Rethinking early Cold War United States foreign policy: the road to militarisation

Wyn-Jones, Steffan (2016) Rethinking early Cold War United States foreign policy: the road to militarisation. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis rethinks the foundations of US foreign policy determination in the early Cold War period. In opposition to approaches in IR which privilege an ‘external’ realm of causation, it focuses on the domestic bases for foreign policy formation. Having started by reviewing historiographical debates on US foreign policy and US foreign economic policy, the thesis moves on to critique some of the existing ways the US foreign policy has been theorised in IR.
The thesis then develops a theoretical and conceptual stance, drawing on a range of different literatures. Within IR, it places itself within the tradition of Marxist Historical Sociology. At the level of macro-history, this places the reconstruction of US foreign policy within broader world historical process of the development of capitalism within the political form of the nation-state and state system, and ongoing spatialisation strategies that states form in order to manage capitalist spatial politics. This macro perspective is conjoined to a ‘disjunctive’ theory of the state, which is developed successively through different stages of analysis. The goal is to develop a political economy approach to the study of foreign policy formation and especially the conduct of warfare.
The next three chapters constitute an historical reconstruction of the path towards the Cold War militarisation of US foreign policy. The thesis begins by fleshing out some of the theoretical issues discussed earlier in relation to the specificity of US state development. It then shows how developments from the 19th century up to World War II were underpinned by societal conflicts which saw the rise of the New Deal as a challenger to the existing prerogatives of business in America. This challenge saw the development of state capacities to intervene in the economy, and set in place the possibilities of a welfare statist form of governance. However, the coming of WWII and the politics of economic mobilisation for the war changed the context within which these developments unfolded. An alliance of industrial and business interests during the war ensured that the New Deal state was converted into a powerful ‘warfare’ state.
The thesis then moves on to show how after the war, the world-historical moment of US hegemony had its counterpart on the domestic scene in the resurgence of conflict between nationalist and internationalist political and business interests in the US. The period between 1945 and 1950 is then re-read against the background of successive stages of development of this conflict as it affected the development of US policies towards the world. As the US tried to develop a coherent spatial strategy for reconstructing the global capitalist order, this domestic situation determined and shaped things in unexpected ways. Contrary to perspectives which isolate US plans for a multilateral trading order and the geopolitics of the Cold War, I show how the contradictions of the former largely created the latter. Much IR theory takes it for granted that it was Marshall Plan aid that did the work of reconstructing Europe after the war. However, I show that this assumption obscures the failure of the Marshall Plan, and its eventual replacement by forms of economic aid that were channelled through military spending.
These forms of aid required substantial military spending programs. Thus the price to be paid for the reconstruction of Europe after the war was the amplification of the World War II military-industrial alliance in the US. This then fed back into US domestic developments, as a powerful self-sustaining and expansionary element of the American political economy changed the institutional parameters under which war-preparations were formed. This altered the bases of US military strategy and overall foreign policy, a development which was starkly revealed in the conduct of the Vietnam War. The thesis concludes with some reflections on how its historical and theoretical approach has ramifications for how we think of US foreign policy in the 20th century.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0183.7 Diplomatic history. Foreign and general relations.
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2016 10:12
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2018 09:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61488

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