On July 6th 2016, the Chilcot-Report (or the Iraq Inquiry), named after his chairman Sir John Chilcot, was published after more than seven years long of inquiry. This public report focuses on the role of the United Kingdom and in particular on the role of the Prime minister and his government at that time Tony Blair in the Iraq War started in 2003. Synthetically, this report came to the following conclusions: Possible alternatives over than war were not sufficiently considered. The war in Iraq was inadequate. The legal basis on which the United Kingdom related to was not satisfactory. The actual situation of the Iraqi political system at that time and society was unknown and the military action did not meet expectations.
Drawing on the conclusions of this report, it is relevant to underline the role of the individual factor in this war. Despite the fact that international and state levels play not negligible role in the Iraq war, the individual-level seems to play more than in any other cases, a significant role in the decision-making process that led to the Iraq war in 2003. As this report focuses on the British policy, we will only consider British individuals as decision makers. The former Prime minister is nowadays remembered for his foreign policy in Iraq and seems to embody himself the war. Therefore, we can ask ourselves the following question: to what extent does the Iraq inquiry confirm the importance of individual-level factors in foreign policy?
If the Iraq inquiry confirms the importance of the rational choice in foreign policy (I), it also confirms the leverage of the ideology and character during the decision-making process (II). Finally, this report asserts the interaction of the individual with the societal and political environment (III).
I/ The Chilcot- Report assert the importance of rational choice of the individual in foreign policy.
The Chilcot-Report states that the decision to go to war in Iraq was inadequate and that over options had not been sufficiently considered. It blames Blair and his entourage for not following secret intelligence service (known as MI6) guidelines. However, a decision of this magnitude should, theoretically, a rational decision. The “rational actor model” proposed by Allison and Zellikow also adds that decisions should be taken regarding their possible consequences. In a rational approach, the individual should consider all option before making a decision. Alexander Georges (1969) defines to major beliefs in the decision-making process: philosophical and instrumental beliefs. These beliefs should imply a profound questioning about the intended goal of the war, the aftermath and assessment of potential risks. In this case, it seems that the individual took over rational concerns. As Thomas (2017:2) argues: “there also needs to be an examination of the rationalities and power relations that allowed figures such as Tony Blair to believe, and still believe, that the war was for the common good”. Therefore, the psychological factor in this dossier is a major consideration. Psychological experiments state that humans prefer simplicity over complexity, hence it could be argued that Blair made a choice not to follow MI6’s guidelines because they will complexify the file. Consequences seem to have been neglected too. However, they could have been envisaged. In fact, regarding a heuristic view, Blair could have made historical analogies and considered the possible aftermath of the war according to his political experience.
II/ The Iraq inquiry confirms the importance of the personality and ideology in the decision-making process and its aftermath.
At the individual-level, personality and ideology play significant roles. They can influence the decision-making process regarding personal beliefs, status in the society and experience. Thus, the cognitive approach can be considered to analyse this case. The cognitive approach assumes that individuals deal with information differently regarding available information, the intended goal, time as well as prior beliefs and experience. In other words, an individual can make a decision because he or she believed that it was the right choice according to their personal assessment. Thomas (2017) argues that despite all the criticisms on this point that Tony Blair truly had the conviction to choose the right option. He explains that Blair had “faith” in his decision and was convinced to be helpful to the United Kingdom and the international society. In addition, the political leadership factor interferes with personality and ideology (Dyson, 2007). Tony Blair Policy seems to have adopted the “policy entrepreneurship” (Dyson, 2007:7) which implies radical changes of the representation of a left-wing policy and coalition building with the United States. Adding to that, the leadership could be expressed by a “need for power”, a “need for control” or a “need for information” (Preston and Hermann, 2004:364;365). Blair was blamed by the Iraq Inquiry for not paying enough attention to information given by state services. Therefore, one can argue that his need for power and information influence his decisions.
Moreover, individuals’ decisions are guided by ideology. According to Deudney and Ikenberry (2017), the war in Iraq was influenced by liberalism because of the explicit will to expand power at the international level On the other side, Wearing (2012) argues that liberal values never influence the Iraq intervention. He explains that “liberal values, however sincerely held by some individuals, are not the operative factors shaping policy” (The Guardian, April 3rd 2012) and that state-interests shape policies. However, the argument pointed out by Blair in 2003 about the threat that Saddam Hussein represents on democracy and on freedom (BBC, 2003) is a defence of liberal values against a so-call dictatorial regime. Nevertheless, considering the fact that Iraq war a former protectorate of the British colonial empire. The neo-colonialist ideology can not be neglected in the individual decision-making process. It can be argued that neo-colonialist feel a “duty” to save former colonies. They feel obligated to intervene as they are to some extent responsible for the situation in Iraq because of their past experiences with the country. In addition, neo-colonialism can serve racial and economic purposes. The will to expand the Western liberal model to a Middle-Eastern country usually portrayed as authoritarian and conservative might also explain the invasion. Moreover, according to Thomas (2017), the Chilcot-Report exposes evidence that the main ideology of the Iraq war was “juridical individualism” which is defined as the use of juridical methods to legitimate self-oriented goals.
Finally, personal interests of the individual shape foreign policy’s decisions. The Chilcot-Report states that the Tony Blair overestimated his ability to influence United States’ policy and believed that the special relationship between both countries would help him to find common ground on the question of Iraq. Deudney and Ikenberry (2017) argue that the opposite situation happened and that the United States hegemonic power cannot allow the United Kingdom to have leverage on US foreign policy. They add that, according to hegemonic realist school of thought, “leading power provides order to the overall system by promulgating and underwriting a set of rules and institutions that add regularity and predictability for actors large and small. The leading state plays a distinct role unlike the roles of the smaller powers, thus adding a degree of functional differentiation to international politics” (Deudney and Ikenberry, 2017:14). The letter from Blair to Bush in 2002 in which Blair declare to Bush: “I will be with you whatever” (The Guardian, July 6th 2016) confirms suspicions about Blair’ intention which were accused to be opposed to the public interest.
III/ The Chilcot-Report confirms the importance of the interaction between the individual and the environment
In the Iraq dossier, the environment surrounding British decision-makers can not be neglected. Even if the final decision seems to be made individually, over factors can influence decisions. The “psychological milieu” or the “psycho-milieu” defined by Sprout (1956) as the decision environment perceived by the decision-maker can take several forms. Public opinion is an environmental variable that influences an individual’s perception (Risse-Kappen 1991). In 2003, the public opinion was torn apart. According to in IPSOS poll, 40% of the British public opinion approved Tony Blair’s foreign policy in Iraq whereas 49% disagreed (MORI/ ICM/News of the World, 2002). The Guardian described the situation as a “rift between Tony Blair and the British public” (Feb 18th, 2003). However, the Chilcot-Report does explore the “operational environment” (Sprout, XXX) in which the in policy is executed. Possible reelection thoughts from Blair and the potential accountability of his policy in the future might also explain his decisions to pay attention to public opinion.
The second environmental factor that can influence individual decisions is the leverage of interest groups. According to Ahmed (2013), the Iraq invasion’s goal was raw materials, in particular, oil. Greg Muttit (2011) also argues that the war was motivated by the search for oil. According to him, foreign companies’ lobbying pushed Western governments to invade Iraq to serve their personal interests. This argument confirms the importance of the individual-level in foreign policy as private actors can have direct leverage on policy by bargaining with governments officials.
Finally, legal and bureaucratic environments influence individuals. Indeed, the bureaucracy cannot be ignored in the decision-making process as decision have to follow procedures. The Iraq inquiry shows that the legal basis on which the British government relied on to justify the invasion was not sufficient. The neglected role of UN security council in this dossier is the illustration of using of the legal system to justify individual interest. This can be linked to neo-colonial ideology as Western nations such as the United States or the United Kingdom succeeded in their justification and are rarely prosecuted for their invasion whereas Iraq was pointed out for his invasion of Kuwait. This shows how the legal and bureaucratic environment can be used to serve personal interests without facing repercussions.
To conclude, the Chilcot-Report present a depicted picture of the Iraq war and a plea against Tony Blair. The fact that the report focuses itself on Blair shows the importance of the individual-level in this type of conflict. However, it is not possible to assert that the individual-level has full criteria of assessment. The environment influences policy and decision-maker in a more indirect way, that is why it can be argued that decisions are made by individuals after all because the final choice remains in the hands of the few. Over inquiries such as the Butler inquiry published in February 2004 conducted on the British government’s implication in the war. It concluded that, as the Chilcot-report, the MI6 information was readable and significant to the assessment of the Iraqi question (The Independent, Dec 15th 2006).