Realism and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91

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Realism and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein’s quest for regional hegemony pitted his country against the forces of international law. A prime example of where realist theory falls short, Hussein’s forces were trumped by a multilateral coalition of international peacekeeping institutions in one of history’s most lopsided wars. Hussein sought power, and was willing to sacrifice his country’s foreign relations, as well as the health of his own people, to obtain it. In Gulf War I, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was quickly dismantled in a conflict instigated by its own realist intentions. The theory of realism is based on the three factors of statism, survival, and self-help of the sovereign state. The survival of the state as a whole, rather than its citizens themselves, is the main focus of realism. The realist state is expected to enhance its national power by any means necessary; “A POLICY MAKER’S PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY IS TO CREATE, MAINTAIN, AND INCREASE NATIONAL POWER – THE MEANS AVAILABLE TO A STATE TO SECURE ITS NATIONAL INTERESTS – AT ALL COSTS” (Lamy 71). Oftentimes, this comes at the expense of surrounding states. A realist state is concerned with its own security first and foremost; “THE FIRST MOVE…FOR THE REALSIST IS TO ORGANIZE OWER DOMESTICALLY. ONLY AFTER POWER HAS BEEN ORGANIZED CAN COMMUNITY BEGIN” (Lamy 72). However, once domestic security has been established, the realist state will look to pursue its self-interest internationally, by means of force. Realist theory insists that war is inevitable due to the brutal nature of mankind, and the lack of a central international authority able to contain it; “politics is gripped by a ‘state of war’ because the nature of humanity, or the character of states, or the structure of international order…allows wars to occur” (Doyle 18). Because of its self-sufficient…...

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