The Bush Administration’s Invasion of Iraq: A Case of Ontological Insecurity?

This paper argues that ontological insecurity (OIS) was a key component within the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq in 2003. By conveying how each the top of the Chilly Battle and the 9/11 assaults induced OIS, it may be demonstrated that the Bush administration was influenced to intervene in Iraq by the necessity to preserve a steady and coherent sense of the USA’s Self and state identification. To substantiate my argument, I’ll conduct a discourse evaluation of political speeches produced by the Bush administration between the 9/11 assaults and the invasion. I’ll, in related style to Ayse Zarakol, take a middle-line strategy with my degree of research, making use of each Mitzen’s exogenous strategy to OS, and Steele’s endogenous strategy, presenting how each the breakdown of exterior routinised relations and incongruence with the USA’s inner biographical narratives, had been current within the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq (Bolton, 2021: 131; Zarakol, 2010; Mitzen, 2006; Steele, 2007). Initially, I’ll discover the choice to invade Iraq by the exogenous lens which can try to convey how for the reason that finish of the Chilly Battle and after the 9/11 assaults, the USA skilled a breakdown within the Self-Different and state-state routinised relations that sustained its identification, and its have to re-establish these routines and obtain OS influenced its resolution to invade Iraq. After exploring some criticisms of Mitzen’s exogenous strategy and the way this may increasingly query the extent to which OIS influenced the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq, I’ll then cool these tensions by making use of Steele’s endogenous strategy to analyse the speeches. It will finally current how sustaining consistency with and discovering friendship for an overlap with its inner biographical narratives, performed a distinguished function within the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq, reinforcing how they acted in an OS-security looking for method.

Exogenous roots of American ontological insecurity

Looking for a goal: Iraq because the enemy-Different

A discourse evaluation of Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Deal with, broadly considered setting in movement the choice to invade Iraq, can current the significance of OIS in explaining the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq. It is because Bush’s labelling of Iraq as comprising an “axis of evil” (Bush, 2002) might be considered elucidating how the invasion of Iraq was constitutive of an anxiety-management mechanism, the place the Bush administration sought to return to its Chilly Battle routines and re-establish its goal of Self by figuring out an enemy-Different within the post-Chilly Battle period. Neorealists have argued that the top of the Chilly Battle marked a interval of uncertainty as bipolarity had confirmed to be essentially the most steady in regard to steadiness of energy and bodily safety. Nonetheless, Dumbrell conveys how in actual fact, this uncertainty throughout the USA stemmed from discussions and considerations of a seek for a press release of goal, which anchors itself far more to the difficulty of identification (Dumbrell, 2018:101). Mitzen’s exogenous imaginative and prescient of OS can account for this, because the uncertainty and lack of goal that the USA skilled after the top of the Chilly Battle stemmed from OIS, as they entered a state of basic nervousness often known as peacetime anxieties (Berenskoetter and Nayalm, 2020:15). Since state identification is shaped through worldwide interplay, states can grow to be connected to relationships, even conflictual ones, which maintain these identities as they start to fulfill states’ routines. This enables them to type a fundamental belief system, and have company by gaining a way of predictability which orders the worldwide area (Mitzen, 2006:346). For the USA, it had grow to be so connected to its routines in the course of the Chilly Battle, that the dissolution of the enemy-Different (the USSR) meant that the lack of this relationship created OIS, because it was a relationship which outlined and offered stability for the USA’s identification and goal for one of the best a part of 40 years (Berenskoetter and Nyalm, 2020:15). On condition that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which the USA grew to become concerned in by liberating Kuwait, coincided with the top of the Chilly Battle, one can infer that the USA set about establishing a brand new enemy-Different in Iraq, reaching OS, as O’Reilly argues of how the USA instantly started framing rogue states as the brand new risk (O’Reilly, 2007:296). This influenced the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq in 2003, as this slowly started permitting the USA to return to its Chilly Battle routines, during which it had a dichotomised view of fine vs evil. This meant that when 9/11 occurred, the Bush administration had no qualms in framing Iraq as evil and utilizing it as leverage to invade Iraq, because it happy OS routines (Ruby 2004:32). Correspondingly, we are able to see the numerous function that OIS has in explaining the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq. For the reason that finish of the Chilly Battle, the USA pursued rogue states, principally Iraq as the brand new enemy-Different, which allowed it to retain a steady identification and rediscover the routines which offered it with a way of goal.

Iraq because the ‘seen’ enemy-Different post-9/11

Having made point out of the 9/11 assaults, the choice to border Iraq as evil and a ‘sponsor of terror’ (Bush, 2002) throughout the State of Union Deal with, very a lot accelerated the invasion. When inspected far more intently, 9/11 might be demonstrated as a supply of OIS, explaining the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq as an anxiety-reducing process in response to 9/11. The 9/11 assaults had been a shock to the worldwide system, as for a non-state actor as Al Qaeda to inflict the extent of injury it did, this represented a novel and unprecedented safety problem (Fukuyama, 2006:67). This grew to become a supply for OIS, with the ideas of how states and folks understood the worldwide system being basically shaken, as this was not a traditional inter-state battle, however reasonably an assault from a gaggle who, as Mitzen and Schweller observe, appeared to pose an existential risk to the whole state-system by rejecting it altogether (Mitzen and Schweller, 2011:32). For the USA, this created nervousness and a disconnect with the notion of its personal state-qua-state identification, during which it assumed itself the function of defending the states system (Epstein, 2007:15). The routines it had established, particularly for the reason that Chilly Battle, weren’t programmed to cope with a risk in opposition to an enemy in Al Qaeda who capabilities behind the scenes as a community spanning over many territories (Epstein, 2007:19). Due to this fact, as Ruby demonstrates, the Bush administration returned to its Chilly Battle routines to ascertain OS and establish a visual enemy. By inserting states throughout the Battle on Terror (WoT) discourse and invading Iraq, the Bush administration re-established the steadiness and ideas of the worldwide system, consolidating its view of states as the first actors, who might be held accountable for dysfunction within the worldwide system (Ruby, 2004:32). Therefore, OIS holds vital explanatory energy within the Bush administration’s resolution to create an Al Qaeda-Iraq nexus and invade Iraq. By figuring out a state (Iraq) because the evil enemy and having a share of duty within the 9/11 assaults, a visual enemy was capable of be produced, permitting the USA to revive a notion of authority and order within the worldwide system, sustaining the routines of its state-qua-state identification.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)

When analysing Secretary of Defence Dominic Rumsfeld’s utilization of the terminology ‘unknown unknowns’ (Rumsfeld, 2002) inside his Press Convention in NATO in 2002, we additionally see how this breakdown of the exterior, worldwide routinised relations after 9/11 affected the decision-making of the Bush administration, making them vulnerable to accepting a scarcity of proof to justify invasion of Iraq, one such being WMDs. It is because the necessity for the Bush administration to create a “WMD-terrorist nexus” (Gause, 2009) to invade Iraq, stemmed from the necessity to regain confidence and certainty of their OS routines, establishing a way of company to permit them to know the way precisely to answer the brand new risk of 9/11. The choice to invade Iraq beneath the pretext of WMDs, regardless of there being a scarcity of proof and finally no WMDs discovered, has been problematic for analysts trying to gauge the Bush administration’s motives for invading Iraq (Hinnebusch, 2007:209). Mitzen and Schweller assert that what analysts overlook is that these throughout the Bush administration had been appearing in an OS-seeking method, as they convey how Vice-President Dick Cheney’s resolution to endorse the WMDs as justification to invade Iraq, was the impact of misplaced certainty, a symptomatic tendency of being in occasions of OIS (Mitzen and Scheweller, 2011:32). As already talked about, the dimensions of injury that Al Qaeda was capable of inflict throughout 9/11, regardless of being a non-state actor, disrupted the ideas and established routines of the worldwide system. What this meant is that the USA additionally skilled a way of paralysis in its established routines, and therefore OIS, because it didn’t know precisely how to answer this new risk. By making a nexus between terrorism and rogue states with potential WMDS equivalent to Iraq, this allowed the Bush administration to invade Iraq and regain a way of confidence in its routines, because it gave it a transparent cognitive imaginative and prescient of the way to handle the difficulty of terrorism (Mitzen and Scheweller, 2011:32). Kinnvall has famous how feelings equivalent to confidence and shallowness act as processes of OS throughout occasions of OIS, because it gives consolation and acts an anxiety-reduction mechanism, and this was the case for the Bush administration (Kinnvall, 2004:755). Therefore, OIS gives a considerable rationalization and rationale behind the Bush administration’s resolution to, regardless of a scarcity of proof, create and pursue the ‘unknown unknown’ of the WMD-terrorist nexus, and therefore invade Iraq. It is because this was symptomatic of a have to safe OS, the place the Bush administration wanted to reassure itself of the way to sort out this new risk and restore a way of company with its routines within the face of terrorism.

Potential limitations    

Nonetheless, one might query the extent to which OIS explains the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq, by arguing that bodily safety was far more vital within the resolution to invade on account of potential WMDs. As Jervis argues, the choice to invade Iraq after 9/11 and root out potential WMDs was pushed by a rationalist, realist deterrence strategy to keep away from future assaults on American soil. (Jervis, 2003:327). That is definitely believable, as after the 9/11 assaults, fears grew to become that since a weak non-state actor might inflict such harm, defiance of the USA can be emboldened, and the probabilities of one other assault could also be elevated, particularly from potential WMD rogue states (Hinnebusch, 2007:220). Since there had been a four-year lengthy absence of UN inspections on WMDs in Iraq by 9/11, and Saddam Hussein had a historical past of willingness to make use of organic and chemical weapons, this meant that, as Butt contends, invasion of Iraq grew to become an appropriate candidate for its demonstrative and performative impact as a retaliation to 9/11 (Butt, 2019:270/Hinnesbusch, 2007:220/van Tergouw, 2018:11). This extra rationalist and realist strategy can query OIS as a measure of state behaviour. Students equivalent to Lebow have taken difficulty with OS literature’s utility of feelings, equivalent to confidence and shallowness, to states such because the USA, which have a number of and conflicting identifications (Lerner, 2020:21). This will feed into, as Epstein argues, a fallacy of composition during which problems with individual-level nervousness are being uncritically scaled as much as a state (Epstein, 2011:327). On this case, it could solid doubt on the extent to which OIS explains the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq, as it could have simply been a realist deterrence act in opposition to any future assaults.

Endogenous roots of American ontological insecurity

Biographical narrative of US exceptionalism

Nonetheless, Steele’s endogenous imaginative and prescient of OS can problem Jervis’ portrayal of the Iraq invasion as solely being an instance of realist deterrence and bodily safety wants, Fairly, an evaluation of Bush’s ‘Speech on Iraq’ in 2003 (Bush, 2003), which declared the choice to invade Iraq, means that alongside bodily safety wants, the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq was additionally pushed by the OS want to reassure the self-needs of its inner biographical narrative of ‘exceptionalism’ after 9/11. Steele’s endogenous imaginative and prescient of OS stipulates a extra home imaginative and prescient, the place reasonably than consistently turning into connected to routinised relations with the Different to maintain its identification, a state additionally goals to realize OS by having consistency with the biographical narratives it has of itself (Steele, 2007). The USA has an endogenous biographical narrative of itself as an distinctive and distinctive nation, and a technique during which it has expressed this has been the way in which it has tried to behave as a benevolent hegemon and style the world in accordance with its liberal imaginative and prescient of peace and freedom (Deudney and Meiser, 2018:35). Nonetheless, 9/11 challenged this notion of exceptionalism, inflicting OIS as regardless of the USA’s self-professed benevolence and want to impart peace and freedom to the world, the terrorist assaults represented a supply of hatred in the direction of the USA, creating an incongruence with its biographical narrative. To reassure its self-needs of sustaining consistency with the biographical narrative of its exceptionalism and benevolent function, Steele demonstrates how the Bush administration’s post-9/11 international coverage grew to become encompassed by a pursuit of OS by three types of social motion: morality, humanitarianism, and social honour (Steele, 2007). These types of social motion impressed the choice to invade Iraq, as theories started to emerge from throughout the Bush administration, that the 9/11 assaults had been symptomatic of the excessive diploma of authoritarianism and repression within the Center East, and the area wanted to be liberated (Cook dinner, 2012). By eradicating a distinguished and virulent dictator in Saddam Hussein, a attainable domino impact would have been established during which the democratisation of the area would grow to be per the USA’s notion of exceptionalism and benevolence (Cook dinner, 2012). That is substantiated inside Bush’s ‘Deal with to the Nation on Iraq’ speech, as using language equivalent to how the USA would rise to its “responsibility”, and “advance liberty and peace” to the Iraqi folks “deserving and able to human liberty” (Bush, 2003/Dearborn, 2013:52). This means that the OIS very a lot explains the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq, as Bush’s discourse of liberation presents the necessity to reassure itself of its supposed benevolent qualities and preserve consistency with its biographical narrative of US exceptionalism, which was shaken after 9/11.


This concentrate on biographical narratives, throughout the perspective of a middle-line strategy between an exogenous and endogenous imaginative and prescient of OS, additionally brings us to how friendship with the Different acts as a course of for OS, and the way this was an vital think about explaining the Bush administration’s resolution to ignore the opposition of its democratic allies and invade Iraq. Horness notes how the American resolution to invade Iraq has been problematic for the idea of liberalism, which finds it troublesome to clarify why the USA was prepared to pursue regime change in Iraq by undemocratic means, particularly within the face of opposition by its democratic allies (Horness, 2003:25). Nonetheless, this may be accounted for when establishing friendship as an analytical idea inside OS, as Berenskoetter argues that friendship gives OS in occasions of OIS, as not solely is it an nervousness controlling mechanism, nevertheless it additionally gives the Self with energy and stabilises the sense of Self by immersing biographical narratives in a shared venture of world constructing (Berenskoetter, 2014:10,19). Contemplating this, one might argue that since 9/11 prompted a interval of OIS, it was the mutual empowerment gained by the encouragement of Britain, which performed a decisive issue within the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq. It is because Britain’s overlapping with the USA’s biographical narrative in seeing itself as a benevolent hegemon and chief of the Western world in opposition to the ‘evil’ Saddam Hussein, meant that the USA was prepared to invade Iraq regardless of opposition from its democratic allies (Berenskoetter, 2014:15). Kissinger substantiates this, arguing that what got here to tell apart the USA and Britain from its European counterparts after 9/11 and in its resolution to invade Iraq, was a way of fixing and overcoming challenges, which resonates extra with US exceptionalism, whereas European identification tends to hunt the administration of points (Kissinger, 2001:295). Due to this fact, one might argue that with out 9/11 inducing OIS and the mutual empowerment of friendship by OS, it will have been tougher for the Bush administration to invade Iraq.


This paper has demonstrated that OIS has an integral function in explaining the Bush administration’s resolution to invade Iraq in 2003. When making use of Mitzen’s exogenous strategy to OS to Bush and Rumsfeld’s political speeches, we see how the characterisation of Iraq as comprising an ‘axis of evil’, being a ‘sponsor of terror’ and retaining the ‘unknown unknown’ of WMDs, setting in movement the choice to invade Iraq, stemmed from a supply of OIS. By portraying Iraq in such a method, we see how the USA sought to create an enemy-Different after the Chilly Battle to regain a way of goal in its routines and identification. 9/11 as an OIS-inducing second spelled a breakdown within the exterior routinised relations for being an unprecedent safety problem within the worldwide system. This notion gives a rationale behind the pursuit of an Al Qaeda-Iraq, WMD-terrorist nexus, regardless of a scarcity of proof, to invade Iraq, as this diminished nervousness and allowed the Bush administration to establish a visual enemy within the WoT. Regardless of tensions that the choice to invade Iraq could have been a realist deterrence act for bodily safety causes, Steele’s endogenous strategy to OS exhibits that the discourse of liberation inside Bush’s ‘Deal with to the Nation on Iraq’ speech, is per appearing in an OS-security looking for method. We see how the Bush administration’s willingness to disregard the opposition of its democratic allies and invade Iraq stemmed from sustaining consistency with the USA’s biographical narrative of exceptionalism, enhanced by the mutual empowerment from and overlap by the Britain.


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