Anja B. Sletteland

University of Oslo, Department of Sociology and Human Geography (Human Geography)

Anja B. Sletteland

Balancing Security Considerations: The Role of Israel in American Security Policy

My PhD project deals with the conditions for discussing the American alliance with Israel in the United States today, and how the domestic discourse impacts the strategic leeway of American foreign policy.

The relationship between the United States and Israel is one of the most remarkable political alliances in modern history. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, in the form of military, economic, political and diplomatic support. No other country receives aid with so few conditions or such favorable terms. The strategic importance of the alliance is however a moot point: The alliance is designed as an investment in American security, but at the same time, it is strongly controversial in the international community and known to generate hostility against the US. Despite the strategic ambivalence, the alliance with Israel is a difficult issue to address in the United States. The antagonistic fronts in the debate are continuously reinforced, and people from the entire political spectrum claim that their particular view is misunderstood or tabooed.

The first part of the project addresses the very dynamics of the American domestic discourse, starting from an initial observation that people enter the conversation with completely different perceptions of Israel, of the alliance and of the very discourse itself. Different historical narratives as well as diverging perceptions of identity, geography and power structures constitute a great variety of frames through which people speak and interpret other people’s arguments. Drawing upon discourse theory and cognitive theory I will explore the variety of interpretive frames available in the American society, and examine how these are activated in the discourse in situations where geopolitical realities have changed.

The second part broadens the perspective to discussing how perceptions of places and people on a domestic level influences international politics through state institutions. This part builds on theories from Critical Geopolitics, which applies constructionist approaches and notions of cultural hegemony to international politics and bureaucratic practices.