“What’s Happening Now is Bigger Than What I Can Write About:” The Unintended Consequences of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Iraq and Syria from 1990-2014 as Understood through the Writings of Nuha Al-Radi and Samar Yazbek

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-3673-6728
Combs, Mary, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, University of Virginia
Combs, Mary, Arts & Sciences Graduate-asg, University of Virginia

This paper examines the unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq and Syria from 1990 to 2014, specifically with regard to its impact on Iraqi and Syrian civilians. The paper takes both a chronological and thematic approach to the U.S.’s foreign policy decisions of the time period and organizes the information into the following five sections: The Gulf War (1991), Embargo and Sanctions (1991-2003), Operation Desert Fox and Bombing Campaigns (1998-2003), the Iraq War (2003-2011), and The Syrian Revolution (March 2011-). This paper relies on Nuha Al-Radi’s Baghdad Diaries: A Woman’s Chronicle of War and Exile and Samar Yazbek’s A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution and The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria which function as stand-ins to represent the experiences and opinions of regular Iraqi and Syrian citizens as they lived the results of U.S. foreign policy toward their respective countries. While Al-Radi and Yazbek’s body of work should be studied and appreciated in its own right, the inclusion of their books here serves to give voice to the local within a broader geopolitical context. The paper acknowledges that foreign policy is an extremely complicated field, and many factors such as history, context, domestic policy, and even the personalities and worldviews of the policy-makers themselves impact the decisions and the implementation of the policies. However, by drawing on examples from the works of Al-Radi and Yazbek that illustrate the horror of living under certain U.S. foreign policies, this paper concludes that foreign policy decisions must be continually reassessed when the objectives of the decisions are unclear or fluctuating and/or when policies include acts of war, sanctions, and the provision or withholding of humanitarian aid that create the potential for great harm to civilian populations.

MA (Master of Arts)
U.S. Foreign Policy, 1991 Gulf War, Operation Desert Fox, Sanctions against Iraq, Syrian Revolution, 2003 Iraq War
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