Although in principle the United States hides in idealism to justify its actions towards other nations, the reality of its foreign policy belongs to a realistic approach. According to Kenneth Waltz, in the absence of a government in the International System, it is the power capacity of a State that allows it to act with a certain degree of authority. 1 The United States during the preamble of the first Gulf War had an overwhelming capacity to act in the Middle East in different fields of the Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic System. Therefore, the actions developed by the US to align its ideals with national interests are only supported by the ability to exercise direct influence on the international system through the deployment of its military power. Based on a realistic approach the United States decided to enter the Gulf War as their national interests were at risk. A realist approach explains, as a result of a threat to the control of oil production in the Middle East, the threat of breaking the balance of power in the region, and damage to the credibility of the United States in the eyes of the world, why the US went to war in the Gulf.
The control of oil production in the Middle East is a strategic asset and has become a vital security interest of the United States. In the words of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, ”all American presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt had insisted that the security of the Persian Gulf oil supply was a vital interest.”2 This statement by the then defense secretary made it clear the US and its allies had a dependence on oil from the region. Consequently, the Iraqi action directly threatened the position of the United States in the International System. Iraqi control over the production and establishment of oil prices in the Middle East would not only threaten American interests but would also complicate the world order. The Iraqi army and its economic rise would represent a superior authority within the hierarchy of power that could destabilize the Status Quo in the International System. Iraq openly threatened to break the balance of power in the region.
Robert Gilpin’s description of game theory, where the gain of one becomes the loss of another, describes this situation .3 The emergence of Iraq as a regional hegemon in addition to representing a loss of power of its, such as Israel, would imply a loss of American political influence based on the realist principle that power is a zero-sum game. A 1979 Pentagon study anticipated Iraq’s power could coerce Arab regimes in the Gulf. 4 Having Iraqi leadership with the support of other Arab countries consequently would lead to international influence losing validity, seriously affecting US geostrategic interests in the Persian Gulf. In addition, according to selective commitment, the development of power Iraq could achieve with the oil revenues from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia could trigger an escalation of the regional conflict. 5 With the possibility of the development of nuclear weapons extending to subordinate actors. A situation that would put at risk the United States control over nuclear proliferation. While the imbalance of power represents a threat to the international system, the loss of credibility also has a negative impact on American supremacy.
According to State Department Representative Lawrence Eagleburger, the message sent by Washington to allow an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait will allow the rise of dictatorial regimes around the world. 6 In other words, it would show the world the lack of capability the United States has to face new security challenges after the fall of the Soviet Union. From the point of view of primacy, the United States could not allow other rising players to challenge their ability in the International System. 7 Iraq, with its actions, created a real threat to the supremacy of the United States that could trigger global consequences. Once communism was defeated, effectively confronting any threat to vital American interests was of the utmost importance to maintain credibility in the new world order led by the United States.
The United States uses the model offered by realism in International Relations, as part of the tools to consolidate its Grand Strategy. The Gulf War was no exception. Considering a possible loss of the control to oil production in the Middle East, the emergence of a hegemonic power in the region, and a detriment of its credibility over capability before the world, the War was not optional.
Therefore, the invasion Iraqi to Kuwait directly affected American national interests.