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How could you do this to me? Washington''s anger at its allies'' behaviour during the 2003 Iraq crisis in perspective

Lucile Eznack
University of Geneva
Lucile Eznack
University of Geneva
Open Panel

Abstract

The 2003 Iraq war preparations were the theater of a severe crisis between the United States and some of its closest allies or friends, notably France and Germany, but also Canada, Turkey and Mexico. Yet, as the now famous words attributed to Condoleezza Rice that the United States should "Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia" show, the extent of Washington''s anger at its allies'' behavior varied depending on the countries concerned. The most common explanations for such differences focused on the differences of behavior of these countries. I argue in this paper that while such differences of behavior should indeed be taken into consideration, they cannot alone account for the variations in the United States'' negative reactions. Another explanatory factor should be added to the picture, which deals with the varying degrees of closeness and affect characterizing the ties between Washington and each of the countries concerned. The underlying assumption here is that the higher the value attached to a relationship, the more a violation of expectations of behavior is likely to trigger a perception of betrayal, which in turn will lead to passionate reactions. Hence, what matters is not only the behavior at stake, but also where that behavior comes from. After developing the argument, I illustrate it with a comparative analysis of the United States'' reaction to the behaviors of France, Germany, Canada, Turkey and Mexico during the Iraq crisis of early 2003.