Was the Decision to Invade Iraq and the Failure of Occupation Planning a Case of Groupthink?

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Virginia Tech


This thesis examines the decision to invade Iraq and the failed planning for the occupation of Iraq. Since Janis introduced groupthink in 1972, the groupthink perspective has been used to explain foreign policy disasters such as the failure to anticipate the Pearl Harbor attack and the Bay of Pigs. However, the groupthink perspective is not universally useful for explaining foreign policy mishaps. While some have attributed the Iraq war to groupthink, the groupthink perspective has not been systematically applied to these events.

This thesis will examine Janis's original groupthink theory, and subsequent research that tested the effectiveness of the groupthink perspective. It will apply the groupthink perspective to the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq. It will also examine the failed planning for the occupation of Iraq. The application of the groupthink perspective to both the invasion decision and occupation planning suggests that groupthink was not the primary cause of either event. The thesis will conclude by describing alternative explanations for the decision to invade Iraq, such as ideological agenda setting, and other cognitive errors besides groupthink.



2003, Bush, National Security Council, Occupation, Iraq War