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US Foreign Policy: The Two Gulf Wars


Over the past century, the USA foreign policy has experienced tremendous growth and essential changes. The continuities of the US foreign policy are evident from the country’s activities after the First World War, the Second World War; the events associated the rise and end of the cold war, the Vietnam wars and the two Gulf Wars among others. Primarily, foreign policy encompasses all activities at an international capacity such as strategies, goals or activities that are selected by a government and policymakers in a particular country. The USA involvement in the Gulf wars is a representation of foreign relations since in both wars, the USA did not face any immediate domestic threats if it were to fail to participate. The concept of the US foreign policy is relevant due to the mere fact that the techniques that the government adopts have profound effects not only to the American people but also other societies across the globe. The paper asserts that historically, particularly through an in-depth analysis of the Gulf Wars, the USA foreign policy is often driven by normative values, self-preservation and the desire for global dominance.

It is important to acknowledge the foreign policies associated with the globalization era, which encompasses the period of the two Gulf Wars, were majorly shaped by the strong post-cold-war legacy and the high rate of uncertainty associated with the end of the cold war. The skepticism influencing the activities of the US government during the globalization era was grounded in the fact that the end of the cold war caught the globe at a surprise. Many believed the conflicting perspectives between capitalism and communism was without resolution; therefore, the end of the cold war caused more chaos than anticipated. Indeed, a majority of the policies George Bush administration adopted were a pragmatic approach to global politics with the intention of managing any adverse effects associated with the fall of the Soviet Union and other changes across the globe (Rosati and Scott pg. 33). The USA victory in the Cold war represented more than the decline of one world power, the Soviet Union, it demonstrated the triumph of liberalism against communism. The success in the Cold War illustrates the USA had achieved its primary objective of the 20th century, transforming world politics. Indeed, nine months after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US president George Bush used the term New World Order to describe the aspect of freedom and respect of human rights across the globe (Hook pg. 63).

Despite the hopes that the USA had after the fall of the Soviet Union, the concept of the New World Order was threatened by various oversee unrest which prompted significant domestic unease in the USA. The fight for global dominance that was surpassed in the Cold War reemerged influencing international participation of the armed forces including the USA. The first regional issue surfaced in the Persian Gulf even before the demise of the Soviet Union. Iraq invaded their neighbors Kuwait in August 1990 when the leader of the invaders, Saddam Hussein, misled his followers with assertions that Iraq had a claim of Kuwait (Hook pg. 64). Since the regional conflict challenged the USA vision of new world order; the US government in collaboration with other nations deployed a military force to not only banish Iraq from Kuwait but also to protect Saudi Arabia.

At an international capacity, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait prompted the United Nation (UN) to pass various resolutions that demanded Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. When Iraq disregarded multiple orders from the UN, the organization authorized the invasion of the US military troops against Iraq in the Kuwait desert. The military assault official name was Operation Desert Strom (Hook pg.64). The USA-led force quickly and efficiently destroyed the activities of Iraq in Kuwait. However, Saddam Hussein remained in power and continued to defy orders from the UN to destroy all the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While Iraq agreed to coalition terms, the Iraqis under the leadership of Hussein continued to frustrated UN’s efforts of implementation of terms particularly regarding weapons inspection. Indeed, despite the imposition of economic sanctions and establishment of a “no fly zone” Hussein refused to surrender to the UN’s demands (Hook pg. 64). Undeniably, until his death as the result of the Iraq war in 2003, Hussein’s control over Iraq only continued to deepen.

Even after the end of the first Gulf War, in 1993, the USA in collaboration with other countries such as France and Britain were forced to launch air and cruise missiles against Iraq due to provocations from the Iraqis. The following year, an Iraqi troop near the Kuwait border also prompted the USA to send military forces to Kuwait and the surrounding regions (Al Sarhan pg.461). Indeed, Iraq continued to provoke and frustrated the international community and countries dedicated to the new world order such as the USA until the second Gulf War.

As the USA, ushered in the new century, the country seemed to be secure from international threat and President Bush administration was primarily focused on domestic issues. However, this approach quickly changed on September 11th, 2001 when the Al Qaeda terrorists took control of four US commercial jets and flown them across the country particularly in areas of great symbols to the American people (Hook pg. 67). Upon consulting with his advisers, President Bush announced that the actions of the terrorists would be considered as war and not merely as crimes. Additionally, he declared that the USA fight against terrorism will extend beyond the individual terrorists to the countries that harbor the perpetrators. Indeed, these statements were the backbone of the US foreign policy known as the “global war on terror” the most defining aspect of the Bush administration. The retaliation against the September 11th attack was in two main phases; initially, the USA forces assisted Afghan militias to remove the Taliban from power and catch the perpetrators (Hook pg.68). The Taliban had provided the Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden with resources to support his terrorist activities. The second phase of retaliation involved the USA assistance in creating and facilitating a new government in Afghanistan that will provide freedom of its people and serve as a sanctuary to other nations in the Islamic region.

The terrorists’ attacks coupled with domestic unease lead to the Iraq War, also known as the Second Gulf War. Additionally, for more than a decade, Iraq had failed to implement the terms of the coalition made after the first Gulf war. Particularly, the US focus on Iraq was largely due to the failure of the Iraqi government to cooperate with the UN weapons inspection. Indeed, after restoring peace to Afghanistan, the USA dedicated resources to making Iraq the second front in the country’s global war against terrorism. The USA accused Iraq of failing to adherence to the terms of peace of the 1991 cease-fire through not only manufacturing but also possessing weapons of mass destructions in addition to refusing weapons inspections (Al Sarhan pg.467). The USA also maintained that Iraq as a country was actively facilitating terrorist activities not only in the Islamic region but also in Western countries and across the globe. Seeking support from some of his fathers’ advisers who believed Hussein should be removed from power, President George Bush conducted an intelligence survey and war-plan. The USA thought Iraq posed a threat since the level of their weaponry expertise was unclear, and many politicians held that Iraq, notably Hussein hated the USA for its dedication to the global war against terrorism. The report prompted Bush to launch an attack against Hussein.

While the president secured a skeptical vote from the UN, the USA Congress voted for the “coalition of the willing” which facilitated an invasion in Iraq. The UN was skeptic of launching military action against Iraq since there was broad international opposition from countries such as France, Germany, and Russia. However, the USA insisted that it is necessary for the UN to use force against Iraq or risk irrelevancy in the international community. Working under the code name “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the assault began on March 20th, 2003 (Al Sarhan pg.467). The USA army illustrated their military prowess, and the attack advanced rapidly. The American forces quickly gained control of the capital city and the government. While initially, Saddam Hussein evaded capture, he was arrested in December 2003 and placed under trial (Rosati and Scott pg. 36). It is important to acknowledge that the USA did not recover any weapons of mass destruction which led to extensive criticism from the international community which claimed that the US and British had exaggerated Iraq’s weaponry to justify the war.

Despite the victory that the USA achieved in the Iraq war, the occupying forces faced resistance from the locals and faced attacks on a daily basis. The USA dream and intention of being received and perceived as liberators did not take root. The situation progressed from bad to worse when the Pentagon decided to dismantle the Iraq police force. The secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld’s restricted the number of occupying troops increasing Iraq vulnerability to outside attacks. Despite the risk of a civil war, Bush was determined to change Iraq for the better. However, the focus on Iraq reduced the USA emphasis on the global fight against terrorism. At a domestic capacity, the Bush administration had issues in the security department. For instance, his secretary of state, Colin Powell, left the administration after Bush’s reelection in 2004. The USA efforts to build a free and secure nation in Iraq outlasted Bush administration to Obama’s administration who had to make difficult choices due to the economic recession of 2008. The Adoption of his “kill or capture” strategy in 2011 proved useful in handling large terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaida under Osama Bin Laden (Hook pg. 67). However, Obama concentrated in removing the American troops from the country a factor that led to a power vacuum that allowed terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to flourish (Rosati and Scott pg. 36). The USA decision to pull from the war was grounded on self-preservation since the situation in the Islamic region had not improved but somewhat progressed to dire levels since the launch of the Iraq war..


It is evident that the USA foreign policy in both the Gulf Wars was rooted in normative values and a desire to increase its global dominance in the contemporary society where the interstate system is particularly important. However, many of the USA leaders face a paradox on the foreign policy platform. Undeniably, factors that led to the USA massive contribution to the society’s global politics created problems in the effective management of the foreign policy in the last and first decades of the 20th and 21st centuries respectively. The USA had a massive role in the creation of the New World Order that preached freedom and respect for human rights. It is essential for the USA leaders to acknowledge this responsibility. The First Gulf War and the Iraq war left the USA with many enemies from the Islamic region. However, over the past three decades, the country has formed various allies. The USA, foreign policy must, therefore, acknowledge the country’s capabilities and align international goals to national objectives.

Works cited

Al Sarhan, Atallah S. “US Foreign Policy and the Middle East.” Open Journal of Political Science (2017): 454-472.

Hook, Steven W. U.S Foreign Policy: The Paradox of World Power. Sage Edge for CQ Press, 2017.

Rosati, Jerel A, and James M Scott. The Politics of United States Foreign policy. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2014.


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