Between Dream and Deed:
: The United Kingdom's 2001-2003 Preparation for the Invasion of Iraq

  • Karolien Keary

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation describes how it came about that the British government, civil service and military were prepared badly for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its new analysis of this often-discussed period centres on the plans prepared in 2002 by the various government departments involved; those plans were not suitable for the policy that the British government eventually pursued in the beginning of 2003. This mismatch occurred because although Britain’s post-9/11 Iraq policy was understood across Whitehall and Downing Street, its limits were not. Specifically, there was no clarity on the circumstances under which a policy should be abandoned, and if so, for what alternative. The assumptions made about those elements varied across actors. This resulted in internally contradictory British plans, unsuitable for the invasion as it happened. A relatively simple mechanism that can limit, though not eliminate, these problems in future policy-making is the so-called ‘preferred alternative to the pursued policy’, derived from the ‘best alternative to a negotiated agreement’ (BATNA). BATNAs are a well-known concept in negotiation practice and doctrine; I argue that similarly, ‘preferred alternatives’ can and should be used in a policy-making context for keeping policy and policy plans aligned and coherent across members of government and their civil service departments. The original contribution to knowledge is both a new interpretation of the reasons for Britain’s difficulties in Iraq, and a new argument about how to improve policy-making through a new application of an already successful tool, the ‘preferred alternative to the pursued policy’.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHidemi Suganami (Supervisor)

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