Post-Conflict Nation Building:
: A Case Study of Iraq

  • Amy Evelyn Gearhart

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The disconnect between the rhetoric used by President Bush and his administration to describe the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the actual outcome and events of the war is puzzling. More than just projecting misguided or misleading information about the presence of weapons of mass destruction and the connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qu’ida, the invasion was largely framed in morally-infused language. Though the administration often described their endeavour in humanitarian terms, by promising Iraq democracy and freedom from tyranny, the planning and execution of the post-conflict nation building efforts suggest that these concerns were not as important as claimed. This case study will aid in answering the question, “Do states engage in strategic self-deception, and if so, why?” Mainstream International Relations theories typically approach state motivation from a physical security perspective. However, a growing body of literature argues that ontological security, or security of the self, also motivates state actions. This dissertation will begin by making the case for ontological security considerations within the international relations discipline, adapting an individual-level social psychology concept to the state-level. Next, a discursive analysis of pre-invasion presidential addresses and a contextualization of the trauma of the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 will serve to justify an ontological security explanation for why a state would engage in strategic self-deception. Finally, the importance of identity politics in international relations as well as its influence in the agent-structure debate will be addressed
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University

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