chapter  6
29 Pages

WAR ON IRAQ: Textbook risk management or flawed strategy?

In 2003, regime change in Iraq under the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption arguably broke new ground in war and strategy. The Bush team was particularly mindful about distinguishing itself from Clinton by its disdain for ‘containment, partial solutions and messy compromises’.1 Yet unbeknownst to most, the Bush White House justified war in ‘reflexive’ terms mirroring those of the Clinton national security team in the late 1990s. Legal arguments put forth in February 2003 also bore eerie resemblance to those of December 1998.2 Washington had in effect been warring with Baghdad on and off throughout the 1990s, especially since 1998 with the quickly forgotten ‘preventive’ Desert Fox campaign, followed by a little-noticed open-ended struggle over no-fly zones, which morphed seamlessly into regime change. Any semblance of continuity crumbled underneath the rush to criticise Bush’s unilateralism. Yet, the criticisms (oil, personal revenge) were ‘unhelpfully vitriolic’ and unconvincing. There was superficial understanding of motivations, papering over continuities in US foreign policy.3