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Going to war with the other: A study of U.S. foreign policies of violence

Evan O Renfro, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


I examined all cases of United States foreign policies of overt violence, bounded by and including, Vietnam (1964-1969) and Iraq (2003-2007). The objective was to use Orientalism in order to increase our understanding of such policies. What this research showed was quite contrary to Orientalism's expectations. Analyzing the discursive record for the "trigger words" that should be present if Orientalist frames were used in the making/applying of US foreign policy resulted in conclusions that are not only largely unsupportive, but in some cases detrimental to the theory. ^ While I cannot categorically deny the existence of any supportive evidence for Orientalism, there is clearly no extant pattern of such ideological discourse in any examined cases. The only exception to this is germane to the last case study, Afghanistan (2001-2003). In this case, I argued that what we are seeing is an outlier, created by a sui generis action, viz., a traumatizing terrorist attack on US soil. ^ Instead of Orientalism, what the record shows are examples of what I've termed "neutral-Orientalism" and "anti-Orientalism ". The former are cases where Orientalist trigger words are present in the discourse, but they do only prosaic duty. Such lexical choices are a-ideological, often providing definitional work in the contexts considered. "Anti-Orientalism," which is actually more common than Orientalism, is when the trigger words work in precisely the opposite way from which the theory would suggest.^ The evidence uncovered in this dissertation suggests a renewed caution when dealing with questions of Orientalism, and a more robust consideration of the empirical record.^

Subject Area

Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Renfro, Evan O, "Going to war with the other: A study of U.S. foreign policies of violence" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3482022.