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Elite theory and the 2003 Iraq Occupation by the United States – genuine democracy promotion or self-serving elites?

Nouri, Bamo (2018). Elite theory and the 2003 Iraq Occupation by the United States – genuine democracy promotion or self-serving elites?. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The Iraq War is one of the most widely documented wars in history. The repercussions are still being felt to this day, and the real reasons behind the war remain unclear. Bringing democracy and human rights to free the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was the United States of America’s promise. However, many would say theory did not meet practice, and therefore the question arises of whether the war had an alternative or hidden agenda. For this study, the question is whether the decision-making elite of the United States of America (US) intended to dominate and control Iraq in both the short and long term for the benefit of their own interests, or whether the US decision-making elite intended to bring democracy and a system which protected the rights of Iraqis as broadcast to the world.

The doctrine of elite theory argues that in every society there is inevitably an elite minority of the population in existence, who dominate and exploit decision-making to serve their own economic interests. This dominant elite minority cannot be controlled by the majority regardless of the democratic mechanisms that exist. Once elites are in decision-making positions, combined like-minded individuals, regardless of internal division, work together to dominate the decision-making process. Elite theory comprehensively describes the actualities in the war, occupation and legacy of democracy in Iraq. Elite theory explains the actions of the US elite decision-makers who went to war and occupied Iraq using democracy promotion as a cover for serving their own interests. Additionally, elite theory explains the political system of Iraq that came as a direct result of the US intervention. The US elites had two main goals in Iraq; firstly, to privatise the Iraqi state through creating a new free-market friendly constitution. Secondly, the US elites intended to outsource the rebuilding of Iraq to US corporations of which they were directly associated with. To facilitate the process with legitimacy inside Iraq, the US had pre-selected a group of Iraqi elites to govern Iraq in the interim and to write Iraq’s new constitution. The Iraqi elites would represent Iraq’s diversity, whilst maintaining support for US elite interests. However, the intended plans did not come to fruition. The US elites managed to outsource the rebuilding of Iraq to corporations they were associated with for as long as they could but failed to achieve their primary aim in establishing a functioning free-market democracy. One of the reasons for the failures of the US in Iraq was the great resistance that formed against the selection of Iraqi elites by the US elites, which subsequently forced them to immediately rethink their decision-making. Once the Iraqi populace understood the US privatisation agenda and their lack of commitment to democracy, an insurgency began and eventually forced the US into an early exit. In the process US elite decision makers benefitted directly from the war and occupation whilst great detriment was bought to Iraqis who were left with a new authoritarianism. Iraq’s new political system would be dominated by the original Iraqi elites that the US had supported before the war and undemocratically selected into the Iraqi Governing Council.

Elite theory will be used to establish whether the backgrounds of US elites who made decisions in Iraq affected not only their pathway to their decision-making position, but also more importantly, their decision-making processes. An important question is whether there was a self-serving elite that dominated US foreign policy regarding Iraq and if so, who were they? How did their backgrounds affect their decision-making process? Based on studying the decision makers, what would I expect them to do on the ground in Iraq, and what did they actually do on the ground in Iraq? Did they have common interests in Iraq and if so, how and why? What does the existence of this elite mean for democracy in the US, and democracy promotion in Iraq? Another momentous question is whether the decision makers regarding the Iraq War directly benefitted financially from the war. If so, is US foreign policy corporate foreign policy? This study will examine whether the 2003 Iraq War and occupation was a case of elites serving their own self-interests or whether they were committed to democracy promotion as they declared to the world in selling the war. Media-projected intentions and realities broadcast to the world by the US were completely different to the actual reality on the ground in Iraq.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: J Political Science
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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