In the definition of the United States of America, imperialism and national protection resemble intertwined terms. This essay examines the 1991 Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf made by the U.S. president George W. Bush during the first Iraq war.
This speech exemplifies the definition of the United States, specifically, how the United States sees itself, how it views other countries, how it views itself as a member nation of the world and what role its foreign policy plays in various conflicts beyond its borders.
In the Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf, George W. Bush reveals the truth underpinning the foreign policy of the United States: the United States protects its own interests, namely, resources such as oil, under the auspices of the democratic political system, and this protectionism extends to the four corners of the earth. Foreign policy is national security; the terms are interchangeable.
The foreign policy of the United States – in the eyes of the United States government – is global in nature. Where the United States is concerned, the right of independent nations to govern themselves as they see fit remains a conditional item, conditional upon compliance to the unspoken rule that the interests of the United States take precedence over those of all the other countries in the world.
This definition of imperialism and national protection in the core values of the United States has not changed since Bush’s leadership; in fact echoes of many of the policies outlined in this speech persist in the foreign policy of current President Barack Obama.
In 1991 George W. Bush addressed the people of the United States from the Oval Office. The purpose of the Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf was threefold: one, to announce the commencement of military actions against Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s forces; two, to justify the military action as a last resort; and three, to position the military action as a consensus of the United Nations, as opposed to an unsanctioned aggressive move by the United States. In this speech, Bush presents the case for the first Iraq war as having been decided via consensus with other nations, and only after the exhaustion of all other avenues:
This military action, taken in accord with United Nations resolutions and with the consent of the United States Congress, follows months of constant and virtually endless diplomatic activity on the part of the United Nations, the United States, and many, many other countries. Arab leaders sought what became known as an Arab solution, only to conclude that Saddam Hussein was unwilling to leave Kuwait….Our Secretary of State, James Baker, held a historic meeting in Geneva, only to be totally rebuffed (Bush 290).
Bush also carefully asserts that “our goal is not the conquest of Iraq. It is the liberation of Kuwait” (Bush 292). He reminds the American public that “this will not be another Vietnam” (Bush 292). Bush uses language to paint a vivid narrative; he labels Saddam Hussein as “the dictator of Iraq” (Bush 290).
Bush calls Kuwait Saddam Hussein’s “small and helpless neighbor… crushed; its people, brutalized” (Bush 290). Bush elucidates that Saddam’s actions forced the hand of the world. “The world could wait no longer. Sanctions, though having some effect, showed no signs of accomplishing their objective…While the world waited, Saddam Hussein systematically raped, pillaged and plundered a tiny nation, no threat to his own” (Bush 291).
Bush also paints the United States as an equal member in this large team of concerned international interests, when he highlights that “twenty-eight nations – countries from five continents Europe and Asia, Africa, and the Arab League – have forces in the Gulf standing shoulder to shoulder against Saddam Hussein” (Bush 292).
The Bush speech also contains a savvy treatment of the issue of American interests. In order to address the issue of oil, widely understood to be the main reason why the United States first became involved in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, Bush employs a highly credible source as his mouthpiece – the soldiers themselves:
Listen to Hollywood Huddleston, marine lance corporal. He says, let’s free these people, so we can go home and be free again…Listen to one of our great officers out there, Marine Lieutenant General Walter Boomer. He said, there are things worth fighting for.
A world in which brutality and lawlessness are allowed to go unchecked isn’t the kind of world we’re going to want to live in. Listen to Master Sergeant J.P. Kendall of the 82nd Airborne: We’re here for more than the price of a gallon of gas. What we’re doing is going to chart the future of the world for the next 100 years (Bush 292).
Twenty years later, the definition of the United States appears to consistently blur the lines between imperialism and national protection in the realm of foreign policy.
President Barack Obama’s administration maintains a similar modus operandi to that of the first Bush administration, “threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if its anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; [and] calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan” (Blum 26).
The ongoing conflict in the Middle East, initiated in the Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf, lingers largely because of the problematic definition of the United States, this pervasive belief that the foreign policy of the world needs to be set solely by interests that serve and protect the United States.
In his article Obama and the Empire, William Blum points to the apparently blunt refusal on the United States to leave Iraq as an example of this phenomenon: “George W. Bush, 2006: We’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done as long as the government wants us there. George W. Bush, 2007: It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, 2008 said his government was impatiently waiting for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Barack Obama, [in] 2008 [said] we can redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months” (Blum 27).
The definition of the United States combines imperialism and national protection; the two terms essentially complement each other, and function as synergistic items, both in thought and action. The United States protects its own interests worldwide, as opposed to within its own borders; in fact, its borders are the world. Foreign policy is national security, and vice versa. The right of free nations to govern themselves therefore remains provisional, pending the approval of the United States.
Blum, William. “Obama and the Empire.” AMASS 13.3 (2008): 26-28. Web.
Bush, George. “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf.” America Through the Eyes of Its People, Vol. 2. 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2006. 290-293. Print.