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Constructing "accepting mortality": USA, France, UK in the "war on terror"

(La construction de la mortalité acceptable : le cas des Etats-Unis, de la France, du Royaume-Uni dan)


Unité : REPI Recherche et Études en Politique Internationale | ULB704



Description :


By what legal and security narratives have the United States, France and Britain justified their « war on terror » lethal
security policies since the early 2000? During the period from the 1970s to the 1990s, the United States and its allies were reluctant
to assume that their armed forces were carrying out lethal actions. This situation, stemming in part from criticism of the
colonial and Vietnam wars, lead the armed forces to be less reliant on the use force (as was the case during peacekeeping operations in
the 1990s) or to hide their violence (referred to as « zero casualties warfare » or « surgical warfare »). After September
11th, 2001, a change occurred; political and military decision-makers are  much more willing to acknowledge the fact that their
armed forces are causing death. Based on both critical legal studies and critical security studies approaches, this project aims
at enquiring how the mortality – affecting individuals labelled as « terrorists » but also numerous civilians, resulting from
actions taken in the context of the « war on terror »  - has been justified by legal and security discourses. It
hypothesizes that this change was justified by five narratives : (1) traditional international law, which limits the use of force, as an
« obsolete » frame; (2) targeted killing as an expression of a « utilitarian strategic calculation » supporting a
« preventive » conception of armed actions ; (3) large-scale military operations (in particular within cities) as a means of
« liberating populations taken hostage » ; (4) support for militias as a means of « strengthening sovereignty »; (5) lethal effects on
civilian populations of arms deliveries as « unproven ». 

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