|Thursday May 16, 2013||University of Exeter > eProfile > Listing by Researcher|
Owen D Thomas BA MRes (Exon) JP
School: College of Social Sciences and International Studies
PhD Project Summary
Publicity, Security and The Liberal Way of War: Upsetting the Balance in the Iraq Inquiries This research is funded by the University of Exeter and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Part of the Liberal Peace thesis claims a distinctive legitimacy for the wars waged by liberal democratic states because the state is constrained by a public conducting a specific mode of scrutiny. Sceptics suggest such a public is either rendered tragically inert or is a threat to the national interest. My research evaluates this debate through the post-hoc public inquiries established to scrutinise the UK's part in the 2003 Iraq War. The project combines a study of liberal theories of the public sphere with an empirical account of contemporary discourses and practices of publicity.
This thesis offers an articulation of the relationship between publicity and security as instantiated in the pre and post-war scrutiny of British participation in the Iraq War. Reflecting on how the security practices of actually existing liberal-democracy are constituted, the thesis emphasises the role that the liberal public plays in inscribing the dynamics of liberal war.
A self-proclaimed liberal democracy, the British Government claimed legitimacy for war through the politics of publicity. Iraq’s lack of openness constituted a threat whilst the presumed restraint of domestic and international public spheres – that demand openness as a condition of possibility – granted Britain authority to act. In this way the politics of publicity restrains the security apparatus of the state, as the Liberal Peace suggests. Yet a lingering suspicion of deception by the British Government has generated mistrust in the state, undermining Britain’s existential identity as liberal and the legitimacy granted by such a status. Several public inquiries have sought to renew legitimacy and authenticate liberal identity by providing an authoritative and transparent account of how Britain went to war. Yet these inquiries have been obstructed by the endurance of official secrecy, which the Government defends on the basis that publicity must be balanced against national security. This episode generates a perceived dilemma between the ideal of liberal publicity and the maintenance of national security, which this thesis attempts to move beyond.
The central claim of this thesis is that publicity has a ‘double aspect’: the normative principle establishes the groundwork for Enlightenment Ideals but as a practice of governance it is a constitutive component of liberal security - governing through inquiries into political behaviour and granting authority to act against deception. This has two implications: firstly, the false metaphor of ‘balance’ generates a obsession with, and a re-inscription of, official secrecy that distracts attention from the essential role of liberal publicity in authorising and legitimising the use of force against Iraq; secondly on the relationship between publicity and the liberal way of war, the public inquiry and the international inquiries into Iraq’s deception (upon which the British case for war depended) are part of this same apparatus of security constituted by publicity. Our ubiquitous calls for a ‘full public inquiry’ re-inscribes this strategy.
Dr. Andrew Schaap (First Supervisor)
Dr. John Heathershaw (Second Supervisor)
Dr. Bice Maiguashca (Mentor)
Wider Research Interests
Owen D Thomas (October 2010) 'Whose biopolitics is it anyway?Power and potentiality in biometric border security' , In-Spire Journal of Law, Politics and Societies, Vol. 5, No. 1, (Special Issue: Boundaries, Borders and (Inter)disciplinary research) , 72-90 (http://www.in-spire.org/archive/vol5-no1/Thomas51.pdf)
The University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon, UK EX4 4QJ
NOTE FOR NETSCAPE 4 users: This website has been produced to be standards compliant. If you can read this message, you may be viewing the site using an older browser. Whilst all the content in this site will be accessible to you, some of the presentational aspects may not. To see this site as it is intended, you should consider using a modern browser. See the Web Standards Project for more details.