Toward an Integral Analysis of the Iraq Crisis

Gregory WilpertArticle, Cognitive, Ethical, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Politics, Politics, World Affairs 3 Comments

Originally published in 2006

This article analyzes pro- and anti-war arguments and situates each within an all-quadrant, all-level perspective. I evaluate each perspective according to its probable sincerity, given that some arguments covered deeper, unarticulated interests. This analysis considers the intended and unintended consequences of warring or abstaining on various scales: global, regional, and national. Finally, I argue that an Integral perspective can recommend actions in an ideal scenario and a real world scenario.

In an ideal scenario, the world community would not tolerate dictators such as Saddam Hussein and would create non-imperialistic ways of removing them from power. However, in the real world there is no such community and the U.S. government, under the Bush administration, is in all likelihood not capable of finding a non-imperialist solution to the problems Saddam Hussein posed. Solving this problem means working toward a better world community and creating a truly worldcentric United Nations.


Integral means, among other things, examining an issue from as many essential perspectives as possible (all-quadrants, all-levels, all-lines, all-states, and all-types, or AQAL) and integrating these perspectives into a coherent whole, so as to form, as Gebser says, a more aperspectival analysis and course of action.

Although the question of whether the U.S. and other countries should go to war against Iraq is now a moot point, it is still useful to examine the Iraq crisis from an Integral perspective, in the hopes that such a perspective will inform future decision-making about similar crises.

Using the AQAL map as a guideline, we can situate the different perspectives on the Iraq conflict in their appropriate quadrant as well as analyze each perspective’s level of development. To simplify, I will divide perspectives on Iraq into two broad categories: pro-war and anti-war.

While this could serve to reinforce a dichotomization of perspectives, my hope is that ultimately we will dissolve the dichotomy. Based on this analysis, I will then propose some recommendations for Integral advocates and policy makers.

Any recommendation that one might conceive of, however, may be difficult to implement. Different actors have widely different options and different situations present different opportunities for acting. To slightly remedy this difficulty, I have proposed two very different solutions, depending on what kind of a world we presuppose. The “real world” scenario concludes that with the current U.S. government and world polity as it is, the invasion of Iraq will not result in needed and desirable changes from an Integral perspective. However, in a more evolved world, in which the U.S. government and international institutions are more consistent and act from universal morality, rather than a purely self-interested one, an invasion of Iraq could be justified on the basis that the international community should not let a dictator such as Saddam Hussein govern any country in the world.


About Gregory Wilpert

GREGORY WILPERT is a German-American sociologist, who grew up in Germany and spent most of his adult life in the U.S. and most recently in Venezuela. He studied sociology at University of California San Diego (B.A. in 1988) and at Brandeis University (Ph.D. in 1993). His dissertation dealt with unemployment and political consciousness in East Germany following German unification. He lived in Caracas, Venezuela, where he had a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research (2000- 2001) on an Integral-critical theory of social development. He is in the process of writing a book entitled, The Developing Globe, which is a product of his research. In his spare time he practices Zen meditation and Aikido.