Leadership Style and International Norm Violation: The Case of the Iraq War

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We examine the topic of decision making and norm violation in international politics. While constructivists emphasize norm conformity due to global social pressures, and realists emphasize the ease of norm violation due to self-interest and the lack of a world enforcer, we argue that these approaches fail to explain variation in normative behavior in foreign policy. We suggest that normative behavior is mitigated importantly by leaders' beliefs and decision-making styles. Leaders who view the international environment in state-centric, Hobbesian terms and are less sensitive to the political context are more likely to violate international norms than leaders who view world politics in more benign terms and are more sensitive to contextual pressures. We test these expectations by correlating key leadership traits of Bush Administration officials with their positions regarding the normatively suspect invasion of Iraq in 2003. The findings suggest that need for power, belief in ability to control events, ingroup bias, and especially distrust may be important predictors of one's willingness to violate international norms. We discuss the implications of our results for the prospect for international society to regulate force, and call for a third wave of constructivism wedded to its ideational ally of political psychology.



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