Within this paper we will take a look at the Iraq War from three different perspectives: realism, the theory of Power Transition and constructivism. All of them describe possible causes of this war from different viewpoints.
To start with realism, according to this perspective Bush's administration had a strategic goal of setting up a global hegemony so it decided to overthrow Saddam's government to enhance its reputation and symbolic power beyond challenge, especially since the 911 attacks had shown USA's vulnerability. Iraq was an easier target because it posed a lesser threat than other US enemies like North Korea or Iran in terms of military capability. The Bush administration painted the Iraqi regime change and the preventive war to be inevitable and had shown willingness to use force. America's interests also vested in the large quantities of oil reserves that were present in Iraq as they posed a threat to US's security in case Iraq used its reserves against it. USA's reputational motives also demanded controlling the military bases present in Iraq to project its power over the region. From a realist perspective, the Iraq war was a means of the US asserting its power and dominance onto its allies and contenders in a post-cold-war unipolar structure and to avoid a repeat of 911 by threatening its competitors. The USA wanted to decrease Palestinian militia control in Iraq to faciliatate its regional ally, Israel. Iraq posed a threat to Israel as it was one of the primary supporters of Palestinian militiancy fighting against Israel. USA also wanted to pressurize Syria and Iran which are both deemed to be enemy states of the US, to stop their nuclear program. America wanted a regime change in Syria and Iran which according to the balance of threat theory explains why both countries supported Iraq against the US. As they suspected that the US would attack them next, they tried to bog down America in Iraq to vanquish its strength before it could come for Tehran and Damascus.
Power Transition theory suggests that the most important trigger for the war to start was the fear of the US administration that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi WMDs could push the region into a large, endogenous power shift and the US could not allow the risk of that happening. The 911 attack had compelled the US to take every possible threat into serious consideration and the realist perspective could not explain why America led its military into a preventive war that didn't have much rational backing besides some faulty intelligence reports. The fear that Saddam was building nuclear weapons posed an imminent threat to the hierarchy that sustained in the region and there were chances that the weapons could fall in the hands of the terrorists. Since the US could not be certain that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, it feared that Iraq would be tempted to build one to challenge the status quo of the Middle East. Unwilling to face a nuclear power Iraq, the US launched a preventive war which ultimately proved to be a mistake. After the fall of Iraq, the region suffered a power gap, causing the region to shift to bipolarity and kickstart a constant struggle for regional hegemony between Iran and Saudi Arabia since there was no third party empowered enough to recreate the multipolar condition which was keeping the Middle East stable. Rise of non-state actors in the nearby region also resulted due to the power gap left behind by the collapse of Iraq as a successful power transition failed to take place. Though there are predictions that Turkey would be the suitable party to recreate the multipolar system, it is still unclear who would empower it to come to the forefront.
Constructivists say that the Iraq war was caused due to cognitive biases and irrational self-delusion. The US decided to go to war because the dominant strategic cultural norm of seeking geopolitical stability through multilateral deterrence had proved to be flawed after the attack of 911. The Iraq war was a symbol of the US asserting global hegemony by imposing an international norm of democratic regime change. The Iraq war was a means to introduce a new international norm of hegemonic promotion of democracy through the use of force. The preventive war on Iraq was meant to be part of a larger strategic cultural norm seeking to replace the national security paradigm of multilateral containment and maintenance of the geopolitical status quo of the Cold war paradigm but ended in failure. Misperception of the faulty intelligence reports suspecting the presence of WMD in Iraq along with the increased fear in USA post-911 to suspect and deal strongly with even the slightest threat played a major role in waging the war on Iraq.
All these perspectives to describe the case of Iraq war explain the current dynamics of the Middle East and why it is still torn apart by war. Though there have been some attempts on achieving peace or the end to the ongoing war, there is still a need for a major shift in regional politics.
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