Imperialism Versus Realism: A Realist Perspective on Clinton’s Policy Towards Iraq
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Terms such as empire and imperialism are widely used to define foreign policy. In the current era, the United States has often been the focus of both public as academic debates in regards to its supposed imperialist foreign policy and its ‘modern empire.’ These terms however carry highly polemic connotations and it has to be questioned whether or not they do justice to the reality of foreign policy. Whereas terms such as empire and imperialism have often been applied to the United States as a whole, foreign policy has to be analysed within its own right. These issues become clear when looking at the academic debate after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. With George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, much of the academic literature has focused on the contemporary American empire and how it has become an ‘empire by design.’ The conflict with Iraq however did not start with the invasion of Iraq and policy towards Iraq should thus also not be seen as a singular whole. Differences between administrations matter. This paper will thus look at the foreign policy under Bill Clinton as the president who preceded Bush, to question whether or not his foreign policy towards Iraq should be seen in the light of U.S. imperialism, or as a rational response to the threat that Iraq posed to the security of the United States.