You are on page 1of 3

Adam Smith

Response Paper; September 23, 2003

Iraq: A 20/20 Hindsight Spiral versus Deterrence Model Case Study

In this paper we will look at the history of Iraq and its relations to the US and UN

beginning in the Gulf War and through the conclusion of its overthrow by the United

States. More specifically, we will analyze US policy under the competing spiral and

deterrence models to evaluate how they applied in this specific case. We begin with some

basic history and then move to said analysis.

In 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. This unprovoked

invasion was denounced by the UN Security Council [1] and international community as

a whole. The US, Kuwait’s ally, then moved into Kuwait and defeated Iraq in a matter of

weeks. The UN Security Council then imposed sanctions on Iraq and imposed inspectors

on it to ensure that it was not developing WMD’s. This worked for some time, until

Saddam’s regime became aggressive again and tried to impair inspection operations. Iraq

eventually expelled inspectors, without any retribution from the UN or any individual

country. Later, after the recent terrorist attacks, the US tried to get the inspectors back

into Iraq for national security purposes. Saddam allowed inspectors back in but there was

(and still is) much debate about how much autonomy and ability they had to do their job.

President Bush eventually ordered an invasion of Iraq.

When the US decided to instigate the Gulf War it was clearly a result of a

deterrence policy motivated by a few observations. Iraq was weak relative to the US, did

not have weapons of mass destruction, was an illegitimate aggressor by international

consensus, and threatened US economic and security interests in the region. The

sanctions and original inspectors were also motivated by deterrence, for two reasons.

That is, it prevents or slows Iraq’s ability to actually create these weapons but it also

makes a psychological impact which shows that Iraq’s actions will not be tolerated.

Iraq did eventually become rebellious, though. Iraq had, indeed, called the

international community’s bluff. Not only did the UN remove inspectors, it did not act

against Iraq in retribution. This is a divergence from the deterrence policy that had been

adopted by the US and UN up until that point. This showed that Saddam’s crime had

been “forgotten” with time and that he could defy international efforts without any

punishment. Essentially this is appeasement, relative to the policy that had been adopted

up until this point. Had the US and UN been too easy in dealing with Iraq up until that

point, or was their primary folly in not punishing Iraq more after it expelled the

inspectors? The historical facts argue for the latter. There wasn’t much more that could

be done just after the Gulf War without raising international concern about human rights

and other issues, aside from an all-out invasion, which seemed to be too aggressive at the

time. Instead, more should have been done in response to Iraq’s later defiance. In effect

Saddam was testing the waters to see how resolved the US and UN was to “violate Iraq’s

national sovereignty.” [2]

It can be argued that Saddam set out to take over the world, in which case the

appropriate response is not an easy topic to resolve. In effect it seems that a state must

understand another state’s intentions through intelligence and historical analysis and

prescribe a policy (deterrence or spiral) based on that data.


[1] United Nations Security Council Resolution 660, August 2, 1990

[2] “Inspectors question scientists,” CNN World December 24, 2002,