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US policy towards Afghanistan, 1979-2014: a case study of constructivism in international relations

Teitler, Anthony; (2016) US policy towards Afghanistan, 1979-2014: a case study of constructivism in international relations. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

A case study of US policy towards Afghanistan from the Soviet intervention of 1979 to the exit of US/ISAF combat troops in 2014, this thesis examines how the United States’ discursive construction of its interests and identity have moulded its long-term involvement with that country. It demonstrates how Washington used language to justify, represent and normalise its foreign policy practices. In this way, the intertwining of language and social practices provided policymakers’ with shared meanings and tools for how to operate. This sets it apart from the existing literature, which predominantly argues that the US has been motivated by its own self-interest in its dealings with Afghanistan. Whilst it does not entirely reject the importance of both realist and neo-realist assumptions, this thesis mainly deploys a constructivist theoretical approach to achieve its objectives. A relatively new framework in the field of international relations, constructivism provides a more nuanced and well-rounded perspective around which a nation’s foreign policy can be understood. It contends that collectively shared beliefs about a nation’s character and identity, rooted in its history, institutions, and its people explain both how it interprets and why it engages in the foreign policies that it does. In the case of Afghanistan, Washington believed that it is the only nation capable of positively effecting change. This sense of US exceptionalism has continuously informed America’s policies towards that country, whether that was during the Cold War when it constructed the ‘freedom fighters’ struggle against the Soviet Union's occupation or of a noble US helping Afghanistan fight against transnational terrorism in the post 9/11 context. Thus, although this thesis acknowledges how America's self-interest has played an important role in shaping its policies towards Afghanistan, the author seeks to explain Washington's long-term involvement with that country by focusing primarily upon America’s narratives, values and beliefs. This will enrich our understanding of US policy towards Afghanistan by providing a new perspective through which both nations’ continuous, evolving and complex relationship can be both historically and contemporarily understood. The work also aims to contribute more broadly to international relations and US foreign policy scholarship through its interdisciplinary approach.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: US policy towards Afghanistan, 1979-2014: a case study of constructivism in international relations
Event: University College London
Language: English
Keywords: International Relations, US Foreign Policy, Afghanistan, Constructivism, Cold War and Post-Cold War Global Politics, Transnational terrorism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1531194
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