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The Iraq War and the procedural mechanics of policy failure: complex decision-making and the intersection between bounded rationality and path dependence

The Iraq War and the procedural mechanics of policy failure: complex decision-making and the intersection between bounded rationality and path dependence
The Iraq War and the procedural mechanics of policy failure: complex decision-making and the intersection between bounded rationality and path dependence
The post-war failure in Iraq (2003) has elicited a plethora of accounts that describe the unfolding of events, but most fail to do so within an empirical explanatory framework. Equally, many accounts have focused on infield policy and implementation failures in the post-war period rather on the pre-war process of decision-making. This research addresses both of these limitations. It does so by locating a particular aspect of the Iraq failure within the procedural mechanics of complex decision-making that occurred during the planning phase 2002-3) and by incorporating aspects of path dependence into the mechanics of how boundedly rational actors make decisions in complex task environments. Rather than the failure in general, this research focuses on a particular aspect of policy failure, the construction of post-war planning that was predicated on a number of flawed assumptions. The analytical puzzle the research seeks to unpack is how these faulty assumptions were able to embed themselves as to ascend to the point of being the basis of post-war policy given the availability of information that contested their basis. Building on Herbert Simon’s emphasis on the procedural (rather than substantive) dimension of rational decision-making, this research adds path dependence as an explanatory framework for better understanding how the salience of information is assessed in bounded, complex decision-making environments. This temporal dimension of path dependence reflects that time-primed information often appears more salient to actors when adopting weak heuristic procedural mechanics of decision-making. The research establishes that path dependence provides a useful and pre-existing framework for explaining these processes. Intersecting these two literatures helps add explanatory power to the processes of policy failures by assessing how complex decisions are made and too often made badly. Policy failures such as the Iraq War are strongly reflective of a nexus between bounded rationality and path dependence.
Barr, Matthew
dc2a926d-a7b3-4a5f-9d49-92ee63f3a27e
Barr, Matthew
dc2a926d-a7b3-4a5f-9d49-92ee63f3a27e
Stoker, Gerard
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Jennings, William
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7

Barr, Matthew (2016) The Iraq War and the procedural mechanics of policy failure: complex decision-making and the intersection between bounded rationality and path dependence. University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences, Doctoral Thesis, 201pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The post-war failure in Iraq (2003) has elicited a plethora of accounts that describe the unfolding of events, but most fail to do so within an empirical explanatory framework. Equally, many accounts have focused on infield policy and implementation failures in the post-war period rather on the pre-war process of decision-making. This research addresses both of these limitations. It does so by locating a particular aspect of the Iraq failure within the procedural mechanics of complex decision-making that occurred during the planning phase 2002-3) and by incorporating aspects of path dependence into the mechanics of how boundedly rational actors make decisions in complex task environments. Rather than the failure in general, this research focuses on a particular aspect of policy failure, the construction of post-war planning that was predicated on a number of flawed assumptions. The analytical puzzle the research seeks to unpack is how these faulty assumptions were able to embed themselves as to ascend to the point of being the basis of post-war policy given the availability of information that contested their basis. Building on Herbert Simon’s emphasis on the procedural (rather than substantive) dimension of rational decision-making, this research adds path dependence as an explanatory framework for better understanding how the salience of information is assessed in bounded, complex decision-making environments. This temporal dimension of path dependence reflects that time-primed information often appears more salient to actors when adopting weak heuristic procedural mechanics of decision-making. The research establishes that path dependence provides a useful and pre-existing framework for explaining these processes. Intersecting these two literatures helps add explanatory power to the processes of policy failures by assessing how complex decisions are made and too often made badly. Policy failures such as the Iraq War are strongly reflective of a nexus between bounded rationality and path dependence.

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More information

Published date: March 2016
Organisations: University of Southampton, Politics & International Relations

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 389733
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/389733
PURE UUID: 512674ec-0abd-4c18-a65c-e9eac5440656

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Date deposited: 14 Mar 2016 13:17
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:32

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