The Vietnam and Iraq Wars: The Antithesis of Realism

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Booth, Logan S.
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Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal
Policy makers are rational actors who use distinct ideologies in forming their preferences and deciding on which courses of policy to pursue. Yet often times, the decisions of these actors are based off skewed ideologies which deviate from those positions which have proven their utility and success in the past. In this thesis, the claim is made that despite the proven success of realist political thought in confronting twentieth century international challenges, policy makers who advocated the use of military force in both the Vietnam and Iraq Wars based their decisions off of liberalist and neo-conservative tenets. The result of both conflicts has been military quagmires which have resulted in each conflict being characterized as a foreign policy blunder. In proving this argument, the paper explores the justification for war given by political actors and systemically contrasts them with the tenets of realist thought, showing the flagrant violations in each instance. Furthermore, once it has been established that realist thought was in fact ignored, evidence supporting the embrace of liberalist ideologies to justify each conflict in offered. Finally, an examination into the lasting historical consequences of each conflict and the theoretical implications that each war has had on the shaping of United States history concludes the piece, suggesting that readers consider the magnitude of a seemingly trivial topic such as foreign policy ideology.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- United States , Iraq War, 2003