The Iraq War: The Reasons behind the Invasion
The reasons behind the invasion of Iraq are as muddled in controversy as the false triumphs surrounding the purported military success that was highly celebrated just weeks following the fall of Baghdad. Researches have posited a variety of explanations about the George Bush administration’s rationale behind the 2003 invasion. Contributing to this debate, this paper offers a systematic analysis of the reasons behind the invasion. These reasons are not as simple as they seem but much more complex and complicated. However, an overriding rationale reeks in almost all discussions: the war on terrorism.
On the heel of the September 11, 2001, influential policy makers in the Bush administration succeeded in popularizing the allegation that toppling the Saddam Hussein regime was a necessary instrument in fatally wounding radical Islamic terrorism not only with considerable specificity but also on multiple fronts. As a strategy against Islamic fundamentalism, it was supposed to operate on three fronts; military, psychological and ideological. Believing on the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the Bush administration believed that the attack would make it possible to eliminate from the hands of Saddam Hussein dictatorial regime weapons of mass destruction and consequently depriving Al Qaeda easy access to dangerous weapons. This reason buttressed the military strategy (Friel & Falk 44; Tunc 335; Gray 36).
On the psychological front, the American government sought to demonstrate their power and resolve hence discrediting the overriding belief in the Middle East that the United States was powerless in the face of an Islamic offensive or defensive. Ideologically, the war was to act as a bridge towards the cultural and political transformation of Islamic states such as Iraq. As an entrance to the eventual control of the Middle East, the establishment of democracy in Iraq was to serve as a model of freedom and liberation to other Arab countries.
In pursuit of each of these rationales, the Bush administration relied on several assumptions. By using the presence of weapons of mass destruction as a supportive allegation for the military rationale, the administration pushed forward the understanding that given the animosity underlying the United States and Iraq relations, Saddam Hussein may be tempted to use these weapons to harm the United States and its citizens everywhere in the world. Moreover, the United States not only believed that Saddam had the intention of harming the United States but also that in the event that his intentions becomes an eventuality, Saddam would act irrationally even to that end. Some scholars have been quick to point out that the presence of weapons of mass destruction was but a smokescreen for a more hidden rationale that was at the time preceding the invasion less popular (Tunc 336).
The psychological rationale was held together by the underlying assumption that in the event that Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein successfully toppled, then the act would deter other regimes, groups or individuals from openly or cryptically offering support to terrorism, in effect fostering fear and mutual respect for the United States. The ideological rationale advanced by the policy makers assumed that the existence of repressive authoritarian/ totalitarian political culture in the Arab World was the nutrition of Islamic fanaticism and terrorism.
While relying on these rationales to legitimize the Iraq invasion, the Al Qaeda attacks on the September, 11 2003 were crucial in policy formulation. These terrorist attacks completely transformed the administrations sense of danger stimulating the creation of urgent offensive strategies. But rather than being the act behind the decision to invade Iraq, the terrorist attacks only increased the urgency of an American desire that had been modeled by past architects in the White house. It represented the call for tough action by neo-conservatives and conservatives after the September 9, 11 attacks. Prior to the attacks, President Bush had repeatedly resisted calls for the change of regime in Iraq. In the post terrorist attacks era, he changed his position and aligned himself with the war hawks. This transformation was most likely influenced by Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as well as long time Iraq war hawks like the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz. It is the change in President Bush’s position on the necessity of a change of the regime buttressed with all the other rationales that the Iraqi invasion became a reality (Tunc 337).
Apart from these rationales, there are other alternative explanations that have been posited as reasons behind the invasion. These two alternatives are basically: oil and achieving the United States dominance. Unlike the decisions aforementioned, these other alternatives do not have direct corroborating evidence but they nonetheless stand their ground in the socioeconomic and political discourses.
Oil has transcended discourses from levels of considerable obscurity to preeminence. Based on this reason, the Bush administration pushed for the invasion with the aim of enriching America’s oil companies with additional oil from the vast petroleum resource reserves in Iraq. The popularity of this assertion is dampened by the unavailability of logical and evidential support. Some scholars argue that supposing the United States simply wanted petroleum, the lifting of sanctions on the Saddam regime would have been instrumental and less costly as opposed to waging an all out military invasion. A policy of lifting the sanctions would have been directly beneficial to the government as well as the oil companies. Moreover, there is no evidence that the oil companies engaged in any form of lobbying for the toppling of the regime. Contrary, there is evidence that the oil companies were for the relaxation of restrictions on the Iraqi government but not of his removal from power for fear of stimulating political instability in the Gulf.
In fact, prior to the war there was widespread understanding that should the United States topple Saddam Hussein and a new democratic governing entity instituted, the presence of the United States oil companies was enough to stir revolt among the highly sensitive Iraqis. Oil being their national asset, the Iraqis themselves were quick to caution against the presence of the oil companies. With the liberation of Kuwait acting as an experience, the administration completely steered off Iraqi oil. The only aspect of Iraqi oil that came into the fore before the invasion was that to maintain the functioning of the newly installed government, oil was to be a necessity in their hands. On the other hand, oil was a sure source of finance for Iraqi reconstruction. While not intending to control it, the Bush administration understood that oil in the wrong hands was a sure source of finance for the purchase of weapons by any authoritarian regime, hence the decision to invade Iraq (Tunc 339).
However, this analysis does not exonerate the quest for oil as a valid reason for the invasion. Several security issues affect the continuous supply of oil from the Middle East. From pre- World War I era where competitive pursuit of oil from the Middle East was fought between the German, British, Turkish and the French to the post World War era where the United States and the United Kingdom continued their relentless pursuit, oil has always remained at the center of international competition. Since the United States is the largest consumer of petroleum, it therefore followed that Saddam Hussein had to be eliminated to free petroleum supply. The removal of the destabilized regime only served to satisfy America’s energy demands as opposed to the allegation of WMD (Stec & Baraj 226; Friel & Falk 44).
On a larger scale, the invasion of Iraq was necessitated by the administrations global agenda to safeguard and protect American hegemony. By drawing on its unequaled military power, the conservatives and the neo-conservatives believed the invasion of Iraq was an initial step in the stopping the emergence of any military power. In this case, the irrationality of Saddam Hussein and his unpredictability as concerns military matters made him a target on the way of Americas expanding imperialism. Even though Iraq was a small troubling country that was logically unable to threaten America’s hegemony, these arguments were fundamental with regard to the rise of terrorism as a global threat.
It is vague how the elimination of Saddam Hussein would have enhanced American military preeminence when compared to the threats posed by countries such as China. Unless the war for oil reason is accepted, then geo-strategically, the invasion does not make sense.
From an Iraqi point of perspective, the United States invasion was could only be in congruence with the countries ideals if they felt that the regime had failed miserably in making the Iraqi people safe in their own land. Several dissidents expelled from Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial rule posit that the Iraqis were themselves overburdened by the harsh realities of the dictatorial regime. Therefore, regime change by an external military power though wrong in principle was justified owing to the uniqueness of the Iraqi case. The Iraqis were an oppressed population, suffering so profoundly yet hidden from the world gaze by their dictatorial president (Alaskary1)
During Saddam Hussein’s era, life was completely unbearable owing to the continuous psychological oppression. Using the complex intelligence apparatus at his disposal, Saddam Hussein completely muffled the expression of any opinion that was deemed as anti-government. Not even families could trust one another, suspicion between individuals prevented even the existence of genuine friendships, not even gazing at a government building could be taken without suspicion. These are the painful experiences that Iraqis had to endure each and every day. As a result of fear Iraqis became trapped and isolated individuals who were constantly alert lest a small mistake lead to outright execution or unimaginable torture and interrogation.
Random arrests of thousands of citizens was commonplace. These innocent individuals could be subjected to inhuman treatment as a way of flushing out anti-Saddam citizenry. Whole towns like Dujel were wiped out simply because a few townsmen were found guilty of opposing Saddam Hussein. These acts are not only evil in the eyes of the Iraqis who were by nature of their political and military importance unable to rise against their leader but also in the eyes of the whole human race. By choosing the common sense that is bestowed upon each and every ordinary human being, it is not difficult to discern the reasons why America’s invasion was welcomed in some sectors in Iraq (Alaskary3).
To oppose such a war of liberation would only serve to maintain the status quo of unimaginable suffering, torturing and the slaughtering of millions of innocent civilians. An analysis of the core realities before the United States invasion, taken from an Iraq perspective offered the only moral justification for the end of the suffering of Iraqis. Based on this understanding the United States apportioned themselves the responsibility of invading to free the Iraqis from oppression (Thomas & Poppen 116).
As an attempt at divulging into issues surrounding the invasion of Iraq by the United States in this paper is nonetheless incomplete. However, the rationales behind the war inherently stand their ground in critical analyses as more events in the war continue to unfold. Started as a quick military strategy that proved successful in toppling the dictatorial regime and replacing it with a quasi puppet government, the war still trudges on with heavy human and economic losses.
On Bush’s role in making the critical decision on invasion, the Republicans were bundled out of office for fresh and visionary Democratic blood. As the final chapters of the war continue to be scribbled, the victories and the losses of the war are as doubtful as the reasons behind the invasion. One fact that lives on is that the war has dramatically modeled the United States foreign policy on the Middle East. The complexity and uniqueness of such decisions and their implications call for fresh thinking on the benefits of unwarranted invasions.
Alaskery, Yasser. The Iraqi Dictatorship: A Unique Case Needs an Exceptional Solution. http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=2&debateId=73&articleId=486. 2002
Friel, H. & Falk, A. Richard.The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy.Verso, 2004. p. 44
Gray, H. Chris. Peace, War, and Computers. Routledge, 2005. P. 36
Stec, S. & Baraj, B. Energy and Environmental Challenges to Security: Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Energy and Environmental Challenges to Security, Budapest, Hungary, 1st November 2007. Springer, 2009. p. 227-233
Thomas, J & Poppen, J. Executive Conspiracy?: A Criminal Justice Research Project : the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. 1st Books Library, 2004. p. 116
Tunc, Hakan. What Was It All About After All? The Causes of the Iraq War. Contemporary Security Policy. Vol. 26, No. 2, p. 335-355. 2005.Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.