The United States and Iraq since 1979: Hegemony, Oil and War

The United States and Iraq since 1979: Hegemony, Oil and War

The United States and Iraq since 1979: Hegemony, Oil and War

The United States and Iraq since 1979: Hegemony, Oil and War


This book represents the first comprehensive overview of the US-Iraqi relationship since 1979 and the first attempt to place the 2003 American invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in a wider historical context.

Using a modified version of World Systems Theory, the book places America's policy toward Iraq at the center of a number of dynamics, including America's dominant role in managing the world capitalist system, the fundamental importance of the Persian Gulf to that system, and long-term change in the American political system.

Steven Hurst argues that since 1979, American policy toward Iraq has been largely shaped by the importance of Persian Gulf oil to the world economy and the consequent need to restore America's position as a regional hegemon and guarantor of the global oil supply, which had been destabilized by the Iranian revolution. It also emphasizes the role of American domestic politics and above all the "conservative ascendancy," which brought George W. Bush to the presidency, as a critical factor in explaining the 2003 invasion.


The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been widely attributed to a ‘neocon coup’, in which a handful of individuals exploited the trauma caused by the events of 11 September 2001 to seize control of American foreign policy and persuade George W. Bush to implement their plan to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Whilst there are various things wrong with this argument, perhaps the most fundamental is that it reduces the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq to a kind of historical accident – a consequence of the unforeseeable conjuncture of 11 September and ‘neoconservative’ influence in Washington. However, whilst such transient factors are always significant in any historical explanation (the invasion of Iraq is certainly impossible to imagine without the events of 11 September), they rarely represent the most important elements of that explanation. An emphasis on 11 September and neoconservatives serves to obscure the more important fact that the invasion of Iraq was a logical, though hardly inevitable, result of much longer term trends in American foreign policy and politics. In particular, it was a product of a longestablished American determination to maintain the position of the United States as the dominant power in the Gulf and of the socioeconomic and political transformation of the United States that brought the long-marginalised right wing of the Republican Party to a position of national power for the first time since the 1920s.


In order to demonstrate this, and in so doing to place recent events in their proper historical context, this study employs a version of World Systems Theory (WST) developed by Bruce Cumings. This approach locates American foreign policy and the individuals who make it . . .

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