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Free Hand Abroad, Divide and Rule at Home

  • Jack Snyder (a1), Robert Y. Shapiro (a2) and Yaeli Bloch-Elkon (a3)

Under unipolarity, the immediate costs and risks of war are more likely to seem manageable for a militarily dominant power like the U.S. This does not necessarily make the use of force cheap or wise, but it means that the costs and risks attendant on its use are comparatively indirect, long term, and thus highly subject to interpretation. Unipolarity, combined with the opportunity created by September 11, opened a space for interpretation that tempted a highly ideological foreign policy cohort to seize on international terrorism as an issue to transform the balance of power both in the international system and in American party politics. This cohort's response to the terrorist attack was grounded in ideological sincerity but also in the routine practice of wedge issue politics, which had been honed on domestic issues during three decades of partisan ideological polarization and then extended into foreign policy.

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* We thank Michael Desch, James Gibson, Ronald Krebs, Benjamin Page, and participants in a seminar at the LBJ School at the University of Texas for criticizing an earlier draft. Kaori Shoji provided able research assistance. We are grateful to Greg Holyk, who assisted us with the latest data. Shapiro worked on this article while a 2006–7 visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. Data were obtained from the Chicago council on Global Affairs and the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (American National Election Study panel data). Responsibility for all analysis and interpretation is the authors'.

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World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
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