Last Updated 16 Jan 2023

US Role in Building International Peace: What Went Wrong in Iraq and What Went Right in Kuwait  

Category Coalition, Iraq War
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“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady of the United States. International affairs have been an important part of the US since the founding fathers had signed the declaration of independence. The decisions and actions of one country can easily affect another politically, economically, or socially; therefore, acting on interest is very common for any country to do. The US, in particular, has pursued peacebuilding operations in many countries and areas around the world to safeguard national security and interest. Although, building peace is not always successful, especially when considering the US. Such as, when corrupt Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded America’s oil partner Kuwait, the US had to secure their interests by protecting Kuwait. A couple year later, alse, when Hussein was thought of having dangerous weapons of destruction, the US had to intervene again and declare war against Iraq. The rushed, abuse of military power as a peace-building mechanism by the US during the Iraq war led to many problems; however, the well thought out military techniques/diplomacy employed by the US led to major success in liberating Kuwait and safeguarding national security.

President George W. Bush and his administration informed the people of the US that war was being waged against Iraq due to Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. In addition to claiming President Hussein’s government had ties to terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Bush administration and supporters of the war in Iraq argued for extended involvement in the war as a way to resist terrorism. US president George W. Bush referred to the war as the “central front in the war on terrorism,” and as the US began its military strike, Bush announced in a televised address, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

In order to fight this war against Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, the US’ main peace-building mechanism in the Iraq War was the military. On March 19, 2003, when Saddam refused to leave Iraq, the United states and its coalition forces initiated war with the country. It started with the US dropping several precision-guided bombs on a bunker in which it was thought that Hussain was having a meeting. After, airstrikes were directed against government and military installations, resulting in many of the Iraqi troops evading coalition forces. Soon, Hussein’s government lost control of the country’s capital: Baghdad. After losing power and control, Hussein was found by US troops in a cellar south of Tikrit, finally ending his long-lasting regime.

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Although Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who committed an astounding plethora of human rights abuses, was captured, the war was largely a failure: it left Iraq in a state that is arguably worse than what it was under Hussein’s regime. As a result of the war, close to four million people were displaced in and outside Iraq with an average of about 100 people killed daily and a third of the country living in poverty. Primarily, the first reason for US failure in building peace in Iraq was the Bush administration’s dependence on a military option. With the strongest military in the world, Bush’s administration strongly believed that the US could win any war; however, a military victory was not sufficient: the US overthrew the Iraqi government and winning peace in the aftermath of the war was more important. Instead of responding militarily towards Iraqi regimes, the US should have tired to move them towards democracy through diplomacy. The second reason, was the rush to go to war and defeat Iraq. If more time was given, the UN could have proved that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction as claimed by Bush, removing the rationale for the war. Instead, declaring war and rushing to it gave no time for thorough military planning to adequately prepare for the war and create a blueprint for a post-war plan of action.

A foil to the US’ failure in Iraq is its major success in liberating Kuwait. This small sovereign nation of Kuwait had been a part of Iraq in the past, but was emancipated. In August 1990, Iraq believed that the country was illegally extracting oil from Iraqi territory and, as a result, invaded Kuwait. The US, has had friendly relations with Kuwait beginning from the early 19th century. Most importantly, the two countries have had close oil relations since the Kuwait Oil Company was formed as a joint venture between the British Anglo-Persian Oil company and the American Gulf Oil company in 1933; therefore, the US has supported Kuwait’s security, sovereignty, and independence. Also, the takeover of Kuwait posed a major threat to its neighboring country Saudi Arabia: another major exporter of oil. If Saudi Arabia fell, one-fifth of the world’s oil would be controlled by Iraq, and correspondingly, the US had to do something about it.

The US military was also the primary actor in this event due to its dominant role in the development and execution of multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, which led to the liberation of Kuwait. In the end of 1990, the US had deployed 500,000 American troops in order to defend Saudi Arabia in case of an Iraqi attack, a deployment know as Operation Desert Shield. When support from the UN was gained along with a coalition, the US issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein: leave Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or face a full attack by the multinational force. After no response was received from Hussein, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. The US began bombing runs which pummeled Iraq’s military targets for several weeks. On February 24, the ground war began, and the US dominated the Iraqi army, declaring Kuwait liberated just after 100 hours. Diplomacy by the US and UN to have Iraq sign a ceasefire and withdraw its troops from Kuwait.

After the military objectives were complete, Saddam was still ruling the country of Iraq. Concerns were raised that if Saddam’s regime was toppled, the entire country would erupt into a state of civil war and unrest; therefore, Iraq agreed to terms for a ceasefire, and the conflict ended. The use of both diplomacy and military action allowed this event to be successful. There was much time for preparation and thought on how to engage in the battle and what would happen after it was complete.

Both the Iraq War and the liberation of Kuwait depended on the use of military power to create peace in Iraq; however, the Iraq War was deemed a failure while Operation Desert Storm prevailed. Primarily, the Bush administration rushed the beginning and the end of the Iraq War which gave the whole situation a big disadvantage: the UN did not have enough time to properly see to if Iraq even had weapons of mass destruction. If more time was given, it would have been known that the rationale for the start of the war was false, possibly ending it. Also, a lack of preparation led to no post-war action plan for the country of Iraq, which ultimately led to mass panic and chaos in country with the invasion and takeover of other terrorist organizations and regimes. In contrast, when liberating Kuwait, the US along with the UN decided not to kill or even relieve Saddam Hussein as president due to prior thought on the effect of the nation. This post-war thinking supplied the difference between building peace and winning war.

The United States has been largely involved with the state of Iraq for decades now. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces, in the late 20th century, largely threatened the economy of the US; as a result, the US employed military and diplomatic tactics to force the Iraqis out of Kuwait but still protect all nations in action. This successful example was followed by the Iraq war which was based on impatience and brute force; therefore, instead of building peace, the US created destruction and chaos in Iraq. America should not forget neither of these conflicts, for that’s why we have history. Instead, it should look back at the problems of the Iraq War and the accomplishments in the liberation of Kuwait. By employing patience and more peaceful, gentle tactics, rather than brute force, the US can better its international affairs and create peace properly in conflict-inflicted countries.

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