In the years 1991 to 2004 the USA’s response international aggression was often based on protecting its own national interests. Post 9/11 especially saw the USA base nearly all of its responses on protecting its own national interests. However, on some occasions prior to 9/11 they did show some desire to protect global interests rather than just their own. Due to the events of the 11th September 2001 the USA began its war on terror, and specifically targeted was George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ which included; Iran, Iraq and North Korea. The USA used their war on terror so to legitimise their actions worldwide thus destroying any hopes for a post cold war collective international security, therefore basing their response to international aggression on protecting their own national interests. This is seen with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Together with Britain they acted unilaterally in order to remove the al-Qaeda and capture bin Laden, who was the prime suspect for the 9/11 attacks.
The USA believed its actions were justified by labelling them as self defence under Article 51 of the UN charter. This clearly shows that the USA based its responses to international aggression on protecting their own national interests. In addition, the USA further showed that their response to international aggression was based on their own national interests with their invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The USA believed Saddam Hussein to have been harbouring weapons of mass destruction which could be made available to the al-Qaeda to which they invaded with Britain, legitimising their actions by again stating it was due to self defence as they perceived themselves to be under threat. This was against the wishes of member counties in the United Nations (UN), as many believed there was little evidence to support their claim of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. However, the USA only ignored these beliefs and continued to respond to international aggression based on protecting their own interests.
Furthermore, the USA often decided to not work with the UN. This was because the USA’s own national interests were not being fully served through doing so. This resulted in the UN becoming weaker. This is clearly seen in Somalia in 1992-1995. The USA withdrew all its support by 1994 and with it their commitment towards any multilateral military action. This withdrawal caused the UN mission in Somalia to fail and the country to be left without any central government, facing considerable humanitarian crises. This further shows how the USA based its response to international aggression on protecting its own national interests. However, as stated, the USA did show some desire to base its response to international aggression prior to 9/11. For example; the 1991 Gulf war with Kuwait and Iraq which they worked collectively with the UN. Iraq had seized considerable amount of the world’s oil supply by invading Kuwait. The USA went through the UN Security Council and committed large numbers of troops and also formed a coalition task force comprised of Syria and Egypt. The USA and its coalition task force took back Kuwait on January 1991.
Furthermore, the USA opted not to overthrow Hussein’s government. This showed that the USA had some desire to base its response to international aggression not just on protecting their own national interests. Post 9/11 the USA were a part of some very small missions with the UN. This showed a small desire to base its response to international aggression on other goals other than protecting its own national interests such as world peace. An example of this is Cambodia in 1993. The US helped the UN produce a durable settlement to the Cambodian conflict and implement free elections. Overall, the USA responded to international aggression based on protecting its own national interests however, their response cannot be said to be ‘solely’ based on protecting their national interests.
Indeed, this was the case with nearly all of their responses post 9/11 however; prior to 9/11 they did base some actions on furthering global interests rather than just their own. This is because 9/11 was a pivotal moment in USA relations with the rest of the world because of their war on terror and due to the fact they legitimised their actions worldwide through the war. In effect, they became a complete imperialist state that only really aimed at protecting its only national interests.