Towards a Law and Political Economy Approach to the Global War on Terror

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Blog Post

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The Law and Political Economy Project




Over the course of the global war on terror (GWOT), authors and activists have issued countless assessments of why the forever wars endure. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a great deal of legal scholarship has assumed that the cause is legal, and therefore that legal interventions, irrespective of the political power they mobilize, shape executive action. Missing from these accounts, however, is an analysis of the international political economy’s relationship to US militarism, including how it has thwarted the aspirations for self-determination of those who inhabit the countries the United States bombs. For scholarship to hold open the possibility of freedom from imperial domination, I suggest that it must interrogate the material conditions that enable the GWOT’s militarized (in)security.

In this piece, I focus on one specific case: that of Pakistan, where the United States has exploited the government’s reliance on foreign credit to guarantee cooperation in US counterinsurgency operations. In leveraging its role as a lender to provide Pakistan with short-term financial relief, the United States has deepened Pakistan’s economic dependency, undermined the nation’s chance for a more equal domestic political and economic arrangement, and consolidated the power of its domestic military elite. It is precisely that elite that has helped facilitate war in the region and thwarted economic reform. This recent history offers a template of how the United States negotiates and maintains the imperial formations necessary to its ongoing wars. As the United States escalates its war in Somalia and facilitates the country’s access to IMF loans, it may be operating from the same playbook. More research is still needed, but my hope is to invite other scholars to help elucidate the relationship between debt and militarism.


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