September 11 in International Relations Theory EssayAn event as epochal as September 11 is bound to provoke theorists of international relations. Over the past year or so, there has been a race in academia to claim the first prize for the best theory to explain the events before and after September 11.
The consensus is that the dominant discourse of realism has won, because it conceives of conflict and destruction as natural in an anarchical world (from Thomas Hobbes’ ;anarchical state of nature;). It also justifies America’s threatening military actions after the terror strikes as a natural form of behavior of strong states, which always bully the weak into compliance to serve the former’s selfish interests. The more interesting contest is among the alternative theories to realism. It is a race for second prize, and the main competitors are feminism, globalism/neo-Marxism and pluralism. FeminismThe fundamental premise of feminism is that international politics is a ;man’s world" and a "gendered activity".
Gender is a social construction based on ideas of "autonomy", "objectivity", "sovereignty" and "virtu" (Niccolo Machiavelli), of which only men and masculine states are allegedly capable. Writing after September 11, feminist novelist Arundhati Roy encapsulated this critique, saying, "Women of the world stand between two extremes, both represented by androcentrism, Rambo culture and patriarchy – Osama bin Laden and George Bush. " Bin Laden reportedly has 42 wives and is a defender and instigator of Taliban-style hardline Islamic "structural violence" against women. Bush heads the most conservative American administration since Ronald Reagan, pursuing vested interests of the military-industrial complex and giant oil multinationals that extort women in the Third World (a line favored by Marxist feminism). Realist dogmas and metaphors of "war of every man against every man" and "stag hunt" (Jean Jacques Rousseau) have been pursued vigorously by the US government since September 11, accompanied by a culture of "manliness" and glorification of soldiers and ultra-patriotic themes in the media. "Imperial brotherhoods" (Robert Dean) among mujahideen and the Bush cabinet are waging destructive wars to quench their fanaticism and male egotism.
Some feminists see the World Trade Center itself as a symbol of male capitalist egotism which ran into another kind of Arabic male chauvinism on September 11. Feminists also like to point out that the majority of women in the world, including Palestinians, mourned the deaths of innocents in the terror attacks, and called for a foreign policy of reconciliation instead of revenge. But state-centric "military security" orthodoxy dominates the discourse and active voicing of peace by women has been relegated to peripheral activity and condescendingly dismissed as "human interest stuff" (Ann Tickner). The outcome is that human security and "common security", an all-encompassing concept including domestic non-violence, is sorely lacking as the US prepares for more wars. Feminist scholars have particularly lamented how the US has compromised with chauvinist male warlords in Afghanistan, who are only a shade better than the Taliban, and which is still claiming for propaganda value that American military action "emancipated" Afghan women.
Feminist interventions since September 11 have labelled the event and its aftermath as an instance of patriarchal "technology of destruction and domination". They urge a dire need to transform the realist paradigm and to include one half of the world’s population in deciding on foreign policy so that a more harmonious world and a ;just peace; can be arrived at. However, feminism has no unified tenor. Despite using phrases like ;sexual terrorism; (Dorothy Roberts) as a much bigger threat to human security than Islamic terrorism, feminists are a highly divided lot, with competing visions of ;radical feminism;, ;white Western feminism;, ;ecological feminism;, ;post-modern feminism;, et al.
Feminist international relations deconstruct realist policies with gusto, but offer no alternative model for transforming practice of world affairs. Can a superpower be realistically expected to simply ;forgive; and ;heal; terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 people in one single day? Feminists seem to be putting forth a chimerical ideal. Globalism/Neo-MarxismGlobalism/Neo-Marxism is a structural theory that rates economics, not security, as the driving force of international relations. Under-development of Third World states leads to ;dependency; on rich industrialized states, which exploit the peripheral states through an integrated capitalist system.
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