‘Defensive Liberal Wars’: The Global War on Terror and the Return of Illiberalism in American Foreign Policy
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AbstractThis paper offers an analysis of the illiberal practices and discourse of the Global War on Terror (GWoT) and demonstrates how the United States of America used the liberal argument as a qualitative metric of its success and failure in the GWoT. I argue that ‘the othering’ of Salafi Jihadists as well the full military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq were both philosophically rooted in the liberal thinking of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, which have traditionally guided US foreign policy. More significantly, these liberal philosophies of history and international relations hold within them the seeds of illiberalism by depicting non-liberal, undemocratic societies/organisations as ‘barbaric’ – and as such prime candidates for intervention and regime change. Predicated upon this logic, the discourse of the GWoT framed Al Qaeda as a key existential threat to not only the United States but also the ‘civilised world’ in general and one which required a ‘liberal defensive war’ in response. It was the successful securitisation of Al Qaeda that essentially enabled the United States to adopt deeply illiberal policies to counter this so-called existential threat by using any means at its disposal.