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The normalisation of war: from the Korean War to the War on Terror

Hall, Jonny (2021) The normalisation of war: from the Korean War to the War on Terror. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004319


This dissertation studies the relationship between the American public and the wars waged in their name. Based on the puzzling degree of continuity in overseas counterterrorism campaigns between the George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump administrations, this dissertation developed into a broader project tracing the normalisation of war from the Korean War to 2021. More specifically, this dissertation proposes a novel analytical framework for understanding the initial puzzle motivating this study along with the broader relationship in question. This dissertation puts forward the normalisation framework, which employs a critical realist approach to incorporate the material and ideational elements of war by focusing on three key themes: mobilisation, prioritisation, and legitimation. These three themes provide a holistic and more complete account of the relationship between U.S. society and American wars than existent scholarship. Unlike some realist analysis, this dissertation stresses the interactions between policymaking and perceived public opinion. Though liberal scholarship does emphasise the influence of public opinion on U.S. foreign policy, this dissertation posits that warfighting strategies have increasingly externalised the burden of American wars, allowing governments to fight wars directly at odds with the still prevalent ideals of the American way of war. Contra critical constructivist literature, this dissertation highlights the varying salience of wars in the American political imaginary, arguing that wars have oftentimes been deprioritised instead of legitimated. These arguments are illustrated in the context of case studies across three periods: the Cold War, the advent of the risk era (1989-2001), and the War on Terror. By employing the normalisation framework and broadening the academic applications of military strategies to consider how they relate to society and public opinion, these investigations provide revisionist and original analysis of the conflicts under study. More generally, the insights offered by the framework established in this dissertation directly contributes to the study of war and public opinion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Jonny Hall
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Coker, Christopher

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