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A poststructural critique
Author: Natalie Bormann

Why adopt a poststructural perspective when reading about the military strategy of national missile defence (NMD)? Certainly, when considering how best to defend the United States against attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles, the value of critical international relations theory may be easy to overlook. So, how might the insight of scholars such as Michel Foucault contribute to our understanding of the decision-making processes behind NMD policy? The deployment of NMD is a sensitive political issue. Official justification for the significance of the NMD system is based upon strategic feasibility studies and conventional threat predictions guided by worst-case scenarios. However, this approach fails to address three key issues: the ambiguous and uncertain nature of the threat to which NMD responds; controversy over technological feasibility; and concern about cost. So, in light of these issues, why does NMD continue to stimulate such considerable interest and secure ongoing investment? Presented as an analysis of discourses on threats to national security – around which the need for NMD deployment is predominately framed – this book argues that the preferences underlying NMD deployment are driven by considerations beyond the scope of strategic approaches and issues. The conventional wisdom supporting NMD is contested using interpretive modes of inquiry provided by critical social theory and poststructuralism, and it is suggested that NMD strategy should be viewed in the context of US national identity. The book seeks to establish a dialogue between the fields of critical international relations theory and US foreign policy.

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National missile defence (NMD) and IR
Natalie Bormann

This introductory chapter discusses the National Missile Defence (NMD) Act of 1999, which established in law the policies of sending a missile defence system as soon as it was technologically possible; addresses the questions of identity and how one should make sense of the NMD; and introduces international relations. It then looks at the link between national identity and foreign policy, before the chapter ends with an outline of the following chapters.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter shows how the poststructural approach provides a useful epistemological and ontological engagement with identity. It reveals that Michel Foucault has been increasingly called upon in analyses on security discourses; his work is also used to invite individuals to reflect on the connection between the constitution of identities and particular (disciplinary) practices. The chapter discusses the construction of the self, identity performance and how America has come into being using a process of imagining the absent, the elusive and that which it is not. It clarifies that identity is meant to be fabricated and not discovered, and stresses that foreign policy analysis should consider how meanings are produced.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter serves as an account of what missile defence is. It shows how the missile defence system is located within the overall US thinking of security and observes that missile defence has certain assumptions on the evolving perceptions of threat to US security. The chapter explains how a missile defence system aimed at new threats violates the principles of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Next, it clarifies what exactly the new threats entail – as stated in the Bottom-Up Review and the ‘rogue states doctrine’ – before considering the idea of deploying a missile defence shield. The last part of the chapter outlines the development of the defence mechanism from 1944 to 2003.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
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Issues and debates
Natalie Bormann

This chapter criticises the predominant issues on the modern missile defence debate, emphasising the tensions on feasibility, costs, and the question of arms control and non-proliferation. It tries to set up a confrontation between the ‘logic’ of NMD and its inappropriateness. The chapter also lists the emerging missile states and discusses the two documents that address the issue of an emerging multifaceted ballistic missile threat.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter reviews some of the key arguments that are in favour of NMD, and considers some of the lasting assumptions about the character of security and threat, as well as the concept of policy positivism. It then studies foreign policy as a practice central to the notion of ‘narrative activity’. The chapter also considers the intersection of foreign policy and identity, the influence of ‘what if’ statements and the meanings associated with ballistic missiles. It determines that the specific context of a proliferation ‘problem’ has made the construed picture of a rogue other a valid threat which is understood in the US foreign policy.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter examines the concept of ‘regimes of truth’, which characterise the process of verifying certain types of knowledge claims, and reveals how the military defence project forms a system that produces ‘accepted’ and ‘true’ statements about threats to US security. It defines the term ‘truth’ and explains the shift from the regimes of truth to NMD/identity, also considering technology and discourses of technology.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter further discusses missile defence, although it shifts from the official strategic documents to ‘everyday’ practices, first describing the realm of the everyday as one which covers an entire network of socially embedded meaning, and then stating that NMD connects with the sphere of daily life in various ways. The next section considers the use of the image of the defence shield to describe the function of NMD and takes a look at the place where missile defence – as identity practice – is reproduced in and intersects with daily life discourses. The chapter also introduces David Tanks' analogy, where the defence system is compared to the stages of a baseball match, and the intimate correlation between popular culture and the textual practices of US foreign policy.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity
Natalie Bormann

This chapter identifies some possible future NMD practices, and provides suggestions about the analytical approaches to the emerging strategies that are closely related to NMD. It also discusses the policy of pre-emption, one strategic phenomenon in US thinking of security ‘post-9/11’, which talks about the re-assembly of a foreign policy practice. The chapter ends with a discussion of a proposed intervention to the existing NMD debate that provides a perspective outside the positivist logic of investigation.

in National missile defence and the politics of US identity