Invasion Of Iraq 2003 Essay

Why Did the United States Invade Iraq in 2003?

by Tor G. Jakobsen, NTNU

 

“The game is over”

These were the words of Mohammed al Douri, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, in April 2003. When asked what he meant by this comment, he responded: “the war”. After three weeks of fighting, he admitted that the Republic of Iraq did not, for the time being, did not even exist.

In the morning hours of March, 2003, the U.S. and its allies initiated the invasion ofIraq. On April 9,U.S. forces formally occupied Baghdad, and on December 13 the same year, Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator was captured while hiding in a cellar in the outskirts of Tikrit.

After the first Gulf War in 1991 Iraq was obliged by the U.N. to get rid of all its biological and toxic weapons. This Security Council Resolution also demanded the restoration of Kuwait’s independence and the implementation of sanctions against Iraq. The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) performed inspections in Iraq to make sure that the conditions of the peace agreement that followed the first Gulf War were carried out. The weapons inspectors were thrown out of Iraqin December of 1998, which lead to Operation Desert Fox, a three-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets.

The mission was to strike military and security targets in Iraq that contributed to the country’s ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction. The disagreement concerned the U.N. inspectors’ access to various ‘sensitive sites’ and presidential palaces. The weapons inspectors were not let back into Iraq until November 2002, after the U.N. Security Council had passed its resolution 1441.

 

US Intentions

After the first Gulf War both the George H.W. Bush and the Clinton administration hoped that the combination of economic sanctions, military containment and the no-flight zones in northern and southern Iraq would result in a military coup or a palace revolution by members of Saddam’s own Baath regime. This was not U.N. policy, however, but Washington’s own unilateral effort to change the regime inBaghdad.

During the first Bush and Clinton administrations, the main strategy was to support a coup or a palace revolution, and not to undertake any active American involvement to remove the Baath regime. After the 1991 Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush signed a presidential finding authorizing the CIA to topple Saddam. A 1998 law passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton authorized up to $97 million in military assistance to Iraqi opposition forces ‘to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein’ and ‘promote the emergence of a democratic government’. There was a considerable change inU.S. policy toward Iraqwhen George W. Bush took office in January 2001. A group of former democrats, who represented a more expansionist foreign policy than the traditional realist line of the Republican Party, gained a foothold in the party as early as in 1994.

They represented a line where national measures and freedom of action were the backbone of American foreign policy. Using organizations like the U.N. was only of interest when the U.S. was unable to solve a problem on its own, or when Washington was guaranteed support for its own policy. To be sure, there existed a significant degree of antagonism between this group and the old, more traditional realist viewpoint of foreign policy within the Republican Party. Yet, the expansionist congregation within the Republican camp gained the upper hand over the traditional realists in the wake of September 11, 2001.

In October 2001 the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, which marked the beginning of its Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). One year later the Congress and the Senate passed a law authorising the use of armed force against Iraq. This resolution empowered the President to declare war without obtaining U.N. Security Council authorization. Thus, by October 2002 the U.S. spoke with one voice in matters of foreign policy. The expansionist forces had now definitely won the tug-of-war with the realist forces of the Bush administration.

From this point on the President was in full charge of the Iraq situation, of course with the assistance of his State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA and his advisors at the White House. However, this seeming unilateralism did not imply that Washington would refrain from trying to obtain acceptance from the U.N. for its own foreign policy as exemplified by the passing of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. In this document the Security Council recognised ‘the threat that Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security’, and Iraq was warned that ‘it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations’.

By the end of November the U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq had not fully accounted for its stocks of chemical and biological weapons and had not fully accepted its obligation to disarm under 1441.

When Colin Powel on February 5, 2003 presented evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction (henceforth abbreviated WMD) inIraqfor the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. had already deployed thousands of soldiers to the Gulf region. As early as in January, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, had signed deployment orders for 62,000 U.S. troops to the region, in addition to the 43,000 already in place.

President Bush delivered an ultimatum on March 17, demanding that Saddam Hussein and two of his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. On March 20, coalition forces attacked Iraqin Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Saddam, a Rational Actor?

A basic assumption in game theory is that the players are rational actors. Considering the outcome of the conflict – the U.S. invadedIraq, and the reign of Saddam Hussein ended – this assumption can be considered somewhat problematic in the Iraqi case. The dictator himself was captured on December 13, hiding in a cellar south of Tikrit, and was later executed.

The assumption of rational behaviour means that each player has a consistent set of rankings (values or payoffs) over all logically possible outcomes, and that he or she settles for the strategy that best serves these interests. Importantly, however, the concept of rationality does not imply that all the players share a common value system. It merely means that each player pursues his or her own value system consistently.

To understand Saddam Hussein’s behaviour we must also understand his goals. According to realist theory, the key interest of a state in the anarchic system is security. Only if survival is assured can states safely seek such other goals as tranquillity, profit and power. The first concern of states is not to maximize power but to maintain their positions in the system. Following the realists, the first objective of Iraq’s foreign policy would then be to remain a major power in the Middle East.

We can thus assume that Saddam Hussein wanted Iraq to be the most dominant force in the region. This assumption is affirmed by a study of the inner workings and behaviour of Saddam Hussein’s Regime, commissioned by the U.S. Joint Forces Command. It seems like the Iraqi state’s behaviour to a large extent was determined by the decisions made by a single man. According to a CIA report released in September 2004, Saddam Hussein so dominated the Iraqi regime that its strategic intent was his alone.

After the first Gulf War the Security Council implemented United Nations resolution 687 which, in addition to being a cease-fire agreement, was meant to restore ‘international peace and security’ in the region. One of the main elements of this resolution was Paragraph 8, which stated that Iraq should unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless under international supervision, of all weapons of mass destruction, and their appurtenant infrastructure and research and development programmes, as well as all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres.

The record made clear that Saddam Hussein both possessed WMD and used them against both external enemies (Iran) and his own citizens. After the first Gulf War his regime now faced a dilemma. The resolution provided theUnited Statesand its allies with authority to use force inIraq. The United Nations resolution 687 was partly a repetition of its resolution 678 which authorised member states ‘to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.’ This meant that if it was proven that Iraq had WMD, Saddam would risk a new western intervention.

On the other hand, if it was made clear that Saddam had no chemical or biological weapons, then he would lose one of his key instruments of inflicting fear both among his own population and Iraq’s neighbours. This could diminish Iraq’s position as a major force in the region. Saddam’s rational choice would then be to create uncertainty or ambiguity as to whether or not he actually had these weapons. Without proof of Iraq having WMD, it seemed unlikely that the West would intervene, and without proof of Iraq not having WMD, it would keep insurgents andIraq’s neighbours at bay.

Therefore it would seem rational for Saddam Hussein to pursue the choice of ambiguity, as illustrated in Figure 1. This line of tactics is in compliance with what is known as signalling in game theory, i.e. revealing, concealing and eliciting information about one’s intentions and capabilities. The general principle is that you want to release your information selectively.

 

Incomplete Information

The strategic situation in March 2003 ended with Iraqstanding firm and the U.S. and its allies carrying out their threat of attacking. We can draw a parallel to the previous war in the Gulf. Many ‘experts’ commenting on the Persian Gulf conflict in late 1990 predicted that Saddam Hussein would back down ‘because he is rational,’ thereby possibly failing to recognise that Saddam’s value system was different from the one held by most Western governments and by Western experts. To sufficiently account for the outbreak of war, we must revisit U.N. resolution 1441 and include the aspect of incomplete information when modelling the outbreak of conflict. In particular, two aspects of the information dimension are relevant:

First, as illustrated by the figure above, Saddam Hussein had incentives to show ambiguity concerning the question whether or not he possessed WMD. Of course, this ambiguity would putIraq’s path of choice in conflict with the foreign policy of post-9/11USA. The U.S. could not accept uncertainty on this matter. There is also another way in which Saddam’s seemingly irrational behaviour could be explained.

Deterrence theory is based upon the assumption that potential opponents are rational. If the costs and/or risks of choosing war appear unacceptably high, the opponent will reject this option, and deterrence holds. But this logic cannot be expected to work against an irrational opponent, who might opt for war even if losses are likely to outweigh gains. With the presumption of irrationality on its side, a weaker player can intimidate a stronger player. A state can actually profit from portraying itself as mad, because other states will then tend to abstain from intervening in its matters.

Furthermore, in the event of a confrontation, irrationality can compensate in military-power deficiencies. Being perceived as irrational can actually be advantageous. Iraqcould possibly be trying to make the U.S. and its surrounding countries believe that it was both capable and willing to use WMD if attacked. If convinced that Saddam was not bluffing, the U.S. would then back down. It is perfectly possible that both these factors can help explain Iraqi behaviour. Ambiguity, it seems, was Iraq’s most expedient path to preserving its position in the region. If Saddam’s goal was to scare the surroundings from interfering with his policies, being perceived as a madman was not, ex ante, necessarily negative.

Second, Iraq underestimated Washington’s willingness and capabilities to go to war. To be efficacious a threat must have three characteristics. First of all, the threat must be relevant; that is, the target must have some freedom of action so as to make it possible to avoid the execution of the threat. One can be tempted to call the U.S. strategy an unconditional commitment rather than a threat, i.e. an intention to take a particular course of action regardless of what the other side chooses to do.

Yet one could also look at it as a conditional commitment that became unconditional only after the point of no return. After theUnited States had shipped thousands of military personnel to the region, they clearly signalled that they were prepared to engage in combat operations. This was also necessary to re-establish credibility with allies and potential anti-Saddam forces in the region. Nothing else but making unmistakable preparations for a massive military invasion would send such a signal.

This we can name the U.S. point of no return. Second, the threat needs to be sufficiently severe, so that the target prefers to comply rather than face the consequences. And third, the threat must be credible. In other words, the target must be lead to believe that the threat will be carried out if compliance is not forthcoming. As a rule, the threatener must show that he will act, not that he may act, if the threat fails.

At the beginning of the conflict the threat may have been perceived as sufficiently severe, but not as being relevant or credible. Saddam Hussein knew that the U.S. wanted him ousted from power, which was made clear in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed into law by then U.S. President Bill Clinton. Yet the relevance of the threat was far from obvious, sinceIraq may have presumed that the real goal of theU.S. government was to remove Saddam from power, and that the implementation of U.N. resolution 1441 was in the main a suitable excuse for pursuingWashington’s real aim.

There is, however, reason to believe that U.S. credibility had been weakened. Granted, economic sanctions had been implemented, and U.S. and British military enforced no-fly zones over northern and southernIraq. But Saddam Hussein and his regime had not been challenged in any serious manner, despite violating the U.N. resolutions. Based on the precedence established during the 12 years since the end of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein could have been given the false impression that the U.S. was unwilling to confront him militarily.

This may have led him to believe that his ‘cat-and-mouse’ game with the U.N. weapons inspectors was less hazardous for his regime than it actually was. According to Tariq Azis, the former Deputy Prime Minister ofIraq, Saddam Hussein had been very confident that theUnited Stateswould not dare to attack; if it did, it would be defeated. ‘Judging from his private statements, the single most important element in his strategic calculus was the faith thatFranceandRussiawould prevent theUnited Statesfrom invadingIraq. Tariq Aziz revealed that his confidence was firmly rooted in the nexus between the economic interests of France and Russia and the strategic goals of Saddam.’

 

A Window of Opportunity

When the House and the Senate passed the Iraq Liberation Act, it was clear what the U.S. intentions were in the case of Saddam. Bill Clinton made it Washington’s policy to get rid of this dictator. But even if individual actors or even groups and organizations inside the U.S. wanted this line of policy followed up by hard action, resorting to military confrontation depended on the structures and opportunities the system would allow.

When Bill Clinton was president, it would be very difficult to gather support for a war against Iraq, both abroad and in the U.S. Even though the world could be described as unipolar, and even though this gives the U.S. freedom of action in its foreign policy, engaging in war still requires some sort of acquiescence from its allies, so as not to hurt U.S. interests in the long run. Therefore, even if Bill Clinton wanted to invade, he did not have a window of opportunity to do so.

The 9/11 attacks opened up this window of opportunity for the new president, George W. Bush, even if the Iraqi dictator presumably did not comprehend this new U.S. leeway.  There had of course been strife within the U.S. governmental apparatus, but after President Bush received a carte blanche from the Congress to go to war, the administration gathered around a single course of action.

Also, the U.S. had a history of not following through their policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In addition to the potential threatIraqposed to the U.S., President Bush had to take into consideration the threat against U.S. allies in the region.

 

Conclusion

The 2003 invasion of Iraq resulted in the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the removal of his regime. Why did the Iraqi dictator choose a path of actions that would ultimately lead to his removal form power?

In this game there were two principal actors: Iraq and the United States. Even though other countries played their roles in the conflict, our focus has been on these two states and their moves in the game. George W. Bush, who had been given leeway by the Congress to make decisions regardingIraq, led the U.S. The President, together with his Departments, intelligence service, and advisors, represented the U.S. side of the game table.Iraq, on the other hand, was an authoritarian state. According to the CIA, Saddam Hussein had dictatorial dominance over the Iraqi Regime, so his influence on Iraqi decision-making was significantly larger than George W. Bush’s similar influence over policy-making inWashington.

The official U.S. policy was to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. After September 11th, U.S. focus was first and foremost to secure the physical well -being of the American people. SinceIraq was believed to possess WMD, the removal of these became the top priority for the U.S. government. By and large, theUnited   States was operating with two simultaneous goals: the elimination of both the (alleged) WMD and the Iraqi Regime.

Saddam Hussein’s goals can be summarized as follows. According to realist theory the survival ofIraqas a power in theMiddle Eastwas of utmost importance. This entailed securing the regime and handling regional threats. But Saddam Hussein also wanted to rise to the status of a modern Saladin, which could be achieved by successfully standing his ground against the ‘crusader states’. A confrontation with the U.S.could be described as a double-edged sword. If the U.S.was ‘hard line,’ Saddam risked being ousted from power by following his policy of showing WMD-ambiguity. For the Iraqi leader, however, there were real dividends to be gained by letting his enemies believe he possessed WMD. And if the U.S.was a mere ‘paper tiger’ Saddam could achieve becoming the undisputed leading figure of the Arab world by not giving in to the crusaders.

The important point here is that Saddam did not know for sure what type of opposition he was facing. The preceding 12 years of U.S. policy had given him the impression that he was facing American doves. But after September 11th the U.S. foreign policy had in fact changed from being soft to becoming hard line. In particular, there are two possibilities as to why Saddam Hussein chose to stand firm and not abide by U.S. demands. First, he might have thought that the U.S. was soft, that they would give in to Franco-Russian pressure and therefore refrain from going to war. Second, we should not disregard the possibility that the potential reward of standing his ground was perceived as so great by Saddam that he was willing to risk facing a hard line U.S.

 

Further reading:

Jakobsen, Tor Georg & Jo Jakobsen (2009) “The Game: A Rational Actor Approach to the US-led Invasion of Iraq, 2003” Strategic Analysis, 33(5) 664–674.

 

Tags:Middle East, rational actor, TGJ, USA, war



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“What were the aims of the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq? Did the invasion and subsequent occupation meet these aims?”

Seven years ago on the 19th of March, the United States began military strikes on Iraq with four satellite guided 2,000 pound ‘bunker buster’ bombs being dropped along with nearly forty Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched.[1] Though it was not formally declared until the next day, this was the beginning of the US-led Iraq War. This essay will analyse the primary aims and objectives that the US tried to achieve in its invasion and will evaluate the degree of success that America had in carrying out its plans. The essay will begin with the arguments behind the invasion on the grounds of security, including direct security of the region through the need to disarm Saddam Hussein’s government of its alleged weapons of mass-destruction, and the intention to promote stability in the region through the faith in the ability of democracy to create peace and the conditions for development and belief that democracy would spread across borders. The humanitarian goals will then be analysed as although the war successfully removed a tyrannical mass-murderer from power, new humanitarian problems have emerged. The plan for the security of American oil resources will be analysed. As each of these objectives and aims are discussed, the essay will evaluate their successes and failures, which will then be summarised and put together in order to determine in which ways America was successful in Iraq, and in what ways the US-led coalition failed to meet its targets as well as the possibility of their aims being met in the future.

Weapons of mass-destruction, or WMDs were one of the main arguments behind the invasion. It was argued by the US and the British governments that Iraq was in possession of weapons that were a serious threat to the security of western nations and the security of the nations in the region. They argued that intervention and regime change was necessary to forcibly disarm a nation that was not complying with the demands and requirements of the international community and which they argued was a global danger.[2] On this understanding then, one of the primary aims of the invasion of Iraq was to increase the security of the US and the rest of the world by removing a regime that posed a threat through contempt for the international community, a historical record of hostility to its neighbours, and the possession of weapons capable of massive destructive force.

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he’s determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein’s history of aggression… given what we know of his terrorist associations and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not some day use these weapons at a time and the place and in the manner of his choosing at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond? The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world.’[3]

The war was tied in to the wider War on Terror which planned pre-emptive military action against states believed to be developing WMDs and sponsoring terrorist organisations. It was argued that Saddam Hussein’s regime created the conditions that aided the growth of terrorists, and that Iraq was itself a rogue nation. It was also insinuated a number of times that Iraq was partly implicated with the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, and had links with al Qaeda, despite this being unproven and illogical, as Hussein and Al-Qaeda were of opposite political ideologies and had long been enemies.[4][5]

This purpose for the war and the aim for securing the US against Iraqi attack is perhaps the most easy to refute. Hussein was in no position to pose any serious threat to the United States; there were no WMDs in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein’s regime had nothing to do with the Al Qaeda terrorist network[6]. In actuality, the invasion may have actually increased the danger faced by America as it has increased the anti-American sentiment and radical Islamist movements in Iraq and the Middle-East as the invasions could be viewed as a new form of imperialism and the number of civilian deaths and the grotesque treatment of prisoners in cases such as Abu Graib have severely damaged American support. The war has also created an unstable, dangerous and turbulent Iraq and, as will be explained later, the war has shifted the middle-eastern balance of power and has destabilised the entire region.[7]

Another element of the US’ plan to protect itself was based on the belief that undemocratic and dictatorial regimes create conditions that enable the growth of terrorist groups, are prone to war, and create tension and conflict internationally. Liberal democracy, they argued, is a much more peaceful form of government. The Neo-conservatives that had a large influence over the Bush Administration’s foreign policy argue that democracies rarely, if ever, fight one another or experience civil war or internal conflict.[8] This democratic peace exists because, according to liberals and neo-conservatives, because the decision to go to war is made by a government that is directly accountable to the people, and it is the people who feel the consequences of warfare. Those who live under democratic governments are risk averse and cost sensitive and so are reluctant to agree to or support the decision to go to war. Another cause of the peacefulness of democracies that has an impact on wider security is that a democratic electoral system can foster ethnic moderation, keeping extremists isolated and out of power, while ensuring that communities coexists peacefully.[9] Based on this logic the American and British policy makers believed that by bringing democracy to Iraq, the regional security and their own security will be improved, the society would cease supporting terrorists (which it wasn’t doing), and would end its hostility towards Israel.[10] However, this theory has come under considerable criticism from academics from other schools of thought, and other liberals, who point out that democracies can be just as violent as other governments; for example, the only state that has deployed a nuclear bomb against another state was a democracy, and the Iraq War itself was initiated by democratic states.[11]

The alternative liberal view to this argues that instead of democracies being simply more peaceful to all states, liberal democracies are more peaceful to other liberal democratic states because they form complex interconnections between one another that makes the possibility of war unthinkable as it would be too damaging to the societies and individuals who grow to transcend the boundaries of the nation state.[12] But this view raises a number of problems for the plan to democratise Iraq would mean the creation of a democratic nation in a region of mostly undemocratic states, which would be dangerous because, as Doyle acknowledges, while it has been very successful in creating peace among liberal states, ‘liberalism has been equally striking as a failure in guiding foreign policy outside the liberal world’ as the same characteristics ‘that promote peace among liberal societies can exacerbate conflicts between liberal and non-liberal societies’.[13]

Another criticism of the aim of imposing liberal democracy is the argument that democracy must develop from below, rather than being imposed on one nation by another. Indeed, it has been argued that the Western democratic campaign in the middle-east is a form of imperial intervention[14]. Some realists have argued that the process of democratisation is dangerous as the transition to democracy creates instability and conflict, as can be seen by the ongoing insurgency and conflict in Iraq.[15]

The US had hoped that once democracy had been established in Iraq it ‘would open the way to a far more stable and peaceful region’.[16] Those who supported the imposition of democracy on the nation argued that a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Iraq would cause a reduction in interstate antagonism and would serve as a ‘beacon’ for liberal democracy in the middle-east that would inspire and pressure nearby states into liberalising, bringing further democratisation of the region.[17] However, this belief has been criticised for being much like the domino theory on the spread of international communism in the Cold War and the objective has faced, and is argued to face, many challenges.[18] Alina Romanowski, a senior US government civilian official in the Middle East argues that ‘Iraq presents as unpromising a breeding ground for democracy as any in the world’, and many argue that Iraqi society is too fractured and lacks the preconditions necessary for democracy to be established. These problems include a lack of cohesive unifying identity, a risk of Iranian and Turkish meddling, a poorly organised political leadership, and the lack of a history of democracy.[19] But despite the challenges and the anti-democratic terrorist attacks, democracy has been established, though the ability of this to continue to function and to thrive is yet to be seen. One of the main challenges to the new democracy is insecurity, but with the building up of a new Iraqi military and police force, and the assistance of other nations, democracy in Iraq might be feasible.[20]

But will this democracy and peace be able to spread to other nations in the region and what are the possibilities of a democratic Iraq helping to create regional peace? Though theorists such as Huntington, Starr and Lindborg argued that democracy can spill over borders and Cederman and Gleditsch concluded that the more democracies there are in a region, the more likely undemocratic states in the region will democratise, others disagree.[21] Enterline & Greig argue that it is possible for the democratisation of Iraq to enable peace to spread to nearby nations provided that the democracy is a beacon that ‘burns brightly’, reflecting strong democratic institutions so as to reduce conflict with neighbours. However, they argue that should Iraq become a ‘dim democratic beacon’ it would have the opposite consequences as it would ‘increase their own conflict propensity, as well as the war-proneness of neighbouring states’ which would undermine the peace and prosperity of neighbouring nations.[22] Having gathered statistical data on past externally imposed democracies they argue that even if Iraq became a bright beacon, democracy would be unlikely to spread, and they also argue that it is unlikely for Iraq to become a bright beacon due to the ethnic and religious conflicts tension in Iraq, the near absence of a democratic tradition, the impact of US occupation and the potential hostility of Iraq’s neighbours. They also argue that should Iraq become a dim beacon, it would undermine, rather than enhance regional democratisation.[23]

However, the true results of the democratisation process are yet to be seen as though there have been setbacks and challenges, Iraq has had successful democratic elections since the invasion, but time may be the only test of whether democracy will hold in Iraq and whether regional democratisation and peace will follow.

But the democratisation of Iraq was not solely for strategic and security purposes. The humanitarian motives for toppling an oppressive and tyrannical dictatorship from power and replacing it with a liberal democratic government are clear; Saddam Hussein was terrible man who murdered thousands of his own people and ruled with oppression and force[24]. In this respect, removing the dictator from power the war was clearly a humanitarian victory. However the invasion and subsequent occupation as well as the insurgency and internal conflict have claimed the lives of between 95,700 and 104,400 civilians.[25] Professor Gareth Stansfield argues that ‘things are far worse as a result of the war… Under Saddam, law and order was not an issue. There was no sectarian violence; no gross levels of violence. Post 2003, it has become a very serious problem.’[26] There has also been a reduction in living standards as electricity has been limited, sanitation is poor, drinking water has been contaminated or cut off, and healthcare has suffered as a consequence of the sanctions place on the country prior to the invasion as well as the invasion and removal of the government and breakdown of infrastructure.

The removal of the oppressive regime has also not necessarily translated to an improvement of civil rights. Nadje Al-Ali and Nicola Pratt point out how despite it having been one of the aims of the occupying forces to improve the civil rights of the oppressed under Saddam’s regime, women face serious setbacks to their liberty and human and civil rights. The Bush administration refused to back the establishment of quotas on the employment of female workers and the allowance of female politicians, which has been heavily criticised. Women have made moves into politics and have proved effective as pressure groups and campaigners (female support proved decisive in the opposition to Resolution 137 in 2004, which would have introduced a more conservative interpretation of Sharia law) but female employment has declined since the invasion as concerns for their security have forced them to avoid work and women have faced disproportionate job loss as a result of privatisation of state-owned enterprises. Perhaps the biggest shock is that the removal of the Hussein regime has led to widespread oppression of women, who are being increasingly harassed and assaulted by Islamist militias that roam the streets and kidnapped and sexually assaulted by criminal gangs, who sometime kidnap Iraqi women for trafficking. In the absence of the old secular regime, the increasingly conservative Islamist gender ideologues further impinge on women’s daily lives, which many reports emerging in Basra of women being forced to wear headscarves and have had to restrict their movements for fear of harassment. The Women’s Rights Association claims that there have been many cases of women being physically attacked and killed for not wearing headscarves. The violence caused by the war and the occupation has also led to women and girls missing school and university for weeks or even months out of fear.[27]

It is widely argued that one of the primary reasons for the Iraq War was for the procurement of the second largest oil reserves in the world. Indeed, this objective was achieved almost immediately when the US secured a UN resolution granting the US and UK occupying authority control over the expenditure of Iraqi oil revenues. There are many arguments that this was for commercial gain in order to support the US economy and oil lobbyists, however Alkadiri and Mohamedi argue that Iraqi oil has far more strategic value for the US as it would hoped it would secure Western resources, reduce dependency on the undemocratic oil producing nations, and would undermine, weaken and pressure the oil-producers such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran to undergo economic and political reform in order to further the neo-conservative security though democracy-spreading agenda.[28]

Alkadiri and Mohamedi were sceptical of this aim arguing that the conflict in the area and continuing instability would prevent oil companies from setting up in Iraq as ‘they will not throw money down the drain.’ They argued that oil companies would only settle once a stable sovereign government before the money, technology and training necessary for the industry will come to Iraq.[29] Peace and the establishment of a functional government has indeed taken far longer than the coalition forces had anticipated with hostilities, insurgency and terrorism continuing to date, so it is understandable that the accomplishment of this goal will have been delayed also. However because of increasing anti-Americanism in the region caused by the war, and because of the pressures created by the War on Terror and the concern of businessmen that their overseas assets could be frozen or nationalised as part of the War on Terror, the Gulf governments have become more focussed on internal trade and businessmen have repatriated funds for investment in local real estate and stock markets, which may have actually strengthened and returned buoyancy to their national economies. The higher prices caused by the Iraq War have also supported the economies. This means that the neo-conservatives have actually benefitted the rentier and authoritarian states.[30]

The Iraq War has undoubtedly not gone according to plan. The Bush administration’s intention to ‘swoop down from the sky, finish off a regime, pull back and reload the shotgun ready for the next target’[31] stalled as Iraq took far longer and was far more complex than was anticipated. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the links between Saddam and Al Qaeda are unsubstantiated, human rights has had its setbacks, living conditions are poor and there is still ongoing internal conflict and hostility. The oil producing undemocratic regimes of the region are still undemocratic, and anti-Americanism has fuelled extremism in the region which may further endanger the US. The removal of Saddam Hussein from power has also freed Iran from a long-time enemy and has created instability in the regional balance of power. However, many of the current problems are partly caused by instability and insecurity in the nation, and gradually violence is reducing and so there is a possibility that these problems may be resolved once the new democratic government gains full control. Despite the shortcomings of the other aims of the US-led coalition, democracy has been established in Iraq  and so, depending on how successfully the democratic institutions grow and how the system is embraced by the people of Iraq, it might well become a ‘bright beacon’ in the region which may potentially help to create regional peace and stability.

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Pincus, Walter & Milbank, Dana ‘Al Qaeda-Hussein Link is Dismissed’, The Washington Post, Thursday June 17th 2004 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47812-2004Jun16.html, retrieved on 15.03.2010

Ravlo, Hilde, Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Dorussen, Han ‘Colonial War and the Democratic Peace’ Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol 47, no4, August 2003,

Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003)

Enterline, Andrew J & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy, and Prosperity’ The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, Cambridge University Press, (November 2005)

Panke, Diana & Risse, Thomas ‘Liberalism’ in Dunne, Tim, Kurki, Milja & Smith, Steve ‘International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity’ Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007

Doyle, Michael W ‘Kant, Liberal Legacies and Foreign Affairs’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol 12, No 3, Blackwell Publishing, Summer 1983

Richard Perle, Quoted in Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003)

Hans J Morgenthau ‘A New Foreign Policy for the United States’ part 5 ‘To Intervene, or not to intervene’ Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, London, 1969

Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003)

‘Obituary: Saddam Hussein’, BBC News, 30.12.2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1099005.stm, retrieved on 18.03.2010

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Mohamedi, Fareed ‘Oil Prices and Regime Resilience in the Gulf’ Middle East Report, No 232, Autumn 2004, Middle East Research and Information Project, pp36-38


[1] Gordon, Michael R. & Trainor, Bernard E. ‘Iraqi Leader, in Frantic Flight, Eluded U.S. Strikes’ New York Times, March 1, 2006, http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/international/middleeast/12escape.html, retrieved on 18.03.10

[2] Powell, Colin ‘Transcript of Powell’s UN Presentation’ February 6, 2003, CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/02/05/sprj.irq.powell.transcript/index.html, retrieved on 15.03.2010

[3] Powell, Colin ‘Transcript of Powell’s UN Presentation’ February 6, 2003, CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/02/05/sprj.irq.powell.transcript/index.html, retrieved on 15.03.2010

[4] Milbank, Dana ‘Bush Defends Assertions of Iraq-Al Qaeda Relationship’, The Washington Post, Friday, June 18, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50679-2004Jun17.html, retrieved on 15.03.2010

[5] Rogers, Paul ‘Terrorism’ in Williams, Paul D. ‘Security Studies: An Introduction’, Routledge, London, 2008, p 178-185

[6] Pincus, Walter & Milbank, Dana ‘Al Qaeda-Hussein Link is Dismissed’, The Washington Post, Thursday June 17th 2004 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47812-2004Jun16.html, retrieved on 15.03.2010

[7] Rogers, Paul ‘Terrorism’ in Williams, Paul D. ‘Security Studies: An Introduction’, Routledge, London, 2008, p 178-185

[8] Ravlo, Hilde, Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Dorussen, Han ‘Colonial War and the Democratic Peace’ Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol 47, no4, August 2003, p520-521

[9] Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003) p51

[10] Enterline, Andrew J & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy, and Prosperity’ The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, Cambridge University Press, (Nov., 2005), p1075

[11] Panke, Diana & Risse, Thomas ‘Liberalism’ in Dunne, Tim, Kurki, Milja & Smith, Steve ‘International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity’ Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, p90-106

[12] Panke, Diana & Risse, Thomas ‘Liberalism’ in Dunne, Tim, Kurki, Milja & Smith, Steve ‘International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity’ Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, p90-106

[13] Doyle, Michael W ‘Kant, Liberal Legacies and Foreign Affairs’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol 12, No 3, Blackwell Publishing, Summer 1983, p322-325

[14] Ravlo, Hilde, Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Dorussen, Han ‘Colonial War and the Democratic Peace’ Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol 47, no4, August 2003, p521-523

[15] Ravlo, Hilde, Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Dorussen, Han ‘Colonial War and the Democratic Peace’ Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol 47, no4, August 2003, p521

[16] Richard Perle, Quoted in Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003), p47

[17] Enterline, Andrew J. & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy and Prosperity’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, November 2005, Cambridge University Press, p1075-1076

[18] Hans J Morgenthau ‘A New Foreign Policy for the United States’ part 5 ‘To Intervene, or not to intervene’ Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, London, 1969, p131

[19] Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003) p48-49

[20] Byman, Daniel ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’,International Security, Vol. 28, No. 1, MIT Press, (Summer, 2003) p50

[21] Enterline, Andrew J. & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy and Prosperity’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, November 2005, Cambridge University Press, p1079

[22] Enterline, Andrew J. & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy and Prosperity’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, November 2005, Cambridge University Press, p1089-1090

[23] Enterline, Andrew J. & Greig, J. Michael ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy and Prosperity’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, November 2005, Cambridge University Press, p1089-1090-1095

[24] ‘Obituary: Saddam Hussein’, BBC News, 30.12.2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1099005.stm, retrieved on 18.03.2010

[25] Iraq Body Count, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/, retrieved on 18.03.2010

[26] Stansfield, Gareth, Quoted in Hotsken, Andrew ‘Iraq: The Statistics’, ‘Today Program’, BBC Radio 4, http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8487000/8487182.stm, retrieved on 18.03.2010

[27] Al-Ali, Nadje & Pratt, Nicole ‘Women in Iraq: Beyond the Rhetoric’ Middle East Report, No. 239, ‘Dispatches from the War Zones: Iraq and Afghanistan’, Summer 2006, Middle East Research and Information Project, pp18-23

[28] Alkadiri, Raas & Mohamedi, Freed ‘World Oil Markets and the Invasion of Iraq.’ Middle East Report, No. 227, Summer 2003, Middle East Research and Information Project, p21

[29] Alkadiri, Raas & Mohamedi, Freed ‘World Oil Markets and the Invasion of Iraq.’ Middle East Report, No. 227, Summer 2003, Middle East Research and Information Project, p27

[30] Mohamedi, Fareed ‘Oil Prices and Regime Resilience in the Gulf’ Middle East Report, No 232, Autumn 2004, Middle East Research and Information Project, pp36-38

[31] Mearsheimer, John ‘Hans Morgenthau and the Iraq War: Realism vs Neo-conservatism’ Open Democracy Ltd, 2005, p2

Written by David Sykes
Written for: Dr Victoria Mason
Written at: Lancaster University
Date: March 2010

This essay has been recognised with an e-IR essay award (undergraduate)

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