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Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S.

Policy in the Philippines
Author(s): Roxanne Lynn Doty
Reviewed work(s):
Source: International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 297-320
Published by: Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of The International Studies Association
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International (1993) 37, 297-320

ForeignPolicyas Social Construction:

A Post-Positivist
Analysisof U.S.
CounterinsurgencyPolicyin thePhilippines


Much of the criticismdirected at post-positivistinternationalrelations

has called for more detailed explorationof its implicationsfor specific
areas of investigation.
At the same time,the studyof foreignpolicyhas
been largelyunaffectedbythe criticalinsightsofferedbypost-positivism.
This paper attemptsto bridgethisgap byexaminingthreeapproaches to
foreignpolicyanalysisand the metatheoreticalissuesunderlyingeach of
them. It is suggested that an approach informed by post-positivist
insightscan provide a useful alternativeto traditionalwaysof studying
foreignpolicyand can facilitatea more criticalinterpretationof foreign
policy practices. The firsttwo approaches, the Cognitive Decision-
makingApproach and the Social PerformanceApproach,werechosen as
a wayof differentiating and highlightingthe ontologicaland theoretical
issues that are relevantto understandingand situatingthe Discursive
PracticesApproach. Afterexamining the three approaches, I use the
DiscursivePracticesApproach to analyze United States' counterinsur-
gencypolicyin the Philippinescirca 1950.

On July 4, 1946, for the first time in history, an imperial nation voluntarily
relinquished possession of its colonial conquest (Karnow, 1989:323). As the United
States granted independence to the Philippines the new relationship between the
two was widely heralded as one of partnership and equality. The Filipino people, it
was said, had demonstrated their capacity for democratic self-governmentand had
earned the right of independence (MacArthur, 1946). The emergence of the
Philippines as a sovereign nation was hailed as conclusive proof that the United
States stood for fair play, liberty and freedom, and progress and prosperity for
other peoples (McDonough, 1946).
Despite this optimistic beginning, the United States was soon to embark on an
interventionistcourse that displayed little respect for Philippine sovereignty.The
question arises as to how this interventionistpolicy came to be deemed necessary
and nonintervention unthinkable. How, amidst all the profession of sovereign

note: I would like to thankthe followingindividualsfor theircommentson variousdraftsof thispaper:
RichardAshley,FrancisBeer,Jack Crittenen,RaymondDuvall, David Sylvan,Stephen Walker,CynthiaWeber, and
AlexanderWendt. I would also like to thankthree anonymousreviewersand the editorsat ISQ especiallyRichard

? 1993 InternationalStudiesAssociation.
PublishedbyBlackwellPublishers,238 Main Street,Cambridge,MA 02142, USA, and 108 CowleyRoad, OxfordOX4

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298 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

equality,did the post-colonialUnited States-Philippinerelationshipcome to be

constructedin so hierarchicala mannerthatthe U.S. was licensedto diagnose and
judge the internalsituationof the Philippines?How, indeed, did it come to be
constructedsuch that,upon judging the situation,United States' policy makers
could regardcounterinsurgency measuresas the onlyreasonablecourseof action?
Conventionalapproaches to foreignpolicyanalysisdo not pose thiskind of how-
question.Foreignpolicyanalysisis generallyconcernedwithexplainingwhypartic-
ular decisionsresultingin specificcoursesof actionweremade. Depending on the
approach, explanation might focus on the relativeposition of a state in the
internationalpower hierarchy,infighting among variousgovernmentagencies,or
the perceptionsof decision makers.What is common to alt of these kinds of
explanationsis thattheyseek an answerto a particularcategoryof question,a why-
question.The problem for analysisis to show that a certainpolicy decision was
predictablegiven a particularset of circumstances.While the attemptis made to
identifysufficientconditions,in mostcases analystscan onlysuggestthatoutcomes
willoccurwitha certainamountofprobability (Little,1991:4).
Explanations for why-questions are incomplete in an importantsense. They
generallytakeas unproblematicthepossibility thata particulardecisionor course of
action could happen.1 They presuppose a particularsubjectivity (i.e., a mode of
being), a background of social/discursivepracticesand meanings which make
possible the practicesas well as the social actors themselves.In contrastto more
conventionalapproaches to the analysisof foreignpolicy,the approach I take in
question.In posing such a question,I examine how
thisarticleposes a how-possible
meanings are produced and attached to various social subjects/objects,thus
constitutingparticularinterpretivedispositionswhich create certain possibilities
and preclude others.What is explained is not whya particularoutcome obtained,
but rather howthe subjects,objects, and interpretivedispositionswere socially
constructed such that certain practices were made possible. The claims of
sovereignequalitywould seem to have made a policyof intervention on the partof
the United States impossible.This suggeststhat other constructionswere being
produced thatwerenot thoseheraldedat the timeofPhilippineindependence.
The differencebetween why-and how-questionsis importantin judging a
successfulexplanation.This difference can be illustratedwitha briefexample. One
could pose the question "Whydid the United States invade Panama?" Some
possibleexplanationsmightpoint to the U.S. desire to stop the drug trafficking of
Noriega, Bush's desire to overcome his "wimp"image, or the U.S. desire to
overcome the Vietnam "syndrome."All of these explanationsare incompletein
thattheytake as unproblematicthe possibility thatthe invasioncould take place.
One could pointto U.S. military capabilitiesas an explanationforthe how-possible
question.Still,thisis incompletein thatthe U.S. does not imagineinvadingevery
countryto whichit is militarilysuperiorand withwhichit has a seriousgrievance.
The possibility of practicespresupposesthe abilityof an agent to imaginecertain
courses of action. Certain background meanings, kinds of social actors and
relationships,mustalreadybe in place.

lUsefuldiscussionsof why-and how-questionscan be found in Little (1991:chap. 1) and Cross (1991). Also see
Wendt (1987:362-363) for a discussion of the distinctionbetween why-and how-questions as theypertain to
structuralvs. historicalexplanations.Also relevantis Sylvanand Glassner's (1985:7-9) discussionof possibilism,an
explanation that should be familiarto studentsof internationalrelations. George (1979:103) suggeststhat an
individual'soperationalcode introducespropensities,not determinants,of decision making.This is consistentwithan
Similarly,Sprout and Sprout's (1965) "environmentaipossibilism"suggests
explanation thatfocuseson possibilities.
thatthe environmentdoes not deternine supports,
behavior,but ratherpermits, certainbehaviors.
or resists

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How-possiblequestions are concerned with explaining how these meanings,

subjects,and interpretive dispositionsare constructed.To address the question of
how the U.S. invasion of Panama was made possible, an adequate explanation
would have to inquireinto the productionof thesethings.In the Panama case one
mightexamine the discursiveconstructionof Manuel Noriega himself,notingthe
shiftfrom"anti-communist leader" to "drugtrafficker."
How-questions,so posed, go to an importantaspect of powerthatwhy-questions
too oftenneglect.Theygo to thewayin whichpowerworksto constituteparticular
modes of subjectivityand interpretivedispositions.Indeed, the kind of how-
questionI pose in thisarticleis implicitly a questionof power.This is not the kind
of powerthatworksthrough social agents,a powerthatsocial actorspossessand use.
Rather,it is a kindof powerthatis productiveof meanings,subjectidentities,their
interrelationships,and a range of imaginableconduct.Poweras productive is central
to the kind of how-questionraised in thisstudy.2Why-questions, by takingsubjects
as given,as the ontologicalfoundationof theiranalysis,precludeinvestigation into
poweras constitutive of subjects.
Moving fromwhy-questions to how-possiblequestions has importantimplica-
tions for foreign policy analysis.By making more elements of policy making
problematicand takingless as given,an approach thatposes how-questions is more
criticalthanan approach confinedto the questionof why.When we ask whystates
or decision makersengage in certainpracticeswithother states,we assume the
existence of those states and decision makers. When we pose a how-possible
question,we can stillask why,but we mustin addition inquire into the practices
that enable social actors to act, to frame policy as they do, and to wield the
capabilitiestheydo. Perforcemore critical,thismode of questioningtakes us to
relationsof power-power in itsproductiveaspectthatwhy-questions neglect.
This studytakesup twohow-possiblequestions.(1) How wereparticularsubjects
and modes of subjectivityconstitutedso as to make possible United States'
interventionist policy in the Philippinescirca 1950? and, equally important,(2)
How did the practicesinvolvedin thisspecificinstanceof policymakingfurther
the constructionand hierarchicalpositioningof subjects, thus locating some
"sovereign"equals as the rightful interpreters and judgers of others?
To addressthesequestionsI takea Discursive Practices
Approach, an approach that
perhaps needs to be situatedand clarified.Toward thatend, I shall briefly juxta-
pose it alongside two alternativeapproaches to foreignpolicyanalysis,using the
contrast to draw out some of the issues that need to be appreciated in
understandingmyapproach. The purpose of thisjuxtapositionis not to prepare
thewayforan applicationof each approach in a causal analysisof thiscase, thento
determinewhich offersthe best explanation. Rather, my purpose is simplyto
highlightthe ontologicaland theoreticalissuesthatare relevantto understanding
and situatingthe DiscursivePracticesApproach.The firsttwo approaches, the
Cognitive Decision-makingApproach and the SocialPerformance Approach, were chosen
because theydo thisnicely.

The CognitiveDecision-making
Internationalrelations scholars who have been influenced by the "cognitive
revolution"in psychologyand other fields have long been sensitiveto the

2The conceptualizationof powerbeing suggestedhere is thatofferedbyMichel Foucault. (Originalworksinclude

thosepublishedin 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1983). Usefulsecondarysourcesare Dreyfusand Rabinow (1983) and Clegg
(1989:chap. 7).

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300 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

importanceof the cognitiveaspects of individualsinvolvedin the formulationof

foreign policy. Notwithstandingthe methodological problems, conventional
scholars continue to integrate insightsgleaned from a focus on individual
cognition with theories of international relations. Of significance for my
immediate purposes is what the cognitiverevolutionproblematized that had
previouslybeen leftunexamined.The cognitiverevolutionmade problematicthe
subjectiveenvironmentof individualsand in doing so called our attentionto the
bythose actorsinvolvedin foreignpolicydecision-
worldas perceivedand represented
makingprocesses(Axelrodand Keohane, 1985:228-32,247-48).3
In directingour attentionto the importanceof "worlds"as theyare perceived
and constructedby individualdecision makers,the cognitiveapproach suggests
that "objective"realityis not the locus of meaning and thereforenot the key to
understandingpoliticalbehaviorand practices.Rather,individualsare the source
of meaning.
Such a suggestionimplicitly opens up forfurtherscrutiny threeimportantissues
whichscholarsworkingwithinthisapproach have not addressed. (1) In order to
have anythingto perceive,subjectsmustbe situatedwithinthe social order. This
calls our attentionto the constructionof thatsocial order (the environment)itself.
(2) The privilegingof the subject'sperceptionsrendersvulnerablethe verycon-
cept of an "objective"reality.This vulnerability is exhibitedin theliteratureitselfby
suggestionsthat analysts"disregardthe so-called 'real world' external to the
environedindividualor decisionalgroup" (Sproutand Sprout,1965:119). (3) The
subject itselfbecomes problematic. The decision-makingliteratureitself has
highlightedthis issue through its focus on modal actors and shared images.
Movingtowarda constructionof realitywhichis not necessarilythe productof a
particularindividualsuggeststhat the subject may be a social collective,i.e., a
group of decision makers,a bureaucracy,or the state.This raises the possibility
that the source of meaning,the social registerof value, and agent of action may
not be the individual.Perhapssubjectsin general,whetherindividualor collective,
are themselvesconstructed.
To so regard the subject is to render that subject a problem in need of an
accounting.Such a problematizationis not possiblewithinthe cognitivedecision-
makingframework because it would destabilizethe veryground upon which this
framework stands,i.e., the individualor collectivesubject.The consequence of this
is that the kind of how-possiblequestion discussed earlier and the question of
powerthatit impliescannotbe raised.

The Social PerformanceApproach

While this approach has not had extensiveimpact on internationalrelations,its
implicationswould be to move analyses,in significant ways,beyond the cognitive
decision-making framework and towardissues thatare furtherexplored in the so-
called post-positivist Arguingagainstthepredispositionto identify
literature.4 cogni-
tive process solelywith individuals,analyticphilosopherRom Harre (1981:212)
suggeststhatcognitiveprocessesare not innerand privatebut public and collective.
Social cognitionthusbecomes important.The waythatthistermis understoodin the

3The concern with in-dividualcognition has been particularlyevident in the operational code and cognitive
mapping approaches to foreignpolicy decision making (George, 1979; Bonham and Shapiro, 1973; Holsti, 1976;
Walker,1977). These approaches illustratehow scholarsattemptto get at individualworldviewsand how individuals
define theirimmediatedecision-makingsituation(s). Approaches more directlyreflectingthe cognitiverevolution
include thoseofJervis(1976), Larson (1985), Rosati (1987), Herrmann(1985, 1988), and Cottam(1977).
4Anexceptionis Walker(1990), who drawsupon Harre in developinga theoryof self-and-other in foreignpolicy.

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Social PerformanceApproach differssignificantly fromthe wayit is understoodin

the North American cognitive psychologyliterature,where it refers to how
individualsorganizetheirknowledgeof theirworld.The concept of "schema"gets
at this organization.In the North American literature,however,the originsof
schemaare not themselvestheobjectofanalysis.
The Social PerformanceApproach suggeststhat there is a large degree of
intersubjective understandingpresent in social practiceswhich is manifestedin
social scriptsthatactorsfollow.An analysisof statementmakingcan explain how
these scriptsare produced by revealing an overall structuregenerated from
preformedmentaltemplates(Harre, 1980:130). Sociallycompetentpeople contain
sharedtemplatestructures whichare manifestedin theircognitiveresources.
One of the implicationsof this approach for foreignpolicy analysisis that it
would shiftour focusto the inextricablelinkbetweenindividualsand theirsocial
context(s). Meaning,as both cognitively and culturallymediated,has a distinctly
social dimension.This moves in the directionof addressingthe constructionof
subjectsthemselvesby recognizingthe mutuallyconstitutive relationshipbetween
individualsand theirsocial order (Harre, 1980:7).5
Anotherimplicationof thisapproach would be to broaden our understanding
of what foreignpolicymakingis. What policymakersare doingin any particular
situationgoes beyond merelymakingchoices among variouspolicyoptions.They
are also performing accordingto a social scriptwhichis itselfpartof a largersocial
order.Byvirtueof thisperformancetheyare involvedin a ritualreproduction(or
repudiation) of that social order. Foreign policy thus becomes a practice that
produces a social order as well as one throughwhich individualand collective
subjectsthemselvesare produced and reproduced.This moves towardaddressing
the how-questiondiscussedabove. Finally,it is importantto note the significance
thisapproach places on statementmaking,thuscallingour attentionto language
and signifying practices in the more general sense. While cognitivedecision-
makingapproaches oftenuse documentsas data and thusalso focuson statement
making,the implicittheoryof language is referential. Language is transparentin
thatit reflectsperceptions,motivations, and beliefsystems.Language merelygives
names to the meaningsalreadypossessedby actorsand is not itselfconstitutive of
meaning.By contrast,statementmakingfor the Social PerformanceApproach is
productive,involvingthe shared interpretations of membersof societyand, in turn,
thereproductionof thatsociety.
It should be noted, however, that this approach does not fundamentally
challenge the concept of a unitary,pre-givensubject (albeit a collectivesubject)
(Henriques et al., 1984:24). It remainswedded to the notionthattemplatesare sus-
ceptibleof a unique determinative reading,as iftheyweremonologicallyproduced
bya single"author";this"author"being a preexistinginterpretive community. The
questionof how thesesharedtemplatesthemselvesget constructedis deferredand
withitthequestionof the productiverole ofpowerin such a construction.
This point has importantimplicationsfor the way that language enters into
analysis.Whilethisapproachunderstandslanguageto be productive,it is onlyso by
virtueof its connection with preformedtemplates.No autonomyis granted to
languageitself.Signifiers(i.e., words,images) mustultimately referback to signified
(i.e., shared templates).This is in contrastto the DiscursivePracticesApproach
whichsuggeststhatwords,language,and discourse(signifiers)have a forcewhichis
not reducibleto eitherstructures (signifieds)ofsocial actors.
or cognitiveattributes

5Harre'ssocial psychologicalapproach is verymuch influencedbystructurationist social theorywhichrecognizes

the mutuallyconstitutive
relationshipbetweenagentsand structures.See Giddens (1979). The worksof Kratochwill
and Ruggie (1986), Wendt (1987, 1992), and Dessler (1989) linkthisapproach to internationalrelations.

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302 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

The DiscursivePracticesApproach
A DiscursivePracticesApproachemphasizesthe linguisticconstruction The
productivenature of language does not depend on nor necessarilycoincide with
the motivations,perceptions, intentions,or understandingsof social actors.
Language is seen as a set of signswhichare partof a systemforgeneratingsubjects,
objects,and worlds (Shapiro, 1984:222). The DiscursivePracticesApproach thus
obviatesthe need for recourse to the interiority of a conscious,meaning-giving
subject,eitherin termsof psychologicaland cognitivecharacteristics of individuals
or shared mental templatesof social collectivities. Whetheror not these exist is
somewhatbeside the pointbecause the DiscursivePracticesApproachis not tied to
This kind of approach addressesthe how-questiondiscussedearlierbecause it
does not presuppose thatparticularsubjectsare alreadyin place. It thusdoes not
look to individualor collectivesubjectsas the loci of meaning.Regardinglanguage
practicesthemselvesas relativelyautonomous admits the question of a kind of
power thatconstitutessubjects,modes of subjectivity, and "reality."In contrastto
the Social PerformanceApproach in which signifiers(words,images) ultimately
referback to signifieds(shared templates),in the DiscursivePracticesApproach
signifiersreferonly to other signifiers, hence the notion of intertextuality, i.e., a
complex and infinitely expandingweb of possible meanings.That meaning does
oftenappear to be fixedand decideable ratherthan an infiniteplayof signifiers is
indicativeof the workingsof power. This presentsus with a radicallynew con-
ception of powerwhichis inherentin the linguisticpracticesbywhichagentsare
constructedand become articulatedwithinparticulardiscourses.
This approach, like any approach, has its analyticform. The form of this
approach is a "discursivepractice."A discursivepracticeis not traceableto a fixed
and stable center,e.g., individualconsciousnessor a social collective.Discursive
practicesthatconstitutesubjectsand modes of subjectivity are dispersed,scattered
throughoutvariouslocales. This is whythe notion of intertextuality is important.
Texts alwaysreferback to other textswhich themselvesreferto stillother texts.
The power thatis inherentin language is thusnot somethingthatis centralized,
emanatingfroma pre-givensubject.Rather,like the discursivepracticesin whichit
inheres,poweris dispersedand, mostimportant,is productiveof subjectsand their
A discourse,i.e., a systemof statementsin which each individualstatement
makessense,produces interpretive possibilitiesbymakingitvirtually impossibleto
thinkoutside of it. A discourseprovidesdiscursivespaces,i.e., concepts,categories,
metaphors,models,and analogiesbywhichmeaningsare created.The production
of discoursesand of subjectivity and socialityis indissoluble (Henriques et al.,

6Myunderstandingof the DiscursivePracticesApproach is drawn primarilyfromthe worksof Michel Foucault

(1972, 1981) andJacques Derrida (1978, 1981, 1982) and fromdiscussionsin Dreyfusand Rabinow (1983). See also
Shapiro, Bonham, and Heradstveit(1988), Der Derian (1987), Shapiro (1989), Campbell (1990, 1992), Chaloupka
(1992), Ashleyand Walker(1990), and Weber (1990, 1992).
the speakingand writingindividualsubjectthatproduces the documentsand texts
7To accept thatit is ultimately
thatgiverise to social discoursedoes not lead to the conclusion thatanalysismustrestwiththe individual.A parallel
can be made here withone scholar's criticismof methodologicalindividualism.Even ifone accepts the ontological
thesisthatsocial entitiesare nothingbut ensembles of individualsin variousrelationsto one another,it does not
followthatall social factsmustultimatelybe explicable in termsof factsabout individuals(the explanatorythesis)
(Little, 1991:183-200). It is commonlyaccepted by internationalrelationsscholarswho approach analysisfroma
systemiclevel that social actions have unintended consequences which escape control of individuals actually
performingthose actions. It is not such a big leap fromthis to the notion that language escapes the control of
individualsand has a forceof itsown.

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1984:106). This is because discoursescreatevariouskindsof subjectsand simulta-

neously position these subjectsvis-a-vis
one another. For example, a traditional
discourse on the familywould contain spaces for a subject with traitscon-
ventionallydefinedas "male"and anotherkindof subjectwithtraitsconventionally
definedas "female."These subjectswould be positionedvis-a-vis one anotherin a
particularway,e.g.,femalesubservientto male. Withinthe traditionaldiscourseon
the familyit is impossibleto thinkoutside of these categoriesexcept in termsof
devianceor abnormality. Withinthisdiscourse,thereis no discursivespace forthe
single motherby choice or the gay or lesbian couple with children except as
departuresfromthe "normal"familyor as deviants.Subjects,then,can be thought
of as positionswithinparticulardiscourses,intelligibleonly withreferenceto a
specificsetof categories,concepts,and practices.
Policymakersalso functionwithina discursivespace thatimposesmeaningson
theirworld and thus createsreality(Shapiro, 1988:100, 116). An approach that
focuseson discursivepracticesas a unit of analysiscan get at howthis "reality"is
produced and maintainedand howit makesvariouspracticespossible.The analytic
questionaddressedis not whyparticulardecisionsare made; the policydecision in
itselfbecomes a secondaryconcern. What is central is the discourse(s) which
constructa particular"reality."An analysisof discoursescan reveal the necessary
but not sufficientconditionsofvariouspractices.
Applyingthisapproach to the studyof foreignpolicy,not onlydo we broaden
our conception of what foreignpolicy is, the sites of foreignpolicy,i.e., where
foreignpolicy takes place, also become much more extensive.This approach
suggeststhatwhat foreignpolicy is need not be limitedto the actual makingof
specificdecisionsnor the analysisof temporallyand spatiallybounded "events."
Similarly,"foreignpolicymakers"need not be limitedto prominentdecision
makers,but could also include those ratheranonymousmembersof the various
bureaucracieswho writethe numerousmemorandums,intelligencereports,and
researchpapers thatcirculatewithinpolicycircles.The discourse(s) instantiatedin
thesevariousdocumentsproduce meaningsand in doing so activelyconstructthe
"reality"upon whichforeignpolicyis based.
Moreover,foreignpolicymakingcan also extend beyond the realm of official
governmentinstitutions.The reception as meaningfulof statementsrevolving
around policysituationsdepends on how well theyfitinto the general systemof
representationin a givensociety.Even speeches and press conferencestatements
produced for specificpurposes,in order to be taken seriously,mustmake sense
and fit with what the general public takes as "reality."Thus, the analysisof
statementscan entail the examinationof whatwas said and writtenwithinbroad
policy-making contextsas wellas statements
made in societymoregenerally.8
Below I employthe DiscursivePracticesApproach in an analysisof U.S. coun-
terinsurgency policyin the Philippinescirca 1950. In doing so, I intend to show
how foreignpolicypracticesconstructedan importantaspect of internationalrela-
tions.The aspect of internationalrelationsthatis of concern to me is its hierar-
In internationalrelations,hierarchyhas been more of a backgroundcondition
fromwhich analysesproceed ratherthan somethingwhich is itselfin need of
examination.For example, classical realism tacitlyaccepted the rightof Great

8In a sense thisis why"public opinion" becomes relevantto policymakers.When the public stronglyobjects to
U.S. policy,it is often,at least in part,because officialrepresentationsdo not fitwell withsociety'srepresentations.
The example thatmostreadilycomes to mind is Vietnam.As the war dragged on different representation(s)of the
situationbegan to compete withthe officialone, thusmakingit increasingly difficult
forU.S. officialsto portraythe
situationas a simpleone of communismversusdemocracyor good versusevil.

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304 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

Powers to special privilegeswithin the internationalcommunity.Neorealism,

despiteitsconceptionof the internationalrealmas anarchical,sees stateslinkedto
one another hierarchicallybased upon power differentials.Marxist-oriented
approaches to internationalrelationsbegin with the assumptionthat capitalist
relationsof productionand/or exchange resultin a hierarchicalworldconsisting
of both classes and nation-states.9All of these approaches exhibitan unspoken
agreementnot to problematizethe constructionof the subjectsthatconstitutethe
worldand the categories throughwhichthesesubjectsand objectsare constructed.I
suggest that we need to denaturalize hierarchy.We need to examine the
content(s) of hierarchy,or, more accurately,of specifichierarchies,the practices
thatproduced them,and the practicestheymake possible.
The second how-possiblequestion posed earlier is implied here. How is
internationalhierarchyitselfmade possible?As the titleof thisarticleis meant to
suggest,conceptualizingforeignpolicyas social constructionseeks to place foreign
policypracticeswithinthe largercontextof constructing a particularkind of inter-
national order consistingof variouskinds of internationalidentities.The second
how-possiblequestion addresses thisconcern. Addressingthisquestion,however,
can onlybe accomplishedby examiningparticularinstancesof foreignpolicy.In
examininga particularcase we also findthatthe discursivepracticessurrounding
thatcase made possible the more immediate,case-specificpractices,thusaddress-
ing thefirsthow-possiblequestion.
Two importantaspects to this analysisfollowfromthe above discussion.One
aspectis the detailed explicationof the discourseitself.This consistsof examining
varioustextualmechanismsat workin the discoursethat constructidentitiesfor
subjectsand positionthesesubjectsvis-a-vis one another.The second aspectentails
an examinationof how,fromthisconstructionand positioning,variouspossibilities
of practiceemerge.
The followingexample is helpful in clarifyingthe distinctionbetween my
approach, which examines what linguisticpracticesdo, and an approach which
seeksto revealwhatlinguisticpracticestellus about the beliefsand understandings
Shafer(1988) analyzedU.S. counterinsurgency policyin the Philippinesusinga
"cognitivecontentapproach" whichis consistentwiththe firstapproach discussed
above. He used thisapproach to explain whyU.S. assessmentand prescriptions for
variousinsurgencies(includingthe Philippines) have been so inaccurateand yet
despite this have remained virtuallyunchanged. He examined the statements
contained in variousforeignpolicydocumentsas a way of gettingat the shared
ideas and analyticframeworks withwhichpolicymakersanalyzedthe international
situation,generated policy options, and chose among those options (Shafer,
1988:32-34). The statementscontained in the documentswere signifiers for,i.e.,
referredback to, the misunderstandings of policy makersregardingthe situation
in the Philippines. Decision makers acted upon these misunderstandingsand
proceeded to analyze the success of counterinsurgency policy in termsof these
same misunderstandings, judging ita successand a model forfuturepolicy.
A DiscursivePracticesApproach would not necessarilydisputesuch an analysis
Rather,it suggeststhatthiswas not all thatwas going on
or argue againstitsutility.
in this particularforeign policy discourse. What this discourse was doing was
constructingparticularsubject identities,positioningthese subjectsvis-a-visone

9An exception to the more well known conceptions of hierarchyin internationalrelationsis Onuf and Klink
(1989), who suggestthata paradigmbased on Weber's three ideal typesof rule can facilitatean understandingof

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anotherand therebyconstructing a particular"reality"in whichthispolicybecame

possible,as well as a larger"reality"in whichfuturepolicies would be justifiedin
advance. In the one case language revealsand is at least potentiallyneutral.In the
othercase language doesthingsand is inherently powerful.
There is another importantand related differencebetween the two kinds of
analyses.Shaferis askinga why-question. The questionI am posing is a howpossible
question.Garfinkel(1981:22) pointsout thatwhataspectof a givenstateof affairs is
taken to be problematic radically alters the success or failure of potential
explanations.Shaferis takingthe shared ideas and analyticalframework of policy
makersto be problematic.Thus,a successfulexplanationmustfocuson thesethings
and explainwhytheyled to or increasedtheprobability ofparticularpolicies.
What I take to be problematicis the existence of subjects themselves,their
positioningvis-a-visone another,and the "reality" thatmade certainstructures and
meaningspossible. How we know what these arrangementsand meaningsare is
throughthe categories,concepts,metaphors,and analogiesprovidedbylanguage.
Since, for the DiscursivePracticesApproach, subjectsdo not exist prior to their
productionin particulardiscourses,and the constitutive role of language is not
tied to perceptionsand othercognitivefeatures,I cannot drawupon such features
of preexistingsubjectsto explain howthose subjectsthemselvesand theirpractices
are made possible.A successfulexplanationmustfocuson how language worksto
produce subjectsand theirrelationships.
In one sense myhow-possibleexplanationis a structuralone and is consistent
withLittle's (1991:4-5) suggestionthathow-possiblequestionsare associatedwith
the behaviorof complexsystems, structures,and social organizations.However,it is
importantto distinguishmy explanation from those that tend to subordinate
specificcontentand practicesto abstractand a prioristructuralneeds. I am not a
prioripositinga structure withcertainneeds and thensuggestinghow it determines
meaningsand practices.Rather,in emphasizingdiscursivepractices,I am suggest-
ingthatstructure itselfis constructedalong withthemeaningswhichsimultaneously
producesubject'sidentitiesand theirpositionsvis-a-vis one another.Possibilities are
not explainedby the priorexistenceof structures or social actors,but ratherby the
continualand simultaneousproductionofsubjectsand structures.10

Discourseanalyticmethodsfacilitatethe examinationof thevariousmechanismsat
work in texts. This said, however, it would be misleading to suggest that
interpretation is not an importantpart of myanalysis.Interpretation,on the part
of the analyst,is an importantaspect of all three of the approaches discussedin
thisarticle.The differencewiththe DiscursivePracticesApproach is thatI am not
providingan interpretationof the consciouslymotivated,self-serving images
constructedby the participants.Rather,I am providingan interpretation of what
the discursivepractices do, which does not necessarilycoincide with individual
motivations, perceptions,and intentions.

IOAnotable contrastcan be made here withtwo of the dominant structuraltheoriesof internationalrelations.

The neorealistconceptionof structureis individualist,
reducibleto the propertiesof states(or agents) (Ashley,1984;
Wendt, 1987). World-system theory'sconception of structureis of a "deep structure"thatgeneratesboth stateand
class actors.As Wendt (1987) correctlypointsout, each of these twoapproaches treatsits "primitiveunits"as given
and unproblematic.The DiscursivePracticesApproach permitsme to address the simultaneousconstructionof both
subjects and structureswithoutbringing analysis to rest with either, and without holding one constant while
addressingthe productionof the other,or "bracketing." On the notion of "bracketing"see Wendt (1987:364-365)
and Giddens (1979:80-81).

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306 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

The conceptsof presupposition, predication,and subjectpositioningprovideanalytic

categoriesthatenable me to get at how discursivepracticesconstitutesubjectsand
objects and organize them into a "gridof intelligibility." These concepts can be
thoughtof as textualmechanisms.
Statementsrarelyspeak for themselves.Even the most straightforward and
ostensiblyclear statements bring with them all sorts of presuppositionsor
backgroundknowledgethatis taken to be true.When one uses language, one is
implyingsomethingabout the existenceof subjects,objects,and theirrelationto
one another. To use a perhaps too-simplistic example, the question, "Have you
stopped beating your dog?" presupposes several things:somethingcalled a dog
exists;you have one; and you engage in the practiceof beatingit.Further,the pre-
suppositionis made thatthe questionerhas the presumptiverightof interrogation.
To use anotherexample, the statement,"The logic of realpolitikretainslasting
relevancebecause it capturesbest the essentialnatureof the internationalpolitical
system"creates the background knowledge that there is something called
it has a logic,thereexistsan internationalpoliticalsystemthathas an
essential nature,and the author is in the position to assertthis as fact. In the
absence of the "truth"of the backgroundknowledgeand the worldit presupposes,
the above statementswould make no sense. Presupposition,therefore,is an
importanttextualmechanismthatcreatesbackgroundknowledgeand in doing so
constructsa particularkindofworldin whichcertainthingsare recognizedas true.
Anotherway in which textsconstructworlds is by attachingvarious labels to
subjectsthroughpredication.Predicationinvolvesthe linkingof certainqualitiesto
particularsubjectsthroughthe use of predicatesand the adverbsand adjectives
that modifythem (Milliken, 1990). A predicate affirmsa quality,attribute,or
propertyof a person or thing.For example, to state that the United States "has
stood for fairplay,for aid to the weak, for liberty,and freedom"establishesthe
United Statesas a particularkindof subjectwiththesequalities.Attributes attached
to subjects are importantfor constructingidentitiesfor those subjects and for
tellingus whatsubjectscan do.
Texts also workto create a "reality" by linkingparticularsubjectsand objectsto
one another. The production of subjects and objects is alwaysvis-a-visother
subjectsand objects.Whatdefinesa particularkind of subjectis, in large part,the
relationshipsthat subject is positioned in relative to other kinds of subjects.
Presuppositionand predication,in addition to constructingsubjectsand objects,
establishvariouskindsof relationshipsbetweensubjectsand betweensubjectsand
objects.We can thinkof thisas subjectpositioning.Some of the importantkindsof
relationshipsthat position subjectsare those of opposition,identity,similarity,and
One can deconstructtextsin order to locate some of these relationships.One
way that deconstructionworksis by identifying the oppositionalstructuring in a
of one termin relationto another(Culler,
textwhichresultsin the hierarchization
1982:86). The dominant term is highlightedby the subordinatetermwhich is
deemed the "other,"the deviant,or the inferior,to the firstterm. Relationsof
and complementarity
identity,similarity, can also be located in the rhetorical
operationsof texts.Barthesuses the term cultural code for the conceptual system
organized around key oppositions and other relations.For example, the term
womanis definedin oppositionto the termman. Each of thesetermsis alignedwith
a cluster of attributes,e.g., emotional, weak, pliant, sensitive,nurturingare
clusteredaround "woman"whilerational,strong,firmare clusteredaround "man"
Taken together,these textualmechanisms,predication,presupposition,and subject
positioning produce a "world"by providingpositionsforvariouskindsof subjects

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and endowing them with particularattributes.While for analyticpurposes it is

usefulto discussthese mechanismsseparately,in actuality,all threeworktogether
and simultaneously. The discussionof thisframework can perhapsbe made clearer
withan illustrationthatis more relatedto the Philippines.This example illustrates
the "methods"I have used to analyze and compare the textsin thisstudy.,,The
followingexcerptis fromJohn Foreman,a Britishtravelwriter,who wroteduring
the timeof the Spanish-AmericanWar.His writings on the Philippineswerewidely
read, and he was cited as an authorityat the Paris Peace Conference,at whichit
was decided thatthe Philippineswould be annexed bythe United States-without,
it mightbe added, consultationwith the Filipino people. In this passage he is
discussingthe Filipino"native."
The whole timehe treatsyou withthe deferencedue to the superiority whichhe
recognizes. He knows the duties of no occupations with efficiencyand he is
perfectlywillingto be a 'jack of all trades."So long as he gets his food and fair
treatment,and his stipulatedwages paid in advance, he is content to act as a
man. If not pressed too hard, he will followhis superior like a
faithfuldog. If treatedwithkindness,according to European notions,he is lost.
The nativeneverlooks ahead; he is neveranxious about the future;but if leftto
himself,he willdo all sortsof imprudentthings,fromsheer wantof reflectionon
the consequences.The nativehas no idea of organizationon a largescale, hence a
successfulrevolutionis not possibleifconfinedto the pure indigenouspopulation
unaided by others,such as creoles and foreigners.Under good European officers
theymake excellentsoldiers.There is nothingtheydelightin more than pillage,
destructionand bloodshed, and when once theybecome mastersof the situation
thereis no limitto theirgreed and savagecruelty.
in an affray,

In the above excerptthe "native"is endowed withthe followingqualities:ineffi-
ciency,contentand doglike follower,never looks ahead, does not reflectupon
consequences,has no idea of organizationon a large scale, naturallydelightsin
pillage, destruction,and bloodshed, naturallygreedy and cruel, and does
imprudentthingsifleftto himself.
Together these qualities, or clusterof predicates,constitutethe native as a
particularkind of subject.In contrast,the European, here the speakingsubject,is
inscribedwithquite different qualities.This is oftenimplicitratherthanexplicit.In
the firstsentence "you"refersto the European, thuscreatinga relationof identity
among the reader, the author, and the European and a relation of opposition
betweenthese subjectsand the Filipinonative,here the object of discussion.The
reader,author,and European as speaking,writing, and knowledgeablesubjectsare
"self"to the Filipino"other"who is the object of theirknowledge.The European is
establishedas a subjectwho can "know"the Filipino,is able to accuratelydescribe
the truenatureof the Filipino,and fromthatnaturederivevariouspracticesthat
are appropriate.

What backgroundknowledgeis created in the above excerpt?The superiority of
the European is takenforgranted,a "fact"not open to question.The construction

analysis.Nor do
"lThe particular"methods"I use here are byno means the onlywayto engage in a post-positivist
I mean to suggestthattheyare superiorto other possible "methods."I merelywishto suggestthatthisis one wayto
fora specificarea of investigation.
examine the implicationsof post-positivism

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308 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

of the European as a superiorkind of subjectis repeated throughout,e.g., in the

statementthat the native will "followhis superior like a faithfuldog." It is
presupposed here that there exist superiorand inferiorkinds of subjects.The
sentence "Under good European officers . . ." presupposes the existence of one
kind of subject (a superiorone) thatcan be a good officerand anotherkind of
subjectthatcan onlybe a soldier.

In constituting particularkindsof subjects,the excerptalso positionsthesesubjects
one another by assigningthem varyingdegrees of agency.For example,
a subjectwho does not reflectupon consequences and is a contentand doglike
followerhas a much simplerdegree of agencythana subjectwho has the qualities
it takes to be an officer.The veryfactthatthe European is the speakingsubject
and the "native"the subject/objectof thisdiscoursepositionsthesesubjectsvis-a-vis
one another.Here, the qualitiesthatdefinethe twokindsof subjectsare opposi-
We do findotherrelations,however,in thisexcerpt.The "native"is positioned
in a relationof similaritywitha dog. Like a dog, the "native"requiresfood and fair
treatment. If treatedproperly,he willbe faithful to his master."Proper"treatment,
however,must not be kindness,"accordingto European notions."The "native"
would be lost if thiswas done. The "fair"treatmentto be accorded to "natives"is
more akin to the treatmenta European would give to a dog than to another
The above passage, as partof a largerdiscourse,createsa "world"in the sense
thata particular"reality"mustbe accepted in order for the statementsto make
sense. Certainpracticeswere made possible,because in the worldinstantiatedby
these textstheyseemed reasonable and probablyquite unremarkable.As noted
above, therewere to be different standardsof "fair"treatment forthe "native"and
for the European. Since the "native"was the kind of subject who was naturally
prone to pillage,destruction,and bloodshed, then disciplineand controlon the
part of the European would be justified.If the "natives"did not understand
kindness,then force and violence would be justified.Colonization thus became
This example,in large partdue to itstransparency, nicelyillustrateshow predi-
cation, presupposition,and subject positioningwork.From this illustrationone
might inferthat these methods would not take us veryfar analyticallysimply
because the "findings"are so obvious. There are three importantpoints to be
made in responseto thispossibleinference:(1) Granted,we oftendo not have to
look veryfarto findthese textualmechanismsat work.They are frequently right
there on the surface. (2) More importantthough,my approach permitsme to
trackthesemechanismsin less transparent cases. (3) Finally,thisapproach permits
one to explain how, despite such obviousness,these constructionscan become
widelycirculatedand constitutive of an attitudeof "self"toward"other,"thusmak-
ing particularpracticespossible.
This last point impliesthat individualtextsdo not exist in a vacuum. Rather,
theyare intertwinedwithother textsforminga complex web of intertextuality.
Differenttextswithinthe same arena (i.e., site) and textsfromdifferent arenas
may share the same logic according to which meaning is created and subjects
constructed.If the same kindsof subjects,objects,and relationsare foundto exist
in different texts,thisis indicativeof a particularlogic at work.We can thinkof
textsthatillustratethe same kindof logic as constituting a controllingor dominant
discourse.For example,a numberof different and distinctdiscoursesmayfunction

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to constitutegender differenceaccording to the same logic. We can imagine a

discourseon the family,a discourseon workplaceregulations,and a discourseon
womenin the military. It is possiblethatan examinationwould showthatalthough
the discoursesdeal withquite differentissues,the same logic regardinggender
divisionmightbe found in all of them.If thatwere the case, we could reasonably
suggestthatunderlyingthe diversediscourseswas a dominantdiscourseon gender
that constructed"male" and "female"as particularkinds of subjects.The same
thingapplies to foreignpolicydiscourse.If differencesare constructedaccording
to the same logic in a varietyof texts,we can reasonablysuggestthat there is a

Counterinsurgency policieshavebeen a majorelementofpostWorldWarII foreign
policy towardthe countriescollectivelyreferredto as the "Third World." Such
policieswere consideredessentialwithinthe contextof a worlddividedalong the
geopoliticallines of East versusWestwitheach side seekingto win the heartsand
mindsof thosenot yetfullycommittedto eithercamp. Many"conversations" have
taken place and documentshave been generatedwithinthe contextof specific
counterinsurgency operations.Adheringto theunderstanding of languageoutlined
in the DiscursivePracticesApproach,these textsprovidea usefulsource of "data"
fromwhichto examinethewaylinguisticpracticesactively constructworld(s).
Counterinsurgency generallyoccurswithinthe contextof profoundmilitary and
economic powerdifferentials. The hierarchyof militaryand economic power that
existsbetween the U.S. and the Third World is for the most part indisputable.
What has not been previouslyexamined, however,is the wayin whichlanguage
worksto constructa kind of hierarchythatmayor maynot coincide withmilitary
and/or economic hierarchies.When these hierarchiesdo coincide important
implicationsfollowforthe kindsof practicesmade possible.
One of the earliestand paradigmaticinstancesof U.S. counterinsurgency policy
occurredin the Philippinesduringthe Huk Rebellion of the early1950s.12After
independence, the Philippinesbecame an importantsymbolof United States'
benevolence regardingits position as a formercolonial power. They were an
importantsource of both prestigeand identityforthe U.S.13The Huk Rebellion,
therefore, presentedthe U.S. witha dilemma.On the one hand, overtintervention
would call into question the sovereignty and independence of the Philippines,
whichin turnwould call into question the successof the U.S. effortto "civilize"a
people and cultivatea democracy.On the otherhand, the "loss"of the Philippines
to communismwould also mean a failureon the part of the U.S. The discourse
instantiatedin response to this dilemma worked to simultaneouslyconstruct
identitiesand positionsubjectsvis-a-vis
one another.
Subjectsof a discourseshould not be confusedwithindividuals.An individual
mayhave multiplesubjectivities. there maybe multiplephysicalindivid-

'20ne of the best studieson the Huk Rebellion is Kerkvliet(1977). Also see Schirmerand Shalom (1987), Welch
(1984), Karnow(1989), Shalom (1976, 1977), and Bonner (1987). It is noteworthy thatEdwardLansdale, the "hero"
of the U.S. counterinsurgencyin the Philippines, was a major figurein U.S. Vietnam policy. Lansdale was also
broughtin byRonald Reagan to offeradvice on how to get rid of the Sandinistas.
'3The Philippineswerealso importantforgeopoliticaland economic reasons.The reconstruction ofJapanand its
reintegrationinto the regional economy meant that Southeast Asia would become an importantsource of raw
materialsand marketsbecause Japan would be free of dependence on U.S. aid. It was deemed essential to U.S.
securitythatJapanbecome an alternativeanchor forU.S. powerin Asia as China had ceased to playthatrole.

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310 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

uals thatconstitutea single subject.The state,as an internationalsubject,is con-

structedby the discursivepracticesof thosewho speak about,writeabout, and act
on itsbehalf.U.S. foreignpolicypracticesare importantelementsin the production
and reproductionof the self-identity of the U.S. At the same time thisidentityis
created against the "other,"i.e., other states.The qualities that are linked to a
"people,"e.g., the "Filipinos,"can become attachedto a geographicallocationand
therebyserveas thebasisforconstructing thePhilippines.

I begin this analysisin a purelyempiricistmanner. My data is the ensemble of
statementsfoundin the documentssurroundingthisparticularsiteof U.S. foreign
policy.14All of these documents were read with an eye toward the textual
mechanismsdiscussedabove: predication,presupposition,
and subjectpositioning.

Table 1 showsthepredicatesand practicesthatwerelinkedto the different subjects.
These predicatesand practiceswere compiled by extractingfromthe documents
adjectives,adverbs,and capabilitiesattributedto the
the descriptivecharacteristics,
varioussubjects.The numbersin bracketsreferto the textualsource of the state-
ments.These sourcesare listedin the Appendix.Consistentwiththe epistemology
of theDiscursivePracticesApproach,I do notwantto claimthatthe data in Table 1
representsthe social cognitionsof the participantsto thisdiscourse.Recall thatit is
languageitselfthatis productiveratherthantheindividualswho use language.
While the predicates and practicesfor each subject are not identical from
document to document, there is evidence of a coherence among them. The
predicatesand practiceslistedunder Philippinesand Filipinos"hangtogether"in a
certainway.None seem radicallyout of place. For example, "ineptand wasteful,"
"precocious children,"and "a veryhard people to deal with"are certainlynot
identicaltermsand indeed could implyverydifferent kindsof subjects.Yet,in this
discourse there is a familyresemblance among them that is indicativeof a
particularkind of subject,i.e., a subject that can simultaneouslybe a source of
pride over progressthus far made, concern withshortcomings, fear of eventual
failure,and desire to protect and guide. The identityof the Philippineswas
constructedby the tension that existed among these terms.The kind of subject
that embodies these termsis the "child." The "child" by virtueof the kind of
subject it inherentlyis resistsclosure. The "child" identityis incomplete,often
ambiguousand contradictory. To borrowfromAlthusser,one mightsay thatthe
"child"as a kindof subjectresistscompleteinterpellation.
The predicatesand practicesattachedto the U.S. also exhibita coherence. "Has
moral obligations,""a world citizen," "has credit and influence,""has benign
intentions"share a certain familyresemblance. They are indicativeof a very
differentkind of subject from the Philippines.The United States has a firmly
established,relativelyfixed,and stable identity.This identitypermitsthe U.S. to

'4Empirical data for this studywas collected fromsearches for relevantmaterialfromthe followingsources:
ForeignRelationsoftheUnitedStates1946-1954, U.S. Officeof StrategicServices(OSS)/State Departmentintelligence
researchreports1941-1961, National SecurityCouncil reportsand correspondence1946-1953, reportsand records
of thejoint Chiefsof Staff1946-1953,CentralIntelligenceAgency/Department of Defense reports1946-1953. Other
sourcesinclude the Department Record1948-1954. The major arena of
ofStateBulletin1948-1954 and the Congressional
discourseforthisstudywere officialgovernmenttexts.This was not determineda priori,but ratheraftera thorough

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312 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

engage in certain practices,e.g., "noble causes," and precludes others, e.g.,

"aggression"or "coercion."
In contrast,a differentclusterof attributeswas linked to the U.S.S.R. While
some of the elementswere the same as the U.S., e.g., "has an orbit,"the clusterof
predicatesthatdefinedthe U.S. was not identicalwiththe cluster thatdefinedthe
U.S.S.R. The practicesthatthe U.S.S.R. could engage in, then,were different from
those of the U.S. The U.S.S.R. could "spread propaganda" while the U.S. could
"builda worldorder."The U.S.S.R. could "coerce"while the U.S. could "protect."
The actual behavioror physicalcontentof thesepractices,e.g., providingeconomic
or militaryaid and trainingtroops,mightbe identical,but whatthepractice waswas
determinedbythe kindof subjectengagingin it.How we "know"whata practiceis
and the kindof subjectengagingin it is throughlanguage.
The coherence among the attributes and practicesshownin Table 1 is indicative
of a dominantdiscourse. Similaror complementaryattributeswere attachedto the
subjectsin multipletexts.Whetherthe textsdealtwitheconomic,security, or other
issues,therewas a particularlogic at workaccordingto whichsubjectsweredivided
fromone another.This logicwas based upon a seriesof binaryoppositionsand was
Since this studydoes not examine textsgenerated by Filipinos themselvesor
othernon-Western politicalactors,I can make no claimsregardingotherpossible
discourses.It is possible and likelythatother discoursesexistedthatwould resist
the kind of constructionsshownin Table 1. The importantpoint is thattheredid
exista dominantdiscoursein United Statespolicycirclesand thiswas the discourse
thatsetthe parametersforU.S. practices.

In analyzingthesedocuments,one findsthatmeaningsare dependentupon binary
oppositions.The specificcontentof these oppositionsindicates the dimensions
along whichthe constructionof subjectstakesplace. Underlyingthe attributesand
practicesshown in Table 1, one can locate metaphysicalpresuppositionsbased
upon such binaryoppositions.These binarieswere the operativeprinciples,the
the "deep structure"of the discourse.By operativeprinciple,I
logic, constituting
mean the principle according to which things are given meaning and simul-
taneouslypositionedvis-a-visotherthings.The conceptualsystemupon whichU.S.
foreignpolicywas based was organized around two guiding or core oppositions,
whichstructured the discourseand servedas a frameof thinking,
a disciplinedand
economicalwayin whichto divideselffromother(s). Severalotheroppositionscan
be subsumedunderthecore oppositions.These are discussedbelow.

Reason/Passion. The presuppositionwas made thatthereexisteddifferent kinds

of mentalities."Asian thinking"differedfundamentally fromnon-Asianthinking
and was characterizedby the prevalenceof passion and emotion,in contrastto
reason and rationality.The existence of this ratherprimitivekind of mentality
made it imperativethatU.S. influencebe broughtto bear in the Philippines.The
"theory"of twotypesof mentality is, of course,not unique to thisparticularcase. It
was prevalentamong anthropologistsin the 1920s and 1930s and was applied to
the "west"and its others,e.g., "negroes,""AmericanIndians,""Melanesians,"and
"AustralianBlackfellows"(Mudimbe, 1988:136). This is also a concreteand con-
temporaneousmanifestation of the phenomenon describedby Said (1978). This
opposition has historicallyfacilitatedvarious practices of interference,ranging
fromformalcolonizationto more subtleformsof domination.
As noted above, several of the orienting oppositions that were prevalent
throughoutthe texts can be grouped under this core opposition. The most
recurringone rested on the parental metaphordiscussed earlier.Filipinoswere

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regardedas precociouschildrenwho had assimilatedthe superficialaspectsof the

U.S. culturebut had failedto graspitsmore fundamentalimplications(FR51, Part
2: 1561). The U.S. had to be patient and sympathetic, yet firm,in using its
constructiveand guiding influenceon its formerward. The ostensiblynurturing
relationship invoked by the parent/child opposition obscured and justified
practicesof domination.Past practicesof domination,e.g., colonialismitself,were
justified by pointing to the "progress"that had already been made. Future
intervention wasjustifiedbythe promiseof even greater"progress."
Complementaryto the childlike attributesattached to Filipinos was that of
ineptitude and inefficiencywhich characterized Philippine leadership. The
inferiorityof leadershipwas extended to non-CommunistAsian countriesmore
generally.It remaineda taskof the United Statesto consider"meansto encourage
the developmentof competentleadershipand to stimulateitsrisein the countries
ofAsia" (FR51, Part1:45). The developmentof the competentleadershiprequired
of world citizenswould take place under guidance of the U.S. throughits "firm
patienceand sympathetic understanding"(FR51,Part2:1561).
Anotherset of oppositionsencompassedby the reason/passioncore opposition
was thatof order/chaos.The Philippineswas constructedas a place threatenedby
disorder,whose verydefinitionas well as the strategyby which it should be
managed was establishedby the U.S. For example, "management"of disorder
could not move awayfrompolicies consistentwith U.S. strategicand economic
interests.Such managementwould itselfbe definedas a source of instability. U.S.
policiesthemselvescould not be regardedas sourcesof disorder.

Good/Evil. Good vs. evil was the second core opposition that structuredthis
discourse.This core opposition formedan importantelement in the Cold War
discourseofwhichthisparticularcase was inextricably linked.This battleforhearts
and minds involved"the most basic conceptionsof good and evil" (Secretaryof
State Acheson, 3/16/1950). This Manichean opposition which served to orient
U.S. foreign policy discourse worked at two levels. At one level it served to
constructthe U.S. and the U.S.S.R. as two distinctkinds of subjects; free
world/Communist world, moral/totalitarian, good/evil. Filipinos could then be
dividedaccordingto where theyfellalong thisdivision.When it came to Filipino
subjects,evil mixed with irrationality. This particularlydangerous combination
could notjust be "contained,"it had to be eliminated.The Huk leaderswere thus
regardedas an evilthathad to be eliminated.
At a second level,thisoppositionworkedto objectifythe Philippinesas objectsat
stake in the worldwidestrugglebetween good and evil. They were an essential
"part"of theAsian off-shore island chain of bases, a possible "key"to Sovietcontrol
of the Far East,a "showwindow"of democracy,and "testingground"forAmerican

The constructionof subjectsalong the oppositionaldimensionsdiscussed above
simultaneouslypositioned these subjects in a hierarchical arrangement.This
hierarchicalpositioningis evidentin the kindand degree of agencyassignedto the
and knowledgeable
subjectsof these texts.The United States,as speaking,writing,
subject,impliedan extensiveand complex kind of subjectivity thatencompasseda
whole arrayof interconnectedideas,values,and goals whichamountedto a "world
view."The U.S. was an initiatorof action, a formulatorof policy,an assessorof
situations,and a definerof problems.The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were endowed
witha significant degree of agency.Both were complicatedkindsof subjectswho
had worldviews,and accompanyingrationaland coherentideologies. Along the
dimensionof good vs. evil the U.S. occupied a higherpositionthan the U.S.S.R.

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314 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

However, when juxtaposed with the Philippines,both the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
became similarkindsof subjects.
In contrast,the subject position(s) available for Filipinosand the Philippines
were much less complex. Filipinosubjectivity did not include a rational,coherent
world view. Support for, as well as nonsupportof, communismwas based on
passion and emotionratherthanon a reasonableassessmentand understandingof
its tenets. This was due to the basic intellectualsimplicityof the Filipino, as
illustratedin Table 1.
Ifwe accept the premisethatthe attributes linkedto human beingscan become
attached to geographical space, then these texts illustrate the discursive
constructionof a particularkind of nation-state, i.e., the "ThirdWorldstate."This
kind of state is characterized by disorder, chaos, corruption,and general
ineptitude.15 At the same time,foreconomic and/or geopoliticalreasons,thisstate
is needed bythe U.S. or theWestmore generally.The "good guys,"the precocious
children, must thereforebe found, constructedas "the people," guided, and
cultivatedto become mature"worldcitizens. "16
The intertextual nature of these textsbecomes importanthere. To borrow a
phrasefromBarthes(1987:135), thesetextswere "pluggedin" to each otheras well
as to othertexts;otherforeignpolicytexts,social science texts,and nonacademic
texts.Though not included in this study,even a cursoryexaminationof social
science literaturedealingwiththe ThirdWorldrevealsthatit containsmanyof the
oppositionsshownhere. This is mostevidentin the area of developmentstudies,
and particularly in the body of literatureknownas "modernizationtheory."17 At
the same time,we see the reproductionof a particularU.S. identity,i.e., moral,
Finally,at a more general level,these textsconstructeda hierarchicalstructure
which consistedof varioussubjectpositions.I do not claim to have uncovereda
"deep structure"existingpriorto practice,thatthen made possibleor constrained
the practices of preexistingsubjects.What I do claim to have shown is how
discursivepracticesthemselvesconstructedboth the subjects(withvaryingdegrees
of agency) and the relationsamong them.The "deep structure," then,is no more
or less than these practices.Their significanceand power is to be found in their
abilityto frameinterpretive createmeanings,and therebynaturalizea
particularstateof affairs.
The state of affairsthat was naturalizedin this discourse consisted of three
subject-positions,or kinds of identities;the imminentlyrational, moral, and
powerfulU.S., the equallyrationaland powerfulbut morallylackingU.S.S.R., and
the thirdkind of subjectguided byemotionand passion,yetfullof potentialwith
the proper guidance. The Huks were an example of what could happen without
the properinfluenceand control.

'5The theme of corruption,inefficiency, and ineptitude in Third World governmentsis prevalent in North
Americansocial science literature. Jacksonand Rosberghave describedthe "fundamentalpredicamentof statehood
in Africa"as "its existence almost exclusivelyas an exploitable treasuretrovedevoid of moral value" (1987:527).
GunnarMyrdalused the term"softstate"to describe all underdevelopedcountries."The underdevelopedcountries
are all, thoughin varyingdegrees, 'softstates"' (1970:208). "The term'softstate' is understoodto compriseall the
varioustypesof social indiscipline. . . (1970:208). The point here is not to saywhethercorruptionand inefficiency
are or are not "factsof life"in "underdeveloped"countries.The point is to highlighta particularrepresentationof
"underdeveloped"countries. Corruptionand inefficiencyare attributesthat become elements in the identityof
"underdeveloped"countries'governments,but not "developed" countries'governments.It is significantto note, in
contrast,that corruptionin American politics,e.g., Tammany Hall and big-citypolitics,as well as more current
incidents,e.g., Watergateand Iran--Contra, are contained withinthe domesticboundaries of the U.S. They are not
constitutiveof the identityof the United Statesin internationalrelations.
60n constructing"thepeople" see Weber (1992).
'7For otherstudiesthatmake similarsuggestionssee Escobar (1984),Johnston(1991), Shafer(1988:chap. 6), and
Doty (1991).

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Given thisconfiguration of subjectpositionsand the resultant"reality,"we can

ask whatcoursesof actionwould seem natural?To "do nothing"would hardlybe a
reasonableoption.If the Philippineswerea "showwindowof democracy,"a "testing
ground forAmericanleadership,"a "keyto Sovietcontrol,"it would hardlymake
sense for the U.S. to do nothingwhen they (the Philippines)were faced witha
"threatto internalsecurity" and were "incapableof understanding" theirown prob-
lems and solutions.In such a situation,to do nothingwould mean the U.S. would
abrogateits"moralposition"in theworld.Thus, doing nothingwas not a possibility.
".... to do nothingwould resultin disaster"(NSC84/1). ". . . in the contextof the
presentworldsituationthereis no acceptablealternative" (FR51,Part1:57).
For an interestingcounterfactualwe can tryto imaginea discoursein whichthe
identityof the Philippineswas similarto thatof the U.S. We can ask ourselvesif
thatwere the case, would "do nothing"have been a reasonable policyoption? It
would,at least,have been a possibility.A subjectwho understoodthe natureof the
problems and solutionsand was guided by rationalityratherthan passion and
emotionmightnot have necessitatedU.S. intervention.
Shafer's (1988) studyis quite tellingin this regard. Shafer suggeststhat U.S.
counterinsurgency policyin the Philippineswas largelyirrelevantand the success-
ful defeat of the Huks was basicallyattributableto the Philippines' own policies
and good indigenousleadership.This suggestionraises the possibilitythat,while
not examinedin thisstudy,the indigenousPhilippinediscoursewas quite different
fromthatexamined here and in all likelihoodcreateddifferent interpretive
bilitiesand made possiblepracticesprecludedbythe U.S. foreignpolicydiscourse.
We can pose another question regardingpossible practices.In this particular
discourse,was it possible for the U.S. to intervenethroughthe directuse of its
military mightto crushthe Huks? It seems doubtful.This would call into question
the "sovereignty" and "independence"of the Philippines.It would also call into
question the success of the American "experiment"thatwas the Philippines.As
suggested by a 1950 militaryreport, ". . . the use of U.S. leadership should be
clothed in every manner possible with the pretense of local action and
responsibility"(Craig,1950:4). Thus, the directand overtuse of U.S. military
was not a possibility,
If "do nothing"and directuse of military powerwere not possibilities,then this
suggeststhatsome otherkind of intervention was imperative.The keywas forthe
U.S. to findjust the rightkind of intervention to deal withThird Worldinsurgen-
cies and revolutions.That "masterkey" was counterinsurgency (Shafer,1988:11).
From the approach taken in this studycounterinsurgency discoursescannot be
viewed solely or even primarilyas discussionsabout a particularsituationand
optionsforcopingwithit. Rather,thesediscourseswereproductive of the situations
themselves, the ThirdWorld,and the individualcountriesthatare partof it.
Counterinsurgency discourse is also an example of power in its productive
aspect.AfterWorldWar II, withthe delegitimationof colonialismand subsequent
decolonizationof the Third World,modernitybecame a trulyglobal project.U.S.
foreignpolicyin the ThirdWorldwas closelytiedwiththese modernistaspirations
and with the social and other sciences that sought to promote them. U.S.
counterinsurgency policies were in large part attemptsto gain influence and
controlover "development"processes in the Third World withinthe contextof
containingthe "Communistthreat."'18
Power,in the Foucaultian sense discussedearlier,involvesthe constructionof
categoriesof normalcyand deviance. The group of countriesclassifiedas the
"ThirdWorld"were the internationaldeviants,the problemchildrenthatposed a

'8See Shafer (1988:chap. 5) for a discussionof the linksbetween developmentpolicies, academic theoriesand
and U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine.

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316 ForeignPolicyas Social Construction

threatto a modern and stable internationalorder. Counterinsurgency and other

"development"policies, while failuresin the sense of defeatinginsurgencyand
"developing"Third World countries,were successfulin the sense of providingthe
U.S. with a set of categories throughwhich these countriescould be known,
understood,and at leastpartiallycontrolled.
In lightof this,the importanceof thisstudyis not solelyor even primarily to be
found in whatit can tell us about thiscase per se, but ratherin whatit can tell us
about the interpretive orientationsat workthatcreateda "reality" thatgave rise to
certain possibilities.In this sense counterinsurgency discourse is a productive,
politicalpracticethatsociallyconstructsthe subjectsand objectsthatit is ostensibly
about. It thusparticipatesin the constructionof a "north/south," "firstworld/Third
World,""core/periphery" hierarchy.These interpretive would not have
gained the power and acceptance theydid were theypeculiar to this case. It is
reasonableto suggestthattheyare at workmoregenerallyin international relations
theoryand practicethatdeals withtheThirdWorld.
It is importantto not regardtheseconstructions as based upon an unproblematic
foundationthatsimplyreflects"reality." For example,ifthe successfuldefeatof the
Huks was due predominantly to indigenousPhilippinepolicy,as Shafersuggests,
then perhaps the attributesattached to the subjects of this discourse are not
reflectionsof "reality"but ratherillustrationsof the inextricablelinkagesbetween
the discursiveproduction of "knowledge" and the power inherent in that
production.Perhaps,in a different discourse,Philippinepolicywas guided by a
rationalassessmentof the problemand an accurateand reasonedunderstanding of
the situationfacing them, while U.S. policy was guided by an emotional and
impassionedoppositionto and irrationalfearofcommunism.

I have attemptedto showhow a foreignpolicydiscoursecreatedspaces forcertain
kindsof subjects.Through representational practicesthatrelied upon a seriesof
oppositionsand otherrelationsa hierarchyof subjectswas createdwhich,in turn,
made certainpracticespossible and precluded others.I have tried to show that
given the world constructedin these policydiscoursessomekind of intervention
wouldbe imperative.
I have also attemptedto broaden our conceptionof whatforeignpolicymaking
is. The "foreign,"the "exotic,"the "other,"withwhomforeignpolicymakersdeal,
are alwaysbeing createdat varioussites.To the extentthatsimilarkindsof subjects
are reproduced in various sites and over periods of time, this result tells us
somethingabout the prevalence of particularrepresentationsthat constructa
hierarchicalworld.Since thisstudyhas onlydealtwithone particularsiteofforeign
policyin a relativelynarrowtimeframe,I can onlyclaim to have shownthatin this
particularcase, a hierarchicalworldwas constructed.19Whatneeds to be done is to
analyzeotherdiscoursesin othersettingsand duringdifferent timeperiods.

19Inthisregardsee Doty (1991) and Millikenand Sylvan(1991). Here I would also call attentionto Herrmann
(1988), who examined the cognitiverepresentations of the Third WorldemployedbySovietelites.He came up with
thatare consistentwithwhatI found in thisstudy.Herrmann'sstudyis significantfortwo
constructionsof "reality"
reasons. First,he examines a differentcase involvingdifferentdocuments,differentsubject matter,and different
actors. Second, the frameworkhe used is quite differentfrom mine. Although he makes use of documents,
Herrmann's focus is on the perceptionsof elites. His study,although it did not address internationalhierarchy,
nonethelesssupportsmyfindingsand adds credence to the notion that internationalhierarchyis based on more
than differentialsin militaryand economic power. His studyalso presupposes a particulardiscourse,i.e., a social
contextwithinwhichelitestereotypes are meaningful.

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Byignoringthe textualmechanismsat workin discourseand therebydiscounting

any role theymightplayin foreignpolicy,scholarslose the opportunity to take a
more criticalstance.Said (1978) poses the crucialquestion,"Can we dividehuman
beingsintocertaintypesand not sufferthe consequences?"Whiletheconsequences
in the particularcase I have examined in thisstudywere not so severeas in other
cases, thisdoes not detractfromthe argumentbeing made. In lightof the factthat
"realities"often give rise to policies that resultin the deaths of both "us" and
"them,"a more criticalapproach to the analysisof foreignpolicypractices,one that
examinesthe socialconstruction of "us"and "them,"is warranted.

[1] National SecurityCouncil. A Reportto theNational SecurityCouncilby the
ExecutiveSecretary on "The Positionof the UnitedStateswithRespectto the
Philippines,"November6, 1950. (84/1)
[2] National SecurityCouncil. A Reportto theNational SecurityCouncilby the
ExecutiveSecretary on "The Positionof the UnitedStateswithRespectto the
Philippines,"November6, 1950. (84/2)
[3] Reviewof theWorldSituation1949-1950.
[4] Memo fromSecretaryof Stateto President,April20, 1950. Regarding:Recent
Developmentsin the PhilippineSituation.
[5] Memo fromSecretaryof State to President,February2, 1950. Regarding:
RecentDevelopmentsin the PhilippineSituation.
[6] Office of Intelligence Research Report, Survey of the Philippines,
Departmentof State,April15, 1952.
[7] Glenn Craig, MilitaryGroup,JointMDAP SurveyMissionto SoutheastAsia,
September25, 1950.
[8] Semi-annual Appraisal of the Joint U.S. MilitaryAdvisoryGroup to the
Republic of the Philippines.WrittenbyJ.W. Anderson,Major General,U.S.
Army,ChiefAdvisortoJointChiefsof Staff,March25, 1950.
[9] CharlesOgburn,PolicyInformationOfficer,Bureau of Far EasternAffairs, to
AssistantSecretaryof State for Far Eastern Affairs,Rusk, 1951. Foreign
Relations6 (1) :7.
[10] Appraisalof the PhilippineSituationby the AmericanEmbassy,August1951.
ForeignRelations 6 (2):1561.
[11] Memo fromAssistantSecretaryof State for Far Eastern Affairs(Rusk) to
Deputy Under Secretaryof State (Matthews),January31, 1951. Foreign
Relations6 (1) :24.
[12] MacArthurAddressto Congress,April14, 1951,page 1114.
[13] ForeignPolicyBulletin, August25, 1950.
[14] Far Eastern Survey,American Instituteof Pacific Relations,by Russell H.
Fifield,Professorof Political Science, Universityof Michigan,January30,
[15] U.S. Newsand World Report, "Philippines:Wastevs.U.S. Aid,"January27, 1950.
[16] Memo fromJoint Chiefs of Staff,Omar Bradley,to Secretaryof Defense,
Johnson,September6, 1950.Foreign 1:1485-1489.
[17] Memo fromOfficerin charge of Economic Affairs, Officeof Philippineand
SoutheastAsianAffairs, Shohan, 1951.Foreign Relations1:1494.
[18] Memo from Charles Ogburn, Policy InformationOfficer,Bureau of Far
EasternAffairs, to AssistantSecretaryof State forFar EasternAffairs, Rusk.
1951.Foreign Relations 6 (1) :7.
[19] Harold C. Hagan, U.S. House of Representatives,June 15, 1953.
[20] William0. Douglas. 1953. North fromMalaya-Adventureon FiveFronts.New

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[21] Foreign oftheUnitedStates6 (1):46. 1951.

[22] Secretaryof State Dean Acheson. "Crisisin Asia-An Examinationof U.S.
Policy."Department January23, 1950.
[23] Memo fromJ. T. Forbes, State Group, Joint MDAP SurveyMission, to
Chairmanof theMission,September27, 1950.
[24] "The New Republic of the Philippines."Department ofStateBulletin15(376),
September15, 1946.
[25] PresidentTruman,UnitedStatesDepartment July14, 1946.
[26] CurrentIntelligenceWeekly.Central Intelligence Agency, Official Current
Intelligence,November20, 1953.

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