The uncertainty around the process of launching military action by Britain has come full circle after cruise missiles landed in Syria mid-April. Two UK academics argue the attack chipped away further at a parliamentary convention intended to secure Parliament’s say and created an added exception for airstrikes – a cornerstone of modern warfare.
In 2011 the coalition government in Britain suggested that following the 2003 invasion of Iraq a convention had emerged that prior to committing troops to military operations, the Parliament’s House of Commons should have an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Authors of the new book Parliament’s Secret War, Drs. Veronika Fikfak and Hayley J. Hooper have found that “in addition to broadly-defined ’emergency’ or ‘secrecy’ exceptions, two specific types of military activity — the deployment of embedded Special Forces and unmanned drone strikes — had already been exempted from the convention.”
The academics then argue that increasing exemptions from the convention, combined with a flourishing “information asymmetry” between government and parliament, creates a real risk of another ‘Iraq moment’ in the near future.
Nothing Set in Stone
It is not a matter of breaking UK legislation. Whitehall is not legally required to get Parliament’s approval to launch military operation. The government’s right to defend the realm, including the deployment of military forces, is granted by the prerogative executive…