The Middle East region has and still continues to experience a substantial share of turmoil based on religious, ethnic, economic or a combination of these issues. The gulf region, which is a significant part of this region, is of paramount economic significance to the world due to its richness in oil. Iraq, a major power in this region, has been a part of the focus with regards not only to its richness in oil, but also the possession of weapons of mass destruction and probable terrorist activities, which has led to its invasion by other world super-powers. This paper aims at discussing the war in Iraq instigated by the US with focus on the gains and pains that they (US), Iraqis and the Gulf Region as a whole, have experienced.
Brief Background of War in Iraq
Iraq had been led by Sadam Hussein since 1979 up to the year 2003, when it was invaded by America. During this period, the country under his leadership had been perceived as a threat to its neighbors and also the world in general. An example is the1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait and occupation for a period of about six months before the expulsion by the American-led forces. The invasion was caused by economic and diplomatic reasons between the two countries, which had been allies before in the Iraq-Iran war. Kuwait had financed Iraq during this war, but by the time it ended, Iraq was unable to repay, and this saw a beginning of enmity between the two countries. A later accusation of Kuwait slant-drilling launched by Iraq would only serve to aggravate this tension and lead to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, resulting into deaths and the displacement of thousands of the Kuwaiti populace. With failure of Iraq to heed calls for withdrawal, even from its friendly neighbors, the American-led forces got involved in the liberation of Kuwait, a feat that was achieved in March 1991. The period between 1991 and 2003 saw many attacks by the US in order to get Saddam out of power, and brutal counter attacks by the Saddam regime towards the Americans and more so towards the sympathizing citizens of Iraq.
The US incited Kurds and Shiites, who made an attempt to force Saddam Hussein out of the power, but were defeated and, consequently, killed by thousands due to the lack of weapons. The US would later launch “Operation Provide Comfort I and II”, which were able to provide a security, food and shelter to the displaced Kurds north of Iraq. A failed CIA-backed coup in 1992 was closely followed by “Operation South Watch”, in which a no fly zone was imposed in the southern Iraq region. In 1993, there was an attempt to assassinate the then US president George Bush, which would later be countered by missile attacks on the capital city of Baghdad, where many civilians were killed. There was a continued funding of terror groups by the US, an example being the INA, which launched attacks in 1994 in Baghdad and also killed many civilians in the process. Attempts by the UN in 1995 to assist Iraq with an oil-for-food humanitarian program was nullified by the US and UK governments; this then ensured that Iraq would not benefit at all from their rich oil source. The US backed INA would in the same year divide and start fighting each other. A botched CIA-backed coup in 1996 would then see the INA continue its terror activities even on fellow US backed factions. In 1998, an agreement between the UN and Iraq for the weapon inspection fell on deaf ears as the US and the UK worked to ensure only war would be the solution. There was a continued deployment of troops funding of coups and eventually, by the end of that year, a massive bombing operation was launched against Iraq without the UN authorization. These attacks would continue well into the year 2000, hitting on public places, residential areas, soldiers and civilians alike. In the year 2003, the US and the UK were now open in their desire to invade Iraq and forced the UN to approve their attack or risk being discredited. The UN could not be able to officially allow the invasion of Iraq, because they lacked enough evidence to make a case that international laws would not be against.
Probable Causes of Iraqi Invasion by America
As has already been seen, it is not easy to tell the major reasons behind the invasion of Iraq. The suspicions on the production of weapons of mass destruction are, however, largely thought to have led to the invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK. Though the UN, even after searching for the evidence of WMD for a long time, found little or no evidence, the US and the UK still continued with their mission. The alleged connections of the Iraqi leader to Al-Qaeda were also not substantial. However, a large amount of money and resources were utilized in the Iraqi war, and this has led to a need for a rational reason as to why the invasion took place.
Some of the most commonly cited reasons by pro-war camps before and during the earlier stages of the invasion included: the Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction, the Saddam’s regime being a threat to the world peace, links of the Iraqi regime to terror groups, especially Al-Qaeda. However, these would later change to spreading of democracy in the Middle East region and assistance of the Iraqi people towards getting rid of an oppressive regime, both of which have not garnered much support even from the US top officials. For the anti-war camps, securing the control of the major oil region, neoconservative tactics for fulfillment of “the new American century project” requirements, acquiring a rich sanctuary for future investments and revenge for September 11th attacks are identified as the main reasons for the invasion.
With focus on the reasons to fight terrorism and stopping of the production of weapons of mass destruction, the American attack on Iraq can be said to be based on the flimsy evidence. Many top officials in the US and UK camps have agreed that the evidence that was used to invade Iraq was not substantial enough. In addition, the fact that the weapons cited were never found has further discredited these reasons.
In an attempt to establish the rational motivation behind the invasion, various theories have been put in place. One of the main reasons that have been identified is the establishment of the control over the major oil resource. The significance of oil in the world economy cannot be over emphasized, and for a long time, the US policy has been focused on the domination of areas that act as major sources. After the invasion, only securing of the ministry of oil was effected by the US army. Other state departments were left open for looting by the public after the fall of Baghdad. Though the US defended this action by saying that the ministry held the country’s wealth records, it has been used as a major supporter for this notion as many historical artifacts, health records books among other things that were also of substantial significance were lost during that period. In addition, many decrees and regulations that were issued by the diplomat, Paul Bremer - the administrator of the internationally recognized Iraqi government after the invasion and comments by the US army commandants, serve to show clear motives directed towards this resource. However, the fact that the oil business was still threatened by the open borders that were left after disbanding of the army has been feebly used to counter this sentiment.
Another rational reason is neo-conservatism, which is a terminology that refers to the American ideologies that endorse a political individualism, free markets, assertion of democracy and welfare states by all means possible, including military ones. Many activities in the first year of the invasion point to this fact. Neoconservatives have held senior positions in the US government before and after the invasion and had declared a war on Iraq as early as 1996. Though their plot did not work as expected, they faced no criticism by the government, and the fact that they continued to hold highly coveted government positions is a true testament to this. Furthermore, the neoconservative ideologies of the creative destruction and democracy are clearly still being in effect in Iraq, though now through the Iraqis themselves. The placement of Ahmed Chalabi as the head of a democratic government in Iraq, even while in exile, and later also minister of oil can also be cited as the evidence of such intent.
The American invasion saw the enactment of legislation in Iraq that encouraged a free trade. This was probably a well meant strategy, which would eventually liken the Iraqi economy to that of its neighbors like Dubai and Qatar. It can only, however, be termed as a good by-product that would be expected from the invasion. Naturally, the country would be in tatters after the war and the fact that occupants have the oil money, it would be a good opportunity for corporations from the invading countries to make money, building infrastructure and furnishing the country with their products. This assumption, though weighty, is marred with questions that surround the ability of private corporations on the US and the UK policies and the fact that it has not yet been successfully seen to occur can only cause it to be termed as a long term goal.
Benefits of the American Invasion of Iraq
As it stands, the situation in Iraq and the cost, under which the US have undergone, may make it difficult to point out any benefits gained from the invasion. With the elimination of Saddam Hussein, it can be said that the world is a better place. The marginalized Kurds and Shiites of Iraq have gained more in terms of peace and security. The Kurds are now set to benefit from the development of oil in their area, and the Shiites, though still facing threats of in-fighting, have gained a lot in terms of peace. Another more significant gain is that any sinister plans that the Saddam regime might have had in terms of developing weapons of mass destruction are now gone with him. The citizens are now free from an unpredictable figure with violent deeds against people, who were just fighting for their rights.
For the region, great benefits have been gained by the change of regime, which posed threats to their peaceful coexistence. The Saddam regime has always had ill motives against other oil producing countries due to a desire of the main superpower. Many Iraqis, who had fled their country and settled in neighboring ones, have had taken part in developing their oil industries. They now have a chance to go back and start rebuilding their nation.
There are so many dead and wounded soldiers from the United States of America. The fact that WMDs were never even found is further devastating. However, with the long-term achievements that have been seen in other countries, like South Korea and Japan, it may not be the proper way to look at the issue in a narrow short term way, but rather wait to see whether any long term benefits can be achieved. The fact that the war was not credited by the UN damages the international mechanisms that are applied to deal with military inventions. It gives rise to an opinion that it would have been better to let the Hussein regime to fall under the weight of its oppressive and corrupt ways as it has been seen at that time and again in many such administrations, then build the country from there, instead of undergoing so many losses. There are diplomatic mechanisms like sanctions, quarantine, and military preclusion that could also have been put in place to achieve similar or even better results.
In Pursuit of Democracy
The US 2002 foreign policy on security envisioned the spread of liberal democracy in the Middle East and aimed at jump starting towards this aspiration through the success in Iraq. By doing so, they hoped to achieve a freedom of choice for all the Iraqi citizens. This policy is based on the American values of liberalism as dictated by their constitution. Liberalism is characterized by features like free enterprise, natural rights, limited government and political equality of majorities and minorities. These features are said to benefit societies that embrace them in a form of the political stability, prosperous economies and also realization of a considerable growth potential. Countries that embrace democracy are particularly noted for not engaging in war with each other and, thus, making it a major reason for the Unites States of America to desire an attainment of such a feat in the interest of the world security. As it has been seen in other democratization attempts in the Arab world, for example Pakistan and Palestine, the lack of a liberal background has led to the erosion of traditions of tolerance and secularism and has caused the democratization not to be fully realized.
Many Islam scholars have no problem with democracy as they find it to be in line with their religion. In fact, the Quran entitles everyone to the freedom of speech, belief, right to wealth, justice, security and also the right to power. Many Islamists, however, look at democracy in terms of upholding cultures of the western world and doing away with their own, and as such, they reject it. The intolerance of other religions as demonstrated in the Islamic belief is not in line with democracy. The interpretation of the Quran is almost always done literally, thus, making it difficult to embrace a change in the culture as real democracies do. Moreover, the fact that democracy formulations have historically been based on Christianity provides a difficulty in interpretation of the same in Islamic settings.
The historical background of Iraq shows a country that has never had a real chance to experience democracy and explains the little achievements made towards this. Monarchies have ruled the country for long periods and were followed by a colonial rule, whose methods only served to demonstrate a negative view in values of democracy. It has been noted that for a democracy to flourish there must be a well educated middle class, which Iraq has fortunately always had. However, the nature of the government must be one governed by constitutionalism, which puts checks and balances in powers of various factions, and this remains to be the major challenge. Success has been observed in tribal chiefs, who are enthusiastic about the achievement of a democracy based on their own traditions, but this brings the problem of ethnic and clan based political wrangles. In addition, the fact that elections have been successfully conducted is a message to the critics that democracy can be achieved even in Islamic environments. A trust between key players is, however, an essential challenge as major factions in the ruling regime and opposition must demonstrate their ability to be in control. In addition, the difference in the Islamic inclinations has added to this problem as each believes it has been granted the authority by Allah. The lack of a stable popular government, a strong military and police force not leaving out a competent judicial system have all contributed to the challenges faced in the implementation of democracy. Since the conditions in Iraq are by no way towards liberalism, the United States of America should lower their expectations and accept the fact that it will not be an easy achievement to make. Allowing the citizens to elect their own government, even if it comes from a single ethnic faction, would probably allow for a calming down of the situation and, thus, enabling a gradual inculcation of liberal ideologies into the society. Such transitions have been observed all over the world and, therefore, should not be expected to fail in Iraq.
The Effect of the War on American Politics and Economy
Ten years after the war in Iraq started, Americans are still politically divided over it. The war played a great part in getting Mr. Obama to the presidency as it put Mr. Bush through hell trying to explain to the electorate reasons behind the invasion. With this criticism, it was easy for the Obama administration to push its agendas for health care reforms, stimulus spending and also reforms on operations in the financial district of New York. The failure to locate the weapons, which were the main reason behind this invasion, coupled with the length of time taken in Iraq made the war and the government very unpopular, as well. As a result, the Democrats were able to win the presidency, and a substantial percentage of the number of seats in the senate. Indeed, the arguments of the Democrats, even in the recent elections, with regard to the foreign policy have carried their flag even higher a display of the distastefulness that the American populace has over the war.
With regard to the economy of the country, the Bush administration seemed to have underestimated the cost of the war. Initially, the plan was to use the revenue attained from the export of Iraqi oil in funding the war, but five year later, the assessment of the same would give a figure of $845 billion directly sourced from the US treasury. The amount of money spent on compensating the war veterans and casualties has contributed to a continued rise in the cost of the war. As a counter-measure for the money loss, the government flooded the economy with the liquid cash and led to a greater downfall of the economy.
In conclusion, the war in Iraq was based on the unreliable evidence, which has eventually brought about many gains and pains. The invasion has enabled the marginalized communities to be safe again and also reduced the imminent dangers on the countries of the Gulf Region. The continued trend towards the stabilization of the country through democracy, though being slow, is a substantial achievement that should be commended. However, there have been tremendous fatalities of the armed and civilians alike. The loss of historical artifacts and also immense sums of money spent cannot be ignored either. There is a need to ensure that the significant gains made are not rolled back, and more economically viable ways of solving problems are sought for in order to ensure that problems like this do not result in haunting outcomes in future.