• realist theories;
  • war on terror;
  • invasion of Iraq;
  • neo-conservative realism

The American war on terror and the invasion of Iraq remain spectacular developments in the history of international relations. This article probes the explanatory powers of the existing academic realist theories to account for the Bush administration's war against Al-Qaeda, a nonstate shadowy organization, and the invasion of Iraq. It argues that the realist theories are largely deficient frameworks to provide any satisfactory explanation of the war on terror and its subsequent extension to Iraq. This paper also proposes an alternative framework, the framework of “neo-conservative realism,” to offer a more satisfactory explanation of America's war on terror. The framework of “neo-conservative realism,” in contrast to the existing realist theories, is more flexible to account for the current neo-conservative outgrowth of American foreign policy and national security strategy.