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Regime change

Regime change is an overthrow of a government considered illegitimate (regime) by an external force (usually military), and its replacement with a new government according to the concept of political legitimacy promoted by that force.

In contrast to a revolution, regime change is achieved from outside a nation, and in contrast to a coup d'etat it replaces the whole administrative apparatus and completely avoids any cooption or preservation of existing bureaucracy or other regime remnants.

Unlike the term, the idea to overthrow a government from the outside and to replace it with a new one built "from scratch" [1] traces back to the Potsdam Agreement, which suggested post-WWII designs for Germany but became largely irrelevant for the era of the Cold War.

While advocates argue the underlying concept of legitimacy would successfully override national sovereignty, critics consider the term an euphemism for a violation of International law. It was popularized by American President George W. Bush, in reference to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Some critics of the Bush plan, including United States Senator John Kerry, turned the catch-phrase against Bush, calling for "regime change" in the United States.

Regime change in Iraq became the stated goal of the United States when Public Law 105-338 (the "Iraq Liberation Act") was signed into law by President Clinton. The act directed that:

"It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

Political observers such as Frank Gaffney feel that Clinton did nothing to implement regime change[1]. President Bush, however, has repeatedly declared regime change in Iraq to be the policy of his administration, and appears more willing, even eager, to pursue this policy through military action. Many observers correctly predicted that this policy would culminate in a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

During the 2003 Iraq war, as US Marines and Iraqis joined forces to topple a statue of Saddam Hussein in downtown Baghdad, Vice President Dick Cheney cited "evidence of the collapse of any central regime authority" but warned "hard fighting" may yet lie ahead. [1]


There has been much discussion of the motives of the Bush administration for seeking regime change in Iraq. Supporters of Bush, or of America in general, credit the administration with sincerely seeking the good of the Iraqi people, including the Kurds, as well as seeking stablity in the region. Opponents of US policy, particularly those in the Islamic world or favoring it, accuse the administration of various nationalistic or self-seeking motives or even racism.

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