Coordinated by Filip STANCIU

Neoconservatism and Interventionism

as a 21st Century Representation of Power


Oana-Elena BRÂNDA

University of Bucharest



Abstract: Analyzing representations of power after the publication of The Prince is a challenge to any researcher in the field, due to its many types of manifestations. The aim of the present article is to investigate the two doctrines that have been at the forefront of the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq: neoconservatism and interventionism. The analysis shall deal with a presentation of each of them, along with drawing references to the relations existent between decision-makers and the obvious impact these relations had on the usage of the doctrines. The intended purpose of these doctrines was to provide the state with sufficient legitimacy in pursuing a military intervention in the Middle East after the events of 9/11. The very rhetoric used in the construction of these doctrines, aimed at coalescing the public opinion of both countries, as well as the international community, is a good example of the military and political strength – in both cases, the limitations to their expression of power are quite visible, however, more visible in the British case.


Keywords: power, neoconservatism, intervention, terrorism, international security.


The appearance of The Prince created a large margin of manifestation of the states’ strength. The precepts of the book created the premises for some states acting as they please, within an international community that was struggling to achieve a set of rules of its own.  Centuries of war have turned the existence of the international community into a competition, in which countries struggle to achieve more and more power, which they choose to manifest in the form of pursuing wars. And the beginning of the 21st century has resulted in a much accentuated competition, a competition that has taken the shape of a Biblical fight between the Good and the Evil. The aim of the present paper is to analyze the two doctrines as representations of state power, strong enough to offer legitimacy to their actions. In this regard we have chosen two doctrines that are similar in rhetoric, but quite different in approach.

 The rise in strength and impact of terrorism has prompted many countries into finding appropriate tools to deal with its threat. The tools had to be both theoretic and tangible – they had to create the theoretical framework that justified a certain action and had to have the necessary incentives to mobilize a military expedition. As a result, in the case of the countries mostly affected by terrorist attacks, the representation of their power came firstly in the shape of a doctrine that had to put in the same framework enough elements that could justify a powerful military intervention from the part of the respective state, and the military intervention itself. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 resulted in the military interventions, firstly in Afghanistan in 2002 and then in Iraq in early 2003, under the mantra of bringing peace and democracy in the area, and eliminating thus not only the existing weapons of mass destruction, but also the possibility of having these weapons fall in the hands of terrorists.



At the beginning of the 21st century, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the main challenge for both Great Britain and the European Union was to hijack the United States from the unilateralist track they had been following. This was growing difficult at the time, since the major problem they confronted with was not terrorism, but, in fact, an America that was becoming imbued with its own power[1]. As a result, these two interventions were the product of a major power that had lost its sense of reality and has decided that, in spite of the end of the Cold War and the rise of multipolarity, in spite of the isolation that had been characterizing the United States’ foreign policy, it still had a civilizing and democratizing mission to pursue in the Middle East. The outcome of these interventions shall not be the topic of the present paper. However, the rhetoric that has been fueling the participation into such an endeavor shall be. There are two main countries that have become involved in the struggle against terrorism in the Middle East-the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This joint venture has been the result of the existence of the ”special relationship”, an Anglo-American strategic partnership that has served as a launching stage for the two Great Powers in various military endeavors. However, the joint military endeavors of the beginning of the 21st century have been quite damaging for at least one of the partners. After 9/11, the ”special relationship” faced considerable damage, especially in the case of the Afghanistan and Iraq interventions. In this regard, the survival of this strategic partnership to the present day is ”testimony not to the death throes of a security community, but to the power politics of peace – allies are struggling to impose identities, security cultures and norms on one another”[2].

In both cases, the representation of power was not offered by the displayed military might, but from the theoretical argumentation used in order to gain legitimacy to their movement. In the British case, Prime-minister Tony Blair used the Doctrine of the international community, also known as neoliberal interventionism. In the American case, the decision-makers from Washington resorted to the neoconservative approach as a means of justifying the need to punish the perpetrators of 9/11, by going after an entire state-machinery (in the Iraqi case). The Global War on Terrorism has been and is currently taking place within a security community attempting to repair the breach that has been done by terrorism. The main characteristics of such security communities are not the absence of conflict, but rather the devising of means of peaceful resolution of disputes and the expression of power by not resorting to physical violence[3] - ”power is no longer exercised physically inside of security communities, but it remains a central process”[4]. This accomplishment of replacing violence by reconstruction through peaceful means is the result of the failure of bringing democracy in both countries in the aftermath of the military interventions and the humiliation received on an international level. The Global War on Terrorism has gone to a more peaceful level after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, although the war of attrition continues in the shape of the drone attacks that storm Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

In the 21st century, power no longer resides with the leader, in light of the fact that absolutism has long been extinguished from the international community, with few exceptions. This absolutism has been replaced with personal relationships between leaders, functioning as personal alliances that could be beneficial to the state – “personal relations matter […]At all levels, but especially at the top, politics is about people. If you like a leader, you try to help them, even if it stretches your own interests. If you don’t, you don’t. And if you distance yourself on political grounds, then fine, but don’t kid yourself: your country’s the loser”[5]. In both cases, the porte-parole of the two doctrines had to be their leaders – Prime-minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush Jr., respectively. And these doctrines, by their very content, represent an expression of the strength of the respective country.




The doctrine of the international community has its roots in the speech Prime-minister Tony Blair delivered in front of the Chicago Economic Club on the 22nd of April 1999 and in two trends of international relations previously employed by the foreign policy of the United Kingdom – internationalism and atlanticism.Internationalism represents a belief in the importance of full global participation to the security and prosperity of one's own nation and all nations as well. Internationalists favor active diplomacy and vigorous international trade and cooperation. Internationalism has been a constant topic brought up by the Labour Party in convening upon Britain's global position.On the other hand, atlanticism is a doctrine of transatlantic cooperation: a doctrine assuming that both western Europe and the United States can benefit politically and economically from cooperation, especially in military matters. Atlanticism is what has been shaping British foreign policy after 9/11, but this aspect shall be discussed later.Combining atlanticism and internationalism was in Prime-minister Blair's view the key to turning the United Kingdom into a global actor, with a very developed moral side.

In his speech of April 1999 in Chicago at the time when the Kosovo crisis was unfolding, Prime-minister Tony Blair outlined the main principles of the new doctrine of the international community: reforming the international financial system, boosting free trade inside the World Trade Organization, reconsidering the UN framework, re-examine NATO, further coperation in meeting the targets of the Kyoto protocol and solving the issue of Third World debt. Blair’s particular contribution to a new doctrine of international security is framing security within ‘globalisation’, as an aspect of ‘globalisation’ alongside the more familiar economic and political aspects [6]. Blair's speech of 1999 divides the international community into “us” and “them” - “they” are the ones who terrorize the global community. It is here that Blair expands the concepts of “community” and “partnership” from a national to an international level. Eventually, it is all about re-imagining the “international community”.Blair’s Chicago speech articulated a set of five criteria that need to be fulfilled in order to justify a military intervention. Firstly,  a degree of certainty regarding the case in question must be established. Secondly, all diplomatic options need to be exhausted. Thirdly, the dilemma stands with the possibility of undertaking military operations for the respective case. Fourthly, a long term involvement is considered. Finally, the question of national interests at stake arises.

Unlike the Bush doctrine that we shall discuss later in this paper, the Blair doctrine was seeking for a justification for using force and not a reason. The backbone of this controversial doctrine (at least as far as the British are concerned) stands on global security and the protection of universal values that all democratic countries have embraced. Blair does not refer to a specific threat that menaces the international community, as was the case three years later in the Bush doctrine, but he refers more likely to the possibility of worldwide acknowledged values to be challenged. The roots of the Blair doctrine lie in the precepts of liberal interventionism.The entry into force of the doctrine of the international community has strong connections with the Third Way policy employed by the Labour Party under Blair, envisioning a society having rights and responsibilities.During the unfolding of the Kosovo crisis, Prime-minister Blair was concerned with the United States adopting a rather isolationist position, eager not to interfere any more in worldwide conflicts. This was more acute since at the time, it was Blair’s decision to turn the Americans into veritable internationalists .

Blair’s doctrine was to be applied to international security and humanitarian intervention. It is based on invoking the idea of a just war, not in order to achieve territories, but to preserve global values. Tony Blair calls for a new basis for international law, based on "global rules" which gives states a "duty and a right to prevent the threat materialising; and... a responsibility to act when a nation's people are subjected to a regime such as Saddam's" [7]. It is here that Blair calls for the  modification of the international norms to provide for an intervention not just for self-defence but also to correct injustices. No matter the wide publicity the Chicago speech received, as well as the consequent Blair doctrine, the latter was never mentioned in any defence or security related documents issued by the Cabinet. This leads to the obvious assumption that the doctrine lacked any kind of influence. The Blair doctrine seems to have been completely ignored in Whitehall, which was not the case of the Bush doctrine and the State Department and Pentagon. These differences in practice reside in the power relations existing inside the British Cabinet and inside the American Government.

The fact that the British authorities failed to translate the Blair doctrine into a tangible document on security and defense can only mean that this doctrine encompasses a series of faults. Firstly, the doctrine is addressing the international community. However, it is very difficult to restrain this international community to some basic geographic coordinates that could help identify it.  Moreover, the question of values arises: which are the representative values of the international community and who decided whether they are so good as to justify a military intervention to protect them. Thirdly, the aspect of this type of intervention heralded by Tony Blair suggests that such an intervention will occur only after the commencement of a negative event. For instance, in case of genocide, based on the doctrine of the international community, states will only interfere once they receive proof of genocide undergoing. Finally, the doctrine makes no reference to the involvement of the United Nations, which makes countries applying it liable to look forward to fulfilling their own interests throughout such a mission[8]. Moreover, the Iraq war of 2003 contributed to the destruction of the Blair doctrine. Intervening in Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention since there are many authors who argue that Blair challenged immensely the norms of international law in order to be able to ensure a weak justification for intervening along with the United States there. The British experience is not an impressive one. The Doctrine of the International Community was used in order to justify several other interventions in the shape of humanitarian interventions. In the Iraqi case, the need for a humanitarian intervention did not seem that pressing to the British public opinion, ergo the strong reaction against the continuation of the war after discovering the absence of weapons of mass destruction.

For Blair, the purpose of politics was the acquisition and exercise of political power[9]. And such an exercise of political might was the Iraqi intervention. However, the results of the intervention back-fired in the shape of questioning all the evidence that led to it.

In the absence of clear data to justify the strong threat posed by Iraq to global security, the United States and the United Kingdom had to work with the results of their field research. Given the fact that the 45-minute deployment report[10] was not satisfactory enough, the American government resorted to arguing that the possession of weapons of mass destruction by a state such as Iraq entailed the danger of having these weapons leaked to the terrorists. This helped establishing a direct link between the invasion in Iraq and the “War on Terror” rhetoric. The multiple dossiers drafted with regard to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq spoke about  programs instead of actual weapons. However, in the case of Great Britain it would have been highly difficult to win the support of Parliament and the country for the war, on the basis of programs existing, instead of arguing the existence of stockpiles of weapons.

 According to Prime-minister Blair, the Iraq 2003 intervention was more beyond a display of power – “[the Iraq War] it couldn’t be a hard-power strategy alone. It had to encompass more than military might. It had to engage the people out in the Middle East, in the Muslim world and to build alliances within that world”[11]. When referring to his stepping down from his position as Prime-minister, Tony Blair states- “I believed that the only way to keep power was to be prepared to lose it, but always to lose it on a point of principle”[12]. However, the many debates on the efficiency of the intervention and the controversial aspects of the available and “customized” evidence before the intervention might contradict Blair that this was a sufficiently supported “point of principle”.


The US policy has been for decades not to engage in a power commitment outside its borders[13].  And the many interventions pursued by the United States outside the borders of their countries, have been used by the administrations in order to transmit the message that these were matters of American responsibility to the international community[14]. A document entitled  ”Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources”, published in September 2000,  featured the need of the United States to regain their pole position to the world – “some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor was needed to assure US global power”[15]. Little did its authors know that such an event would come a year later and that it would pose a tremendous challenge that could hardly be dealt with. After the events of 9/11, the United States embarked on a mission to eradicate terrorism and weapons of mass destruction from the world and they needed the appropriate rhetoric to coalesce the masses. In this regard, the neoconservative approach, which had elements of the Founding Fathers’ discourse, that had once helped establish the United States of America, seemed to be the right choice. The neoconservative ideology considers the world to be a dangerous place, and civilization is on the brink of destruction. In this case, it is the duty of Neoconservatives, who have been endowed by Providence itself to take the lead and make the world better – ”They saw especially in the Middle East a web of corrupt dictators, whose people would, if given the chance, embrace a Jeffersonian view of democracy. Iraq was top of the list. They saw in Israel the role model for the region”.[16]

Neoconservatism as a concept is based on universalism and exceptionalism. It presents itself as a voice of the American people, expressing their values and beliefs that might be eroded from inside if people succumb to realist rhetoric. The Neoconservatives were extremely virulent during the years of the Cold War. Once the threat posed by the Soviet Union disappeared, the Neocons lost strength in asserting their interventionist goals. However, in the last decade of the 20th century, the Neocons re-emerged with a different rhetoric. In light of the foreign policy led by the Clinton administration and the lack of strength of the Republican Party before the elections of 2000, the Neocons changed their discourse into arguing that the world was neither bipolar, nor multipolar, but rather unipolar[17]. Naturally, the United States were the beacon of this world, and this meant that they would be the decisive force in any conflict they might involve in. Furthermore, a change in strategy was necessary, from defensive to offensive in order to be able to preserve this unique position. The catalyst that served to activate this policy after the election of George W. Bush as President was the events of 9/11.

After the events of 9/11, neoconservatists believed that this current was the necessary trend to steer the country through the effective response to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. As the Afghanistan and Iraq wars tended to show that the effective response was not that efficient, realists raised to surface with claims that neoconservatism should be replaced by realism[18] and that the United States should reconsider their appetite for war and choose peace more likely. An important feature of neoconservatism is its desire to export democracy[19]. This lies at the basis of its interventionist policies, as well as the emphasis put on the protection of moral values. The international fight for democracy which became a mantra for the US stems from this very doctrine. However, in the long run the doctrine is a far-fetched one. Turning arrogant regimes that might endanger peoples and even the global environment, into peaceful democratic countries might seem extremely simple at a mere glance. Nevertheless, in practice, it would require the total removal of that country with all its features and replacing it with a new one, bearing democratic markers.

The Neoconservatives do not accept a value-free view of the national interest as did the realists of Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger. America needs to assert its interests as it only works for good purposes. Moreover, the Neoconservatives consider the post-Cold War multilateral order as infringing upon their possibilities to exercise hegemonic power. The way the Cold War ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan[20], in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside. This over-optimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's apparently incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq[21].

Overestimation of the threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping[22] . ”We need in the first instance to understand that promoting democracy and modernization in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism; in all likelihood it will make the short-term problem worse, as we have seen in the case of the Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power. Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernization itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and — yes, unfortunately — terrorism”[23]. This is the view of former Neoconservatist Francis Fukuyama, who rejected this doctrine short after its failure to deal effectively with the Iraq war situation.

It is a fact that nothing prepared the Bush administration for the war and its outcome. But in wars these things are common. In Bush’s speech delivered immediately after the events of 9/11, the President spoke of the nation’s duty to history and the need and duty to rid the world of tyranny. And in case of a war, the Bush administration needed a doctrine to imbue all the precepts that would steer the nation along difficult times. This is how the Bush doctrine was born, through the framework of the National Security Strategy and dissolving in itself a considerable number of neoconservatist elements. If originally, the Bush doctrine was a strong supporter of war against the perpetrators of 9/11, it gradually evolved into including preemptive and preventive war against a series of regimes that might become enemies of the United States, at a later hour, even if the threat from these possible enemies is not imminent.

The Bush doctrine blended together idealism and realism, going back to the teachings of the Founding Fathers of the American nation. Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson are its sources of inspiration, who are also some of the sources of inspiration of the neoconservatives. But one of the mistakes of the neocons is the fact that even if they revendicate their doctrine from Woodrow Wilson, they do not confide in the role of international organizations of maintaining peace but rather in the need of a unilateral intervention of force. The Bush doctrine and neoconservatism need not be mistaken for one and the same. What differentiates the two is the evangelical trend that characterizes Bush’s speech. More likely, the Bush doctrine is imbued with several neoconservative elements. In order to make the doctrine work, one needed good foretelling of the future and great intelligence. As both did not happen and since the United States opted for unilateralism, this led to a even higher degree of isolationism than in the 19th century when the Monroe doctrine was consecrated.

There are two American administration characters often associated with neoconservatism and the Bush doctrine. These are Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Although the two are not theorists of neoconservatism such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan who crystallized the doctrine at the end of the XXth century, the former are responsible of having embedded neoconservatism in the Bush administration. They shared the belief that unipolarity was a feature of US foreign policy that needed to be transformed into a permanent state. But how did the neoconservatives integrate themselves so well in the Bush administration? Moreover, how did they manage to blend the neoconservative theory with the need to act against Iraq and bring along regime change in the Middle East? The answer dates back to the time before George W. Bush became president. Long before President George W. Bush took office in 2001, elements in or close to the Republican Party had called repeatedly for firmer U.S. steps against Iraq, including a war if necessary to force a regime change. One such group authored a white paper in 1996 called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, which was later sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s Likud Party. It advocated a war against Iraq as a way of undermining Syria and of moderating the Shia Hezbollah of southern Lebanon, arguing that these actions would pave the way for peace and stability in a notoriously unstable part of the world. The paper came out of discussions among foreign policy experts, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser, many of whom later occupied important positions in the Bush administration. In 1997 some of the same individuals joined the newly formed Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a Washington think tank that argued openly for the United States to play a dominant role, militarily and diplomatically, in the world. Faced with a more peaceful approach on the matter from the Clinton administration, a strong advocate of containment in the region, the group had to stand back and wait for more favorable times to come.

And these times came along with the entry to the White House of George W. Bush. It was now the time for furious neoconservatists such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams to take a stand and make a point on the topic of the Middle East..They, as well as others in their circle maintained that by democratizing Middle East countries with authoritarian regimes, the chances were greater of promoting peace in that region. In addition, many of these advisers were politically sympathetic both to the right wing of the Republican Party and to the Likud Party in Israel. Many had been, or their parents had been, on the political left, but they had typically become Republicans in the late 1970s or in the 1980s, driven by a belief that the Democratic Party was soft on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and that the American left was increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinians at the expense of Israel. Because of their turn to the right, they were known as neoconservatives. Because of their key positions in the Department of Defense, including in Vice President Dick Cheney’s own national Security Council, and in the Near East and South Asia division’s Office of Special Plans under Feith, the neoconservatives were in a position to influence Bush administration policy on Iraq. Some critics accused them of being overly eager to believe shaky intelligence on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs provided by expatriate politician Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, much of which was later found to be false.

Rumsfeld reportedly saw ousting Hussein and establishing an Iraqi government aligned with U.S. interests as the key to changing the entire Middle East region. Moreover, by September 2002, the Bush administration had outlined a new foreign policy strategy, known as the Bush Doctrine, which called for preemptive war to prevent terrorists or state sponsors of terrorism from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Doctrine also held that the United States would act unilaterally if necessary to guarantee that the United Sates remained the sole superpower in the world.


President Bush began to make the case publicly for military action against Iraq in his January 2002 State of the Union speech in which he identified Iraq as a member of an “axis of evil,” along with neighboring Iran and North Korea. All three nations, Bush said, were threatening global security. The Bush administration viewed Iraq as a rogue state and Hussein as a regional troublemaker in the volatile Middle East. Iraq, like many Arab states, opposed Israel, a U.S. ally, and supported the Palestinian cause.By July 2002 the Bush administration had decided that military action against Iraq was inevitable, according to a British government memo, known as the Downing Street Memo[24] after it was leaked to a British newspaper. Although the Bush administration was publicly proclaiming at the time that war was “a last resort,” the memo revealed that the Bush administration had “no patience” for going through the United Nations and that detailed military planning was taking place between the U.S. and British military commanders. The Downing Street Memo stated: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”.

In the U.S.-Iraq war the military action begun in 2003 with a United States invasion of Iraq, then ruled by the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein. The invasion led to a protracted U.S. occupation of Iraq and the birth of a guerrilla insurgency against the occupation. The resulting destabilization of Iraq also created conditions for a civil war to break out between Iraq’s majority Shia Muslim population and its minority Sunni Muslim population. In addition to attempting to quell the insurgency, U.S. forces also found themselves trying to police the civil war. By 2007 the U.S. war in Iraq had lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II.From an abstract point of view, the situation was extremely difficult to handle. President Bush faced two realities. He was not dealing with a nation state that could be defeated by military force, and his attackers could not be deterred by fear of retaliation -- they had to be arrested and incarcerated for an indefinite period, or killed. Even this, however, would not be sufficient. The al Qaeda ideology springs from failed societies and failed cultures; as long as the conditions that produced this cancer continued to exist, it would not be possible to eliminate the threat of further attacks.

Bush chose to use the idea of freedom and democracy -- the American ideology -- as a weapon. Iraq was a target not only because it was a potential source of weapons of mass destruction for the terrorists and a threat to the stability of the region, but because its population was well educated, relatively secular in outlook among the Arabs, and one of the Arab populations most likely to be capable of self-government.The Bush doctrine commenced its plight by stating that the United States of America are the sole power and they are in need to preserve this privileged position, whatever the costs. The United States have been endowed with excellent military capabilities that need to be preserved in order to be able to respond to all possible challenges[25]. In the Bush administration’s view the most powerful threats came from rogue states and terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Here is what the National Security Strategy argues on the matter - “we must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends…We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed”[26]. It is the view of neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan that American might (be it political and especially military) is a precondition for worldwide stability. Moreover, the Bush Doctrine’s emphasis on the American hegemony/empire binds all the neoconservative aspects together. Neoconservatives utterly dislike the traditional balance-of-power politics and are in favour more of the politics of bandwagoning that puts America in the leading position. There are several elements that make up the Bush doctrine: the identification of the threat – rogue states and terrorism, followed by the need for a preemptive action to protect the country’s integrity. A third element prompts forward a unilateral action. The last element of this interesting doctrine is the promotion of democracy. In this respect, the doctrine might be considered as stemming from Woodrow Wilson’s idealism. However, a closer look to the previous characteristics displayed above, one would easily point out the degree of aggression existent inside the doctrine. The best example in this case is that of the Iraq war of 2003, which was intended to be the first step in democratizing the entire Middle East. On the other side, realists argued that a war was unnecessary since Iraq could be contained in a peaceful manner. Moreover, they emphasized the fact that a war with Iraq for the demise of Saddam and humanitarian reasons would only divert attention from the real threat posed by Al-Qaeda. Realists focus especially on the concept of national interest, which, in the case of the United States, must arise from its needs as a country to ensure the protection of its citizens and territory. Apart from this, national interest has to be proportionate with the power the respective state displays.

What is more, realists contradict the need of building an American empire and militate for a reduction in military interventions worldwide. As far as the policy of bandwagoning is concerned, realists, such as John Mearshimer dismiss it on account of its lack of coherence and the multiple examples of failure; such as Iran and North Korea, countries which utterly refused to take the American side in the latter’s involvement in the Middle East[27]. As far as realists are concerned, a preventive war can easily be replaced by a severe containment action, the latter favoured by a weakened Iraq under economic sanctions. With regard to the matter of interventionism and the Iraq war, things have taken a wrong path. The aim of the Chicago speech was to generate an intense debate about the conditions that need to be met in order to legitimize an intervention. As mentioned previously, the aim of such an intervention was to protect worldwide recognized moral values and not to capitalize on territories. Although Prime-minister Blair attempted to transform Iraq 2003 into a humanitarian intervention this was not possible, since the Iraq war had not been fought on these grounds. Unlike the American counterpart, Tony Blair had to pursue a longer road to ensure British support for such an intervention. And the rhetoric of interventionism was not sufficient enough. At  the time Blair had to use the incentives of reopening the Peace Process for the Middle East and an eventual solution for the Israel –Palestine issue to bargain for both the Parliament’s and the Cabinet’s support.

Critics argue that the doctrine of the international community was to be allotted only to those interventions that had a humanitarian aspect. That is why it was easily to intervene in Sierra Leone in 2000 on the basis of this doctrine, but not that easily to intervene in Afghanistan or Iraq on the same rhetoric. “This so-called right or duty of humanitarian intervention refers, in such instances, to action taken against a state or its leaders, without their consent, for purposes which are claimed to be humanitarian or protective (the most controversial form of such intervention being military)”[28]. In the meantime, attention shifted from the issue of humanitarian intervention towards the war on terror. Islamic extremism and terrorism are two factors that led to the increase in concern on the part of the British Cabinet as Blair often spoke of a global threat that was clear towards state security and the imperative need of countries to counteract it.

In another speech of April 2009, ten years later, Blair took the terrorist events of 9/11, 7/7, Afghanistan and Iraq and turned them into a case in point for engaging the Muslim world into curtailing Islamic violence. According to the latter, the doctrine still needs to remain in place, as then more than ever there was a need to apply its guidelines. It was the context demanding for the application of the doctrine that changed dramatically .Finally, it must be stated clearly that the Iraq war of 2003 was not a type of humanitarian intervention, although after the failure in locating weapons of mass destruction, there were notable attempts to transform it in one. These kinds of attempts can only destroy the credibility of a humanitarian intervention per se.


It is a fact that nowadays, the American support for the war, after the end of the military operations and in light of the need to have a continued presence in Iraq has reached interestingly low levels. Why is that possible? Because hoping for democracy in Iraq is pure utopia. It is a mistake committed by  the Bush administration along with the Neoconservatives and it needs to repaired by the followers, namely the Obama administration.The responsibility for pushing forward with the democratization of Iraq and the entire Middle East falls within the ranks of the neocons of the Bush administration.It is generally acknowledged that political societies are not a homogeneous work and every new theory has to bear that in mind. This was the case with Iraq and might be the case with other countries of the Middle East.In the defence of the neoconservatives and the American administration, the decision to interfere and stay in Iraq to bring along democracy and self-rule was taken based on the assumption that such an action posed no obvious challenges.

The aim of this paper was to portray the decision of going to war in Iraq throughout the frame of two opposing doctrines. Even if there were attempts to find similarities between the two they still remain different, having different backgrounds, ideas and a whole different set of people to propagate them. Our intensions were to identify the manner in which the Iraq war was represented in the two countries through the prism of these doctrines. Moreover, we have set the goal of analyzing the manner in which the decision-making units used the basic points of these doctrines in order to justify their choice of going to war in Iraq. The results of our research have pointed out the fact that while the Bush administration relied successfully on the precepts of neoconservatism and borrowed its ideas to make Iraq a case in point, the Blair Cabinet failed in connecting the doctrine of interventionism with the need for going to war in Iraq.

In the case of the United States, Iraq was the first test for neoconservatism after the end of the Cold War. One might argue that Kosovo could have been a test too, but at the time, President Clinton was very much in favour of the containment policy and the neoconservatives found no ears to listen to their pleas. That is why the Iraq war of 2003 is the first time to put the neoconservative doctrine at work, with the support of the administration. And the results have not been the expected ones. On the other side of the Atlantic, the interventionist doctrine had already been put into practice several times before Iraq, in Kosovo in 1999 and Sierra Leone, in 2000. These two are accurate examples of humanitarian interventions. But when it came to legitimizing the British military presence in Iraq on account of a humanitarian intervention, the British Parliament and public opinion refused to accept such a justification. Furthermore, the absence of a United Nations resolution to legitimize the military intervention in Iraq has struck the interventionist doctrine and its supporters in their endeavors to adapt it to the moment.

Taking everything into consideration, while in the neoconservative rhetoric the Iraq war is portrayed as a just war, seeking to spread democracy to the Middle East and striving to  maintain the US as the only true power in a world they see as unipolar, the interventionist rhetoric failed to justify any kind of British presence in Iraq in 2003 and remained a doctrine dealing with its one and only purpose – that of providing the legal background for help in the event of humanitarian interventions. As it can be seen from the above article, the expression of power in the shape of a doctrinaire approach has not been effective in both cases and even less effective in the American case. In this regard, the doctrine served as a form of mobilization for the public opinion, but in the British case, the argumentation lacked enough tangible support. Nevertheless, analyzing doctrines in an evaluation of a country’s strength is highly important in drawing that country’s stance on an international level, and should be considered for further research by specialists in the fields of International Relations and Security Studies.




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*** President Bush's speech at Westpoint, June 2002.

[1]Michael COX, “Beyond the West: Terrors in Transatlantia”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 11, 2005, p. 216.

[2]Vincent POULIOT, “The Alive and Well Transatlantic Security Community: A Theoretical Reply to Michael Cox”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 12, 2006, p. 125.

[3] Ibidem, p. 112.

[4] Ibidem, p. 124.

[5]Tony BLAIR, A Journey, Hutchinson, London, 2010, p. 552.

[6]  Norman FAIRCLOUGH, “Blair’s contribution to elaborating a new ‘doctrine of international community’,” in Lilie CHOULIARAKI (ed.), The Soft Power Of War, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2007.

[7]Doctrine of the International Community, Chicago Economic Club, April 22nd, 1999.

[8] Chriss Abbott refers to the  many ambiguous elements of Blair’s doctrine in Rights and Responsibilities: The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention, in Global Dialogue, Volume 7, Number 1–2, Winter/Spring 2005 – Humanitarian Intervention;

[9]Adam BOULTON,  Tony’s Ten Years. Memories of the Blair Administration, Pocket Books, London, 2009, p. 25.

[10]Tony BLAIR, A Journey...cit, p. 348.

[11] Ibidem,  p. 409.

[12] Ibidem, pp. 583-584.

[13]Hedley BULL, Roger W.M. LOUIS (eds.), The Special Relationship. Anglo-American Relations since 1945, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989, p. 255.

[14]  Ibidem, p. 357.

[15] John KAMPFNER, Blair’s Wars, The Free Press, London, 2004, p. 154.

[16] Ibidem, pp. 24-25.

[17]Maria RYAN, Neoconservatism and the New American Century, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005, p. 2.

[18] Michael WILLIAMS, Brian C. SCHMIDT, The Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War: Neoconservatives vs. Realists, paper presented by Michael C. Williams at the American University of Paris on Wednesday the 13th of February 2008, p. 1.

[19]Maria Ryan, Neoconservatism...cit, p. 4.

[20] These two are representative figures of neoconservatism and that is why we have decided to mention them more often in the present article.

[21] Francis FUKUYAMA, “After Neoconservatism”, New York Times, February 19, 2006.

[22] We are referring here to the Federal laws regarding the tapings of telephone conversations.

[23] Francis FUKUYAMA, After...cit.

[24] There were several memos leaked to the press regarding the issue of Iraq.

[25]President Bush's speech at Westpoint, June 2000.

[26] National Security Strategy 2002.

[27] Michael WILLIAMS, Brian C. SCHMIDT, The Bush Doctrine...cit, pp. 16-17.

[28] Chriss ABBOTT, “Rights...cit”, in Global Dialogue, Volume 7, Number 1–2, Winter/Spring 2005 – Humanitarian Intervention.