Reading between the li(n)es of conflict(ing) discourses: A critical geopolitics of 11 September 2001 and the 'War on Terror'
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this research is to critically explore the role of geopolitics in the pre-conflict process of violence legitimation. The thesis argues that before war can occur in world politics violence legitimating 'conflict discourses' must be constructed that become hegemonic over violence de-legitimating 'conflicting discourses' that seek to prevent war. Consequently, the violence legitimation process is a contested one between opposing 'conflict(ing) discourses'. The argument is made from a critical geopolitics perspective using a case study of 11 September 2001 and the 'war on terror'. It is argued that the United States foreign policy elite constructed a hegemonic surprise attack conflict discourse that explained 11 September 2001 in a particular way that legitimated the violent response of the 'war on terror'. On the other hand, an alternative blowback conflicting discourse proposed an alternative, but subservient, explanation of 11 September 2001 that unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the war on Afghanistan. The hegemony of the surprise attack conflict discourse was then used in an attempt to establish the 'war on terror' as a 'new' new world order for the twenty-first century. This attempt, however, was increasingly resisted by many governments and publics around the world throughout 2002. The thesis discusses the New Zealand example of this common transition from support of the war on Afghanistan to opposition to the war on Iraq through a discussion of the local impact of 11 September 2001 and the 'war on terror' on domestic politics and foreign policy. The pre-conflict violence legitimation process was especially evident in the build-up towards war on Iraq during 2002 and the early months of 2003. The thesis explores this second example of the contest between opposing conflict(ing) discourses of the 'war on terror'. The critical geopolitics approach to the violence legitimation process is unique within this emerging sub-discipline and opens the possibility of a contribution to conflict research.