chapter  8
17 Pages

Iraq: non- support of pre- emptive war

The theory of pre-emption may have had its own internal consistency, but it failed to attract widespread international support. The Bush administration’s idea of “pre-emptive war” went against prevailing norms of selfdefense and the doctrine of deterrence that had come to govern the international order. The swift capture of Baghdad notwithstanding, dismal performance in the early phase of the stabilization mission, furthermore, resulted in widespread rejection of the pre-emption strategy. By 2006, opposition politicians as well as the broader public were advocating withdrawal; they could no longer justify either the cost or the logic of the operation since the promised peace, stability and democracy had not been realized. Public support of the intervention and confidence in US military capability increased quickly in the United States following the successful adoption of the Surge strategy; but even more important was the improvement in support, albeit fragile, among the Iraqi people toward the Maliki government. While the majority of Iraqis still preferred to have the coalition forces leave as soon as possible, the more prominent barometer of the operation’s performance was whether the Iraqis considered their own political institutions legitimate, and judging from the rising level of support, there was a marked improvement in the short run. The failure of the stability operation and the success of the Surge shows clearly that in the case of Iraq, both strategy (pre-emption and later the Surge) and law (the issue of boundaries of self defense; internal organization of the Iraqi state) form the bases of the legitimacy of intervention, both affecting levels of support toward the intervention independently and through performance.1 A pre-emption strategy initially could not win legitimacy because it did not attract support either in light of the existing legal and strategic order or in terms of performance, thus failing to create a legitimate new order. The Surge, on the other hand, was able to enhance the legitimacy of the Maliki government, thus creating a basis for the legitimacy of international intervention. Thus, Iraq’s case clearly shows that without bases in law or legitimacy-a firm grounding in international law or the ability to create a new norm, or internally, the ability of the

international intervention to form a firm legitimate Iraqi government supported by the Iraqi people-the strategy was likely to fail. Strategy needed to embrace legitimacy.