Legitimization of The Us 2003 Invasion in Iraq from a Realist and Critical Theory Perspective

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Words: 1794 |

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9 min read

Published: Jul 15, 2020

Words: 1794|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Jul 15, 2020

In the mornings of 11th September 2001, The World Trade in New York was attacked by a terrorist militant group. Shortly, a ‘war on terror’ emerged. . In 2003, president George W. Bush ordered an invasion in Iraq, with the suspicion that Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein was in the possession of a mass destruction weapon(WMD) targeting the US. In this essay, I shall explain core concepts of Classical Realism and Critical theory. As critical theory is a theory with various theories I shall focus on Gramscian concept of hegemony, as I believe this will be the suitable framework from the Critical tradition. I shall thereafter apply these theories together with the level of analyses, as frameworks to account for the legitimatization of the US 2003 invasion in Iraq. Core concepts of Classical Realism Classical Realism is the dominant theory of international relations. War, peace and conflict have been the focus of the realist theorist in International Relations.

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The most key ancient Realist thinkers in the field of international Relations are, Thucydides, Thomas Hobbes, E. H Car and Hans Morgenthau. Niccolò Machiavelli, a modern Italian scientist argues against the notion that state leaders should be and act righteous. Machiavelli further states that, morality has no place in politics. According to Hobbes, human beings are egoist and lust for power. ” …And the life of a man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short”. In realism, the international system is anarchic, and therefore promotes a struggle for survival, through a maximization of power, among states. Thus, states are the main units in the international system. The existence of states in an anarchic system, creates insecurity, and encourages a constant competition for power, between major and great powers. Furthermore, the international system is a self-help system, where states must ensure its own safety and survival. If a state is conceived as the most powerful, a counterbalance of power, will be created by major and great powers- balance of power. The balance of power prevents any state for dominating another state, and thus provides for stability in the international system.

US invasion in Iraq 2003: A Realist Perceptive During World War 2, nation-states hostile to each other where the ultimate sources of threats. After the 9/11 attack in New York, a new definition of threats emerged. Firstly, terror organizations were now able to commit terror anywhere in the world. Secondly, weak states that harbor terrorist organizations, and roque states that massacre their own people, and determined to acquire WMD. Lastly, terrorist organization with access to harmful military technology, poses a serious threat to international security. The destruction of the Twin Towers at the ‘heart of America’ showed how a minor group was able to attack the worlds most sophisticated security and defense technology. The ‘war on terror’ was an attempt to dismantle Al-Qaeda and its organizational networks in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, former US president, George. H. W Bush, set forth a vital document- The National Security Strategy of the United States, also referred to as, the Bush Doctrine. The document outlined the rationale for the war, and defined the threat against the US as, “a combination of radicalism and technology”. Bush stated following, “The gravest danger to freedom lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology, when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. . . ”.

From a realist perspective, The US was entitled to act rationally and take effective measures to protect itself against an imposing threat by Iraq. Saddam Hussein was developing WMD under his regime, and to achieve a nuclear capability The Bush doctrine granted itself the right to take pre-emptive actions against from potential threat against its security. The concept of “raison d’état” is the most fundamental principle of international conducts. A stateman must ensure adequate steps to preserve the health and strength of the state. Saddam Hussein and his authoritarian regime was opposing a direct toward American soil. In 2001, The US withdrew from the 1972-Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to build a new missile defense system, to protect itself from nuclear attacks.

Level of analyses: In this section, I shall account for the US invasion in Iraq by applying the first level of analyses – state level. “The state level of analyses comprises arguments that focus on the particular political or economic characteristics of countries or states”. It argues that, the state’s activity abroad, including being in conflicts with each other, is strongly influenced by the domestic political institutions. For instance, a theory developed by various scholars such as Michael Doyle and Bruce Russet, suggest that, states with a democratic government is less likely to go into war with another democratic state. From this framework, the ‘war on terror’ and Saddam Hussein’s’ non-democratic regime was an essential factor for invading Iraq. ” One rationale for acting was that the ‘liberation of Iraq’ might initiate a swing towards more democratic government stability, which would, in turn, generate greater international political stability”. The Bush administration emphasized the idea of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime, would create the conditions for establishing, a democratic Iraq, which in turn could act as a model for the greater Middle East Region. Following is from the Bush doctrine document, “The United States possesses unprecedented-and unequally-strength and influence in the world. Sustained by the faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities and, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom. Thus, various progress was made in Iraq, due to the invasion. A year after, under the rule of the Coalition Occupation Authority, Iraq was once again an independent state. Furthermore, a new Iraq constitution was established, and people were now able to select candidates in real elections. In fact, 76, 9% of eligible Iraqis voted in 2005, and 12 parties was represented in the new House of Representatives.

Before I shall introduce Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, the origins of Critical theory must be addressed. The Frankfurt school is a school of social theory and philosophy developed by philosophers, economist, and psychoanalyst. The three main Frankfurt school thinkers was Marx Horkheimer who also became the director of the Frankfurt school institute, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno. The school was initially closed by Nazis in 1935, but they reestablished the institution in New York later with a second volume of “Studies on Philosophy”. Their main idea with the establishment of the Frankfurt school project was to transform Marx’s Critique of Political Economy into a social theory that would focus on the situation with social democracy, bolshevism and fascism that emerged after the Second World War. Gramsci concept of hegemony “The Canadian scholar Robert Cox has done most to introduce Gramsci to the study of world politics. Gramsci was an Italian Marxist philosopher, and wrote his most famous work, Prison Notebooks, in prison between 1929 and 1933.

Gramsci has developed the concept cultural hegemony. His understanding of power derives from Machiavellian’s concept of power as, “centaur- half beast, half man- a mixture of coercion and consent”. Consent is created by the hegemony of the ruling class in society, trough the institutions of civil society, “the network of institutions, and practices that enjoy some autonomy from the state, and trough which groups and individuals organize, represent, and express themselves to each other and the state (for example, the media, the education system…. ”. According to Gramsci, culture becomes more political and important. The hegemony of the ruling class will generate its own values and norms, so that it will become the “common sense” and maintain the status quo. US invasion in Iraq: From a Gramscian Perspective Former US president, George Bush, invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. This preemptive attack was legitimized by repeatedly claiming that Saddam Hussein was involved in attack on the World Trade Center, and not complying with UN requirements about weapon inspections. , through various national and press conferences. Also, that Iraq was developing a MDW planning to use it against the US. Despite that fact, reports was showing there were no indications to this claim by the White House.

Despite international condemnation against the use of force to invade Iraq, the Bush administration managed to persuade and obtain the consent of the majority of the American people to initiate a war against terror, in particular Iraq. In order to promote a campaign of fear, the arguments began in Sep 2002, when British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bush in a joint press conference, declared that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report, stating that Iraq had revised its nuclear weapons project.

In conclusion, the 2001 terror attack against the World Trade Center shocked the world. The Bush administration declared ‘war on terror’ against militant terror organizations. The US invasion in Iraq was an attempt to maintain the balance of power and remain a global hegemony according to realism. The notion of hegemony in Realism, and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony differs. For Gramsci, the dominant state holds the hegemony over culture and ideas. The invasion was an attempt to impose its own political values and norms on Iraq. Realism is a theoretical framework to explain conflicts in the world. Critical theory focuses on the cultural aspect of capitalism. Both theories have flaws and strengths. Unlike Realism, Critical theory does not consider the practices and agencies in international relations, nor does the economic aspect. How would one explain why the oil ministry in Bagdad was protected under the invasion in 2003?

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Hence, it might not be the best suitable framework for analyzing this case. The invasion of Iraq poses some challenges to al varies of realist theories. The invasion and occupation of Iraq poses some challenges to all varies of realist theories. The invasion took place at a time when the US was the undisputed leader of the post-cold unipolar world. The US is the biggest nation in the world, in terms of, economic, military, and cultural, and political powers. Iraq was in no great power, nor even a major power. Therefore, Saddam Hussein provoking hostile military acts the US sovereignty was not challenged. And posing any threat to the US security. Also, Iraq was since the Gulf war in 1991, already subjected to sanctions, which would make the allegations of Iraq developing MDW, because of these sanctions, developing MDW would be merely difficult, if not impossible. In realism, if power struggle is between major and great powers, and perceives real challenges from one another, then in this case, a relist framework fail to provide for a sufficient explanation for the invasion in Iraq.

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Legitimization of the Us 2003 Invasion in Iraq from a Realist and Critical Theory Perspective. (2020, July 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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