care, and Iraq was rich — not the richest, but rich.
Of course, Iraq is not like this today.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait, 24 years ago last month, the United States destroyed most of Iraq’s infrastructure during the Persian Gulf War. Bridges were bombed, along with power stations, railroads, dams and oil refineries. (...)
source: Article by he Washington PostGradually, people also began turning to religion as a result of all the hardships. Religion changed the country: more censorship, more rules, more rigidity. Alcohol, which was once widely accepted, was frowned upon. Mainstream TV shows and movies — even cartoons — were censored to remove kissing scenes, partial nudity and other elements viewed as immoral."
I think he underplays the effects of the eight years of Gulf War in the 80's because that's not so interesting for the newspaper's readers. Still, it's an example for how wars break countries, and may set them back by a generation or more or destroy achievements forever.
European societies involved in both World Wars regained its health from 1911 only in the 60's, if at all. Some nations waited till well after the end of the Cold War for a full recovery.
The article also points out how unexpected such disastrous consequences can be and how bad inelegant warfare is.*
*: The five rings, typical Western air campaign plans and just about everything in air war strategy is bullshit. I don't have a cure-all alternative, but this gives a hint about how I approach the problem.