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Symbols, Strategies, and Choices for International Relations Scholarship After September 11

  • David Leheny
Extract

Pundits and officials have been remarkably united in their assertions that the “war on terrorism” is fundamentally a new kind of war. This is troubling, because it suggests that the world has stepped into terra incognita. No one—to draw a recent comparison—has suggested that this past winter's standoff between India and Pakistan is fundamentally new, even though both nations are now nuclear powers. Indeed, in spite of the high stakes in Kashmir, the conflict feels familiar, partly because the two countries have long been mutually suspicious and often hostile, and because they are two states; we know how to think and to talk about them. And, one hopes, policymakers know how to reduce these tensions. In contrast, the war on terrorism has an almost surreal quality because of the utter novelty of the idea of a superpower fighting against a transnational, clandestine network or against the even more nebulous phenomenon of terrorism itself. Like the U.S. government, international relations scholars were caught largely unaware and were initially unprepared to offer much guidance on how the new crisis might develop.

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