History of the Iraq War, Part V: American Military Strength

‘To those with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.’

Boswell (2004, p. 519) maintains that diminishing economic productivity is the cause of imperial wars that benefit the United States and not its allies. American military power, technology and expenditures are unparalleled. In conventional warfare capability, America stands alone, with military budgets at approximately 47% of global expenditures (Hossein-Zadeh, 2006, p. 14), up from a ‘low’ of 35% in the first half of 2001 (Greenberg, 2011), in addition to maintaining 60% of total sea power (Boswell, 2004, p. 518).

Just as no analysis of the Vietnam War would be complete without discussion of the Domino Theory, one should not dismiss the potency of a post-Cold War ‘demonstration effect.’ Launching an expeditionary force to destroy a diplomatically isolated country has potent geopolitical ramifications. For a country that seeks to create and dominate the global economy, nations outside of the world system represent a threat. As Biglaiser and DeRouen (2007) argue in their study of 126 countries that were subject to American military intervention, promotion of the free market and investor rights for American companies is a primary factor behind use of the American military. Worldwide, there are US troops in more than one hundred and fifty countries (Department of Defense, 2009).

The destruction of Iraq served as a symbol. Adams and Osho (2006, p. 23) remind us that “in late 2000, Iraq began selling its oil for Euros. Iran soon followed suit and converted the majority of its central bank reserve funds to euros [sic]. By late 2002, North Korea also started adopting the Euro as its standard currency of trade.” In 2000, the $10 billion fund used to administer the Oil-for-Food Program and pay reparations to Kuwait was shifted from an American to a French bank (Halperin, 2011, p. 213). By isolating, punishing and killing Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people over two decades, the United States government could send a message to other states in the ‘axis of evil’ that sought to frustrate American geopolitical aims (Mercille, 2010, pp. 332-334).

We would fully expect that in the absence of economic or diplomatic power to mold Iraq, the United States will use its comparative advantage: force (Coyne & Pellillo, in press).


Adams M, Osho G. 2006. “Policy Implications of the War in Iraq and Its Influence on the Global Market: A Public Affairs Perspective.” International Business & Economics Research Journal 5(10), pp. 21-25.

Biglaiser, Glen and Karl DeRouen. 2007. “Following the Flag: Troop Deployment and U.S. Foreign Investment.” International Studies Quarterly 51, pp. 835-854.

Boswell, Terry. 2004. “American World Empire or Declining Hegemony.” Journal of World-Systems Research 10(2), pp. 516-524.

Coyne, Christopher and Adam Pellillo. In press. “Economic Reconstruction amidst Conflict: Insights from Afghanistan and Iraq.” Defence and Peace Economics.

Department of Defense. 2009. “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country.” http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/MILITARY/history/hst0712.pdf.

Greenberg, Maurice R. “Trends in US Military Spending.” Council on Foreign Relations.

Halperin, Sandra. 2011. “The Political Economy of Anglo-American War: The Case of Iraq.” International Politics 48(2/3), pp. 207-228.

Hossein-Zadeh, Ismael. 2006. The Political Economy of US Militarism. Palgrave MacMillan.

Mercille, Julien. 2010. “The Radical Geopolitics of US Foreign Policy: The 2003 Iraq War.” GeoJournal 75, pp. 327-337.

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