The Iraq Inquiries: Publicity, Secrecy and Liberal Security
Thomas, Owen David
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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Reason for embargo
I wish to place an embargo on my thesis to be made universally accessible via ORE, the online in stitutional repository, for a standard period of 18 months becaus e I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
The Iraq ‘Chilcot’ Inquiry is the last in a string of public inquiries tasked with understanding how the British state went to war with Iraq. In so doing, the inquiries have become defined by the problem of striking a balance between publicity and secrecy. While exposing foreign policy decision-making to public scrutiny should be the norm in a liberal democracy, this must be balanced by state secrecy, which is justified in exceptional circumstances when there is a threat to national security. Striking the right balance acts to maintain and legitimise a distinction between liberal and illiberal regimes by justifying exceptions as the mitigation of existential threats to liberal values. In contrast to the balance metaphor, this thesis shows how the inquiries are a site of contestation between two technologies of government: the public gaze and official secrecy. Drawing on Foucault, I demonstrate how both technologies support the liberal ‘security dispositif’: the exercise of freedom without too little or too much government. Each technology secures this liberal governmentality in a different but mutually supportive way. The public gaze seeks constitutes security of the liberal subject by exposing, criticising and disciplining statesmen and statecraft. Official secrecy, meanwhile, constitutes security of the state by protecting the value of privileged information used to support a necessary minimum of government. In this context, the balance metaphor may be recognized as the discursive framework that, in any moment, legitimises either the exercise of publicity in response to insecurity engendered by secrecy or vice versa. The balance metaphor thereby supports a further distinction between the responsible liberal self and the illiberal other. I show how the Iraq Inquiry legitimizes British official secrecy while re-inscribing the conditions of possibility for waging liberal war.
PhD in Politics