Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan intervention’

Annotated bibliography: Sources relate to the Afghan intervention and Iraq War. I hope anyone interested in these conflicts will find this useful. Grade: A+. Critique: I think the university online forum ate my feedback. Please don’t copy this work, you may get dropped from your university. Also it’s a dick move.

UN General Assembly. (2001). The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. (A/56/681)

Kofi Annan’s 2001 report on the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan is a cohesive account of factors affecting the security situation in Afghanistan. The former Secretary General approaches this with a consideration of a range of spheres; diplomatic developments in response to the Taliban’s increasingly clear connection with Al-Qaida, along with the plight of internally displaced persons, and an analysis of how drought and the Taliban’s ban on opium poppy cultivation has affected local economies. He gives a thorough account of domestic and international political events in the past annum (2000-2001), and of the diplomatic attempts of his representative for UN operations in Afghanistan to organise an international initiative in the wake of September 11th, 2001.
While Kofi Annan exposes us to a range of contexts regarding development in Afghanistan, considering state-building, national and ethnic identity, counterinsurgency and gendered disempowerment, aspects of his argument sound similar to the traditional rhetoric of American exceptionalism. He employs multiple references to the Afghan peoples’ right to self-determination and representative government. The UN Secretary General has been accused of being a vehicle for the United States’ liberal democracy project; although to be expected, this stance expressed so ardently and combined with a clear assertion that the Taliban is connected to Al-Qaida, whether accurate or exaggerated, was convenient for US foreign policy at the time of publication. The conclusion stating that “…any solution to the Afghan crisis must be home-grown” is quite at odds with the diplomatic directives outlined in the report, and seems ceremonial rather than a summation of the report’s actual intended meaning.

Mirra, C. (2013). Insurgents, Accidental Guerrillas and Valet-ism: An Oral History of Oppositional US Soldier Attitudes towards the Enemy in Afghanistan. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 26(2), 453-468.
Mirra provides a unique resource for understanding the consequences of American exceptionalism in a social context. His oral history interviews portray a perspective rarely observed in academic material and contrast significantly with Kofi Annan’s 2001 UNSMA report, as an account of the counterinsurgency effort from the ‘grass-roots’; the micro-political actors of the Afghanistan ‘crisis’. These voices express disdain for the state-building effort that Annan considers to be the solution for the sociological challenges facing Afghanistan. As observed by defected US soldiers, the military infrastructure employed in the “hearts and minds” approach to counterinsurgency does not portray the kind of message that is intended. Rather, the policy is based on a shallow conception of the Afghani political consciousness. Far from providing relief and comfort, the presence of ground troops in conjunction with aid provision brings to mind both colonial expansion and memories of the Soviet invasion.
This article viscerally illustrates the failures of US exceptionalism in terms of the concept of the ‘divine mission’ and John Winthrop’s “city on the hill” dialectic. It is a highly useful resource due to its collection of unique perspectives. Though it could be argued that oral histories are not of sufficient quality as to be considered valid sources when assessing the success of counterinsurgency projects, this criticism is based in an antiquated bureaucratic model of data-gathering. The trend in modern state-building is to take into account voices that in the past were marginalised, in order to help them retain the agency to devise their own solutions. As Kofi Annan (though perhaps purely diplomatically) states at the end of his report, “home-grown” solutions are more effective than those imposed by outside powers (UN General Assembly, 2001).

Saikal, A. (2012). The UN and Afghanistan: Contentions in Democratization and State building. International Peacekeeping, 19(2), 217-234.
Saikal’s article is a perceptive critique of the Western – specifically UN – approach to democratisation in Afghanistan. Saikal describes the role that was initially prescribed for the UN, and identifies the barriers that have prevented it from achieving its objective. While he praises Brahimi, Kofi Annan’s representative for the Afghan ‘crisis’, for having done all in his power to diplomatically implement the UN’s initiatives, he criticises the influence of the US in particular on the process and asserts that the UN has been more successful at peace-building than any US-led interventions have been to date (thus implying that US influence is hindering UN performance in this area). Saikal claims that emphasis on local civil society, and the implementation of an electorate-based Single Transferable Vote system, is the correct alternative to failed “presidential-style” state-building approach favoured by the UNSMA. He considers grass-roots political mobilisation to be a more appropriate starting point than the Western state-centric model of democratic imposition.
This article supports the idea of US exceptionalism remaining a primary and toxic influence on international politics. Saikal also criticises the failure of the UNAMA to truly act in accordance with an unbiased model of peace-building that takes into account the particular nature of Afghani culture. He identifies the US as the key influence on the UN approach to Afghan democratisation, and explains that the expectation of the US was that the UN would impose a Western-style, market friendly model. Without going so far as to use the phrase ‘American exceptionalism’, Saikal refers to the concept of a “Kantian peace” in relation to UN policy directives. However, while Saikal does provide some ideas for a bottom- up, Afghan-centric democratic solution, they seem ill-considered or even unworkable; civil society development cannot occur without economic and institutional development. As Saikal himself writes, “Democratisation…cannot be divorced from other dimensions, such as economic, social, political and cultural components” (p.217).

Patman, R. G. (2006). Globalisation, the New US Exceptionalism and the War on Terror. Third World Quarterly, 27(6), 963-986.
Patman identifies the contemporary primacy of American exceptionalism in US foreign policy, and conducts an analysis of its evolution since the end of the Cold War, arguing that the concept has in fact not changed drastically since the events of September 11th, 2001. The primary change has been a distinct revival of religious fundamentalist rhetoric. Patman elaborates on the concept of the American ‘divine mission’ and provides multiple examples of the Bush Jr. administration’s use of this idea in addresses to the state. He goes on to argue that the impact of globalisation, and the increasing relevance of Joseph Nye’s concept of ‘soft power’, will force the US to reassess its exceptionalist foreign policy if it wishes to retain the mandate of other Western powers. Patman identifies the 2003 invasion of Iraq without UN endorsement as a pivotal point of downturn in diplomatic attitudes towards the US, and the reputational consequences as significant.
While Patman provides compelling evidence of the Bush Jr. administration’s genuine exceptionalist beliefs, including the religious attitude with which Bush himself approached foreign policy, his argument that the US should prioritise the use of soft power rather than hard power does not address the possibility that the embedded nature of exceptionalism in US institutions could instead simply produce a more fervent, reactionary invigoration of the current approach in response to disapproval from other powers. The contemporary US approach to ISIS in Iraq and Syria is telling. While Obama has denounced the Iraq War and has reiterated his unwillingness to place ground troops in Iraq, in an appeal to public and international opinion, recent developments suggest that the US has superseded its limited mandate by conducting air strikes in Syria.

Keegan, J. (2004). The American War. In The Iraq War (pp. 127-164). London: Hutchinson.
Keegan describes in thorough detail the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 from the covert entry of ground troops over the Kuwaiti border to the arrival of the company at Baghdad, before the storming of Saddam’s presidential palace. Keegan exposes US intelligence activities involved in securing a safe border passage in the South for the operation, describes urban warfare and the damages to infrastructure that were incurred, refers to civilian casualties (despite the popular myth that these were entirely minimal during the invasion) and gives an insight into the capabilities and organisation of the Iraqi defence force under Saddam’s administration. An analysis of the diplomatic climate in the Iraq region at the time of the invasion is also provided.
Though not an academic analysis of American intentions regarding the invasion, Keegan’s account provides valuable contextual information necessary for understanding conditions on the ground at the instigation of the “American War”. It also demonstrates the premise of US Exceptionalism in an abstract and over-arching manner; the invasion that the US believed necessary in the pursuit of universal democratisation was bound to incur casualties and infrastructural fallout that would drastically affect civilians. The decision to deploy rockets at a multi-storey building, in which a senior Ba’athist party member was understood to be participating in a meeting, is illustrative of the collateral damage inherent in urban warfare. Contrary to the espoused laws of armed warfare, civilians will not be protected when the choice is between their lives or the elimination of military targets. Keegan also shows himself to be in admiration of the US invasion, both from a military and political standpoint. Early on, he paints a demonic picture of Saddam’s administration in an attempt at justification; and his closing sentence, “The liberation of Iraq from the monstrous dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was almost complete” (p.164) is loaded with exceptionalist rhetoric.

Titunik, R. F. (2009). Are We All Torturers Now? A Reconsideration of Women’s Violence at Abu Ghraib. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 22(2), 257-277.

Titunik’s article is a gendered perspective on the violations of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As Titunik explains, gender-based analyses of this issue contemporarily came mainly from conservative authors, who were shocked by the expression of violence committed by women. This article examines both feminist and “militarist” analyses of the subject, and asserts that both perspectives do not sufficiently explain the involvement of women in detainee abuse. Titunik finds that they both afford too much agency to the women involved, and ignore the wider context of administrative misconduct – essentially, the climate of US Exceptionalism cultivated by senior figures in the Bush administration. Titunik goes on to refute the notion that the US military itself is imbued with a corrupt culture, citing the attempts of prominent military lawyers to have changes to the laws of interrogation stalled at the time of passage, due to concerns for military integrity.
This article provides a strong argument for the sheer pervasiveness of the modern brand of US Exceptionalism, describing moral failures that occurred at a local level as a consequence of state-level decisions, namely President Bush having decided that he was a law unto himself in terms of dictating US conduct in interrogation. The gendered nature of the article focuses on a point largely irrelevant to exceptionalism – the capacity of women for violence – but sheds light on how US foreign policy has come to affect those who would traditionally be unblighted by war guilt. The women involved in the Abu Ghraib abuses clearly believed, convinced by either themselves or others, that American actors on the ground were exempt from moral repercussions.

Fawcett, L. (2013). The Iraq War Ten Years On: Assessing the Fallout. International Affairs, 89(2), 325-343.

Fawcett’s analysis of the effects of the Iraq War has the value of considering these from the three different levels of domestic, regional and international consequence. She discusses the new challenge to the authoritarian state that the war, combined with other contemporary events, eventually fostered in the face of a reactionary entrenchment; she describes the disruption the war caused to regional power balances and peace processes; and considers the international fallout of the war in what she identifies as a pivotal point in international relations (the post-Cold War period of confused power polarity). Throughout these analytical categories, Fawcett puts forward the argument that the Iraq War did not achieve what the US had hoped for, and though it catalysed some political changes, it also created unpredictable new power arrangements in the region, including the HISH (Hamas, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah) alliance, which could prove more dangerous to Western interests than the security situation prior to the war had been. Fawcett also provides a discussion on exceptionalism in current US foreign policy in terms of the ‘imperial’ project, and assesses the likelihood of a continued unilateral approach.
As well as assessing the effects of the Iraq war on a macro scale, Fawcett addresses the Arab Spring revolts with reference to particular individuals and localities, as well as the displacement of up to two million Iraqi civilians. This results in an appropriately comprehensive assessment of a conflict that seriously affected actors on a local scale. However, there is little background or depth to her description of US foreign policy; a discussion of its evolution, as is present in Gray’s article, The Americanisation of the Apocalypse (Gray 2007) is lacking. Fawcett makes a brief prediction that the post-Iraq espousal of multilateral US foreign policy will not persevere, but does not thoroughly explain why this is likely in the context of a US exceptionalism. There is no reference to the religious aspect of the concept or its institutional nature in America, the only developed nation with a Christian majority. This characteristic of American exceptionalism is so fundamental that it cannot be overlooked when assessing the nature of US foreign policy.

Gray, J. (2007). The Americanization of the Apocalypse. Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (pp. 107-145). London: Allen Lane.
Gray discusses the origins and development of US exceptionalism, in particular with regard to its newly invigorated religious aspect. He reveals the political theory that has influenced this unique national psyche since the Cold War, citing Leo Strauss and related Russian novelists. He describes how the George Bush Senior and Junior administrations were affected by the institutional dominance of religious fundamentalism, how the primacy of the Christian South electorate influences US policy, and how fundamentalists teamed up with neo-liberal actors to generate influential think-tanks and extra-parliamentary bodies that would drive foreign policy in response to September 11th, 2001. Gray further alleges a particularly religious zeal for rejection of empirical evidence among these advisory bodies, which he asserts genuinely operated on the basis of religious intuition. Also exposed is the unsettling extent to which intelligence was manipulated by the Bush Jr. administration in justifying the invasion of Iraq.
Gray’s discussion is highly detailed and instructive on the nature of modern US exceptionalism, that is, its renewed religious character since 9/11. It explains the need for George Bush Jr. to employ this revived rhetoric in terms of both voter support and justification of a foreign policy that had seen recent catastrophic disaster (the spectre of Vietnam lingered on while the intervention in Sudan in the 1990s had failed abysmally). In asserting that the new advisory bodies involved in the formation of anti-terrorist policy were ultimately religious in nature, however, Gray neglects the decisive role that neo-liberal economic interests, which he only briefly mentions in a power context, played. He does not evaluate the relationship between economic and religious influences in terms of geostrategic interests; there is no reference to the politics of oil in the Middle East and its relationship to the expansion of liberal democracy, which was the end justification for the invasion of Iraq.

Bayliss, J., Smith, S., & Owens, P. (2011). The globalisation of world politics (pp510-524). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. Pp510-524
This chapter concerns humanitarian intervention in a globalised world, and in particular the increasing use of humanitarian justification for military intervention since September 11th, 2001. This is useful for understanding exactly why the opinion of the international community became unfavourable towards the US after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The authors describe the codification of intervention in international law to date, including the UN Charter, and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine adopted at the UN Summit in 2005. Also identified are two key operational failures during the Afghanistan invasion which undermined the US’ humanitarian justification, and exposed the exceptionalism inherent in the project: the reliance on Afghan intelligence in discerning targets, which resulted in a high civilian toll due to sabotage; and the refusal to contribute troops to the ISAF reconstruction effort. A comprehensive case study on the legal legitimacy of the Iraq intervention is also included, with a comparison of Teson and Nardin, who have opposing opinions.
This is essential reading for comprehension of international law regarding interventions, and to contextualise the negative international reaction to US exceptionalism in foreign policy. The international agreements named also provide valuable information regarding which particular states have been open to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and thereby accepted the restrictions imposed on geostrategic intervention. This provides a framework of understanding for the behaviour of other states in relation to US foreign policy initiatives. However, this analysis does present the UN and particular regional organisations, such as the African Union, in an entirely impartial light, which can be read with a distinctly idealistic tone. It could be argued that the very concept of a ‘responsibility to protect’ imbues intervention with less restriction than legitimacy.

Heywood, A. (2011). Global politics, (pp209-239). Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire.
Heywood’s analysis of “power and twenty-first century world order” charts the rise of US exceptionalism as a dominant source of power in contemporary state relations. It covers the failure of bipolarity at the end of the Cold War, the genesis and eventual disregard for the ‘new world order’ concept and criticisms of Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ thesis. Heywood forecasts the possible eventualities of the declining international tolerance for US exceptionalism, and considers what a multipolar global community might mean for international security. He invokes perspectives of traditional International Relations schools, including those of neo-realists, on the potential character of a post-US multipolar world. He also provides an alternative vision of increased multilateralism.
While Heywood gives much credence to increasing multipolarity, it could be argued that unipolarity is simply shifting from one actor to another. In analysing the economic relationship between the US and China, it can discerned that much of the US’ wealth is rapidly becoming tied up in debt to China. While experiencing periods of stagnation, China’s economy is evidencing a general trend of rapid growth, and recent efforts to solidify regional influence over resources in regions of Africa (namely Sudan) and Eastern Europe indicate a quiet and pervasive expansion. This could be interpreted alongside the decline of legitimacy regarding US foreign policy as a shift of power, which would be called the Terminal Crisis of America’s capitalist economy in the terms of the school of geopolitician Giovanni Arrighi. This school holds that only one capitalist power can exist at one time, organically superseding the previous dominant power. Alternatively, it can be proposed that the Cold War is in fact not over at all, and Russia’s recent disregard for international condemnation of its expansion into Ukraine could evidence the return of a new bipolar era.


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