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Essay: US invasion of Iraq

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  • Subject area(s): International relations
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  • Published: 15 September 2019*
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  • Words: 1,154 (approx)
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In March 2003, the United States of America invaded Iraq, beginning a near 10 year war that would go on to cost the U.S. trillions of dollar (Reuters), overthrow a whole government, and claim countless U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths. The basis of the invasion was under a U.S. led coalition, to rage war against terrorism and terrorist sponsors. Prior to the invasion of Iraq invasion, U.S. officials had identified Iraq as a unstable state in the Persian Gulf, lead by Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials further accused Saddam of being a “repressive dictator” who was harboring Al Qaeda terrorists, Al Qaeda being the terror organization responsible of the  September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. What was, however, the deciding factor on whether or not the U.S. would invade Iraq or not was weather or not they had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which it would pose as a massive national security threat to the U.S. and other nations. It is important to note that the suspicion of Iraqi WMDs follows various UN resolutions and restrictions following 1998 inspections, according to official CIA documents. This paper will be dealing with decision on whether or not the U.S., led by President George W. Bush, should invade Iraq, lead by Saddam Hussein, without knowledge if there are actually WMDs in Iraq or not.

The two actors involved in this game are the U.S. government, Actor 1, and the Iraqi government, Actor 2. Without being able to confirm whether or not the Iraqi Government has weapons of mass destruction or not, the U.S. is faced with two potential options: Invade or Not invade. In response to not the U.S., Iraq will either fight or surrender when the U.S. invades (If the U.S.  were to not invade, Iraq would not be required to react), regardless of the presence of WMDs in Iraq.

The possible outcomes of a game where Iraq has WMDs are: If the U.S. were to invade, and Iraq fights back, the U.S., based on their commitment to fight and protect their country and citizens, will have a significant advantage because they would be stopping a rouge state while “doing the right thing” in protecting themselves and other nations, while Iraq will be at a disadvantage because of having their country invaded and flung into a war scene, their democracy at risk, and but they would be fighting to protect their WMDs (payoffs: 150, -50); if the U.S. invades and Iraq surrenders, the U.S. would be at a high advantage given they wouldn’t have to continue to deploy and sacrifice U.S. troop lives, while Iraq would be at a significant disadvantage because Saddam Hussein is strongly against U.S. involvement or leadership of the country and by surrendering, Saddam’s government would likely be replaced with a democracy, and they would have to give up their WMDs (payoffs: 50, -200); finally, if the U.S. decided not to invade in this game, this would be a significant disadvantage for the U.S. as if they did not put a stop to the use of WMDs and threat that would exist with Saddam’s access to WMDs, as for Iraq, this would be at a high advantage as they would be able to keep their WMDs and not go to war with the threat of the U.S. toppling the Iraqi Government (payoffs: -200, 300).

The possible outcomes of a game where Iraq does not have WMDs are: if the U.S. were to invade, and Iraq fights back, the U.S. would have significant disadvantages because they would be waging war and risking the lives and materials fighting for nothing, because if there is no security threat then they have no business in being in the country, while Iraq also is at significant disadvantage because a war and threat to their democracy would be imposed, and they wouldn’t be protecting anything either (payoffs: -150, -100); if the U.S. invades and Iraq surrenders, this would be an advantage for the U.S. because it would mean that not too many troop lives would be lost and they would gain control of a problematic state in the area, while Iraq would have significant disadvantages because the U.S. would likely attempt to and replace Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship with a democracy (payoffs: 200, -150); if the U.S. were not to invade, they would have an advantage as they wouldn’t have to deploy to troops, or worry about the risk of a security threat, while Iraq also would gain significant advantage as there was no U.S. intervention or war, and they wouldn’t have the risk of U.S. trying to replace their leader (payoffs: 300, 200).
Based on the various possible outcomes mentioned above, the threshold probability of the game where there are no WMDs, game one, being a true game that would make U.S. government of indifferent of  invading or not invading, would be determined with the equation EU(invade)=EU(not invade). When calculating the the expected utility of invading, it can be seen in game one (no WMDs), Iraq will fight in response to the U.S. invading, where as game two, they will also fight in response to the U.S. invading, using this, this would be represented as EU(invade)= P(150)+(-150)(1-P). In both games, if the U.S. does not invade, there are no reactions required by Iraq, thus EU(not invade)= P(-200)+(300)(1-P).  Thus to solve the threshold probability, P(150)+(-150)(1-P) = P(-200)+(300)(1-P), which would result in the probability that game one being true that would leave the U.S. indifferent to invading or not invading is p=0.56.

Utilizing the subjective probability of 0.85, based on the (then) evidence linking Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein, “a possible Iraqi nuclear weapons [and biological and chemical weapons] program were generally substantiated by the intelligence community” according to official CIA documents,  it can be seen that the expected payoffs of invading are EU(invade)= (0.85)(150)+(0.15)(-150) = 105 while the expected payoffs of not in are EU(not invade)=(0.85)(-200)+(0.15)(300)= -125. The expected payoff of invading is much high then the expected payoff of not invading, thus the U.S. will choose to invade Iraq. This can be see with the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which the U.S. believed that the circumstantial evidence that they had would prove to result in the finding of WMDs in Iraq. If the evidence had not been as strong, as we as a nation know today, and the subjective probability was less than 0.56, the U.S. would’ve played a lower game and not invaded. Ultimately, post the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government found no definitive evidence of WMDs, actually none at all. However, this discovery and invasion would be beneficial in that the U.S. would refine and reevaluate their intelligence agencies moving forward.

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