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Political Science Security (national & International)

Smoke and Mirrors

Globalized Terrorism and the Illusion of Multilateral Security

by (author) Frank P. Harvey

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2004
Security (National & International), Arms Control, Military Science
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    Sep 2004
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The threat of terrorism has become a fact of life for American citizens and, by extension, an important issue for current and future U.S. governments. International relations are inevitably affected by this situation, yet allies of the United States have of late been decrying the Bush administration's move toward unilateralism and its sceptical attitude toward multilateral approaches to security.

In Smoke and Mirrors, Frank P. Harvey mounts a powerful case for American unilateralism by exposing the real costs, potential risks, and catastrophic failures of multilateral alternatives, that are rarely acknowledged by proponents. He addresses the relationship between globalization, terrorism, and unilateralism, and provides a systematic explanation for, and defence of, Washington's response to threats of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The reality of an increasingly fragile national security environment will impose tremendous pressure on Republican and Democratic leaders alike, and will compel American officials to prioritize safety, protection, and invulnerability above all else in an effort to become self-reliant in matters of security.

Harvey develops his arguments with evidence from two significant case studies: the American ballistic missile defence program and the 2003 war in Iraq. He argues that, as the costs and risks of relying exclusively on multilateralism increase, the logical, legal, strategic, and moral reasons for embracing only multilateral approaches to security are becoming more tenuous. The implications for Canada and Europe are obvious. As the U.S. becomes more threatened, the pressures that drive American unilateralism will clash with the foreign, economic, and security policies of other powers, including traditional allies, themselves motivated by a competing set of unilateral self-interests.

Smoke and Mirrors will compel critics of the Bush administration to move beyond the assumption that American foreign policies are temporary in nature. Indeed, the tensions caused by terrorism and proliferation will continue to shape Washington's threat perceptions and responses for decades. The book challenges critics to demonstrate the successes – as distinct from the promises – of multilateral security and to prove that their preferred alternative has achieved the victories that would justify a sweeping rejection of unilateralism.

About the author

Frank P. Harvey is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dalhousie University where he also holds the Eric Dennis Chair of Government and Politics.

Frank P. Harvey's profile page


  • Short-listed, Harold Innis Prize - Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme
  • Short-listed, Donner Prize

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