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The Manichean temptation: Moralising rhetoric and the invocation of evil in US foreign policy

Kennedy, Caroline

Authors

Caroline Kennedy



Abstract

The United States, Richard Hofstadter once remarked, is a country that has the misfortune not to have an ideology but to be one. In this article, an amendment to Hofstadter's claim is made, suggesting that tied in with the United States's sense of self, is not only what people usually see as some version of US 'exceptionalism'-the United States as the 'shining city on the hill' or, more recently, the 'indispensable nation'-but also a constant and continuing Manichaeism in both the understanding and the practice of its foreign policy. There is a permanent temptation for the United States to 'moralise' its relations with others, often rationalising its own actions by demonising its opponents. This article argues that any understanding of US foreign policy must embed an understanding of a long-standing imperative to transform global and regional politics through opposition to 'evil'. The Manichean 'temptation' is alive and well in contemporary US foreign policy, invoking 'evil' to justify US actions abroad sometimes leading to the infliction of unnecessary and often avoidable suffering. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Citation

Kennedy, C. (2013). The Manichean temptation: Moralising rhetoric and the invocation of evil in US foreign policy. International Politics, 50(5), 623-638. doi:10.1057/ip.2013.26

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal International Politics
Print ISSN 1384-5748
Electronic ISSN 1740-3898
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Issue 5
Pages 623-638
DOI https://doi.org/10.1057/ip.2013.26
Public URL https://hull-repository.worktribe.com/output/471645
Publisher URL https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057%2Fip.2013.26