International Relations

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Writing the war on terrorism

Language, politics and counter-terrorism

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Richard Jackson

This book is about the public language of the 'war on terrorism' and the way in which language has been deployed to justify and normalise a global campaign of counter-terrorism. It explains how the war on terrorism has been reproduced and amplified by key social actors and how it has become the dominant political narrative in America today, enjoying widespread bipartisan and popular support. The book also explains why the language of politics is so important and the main methodological approach for analysing the language of counter-terrorism, namely, critical discourse analysis. Then, it provides the comparison drawn between the September 11, 2001 attacks and World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the most noticeable aspects of the language surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001 is its constant reference to tragedy, grievance and the exceptional suffering of the American people. The book focuses on the way in which language was deployed to construct the main identities of the protagonists. It demonstrates how terrorism is rhetorically constructed as posing a catastrophic threat to the American 'way of life', to freedom, liberty and democracy and even to civilisation itself. The book analyses how the administration's counter-terrorism campaign has been rhetorically constructed as an essentially 'good' and 'just war', similar to America's role in World War II. Finally, the book concludes that responsible citizens have a moral duty to oppose and resist the official language of counter-terrorism.

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Richard Jackson

This chapter focuses on the way that senior policy-makers discursively constructed the 'war on terrorism' as a 'good' war. It examines the ways in which the discourse of the 'good war on terrorism' manages its inherent tensions and contradictions. The power of the 'good (new) war' construction lies in the fact that from within the confines of the discourse itself, it is virtually impossible to deny the legitimacy of the war or to suggest any kind of non-military alternative. Even if the Bush-led 'war on terrorism' is sometimes poorly executed, it is extremely difficult to argue against the rightness and justice of the overall counter-terrorist war. Two main discursive constructions can be observed in the official discourse about the war's cause: first, that it is a legally defined defensive war; and second, that it is a war to secure justice and to defend freedom.

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Richard Jackson

One of the most noticeable aspects of the language surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001 is its constant reference to tragedy, grievance and the exceptional suffering of the American people. A significant aspect of the discourse surrounding September 11, 2001 is the way in which the events were discursively linked to a number of popular meta-narratives. It is quite common for politicians to make use of historical analogies to try to explain current events. This chapter demonstrates that there is a deliberate and sustained effort to discursively link September 11, 2001 to the attack on Pearl Harbor itself. The September 11, 2001 attacks provided officials with a readymade and exceptional grievance. The focus on American victim-hood and grievance sets the basis for military retaliation and a global 'war on terrorism' that resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths and the systematic abuse of thousands of terrorist suspects.

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Writing identity

Evil terrorists, good Americans

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Richard Jackson

This chapter explores the unique and particular ways in which identity has been discursively constructed through the official language of counter-terrorism. It focuses on the strategies used to differentiate, demonise and dehumanise the terrorist 'other'. Establishing the identities of the primary characters, the heroes and villains or the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys', was a key element in constructing the overall narrative of the 'war on terrorism'. In a media-saturated society, establishing the identities of the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' was essential to making the national story of America's war understandable to the wider public. In direct contrast to the terrorists, Americans are discursively constructed first and foremost as Innocent' victims; even the Pentagon casualties and the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan are remade as 'innocent Americans'. In addition, Americans are discursively reconstructed as 'heroic' and 'united'.

Open Access (free)

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Raymond Hinnebusch

This chapter examines wars, attempts to create regional order, and how these have impacted on the structure of the Middle East regional system, which, in turn, has reshaped the states that make it up. The search for solutions to regional conflict, for a basis on which to create a secure order, has been ongoing since the founding of the Middle East states system. However, each of the major attempts to build regional order proved defective, in varying degrees ameliorating or containing conflict but also either failing to deal with its roots or sometimes actually exacerbating it. War has originated in domestic level dissatisfaction shaped by these struggles which, when institutionalised in rival states, is expressed in conflict at the states system level, frequently over territory. Everywhere, in a region afflicted with irredentism, domestic politics encourages nationalist outbidding.

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Matt McDonald

This chapter addresses the 'war on terror's' implications for democracy and human rights, arguing that it has legitimated political oppression and undermined democratization processes in some states in the region, particularly in Southeast Asia. It also addresses the associated 'Bush doctrine' for regional militarization and militarism. The chapter outlines the links between the 'war on terror', US foreign policy and the US hegemony, before outlining the ways in which these policies, interests and dynamics have played out in relations with the Asia-Pacific since 2001. It also outlines the threat posed by the US-led 'war on terror' for human rights, democracy and prospects for organized violence. The chapter reflects on the extent to which the United States might be viewed as a source of security and stability for the region. It concludes by highlighting possibilities for alternative security orders to emerge in the region which further individual emancipation.

Open Access (free)

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Eşref Aksu

This study explores the normative dimension of the evolving role of the United Nations in peace and security and, ultimately, in governance. What is dealt with here is both the UN's changing raison d'être and the wider normative context within which the organisation is located. The study looks at the UN through the window of one of its most contentious, yet least understood, practices: active involvement in intra-state conflicts as epitomised by UN peacekeeping. Drawing on the conceptual tools provided by the ‘historical structural’ approach, it seeks to understand how and why the international community continuously reinterprets or redefines the UN's role with regard to such conflicts. The study concentrates on intra-state ‘peacekeeping environments’, and examines what changes, if any, have occurred to the normative basis of UN peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. One of the original aspects of the study is its analytical framework, where the conceptualisation of ‘normative basis’ revolves around objectives, functions and authority, and is closely connected with the institutionalised values in the UN Charter such as state sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development.

Open Access (free)

Understanding environmental security

Water scarcity, the 1980s’ Palestinian uprising and implications for peace

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Jeffrey Sosland

In this chapter, the term 'environmental security' is most appropriate when states or domestic groups are experiencing intense renewable resource scarcity and where a lack of effective domestic or international institutions further aggravates the problem. It explains the concepts that have led to confusion in the water scarcity and environmental security literature. The chapter differentiates between domestic and international water conflicts and also explains the causal relationship between water scarcity and conflict, and clearly defines the terms 'violent water conflict' and 'environmental scarcity'. It offers arguments why water scarcity rarely causes war and considers how scarcity under certain circumstances can nevertheless lead to acute conflict. The chapter focuses on warlike acts in relation to water disputes prior to the advent of the 1987 Palestinian uprising. The chapter examines the implications of water scarcity for the ongoing Middle East peace process.

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The UN’s role in historical context

Impact of structural tensions and thresholds

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Eşref Aksu

This chapter examines the history and evolution of the United Nations' (UN) response to intra-state conflicts after World War 2. It identifies the most significant ‘material’ and ‘ideational’ configurations that evolved in connection with the UN as an institution and impacted on the behaviour of and prescriptions for the UN as an actor in peacekeeping environments. This chapter describes how the Cold War and the North-South confrontation manifested themselves as part of the structural evolution of the international system, which both constrained and facilitated the relationship between international actors and the UN.

Open Access (free)

UN peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts

Evolution of the normative basis

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Eşref Aksu

This chapter analyses the normative change dimension to account for the historical trends that affects or influences the United Nations' (UN) peacekeeping function. It suggests that the early 1960s and early 1990s constituted critical thresholds in intra-state peacekeeping, each with its own particular normative resolution as to the UN's objectives and authority. This chapter describes how the interests and normative preferences of key actors interacted in intra-state peacekeeping environments in the early 1960s and discusses the ensuing normative synthesis with the ideational attributes of the 1990s.