Pretexts and US foreign policy: the war on terrorism in historical perspective

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11 Scopus citations


This article analyzes the way that US foreign policy élites have used pretexts to manage public opinion. Policymakers, it is argued, often seize upon threatening external events, and use these events to create a favorable political climate in which to “sell” policies of militarization and external expansion to the public. The article argues that the Bush administration has used the threat of terrorism as a pretext to implement a wide range of policies that had been decided upon in advance of the 9/11 attacks. It also argues that the recent uses of pretexts by the Bush administration have strong historical precedents: extended case studies of pretexts are presented for the events surrounding the Korea crisis of 1950 and the Afghanistan crisis of 1979–1980, as well as the more recent War on Terrorism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-321
Number of pages29
JournalNew Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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