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Regime change is an overthrow of a government (or regime) considered illegitimate by an external force (usually military), and its replacement with a new government according to the ideas and/or interests promoted by that force.
In contrast to a revolution or a coup d'etat, regime change happens as the result of an external force. Regime change may or may not replace the whole administrative apparatus, existing bureaucracy and/or other regime remnants.
It can be argued that the idea of overthrowing a government from the outside and replacing it with a new one built "from scratch"  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 a euphemism for a violation of international law (regime change is not a permissible just cause of war in the classical just war theory). It was popularized by American President George W. Bush, in reference to Saddam Hussein's regime. The fact that the term itself was not coined until the early 2000s notwithstanding, examples of the policy itself being championed in the United States can be found earlier, as in its advocacy by General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, leading to his dismissal by President Harry Truman. Later, in the Vietnam War, many conservatives, such as Barry Goldwater, also supported the concept, denouncing President Lyndon Johnson's goal of merely saving South Vietnam from being taken over by the Communist North as a "no-win" policy. The American-backed overthrow of the Maurice Bishop government in Grenada in 1983 can also be viewed in the same light.
Ironically, some critics of the Bush plan turned the catch-phrase against Bush. Among these are United States Senator John Kerry, calling for "regime change" in the United States, the International Action Center, and the ANSWER coalition, which declared "We need a regime change HERE!"
- "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. 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. 
There has been much discussion of the motives of the Bush administration for seeking regime change in Iraq. Supporters of Bush, 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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