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Understanding the 2003 United States-Iraq Invasion: A Study of Level Analysis

Understanding the 2003 United States-Iraq Invasion: A Study of Level Analysis

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Understanding the 2003 United States-Iraq Invasion: A Study of Level Analysis

By Nofia Fitri




Within his very famous-controversial book “Hegemony or Survival” Chomsky has quoted from one of the American columnists Patrick Tyler. Tyler wrote “they may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States (US) meaning state power and world public opinion.”1 This statement published in the New York Times at 17 of February 2003, one year after George W. Bush through his American president speech gave a labeled for Iraq as a member of “Axis of Evil” along with North Korea and Iran.2 Afterwards, the US vice president, Dick Ceney announced that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to dominate the Middle East and threaten U.S. oil supplies.3

The statement of Tyler has reflected two things which are related with Iraq-US relations, especially when we focus on the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. They are: how US used its position as a superpower country to judge any country, and how US created the public opinion through their enactment “Iraq Liberation Day.” The US invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003 was started as US has reasons for the invasion, were to disarm Iraq of WMD, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people. As Bush warned “Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in the region with nuclear arms and biological weapons.”4

Noam Chomsky (2003). Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Metropolitan Book. p. 4. 2 Before Bush, one of the very famous American President Ronald Reagan did the same thing, a very interest political action to labeled Uni Soviet as “the Evil Empire.” 3 Vice President Speaks at VFW 103d National Convention,” August 26, 2002; and “Vice President Honors Veterans of Korean War,” August 29, 2002. Available on the White House web site at [http://www.whitehouse.gov] under “News.” 4 Ibid.


3 Afterward the US claimed that Iraq failed to provide an adequate accounting of its prohibited weapons programs or to convince UN inspectors that its weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed as Baghdad claimed.5 However as the respond of US claimed of Iraq Nuclear Weapon, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he had been "pretty convinced" that Iraq had not resumed its nuclear weapons program, which the IAEA dismantled in 1997.6 It was mean that even the international world have a different perspectives of Iraq.

Thus the US invasion didn’t accept by international community even United Nations itself. This invasion seems more state interest rather than focused on the several reasons that US announced. There were many speculations up to the deeper research that had been made by scholars to understand the causes of US invasion. There were many issues like military ambitions for global hegemony, economic reasons, regional politics, and the American president’s war ambition to against terrorism, shaped as a Bush Doctrine. The Bush doctrine and the National Security Strategy in 2002 were formulated in response to the 9 September (9/11) attacks. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on US is an important event to understand the Invasion of Iraq. Even though Iraq was not involved to that attack, Bush had claim that Saddam Hussein was linked to AlQaida and was actively developing WMD. Some scholars see that 9/11 was a new era of global politics which is not only change the foreign policy of US but also has changed the global concern on terrorism issues.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002 to giving Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply with its disarmament requirements under previous Security Council resolutions. 6 Iraq War was not Justified: UN Weapons Expert Say, Monday, March 22, 2004 Posted: 1:34. www.cnn.com


4 Most scholars emphasize the important of Bush Doctrine to understand the causes of US Invasion. Hence to analyse the motives and causes behind of US Invasion they are two important things that need to be understood, the Bush Doctrine and National Securıty strategy. Snauwert noted “the Bush Doctrine of preemption at the core of the war strategy is thereby linked to a strategy of global hegemony.” 7 In the new National Security Strategy of the United States it is stated: “The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.”8

The Bush Doctrine “preemptive action” according to Snauwaert can be understood in at least two ways: “(1) it constitutes in itself a fundamental shift in American foreign policy – a profound movement away from a fairly noninterventionist, isolationist tradition, perhaps best captured by the dictum: “don’t tread on me;” (2) a continued expression of the implicit linkage between American democracy and imperialism.” 9 He then continued by mentioned that the linkage between terrorists and States significantly complicates the justifiability of the Bush Doctrine. Snauwaert noted “the Doctrine asserts the principle that terrorists and those who harbor them are equivalent. This principle implies violations of the principle of nonintervention and thus must be morally justified.”

Dale T. Snauwaert, The Bush Doctrine and Just War Theory. OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 6.1 Fall: 121-135 (2004). 8 National Security Council, The National Security Strategy of the United States (The White House, September 2002 [cited); available from http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nssall.html., p. 4. 9 Dale T. Snauwaert, p. 129.


5 Towards the Bush Doctrine, Kofi Annan said "if the doctrine of preventive war were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification. This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested..."10 However the statement of Annan didn’t work as equal as UN didn’t work to prevent the US Invasion of Iraq. This very expensive war is always interesting for being research focus because it has been involved different issues on International relations field.


The Important of Levels of Analysis Method

The political scientists who have concern on the discipline of international relations have developed a tool to get understanding on what the international system is, who are the players, and how the relations among them. They efforts came to the building concepts on levels of analysis. The very clear and simple definition of levels of analysis has been mentioned by Duncan as “a method of classifying the players and how they related to one another in the international system on several different levels.”11

One of the scholars who wrote as deeply the levels of analysis is Barry Buzan. He has mentioned three important points as an essential idea that needs to be emphasized within the levels analysis focused: interactive capacity, structure, and process. 12 The first point is meaning “the types and intensities of interaction of which any one unit

New York Times, 24 September 2003 Raymond Duncan (2002). World Politics in the 21st Century. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc. p. 63. 12 Barry Buzan (1995). The Levels of Analysis Problem in International Relations Reconsidered. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 204-205.


6 is capable with respect to others in the system” and “those units are arranged with respect to each others” is the second point. As the process he explained those units interact in recurrent patterns.

Several different scholars in international relations field has been focused on the levels of analysis through individual, states, and global system. The very common and comprehensive explanation of levels of analysis started with the examination of assumptions by Kenneth N. Waltz.13 Dougherty noted that most international theorist probably reject the notion that individual is international actor. It is different with the classical liberals which see the individual as the real actors whiles society is an abstraction. But otherwise as science developed itself the focus on individual actors moved to placing this level as the center of most scientist investigations.

According to Sterling: “The individual level is the most micro, where causality is traced to the individual who make foreign policy and the physiology of human decision making. The nation-state level is a middle level and involves the examination of government role bureaucratic politics, interest group, media influence. And the systemic level is the most macro level, involving not only the examination of state-to-state relations but also environmental and structural factors.” 14

For using the three levels of analysis to understand the international situations, our steps can be based on: (1) the shape and content of the situations; (2) what it is we want to find out; and (3) what paradigm is would be use to formulate the questions.15 Through this paper I would use the three levels of analysis to understand the causes of US Invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Kenneth N. Waltz (1959). Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis. NewYork: Columbia University Press. 263 pp. 14 Jenifer Sterling, Making Sense of International Relations Theory. London: Lynne Rienner Publisher, 2006. 15 Raymond Duncan (2002) op.cit. p. 87



III. The US Invasion of Iraq: Levels of Analysis
There is an interesting statement of Duncan that “the only way you can make the information intelligible is by organizing it in someway, whatever method that we use, it will be rooted in the assumptions you make about human behavior which a group of those assumptions, is called a world view of paradigm.”16 There are three basic paradigms that underlie theory building in international relations: realism, liberalist, and Marxism. Within this analysis I would not provide the analysis by covering all of the paradigms by make a comprehensive as deeply. But I prefer to choose the important issues and explain those issues use that basic paradigms. This classification of mine just a simple way to describe as I found so many reasons, so many causes of evidences which written by many scholars or researchers. To make them easy I would separate the explanation by focus on the levels of analysis.



LIBERALIST/ IDEALIST Bush Interests and Sentiment of Saddam


Individual Actor

Bush’s Doctrine and Bush’s own ambitions

Business interest of Rumsfeld and Cheney


The United States’ Position in the Middle East State Actor Military Dimension of Hegemony Pressure on Arab, Israeli, Syria, Iran,


Non-State Actor/Society

Economy Dimension or the Interests of the United States’ Companies Oil Sources Oil Market The United States Global Grand Strategy Oil Exploitation

International System

Global Hegemony/ Grand Imperial Strategy and Power

US Liberalization Process in Middle East And Democracy

Imperialism, Hegemony, Monopoly Capital


Ibid, pp. 17-18

8 From the table above there are many motives that didn’t include, like personality and social physiology dimensions, ideological influences which US has long history with neo-conservative wing, lobby of interest groups, up to the existence of Israel. Those motives are important, but because we can not categorize them as easily within the paradigms I would describe them as separate explanations within.

III.1. Individual Actor
At the individual level of analysis, the actor is the individual people who have ability to influence world events. Dick Cheney was a key actor who dominance played in mobilizing support within the administration and public for the war on Iraq. For him if the Saddam Regime would change it would have domino effect on the Middle East. Beside of Cheney, Karl Rove was a political strategic advisor of Bush who influenced Bush for taking decisions. The most actors who had been involved is the people who stood up behind Bush, they were members of Bush administration. Chomsky mentioned there were two Bush administrations:17 first was aggressive, violent and arrogant. This group led the US into disaster after disaster and sank its reputation to the lowest it has ever been around the world and second Bush administration which was more moderate and some of the more extreme figures were dismissed. This second group includes Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others, and they followed somewhat moderate policies, but more economic interest. However the truly individual actor was Bush himself. Some authors see that the personality of Bush and especially Bush’s need to surpass father to against Saddam Hussein was one of the motives behind US invasion of Iraq.

Noam Chomsky, (2003), Hegemony or Survival: America Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Metropolitan Book.




States Actor
“Democracy do not fight one another”

Lieberfeld provided a very critical question within his examination paper: “would the US have invaded if Iraq had been a democracy?”18 His answer was likely not. He used this as a main perspective of Liberalists to understand the US Invasion. He wrote that “the mature democracies do not fight among themselves, they are prone to war with non-democracies” US claimed that the regime change in Iraq was US priority because for so long time Iraq had under the Saddam dictatorship. For the liberalist view war with Iraq was “using military force to replace dictatorship with democracy.”

Considering Lieberfeld through his examination on US decision, he sees that the US Invasion of Iraq has several dimensions of analytical perspectives. For the realism point of view he mentioned a national interest, security, power and resources are the motives related while for the liberalism perspectives, the differences between democracies and non-democracies is to be a fundamental cause of war. 19 Thus use realist view the invasion was a rational means for the US to achieve its primary goal of demonstrating its power to allies and competitors alike. Furthermore by military forces US could control the Iraq’s petroleum reserves.

The state level use realist perspective would concern on the military forces for reach global power. Bush declared that “America has, intends to keep military strengths beyond challenge.”20 It shows that military is hold a very important rule as a state
18 19

Lieberfeld, p. Daniel Lieberfeld, Theories of Conflict and the Iraq War. International Journal of Peace Studies, Volume 10, Number 2, Autumn/Winter 2005. p. 1. 20 Daniel Lieberfeld,

10 power. However the Bush administration strategy had long advocated a strategy of hegemony based on the use of American’s exceptional military capabilities. Chomsky called US as “unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority.” The US invasion of Iraq might be one of the “military forces show” by US to maintain its military capacity.

Most scholars who describe realism have provided a list of assumption to which all realist scholars supposedly subscribe as what Sterling noted. He mentioned that such list typically include the centrality of the nation-state to global politics, the treatment of the nation-state as a unitary, rational actor, and the dominance of national security over all other IR issues.21

The decisions by government or states for have a war is the product all states’ involuntary participation in eternal quests for power and security due to an international environment. For Liberalist, the global security and prosperity depend on the spread of democracy and trade, and on the conflict-regulation functions of international institutions. Thus using this liberal perspective the decision of US to against Iraq was to ending the Saddam repressive dictatorship, protect human right and build the democracy system for Iraq. However this cause was very ideal as we can see from IR perspective when we try to analyze US invasion, but some authors have already dealing with this motive, even they didn’t put it as a major cause.


Jenifer Sterling, p. 15.


III.3. Systemic Level

To analyze the systemic levels my concern dividing into three focuses: the world hegemony power, strategic position in the Middle East, and US interest for Oil Exploitations.

- World Hegemony Power By using Chomsky’s sentence, he said after the invasion of Iraq was declared a success, it was publicly recognized that one motive for the war had been to establish the “imperial grand strategy” as a new norm. He stated that the publication of Iraq War was the signal that Iraq would be the first test for the US experimentation as New York Times also reported “Iraq became the Petri dish in which this experiment in pre-emptive policy grew.”22

To analysis the reason of imperial grand strategy or hegemony reason of US Invasion of Iraq I would provide the conception that explained by Chomsky. The goal of the imperial grand strategy according to Chomsky is to prevent any challenge to the power, position, and prestige of the US. Within this book Chomsky explained that “the imperial grand strategy asserts the right of the US to undertake “preventive war” at will: Preventive, not preemptive.” According to Ikenberry “a grand strategy begins with a fundamental commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the US has no peer competitors.”23 This grand strategy could be categorized as a realist view of Iraq Invasion.

Noam Chomsky, p. 55. Ikenberry, G. John. (2002). Multilateralism and US Grand Strategy. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publisher.


12 The words of “full spectrum dominance” have been used by many scholars to explain the hegemony ambition of US. Raymond Hinnebusch stated that full spectrum dominance means “the strategy of dealing with the resistance to the US not simply through traditional containment but via pre-emptive war.” He noted that “the architecture of the Bush administration strategy had long advocated as hegemony based on the use of America’s exceptional military capabilities.”

Cameron’s concern on America hegemony issue expressed that character of US is a reluctant sheriff. He mentioned that by using military as well as political and economic levers, the US’ hegemony power, it would increase the US global influence. Thus the “reoccurs metaphor of recent US’ foreign policy conjures up as a Sheriff and a posse which rides out of town and round up the bad guys.” As Chomsky more radical and goes beyond by use “imperial grand strategy” he means America has created itself for being hegemonic power which world dominates by unilateral actor through “absolute military superiority.”

They were two important motives that is more local dimension: strategic position in Middle East and hegemony over the oil market while the US oil vulnerability was on the raise. US saw that Iraq as the world’s second largest oil reserves in the world was a solution for US problem. Military control of Iraq Petroleum, to increase the security of Israel as a US partner in Middle East, put pressure on Syria.

- Strategic Position in Middle East For the Realists view to consider the Iraqi’s geostrategy location was one of the points of analysis which by build a military basis in Iraq would pressure the US beneficial position in Middle East, even central Asia. The invasion of Iraq was seen

13 as an alternative to balancing and a key to a military version of hegemony in the Middle East that would dispense with one based on accommodation of Arab interests.24

- Exploitation for Oil The Bush Administration ration during the two periods emphasized much on goal of global economy. Iraq is one of the five biggest countries in the world with abundant oil sources. Oil is a strategic commodity that every country needs, because this natural source would be useful for military power besides economic needed. While the US oil vulnerability was on the rise, US knew that Iraq might be the solutions for US.

President Bush's Cabinet agreed in April 2001 that 'Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East' and because this is an unacceptable risk to the US 'military intervention' is necessary. 25 Quoted from Washington Post "although senior Bush administration officials say they have not begun to focus on the issues involving oil and Iraq, American and foreign oil companies have already begun maneuvering for a stake in the country's huge proven reserves of 112 billion barrels of crude oil, the largest in the world outside Saudi Arabia."26

Three points as my analysis have already explained above, turn to the fourth about the interest group around Bush, I need to mention the very high role of Zionism lobby. Hinnebusch’s research has showed that US’ foreign policy making was

Sherly R. Schwenninger, “Revamping American Grand Strategy” World Policy Journal, vol. 20, No.3 (Fall 2003). p. 51. 25 Sunday Herald newspaper (UK), "Official: US oil at the heart of Iraq crisis", 6 October 2002. 26 Washington Post, "In Iraq war scenario, oil is key issue", front-page, 15 September 2002


14 dominated by a coalition of the extremist/militarists wings of the Zionist lobby. He mentioned for instead the Likudist neo-cons. According to him, that lobby was “traditionally opposed over Middle East policy, with the arms-oil lobby believing that access to oil and arms profits depended on good relations with the Arabs, and hence some even handedness in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”27



US was “peering into the abyss of the future” after the 9/11 as Chomsky quoted from New York Times’ headline on 23 September 2003. The US invasion on Iraq in 2003 however could be one of the US grand strategies as its hegemony ambition. Chomsky argues that the current U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq are not a specific response to 9/11, but simply the continuation of a consistent half-century of U.S. foreign policy. For Hinnebusch the invasion of Iraq is the grand strategy of the US under Bush to undertake a coercive assertion of global hegemony.”

There are four important points as my conclusion of US invasion of Iraq in 2003: first, the US Imperial Grand Strategy including the position in Middle East; second, the economics interest of state actor and non-state actor as the hegemony ambition of Iraq’s oil; third, the Bush’s ambition or what has been called as ‘the Bush Doctrine’ and the people (political advisors) behind Bush; and fourth, the groups’ political interest around the Bush administration.


p. 14.


V. Bibliography
Bayman, L. Daniel., and Waxman, C. Matherw. Confronting Iraq: United States’ Policy and the Use of Force since the Gulf War. Arlington: RAND, 2000.

Bennis, Phyllis (January 2003). Understanding the US-Iraq Crisis: A Primer. A publication of the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC: the Institute for Policy Studies, p.1-24.

Burbach, Roger and Tarbell, Jim. Imperial Overstretch: George Bush and the Hubris of Empire. London: Zed Books, 2004.

Chomsky, Noam., and Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons against War on Iraq. New York: Arrow Publications, 2002.

Cameron, Frasher (2005), United State Foreign Policy After The Cold War: Global Hegemon or Reluctant Sheriff. (2nd Edition). New York: Routledge.

Chomsky, Noam (2003), Hegemony or Survival: America Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Metropolitan Book.

Dolan, Chris. J. In War We Trust: the Bush Doctrine and the Pursuit Just War. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005.

Hellenberg, Jan., and Karlsson, Hakan (Ed). The Iraq War: European perspectives on Politics, Strategy, and Operations. New York: Routledge, 2005.


Hinnebusch, Raymond. (Spring 2007). The American Invasion of Iraq: Causes and Consequences.

Jackson, Robert., and Sorensen, George. Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches (3rd edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Kaysen, Carl., Miller, E. Steven, and Nordhaus, D. William. War with Iraq: Cost, Consequences, and Alternatives. Cambridge: American Academy of Art and Science, 2002.

Kegleg, Jr. Charles. World Politics: Trend and Transformation (11th Edition). Boston: Thomson Hıgher Education, 2008.

Krasno, E. Jean., and Sutterlin, S. James. The United Nations and Iraq, Defining the Viper. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2003.

McGoldrick, Dominic. From ‘9-11’ to the ‘Iraq War 2003’. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004.

McWhinney, Edward. The September 11 Terrorist Attacks and the Invasion of Iraq in Contemporary International Law (Opinion on the Emerging New World Order System). Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, 2004.

17 Olson, C. William., and Groom, A.J.R. International Relations, Then and Now: Origins and Trends in Interpretation. London: Harpercollins Academic, 1991.

Pauly, Jr. Robert, J., and Lansford, Tom. Strategic Preemption: US’ Foreign Policy and the Second Iraq War. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005.

Phyllis Bennis. Understanding the U.S.-Iraq Crisis: A Premier. Wahington: Institute for Policy Studies, 2003.

Raymond W. Copson (Coordinator). Iraq War: Background and Issues Overview. Report for Congress by Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, April 2003.

Renshon, Stabley A. and Suedfeld, Peter. Understanding the Bush Doctrine, Psychology and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Russett, Bruce., Star, Harvey., and Kinsella, David. World Politics, the Menu for Choice (9th Edition). Boston: Wedsworth, 2010.

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