Blunder: Britain's War in Iraq

ISBN : 9780198807964

Patrick Porter
256 ページ
156 x 234 mm
  • a unique focus on one issue — why Britain invaded — and why it matters
  • one of the first books to write an account of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 post-Chilcot Report
  • lively and engaging account with a strong argument that counters a lot of received opinion
  • grounded in publicly available sources, supplying a wealth of evidence while also enabling the reader to judge for themselves
  • timed for the 15th anniversary year, when there is likely to be increased interest in the subject
  • integrates discussion of its major case (Iraq) with a wider historical and theoretical argument

Why did Britain go to war in Iraq in 2003? Existing accounts stress dodgy dossiers, intelligence failures, and the flaws of individual leaders. Deploying the large number of primary documents now available, this book puts ideas at the centre of the story. As the book argues, Britain's war in Iraq was caused by bad ideas that were dogmatically held and widely accepted. Three ideas in particular formed the war's intellectual foundations: the notion of the undeterrable, fanatical rogue state; the vision that the West's path to security is to break and remake states; and the conceit that by paying the 'blood price', Britain could secure influence in Washington DC. These issues matter, because although the Iraq War happened fifteen years ago, it is still with us. As well as its severe consequences for regional and international security, the ideas that powered the war persist in Western security debate. If all wars are fought twice, first on the battlefield and the second time in memory, this book enters the battle over what Iraq means now, and what we should learn.


1: Warpath
2: Breaking States
3: Atlantic Ambitions
4: Weighing the Arguments
5: A Liberal War After All
6: Virtue Runs Amok: How Realism Can Help
Epilogue: Two Speeches


Patrick Porter is Professor of International Security and Strategy at the University of Birmingham. He is Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). His main research interests are U.S. and British grand strategy, the interaction of power and ideas in international relations, and diplomatic and military history. He has published in International Security, War in History and The Journal of Strategic Studies. He grew up in Melbourne, Australia, before completing his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He enjoys ancient history, cricket and cigars.

"A great achievement." - Sam Roggeveen, Director, International Security Program at the Lowy Institute

"Blunder concludes that bad ideas, sincerely and widely held, bear primary responsibility for what went wrong. This is now fifteen year old history and rarely receives a mention but is important for decision makers today." - Keith Simpson MP's Christmas Reading List 2018

"A wide-ranging study of Britain's decision to go to war in Iraq and the unintended consequences." - Garry Woodward, The Interpreter

"Well-researched, elegant and succinctly written." - Sholto Byrnes, The National (UAE)

"A great achievement." - Sam Roggeveen, Director, International Security Program at the  Lowy Institute

"In the welter of critiques of Tony Blair's leading the UK into the war in Iraq, Patrick Porter's stands out for its honesty, deep research, and conclusion that bad ideas, sincerely and widely held, bear primary responsibility. The beliefs that regime change was a moral imperative and required for world security and also that a better government could be readily established produced a combination of fear and confidence that proved lethal." - Robert Jervis, Author of How Statesmen Think

"Patrick Porter's important book identifies and anatomizes the remarkable stew of ideology and fear that drove the United Kingdom to join the United States in invading and occupying Iraq in 2003. The book is a passionate, indeed a morally based cry for greater consideration of the possibility that bad outcomes can and often do grow from good intentions. In Blunder: Britains War in Iraq, Porter focuses on British elites decision for war. He dissects the muddled thinking of supporters of the war and presents a persuasive counterfactual argument for the lesser evil of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. At the heart of his story is the belligerent liberalism that joins so-called neocons and progressives in the belief that democracy grows from the barrel of a gun. Porter also wisely identifies the UK's concern to retain some influence with the last superpower." - Jacqueline L. Hazelton, Assistant Professor, Department of Strategy and Policy, Naval War College

"Blunder offers by far the best account of the most complex and contentious strategic decisions of our time, providing a vital textbook for future decision makers. It is deeply researched, theoretically nuanced, morally engaged, and scrupulously fair. A model of how scholarship can contribute vitally to urgent contemporary questions." - Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies, Australian National University