Why did the United States invade Iraq, setting off a chain of events that profoundly changed the Middle East and the US global position? In The Regime Change Consensus: Iraq in American Politics, 1990-2003 (Cambridge UP, 2021), Joseph Stieb offers a compelling look at how the United States pivoted from a policy of containment to regime change in Iraq after September 11, 2001. Starting with the Persian Gulf War, the book traces how a coalition of political actors argued with increasing success that the totalitarian nature of Saddam Hussein's regime and the untrustworthy behavior of the international coalition behind sanctions meant that containment was a doomed policy. By the end of the 1990s, a consensus belief emerged that only regime change and democratization could fully address the Iraqi threat. Through careful examination, Stieb expands our understanding of the origins of the Iraq War while also explaining why so many politicians and policymakers rejected containment after 9/11 and embraced regime change.
Grant Golub is a PhD candidate in the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research focuses on the politics of American grand strategy during World War II.