Preface and Acknowledgements
This Preface and Acknowledgements page is intended to provide a brief background to why the PatternsofPower books were written, and to acknowledge those who have helped in compiling the material.
The initial impulse for writing these books came from a desire to understand how America and Britain were allowed to invade Iraq in 2003, despite the opposition of the UN Security Council and the public protests against the war. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic endorsed the decision to invade, yet the reasons for the invasion remain unclear:
Was it self-defence, in response to a perceived military threat?
Was it a moral mission, to rescue the Iraqi people from oppression?
Was there a political objective, to bring stability to the Middle East through democratisation?
Was there an economic concern for the stability of oil supplies?
Or was it to enforce an earlier UN resolution, to uphold international law?
As reported in an Economist article, Five years on, politicians said all of these things at different times, in an attempt to sell the policy to a sceptical audience:
“Mr Bush and Mr Blair refused after the war to be embarrassed by the absence of the weapons that had so alarmed them beforehand. They stressed instead all the other reasons why it had been a good idea to overthrow Mr Hussein.”
The effect of the mixed messages was confusing, and these arguments warranted re-examination. Previous experiences, and the perspectives of some of the stakeholders, had been ignored.
The decision to invade Iraq was an example of a more general problem: politicians must often make decisions which have a great impact on us, yet it can be hard to understand or comment on whether they are acting in our best interests. Good governance can protect us – as in the example of Clean Air Acts in America, Britain and elsewhere – but bad decisions can affect us adversely, without our consent and often without political accountability.
The PatternsofPower books aim to provide a way of understanding and assessing the ways in which power is used.
The pattern descriptions refer to numerous information sources, so I have avoided the use of the first person in the text and I am using a pen-name on the cover. They have been chosen for the convenience of readers of the books and this website, so they prioritise websites such as the BBC which are stable (and it doesn’t charge for access). Most of the sources are accessible through the Internet, and the PatternsofPower books act as portals to this extended information.
I gratefully acknowledge the help of my wife – who has commented, proof-read, and suggested changes but most of all has discussed the concepts with me, providing a lively challenge to my personal views.
The RSA helped me to carry out research in India, and the RSA Fellows in Delhi were particularly generous.
I also acknowledge the role played by the discussion groups that I belong to, including those organised by the U3A and by Christian Michel, which have provided a wide range of viewpoints.
I am grateful to the following people for reading, and in some cases re-reading, parts of this book as it has emerged: Chris Ellis, Ken Figueredo, Geoff Hoon, David Lokkerbol, Richard Nevill, Mike Radcliffe, Bill Swan, and Chris Taylor.
I thank Anna Mesber, Lesley Rowntree, and Marc Morgan for useful comments which have led to changes in the book.
In later editions of this Preface and Acknowledgements, I shall also acknowledge further contributors to my blog at https://www.patternsofpower.org/blog/, naming other people whose ideas become incorporated in the book.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/Preface-a.htm.