12 Jan

The British House of Commons and the Conflicts in Libya and Syria

Curbing the Royal Prerogative to Use Military Force: The British House of Commons and the Conflicts in Libya and Syria

Abstract: To what extent does political practice under the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (2010–2015) reflect a ‘parliamentary prerogative’? From a formal-institutional point of view one should not expect substantial parliamentary influence in Britain. Yet recent developments suggest the emergence of a new convention. Examining parliamentary debates during the run-up to the votes on Libya and Syria, this contribution shows that the scope and contents of this convention remain contested. Specifically, there is disagreement about the kind of operations that ought to be exempt from the rule, questions of parliamentary procedure that favour the executive and, crucially, the proper timing of substantive votes. Nonetheless, parliament has emerged from the vote on Syria as an informal veto player on decisions regarding war involvement. However, whether MPs will exercise their veto power in prospective cases will depend on the preference distribution in the legislature and the nature of the proposed deployment.

Keywords: Constitutional convention, legislative–executive relations, military intervention, parliamentary war powers, prerogative powers

Mello, Patrick A. (2017) Curbing the Royal Prerogative to Use Military Force: The British House of Commons and the Conflicts in Libya and Syria, West European Politics 40:1, 80-100 [Article]

The paper is part of a Special Issue of West European Politics on “Challenging Executive Dominance: Legislatures and Foreign Affairs”, co-edited by Tapio Raunio and Wolfgang Wagner [Introduction to the Special Issue]

05 Jan

Two Entries Published in The SAGE Encyclopedia of War

Democratic Peace Theory

Abstract: “Democracies almost never go to war against each another. This simple observation has acquired the status of an empirical law in the social sciences. Yet, while democracies tend to have peaceful relations with one another, this is not to claim that democracies are generally less war-prone than other regime types. To the contrary, many empirical studies find that the overall rate of war involvement does not differ substantially between democracies and non-democracies. This dual finding constitutes the core of the ‘democratic peace’ and it specifies the elements that any theory needs to explain in order to fully account for the observed phenomena: the peaceful relations between democracies on the one hand, and the war involvement of democratic regimes on the other hand.

Mello, Patrick A. (2017) Democratic Peace Theory, in Paul I. Joseph, ed., The Sage Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, Thousand Oaks: Sage, 472-6. [Preprint]

New and Old Wars

Abstract: “The end of the Cold War did not abolish armed conflict, but it coincided with a substantial decline in the total number of violent outbreaks around the globe. At the same time, though, the number of internal wars increased substantially, making these the dominant form of conflict of the contemporary era. These empirical trends prompted a lively debate among scholars as to whether the observed quantitative change in conflict patterns that had taken place in the wake of the Cold War also indicated a qualitative transformation of warfare. Many authors indeed argued, that intra-state or civil wars, underwent a qualitative change during this time period. In this context, the term ‘new wars’ was introduced by Mary Kaldor, who suggested that in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe a new form of organized violence had emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Kaldor understood these conflicts on the one hand as a result of accelerated globalization processes and, on the other hand, as a consequence of the power vacuum left behind by the Cold War era. According to Kaldor, new wars differed from ‘old wars’ in terms of how they were being financed, with regards to the underlying motives of the warring parties, and concerning their mode of warfare. Herfried Münkler further developed the new war thesis, arguing that the new forms of conflict were characterized by the joint occurrence of privatization, demilitarization, and asymmetricalization. These processes entail a weakening of state structures, an increase in non-state actors as warring parties, the dissolution of distinctions between military and nonmilitary aspects, including the differentiation between civilians and combatants, and, finally, asymmetric constellations of actors, strategies, and capabilities. While for each of these phenomena historical precedents could be found in earlier times, Münkler argued that their joint occurrence after the Cold War led to the distinctly novel phenomenon of new wars.

Mello, Patrick A. (2017) New and Old Wars, in Paul I. Joseph, ed., The Sage Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1209-11. [Preprint]

[More Information] on the four-volume Sage Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, edited by Paul Joseph.