Inverse Engagement: Lessons from US-Iraq Relations, 1982-1990

By Borer, Douglas A. | Parameters, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Inverse Engagement: Lessons from US-Iraq Relations, 1982-1990


Borer, Douglas A., Parameters


February 2003 marked the 12th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait by the United States and its global allies and their near-total victory over the military forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. However, much to the surprise of members of the first Bush Administration, academic scholars, military analysts, media pundits, foreign policy experts, and the average layman, Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq and continued to successfully defy the international community. Regardless of the military success of the US war with Iraq prosecuted by the second Bush Administration in 2003, Saddam's longevity should in itself serve as a significant warning to policymakers that something may be amiss in the formulation and execution of US foreign policy. In this article I reexamine the fundamental intellectual assumptions of what is known as "engagement," the foreign policy doctrine that guided US behavior toward Iraq in the decade preceding Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Despite the whol esale failure of engagement in Iraq before 1990, the fundamental assumptions that guided US engagement policies have remained largely unexamined. This failure to acknowledge historic mistakes raises the disturbing possibility that similar failures of engagement may occur in Washington's strategic relationships with other problematic international actors and rogue states.

Engagement in Practice: US Relations with Iraq, 1982-1990

Engagement serves as a core policy doctrine of US national security strategy in the 21st century. (1) In practice, implementing engagement relies heavily on the manipulation of economic incentives, primarily in the areas of trade and finance, to influence the behavior of other states. Engagement uses economic interdependence, or mutual dependence, to create ties that bind states together. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye suggest that economic interdependence should be understood in terms of the power to influence, or the effects on each state of their trade linkages. Indeed, as many scholars have indicated, states have long recognized the truth that power generally flows from asymmetrical (or imbalanced) interdependence. (2) In keeping with this tradition, Keohane and Nye stress that when planning an effective diplomatic strategy, "It is asymmetries in dependence that are most likely to provide sources of influence for actors in their dealings with one another. Less dependent actors can often use the interdepend ent relationship as a source of power in bargaining over an issue and perhaps to affect other issues." (3) At its core, economic statecraft is founded on the principle of asymmetrical power.

In 1979 political turmoil in the Middle East forever changed the regional strategic landscape. In January of that year a groundswell of Islamist protesters drove the Shah of Iran from the Persian throne, in December the Soviet Union launched its ruinous war in Afghanistan, and in September 1980 Iraq invaded Iran. Thus, the Middle East stage was radically changed as the Reagan Administration entered the White House. In the minds of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy team, US national interests in the oil-rich Persian Gulf now faced two significant new threats: communist expansionism by direct military means from the Soviet Union and the spread of anti-US Islamic fundamentalism from Iran. With these two factors in mind, Iraq's sponsorship of international terrorism was seen as a lesser of evils, and therefore Baghdad was perceived as a potential partner that could serve US strategic interests in the region.

In March 1982, the US government officially began engaging Saddam Hussein by removing Iraq from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The official reason was to recognize Iraq's improved record, (4) a claim that a Defense Department official later rebutted in stating, "No one had any doubts about [the Iraqis'] continued involvement in terrorism.... The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Inverse Engagement: Lessons from US-Iraq Relations, 1982-1990
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.