The US Foreign Policy and War Justification: A Case Study of Iraq War


The US foreign policy and role of national policies for wars’ justification has always been an essential part of the foreign policy discourses. The logic of elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) during the Iraq war and eradication of terrorism during the Afghan war provided the US ‘just cause’ for the wars internally and externally. In this regard, the war in Afghanistan was a war of necessity, and the war in Iraq was a war of choice.

Bush took over the podium of the US presidential office in 2001. His tenure is marked by the 4 major events i.e. 9/11 and the Global War against terrorism, operation enduring freedom and invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq, and restructuring of the unipolar world order. The Bush Doctrine is marked by the preservation of the peace by eliminating the terrorists and tyrants, by promoting good relations between the great powers, and ensuing free and open societies in every continent.

Before the Bush Administration, American foreign policy was known by two grand strategies i.e. realist and liberalist. The realists’ orientation believed in deterrence and balance of power, whereas, the liberalist believed in the reconstruction of the worlds’ economy. In this context, the realists were believed to create ground for a liberal strategy for American leadership. With the Bush administration in power, the new grand strategy emerged aimed at containing terrorism, attaining and organizing power. The aim of the new post-cold war grand strategy was to restructure the unipolar world order by practicing the global role of the US.

This grand strategy had seven contours that are as follows:-

  1. Commitment to maintaining a Unipolar world having no peer competitor.
  2. Analysis of global threats.
  3. Deterrence is outdated.
  4. Redefine sovereignty.
  5. Depreciation of International rules and treaties.
  6. Need to play a direct and unconstrained role.
  7. Little value to International stability.

In this regard, the NSS 2002 was a document that provides the role of the US beyond its borders. The NSS 2002 encompasses the following things

  1. Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity.
  2. Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends.
  3. Work with others to Defuse Regional Conflicts.
  4. Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
  5. Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade.
  6. Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy.
  7. Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power.
  8. Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century.

Section 4 of the NSS 2002 was about the threat of WMD and the way forward to deal with it. The Iraq war started in 2003 with a rationale to eliminate dictatorship, Genocide, WMDs, and State-sponsored terrorism. The hidden causes had all traditions behind this war were geopolitical interests of the US, Democratization of Middle East in context of Wilsononism tradition of foreign policy,  Oil resources (Hamiltonianism), and Security of Israel (Jacksonionism).

President Bush in his address in 2002 highlighted that the attainment of the chemical and biological weapons by the enemies is a threat to American security and dictator regimes and enemies of the US can anytime harm the security of us and its allies. The NSS further said that the meaning of deterrence and security in the post-cold war has changed dramatically due to the emergence of rogue states and terrorist groups. Furthermore, there is the likelihood of the use of WMD against the US by these elements. Additionally, these states have no respect for international commitments, treaties, human rights and have offensive objectives. Iraq in this regard was termed as a rogue state having WMD and was accused of genocide and state-sponsored terrorism. It was highlighted that there are irrefutable proofs that Iraq possesses WMD that will be used against the US, therefore, the US should do something before that destructive technology is exercised on the US. Consequently, 3 strategies were proposed Proactive counterproliferation efforts, Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies, and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction, and effective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD, therefore, the Iraq war was justified as ‘use preemption as a pretext for aggression.

So in conclusion, the justification US provided for the Iraq war was preemption against WMD. Later the time proved the objectives the US got out of the war were not in alliance with the one described by the Bush administration and NSS 2002. Furthermore, the Bush Doctrine and overlapping of NSS 2002 striking features prove the clarity in the US decision-making process and synergy between various facets of foreign policy. Last but not least it also shows how the decisions are justified to the public through National Security Policies and threat presentation

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Newsletter