The Iraq War and Democratic Backsliding

Issue Date April 2023
Volume 34
Issue 2
Page Numbers 135–49
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In recent years, democratic backsliding has become a source of increasing anxiety with the rise of populism, polarization, and disinformation. The seeds were sown 20 years ago with the decision to invade Iraq, the unintended consequences of which continue to reverberate today. The faulty intelligence and incompetence of the intervention caused a decline in trust in elites, experts, and the establishment. This in turn weakened the social contract between government and citizens, enabling the rise of identity politics, and creating the space for populist leaders claiming that they represent the “real people.” The Iraq war paved the way to Brexit and Trump.

About the Author

Emma Sky is founding director of the International Leadership Center and a lecturer at the Jackson School of Global Affairs at Yale University. Her books include The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (2015) and In a Time of Monsters: Travels Through a Middle East in Revolt (2019).

View all work by Emma Sky