Turkish Journal of International Relations

Turkish Journal of International Relations

Volume 3, Number 4, Winter 2004


Power and Identity in Flux: American Foreign Policy Toward the Middle East
By Engin Erdem



The main purpose of this paper is to bring an eclectic approach to understand American foreign policy toward the Middle East. I have two constitutive variables for this purpose: power and identity. How do these two elements influence American policy toward the region, or in other words, how do and/or can power and identity help explain the formulation of America’s ‘national interests’ in the Middle East? This study does not take ‘national interest’ as an independent variable here, rather it is taken as dependent variable that is constituted by power and identity. On the other hand, power and identity are also in dynamic interaction with each other. It is especially clear when one talks about the use of American power in correspondence to America’s democratic and liberal identity. In this respect, legitimacy of the use of American force in the eyes of the rest of the world is also an important issue when one evaluates American foreign policy in the context of American identity. Finally, how can September 11 and its aftermath make an impact on American policy toward the Middle East in this framework? Does the United States weigh power considerations over identity concerns? Or specifically, how does the United States approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as to democratization in the Middle East in the context of power and identity concerns? How can the U.S. follow policies in regard to these important issues in serving both American power and identity? These are the main questions, which the U.S. has faced after September 11. Though each question may require a separate paper itself, this paper aims at providing a general framework.

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