Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Foreign Policy

The strategic use of a concept

By Michelle Bentley

© 2014 – Routledge

192 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415830188
pub: 2014-03-19
US Dollars$155.00

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About the Book

This book examines the use of concepts – specifically ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) – in US foreign policy discourse.

Current analysis of WMD definition has made headway into identifying the repercussions that the conceptual conflation of such diverse weapons – typically understood as a reference to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons – has for international security. While the concept assumes these weapons are ‘equal’, the vast disparity between them, and their disparity from the conventional weapons from which they are supposedly distinct, means this approach is seen as unreflective of reality, causing miscalculations in security policy. Not least, this has highlighted that the issue of WMD definition is a priority concern where this has direct implications for strategy.

In contrast, Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Foreign Policy argues that this approach does not accurately portray conceptual meaning, particularly where it overlooks how political language is constructed. In demonstrating this, the book presents a conceptual history of WMD detailing how this has been defined and used since its emergence into political discourse c.1945. Specifically, it argues that definition is an inherently strategic act; policymakers have deliberately included (or excluded) certain weapons and threats from the classification in order to shape foreign policy dialogues. As such, understanding the WMD concept is not a search for a single interpretation, but an analysis that seeks to comprehend what the concept means at any given time, especially where this relates to the political circumstances of its use. By identifying a variety of ways in which WMD has been defined, the book constructs a dynamic view of conceptual meaning that recognises and, more importantly explains, the inherent diversity in interpretation as the consequence of epistemic and institutional context and the strategic response of policymakers.

This book will be of much interest to students of Weapons of Mass Destruction, US foreign and security policy, security studies, political narratives and IR.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What We Talk About When We Talk About WMD 1. Contesting ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ 2. Constructing WMD in US Foreign Policy 3. WMD During the Cold War 4. Conceptual Reinvigoration in the 1990s 5. 9/11 Times a Thousand 6. Conventions, Conventional Weapons and Humpty Dumpty Conclusion: The Strategic Use of a Concept

About the Author

Michelle Bentley is Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy

This new series sets out to publish high quality works by leading and emerging scholars critically engaging with United States Foreign Policy. The series welcomes a variety of approaches to the subject and draws on scholarship from international relations, security studies, international political economy, foreign policy analysis and contemporary international history.

Subjects covered include the role of administrations and institutions, the media, think tanks, ideologues and intellectuals, elites, transnational corporations, public opinion, and pressure groups in shaping foreign policy, US relations with individual nations, with global regions and global institutions and America’s evolving strategic and military policies.

The series aims to provide a range of books – from individual research monographs and edited collections to textbooks and supplemental reading for scholars, researchers, policy analysts, and students.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Arms Control
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security