Comparative Foreign Policy in Iraq and North Korea

1798 words (7 pages) Essay in International Relations

08/02/20 International Relations Reference this

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 The events leading up to the Persian Gulf War were crucial to the beginning of the war. After the war between Iraq and Iran Saddam Hussein greatly in debt. In relation to the 4 P’s of foreign policy it is clear that power was the most prevalent to Iraq and that is highlighted by Hussein’s actions following the Iraq-Iran war. The war with Iran had been largely funded by war loans from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (Trainor, 2009).

 Rightfully so, Kuwait was anxious to be recompensed and unable to pay, Saddam asked for debt forgiveness demanding that the Kuwaitis were unappreciative. Saddam also accused Kuwait of stealing oil by slant drilling into their Iraqi Ramallah oil field which might have been accurate but was mostly just an excuse. Saddam, unsure of how the international states actors would react to demand that Iraq was entitled to regain Kuwait, he requested a meeting with the United States Ambassador April Glaspie to express his problems and complaints he had about Kuwait. Glaspie then told Saddam something he would interpret negatively and use to his advantage. She had told Saddam “We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” What he heard was “the United States will not get involved if I invade Kuwait and take over their government, so I will.” The United States was mindful that Saddam was setting troops up along the border adjacent to Kuwait. The U.S. discussed the idea of sending signals to avert Hussein, they even considered sending F-15’s to Saudi Arabia moving a marine task force in the water. Arab leaders warned the United States that doing so could exasperate Saddam and lead to the invasion of Kuwait, so they decided against it. Glaspie’s remark along with our decision not to subdue Hussein assured him that the United States would not step in. His mindset was that if we were truly uneasy, we would have sent something warning him to withdraw troops.

 The United States was shocked to find out that Saddam had made his first move into Kuwait in August 1990 when Iraqis overtook their capital and continued to move toward the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. At this time, the United States was not so much so worried about Kuwait as they were about oil. The United States at this time was significantly interested in prosperity when talking about the four P’s of foreign policy but when this problem arose peace had become more prominent per say, and Bush made that very clear. If Saddam was so easily prepared to blind-side us and invade Kuwait them, he might just as easily carry on into Saud-Arabia for their oil fields. When Hussein was informed about the United States concern, he was fearful of their potential response, so he pulled back from the border.

 Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell were sent but then president George H. W. Bush to talk to the Saudi king and princes to discuss them letting American troops on Saudi soil, which was a big deal. They successfully convinced them that Saddam was a threat to his nation and we soon after started to fly in units of the 82nd Airborne Division and aircrafts. We also put a Marine Regiment in formally known as Operation Desert Shield. Saddam was not anticipating the United States doing this and didn’t know to react. Bush wanted war to be the United States last resort but, Saddam made it clear that he wasn’t changing his mind anytime soon after we sent Secretary of State Baker to meet with Iraq’s foreign minister, but Hussein rejected our attempts. It was becoming clearer that power would have to be the resolution to this problem with regards to the four P’s. President Bush worked to gain support internationally first. He was successful, the United Nations condemned the Iraqis, imposed sanctions, and told them to withdraw and allowed the member states “to use all necessary means” to force Iraq out of Kuwait if they had not already done so by January 15th. Arab states followed by showing their willingness to join a coalition against the Iraqis. All Bush needed to do was get American approval for military action and force. On January 12th, by a narrow vote of 52-47 in the Senate and 250-183 in the House so the suggestion that American people backed this war was questionable. Bush made it a point to make his intentions of the Operation Desert Shield very clear. They were: “the immediate and complete withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait; the restoration of the legitimate Kuwaiti government; the stability and security of the Middle East; and the protection of Americans abroad” (Knott, n.d.).

 On January 17th, 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced and started with massive air strikes on Iraq, and the ‘ground war’ began on February 24th and they swamped Iraqi forces reaching Kuwait City in just three days resulting in a ceasefire the following day. Putting the war to bed in just two months and discussing the terms of the ceasefire on March 3rd, it was a huge victory for the Bush administration.

 In a similar but also very different case leader Kim Jong Un, like President Saddam Hussein, runs a totalitarian style government. This is currently a problem for the United States because of Kim’s genuine threat and ability to use nuclear weapons. It is clear Korea’s main P of the four is power and Kim Jong Un is not afraid to recapitulate that. Looking back as far as 1995, United States taxpayers have given over $1 billion in food and energy reinforcement in exchange for dormancy of their nuclear programs. (Robb, 2013). Although North Korea is more of a plausible threat to Japan and South Korea, they still are considered a threat to the United States. In early November of this year, North Korea unexpectedly cancelled talks with the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It is also rumored that Pyongyang, that capital city of North Korea, is still amplifying their nuclear and missile potential. Despite Trumps previous “maximum pressure” strategy, he has since visited Kim Jong Un, and now praises his ideals as a leader. The maximum pressure strategy most likely wouldn’t have forced North Korea to hand over their entire nuclear weapons program but definitely had the most potential. This has led to Trump easing up on strict sanctions that were proving effective but now are not taken as serious as they should.

 Although Trump abruptly changed his outlook on Kim Jong Un, his pressure strategy still exists on paper and in theory. The United States still have sanctions on North Korea it is losing pressure because of North Koreas tolerance for economic pain and Trumps recent compliments about Kim. When talking about sustaining pressure Trumps advisors are at a loss because according to Trump the United States and North Korea are “getting along” which discredits their maximum pressure idea. This “friendship” with Kim Jong Un has also led to the decrease in the number of new U.S. sanction destinations, it has dropped by about 85 percent (Brewer, 2018).

 Key partners like South Korea and China have also lightened up pressure and are doubtful to return to an aggressive strategy China alone has fallen back on sanctions enforcement. Additionally, Russian and Chinese officials increasingly call for relief on sanctions with desire to help with their diplomatic efforts. United States is also at a disadvantage because Kim Jong Un and the President of China, Xi Jinping strengthening and tensions between the United States and China are increasing. If the United States has any desire of returning to their maximum pressure strategy, they need to rehabilitate their diplomatic procedure so that if negotiations fail, they actually can fall back on that strategy.

  When comparing the two events there are a handful of similarities and differences. To start, when looking at similarities the most obvious is the totalitarian style government lead by dictators in both Iraq during the time of the Gulf War and North Korea currently. Another damning similarity is their willingness to use power/force. Both also made it public about their lack of fear to use force and their obvious sense of pride about their power. These two events could also be seen as extremely different. When talking about then President Bush and our Current President Trump their ideals were opposite, but both eventually changed. To explain, Bush wanted to keep peace and avoid using force but had not choice but to change because of pressure imposed by Iraq. When dealing with North Korea, Trump initially wanted to take a firm maximum pressure standpoint but without warning changed his mind almost completely. Lastly, they’re particularly different because the foreign issues with Iraq ultimately led to need for force and by the looks of it now the United States most likely will not need to use force against North Korea.

 To conclude, after looking at the comparisons of the two events it is clear that the Persian Gulf War was handled in a more organized and well thought out manner. Not to say that Trump should be using the same strategies since the situations are very different, but it could be beneficial for Trump if he were to take some pointers from Bush. When analyzing at the Gulf War it proved to restore a lot of people’s faith in the United States military and regained trust lost in previous wars like Vietnam.


  • Brewer, E. (2018, December 4). Can the U.S. reinstate “maximum pressure” on North Korea? Retrieved from Foreign Affairs website:
  • Knott, S. (n.d.). George H. W. Bush: Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from UVA Miller Center website:
  • Robb, R. (2013, April 5). Why is North Korea our problem? Retrieved from Real Clear Politics website:
  • Sang-Hun, C. (2018, December 6). North Korea is expanding missile base with eye toward U.S., experts warn. Retrieved from The New York Times website:
  • Trainor, B. E. (2009, May 3). Gulf War. Retrieved from Foreign Policy Research Institute website:
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