Abstract for:Bush, Hussein, and Coupled Cognitive Biases in the Lead-Up to the Iraq War

The Iraq War was an eight-year fight resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In 2014, 71 percent of Americans thought the war was not worth it (Sakuma 2014). So why did the United States originally engage? Scholars argue that chronic misperceptions and cognitive biases from both President George Bush and Saddam Husseinís sides between 1991 and 2004 drove the build-up to the war. Here, I develop a model that enables us to test the impact of coupled cognitive biases on generating the build-up to the war. Synthesizing the findings of the literature, I propose that the main biases on the US side were confirmation bias and group think, and the main bias on the Iraq side was saliency bias. I use this model to test what couplings of biases are needed for the US to hit the tipping point of declaring war. My results indicate that just removing Iraqi saliency bias would not have been enough to prevent war declaration, and reducing US groupthink is the real driver needed for prevention. I aim for this model to be a discussion piece that informs current foreign policy decision-making.