The Iraq War as a Failure to Bargain
This difference accounts for U. Second, the terrorist attacks of September 11, , led U. In the aftermath of the attacks, the Bush Administration became particularly worried, based on flimsy intelligence, with the possibility of an Iraqi nuclear handoff to a terrorist group for use against the U. Thus the United States acted as if Iraqi nuclearization were all but certain and launched a preventive war, which subsequently proved mistaken.
Third, the war was the result of the imperfect information U. Unable to obtain it, U. Under mounting pressure, Saddam agreed in September to let U. Still, these inspections produced ambiguous results. This uncertainty underpinned a broad political consensus in Washington that Saddam intended to acquire a nuclear arsenal, justifying support for the war. Based on this rationale, the United States decided to launch a preventive war that ultimately proved to rest on mistaken grounds. Finally, our theory helps account for why Washington launched an attack against Iraq rather than North Korea, a state that in fact possessed a nuclear-weapons program and would ultimately go nuclear.
In our view, U. This meant that preventive war against North Korea was not rationalizable. For some, it is impossible to provide a rationalist account of the Iraq war. In an important article, David Lake argues that the Iraq War highlights the need of a behavioral revolution in international-relations theory. Nevertheless, Lake argues that the rationalist framework suffers from two shortcomings that ultimately warrant a behavioral revolution. First, the two main causes of conflict in the rationalist framework —- information and commitment problems —- are constant features of the world system.
Therefore, according to Lake, they cannot explain why the United States invaded Iraq and not other countries, such as North Korea. Second, for Lake, the war was caused by irrational factors: Washington did not obtain the best information about the cost of the war and ignored evidence that Iraq had terminated its WMD program. Saddam Hussein, for his part, did not assess the level of U. In our opinion, Lake is actually too generous toward the rationalist framework.
However, this dynamic is not accounted for by the existing rationalist framework. The reason is that in the traditional framework, power shifts are exogenous, i.
Iraq war: the greatest intelligence failure in living memory
We find that under perfect information, peace always prevails, no matter how large is a potential shift in the balance of power. Put simply, if a state expects a significant negative shift in the balance of power, and can perfectly detect the militarization attempt that would produce it, it may always issue a credible threat of preventive war, thereby deterring the other state from making the costly military investment in the first place. Realistically, however, information is imperfect and militarization attempts may not be detected.
- Reward Yourself.
- The Iraq War as a Failure to Bargain?
- Macbeth (Ignatius Critical Editions).
War may therefore occur because a state cannot commit to refrain from attempting to acquire military means covertly. As Lake writes, information and commitment problems are prevalent in the international system. If Lake sees this feature as a shortcoming of the rationalist framework, we see it as a strength: Contrary to what Lake claims, however, this does not mean that the rationalist framework has no predictive power.
We thus find that war is more likely, everything else equal, as the quality of the information one state has about possible militarization attempts by others decreases, and as the shift in the balance of power resulting from such attempts increases relative to the cost of preventive war. The rationalist framework cannot explain the origin of preferences. In this case, it cannot explain why the Bush Administration saw potential Iraqi nuclearization as causing such a momentous shift in the balance of power.
It can, however, help us understand how a decisionmaker weigh the risk of different options as a function of the strategic environment. Does the realization, ex post, that the U. The rationalist framework argues that enemies have incentives to exaggerate their resolve.
Furthermore, Saddam did possess a strategy to placate the United States. First he hoped that Russia or France would oppose a U. Ultimately, these efforts were stymied by U. Indeed, Saddam refused to acknowledge the fact that his nuclear program had been dismantled, despite repeated U. This could be due to the fact that, as the Iraq Survey Group concluded, Saddam wanted to draw the benefit of strategic ambiguity when dealing with Iran, Israel, and domestic audiences. Yet accommodating the role of multiple audiences does not mean that we should abandon the rationalist framework.
There is indeed a large and growing rationalist literature on the effect of domestic audiences on international conflict see, among others, Fearon , Schultz , Smith , Ramsay , Slantchev , Debs and Goemans , Debs and Weiss More importantly for our purposes, a focus on multiple audiences may not necessarily improve the explanatory power of our theories; it may in fact obscure it.
Iraq war: the greatest intelligence failure in living memory - Telegraph
After all, Saddam had been speaking to multiple audiences for more than a decade before the U. While Lake encourages IR theorists to abandon the rationalist framework, we believe we should develop it further in order to take into account the specific challenges raised by Iraq.
In our view, the important shortcoming of the existing rationalist framework highlighted by the Iraq war is that it treats power shifts as exogenous. Yet a key concern surrounding the invasion was the possibility that Iraq would produce a shift in the balance of power by acquiring nuclear weapons.
Our forthcoming article attempts to do so. Scholars may, perhaps even should, enter the political debate on such momentous decisions, but their first duty is to develop theoretical frameworks capable of explaining historical patterns. The rationalist framework, rooted in a long tradition of analyzing the causes of war based on the features of the strategic environment, has so far proven capable of doing so. Alternative approaches may also generate unique and powerful predictions. For now, however, we believe that a behavioral revolution is unnecessary. Finally, much in the historical debate about Iraq mirrors the current policy debate about U.
We disagree Debs and Monteiro The cost of a preventive war against Iran would be high. Public International Law and Human Rights. Communications - Media and Politics, Politic Communications. Business economics - Business Management, Corporate Governance. American Studies - Culture and Applied Geography. American Studies - Linguistics. Sociology - Political Sociology, Majorities, Minorities.
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Request a new password via email. Interests The first part of the analysis refers to interests preferences over outcomes. The importance of Central Asia. Transnational cooperation and inter How Russia working with China can help the United Sates. Why did the USA invade Iraq?
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