Decision making procedure, rules, norms and principles that may either be explicit or implicit in affecting international relations are all embraced under the umbrella of international regimes. The expectations of actors in international regimes tend to converge on matters related to international affairs.
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The United States foreign policy is indeed one critical example of international regime although the Obama administration cannot be purely classified into any singly known international relations theory. There a sharp and surging contrast between his administration and that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The hot pursuit to adopt a comprehensive realist/liberalist international relations theory is eminent and cannot be ignored either. The contemporary U.S foreign policy does not appears to strike a balance between realism and liberalism. It must be something else completely. A critical and more pragmatic argument can be directed towards Obama’s attempt to move the U.S troops out of Iraq.
He has equally been emphatic on the dignity of international organizations alongside weaving and binding together mature democracies. Mixed criticisms have hitherto followed with some perceiving it as a replica of Bush administration while others feel that this is in favor of U.S capitalistic ideology.
To be precise however, proponents of this power strategy may see it as the most adept means of harmonizing foreign policy in a world which is politically at quagmire. This paper explores the impact of international regimes by contrasting classic realism and liberalism with U.S foreign policy under President Obama. The paper also seeks to answer the question whether the contemporary U.S foreign policy can be categorized under realism, liberalism or something else.
The world political ideologies and especially those embedded on foreign policies cannot be debated effectively without embracing the global empirical influence. The exposition of the US foreign policy is a worthy illustration of an international policy deeply infiltrating into various nations of the world.
There has been argumentative phrases like the impacts of globalization, climate change and global warming, terrorism just to mention a few, in which the US government has played an upper hand in what most political analysts would call unrealistic and pre-eminent encroachment on private matters of other countries.
In this respect, United States has taken a global dimension in emerging socio-political and economic issues (Howe, 2005, p.103). Moreover, even as the debate on US foreign policies heightens, less has been addressed in modern studies of political science. Is the world conscious of the notable US foreign protectionist policy towards the less fortunate and disadvantaged nations?
Or is the US foreign policy proposition beyond cheap publicity and primacy as purported by the opponents? Can this aggression towards foreign policy be empirically measured? Realism, so to speak, would focus on the genuine creation of justified, free and open administrative structures void of any form of coercion, intimidation or corrupted and misinterpreted rule of law.
It also implies the promotion of such systems politically perceived by majority as democratic (Lieber, 2005, p. 57). Various forms of power that are encompassed in democracy are exercised here namely cultural, economic and technological power. The key objective in a realistic structure is to build, enhance and promote rather than overreaching and subduing the weaker ones.
The means of harnessing power does not matter whatsoever given that the accrued benefits belong to the state. In a sharp contrast though, the Obama administration does not leave an imprint of an indelible mark here.
Liberalism focuses primarily in the initiation, care and universal promotion of liberal democratic governments which do not abet unjust human practices. There is inevitably strong foundation for the rule of law as well as in-fights among the mature democracies. According to Walt (2005, p.88), 1980s witnessed a serious aggression between the US and the Soviet Union with the eminent enmity that communism brought.
The political ideology of communism was a big threat to the Americans at this time. Ronald Reagan, a soldier during cold war was then implored by U.S to go to Washington and divert any possible threat that could be posed by communism. Even as this was happening, the United States government was at high alert on how Japan was growing economically.
Unfortunately, Japan’s economic strategies failed and as a result, its economy slumped while US “…enjoyed eight years of robust economic growth…” (Walt, 2005, p.63). In a nut shell, U.S was in a hectic search for allies bearing in mind that it had gained the super power status by this time. It deployed a policy of “fit or quit” by embracing those who gave it support and punishing the “rogue ones”.
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Up until now, United States has tirelessly and consistently attempted to persuade and convince several countries to acknowledge their “liberal capitalist world order” (Walt, 2005, p.107). Recent events have shed more light on this debate. For example, the historical September 11, 2001 attack of the twin towers was apparently wakeup call in US probably in the wrong direction altogether.
Brzezinski (2004, p. 47) referred to it as the “power of weakness” in the sense that the weapon used to shake this world power was merely a box cutter and a fellow ready to sacrifice his life. This was like an impotent attack which surprisingly left too much pain and terror to this nation. How then did US react to this? Was the attack a national or global affair? It developed a desire to have full control of the real or perceived terrorists and terror countries.
Besides, it aimed at assimilating technological advancement for the sole purpose of solidifying its own power in the pretext of foreign policy. Brzezinski argues that amidst all these happenings, U.S continued to act smart by playing “lip service to democracy” (p. 46).
The oil debate
The justifications of the 2003 war on Iraq by the Bush Administration did not single out ‘oil interests’ as one of the reasons for the attack. Definitely, the American public and the world at large could not have expected such a rationale to be put forward. Nonetheless, critics of the Bush Administration reiterated that the latter had some underneath agenda on the oil resources found in Iraq (Bremer, 2006, p.72).
An earlier blue print by the neo-conservative group known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) emphasized the dire need for the United States government to restore its 20th century superpower image and global domination. Indeed, the acquisition of Iraq oil resources through indirect control was thought as one way of not only advancing U.S foreign policy in Middle East, but also a way of building a robust U.S economy through cheap or ‘near-free’ imports of crude oil from Iraq.
This can further be supported by the U.S pre-eminence in global affairs in an attempt to derail efforts by upcoming superpowers like Japan and China as it was evident in the PNAC document. This would best be achieved by remodeling the international security order to be in line with the United States foreign policies and domestic principles (Arnove, 2007, p. 36).
Hence, it can be observed that although oil factor was at the center of the debate for Iraq war, the Bush Administration, similar to previous regimes, was also propelling the U.S primacy ideals, perhaps an effort to make the country a self-appointed international watchdog for ‘rogue’ members of the world like Iraq under President Saddam Hussein.
According to the report, it was necessary for the new ‘American grand strategy’ on foreign policies to be rigorously pushed into posterity. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the report had already pointed out the need for the succeeding U.S governments to continually pursue a mission of fighting, and winning multiple wars as part and parcel of stamping its authority on the world.
This further exemplifies that the core mission of Iraq war was not necessarily after the oil resources; the Bush Administration was largely pursuing a long term supremacy goal that has been an agenda since the post World War II era. Another astounding revelation from the PNAC document is that the plans to ouster Saddam Hussein from power was already in place long before September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
It was also revealed that George Bush and his administration to be agenda to topple Saddam’s government was pre-eminent long before Bush stepped into White House. On the other hand, the then Vice President Dick Cheney proclaimed that Iraq remained to be a major factor in the instability experienced in the international oil market.
Therefore, tackling the energy challenge in United States would only be possible if Iraq regime was toppled. One of the other key fears posed by United States was that Saddam Hussein was an architect in using oil resources in his country not only as lethal weapon to economically jeopardize his opponents but also as a tool of advancing his illicit motives on terrorism.
This, according to the Bush government, would threaten both international peace and global economy bearing in mind that oil is a major resource needed in energy security. At some point, these allegations by United States government under President Bush were considered by some sections of the veto members of the United Nations Security Council as ‘selfish’ and were not adequate enough to warrant any war on Iraq.
It should also be noted that the UN Charter on international peace was presumable ignored by United States even as it proceeded to attack Iraq (Anderson & Stansfleld, 2004, p. 53).
The blame game
The 2003 war on Iraq may have been bitterly criticized by the opponents of the Bush Administration although it was apparently the best tool to apply for that desperate moment. In a more objective manner though, it is worth to recall that the totalitarian Iraq regime under Saddam Hussein was never a darling even to the Iraqi citizens themselves (Marshall, 2010, p.39).
It is profound to note that Saddam Hussein went in record as one of the most inhuman leaders who rarely acted as the custodian of his people. For example, the humanitarian crisis brought about by war and refugee problem in Iraq is just one outstanding example to reckon with.
As much as the country was and is still a major producer of oil, its citizens presumably lived in squalor conditions with only a handful of his cronies sharing the national cake. It is also well understood that before the onset of the war, several United Nations Security Council resolutions were passed in a bid to restrain Saddam from demonstrating his war-like spirit (Fawn & Hinnebusch, 2006, p.96).
Most of the resolutions passed were in the interest of peace and global security. Although Saddam consistently denied to be harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), one of the fears that gripped the world at this time was mainly to do with his (Saddam’s) close working relationship with the Islamic insurgents in Iraq who were also doubling up as terror gangs.
He was regularly in hostile terms with his neighbors in the Middle East region, a phenomenon that jeopardized his relationship with the entire global community (Rex, 2011, pp.94-95). Indeed, if such actions by Saddam were anything to go by, then the attack by United States, in spite of the consequences, was highly justified. Similarly, the United States had quite often pointed out Middle East as the origin of global terrorism.
Such utterances were more pronounced during the Bush Administration. Although Barrack Obama also promised to deal firmly with terrorism when he ascended to presidency, he has quite often reiterated that the war on terrorism has little or nothing to do with Islam (Stimson, 2010, p.64). In fact, whether Islamic religion is one and the same thing as terrorism or a operating on a clean slate has remained debatable over time with the targeted groups such as Al Qaeda and Jihadist movement arguing that they are merely fighting for their rights or protecting their religious beliefs and practices.
Justification of the Iraq War
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in United Sates, the Bush administration was strongly convinced that the Iraq, under the autocratic rule of President Saddam Hussein, was the main ground where terrorism bred from (Doucot, 2010, p.38). Hence, prior to the war, Bush had more than sufficient justifications was put in place immediately after September 11, 2001 and roughly a year later.
In spite of the fact that Osama Bin Laden, the purported ring leader of Al Qaeda, was the main suspect, the focus was switched to Saddam Hussein (Wilbanks & Karsh, 2010, p.58). Surprisingly, Saddam was accused shortly after the 9/11 incidence. All the same, the world was left in a state of confusion with the shifting sands of rationales why the Bush administration attacked Iraq.
Some critics of the Bush administration even commented that the United States military troops may have as well caused terrorism in Iraq rather than preventing it. The fact that Saddam Hussein was not found with Weapons of Mass Destruction did not deter U.S from gathering other reasons (Fawn & Hinnebusch, 2006, p.65). As a democratic state, the United States played double standards by not only encroaching on the internal politics of Iraq, but also contravening the United Nations Security Council resolutions that illegalised the war long before it started.
To begin with, the justification of the war in 2003 was that the Al Qaeda terror wing had close links and associations with Iraq while the latter was an architect in the manufacture of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Dodge, 2006, p.189). For the American public, these were enough grounds for going into the war to fight terrorism bearing in mind that the 9/11 incidence left a bitter taste and experience not only on the victims but also to the United States economy at large (Wollack, 2010, p.23).
The 2003 justifications prior to the war were strong enough, making the public and several U.S allies to support the Iraq mission (Dodge, 2003, p.104). In an interesting twist of events, the period between 2003 and 2005 was laced with a new set of justifications. Foreign terrorists were believed to be the key insurgents in the 9/11 attacks.
The Jihadist movement attached to Islam was accused of having launched the 2003 terror attacks against U.S occupation. Although this movement was not directly linked with Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration emphasized that it originated from neighbouring countries to Iraq such as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Syria (Cockburn, 2006, p.71).
The fact they were both neighbours to Iraq was enough grounds to say that the jihadist movement might have as well spread to Iraq (Marshall, 2010, p.49). For instance, the Sunni insurgency that was being led by Musab Al Zarqawi was believed by U.S to be a major threat to peace and security. No wonder, he was later assassinated by US.
Legitimacy of the Iraq war
The legitimacy of the war on Iraq has been debated far and wide with some arguing that the invasion was legitimate under United Nations Security Council resolution no. 616. On the contrary, some critics have posed that in spite of the so-called legitimacy, the 2003 invasion of Iraq would have been prevented if not avoided completely, adding that Iraq was and is still an independent and sovereign state that deserves dignity in running its own affairs.
Similarly, personalities and individual countries that were opposed to the war resonated that the attack was a gross violation of international law and that the United States was merely after pushing forward its unpopular and inhuman foreign policies (Anderson & Stansfleld, 2004, p.86).
Although the United Nations Security Council was not directly responsible in endorsing the war, there were other key determinants worth considering before United States could go ahead with its intended plan (Cockburn & Patrick, 2002, p.45). Resolution 678 of the Security Council, according to the Bush Administration, endorsed the 2003 invasion.
Hence, this provided a strong basis for United States to launch an attack on Iraq, having accused the latter as not only a thriving ground for terrorism, but also supporting internal insurgents through the manufacture of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Bilmes & Stiglitz, 2008, p.33). These were apparently gross accusations bearing in mind that no WMDs were found in Iraq even after the Saddam’s regime was toppled.
Shortly before the war in 2003, the Security Council held a short meeting to deliberate on the involved legal claims. While the council was to finalize and give out its verdict on the Iraq question, the United States and its allies went ahead and initiated the attack (Clarke, 2004, p.51). In unclear circumstances though, the U.N Security Council has not met since 2003 to revisit and review the matter.
Nonetheless, the U.S ignorance of the U.N resolution on the Iraqi may have been prompted by the French veto since the latter U.N member has a veto power. As public debate on the legitimacy of Iraq war continues, Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations also added his voice to the public opinion, lamenting that Iraq invasion was done in bad faith since the UN charter was not followed to the letter (Bose, 2010, p.860).
Tracing back from history, United States was quite relieved when Communism collapsed. This meant one thing: its expansionist plan would be right on track, spreading its tentacles far and wide and upholding the super power status. Inevitably, this was about power, influence, control and dominance well calculated to infer such aspects like protecting the global security.
In one of its many foreign policies, U.S has instituted its internal control mechanisms in targeted countries. A case study on modernization and infrastructural development is commonplace. Odom and his co-author Dujarric (2004, p.24) in their famous book America’s Inadvertent Empire concur that there seems to be a growing dependency syndrome which has infested most developing and underdeveloped countries.
This has been perpetuated and at the same time aggravated by the United States foreign policy on matters of borrowing alongside government grants. According to these authors, this foreign policy will not mark any positive difference even in the next decade. Poor countries will persist to be poor while the rich will continue to grow economically. If this is not a paradox, then it will remain to be a long non ending concern.
The U.S invasion of Iraq over the alleged weapons of mass destruction and consequent execution of Saddam Hussein is a vivid example of its foreign policies. As Lieber (2005, p.60) notes, there are many advantages that are enjoyed whenever power and supremacy are on board. This is the policy which the United States pursued prior to its engagement in the War.
The writer further expounds that power does not guarantee influence all the time. This is the very reason why United States did not get the simple majority support in the Iraq War. The nine of fifteen votes could not be reached by the United Nations Security Council to allow this super power stamp its authority in Iraq.
Surprisingly, even those countries who were mostly assisted by United States like Chile and Mexico rejected to support it (Lieber, 2005, p.98). This must have been an open lesson especially to the US sycophants and political technocrats that the so called foreign policies are mere ideologies to harness power, primacy and influence.
Owing to the bear reason that no country could compare itself with U.S in military and arms race, she went ahead and attacked Iraq. This was a “foreign policy” that left thousands of innocent Iraqis with dire consequences. The innocent civilians are yet to come to terms with the humanitarian crisis that followed after the war.
What about the U.S allegations that Saddam was harboring weapons of mass destruction? Indeed, he was later executed on the basis of these claims. The world is still skeptical over what U.S targeted in this Middle East country.
This sheds more light to the emerging yet ever changing conventional practices related to human rights, sovereign status of democracies and the application of justice as outlined in the international just practices code (Stimson, 2010, p.63). Iraq. Has the Obama administration been on the persuasive end to solicit for international support as a power pyramid plan? Some proponents of these foreign policies may perhaps be right in their own judgments.
Nevertheless, strategic foreign policies agenda which is free of political ideologies and witch hunting is a welcome idea. Lieber argues that “…a grand strategy put into practice can be as important as the substance of that strategy…” (p.54). If the vitality of the U.S foreign policy is anything to go by, then the empirical outcome of these strategies should be applauded by all and sundry.
As noted earlier, poor countries are least likely to jumpstart their economies from the “grand” strategies asserted by the western world, and in this case U.S. Realists have been criticized of overstating the low probability of other countries benefiting from the U.S foreign policies. To say the least, this may be partially justified.
However, it is equally questionable why U.S has had several grand strategies which have not translated to expected results. Definitely, there are more questions than answers in regard to this. Why just the United States and not continental Europe or Far East? All the same, the U.S is likely to be overcommitted with international matters at the expense of its own affairs.
Political analysts argue that this is the very reason why such a flimsy set of weapon was used to bring down a giant super power in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mandelbaum (2000, p.68) provokes some thoughtful insight when he asserts “if United States provides useful…services…to the world, why does…foreign policy provoke such frequent, widespread and bitter criticism?” (p.69).
The author further elaborates the September 11 terrorist act which was overwhelmingly condemned by U.S. Although acts of terror are as old as mankind, this seemed as the climax. The underlying rationale why the Al Qaeda launched this terror attack was to topple the monarch that was ruing Saudi Arabia by that time. U.S was a close associate of this dynasty by “stationing of American troops within the country’s borders (Burchill, Devatek & Linklater et al., 2009, p.88).
It could be something Else
It is imperative and inevitable to explore the contemporary U.S foreign policy under President Obama in order to evaluate and conclude on the past and modern policy genetic traits. To begin with, the Obama administration often reiterated that Islam is not a foe and that the war on terrorism has little to do with U.S engagement (Odom & Dujarric, 2004).
Moreover, the United States need to have a breathless pursuit over nuclear program alongside other issues. There are a myriad of foreign policies as stipulated in the current administrative structure. From the previous analysis however, we wonder why U.S was interested in controlling Saudi Arabia (Wollack, 2010, p.187).
Was it a strategy to fight terrorism emerging from the Middle East? But then, is it only U.S facing the threat posed by terror in the contemporary world? Sincerely speaking, underlying interests contrary to the war against terror is evident here. There is a lot to be desired in the manner in which U.S has been handling international matters altogether.
The United States government and its people uphold strictly to the principle of democracy and rule of law (Horigan & Howe, 2005, p.88). That is why political leadership is democratically elected into office by the people. Similarly, constitutional office bearers like the Supreme Court judges have to be appointed into office legally by keenly adhering to existing laws and statutes.
Moreover, the Congress has the mandate to make or amend laws which then becomes legally binding to all citizens. The leadership synopsis is well understood by everybody and contravening of the law can be challenged through the judicial system (Cox, 2011). This is a similar leadership arrangement in most democratic governments. To this end, critics of U.S aggression have always questioned the appointing authority in world governance.
In other terms, why has the U.S government assumed total leadership over the world? Who appointed or directed it to do so? It may indeed be a paradox for a country claiming to pursue democracy while totalitarian ideology is the top agenda in its international matters. The basic role of democracy is missing here (Mandelbaum, 2000, p.70). The main grievance is that of representation.
The U.S has taken a representative role of governing the world. This has led to numerous protests which can be directly linked to U.S “fatherhood” spirit. A clear cut illustration of this can be traced back on the climate change and global warming debate. As a precaution to reduce greenhouse emission which is believed to contribute significantly to global warming, countries of the world convened in Japan and unanimously agreed to stick to Kyoto protocol (Baylis, Smith & Owens, 2011, p.106).
Unfortunately, U.S failed to honor the agreement despite being one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. Besides, the recently concluded Copenhagen talks on climate change ended in disillusionment with U.S not walking the talk as a world leader. Its foreign policies should have been handy at this time when the world is struggling to come into terms with the devastating effects of climate change yet to be experienced.
Such double standard by world leaders has led to widespread protests in the past and which “foreign policies” are yet to address (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p.56). Fukuyama (2006, p.38) believes that George W. Bush had become neoconservative by the threshold of his second term. Bush was once quoted to have said that that the U.S military is not meant to build the nation but rather to “fight and win wars” (Fukuyama, 2006, p.57).
Moreover, his foreign policy advisor Condoleezza Rice added her voice to this matter when she asserted that U.S troops had not duty escorting children to school. These assertions were coherent enough to brand U.S as non-committed to the path of democracy. In fact, George W. Bush was more than ready to extend his “war and win” agenda to Iraq.
As Fukuyama observes, Bush attempted to ideologically justify a war that would have been prevented. This, according to many of his critics, soiled the political governance of his second term. Zakaria (2008, p.142) in his book The Post American world wonders whether the posterity will be western. In his submission, he implies that China is a real threat and big challenger to United States.
With a population four times that of U.S, China boasts of an uninterrupted human resource supply even as it plans to expand its economic boundaries to the western world (Odom & Dujarric, 2004, pp. 88-90). Meanwhile, as the United States is attempting to mold a new world order, its political allies are on the receiving end and not contended with her moves.
Both the American and European civilizations are nearing a clashing end. This has been triggered by U.S aggressions policy to remain politically, economically and socially strong. The early beginning of 21st century has witnessed American leadership transgressing in international affairs culminating to conflicts (Burchill, Devatek & Linklater et al, 2009, pp.39-45).
The intrigues of U.S foreign policy remain to be debatable as well as eliciting mixed reactions to the world at large. It must indeed be something else. Since Obama took over the oath of a presidential office, he has relentlessly pursued the restoration of U.S authority in Latin America (Sabatini & Marczak 2010, par. 2). However, critics have a stand that this partnership may not be the central importance to U.S; there is more than meets the eye.
The contemporary U.S foreign policy has elicited more debate than could be expected by the world today. Critics have argued that the act of U.S government appointing itself to manage world affairs is uncalled for. This foreign policy is mainly viewed as bait used by U.S to capture special interests in these countries.
This discourse to foreign policy can be traced back from history since the era of the First World War which transcended to the Second World War and later Cold War. The modern expression commonly in use is “foreign policy”. On the same note, it is pertinent to reiterate that the war on terrorism cannot be fought by an iron fist. Any form of threat to international peace and security should be handled with due care and sensitivity it deserves to avoid casing myriad challenges that only jeopardize innocent lives.
Indeed, the 2003 invasion of Iraq is a critical example on how power and supremacy can be misdirected. While we appreciate the fact that the nation should be defended against the threat of WMDs, it is also important to note that two wrongs do not make a right. So far, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) national guidelines developed and implemented nationwide have provided a durable framework for multi-agency coordination and cooperation.
It is also crucial to emphasize that although oil factor may be part of the “American grand design” to stamp global authority and spearhead supremacy as a superpower, the 2003 invasion of Iraq by United States should not be purely paralleled to relentless quest for oil in the Middle East state.
The post World War era has been characterized with dire needs by long term superpowers to remain visibly strong in the face of real and perceived enemies. It is a an ubiquitous global trend for most developed economies like United States to seek primacy by ‘whatever it takes’.
In addition, the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 incidence, is a vivid indication that although the war on terrorism is a worthy affair that needs to be applauded by all and sundry, the credits taken by Obama Administration on Bin Laden’s murder by U.S troops was extremely overwhelming.
Currently, the global attention seems to be shifting from Bin Laden to the effectiveness of the Obama Administration on fighting terrorism. Once again, the United States foreign policy on international peace and security has been rejuvenated. This was definitely not about oil in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
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