Shock and Awe : the foreign policy decision-making process under the Bush administration

Austin, Elizabeth Anne (2011) Shock and Awe : the foreign policy decision-making process under the Bush administration. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In recent years a growing number of scholars within the field of Foreign Policy Analysis have asserted that an understanding of the interface between national identity and foreign policy is of paramount importance. Indeed one of the driving forces behind the surge of interest in this topic area is the recognition that foreign policy decision-makers are not immune to the effects of national identity, being themselves a product of the society in which they live. This body of work seeks to highlight the role American exceptionalism played in influencing the Bush administration’s foreign policy decision-making process following the events of September 11th.

For many Americans, the events of September 11th served as a cruel re-minder that the United States remained vulnerable to outside attack much like it had been prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Both events are now indelibly scarred into the American psyche. While each attack left Americans with a sense of vulnerability, they could have at least consoled themselves with the thought that Pearl Harbor was a reaction to the perceived threat that the United States would pose on entering the Second World War. September 11th only lead Americans to the sobering realization that the citizens of other nations took a growing affront to their very ideals and way of life.

Sensing this insecurity, the Bush administration seized the opportunity presented by September 11th and began reshaping the identity of the United States, its enemies and the rest of the world in order to justify its foreign policy. This thesis suggests that in the absence of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the resultant shift in identity, the neoconservatives would not have had the same chance to exert their considerable influence on the administration.
In order to achieve its objectives, this research notes that the Bush administration employed a foreign policy decision-making process that not only circumvented executive branch proficiency but also often completely disregarded it. Moreover it is also apparent that key foreign policy decision-makers were overconfident in America’s exceptional nature, mainly its economic and military superiority, which consequently clouded its assessment of public diplomacy’s value. Examination of the administration’s defense posture in the wake of September 11th has revealed that many of its early initiatives did not match the threats faced by the United States. One thing is certain, in the absence of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Bush administration would have been unable to justify a foreign policy doctrine as outlined in the 2002 National Security Strategy.

Finally this research seeks to add to the field through an assessment of public opinion in particular that of the Facebook Generation, an up and coming cohort. Appreciation of public opinion is crucial as it provides a perspective through which to understand how the American public sees the nation’s self-image and how it wants the country to act on the international stage. From a foreign policy decision-making perspective, this information is invaluable because it reveals what types of risks the public is willing to take. As a result, it is imperative that researchers begin to understand this generation’s point of view, given the uncertain nature of the international environment that lies ahead.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Bush administration, US Foreign Policy, 9/11, Foreign Policy Decision-Making, Public Opinion, Anti-Americanism, Public Diplomacy, American Militarism, Bureaucratic in-fighting, Iraq
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Girvin, Professor Brian
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Miss Elizabeth Austin
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2566
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:57

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