Parliamentary peace or partisan politics? Democracies’ participation in the Iraq War

  • Patrick A Mello


This paper seeks to explain democracies’ military participation in the Iraq War. Prior studies have identified institutional and partisan differences as potential explanatory factors for the observed variance. The interaction of institutions and partisanship, however, has gone largely unobserved. I argue that these factors must be analysed in conjunction: institutional constraints presume actors that fulfil their role as veto players to the executive. Likewise, partisan politics is embedded in institutional frames that enable or constrain decision-making. Hence I suggest a comparative approach that combines these factors to explain why some democracies joined the ad hoc coalition against Iraq and others did not. To investigate the interaction between institutions, partisanship and war participation I apply fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis. The analysis reveals that the conjunction of right-of-centre governments with an absence of both parliamentary veto rights and constitutional restrictions was sufficient for participation in the Iraq War. In turn, for countries where the constitution requires parliamentary approval of military deployments, the distribution of preferences within the legislature proved to be decisive for military participation or non-participation.


democratic peace fuzzy sets institutional constraints Iraq War QCA 



I am grateful to Julian Brückner, Christopher Daase, Gary Goertz, Ellen Immergut, Mikkel Runge Olesen, Charles Ragin, Ingo Rohlfing, Claudius Wagemann, Wolfgang Wagner and the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. Earlier versions were presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, St Gallen, the 6th ECPR General Conference, Reykjavik and seminars at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I thank participants in these forums for their suggestions and the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences for financial support.

Supplementary material

41268_2012_BFjird201211_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.1 mb)
Online Appendix


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick A Mello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

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