Role Conflict: Canada’s Withdrawal from Combat Operations Against ISIL

With Laura Pelletier


This paper seeks to understand the peculiarity of the Trudeau government’s decision to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from Iraq and Syria. Most studies have focused on electoral turnover to account for early withdrawal from coalition operations. Yet no study offers a plausible explanation for why a centrist challenger, such as Trudeau, favoured early withdrawal despite public support and alliance pressure for continued involvement, and committed when in power to a bolder and riskier mission while withdrawing valued military assets from coalition operations. Building on foreign policy role theory, we argue that role conflict best explains the particularity of the Trudeau government’s withdrawal decision. In the wake of the 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada witnessed an intra-party conflict over which role to perform between that of a faithful ally and a good international citizen. The party leader finally proposed a compromise mission making Canada more involved on the frontlines.


Pelletier, L., Massie. (2017). «Role Conflict: Canada’s Withdrawal from Combat Operations Against ISIL », International Journal, vol. 72, no 3, p. 298-317. DOI:

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