The Public Policy of the German Government on the Iraq War

Seminar Paper, 2005

18 Pages, Grade: B+ (1,7)









In his campaign for the elections of the German federal parliament Bundestag in October 2002, Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder turned in public against a war with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. He refused sending troops to the Middle East in case of an attack through an international alliance, led by the United States of America.

Together with the president of France, Jacques Chirac, he tried to con- vince the countries of the world, not to participate in such a war. Both coun- tries wanted to form an alliance against the politics of US-president George W. Bush.

This research paper examines the public policy of the German federal government concerning the Iraq crisis from August 2002 to March 2003. Therefore it will apply the theories studied in the Vesalius College course “Comparative European Public Policy Analysis”.

In the first step the research paper describes very detailed the circum- stances under which the policy was developed, what it contained and how it changed. It is looking at the time frame, involved institutions and the target groups of the policy. After this comprehensive outline of the public policy the research papers examines every aspect of it using the Policy Cycle Approach from the bookStudying Public Policyof Michael Howlett and Michael Ramesh.

To reconstruct the policy of the German government the author uses especially articles published in the media, because there are no monographies published already on this topic.

1. Policy Description

Since the Second Gulf War in 1991 Iraq was controlled by the interna- tional community, in particular through the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was per- manently checking suspicious buildings for finding weapons of mass destruc- tion. In the time between the end of Operation Desert Storm and 9/11 in 2001 media did not report very much about Iraq and its authoritarian regime under dictator Saddam Hussein any more.

But with the terrorist attacks against the United States also Saddam came back on the agenda again. Conservative thinkers in Washington had waited a long time to find a reason to overthrow the regime in Baghdad. They already tried under President Bill Clinton (Massarrat 2003, pp. 31 - 35). Now they found the right situation: The conservative President George W. Bush and the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City.

So after the war in Afghanistan in winter 2001 Iraq was big in the news again. The administration under George W. Bush threatened Saddam Hussein and his regime openly, because they were blockading a functioning collaboration with the IAEA. Already in summer 2002 it became very clear, that Bush wanted to turn from threats into action.

During the same time the electoral campaigns in Germany started. And the federal government of Germany, led by the social-democrat Gerhard Schröder, decided to put the item “Iraq crisis” on its government agenda (Der Spiegel 33/2003, p. 27). He made his point and the following public policy of the government very clear: Germany will neither take part nor support an “ad- venture” in the Middle East (Der Spiegel 36/2002, p. 21). He refused sending troops or supporting the United States with money - like Germany did in the Second Gulf War - in case of an attack on Iraq through the States. Schröder hit the point: Most of the German people supported him in his opinion and his social-democratic party was able to gain more sympathy among the citizens than before.

In the time after the elections in October 2002 the public policy con- cerning the Iraq crisis evolved from a passive to a very active one (Der Spiegel 40/2002, pp. 112 - 123). In the first phase Gerhard Schröder did only refuse sending troops or granting support. But now he was searching - to- gether with the President of France, Jacques Chirac - for allies in the world to make a war supported by the United Nations Security Council against Iraq impossible.

It was remarkable that he did change the policy concerning Iraq in this direction, because it caused very serious problems in the bilateral relations between Germany and the United States of America. As we will see later in this research paper, according to the Political Business Cycle there was a huge chance that he turned away from his policy after the elections and changed it into support for the United States - that would have brought him lesser con- cerns and problems.

As a timeframe for a deeper analysis this research paper will concen- trate from the first policy formulation in Germany in August 2002 to the be- ginning of the war in March 2003. Because after this date the policy changed again: Schröder, Chirac and their supporters lost their war with diplomacy against the war of weapons with the United States. Because this is a very lim- ited work, it will not look on the policy after the outbreak of the war.

The first key event in this policy was the initial policy formulation in the electoral campaign in summer 2002. Second the winning of the elections in October 2002, because Schröder and his government changed the policy from a passive to an active one. Third the start of the deep cooperation between France and Germany concerning the question of war. And finally the outbreak of the Third Gulf War in March 2003.

The most important target group of the policy were the citizens of Germany. The government really represented the opinion of most the people. Statistics could prove that afterwards. And the Gerhard Schröder and his cabi- net achieved their aims concerning that point. First they got re-elected in Oc- tober 2002 and second they got a great encouragement from the voters after the elections. But also the international community was a target group. The government presented itself as self-confident as never before in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. The role of Germany during the Iraq crisis opened the country the way to a bigger respect. Hence today they want to get a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations and they could already get broad support for it.

Because this issue is foreign and security policy the main actor was primarily the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the “Auswärtiges Amt” (equal to State Department). The parliament in Berlin, the Deutsche Bundestag, did not take an important part in the crisis. Because in Germany the majority in the Bundestag belongs to the parties of the govern- ment coalition. Hence the majority of the Members of Parliament backed the policy of the government. Other official institutions or interest groups also were not able to take party actively because only the government and parlia- ment have the competences to deal with foreign and security issues (Pötzsch 2001).

However, it should be mentioned that a lot of Non-Governmental- Organisations like ATTAC were responsible for a lot of peace demonstrations in Germany. With their actions they supported the decisions of Schröder and his government.

2. The Policy Cycle Theory

In the next step, the research paper is examining the different stages in the Policy Cycle Theory: Agenda Setting, Policy Formulation, Decision Making, Implementation and Evaluation.

This theory is assuming that each public policy can be divided into these five stages. Of course there are some misconceptions in this model. It is not the task of this research paper to criticize this model in general but to look if there is the possibility to apply it on this specific case study of German pub- lic policy.

2.1 Agenda Setting

The first stage in the Policy Cycle Approach is Agenda Setting. According to the political scientists Cobb and Elder it is “that set of items explicitly up for the active consideration by authoritative decision makers”. Kingdon defines it as “the list of subjects or problems to which government officials and people outside of government closely associated with those officials are paying some serious attention at any given time.”

There are two main theories discussed inStudying Public Policy: The Pluralist Approach and Kingdon’s theory of Policy Streams and the Policy Window. This research paper will also discuss both.

We start with the pluralist approach (Howlett & Ramesh, pp. 132 - 135). It assumes that an item is put on the government agenda from the public. This is called Outside Initiation Model. In contains four phases: (1) Initiation, (2) Specification, (3) Extension, (4) Inclusion. First the problem is defined by the outside, second solutions and policy ideas are formulated, third one will try to gain broader societal support and fourth policy-makers are convinced to deal with the problem recognised by the public. It becomes very clear that this model does not fit into our case study. The public or any other pressure groups did not try to force Chancellor Schröder to deal with the problem. But he him- self came up with the topic when giving a speech in the electoral campaign in August 2002.1 The question of going to war in Iraq was not discussed in pub- lic before, although the crisis in the US-Iraq relations was known.

Also with the policy change after the won elections in October there was no pressure on the government from the outside. But there was a broad support for the policy of Gerhard Schröder by the citizens. So you can conclude that both of the policies - before and after the elections - were initiated by the government itself. However, they do not really fit into the Internal Initiation Model, which contains that public attention is avoided. But public attention was one of the aims of Schröder’s policy.

The political scientist Kingdon developed the theory of Multiple Streams and the Policy Window (Howlett & Ramesh, pp. 135 - 138). Accord- ing to Kingdon there are three streams. The first one is the Stream of Recog- nised Problems. In this stream issues becoming public problems are collected. This stream would fit into the case study.


1 This fact can be proved by looking at the media before Schröder came up with his policy. Best for research is the archive of the German weekly Der Spiegel in 2002.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


The Public Policy of the German Government on the Iraq War
Vrije University Brussel  (Vesalius College Brussels)
Comparative European Public Policy
B+ (1,7)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
413 KB
This research paper examines the public policy of the German federal government concerning the Iraq crisis from August 2002 to March 2003. Therefore it will apply the theories studied in the Vesalius College course 'Comparative European Public Policy Analysis'. It will look if it is possible to apply the Policy Cycle Theory on a field of Foreign Policy. Double spaced.
Public, Policy, German, Government, Iraq, Comparative, European, Public, Policy
Quote paper
Christian Pfeiffer (Author), 2005, The Public Policy of the German Government on the Iraq War, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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