Essay Example on 2003 US Foreign Policy: Iraq & Beyond

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1726 Words
Date:  2023-05-08

In 2003, the US foreign policy largely revolved around Iraq. Before delving into the Iraq case, it is prudent to recap the US foreign policy in key events that occurred before the invasion of Iraq. Over the years, the US has always been anchored on a democratic governance model and a diplomatic policy towards other countries. The US diplomatic policy was particularly evident during the Cold War, in the way it willingly embraced countries that controverted communist ideologies without minding their governance models (Yew, 2007). Ultimately, its consistent diplomatic approach was instrumental in conquering communism that was being championed by the Soviet Union.

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After the culmination of the Cold War, the US got involved in the war against terrorism. Terrorist groups were linked to the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the 9/11 attacks (Yew, 2007). Following these attacks, the US decided to change its diplomatic approach, especially towards Islamic countries that were perceived to be breeding grounds for terrorists, by being less inclusive and accommodative. In this regard, the US responded to terrorism by launching counterattacks on countries such as Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban, which was a major terrorist group. It was such less inclusive policies that would inform the US decision to attack Iraq in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein's administration and institute democratic governance structures.

Nonetheless, the decision to invade Iraq over a diplomatic approach turned out to be the most contentious foreign policy debates in light of the invasion's aftermath. Williams (2007) argued that when trying to overcome an enemy, the US had, on several occasions, been forced to choose whether to employ a policy of deterrence or adopt an alternative highly risky approach. Its attack on Iraq was seemingly underpinned by the deterrence theory owing to the view held by Bush's administration that Saddam could not be stopped by diplomatic means. Attempts by the US compel Saddam to surrender Iraq's weapons of mass destruction between 1990 and 2003 had been futile (Williams, 2007). Therefore, the Bush administration decided that the only they could stop Saddam was by going to war in Iraq.

The fall of Saddam's regime started in March 2003 when US soldiers launched a decapitation attack to decimate Saddam ("The rise and fall of a dictator", 2003). With help from British soldiers, the US demolished Saddam's palaces and monuments that were bases used in glorifying his rule. The soldiers then began a manhunt for Saddam, who had escaped into hiding during the attacks, and ultimately caught him in December 2003, which marked the end of his regime. After conquering Saddam, Sissons and Al-Saiedi (2013a) stated that the US established a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) meant to govern the Iraqis. To consolidate its foothold in Iraq, the CPA embarked on a far-reaching de-Baathification process aimed at quelling the influence of Baath party that had dominated during Saddam's regime.

The Baath party was based on Baathism, a secular Arab nationalist philosophy, which emphasized the aim of Arab nationalism under the pillars of social democracy, self-determination and unity. Fu'ad al-Rukabi, a Shi'a engineer is credited for introducing the Baath party in Iraq in 1951 (Sissons & Al-Saiedi, 2013b). Shi'a was one of the Islam sects. Rather than earning the commitment of Iraqis, the Baath party acquired power over the Iraqis forcefully through coup d'etats. It was through coups that Saddam gained control of the party and installed Tikriti Sunnis as the governing elements.

Saddam then used Baath party to control all state institutions and enable him to remain in power. For instance, for Iraqis to secure employment in public institutions, they had to acquire membership in the Baath party (Sissons & Al-Saiedi, 2013a). Additionally, Saddam granted the Baath party unchecked powers that helped it in collaborating with law enforcement agencies in violating human rights, kidnapping and torturing people and orchestrating extrajudicial killings. In light of this cruel and hegemonic rule, the US-led CPA deemed it fit to dismantle the party and establish a democratic governance structure.

The de-Baathification process entailed implementing administrative and statutory mechanisms to prevent the Baath party from re-establishing its dominance in Iraq. However, the process was riddled with controversies. For example, Sissons and Al-Saiedi (2013b) argued that the CPA lacked knowledge of the Iraqi state and politicized the process heavily, which derailed the planning of de-Baathification. Additionally, the planning and execution of de-Baathification used de-Nazification as the point of reference, a process that had been condemned earlier for failing to punish high-ranking Nazi officers for their misdeeds. De-Nazification involved the removal of Nazi supporters from state offices after the Second World War. In the Iraq context, the CPA used Iraqi exiles to dismiss members of the Baath party based on their ranks instead of their mannerism that the CPA would have gauged through vetting sessions (Sissons & Al-Saiedi, 2003a).

According to Keskin (2014), the CPA issued two orders to drive the de-Baathification process. Order 1 was to dismiss members of the Baath party holding the top four positions in public institutions, while Order 2 targeted members in intelligence and military agencies and all other government agencies. These orders implied that the individuals who would be dismissed had been identified earlier without clarification of the criteria used to identify them. To justify the selection of people that should be dismissed, De Greiff and Mayer-Rieckh (2007) argued that the criteria for identifying these people should exclude their political or religious affiliations since such factors cannot gauge personal conduct. For that reason, the de-Baathification process was more of a purging exercise than selection.

De-Baathification aimed at securing Iraqis' freedom from the oppressive rule of the Baath party and rebuild strong political and administrative structures that would govern Iraqi people. However, failure to undertake due process before issuing the first and second orders weakened Iraq's military and governance infrastructure that exposed Iraqis to further political strife (Sissons & Al-Saiedi, 2013a). The employees who were dismissed, their communities, friends and families felt aggrieved by the de-Baathification process, which increased the chances of insurgencies occurring. To understand the cause of this distress, it is prudent to first review the social and religious dynamics in the Baath party.

Zinn (2016) stated that Saddam Hussein, who led the Baath party in Iraq, was a Sunni Muslim. Saddam ran the party on a secular and militant policy. Members of the Baath party were mostly Sunni Muslims. These Sunnis were, however, the minorities among the Iraqis. Throughout the reign of Baathism, there was enmity between the Sunni and Shi'a Muslims in Iraq. As such, Saddam had to control the Iraqis and suppress opposition to his government to retain his power. Without this power and dominance of Baathism, sectarian violence between the Shi'as and Sunnis was likely to intensify, which would undermine Saddam's government. It was Saddam's dictatorial and hegemonic rule that prevented clashes between the two main Muslim groups even though tensions remained.

When Bush's administration decided to invade Iraq, it created an environment that aggravated sectarian tensions among the two Muslim sects and increased the likelihood of long-lasting rebellions. These tensions were bound to increase right from when US soldiers launched attacks against Saddam to even when the CPA was planning and executing the de-Baathification process (Cole, 2015). Nonetheless, the de-Baathification process contributed the most to the heightening of these tensions. For instance, the purging of the Iraqi administration through CPA Order 1 left all senior public, military and political leaders jobless, thereby rendering the top leadership positions vacant (Zinn, 2016).

Additionally, the CPA Order 1 worsened Iraqi's ineffective governance structures. Zinn (2016) argued that most of the top leaders who were dismissed through this order were previously in-charge of various ministries. Following their dismissal, most of the state functions such as civil services, revenue collection and funding halted. The collapse of state functions hurt Iraqis, which caused the influx of radical groups that looted and destroyed government buildings in Baghdad (Zinn, 2016). This destruction and ransacking complicated the reconstruction of Iraq further.

Nevertheless, Iraq's political systems had to be reorganized. Even though the CPA Order 1 aimed at reorganizing and reconstructing Iraq's political and governance systems, CPA officials underestimated the order's ability to destroy the existing political and institutional memories. As stated earlier, Saddam's regime championed for Baathism as the only political ideology in Iraq. Most of the political leaders who controverted this challenge were sent into exile. Therefore, there were no opposition leaders who would reconstruct Iraq after de-Baathification, which created a power vacuum the collapse of Baathism. There were also no political institutions that would coordinate immediate elections to restore power and order. Brands and Feaver (2017) maintained that the resultant vacuum eventually catalyzed sectarian tensions between the Sunnis and Shi'as, exacerbated internal violence and made the Sunnis feel displaced. This feeling heightened the Sunni's aggression, which later led to the rise of militant groups such as the ISIS.

The sectarian violence worsened in early 2004, where the disgruntled Iraqis and supporters of the Baath party that had been ousted first joined to fight against US forces (Zinn, 2016). The Iraqi people instigated an insurgent attack in Fallujah killing US military contractors. In retaliation, the US Army Commandant rallied support from Sunnis in Fallujah by bribing Sunni chiefs to fight back their radical colleagues. In return, the US government would support the Sunnis by arming and empowering them to form a new Iraqi government. After conquering the radicals, the US deemed it necessary to unite the Shi'as and Sunnis in creating a democratic nation. These efforts succeeded and the country held an election in May 2006, where Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'a, was voted as the Prime Minister (Zinn, 2006).

However, Maliki was inexperienced and lacked knowledge of the current Iraqi nation having been expatriated in Iran during Saddam's reign. With time, he dropped the democratic principles, which the Bush administration had hoped would hold Iraqis together, and began adopting totalitarian principles. Nonetheless, uniting the Shi'as and Sunnis was bound to be difficult for Maliki since he assumed office when the country was plagued by sectarian violence that was heightened by the de-Baathification process (Zinn, 2016). Through the totalitarian principles, Maliki reinstituted sectarian favoritism in state offices, where Shi'as got employed in a majority of the government positions. This nepotism made Sunnis feel isolated and resentful to the Shi'as, which sparked an insurgency.

The insurgency was in the form of radicalization of Sunni tribesmen, who increasingly considered the Maliki-led government and Shi'a Muslims as being enemies. Zinn (2016) purported that the Sunni tribesmen a...

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