American University
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Constructing security: The power of language in United States foreign policy

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:07 authored by Peter Max Howard

Though the United States enters numerous international agreements each year, many have no significant impact on international relations. This dissertation demonstrates that a constructivist approach explains the maintenance of international agreements better than realism or liberalism. I show the importance of language in explaining outcomes in international relations, inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein's concept of a language game. A four-step analytic model reveals how United States foreign policy practices create rules to maintain regional security agreements by entangling players in a particular game. The model begins with the articulation of a new set of rules in an international agreement. Actors then create a site at which to implement the rules by deploying resources. Third, actors develop a common language as they come to play a new game at the site. Finally, actors find themselves entangled in the rules of this new game, creating a new security dynamic that maintains the original agreement. Three cases reveal the usefulness of the model. The Israel Lebanon Monitoring Group (ILMG) established a set of rules governing the conflict between Israeli and Hezballah in southern Lebanon. The Joint Contact Team Program (JCTP) spreads the rules of European security based on democratic control over the military and shared values to former communist states. The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) establishes rules of nuclear cooperation on the Korean Peninsula as a first diplomatic contact between the United States and North Korea. This investigation reveals the power of the United States to create international rules by showing that language itself is the power that makes the state practices that constitute international relations possible. The power of language is the power to create, define, and allow. It is the power of agency. The model shows how agency emerges when existing rules and language games intersect each other in new ways, offering a moment of contingency for actors to choose and creatively use language. US foreign policy is one source of agency in the international system, allowing the United States to shape the international system by creating rules through the strategic use of language.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2002.


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