chapter  11
Whose norm is it anyway? Mediating contested norm- histories in Iraq (2003) and Syria (2013) F RANk H A RV EY A ND J O HN MITT ON
Pages 20

Introduction The present volume constitutes a welcome extension of the expanding research on the evolution of norms in international politics. In this chapter, the distinction between norm entrepreneurs (as the agents conventionally studied within the norm literature) and norm antipreneurs (the often overlooked resisters of change) offers useful analytical insight into two prominent international crises of the twenty-first century: the 2003 Iraq War and the 2013 Syrian chemical weapons crisis. In both cases, important norm-infused debates regarding appropriate international, diplomatic and military responses had major implications for how the crises unfolded. A careful application of the norm entrepreneur/antipreneur framework offers a powerful point of entry for challenging conventional interpretations; by exploring which groups of actors were arguing for specific entrepreneurial adjustments to existing norms, and who was resisting them (antipreneurs), important parts of the relevant history can be unpacked to produce a better understanding of the evolution of norms in these important cases. Despite widely entrenched views to the contrary, the 2003 Iraq War occurred not as the result of a neoconservative push for unilateral military action but rather as a consequence of, inter alia, the path dependencies and imperatives of coercive diplomacy that resulted from the successful application of multilateralism by George W. Bush, Tony Blair and many congressional leaders (Harvey 2011). In this sense, it was the resistance to neoconservative unilateralism in favour of the established norm of multilateralism1 that represents the key point of departure for our case study, and the central lesson to learn about the resilience of international norms during the Iraq crisis. With respect to Syria, critics of the Obama administration rejected as morally reprehensible any military action against the country (despite the regime’s use of sarin gas in 2013) because, as many critics argued at the time, these military attacks would run counter to well-established norms of non-intervention and the internationally endorsed practice of using multilateral consensus through United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions to justify interventions. However, these stated ‘norms’ were eschewed by the Obama administration in favour of pursuing a more robust coercive military strategy designed to (a) protect and

reinforce newly established normative principles associated with the international community’s responsibility to protect, and (b) to circumvent changes to similarly entrenched international norms against the use of chemical weapons. The threat ultimately succeeded by securing a comprehensive chemical weapons disarmament deal and Syrian accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), thereby reinforcing the norm against chemical weapons use; this outcome would not have been possible, ironically, had the Obama administration followed the advice of many avowed proponents of that norm. In both cases, then, there was a clear tension between those arguing for a substantive shift in the norms guiding Amer ican foreign policy on the one hand, and those, on the other, resisting them in favour of established norms. These nuanced interpretations of each case, employing the norm entrepreneur/antipreneur framework, are helpful for understanding and interpreting the relevant facts and resulting outcomes in these two recent international crises. Perhaps the most interesting feature of exploring these particular case studies is that, depending on circumstances and related threats, both forms of intervention (multilateralism in Iraq; unilateralism in Syria) can be instrumental in protecting existing norms. Process is secondary to outcome. That is to say, in Antje Wiener’s (2014) terms, that norm contestation can occur at the ‘intermediate level’ of ‘organisational principles’ related to the protection of overarching ‘fundamental norms’ (as in Iraq) or at the ‘upper level’ between competing fundamental norms themselves (as in Syria). In either case, the particular policies that were implemented are ultimately less interesting and informative (with respect to unpacking the historical facts of the case) than the underlying norms being contested and/or pursued. The chapter is organised as follows. Beginning with the 2003 Iraq case, we employ the norm entrepreneur/antipreneur framework for the purpose of evaluating competing interpretations of the debates, arguments and strategies that led to war. The standard account is presented, in which the entrepreneurial efforts of the ‘neocons’ successfully culminated in a unilateral invasion of Iraq. This is followed by an alternative (we believe more accurate) interpretation of the facts, in which the antipreneurial efforts of those defending the established norm of multilateralism are shown to have prevailed. The outcome was the same (war), regardless of which interpretation one accepts, but unpacking the details surrounding the motivations driving each of the key decisions is crucial to appreciating the broader implications with respect to the health and evolution of key international norms. In the case of Iraq, for example, multilateralism, both in terms of domestic and international consensus, can lead to war, especially if the generally accepted strategy was driven primarily by catastrophically bad (although widely endorsed) intelligence. In the second part of the chapter, we again apply the norm entrepreneur/antipreneur framework in an attempt to unpack the relevant tensions and debates that surrounded the Amer ican response to Syrian chemical weapons use in late summer 2013. Taken together, these case studies make two important contributions to debates over international norms. First, they extend the discussion of norms beyond the ‘liberal bias’ that Bloomfield and Scott identify in the introduction to this volume;

prominent cases of international conflict are incorporated into the norm literature not for the ‘progressive’ purpose of promoting (or highlighting) any particular normative cause, but for the analytical purchase this lens provides. Second, we demonstrate that the distinction between norm entrepreneurs and norm antipreneurs is a useful framework for understanding relevant debates and the implications of those debates for the outcomes in each case: the distinction helps us get the history right.