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Before the vote: UK foreign policy discourse on Syria 2011–13

  • Jason Ralph (a1), Jack Holland (a2) and Kalina Zhekova (a3)
Abstract

The literature of recent UK policy toward Syria focuses on the 2013 chemical weapons crisis. We examine policy discourses leading up to that. The government supported the removal of Assad but faced the challenge of explaining how that would be realised. Given its unwillingness and inability to mobilise support for military intervention, or to tailor policy goals to match available means, government strategy arguably lacked credibility. Our purpose is to examine how the government tried to close this ends means gap and how, having failed to do that, its ‘discursive strategy’ legitimised its approach. We argue the resources for the government’s discursive strategy on Syria can be found in the earlier articulation of ‘liberal conservatism’. A policy that from an ideal-liberal or ideal-conservative position might have been criticised as half-baked was maintained by a strategy that gave consideration to, but did not completely follow through on, either archetype. Drawing on an analysis of 2,152 sources and supplemented by elite interviews, we illustrate how this strategy managed the interplay of two basic discourses: a liberal insistence that the UK should support ‘the Arab Spring’ and a conservative insistence that military intervention was imprudent because ‘Syria was not Libya’.

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Corresponding author
*Author’s email: J.G.Ralph@leeds.ac.uk
**Author’s email: j.holland@leeds.ac.uk
***Correspondence to: Kalina Zhekova, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK. Author’s email: K.z.zhekova@leeds.ac.uk
References
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1 See, for example, Stahn, Carsten, ‘Between law-breaking and law-making: Syria, humanitarian intervention and “what the law ought to be”’, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 19:1 (2014), pp. 2548 ; Thakur, Ramesh, ‘R2P after Libya and Syria: Engaging emerging powers’, The Washington Quarterly, 36:2 (2013), pp. 6176 ; Kersavage, Kathryn, ‘The “responsibility to protect” our answer to “never again”? Libya, Syria and a critical analysis of R2P’, International Affairs Forum, 5:1 (2014), pp. 2341 ; Weiss, Thomas G., ‘Military humanitarianism: Syria hasn’t killed it’, The Washington Quarterly, 37:1 (2014), pp. 720 ; Momani, Bessma and Hakak, Tanzeel, ‘Syria’, in Alex J. Bellamy and Tim Dunne (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 895910 ; Odeyemi, Christo, ‘Re-emerging powers and the impasse in the UNSC over R2P intervention in Syria’, Strategic Analysis, 40:2 (2016), pp. 122149 .

2 Strong, James, ‘Why parliament now decides on war: Tracing the growth of the parliamentary prerogative through Syria, Libya and Iraq’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 17:4 (2015), pp. 604622 ; Strong, James, ‘Interpreting the Syria vote: Parliament and British foreign policy’, International Affairs, 91:5 (2015), pp. 11231139 ; Gaskarth, Jamie, ‘The fiasco of the 2013 Syria votes: Decline and denial in British foreign policy’, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:5 (2016), pp. 718734 ; Sarvarian, Arman, ‘Humanitarian intervention after Syria’, Legal Studies, 36:1 (2016), pp. 2047 ; Kaarbo, Juliet and Kenealy, Daniel, ‘No, prime minister: Explaining the House of Commons’ vote on intervention in Syria’, European Security, 25:1 (2016), pp. 2848 . On British foreign policy and the region during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, see Leech, Philip and Gaskarth, Jamie, ‘British foreign policy and the Arab Spring’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, 26:1 (2015), pp. 139160 .

3 On ‘discursive strategy’, see Kettell, Steven, ‘Dilemmas of discourse: Legitimsing Britain’s war on terror’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 15:2 (2013), pp. 263279 .

4 Beardsworth, Richard, Cosmopolitanism and International Relations Theory (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), pp. 4856 .

5 Stephen M. Walt, ‘Obama was not a realist president’, Foreign Policy (7 April 2016), available at: {http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/07/obama-was-not-a-realist-president-jeffrey-goldberg-atlantic-obama-doctrine}; also Guéhenno, Jean-Marie, The Fog of Peace: A Memor of International Peacekeeping in the 21 st Century (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2015), Kindle edition, loc. 5525.

6 Ralph, Jason and Gifkins, Jess, ‘The purpose of Security Council practice: Contesting competence claims in the normative context created by the Responsibility to Protect’, European Journal of International Relations, doi: 10.1177/1354066116669652 .

7 See criticism of former British Chief of Defence Staff, General David Richards in Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon, Cameron at 10: The Inside Story, 2010–2015 (London: William Collins, 2015), pp. 327–8.

8 See Banta, Benjamin R., ‘Analysing discourse as a causal mechanism’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:2 (2013), pp. 379402 .

9 See Holzscheiter, Anna, ‘Between communicative interaction and structures of signification: Discourse theory and analysis in International Relations’, International Studies Perspectives, 15:2 (2014), pp. 142162 .

10 See, for example, Campbell, David, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992); Diez, Thomas, ‘Europe as a discursive battleground discourse analysis and European integration studies’, Cooperation and Conflict, 36:1 (2001), pp. 538 .

11 Jackson, Richard, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005); Buzan, Barry, Wæver, Ole and de Wilde, Jaap, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (London: Lynne Rienner, 1998).

12 Daddow, Oliver, New Labour and the European Union: Blair and Brown’s Logic of History (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, 2011); Daddow, Oliver, ‘Constructing a “great” role for Britain in an age of austerity: Interpreting coalition foreign policy, 2010–2015’, International Relations, 29:3 (2015), pp. 303318 ; Daddow, Oliver, Bevir, Mark, and Schnapper, Pauline, ‘Introduction: Interpreting British European policy’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 53 (2015), pp. 117 ; Gaskarth, Jamie, ‘Discourses and ethics: the social construction of British foreign policy’, Foreign Policy Analysis, 2:4 (2006), pp. 325341 ; Humphreys, Adam R. C., ‘From national interest to global reform: Patterns of reasoning in British foreign policy discourse’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 17:4 (2015), pp. 568584 ; McCourt, David M., ‘Rethinking Britain’s role in the world for a new decade: the limits of discursive therapy and the promise of field theory’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 13:2 (2011), pp. 145164 ; Holland, Jack, ‘Blair’s war on terror: Selling intervention to Middle England’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 14:1 (2012), pp. 7495 ; Kettell, ‘Dilemmas of discourse’.

13 Oppermann, Kai and Spencer, Alexander, ‘Telling stories of failure: Narrative constructions of foreign policy fiascos’, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:5 (2016), pp. 685701 .

14 Bevir, Mark, Daddow, Oliver, and Hall, Ian, ‘Introduction: Interpeting British foreign policy’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 15:2 (2013), pp. 163174 .

15 See, for instance, Weldes, Jutta, ‘Constructing national interests’, European Journal of International Relations, 2:3 (1996), pp. 275318 .

16 Informed broadly by the Minnesota School, including the likes of Jutta Weldes, Roxanne Doty, Mark Laffey, and Raymond Duvall among others.

17 Bentley, Michelle, Syria and the Chemical Weapons Taboo: Exploiting the Forbidden (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016).

18 Reus-Smit, Christian, ‘International crises of legitimacy’, International Politics, 44:2 (2007), p. 157 .

19 Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism, p. 1; Hansen, Lene, Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (London; New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 7 ; Western, Jon, ‘The war over Iraq: Selling war to the American public’, Security Studies, 14:1 (2005), p. 107 ; Holland, ‘Blair’s war on terror’.

20 Doty, Roxanne L., Imperial Encounters: The Politics of Representation in North-South Relations (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 6 .

21 On the importance of strategic agency and intentionality, see Miskimmon, Alister, O’Loughlin, Ben, and Roselle, Laura, Strategic Narratives: Communication, Power and the New World Order (London; New York: Routledge, 2013).

22 Doty, Roxanne L., ‘Foreign policy as social construction: a post-positivist analysis of US counterinsurgency policy in the Philippines’, International Studies Quarterly, 37:3 (1993), pp. 297320 ; Weldes, ‘Constructing national interests’.

23 Bevir et al., ‘Introduction’; Holland, Jack, Selling the War on Terror: Foreign Policy Discourses After 9/11 (London; New York: Routledge, 2012); Ó Tuathail, Gearóid, Dalby, Simon, and Routledge, Paul (eds), The Geopolitics Reader (London; New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 8 .

24 Bevir et al., ‘Introduction’; Gaskarth, Jamie, ‘Interpreting ethical foreign policy: Traditions and dilemmas for policymakers’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 15:2 (2013), pp. 192209 .

25 Bevir et al., ‘Introduction’; see also Holland, Jack, ‘Foreign policy and political possibility’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:1 (2013), pp. 4968 ; and, for discussion of foreign policy as culturally embedded discourse, see chs 1 and 2 (and particularly pp. 41–5) of Holland, Selling the War on Terror.

26 Bevir et al., ‘Introduction’; Hay, Colin, ‘Narrating crisis: the discursive construction of the “winter of discontent”’, Sociology, 30:2 (1996), pp. 253277 ; Hay, Colin, ‘Crisis and the structural transformation of the state: Interrogating the process of change’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 1:3 (1999), pp. 317344 .

27 Holland, ‘Blair’s war on terror’; Gilmore, Jonathan, ‘The uncertain merger of values and interests in UK foreign policy’, International Affairs, 90:3 (2014), pp. 541557 .

28 Hansen, Security as Practice, pp. 54–5.

29 Ibid., p. 55.

30 Limited space means we cite indicative sources. Additional sources are listed in the supplementary material.

31 Throughout the data analysis, regular meetings, and overview within the small research team were coupled to random cross-check sampling of coding to ensure inter-coder reliability.

32 Bevir et al., ‘Introduction’.

33 Hansen, Security as Practice, pp. 95, 52.

34 Also on the use of ‘ideal-types’, see Humphreys, ‘From national interest’.

35 Ralph, Jason, ‘The liberal state in international society: Interpreting recent British foreign policy’, International Relations, 28:1 (2014), pp. 324 ; Gilmore, ‘The uncertain merger of values and interests’.

36 Hall, Ian and Rengger, Nicholas, ‘The Right that failed? The ambiguities of conservative thought and the dilemmas of conservative practice in international affairs’, International Affairs, 81:1 (2005), pp. 6982 .

37 Leech and Gaskarth, ‘British foreign policy’.

38 Hall and Rengger, ‘The Right that failed?’.

39 Ibid., p. 73.

40 On metaphorical reasoning, see Spencer, Alexander, ‘The governance of counter-terrorism and the constitution of threat in Britain’, in Kai Oppermann (ed.), British Foreign and Security Policy: Historical Legacies and Current Challenges (Augsberg: Wißner-Verlag, 2012), pp. 208228 .

41 Here, we note that such a situation was not unique to the Cameron government; rather, tensions between competing UK foreign policy traditions and the discourses they inspire is a longstanding feature of British and other governments.

42 David Cameron, ‘A New Approach to Foreign Affairs – Liberal Conservativism’, Annual JP Morgan Lecture, British-American Project (2006), available at: {http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5336082.stm}; also David Cameron, ‘Address to the United Nations General Assembly’, Cabinet Office (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-camerons-address-to-the-united-nations-general-assembly}; see Beech, Matt, ‘British conservatism and foreign policy: Traditions and ideas shaping Cameron’s global view’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 13:3 (2011), pp. 348363 ; Honeyman, Victoria, ‘Liberal conservatism and foreign policy’, in Oppermann (ed.), British Foreign and Security Policy, pp. 130146 ; Daddow, ‘Constructing a “great” role’.

43 Humphreys, ‘From national interest’, p. 570.

44 David Usborne, Oliver Wright, and Khalid Ali, ‘Obama leads diplomatic push against Assad regime’, Independent (19 August 2011), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/obama-leads-diplomatic-push-against-assad-regime-2340270.html}.

45 Nick Clegg, ‘Deputy Prime Minister’s Speech on the Arab Spring’, Cabinet Office (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/deputy-prime-ministers-speech-on-the-arab-spring}.

46 Author interview with UK diplomat, December 2015.

47 Leech and Gaskarth, ‘British foreign policy’.

48 William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Pledges Continued Support for Syrian People’, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (hereafter FCO) (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-pledges-continued-support-for-syrian-people}.

49 William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Updates Parliament on Middle East and North Africa: 26 April’, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-updates-parliament-on-middle-east-and-north-africa}.

50 David Cameron, ‘Transcript of Interview during Visit to Saudi Arabia’, Cabinet Office (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/transcript-of-interview-during-visit-to-saudi-arabia}.

51 Nick Clegg, ‘Speech on the Arab Spring’.

52 Alistair Burt, ‘The Arab Spring: Freedoms and Dignity, not Guns and Hatred’, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-arab-spring-freedoms-and-dignity-not-guns-and-hatred}; also William Hague, ‘We will Continue to Fight against Terrorism Wherever it Rears its Head’, Lord Mayor’s Banquet, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/we-will-continue-to-fight-against-terrorism-wherever-it-rears-its-head}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Launches Human Rights and Democracy Report’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-launches-human-rights-and-democracy-report}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Discusses Events in Syria’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-discusses-events-in-syria}; William Hague, ‘International Policy Responses to Changes in the Arab World’, London School of Economics and Political Science (2012), available at: {https://www.lse.ac.uk/website-archive/publicEvents/pdf/20120327-William-Hague-transcript.pdf}.

53 Adrian Blomfield, ‘William Hague says no possibility of military intervention’, The Telegraph (2 August 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8674396/Syria-William-Hague-says-no-possiblity-of-military-intervention.html}.

54 Nick, Clegg, ‘Speech on the Arab Spring’; also William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Updates Parliament on the Middle East and North Africa: 13 October’, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-updates-parliament-on-the-middle-east-and-north-africa}.

55 Roland Watson, Alice Thomson, and Rachel Sylvester, ‘Interview with William Hague’, The Times (10 September 2011), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3160292.ece}.

56 Simon Collis, ‘Syria: A Bad Situation that is Getting Worse’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/syria-a-bad-situation-that-is-getting-worse}; also Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Discusses Events in Syria’; William Hague, ‘Freedom is Still Flowering in the Arab Spring’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/freedom-is-still-flowering-in-the-arab-spring}.

57 Cameron, ‘A New Approach to Foreign Affairs’.

58 Kim Sengupta, ‘Will the world ever step in to stop the Syrian slaughter’, The Independent (11 June 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/will-the-world-ever-step-in-to-stop-the-syrian-slaughter-7837039.html}.

59 Cameron, ‘Interview during Visit to Saudi Arabia’; Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference by David Cameron and Barack Obama’ (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/press-conference-by-david-cameron-and-barack-obama}.

60 ‘End of a tyrant’, The Sun (21 October 2011), available at: {https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/856289/end-of-a-tyrant}; ‘Lessons of Libya’, The Times (22 October 2011), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3202827.ece}.

61 Douglas Alexander, ‘We helped free Libya, but our job’s not over’, Independent (4 September 2011), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/douglas-alexander-we-helped-free-libya-but-our-jobs-not-over-2348854.html}.

62 Richard Spencer, ‘Syria isolated after unprecedented Arab League sanctions’, The Telegraph (27 November 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8919029/Syria-isolated-after-unprecedented-Arab-League-sanctions.html}.

63 ‘Turning the screw on Assad’s ailing regime’, The Telegraph (14 November 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/8888875/Turning-the-screw-on-Assads-ailing-regime.html}.

64 Shashank Joshi, ‘Why did the Arab League tyrants’ club finally turn on Syria?’, The Telegraph (15 November 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8892093/Why-did-the-Arab-League-tyrants-club-finally-turn-on-Syria.html}.

65 ‘The Arab League was unable to stop Assad’s repression: the UN must now do so’, The Times (30 January 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mission-impossible-gqswd887cmp}.

66 Alex Spillius, ‘Hague cranks up diplomatic pressure’, The Telegraph (6 February 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9065056/Syria-Britain-recalls-ambassador-as-US-closes-Damascus-embassy.html}.

67 Rick Dewsbury, ‘Cameron says “noose is tightening” around regime as peace talks continue’, Mail Online (12 April 2012), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2128619/Syria-ceasefire-Cameron-says-noose-tightening-Assad-regime.html}.

68 Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference by David Cameron and Barack Obama’.

69 Devorah Lauter, ‘Syria facing “catastrophic assault from opposition”’, The Telegraph (8 July 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9385224/Syria-facing-catastrophic-assault-from-opposition.html}.

70 Michael Weiss, ‘Syria’s rebel leaders are bullish as Assad’s regime “rots from the inside”’, The Telegraph (12 March 2012), available at: {https://henryjacksonsociety.org/2012/03/14/despite-the-horrors-of-homs-syrias-rebel-leaders-are-bullish-as-assads-regime-rots-from-the-inside/}; ‘Syria’s opposition urges mass defections’, The Telegraph (11 June 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9323588/Syrias-opposition-urges-mass-defections.html}; Michael Burleigh, ‘Last chances in Syria’, Mail Online (8 June 2012), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2156434/Last-Chances-Syria-Michael-Burleigh.html}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Condemns Intensified Violence by “Doomed” Syrian Regime’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-condemns-intensified-violence-by-doomed-syrian-regime}.

71 ‘Even Russia must now want to see Assad gone’, The Daily Telegraph (28 May 2012), available at: {www.pressreader.com/uk/the-daily-telegraph/20120528/281930245030340}.

72 William Hague, ‘Speech to the Conservative Party Conference’, Politics.co.uk (2011), available at: {http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2011/10/05/william-hague-speech-in-full}; Alistair Burt, ‘Implications of the Arab Spring for the UK Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy’, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/implications-of-the-arab-spring-for-the-uk-governments-counter-terrorism-strategy}; Daddow, ‘Constructing a “great” role’, p. 309.

73 William Hague, ‘Helping the Arab Spring Succeed is Britain’s Cause Too’, FCO (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/helping-the-arab-spring-succeed-is-britains-cause-too}; also Cameron, ‘Address to the United Nations General Assembly’.

74 Sir Mark Lyall Grant, ‘UN Security Council Meeting’, S/PV.6627 (2011), available at: {http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Golan%20Heights%20S%20PV%206627.pdf}, p. 7; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Sets Out UK’s Approach to Syrian Crisis’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-sets-out-uks-approach-to-syrian-crisis}.

75 Pro-interventionists tried to change this by framing ‘Syria’ as ‘Kosovo’, a reference to the 1999 military intervention that was commonly seen as a success despite its lack of UN mandate. See Anthony Loyd, ‘“Doing nothing” stokes violence’, The Times (2 June 2012), available at: {https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/sunday-star-times/20120603/281878705430637}.

76 Vitaly Churkin, UN Security Council Meeting, S/PV.6627 (2011), available at: {http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Golan%20Heights%20S%20PV%206627.pdf}, p. 4; also Guéhenno, The Fog of Peace, loc. 5848.

77 Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference by David Cameron and Barack Obama’; also Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference: PM and President Obama 13 May’ (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/press-conference-pm-and-president-obama-13-may-2013}.

78 Guéhenno, The Fog of Peace, loc. 5525.

79 FCO, ‘Foreign Secretary: “International Unity” Needed on Syria’ (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-international-unity-needed-on-syria}.

80 ‘Kofi Annan calls on Iran’s help in Syria crisis’, The Telegraph (11 April 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9197295/Kofi-Annan-calls-on-Irans-help-in-Syria-crisis.html}.

81 Guéhenno, The Fog of Peace, loc. 5525.

82 Nick Meo, ‘Geneva meeting agrees “transition plan” to Syria unity government’, The Telegraph (30 June 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9367330/Geneva-meeting-agrees-transition-plan-to-Syria-unity-government.html}; also Cameron, ‘Address to the United Nations General Assembly’.

83 Shaun Walker, ‘Kremlin casts doubt on Kofi Annan mission’, The Independent (17 July 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/kremlin-casts-doubts-on-kofi-annan-mission-7946870.html}.

84 Ian Black, ‘Annan attacks Russia and West’s “destructive competition” over Syria’, The Guardian (6 July 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/06/kofi-annan-syria-destructive-competition}.

85 Oliver Kamm, ‘If you wants lessons in leadership, steer clear of Kofi Annan’, The Times (1 October 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3554188.ece}.

86 Susan Glasser, ‘Foreign Policy interviews US Ambassador Susan Rice at the Core club’, Turtle Bay (6 February 2012), available at: {http://columlynch.tumblr.com/post/17390479529/foreig-policy-interviews-susan-rice-at-the-core}.

87 Hague, ‘Updates Parliament on the Middle East and North Africa: 13 October’.

88 Hague, ‘UK’s Approach to Syrian Crisis’; Alex Spillius, ‘Britain in sharp exchanges with Russia and China over Syria’, The Telegraph (8 February 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9070075/Britain-in-sharp-exchanges-with-Russia-and-China-over-Syria.html}.

89 Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference by David Cameron and Barack Obama’.

90 Spillius, ‘Britain in sharp exchanges’; also Cameron, ‘Interview during Visit to Saudi Arabia’.

91 ‘Moral blindness: Russia and China acted for self-serving motives’, The Times (6 February 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/moral-blindness-v2qqdmj7fn5}; David Blair, ‘Syria: Russia’s risky calculation to hang on to an old island of Soviet influence’, The Telegraph (8 February 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9067575/Syria-Russias-risky-calculation-to-hang-on-to-an-old-island-of-Soviet-influence.html}.

92 The Times, ‘Moral blindness’.

93 Ian Black, ‘Syria’s powerful allies thwart international attempts to halt violence’, The Guardian (6 October 2011), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/global/2011/oct/05/syria-protests-un-analysis}; for Chinese efforts to counter, see Liu Xiaoming, ‘China believes Syria needs a peaceful solution’, The Guardian (9 February 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/09/china-syria-veto-un-resolution}.

94 Knaplund, Paul, Gladstone’s Foreign Policy (London: Cass, 1970), p. 16 .

95 Martin Fletcher, ‘The children of Houla will soon be forgotten’, The Times (28 May 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3427771.ece}.

96 Ruth Sherlock and Richard Spencer, ‘Clinton piles the pressure on Russia to avert civil war after ship docks with cargo of weapons’, The Telegraph (31 May 2012), available at: {https://www.sott.net/article/246290-US-raises-prospect-of-intervention-in-Syria}.

97 Kettell, ‘Dilemmas of discourse’, pp. 265–6.

98 Guéhenno, The Fog of Peace, loc. 5848.

99 Hague, ‘Helping the Arab Spring Succeed is Britain’s Cause Too’; Hague, ‘Freedom is Still Flowering in the Arab Spring’; Cameron, ‘Address to the United Nations General Assembly’; William Hague, ‘Conservative Party Conference: Foreign Secretary William Hague’s speech’, The Telegraph (2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9592459/Conservative-Party-Conference-Foreign-Secretary-William-Hagues-speech-in-full.html}.

100 Hague, ‘We Will Continue to Fight Against Terrorism’.

101 Chris Irvine, ‘Military intervention would be unlikely, says Hague’, The Telegraph (23 February 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9100171/Syria-military-intervention-would-unlikely-says-William-Hague.html}.

102 ‘Syria’s rebels unite to oust Assad’, The Guardian (3 October 2011), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/02/syria-rebels-assad-national-council}.

103 William Hague, ‘We Must Show that We will not Abandon the Syrian People in Their Darkest Hour: Friends of Syria Meeting in Tunis’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/we-must-show-that-we-will-not-abandon-the-syrian-people-in-their-darkest-hour}.

104 William Hague, ‘Comments on 12 February Arab League Meeting on Syria’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-comments-on-12-february-arab-league-meeting-on-syria}.

105 Alex Spillius, ‘How do we help get rid of President Bashar al-Assad?’, The Telegraph (7 February 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9066902/How-do-we-help-get-rid-of-President-Bashar-al-Assad.html}.

106 Joan Smith, ‘The opposition in Syria needs our help’, The Independent (5 February 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/joan-smith/joan-smith-the-opposition-in-syria-needs-our-help-and-now-6422963.html}.

107 Mehdi Hasan, ‘The brave but divided opposition will have to take down Assad on their own’, The Guardian (12 December 2011), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/dec/11/syria-opposition-assad-intervention}.

108 Hélène Mulholland, ‘William Hague: UK to step up help for Syrian rebels’, The Guardian (3 August 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/03/hague-uk-help-syria-rebels}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Statement to Parliament on Syria, 20 May’, FCO (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-statement-to-parliament-on-syria--2};

109 Ruth Sherlock and Richard Spencer, ‘US moves to demand major Syria opposition shake-up’, The Telegraph (1 November 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9649440/US-moves-to-demand-major-Syria-opposition-shake-up.html}.

110 Seldon and Snowdon, Cameron at 10, p. 327; also Ian Black and Julian Borger, ‘Search for Syria strategy focuses on stiffening fragmented opposition’, The Guardian (8 February 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/07/syria-strategy-opposition-arab-west}.

111 Clinton, Hillary, Hard Choices (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), p. 392 .

112 Hague, ‘UK’s Approach to Syrian Crisis’; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Statement on Syria, 10 August’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-statement-on-syria}; Martin Fletcher, ‘British aid boost to Syria rebels is on the way at last’, The Times (18 October 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article3571265.ece}.

113 Ruth Sherlock and Richard Spencer, ‘David Cameron surprises allies with suggestion of arming Syrian rebels’, The Telegraph (10 November 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9669129/David-Cameron-surprises-allies-with-suggestion-of-arming-Syrian-rebels.html}.

114 David Cameron, ‘Transcript of Brussels Press Conference’, Cabinet Office (15 March 2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/transcript-of-brussels-press-conference}; see also Cabinet Office, ‘PM and President Obama 13 May 2013’.

115 Michael Weiss ‘A no-fly zone may be the only way to save Syria’, The Telegraph (28 October 2011), available at: {http://henryjacksonsociety.org/2011/10/28/a-no-fly-zone-may-be-the-only-way-to-save-syria/}.

116 ‘Pariah in Damascus’, The Times (20 August 2011), available at: {https://www.nexis.com/docview/getDocForCuiReq?lni=53M9-83Y1-DY8C-P38R&csi=280434&oc=00240&perma=true}.

117 Nicholas Watt and Martin Chulov, ‘Al Qaida affiliates operating in Syria says Hague’, The Guardian (12 June 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/11/al-qaida-syria-william-hague}; see also Guéhenno, The Fog of Peace, loc. 5683.

118 Daddow, ‘Constructing a “great” role’, p. 311; Gilmore, ‘The uncertain merger of values and interests’.

119 Damien McElroy, ‘Cameron warns of “strategic imperative” to arm Syrian rebels’, The Telegraph (17 December 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9751487/David-Cameron-warns-of-strategic-imperative-to-arm-Syrian-rebels.html}; Cabinet Office, ‘PM and President Obama 13 May 2013’, Cameron arguing ‘if we don’t work with that [legitimate] part of the opposition then we shouldn’t be surprised if the extremist elements grow’.

120 Alex Spillius, David Blair, and Christopher Hope, ‘Britain takes the lead in talks over arming Syrian rebels’, The Telegraph (11 December 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9738020/Britain-takes-the-lead-in-talks-over-arming-Syrian-rebels.html}; Martin Chulov, ‘Cameron starts to force the pace’, The Guardian (12 November 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/12/cameron-syria-conflict-rebels-policy}; ‘No votes are to be had in Syria’, Independent (30 December 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/editorial-no-votes-are-to-be-had-in-syria-8433627.html}.

121 Author interview with UK diplomat, December 2015. On the moral equivalence discourse, see Patrick Cockburn, ‘The descent into Holy War’, Independent (15 December 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/syria-the-descent-into-holy-war-8420309.html}; Matt Blake, ‘Syrian rebel cuts out soldier’s heart and eats it’, Mail Online (13 May 2013), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323858/Syrian-rebel-cuts-soldiers-heart-EATS-horrific-propaganda-video.html}.

122 David Cameron, ‘Prime Minister’s Statement on G8 Summit’, Cabinet Office (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-statement-on-g8-summit}.

123 David Cameron, ‘Speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet’, Cabinet Office (2011), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-statement-on-g8-summit} quoted in Daddow, ‘Constructing a “great” role’, p. 312.

124 ‘Libya’s power battle is not over’, Independent (23 September 2012), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/editorial-libya-s-power-battle-is-not-over-8166535.html}.

125 Tim Walker and Nigel Morris, ‘Obama says Cameron allowed Libya to become a “s*** show”’, Independent (10 March 2016), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/barack-obama-says-david-cameron-allowed-libya-to-become-a-s-show-a6923976.html}.

126 Chris Roycroft-Davis, ‘The phoney Arab Spring was always doomed to failure’, The Express (15 September 2012), available at: {http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/346118/The-phoney-Arab-Spring-was-always-doomed-to-failure}; also ‘Arab Autumn’, The Times (17 September 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3540087.ece}; Seumas Milne, ‘The Muslim eruption reflects blowback from US intervention’, The Guardian (18 September 2012), available at: {https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/18/violent-protests-blowback-us-intervention}.

127 Burt, ‘The Arab Spring: Freedoms and Dignity’.

128 William Hague, ‘Developing the UK’s Global Reach’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/developing-the-uks-global-reach}.

129 Cameron, ‘Address to the United Nations General Assembly’; also David Cameron, ‘PM’s Speech about Indonesia’s Transformation at Al Azhar University’, Cabinet Office (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/transcript-prime-ministers-speech-at-al-azhar-university--10}; William Hague, ‘Countering Terrorism Overseas’, FCO (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/countering-terrorism-overseas}.

130 Jack Straw, ‘What is happening across the Arab World shows that al-Qaida has failed’, The Times (4 May 2011), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3006871.ece}.

131 ‘Syria committed crimes against humanity, UN says’, The Telegraph (28 November 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8920847/Syria-committed-crimes-against-humanity-UN-says.html}.

132 Mark Palmer and Paul Wolfowitz, ‘Our dithering has played into Assad’s hands’, The Sunday Times (22 July 2012), available at: {http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/focus/article1086774.ece}.

133 ‘Balkan ghosts’, The Times (12 June 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3442720.ece}.

134 Simms, Brendan, Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (London: Penguin Books, 2002); see Dodds, Klaus and Elden, Stuart, ‘Thinking ahead: David Cameron, the Henry Jackson Society and British neo-conservatism’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 10:3 (2008), pp. 354355 . Thanks to Ian Hall for this point.

135 Hague, ‘Human Rights and Democracy Report’.

136 William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Statement to Parliament on Syria’, FCO (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-statement-to-parliament-on-syria}.

137 Cameron, ‘Speech about Indonesia’s Transformation’; Hague, ‘Statement on Syria’.

138 Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Condemns Intensified Violence’; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Statement to Parliament on the Crisis in Syria’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-statement-to-parliament-on-the-crisis-in-syria}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary’s Remarks with French Foreign Minister Fabius’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretarys-remarks-with-french-foreign-minister-fabius-in-new-york-on-the-situation-in-syria}.

139 Hague, ‘Speech to the Conservative Party Conference’.

140 Alistair Burt, ‘Minister Condemns “Brutal” Massacre in Syria’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/minister-condemns-brutal-massacre-in-syria}; Hague, ‘We Will Not Abandon the Syrian People: Friends of Syria Meeting’.

141 Cabinet Office, ‘Press Conference by David Cameron and Barack Obama’; see also William Hague, ‘Syrian Assault on Aleppo is Unacceptable Escalation of Conflict’, FCO (2012), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-syrian-assault-on-aleppo-is-unacceptable-escalation-of-conflict}; William Hague, ‘Foreign Secretary Statement on the Middle East and North Africa: 10 July’, FCO (2013), available at: {https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-statement-on-the-middle-east-and-north-africa}.

142 Global Center for Responsibility to Protect, ‘R2P Monitor’ (10 January 2012), available at: {http://www.globalr2p.org/media/files/r2p_monitor_january2012.pdf}, p. 2; ‘Crimes against humanity’, The Times (22 February 2012), available at: {http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3327471.ece}.

143 Raf Sanchez, Richard Spencer, and Damien McElroy, ‘Obama warns Syria over chemical weapons’, The Telegraph (20 August 2012), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9488314/Barack-Obama-red-line-warning-over-chemical-weapons-in-Syria.html}.

144 ‘Syria and the errors we must not repeat’, Daily Mail (26 August 2013), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2401963/daily-mail-comment-Syria-errors-repeat.html}.

145 Oliver Wright and James Cusick, ‘The heir to Blair: Cameron makes “moral case” for attack on Syria in echo of defence for Iraq war’, Independent (27 August 2013), available at: {https://www.independent.co.uk/independentplus/the-heir-to-blair-david-cameron-makes-moral-case-for-attack-on-syria-in-echo-of-defence-for-iraq-war-8786829.html}.

146 Max Hastings, ‘Cameron’s Syrian war games are shambles’, Mail Online (August 29, 2013), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2406132/Syria-vote-A-savage-defeat-David-Cameron--brought-himself.html}. On support for limited strikes for limited ends, see Toby Young, ‘Syria: the moral case for military intervention is now overwhelming’, The Telegraph (26 August 2013), available at: {http://www.nosacredcows.co.uk/blog/comments/2287/redoubtable}.

147 Daniel Hannan, ‘Parliament is right to be sceptical: this isn’t really about chemical weapons’, Blogs.Telegraph.co.uk (28 August 2013), available at: {http://www.instantencore.com/buzz/item.aspx?FeedEntryId=289125}.

148 Daddow, ‘Constructing a “great” role’, p. 309.

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