Using role theory to analyse British military intervention in the Syrian civil war during David Cameron’s premiership

  • James StrongEmail author
Original Article


This article uses role theory to study British military intervention in the Syrian Civil War during David Cameron’s premiership. It attempts to understand the Cameron government’s limited willingness to use force (or willingness to use limited force) in the conflict as a product of role contestation in parliament. By analysing three debates preceding votes on military action in August 2013, September 2014 and December 2015, it shows how MPs debated whether Britain should play three distinct roles—of ‘faithful ally’, ‘responsible great power’ and ‘rule of law state’—and discussed how far fulfilling each role meant being willing to intervene militarily. Their disagreements, the article argues, undermined the coherence of the government’s preferred strategy, but did so without fundamentally delegitimising the idea of using force—hence its constrained commitment to intervention. The article concludes that involving parliament in decisions about military action makes it an important site for domestic role contestation of this sort.


UK foreign policy Syrian civil war Role theory Foreign policy analysis Parliament Military intervention 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics and International RelationsQueen Mary, University of LondonLondonUK

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