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The Political Use of Force: Beyond National Security Considerations as a Source of American Foreign Policy
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In addressing the question of what explains the tendency of the presidents of the United States to use military force on many occasions to solve international problems the realist perspective has been strongly dominant in political science. This study sets out to address and challenge whether what may be called realist privilege still qualifies as an understanding of this American phenomenon. The key research question is to investigate whether or not the understanding of the U.S. use of force can be reduced to international factors solely. This study presents the argument that perspectives or theories that do not consider and cover domestic political processes and factors in their explanations must be regarded as incomplete. Two frameworks based on realism and domestic politics are developed and used in order to answer why U.S. presidents use military force at the international level. The author applies a decision-making approach derived from foreign policy analysis in order to compare and examine the U.S. missile actions against Libya in 1986, Iraq in 1993 and Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998. This study finds clear support for the significance of domestic political factors for the understanding of the U.S. use of force. This work concludes that since domestic political factors matter, even at times of heightened concern about national security, this contradicts and poses a serious challenge to realists’ assumptions regarding the motives of states. When using a decision-making approach that opens the so-called black box, the book demonstrates that domestic political factors, such as the U.S. Congress and American public constrain presidents when authorizing the use of force. To reduce the understanding of the U.S. use of force to international factors solely is, therefore, to overlook significant contributions from the U.S. domestic political context as a source of the presidential use of force.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen , 2008. , 234 p.
Stockholm studies in politics, ISSN 0346-6620 ; 127
Keyword [en]
The United States of America, the presidential use of force, foreign policy analysis, realism, domestic politics, the diversionary theory of war, decision-making.
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8159ISBN: 978-91-7155-733-9OAI: diva2:199710
Public defence
2008-10-31, hörsal 11, hus F, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2008-10-09 Created: 2008-10-09 Last updated: 2010-10-21Bibliographically approved

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