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2003 Second Gulf War

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2003 Second Gulf War: A call for a couple therapy for the US and the UN?  

        “In the absence of international consensus on the conditions for such intervention, governments inevitably are going to abuse the concept [of humanitarianism], as the United States has done to justify the Iraq war.” Those words, from a Human Rights Watch’s article of January 2004, are nothing else than the mere expression of an internationally shared idea that US intervention in Iraq had not relied on the grounds it claimed to be based on. After the First Gulf War in 1991, Iraq was submitted to a total embargo regime, which strongly affected the civil population, but not so much the regime leaders. In parallel, the 9/11 attacks highly shocked the US and the world, leading the American President Bush, to launch a war on terrorism as a retaliation. The events that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have been the cause of far-reaching consequences on the face of the international scene, due to dissenting opinions as for the legitimacy of this very intervention, be it a posteriori, or a priori. Those dissenting opinions have somehow crystallized long-lasting divisions on the international stage, and have thence been seen as weakening a being-built international community, supposed to be embodied by the United Nations themselves. When it come to the international community, an article written by Michel Rocard in May 2013, argues that “its precise meaning — like its origins — is difficult to discern. […] For some, an international community simply does not exist. For others, the term refers, more pragmatically, to all countries when they decide to act together”. Therefore, considering the interactions between the US, the UN and this so-called international community, we can ask the following research question:

        To what extent the US’ intervention in Iraq in 2003 has emphasized the ambiguity of the relationship between the US and the UN, shading light on the difficulty of the building of an international community — whichever the definition ?

        The US intervention in Iraq in 2003 have jeopardized the relationship between the United States and the United Nations, crystallizing the long-lasting tensions between the two and settling the international atmosphere that was going to last in the aftermath of the war. This intervention turned into an international crisis insofar as it jeopardized the very idea of an international community, in a context of an international community building process, questioning the United Nations’s ability to make authority and therefore challenging its legitimacy. Actually, those events have highlighted the shortcomings of the post-cold war world stage, hitherto dominated by the United States while claiming to fall under the supranational authority of a reborn international organization, namely the United Nations.

        First of all, the Second Gulf War of 2003 took on specific stakes for the United States, leading to the unilateral intervention in Iraq. Indeed, the intervention in Iraq may be seen as a symbolic move for the US in many aspects. First, the intervention in Iraq follow on from the War on Terror, declared by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This “war on terrorism”, consisting in military operations, along with new security legislation, was overseen by Washington, calling on a worldwide fight against terrorism asserting that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. Therefore, the 2003 intervention in Iraq was part of the specific Bush’s foreign policy in response for 9.11. Second, US intervention might have been driven by ideological motives, all embedded in the Manifest Destiny. As a matter of fact, the Manifest Destiny, defined by John O’Sullivan in 1845 as « It is our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions”, originally implied a movement towards the West of the continent. Then, we can see US intervention in Iraq as a new form of Manifest Destiny, that is towards the East. And even further, over the past  half-century, the US has made itself more and more present in the Middle East, becoming an key player in the area, under the justification of bringing democracy in the region. I would even go as far as to say that we have been witnessing a shift in the Manifest Destiny: that is a reorientation to the East. At last, the US intervention in Iraq had for official goal to remove Sadam Hussein from power, while the US was calling for a ‘regime change’ in Iraq, in line with the Manifest Destiny. But despite the horrors Hussein have done, the intervention could not be justified as humanitarian intervention and can actually be interpreted as a resurgence of US unilateralism.

        Besides, this very unilateralism is deemed as an insurmountable barrier to the well-working of the international cohesion. Instead of “the end of history”, from Fukuyama sayings, the end of the Cold War more accurately saw the end of a bipolar world and the birth of a world dominated by the remaining Great Power, namely the United States. The 2003 Gulf War comes at the end of a decade during which the US has never stopped playing their newly acquired role of policemen of the world. Thereupon, Barbara Conry  wrote, for the CATO Institute in 1997, a policy analysis article in which she argues that “Global leadership has gained increasing prominence as a guiding principle for American foreign policy. […] Today's proponents of global leadership envision a role for the United States that resembles that of a global hegemon”. Consequently, the reaffirmation of the status of “hyperpower”[1]_, quoting Hubert Védrine, must have been some unofficial motive for the intervention in Iraq, that is a way for the US to claim and legitimate this very status, won since 1991. This explaining that, the US took the decision to intervene in Iraq, despite the international disagreement. US unilateralism in 2003 has crystallized the criticism made in the 90s onward about the US being the somehow ‘self-appointed global policeman’, reflecting the idea that the US has in fact turned into a hegemon. But the hegemon that the US became has been accused of acting always at its advantage, neglecting a so-called ‘international community’. Thereon, Condoleezza Rice accurately argued that foreign policy of the Bush administration was implemented on “the firm grounds of national interest, not from the interests of an illusory international community”. This somehow denial of the existence of an international community by the US might actually be at the roots of the 2003 international crisis.


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