The War of Ideas
in Conspiracy theory and American foreign policy
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This chapter shifts the focus from foreign policy commentary to War on Terror doctrine. It does so by engaging with the Bush Administration’s War of Ideas strategy, which aimed to undermine the cultural drivers of terrorism by winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of Arab-Muslims thought vulnerable to radicalisation. Tracing the Arab-Muslim paranoia narrative into this policy setting, it shows how the War of Ideas strategy tended to produce the conditions it sought to address. Delegitimizing dynamics embedded a strong countervailing force against successful engagement with Arab-Muslim people, who were framed here as inherently problematic. At the same time, the War of Ideas accentuated the contrast between America’s purported ideals and the often-ruthless pursuit of American interests. Under these circumstances, the War of Ideas had the potential to provoke suspicion of conspiracies, double-dealing and ulterior motives, as well as cynicism about American values.

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