The Preventing Violent Extremism Policy – ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’

The persistence of global terrorism and violent extremism presents an ongoing threat to human security and national security. This threat, with the right policy response can be effectively mitigated or reduced. The Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) policy was developed in response to ongoing threats of home-grown terrorism, or risk of potential individuals in Australia becoming violent or extremist. This research utilises Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ (2009) framework to analyse the representation of the issue, the underlying assumptions that have shaped the issue, how it came to be, and the resulting effects of the PVE. This analysis focuses on the assumption that the community is both where the problem arises due to a lack of social cohesion, and therefore where the solution is assumed to be.


 What’s the ‘problem’ represented to be?

The Australian policy for preventing violent extremism and radicalization (PVE) portrays an issue surrounding a breakdown of social cohesion through diminishment of Australian values (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pg. 3). Although violent extremism is a global issue, the Australia government constructs a certain representation of the problem based on the way the issue is thought about and the surrounding values (Bacchi, 2009). The issue focused on within the policy is the evolution of violent extremism within Australian communities, however the problem represented (Bacchi, 2009) is that it is the responsibility of the entire Australian community to strengthen the community in order to prevent marginalisation, and to mobilize themselves to become more aware of potential individuals that may become violent extremists. The first paragraph of the PVE) specifically describes accepting diversity and promoting social cohesion as a challenge (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pg. 3). This is further highlighted by the inclusion of case studies of certain individuals or members of the community. These case studies attempt to highlight the fact that the lack of social cohesion and disengagement from the community can lead to acts of radicalisation (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pg. 5, pg. 11). Furthermore, the policy takes an educational stance and to address the contextual circumstances from which violent extremism can evolve and how the Australian community can identify these circumstances or signs of potential extremist behaviour and prevent their evolution (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015). These contexts are community-focused and claim that Australian society can lead to being more vulnerable and inclined to participate in violent extremist behaviour.


 What assumptions underpin this/these representation/s of the ‘problem’?

Within the many assumptions surrounding the PVE policy, there are two that stand out to be the key drivers in the policy as a response. The first lies around the rise of extremism being dependent on the surrounding social cohesion. This assumes that acceptance of diversity and social cohesiveness will not give rise to any potentially violent radical individuals. The PVE describes diversity to be an Australian value, and that we need to be inclusive of this diversity in order to prevent violent extremism. In addition to this, there is a binary assumed that is one of a coherent community versus the individuals detached from the community body. From this, the language of describing the community as a whole group compared with the language of the individual, presents the stronger, more resilient and privileged side of the binary to be the community. This demonstrates the high value placed on the community both as the problem and the solution to the issue.

The other assumption underlying the policy is that the community is the mechanism for fixing the problem and that it is in the best position to take action against the problem, not the government, which is parallel to a neoliberal ideology (Cahill, 2010) and a communitarian approach that pushes for the communal responsibility of community members in addressing social and political issues (Mclelland, 2006). By using education as the policy tool, it is showing that through educating the community, it is empowering people to be able to manage radical individuals. This idea that educating or telling people what to do is right, stems from the strict father model of ideology (Lakeoff, 2004) in that based on the correct set of values, the community should do whatever the father says. Anne Aly argues that policy responses such as the PVE rest on the false assumption that individuals or communities are more vulnerable to violence and extremism because they are politically and socially marginalized. The PVE tries to address these issues of resilience and social harmonization, however other root causes of extremism need to be explored. The problem is represented to be one of violent extremism developing from within the community. The community, or individuals within the community, are the source of the anxiety and therefore the problem, and in the case of the PVE, the community is also the source of the solution.


How have this/these representation/s of the ‘problem’ come about?

Carol Bacchi (2009) highlights the importance of being able to identify certain key events or decisions in history that have had an impact on the policy development today. Australia’s policy development regarding terrorism has been closely aligned with that of the United States (U.S). Since the 2001 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks in the U.S, the U.S government developed a policy plan titled the War on Terror, aimed at mobilising the world to combat global terrorism. Australia’s close relationship with the U.S could be reason for terrorism being high on Australia’s foreign policy agenda, as per Maddison and Denniss’ analysis (2013). Traditionally, issues of linking terrorism and ethnic diversity have been quite aggressive and portrayed to be a patriotic issue (Chopra, 2015). The PVE represents a shift in this conservative thinking to an issue not of specifically religious clash, but one of social cohesion in general. Anne Aly described the War on Terror to be a perpetual state of awareness and mobilisation. The PVE represents a shift in frame from the government as the ‘fixer’ of the problem, to the community members becoming mobilised and claiming them to be in the best position to be the ‘fixer’ (Aly, 2014). The PVE policy is an extension of this mobilisation; urging people in the community to be aware of potential individuals in their community that could become violent extremists.

The PVE’s focus on the community and the preservation of Australian values illustrate that ‘social cohesion’, ‘harmonisation’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pg. 3, 10) and traditional Australian values are of peak priority, hence the development of the PVE policy. The notion of social cohesion is ambiguous and ill-defined, however traces could be made back to the shift in approach made by the United Kingdom and broader Europe after the 2005 London bombings and the 2001 9/11 attacks in the United States, prompting an evolutionary shift in policy response (Harris-Hogan, Barelle & Zammit, 2016).


Power – influences and silences

The research informing the PVE policy was conducted by the Global Terrorism and Research Centre at Monash University in Victoria. With the focus of the policy being on education and providing education to the community to be able to respond to the problem, it is fitting that the information and research informing the policy was carried out by a prominent, influential education institution. However, the inclusion of certain information, statistics and anecdotal case studies is central to the political agenda, and was incorporated due the alignment with the political values and ideology of the current government. For example, the current Australian government carries a neoliberal communitarian ideology which places high value on the collective responsibility of the community in addressing certain issues (Mclelland, 2006). The PVE frames the issue in the same way (Lakoff, 2004). Framing the issue to be a problem related to the community evokes a sense of responsibility and mobilisation in the community members and puts the policy solution in the hands of them.

The case studies included in the PVE (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pp. 5, 11, 14, 19) present an array of members of the community from various parts of socio-economy. These community members that have encountered extremism highlight the representation of the policy; that it could happen to any member of the community, regardless of ethnicity or religion, and it arose due to a lack of engagement with their families and communities. These cases crystallised and dominated the problem representation and assumption; that a lack of community engagement and social cohesion is the cause of these people become violent and extreme.

There were a number of community members that were consulted as a part of the PVE development. A quote from Emeritus Professor Gary Bouma from Monash University (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pp. 5), a credible member of the educational and religious sector, is included. His view also concludes that violent extremism stems from feeling cut off from the larger community (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015 pp. 5). He also states that prevention is largely at the hands of the entire community. This view aligns with and further reinforces the PVE’s problem representation which is why it was included. The fact that he is the only prominent religious community member that is consulted only highlights those that were silenced. By representing the problem as one of social cohesion, and then not including consultations from diverse members of society truly shows whose opinion is more valued. By restricting the scope of consultation when formulating a policy, the scope of the policy options for outcome are automatically narrowed also (Curtain, 2006). Many members of the community such as Samier Dandan (2015) expressed their agitation with not being consulted in light of the PVE policy release and claim that it is ‘marked by a dismissal of research and recommendations from the Muslim Community’ (Dandan, 2015).

Silencing or lack of consultation represents a restriction on the way that we can think about the policy (Bacchi, 2009). One of the groups left unconsulted were the teachers and schools that were to be trained to identify signs of radicalisation (Nadim, 2016). This alternative account shows us the way the policy representation has limited our thinking about the policy, but also how the policy representation is inadequate in representing all views.  In addition to these views being ignored, we can look at the German de-radicalisation model ‘Hayat’ (Hayat Germany, 2011), which offers counselling services to those that are becoming radicalised. This problem representation offers a mental health account and considers radicalisation to be an issue of mental health and that those affected need help. In the PVE there is no mention of mental health being a factor that could lead to radicalisation, although Gary Bouma (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pp.5) discusses disengagement and feelings of not being cared about, which suggests a person may be experiencing poor mental health. Comparing these contexts suggests that there are cultural or political influences that have led to the Australian government thinking about extremism in this way. This could simply be influenced by Australia’s foreign relations with Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, who initially led the focus-shift to more passive approaches that focused on cohesion and harmony (Harris-Hogan, Barelle & Zammit, 2016).


What are the effects?

The language of the PVE puts forward a specific way of thinking about the problem and discusses only part of the potential solution. ‘A breakdown in social cohesion can lead to a breakdown in community resilience’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pp. 3). This statement immediately puts forward that the only way to think about this issue is through the frame of social cohesion (Lakoff, 2014). The language throughout the policy evokes a sense of responsibility in the reader; ‘once someone is involved in violent extremism, it is important to help them leave or disengage from violent influences as soon as possible’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2015, pp. 17). This discursive effect places responsibility of the community member to act as the first point of response and to act immediately. Most importantly, this sort of discourse persuades the reader be aware, mobilise themselves, and to respond in a specific way to the issue.

Policy making has the effect to divide groups that then become subjects of a particular policy and places those subjects within them (Bacchi, 2009). These dividing practices make the targeted group responsible for the problem. An example of a subjectified group within the PVE policy is the role of the educators or teachers, which under this policy are being trained to notice signs of extremism (Nadim, 2016). This shifts the context of school as a safe educational institute, to one of law enforcement and surveillance. In addition to schools and teachers being subjected to this kind of responsibility, the young Muslim community is now subjected to significant scrutiny in another aspect of the community. The creation of the binary community and the individual is somewhat hopeful in that it represents the community to be a lot bigger than the potential individual which would overpower the potentially extremist individual. These subjectification effects again reiterate the PVE’s assumption that the problem and therefore power and solution lies within the community to combat radicalisation.

Although the PVE is still in early stages, speculation can be made about what sort of lived effects will become of the assumptions and problem representation of the PVE. Bacchi (2009) argues that every problem representation impacts groups unevenly. This can be observed in looking the effects one each stakeholder. For instance, the overarching lived effect of the PVE is that the entire Australian community is now a body of securitisation and law enforcement. This is because the PVE has been formulated on an assumption that claims that the problem is within the community and a lack of cohesion within the community is the cause of the problem. If the problem is within the community, then so must be the response. This could lead to community members such as teachers or community leaders feeling a sense of guilt if they do not act within accordance. If blame is being placed onto the community and they are not acting, the blame perpetuates. For the children in the community, their school is no longer a beacon of safety and free of judgement, but a setting of scrutiny and insecurity.

The combination of discursive, subjectification and lived effects that are outlined highlight the way the issue has been represented in a very restrictive way in that all of these effects limit the possible problem identifications and outcomes. This is exemplified in the silencing and lack of consultation with groups that acknowledge the broader circumstances and causes of radicalisation. This knowledge has been ‘excluded’ as has other ‘widely accepted research from the discussions about how to tackle radicalisation’ (Dandan, 2015). Furthermore, as Dandan states, by securitising the community we are automatically ignoring the broader socio-political issues that contribute to radicalisation (Dandan, 2015). These effects are also creating a sense of insecurity in community members by placing full responsibility onto the community, the ‘lack of leadership at the national level is affecting how safe Victorian multicultural communities feel ‘on the ground’ (ECCV, 2015, pp. 2).

Through analysis using Bacchi’s (2009) framework, the effectiveness of the PVE in addressing the violent extremism appropriately, is limited. Measures of policy effectiveness depends on judgements of value and critique (McConnell, 2010). Concerns on its effectiveness were promptly articulated by members of the community who had been subjectified as a result of the PVE policy. A main concern was issues of funding and its efficacy in addressing surrounding issues of extremism such as systematic racism, cultural differences, Western assimilation and mental health. Many groups claimed that they had not seen any result in the supposed increase in funding (Bachelard, 2015) and that the program was counter-productive in that ‘those advising the government on the development of such policies are also those who will receive millions of dollars in grants to run these programs’ (Nadim, 2016). The term social cohesion is ambiguous and confusing, and often can be interchanged with issues around assimilation into other societies, as expressed by the EVVC (2015). The attribution of responsibility onto the community does not appropriately reflect who or what is to blame for violent extremism. In addition to this, extremism, cohesion, community and other vague terms add to the limitation of the PVE policy to be definitive, focused and produce tangible programs and outcomes (Harris-Hogan, Barelle & Zammit, 2016).

The experiences of the community after the development of the PVE as a response to violent extremism will be severely dichotomised. By resting on assumptions that the problem lies within the community as a result of lack of social cohesion is narrow and tries to ignore the broader social, economic, political and global issues that are the true causes and factors contributing to violent extremism in Australia. This analysis found that by placing full responsibility on the community to mobilise themselves is ineffective and only creates an insecure environment where people are feel unsafe and more polarised than ever. This is ironic and counter-productive considering the overall pursuit of social cohesion and harmony as a preventative to violent extremism, ambiguous as those concepts are. ‘The problem of Muslim radicalisation needs to be put into perspective, reduced not abetted, and addressed honestly and sincerely with a resolution not expediency in mind.’ (Rane, 2015). This is where a more comprehensive and inclusive approach needs to be developed that appropriately engages with and acknowledges all social, political and cultural issues.




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Cahill, D (2010) ‘Actually existing neoliberalism’ and the global economic crisis, Labour & Industry, Vol. 20, No. 3, Dec 2010: 298-316

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Curtain, R (2006) ‘Engaging citizens to solve major public policy challenges’ in Colebatch, H. (ed) Beyond the Policy Cycle: the policy process in Australia, Allen & Unwin

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Harris-Hogan, S., Barrelle, K., & Zammit, A. (2016), What is countering violent extremism? Exploring CVE policy and practice in Australia, Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression8(1), 6-24

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Reflections on the Social Construction of Mental Health

I find the discussion of the scientific field and discourse about mental health really interesting, and how often certain specialists can really play off one another. I’ve certainly experienced this after being diagnosed with depression at 14, and generalised anxiety disorder at 16. One of my specialists once asked me whether I thought that my illnesses was me or whether it was an external thing that happened to be occupying my brain that could be deterred. My other specialist simultaneously had been telling me that this was clearly always going to be an issue in my life, it was always going to be present and I was never going to fully recover. Being a teenager, I wasn’t quite sure what was me in my head or what was something else, but I remember earlier, at 9 years old and distinctly knowing that something was wrong with me. At 17 I was still in that headspace as well but it had progressed and I was unsure if it was me or another entity but I did think it was somewhat both. I think this was part of me trying to resist the diagnosis and the idea that it was my problematic brain, but also me performing the diagnosis that I had been given. As we discussed in class, I find it interesting how some people try so hard to resist a diagnosis because they don’t want it to become their identity, and how some people really embrace it, often to their detriment and the illnesses manifestation. I feel like I sort of accepted and embraced it simply because I was exhausted of trying to figure what I was feeling and why I felt that way. This highlights the importance of language, labels and validation as a way of me understanding my emotions and myself after so long. In a way the diagnosis validated my mentality and the way I behaved. Because I was young, I sometimes used this as an excuse, however as I got older I realised, and after thinking about my two contradictory specialists, that no I may not fully recover, and yes I felt that my feelings were out of my control, but I soon learned to mature a lot and change my behaviour so that it didn’t reflect my true feelings and didn’t affect my relationships. Well, I tried my best, and to be fair I think I’ve come a long way and have matured drastically and can now really safely evaluate my feelings and thoughts and understand them more.


A study by Williams and Collins (2002) really struck a chord in that it discussed the idea of chronicity and how characteristics of disadvantage are associated with being chronically ill. I think this really reflects what our society values as healthy and chronic (ahem, capitalism and the workforce) and the idea that societal beliefs about mental illness perpetuate disadvantage that might come with it, for example employment and relationships, this again attaches stigma and reveals societal judgements about it. These constructs contribute to both the stigma attached to mental illness in general, but also to the fact that not much attention is placed on ‘high-functioning’ mentally ill people (such as depression, anxiety and bipolar), as if it doesn’t really matter because they’re participating in society in a way that’s acceptable, therefore it can’t be that bad – this is one thing I hate about mental health discourse. My other thoughts when reading this reading was the idea of diagnosis and scientific rhetoric used to incapacitate (or clinic-ise, as some put it) someone. This sort of classification is problematic to me as I feel like it’s so important to validate someone’s feelings when they’re mentally unwell but at the same time it perpetuates a sort of hypochondria and/or othering. I definitely experienced this when I was young, being taken out of class all the time, my teachers would tell other students (the fact that I was unwell), my teachers would take my friends away from class to give them counselling on how to respond to and support me. It was very isolating. It also perpetuated this part of me that was so self-loathing that I became obnoxious and narcissistic, really making people dislike me more and isolating me further. It makes me think about others who look for validation in their mental illness, I saw it a lot in high school and as I was learning it about myself, it really frustrated me when I saw other people look for that attention and justification for nothing but their behaviour. Reading the Williams and Collins study, where they discuss chronicity, it made me think about people that seek validation through diagnosis may somewhat perpetuate their mentality as well, in the same way that an editorial by Eisenberg (1988) discusses science as looking for confirmation as a way to explain certain interactions or make sense of chaos. This sort of scientific rhetoric and validation (of observation and prediction) reminded me of my past philosophy studies, looking into Karl Popper and David Hume where they challenge traditional scientific paradigms. Popper claims that confirmation/validation (of theory, in science) is easy to look for, similar to the way that confirmation through diagnosis is easy to look for. I wonder whether we should think about changing that and adopting his falsification theory whereby everything should be able to be disproved in order to progress toward truth. This means we’d be looking for disproof in a theory or mental health, to be able to establish diagnosis (or lack of). It sounds confusing at the moment but when it instantly came to my mind it made total sense. The way we look at mental health now relies on the uniformity of mentality, in the same way that Hume says science relies on the uniformity of nature. This sort of thinking is where mental illness comes from – who determines what is normal? And why are they looking for reasons or confirmation of people not being ‘normal’ in regard to mental health/illness?

If anyone understands the severity of mental health and the importance of breaking stigma and encouraging discussion and support, it’s me. However, I am a constructionist, and I have always wondered where the threshold lies…

At what point do our thoughts become abnormal?

At what point are they unhealthy?

Is acknowledging their abnormality or existence a warrant for them to exist?

At what point have we recovered?

Dealing with Diplomacy

The P5+1, that is the 5 most powerful states in the United Nations (UN) (France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) plus Germany, have proposed multilateral diplomatic negotiations with Iran in regard to its nuclear regime. However, the United States Republican Party (GOP) disagree with diplomatic efforts and plan to sabotage the negotiations through blocking the proposal once it reaches the US Senate, and propose that strike attacks against Iran are a safer option than a nuclear-armed Iran (Kroenig, 2012). These diplomatic compromises may improve not only US and Iran relations, but Iran’s relations with the Western world as rather than its economy being sabotaged, an attempt at recuperation and peace-building could lead to a less nuclear-capable and less aggressive Iran, making room for peace-building in the Middle East.

Commencing initially in November 2013, the P5+1 negotiations essentially outline that Iran will be relieved of various international sanctions against it (within UN resolutions and otherwise) so long as Iran commits to a reduction in its nuclear production.  If the final settlement concludes in June 2015 as proposed, Iran will have pledge to diluting certain nuclear elements, limiting centrifuge connection and production, and freezing production of important elements in its stockpile, and abiding by non-proliferation guidelines, as outlined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA guidelines (Garcia, Katzman, Kerr, Nikitin, 2015). However, the GOP immediately and overtly rejected US President Barack Obama’s proposal to sign the deal on the basis that Obama ‘is more interested in signing a deal—any deal—with Iran regardless of the deal’s effectiveness in stopping Iran from ever building a nuclear weapon.’ And that the deal will be a bad one that will ultimately allow Iran to continue its nuclear program and ultimately develop a nuclear weapon. (Cotton, 2015).Statements from GOP members and senators are in response to an open letter written and sent to the leaders of Iran that largely stated the pointlessness of agreeing to the P5+1 negotiations, as when Obama’s presidential term ends, legislation says that any US president maintains right to veto any previous binding deal and that Obama must have a two-third Senate majority to pass the bill initially anyway, which would not occur in the GOP-led Senate (United States Senate, 2015). Dramatically opposed to allowing Iran to continue (albeit at a far less progressive rate), GOP senators are plotting to sabotage any attempt at passing the bill, highlighting the deep vendetta held against Iran, as further articulated by Senator John Isakson, who would like to pursue further compensation from Iran for American diplomats taken more than 30 years ago (Broder, 2015). Other suggested alternatives, including Marco Rubio’s proposition whereby Iran must formally recognise Israel (an undoubted rejection) have all been termed ‘poison pill’s’ (Broder, 2015). These suggested alternatives, although some seeming diplomatic and based on negotiation, still fuel the aggression and hostility held towards Iran which will undoubtedly drive motivation to boost its nuclear programme, rather than at least try to slow it down and allow concessions.

The possibility of achieving complete non-proliferation is slim, especially considering that the P5 are all states that are officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons (Arms Control Association, 2015). Furthermore, in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states that member states must ‘pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament’ (Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1968) rather than suggesting a full-blown missile strike against Iran, as Michael Kroenig proposes (Kroenig, 2012). Although Iran have not upheld the best reputation during its weaponised history (Landau & Stein, 2014), as Stephen Walt suggests, it is important to not simply try and find the ultimate solution, but to evaluate a series of responses and narrow it down to which approach carries the least amount of risk (Walt, 2011). Through the lens of conscious realism (Hoffman, 2008) on the political stage, it is clear to see that in regard to dichotomy of war versus diplomacy and negotiation, the objective reality is that diplomacy and negotiation are evidently superior to war and violence as a means of consensual and legitimate dispute settlement mechanisms. Iran insists that there is ‘no credible deterrence’ (JTA, 2014) to stop Iran’s nuclear programme, rather than presenting a threatening stance led by the somewhat exceptional U.S, the U.S’s idea to “lead from behind” (Indyk M. S., Lieberthal K. G. & Hanlon M. E. 2012) is a far more diplomatic effort from the P5+1 than to cease all negotiations, which could ‘increase the possibility that Iran would accelerate its nuclear program and that the United States or Israel would launch military strikes. The last thing we need is yet another war in the Middle East.’ (Collina, 2014).

With Iran being labelled as a sponsor of state terrorism and maintaining a hardliner posture, it is clear that remaining antagonistic when weaponry is involved, things will not only not move forward, but they will get more hostile. The GOP is stuck in a more aggressive era and needs to move towards a more calm and cautious stance to solve issues in a more covert manner through slow development rather than outright refusal.  The circumstances and proposals around Iran’s nuclear program are not ideal, however the P5+1 proposal is less damaging and is more sustainable and productive than one-way non-proliferation deals or blatant strike attacks. It also must be remembered that no one can see into the future and confidently articulate what the consequences of each manoeuvre will be.

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Collective Security or Collective Defence? The Importance of Lexicology in Policy

Going against Article 9 of their Constitution (1947), the Japanese government has bilaterally decided with the United States (US) to amend its defence and security strategy in order to improve alliance efficiency. This strategic security tactic fundamentally alters Japan’s stance towards warfare and presents a more aggressive political posture. Discourse surrounding the development includes both terms of collective security and collective self-defence; differing concepts that are being treated as synonymous (Martin, 2015). Under international law, concepts of collective security and collective self-defence have distinct conditions which therefore have severe implications and consequences. The consequences of these new negotiations and cooperation can be seen on a broad scale in terms of US, China and Japan relations, but also more closely on a technical and syntactical level.

Opposing article 9 of the Japanese 1947 constitution which declared ‘the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes’ (Japanese Constitution, art. 9, 1947), The post-World War II period saw Japan’s 1952 US-Japan Security Treaty to be under pressure from both socialists, conservatives and even from the US. During May of 1960, Japanese conservatives sought a more balanced defence strategy that not only rearmed Japan, but allowed mutual defence between the US and Japan, and also granted Japan with more control over US forces (AFE, 2009). New negotiations on the original treaty committed the US to defend Japan if under attack but only at the permission or consultation of the Japanese. Despite continued Japanese insistence that US military presence in Japan was and still is essential for the protection of Japan, the motives of a post-war US which included incorporating old enemy states and rebalancing rising powers shone a new light on the beneficiaries of the new negotiations. This transition never really disappeared as in 2010 the Obama administration announced a new pivot towards Asia as it moved into ‘strengthening alliances’ and ‘deepening partnerships with emerging powers’ such as Japan, according to former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (Donilon, 2013). This continuously strengthening alliance with Japan, including support for the administrative control of the Senkaku Islands, as affirmed by Hillary Clinton in 2010 and reaffirmed by President Barack Obama on the basis of article 5 of the new bilateral defence treaty (Obama, 2015). Supporting Japan on this issue could be detrimental to US-China relations, with which the US is also attempting to strengthen ties and renew alliance. How the US will improve ties with China while supporting Japan in its strive for South Sea Islands may be damaging to US relations with China, potentially causing more contingencies between China, the US and Japan itself.

The technicalities and rhetoric surrounding in the defence guidelines purposely make ambiguous the terms of which Japan and the US can come to each other’s defence and protection. Considering the guidelines have not yet been voted on or finalised, the implications are currently based on surrounding discourse which employs both the terms collective self-defence and collective security (Martin, 2015). It is dangerous to think that both these terms could be used in the final guideline proposal as these terms collective self-defence and collective security are not synonymous. [Collective] Self-defence is justified under article 51 of the United Nations (UN) charter, therefore almost any attack that Japan may pursue could essentially rely upon the [collective] self-defence ruling (United Nations Charter, 1945). Collective security is a much broader scope and is rationalised under article 42 of the UN charter as necessary (at UN discretion) if there is threat to international security and order (United Nations Charter, 1945). If in the new defence guidelines, both terms collective self-defence and collective security were to be used, it essentially justifies any armed attack Japan takes against anyone on the basis that they too had pursued an attack. Given that the guidelines were negotiated in conjunction with the US, it would indeed permit Japan to engage in any use of force that is initiated by the US, without necessary permission or authorization from the UN. The Japanese government has tried to give very specific examples of what these conditions would permit them to such as ballistic missiles being launched at the US. However other ambiguous language such as ‘international peace cooperation activities’ (Martin, 2015) tend to blur the real guidelines and conditions for the agreement. It must be made clear the correct usage of terms collective self-defence and collective security and which is used in the final guidelines as each have their own severe implications and consequences not only for the US-Japan alliance, but for the entire global political stage.

Although the new defence guidelines are an attempt at not only strengthening US-Japan ties, tightening Japan’s defence and acquiring a more efficient response to contingencies, it seems that the implications of said guidelines have other agendas. The US’s interest in embracing its relations with Japan seems to act as a forefront for a US geo-strategic position in the Asian region, in accordance with its bold pivot towards Asia. It is crucial that the technicalities and rhetoric surrounding the negotiations are clearly defined and separated so as not to blur the conditions in order to find loopholes for the benefit of the US or Japan’s foreign relations and policy instruments.

AFE (2009) Article 9 and the US-Japan Security Treaty, ‘Asia for Educators’, Columbia University, (accessed 15/5/2015)

Department of Defense (2015), Guidelines for US-Japan Defence Cooperation, United States Department of Defense,–_GUIDELINES_FOR_US-JAPAN_DEFENSE_COOPERATION_FINAL&CLEAN.pdf (accessed 15/5/2015)

Donilon, T. (2013), The United States and the Asia-Pacific in 2013, The Asia Society, New York, NY

Japanese Government (1947), Article 9, the Constitution of Japan,$FILE/Constitution%20-%20Japan%20-%20EN.pdf (accessed 15/5/2015)

Klingner, B. (2015), Amid Chinese Aggression, Obama Affirms U.S Defence of Japan’s Senkaku Islands, The Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation, accessed 15/5/2015

Martin, C. (2015), Collective self-defense and collective security: what the differences mean for Japan, The Japan Times, (accessed 15/5/2015)

United Nations (1945), Charter of the United Nations, VII 42, (accessed 15/5/2015)

United Nations (1945), Charter of the United Nations, VII 51, (accessed 15/5/2015)

American Exceptionalism as an Inherent Ingredient in U.S Foreign Policy

Realists argue that the United States (U.S) acts out of its own need for self-help and preservation in the nature of the competitive global political arena. However, as crystallised by the Bush administration, the notion of American Exceptionalism is a significant driving force in US foreign policy. Although realism may hold an undertone in US foreign policy, the entitled position that the U.S has constructed for itself has derived from the deeply rooted history and rhetoric surrounding religion, manifest destiny, responsibility and expansion that has now morphed into the belief of Exceptionalism. These manifestations of a common theme have been exemplified throughout U.S history, in particular the 20th century, however this discussion intends to focus on the Bush administration and Doctrine that used Exceptionalism as a guide to action in foreign policy, the use of force, the War on Terror and its rhetoric and the all-embracing spread of American freedom and democracy.

American Exceptionalism is argued to be adapted from the complex relationship between the U.S constitution and the vast Christian population that it governed. The American independence and the creation of the Constitution was built on the political experiment that would ideally create the perfect republic in which the American population would be granted the ultimate liberties and individual rights (Encyclopaedia of the New American Nation). This was an attempt at a separation from the ‘Old World’ that was Europe to the New World Order; a democratic republic that strove to avoid the class conflicts and socialism of Eastern Europe at the time (Tyrrell, 1991). Inextricably linked with this idea of separation is the U.S’s responsibility to lead the rest of the world to this New World Order in the political realm; as if enlightening the rest of the world to the greater political good that is democracy (Ceasar, 2012). The term ‘exceptional’ implies unique; different; special in either holding a certain quality or in determination of a certain pursuit (Caesar, 2012). Contextually-speaking, the government and Constitution of the U.S as a new world nation was unique and thus ‘overtones of natural superiority’ (Tyrrell, 1991, pg. 1034) and leadership were realised. ‘At the heart of this difference is religion’ and ‘the durability of American religious beliefs’ (Galston, 2014). During the American Westward expansion period in the early 1800s, the concept of a Manifest Destiny as a part of God’s plan, America’s pursuit of fulfilment and “in essence the doctrine that one nation has a preeminent social worth, a distinctively lofty mission, and consequently, unique rights in the application of moral principles.” (Weinberg, 1935, pg. 8). The territorial expansion of the United States was essentially a sign that the spread of U.S freedom and democracy must spread all over the globe, and this was certainly continued through the centuries following the initial acquisition of the American continent. It is pursuits such as these that are consequences of the sacred association of exceptional U.S foreign policy. However, the term ‘Exceptionalism’ was not discussed until Alexis De Tocqueville in his ‘Democracy in America’ wrote that ‘The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one’ (De Tocqueville, 1840, pg. 31). This was following on from Joseph Stalin’s ironic comment that the U.S was the exception in not having any presence of social classes or socialism (Friedman, 2012). During his presidency in 2001-2009, U.S President George Bush exemplified how the belief and now ideology of American Exceptionalism shaped U.S foreign policy through claimed responsibility, entitlement and leadership in spreading ‘the blessings of freedom and democracy with others around the world’ (Land, 2010).

When George W. Bush was inaugurated on January 20th of 2001, he delivered a bold and promising inaugural speech ensuring that America’s ‘faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea’ (Bush, 2001). Bush boldly declared that ‘If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led’, a blatant appeal to the Exceptional position and responsibility to lead the world in the image of America; as if without America, freedom and progress would not occur. The presidential transfer to Bush was seen in in many eyes as a revolution, one that both threw off constraints from its allies and utilised its strength to progress and inspire the rest of the world (Daalder & Lindsay, 2003). After the events of September 11 2001, four coordinated terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre Towers and the Pentagon, it was clear that U.S foreign policy and foreign policy discussions would be changed forever. The Bush Doctrine had now developed into notions of pre-emptive and preventative war, the War on Terror, the spread of democracy, exemptions from international law and norms so that ‘The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom.’ (Bush, 2001). This paradigm shift in foreign policy provided a more aggressive direction of action, laced with religious rhetoric exemplified in Bush’s ‘We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty’. Such emphasis on U.S fulfilment and duty to lead the course of action seemed to provide God’s warrant for U.S unilateralism and practices in its foreign policy.  In Bush’s rhetoric lies distinct manifestations of the Exceptionalist position in terms of Bush’s feeling of being the exception to international law, the need to take the lead in the War on Terror, dismantling governing bodies in the Middle East so as to implement democracy, and creating false dichotomies of the U.S versus terrorism. These expeditions of unipolarity during the Bush administration were an exhibit of possible manifest destiny.

President George Bush and his approach to foreign policy was an evident illustration to American Exceptionalism and in particular, entitlement. When the Kyoto protocol was adopted and negotiations were being made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 1997, tensions arose between negotiators, notably the European Union and the U.S regarding restrictions and targets for the reduction of Greenhouse Gases, of which the U.S emitted a total of 6503.8 million tonnes (Freeland, 2001). Shortly after his inauguration in 2001, George Bush, although ‘committed to a leadership role’ in climate change (The Economist, 2001), announced that the U.S would be withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on the basis that it would be detrimental to the U.S economy, that scientific foundations were insufficient and agreements made by other major emitters such as China and India were not binding enough (Freeland, 2001). This contemporary example of the U.S feeling constrained by terms of the rest of the world, rather than terms of their own, is a perceived attempt at the European Old World trying to dominate the New (Cox & Stokes, 2012), not in a territorial sense, but in a political one, and from Bush’s perspective an economic one also. The U.S withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol at the leadership of George Bush is a particular case that pertains to American Exceptionalism and its characteristic of entitlement and leadership. While a withdrawal from a less-developed nation may not have been as consequential, considering US support was highly prioritised (Freeland, 2001), George Bush went on to claim that the Kyoto Protocol was essentially ‘dead’ (The Economist, 2001). Political discourse such as this assumes that without the U.S support, there is no state that is as successful or committed as the U.S, as if to say it would have no progress without U.S support. This is perhaps due to global environmental law and its terms differing because the consequences of one states non-compliance in a climate treaty is far more severe upon other states, rather than simply not having support (Chalecki, 2007). ‘This means that a one non-party nation can render the entire regime ineffective’ (Chalecki, 2007, pg. 15). As supported by Elizabeth Chalecki, George Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol was a concrete example of aspects of Exceptionalism such as wanting to criticise other states, gaining exceptions or exemptions for U.S practises and most importantly avoidance or isolation from legal jurisdictions (Ignatieff, 2005).

After the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, George Bush declared that ‘America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world’ and that it was time to protect the ‘justice and peace’ that America supposedly stands for (Bush, 2001). It was during this speech that Bush referred to the pivotal turning point in U.S foreign policy as the ‘War on Terror’ or the ‘War on terrorism’ (Stokes, 2009). It was declared and frequently reinforced that ‘America has stood down enemies before, and will do so again this time’ and that ‘America will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbour them’ (Bush, 2001). It was this shift from political containment to an overt and aggressive ideology of anti-terrorism; as if creating and deterring terrorism provided a justification of U.S intervention and war (Stokes, 2009). These notions were put into legal action with the publishing of Bush’s National Security Strategy (NSS) in September, 2002 which announced the validation for attack with the introduction of prevention and pre-emption (Freedman, 2006). During his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush declared that he would ‘not wait on events, while dangers gather’ (Bush, 2002). The NSS articulated links between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and states that had Weapons of Mass Destruction capacities and capabilities, and it was the ultimate objective of the NSS to achieve full military superiority to an exceptional point where no other threatening states would have means to reach the same military capacities as the U.S and therefore deter them from attacking again (Stokes, 2009). Eventually, it was realised that the Bush needed some form of foreign support and so the Coalition of the willing was formed as an appeared multilateral effort, obviously led by the U.S (Daalder & Lindsay, 2003). President Bush felt that the U.S’s ‘responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil’ (Bush, 2001). Presenting the War on Terror in such a dichotomous way not only assumed the preventative and pre-emptive attacks were the only pathway to defeating terrorism, but also put the idea of a global concept such as terrorism, on the same level as a state, concluding that the U.S was in fact as powerful as terrorism and was going to be more so. The unipolarity disguised as the Coalition of the willing is a distinct illustration of the Bush administration’s claim to Exceptionalism. The abolishment of global terrorism was going to be Bush’s vision of America as the exceptional state whose pursuit of terrorism and global democracy needed to be fulfilled as its manifest destiny, and without U.S leadership in said pursuit, the world could not progress.

Following the announcement of the global War on Terror, the U.S intervention in Iraq in 2003 was an explicit demonstration of America’s supposed Exceptionalist position. Manifestations of American Exceptionalism including unconditional commitment and determination to a certain mission or pursuit (Ceaser, 2012), such as the War on Terror, meant that the U.S would stop at nothing ‘come hell or high water’ (Sloan, 2008, pg. 4) to fulfil their political, moral and religious obligation. The intervention was prompted by the belief that Iraq was harbouring both Saddam Hussien, who was at the time believed to be partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and harbouring and building weapons of mass destruction (WMD). By presenting the Iraq intervention as positively fighting terrorism and simultaneously promoting supposed freedom and democracy, the U.S’s right to intervene seemed almost unquestionable and President Bush believed that the intrusion was far too urgent for even the United Nations Security Council’s investigations of Iraq’s WMDs to be completed. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter articulates that an attack or intervention is only reasonable under pretences of proportionality and direct imminence of an attack or threat (United Nations Charter, 1945). However, the belief that Saddam Hussien was both building and harbouring WMDs was in fact incorrect, and the U.S’s involvement based on self-defence and pre-emption and prevention was now in fact a full-blown attack. One understanding of Exceptionalism is to believe that one is exempt from universal standards of morality or right and wrong (Bromwich, 2014). In the events surrounding the U.S intervention in Iraq it is simple to see that President Bush believed that America was in a position that was above moral and legal right and wrong in the standards of universally binding institutions such as the United Nations, as well as questioned its authority over U.S foreign policy (Daalder & Lindsay, 2003). In addition to this, it is often difficult to justify a war or invasion to the public, therefore by presenting to the masses as if the war on terror as not only a false dichotomy, but also an appeal to the exceptional nature of American people, Bush was able to rationalise the War on Terror to the American public.

Following the intervention in Iraq, a view that is widely held is that the Bush administration held no exit strategy and that Bush and his closest advisors felt that it would be best leave just as quickly as they arrived with no reconstruction effort (Daalder & Lindsay, 2003). However, in a quick thought transition, the Bush administration decided that part of the fight against terrorism would be to oust the current governing system and hold an election to implement a new leader and democratic government, based on the Democratic Peace Theory (Kant, 1795) and ‘undertake active measures to spread its universal political values and institutions’ (Harland, 2013, pg. 51). Robert Miller argues that there are three main components to the ideal of a Manifest Destiny: the special virtues of the American people and their institutions; America’s mission to redeem and remake the world in the image of America; and a divine destiny under God’s direction to accomplish this wonderful task’ (Miller, 2006, pg. 120). In January 2005 George Bush announced that after the first democratic elections held in Iraq that ‘the world is hearing the voice of freedom’ and that ‘By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists’ (Alexander & Saadi, 2005). As Ceaser suggests, at some point in history the Exceptionalist idea of a mission somehow got skewed with ideals of American freedom and democracy (Ceaser, 2012) as a justification for democratisation around the world. Although allies expressed support for a war against terrorism, not necessarily all agreed on such pursuit and determination in disabling a government system and implementing American democratic policy; these were claimed expressions of concern for U.S hegemony (Warren, 2012). The revolutionary pursuit of a state and the rhetoric surrounding it exemplified the exceptional shift from a post-Cold War containment era to a foreign policy that made no distinction between states and terrorism and therefore felt that the only escape from terrorism was to implement the virtues of American liberty, in hope that such ‘a religiously inspired errand to promote liberty or liberal democracy in the world’ (Ceaser, 2012, pg. 8) would succeed in dogmatically promoting America’s image. Moreover, the sentiment that the U.S possesses in being separate from the Old World and being blessed with a religious and political mission to reform the world order (McDougall, 2012), was a direct driver in Bush’s decision to not only invade but restore a new political order in Iraq.

Since its first coining of the term, originally referring to the uniqueness of America’s conception, American Exceptionalism has been exaggerated as a guide to action in U.S foreign policy. The progress-oriented concept of a New World Order provided a political platform for the U.S, in particular the Bush administration to dramatically shift from a containment-based political posture to an overt, more aggressive and unipolar actions in regard to terrorism and asymmetrical warfare, deemed as the biggest threats to U.S security and leadership on the global political arena. Since the event of 9/11, President Bush’s foreign policy was dominated by discourse and decisions made to protect the exceptional liberties of the U.S, it is evident that the use of a supposed religious and therefore obligatory purpose as a foreign policy instrument was ambitiously adopted by the Bush administration, but was also ineffective as a idolatrous grand strategy of the Bush administration in attempt to reach a supposed unipolar moment in the name of American Exceptionalism.

The impossibilities of living in a society and achieving ultimate individual freedom

Individual freedom is not possible in a civil society as the coming together to create a society, and the means of protecting a society requires some restrictions of freedom itself.

In Immanuel Kant’s Ideas of a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, he argues that it is impossible for man to achieve his full potential unless all the strength and power of mankind is combined to create a society (Kant, 2010). It is then that the realist, self-interested practices that aim to achieve power and wealth must be put aside for the interest and preservation of the common good (Kant, 2010). The idea of absolute individual freedom is consistently restrained by consequences and prior events, commonly known in the philosophy world as The Problem of Free Will. The concept of absolute individual freedom without constraint would require the abandonment of human reason influencing the individual’s behaviour. In a society where there are numerous influences such as the media, the environment and finance, avoiding all influences and abandoning human reason in order to attain individual liberty.

The dynamic sociological model of identity argues that the idea of self is socially constructed through discourse and context. The model by Stets and Burke also argues that the self is reflective of the society it is in and vice versa (Stets & Burke, 2003). The concept of a society is built upon the organisation of a community of people in a more or less ordered way. If the self is reflective of a society, then absolute individual freedom cannot exist or it would lead to a congregation of realist individuals exercising unconditional freedom and therefore not progressing toward the common good. This construct and structure supports that ‘man is born free but sacrifices some of these freedoms for the preservation of a state as a whole’ (Rousseau, 1762). In this case, the ‘state’ would be society in general, by which although the individual will have his own aims and interest, true common good or social sovereignty (not state sovereignty) should overpower man’s complete and utter individual freedom in society.

Freedom and suppression are inextricably linked in today’s society. State societies often argue that suppression is used as a mechanism for freedom of the society as a whole (Harvey, 2014). Harvey also argues that ‘to be free, someone else needs to be suppressed and exploited’. These repressive practices are blatantly obvious in the 21st century such as in sweatshops in Eastern countries for example China, India and other Asian countries exhibit atrocious working conditions for not just adults but children also. These practices are often exploited by larger Western states, where freedom of choice and liberty ‘provides a license, it seems, to engage in a large range of repressive practices’ (Harvey, 2014). This idea of a society ensuring the safety of its members is also exacerbated with the 2004 legislations passed in Australia regarding data surveillance (EFA, 2004) where it was insisted that the Australian Surveillance Intelligence Organisation needed to have access to data and location tracking for the security, well-being and safety of Australia. Such surveillance is a concrete contemporary case where the sacrifice of individual privacy and freedom was crucial to the interest of the society.

Michel Foucault (1997) writes that it is not until all socially-constructed limits are realized and avoided that true freedom, or ‘ethos’ can be achieved. In a contemporary, interdependent society, ignoring the copious amounts of social influences for the freedom of a single individual is impossible, due to the way a society itself is constructed.

The Overriding Principle of State Sovereignty can no Longer Apply in a World of Borderless, Global Risks

Globalisation’s forces including increased fluidity of goods, capital, labour, mobility and communication, as well as the escalation of global risks and third-agenda issues, are now outdating the traditional or Westphalian idea of state sovereignty.

The two elements of state sovereignty, internal and external, both exert supreme authority over its territorial domain and have no higher power to answer to, as well as external sovereignty referring to a state’s autonomy in how it conducts itself on the international arena. However, often sovereignty is only acknowledged on an international level and not on a domestic one (Tansey, 2007). It is through the intensification of communication that the people of a state are becoming more aware and active in discussion about domestic and global policy. This shift causes a decentralization of internal sovereignty from the Westphalian aristocracy as governing body, to a socially democratic society having more influence over its authority. As Stiglitz illustrates, it is this ‘well-orchestrated public pressure’ that forces the authorities to adjust public and global policy (Stiglitz, pg. 5, 2003). Furthermore, it is the breakdown of these constructed state barriers that expose the political and economic policy of a state to the rest of the world, diminishing its privacy and overall sovereignty.

The challenges of globalisation that have arisen including those that are natural such as disease and climate change or global warming, have proved that there are some instances where sovereignty is irrelevant. Global crises such as those aforementioned threaten the globe as a whole and therefore it is in every state’s interest and obligation to act for the benefit and safety of the world as a whole, all self-interest aside. For example, with the recent 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, Australia was not sending over healthcare personnel in fear that they would contract the virus, return to Australia and it would spread. However, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale contended that there were to be ‘no more excuses’ in regard to sovereignty-oriented inaction by the Australian government (Di Natale, 2014). Additionally, only recently has the discussion of environmental degradation and resource depletion come into political discourse. The action that needs to be taken in light of these limits to growth need to be considered as a shared responsibility, and that a state’s external sovereignty and self-interested [economic] pursuits need to be waived for the greater good of the collective society. These crises and threats to the twenty-first century ‘defy borders’ (Pascal & Benner, pg. 17, 2012).

One of the greatest forces to weaken sovereignty that resulted from globalisation is the largely influential institutions of global governance. The aim of governing the entire stage of sovereign states largely says enough about its achievement of diminishing a state’s ability to autonomously conduct itself on the international arena (Tansey, 2007). A blatant example is that of the conditionality (Stiglitz, 2003) that comes with international trade agreements. By attempting to enter a fair trade negotiation, a state may have to implement domestic policies against their will in order to gain the benefits of an international trade agreement, such as was the case in the 2001 World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Rounds (Bayoumi, 2011).

In a more interconnected world than ever, it is impossible for the traditional or Westphalian concept of state sovereignty to have as stronger role thanks to the breakdown of traditional state barriers and the emergence of new, globally-concerning issues.