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Causes of 2003 Us Iraq War

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Liberalism and Hegemonic Stability Theory

As Causes for the 2003 US-Iraq War

Many factors went into the decision of United States leaders to enter into war with Iraq in 2003. These reasons can be related to various classical and modern theories on the causes of war between states. Though there are several stances and viewpoints on the righteousness or legality of the war on Iraq, an objective eye will notice that the real factors for going to war are neither grounded in righteousness nor law. They involve the maintenance of peace and power for those in control, in this case, the United States.

The theories of Liberalism and Hegemonic Stability Theory both sufficiently account for the United States' main motivations for entering war with Iraq. Liberalism will account for the motivation of preserving the world peace while Hegemonic Stability Theory will account for the influence of world power on the United States' decision to go to war. Coupled with a case study on the US-Iraq war, these theories will help to better understand the reasoning behind the war.

I will begin with a description of the two theories I have chosen, Liberalism and Hegemonic Stability Theory. I will then briefly explain some of the real life events and decisions that went into the decision to go to war. Following, I will tie the case study to the two theories and give examples as to where they overlap. I will finish by explaining how I feel these two theories adequately explain the causes for the US-Iraq war.

Background on Liberalism and Hegemonic Stability Theory

Liberalism is based heavily on Immanuel Kant's writings on perpetual peace. Kant's theory does not outwardly explain the causes for war, but the climate for peace among liberal nations. One must look to the reasons for peace in order to determine the causes for war.

Kant describes three conditions that are needed for perpetual peace, the first being that the citizens of a state will begin to demand economic and judicial rights. They will demand that their government be accountable for its policies and laws. This will establish the state as a liberal state and it will begin the process of becoming a democracy. A democracy with a republican constitution is preferred by Kant because, "if fortune directs that a powerful and enlightened people can make itself a republic, which by its nature must be inclined to perpetual peace, this gives a fulcrum to the federation with other states so that they may adhere to it and thus secure freedom under the idea of the law of nations," [Kant 1964, 123]. This idea of a federation between liberal states brings us to the next condition.

The second condition is that once several liberal states appear across the world, there will be an inclination towards international principles of mutual respect and accommodation between the liberal states. They will begin to see the good in each other's democratic systems and will seek to resolve differences rather than quickly seek war. They will form federations, spoken and unspoken, between liberal nations in which they will begin to cooperate with one another and support one another when assistance is needed. This increased interconnectedness will foster a scenario where the prosperity of one liberal nation affects the prosperity of another.

The third and final condition is that the economic interdependence of the liberal states market economies will bind them together, creating a climate for perpetual peace. It will become less productive for liberal nations to go to war the more dependent they are on each others economic markets for their own economic well-being. The close ties to one another's economic stability will increase the need for cooperation among the liberal nations. War would risk the destabilization of all the liberal nations combined should conflict occur between them.

Kant's first condition of the establishment of a democratic state can be seen as a cause for war. A democratic state may find it advantageous to spur a conflict within a non-liberal state in order to sow the seeds of democratic representation within that state. Should the liberal state accomplish its goal of helping to establish a liberal state in the foreign country then it will be one condition closer to establishing a state of perpetual peace with that state from that point on.

The tensions that exist between liberal and non-liberal states comes from the idea that autocratic non-republican states are much more likely to go to war over reasons that would not spur a liberal state towards the same ends. Doyle states in his 1986 essay, Liberalism and World Politics,

"Liberal states have been attacked and threatened by non-liberal states that do not exercise any special restraint in their dealings with the liberal states. Authoritarian rulers both stimulate and respond to an international political environment in which conflicts of prestige, interest, and pure fear of what other states might do all lead states toward war," [Doyle 1986, 296].

Doyle explains that the fears and egos of non-liberal rulers can easily lead them towards war. These same fears and egos can be checked by a liberal republican state structure. Should a liberal state notice this aggression and fear within a foreign state, and if the foreign state is becoming too powerful and threatens its existence, then there may be cause for the liberal state to make a preventive strike against the threatening non-liberal nation. Preventive wars are commonly thought of as a product of Hegemonic Stability Theory.

Hegemonic Stability Theory is a theory based off of the ideas of Robert Gilpin. Although a realist thinker, Gilpin's Hegemonic Stability Theory [HST] is not considered to be a realist theory because it strays in two major facts of realist thought. First, HST does not hold that the international scene is anarchic. Gilpin, rather, suggests that there is an international hierarchy led by the hegemon. The hegemon leads the other powerful states and models the international climate after its own internal structure. Secondly, HST focuses on a theory of the preponderance of power rather than the balance of power as most realist theories do. Preponderance of power states that in order for there to be stability to the international scene, the hegemon must have a substantially more abundant amount of power than the other states in the system. The hegemon must be able to lead the other states without having to worry about another state disagreeing and not going along with it because it feels it can compete with the hegemon.

The preponderance of power element of HST is key because it allows for a condition in which the hegemon would go to war.

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