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

Ralph, J; Holland, J; Zhekova, K; (2017) Before the vote: UK foreign policy discourse on Syria 2011-13. Review of International Studies , 43 (5) pp. 875-897. 10.1017/S0260210517000134. Green open access

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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’.

Type: Article
Title: Before the vote: UK foreign policy discourse on Syria 2011-13
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0260210517000134
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210517000134
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10071174
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