The Clash with Distant Cultures

Values, Interests, and Force in American Foreign Policy

By Richard J. Payne

Subjects: United States Foreign Policy
Paperback : 9780791426487, 304 pages, August 1995
Hardcover : 9780791426470, 304 pages, September 1995

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Table of contents



1. Foreign Policy Begins at Home: Cultural Influences on U. S. Bad Behavior Abroad

Culture and Foreign Policy
Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Ideology, Myth, and American Foregin Policy
American Exceptionalism and Foreign Policy
A Religious Nation: Church and State Inseparable
Race, Culture, and American Foreign Policy

2. Cultural Roots of Force in American Foreign Policy

The Link Between Internal and External Violence
America's Historical Experiences and Its Use of Force
America's Historical Experiences and the Rule of Law
A Culture of Violence
Television and the Culture of Violence
Sports, Violence, and Foreign Policy
The Government: Reinforcing the Culture of Violence
Flight from Responsibility
Americans' Quest for Absolute Security
Foreign Policymaking by Analogy

3. Cultural Barriers to International Negotiations

The Negotiation Process
American Perceptions of Diplomacy and American Exceptionalism
Isolationism, Interdependence, and Negotiations
Impatience as a Barrier to Negotiation

4. Operation Desert Storm: No Negotiations, No Compromise

American Perceptions of Arabs
Perception of the Threat
Demonizing the Enemy: Hussein as Hitler
Foreign Policy by Analogy: World War II and Vietnam
Barriers to a Negotiated Settlement
America's Impatience and Sanctions
Bush's March to War
War and Religion
The Enemy Must Be Destroyed
Avoiding Responsibility
A New World Order: America as a Redeemer Nation

5. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: Negotiating Peace Patiently

American Perceptions of and Cultural Links with Israel
American Perceptions of Palestinians
Ignoring UN Resolutions and the Rule of Law
Israel's Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories
Negotiating with Friends
War Brings Peace

6. Bosnia: Cultural Distance and U. S. Military Inaction

The Collision of Distant Cultures
Perception of the Threat
Ethnic Cleansing: Downplaying the World War II Analogy
Ignoring the Rule of Law
Reluctance to Use Force: Stressing the Vietnam Analogy
Arming the Bosnian Muslims
Ineffective Negotiations: Rewarding Agression?

7. Resolving Conflicts Peacefully




An analysis of the impact of cultural values on the use of force and negotiations in American foreign policy.


Whereas foreign policymaking is generally viewed as a rational, unemotional, and sophisticated process, this analysis of American policies toward the Persian Gulf, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the Bosnian conflict suggests that the underlying and largely unexamined cultural values of most ordinary Americans play a major role in determining the United States' choice of force or negotiation in dealing with international problems. Payne examines the linkage between the United States' tendency to use force in foreign policy and the culture of violence in America. He argues that the costs of resolving conflicts militarily are likely to become more burdensome as economic competitors seek to take advantage of the U. S. tendency to demonstrate resolve primarily through the application of force. Post-Cold War challenges, Payne argues, call for a more nuanced combination of force and diplomacy. He finds hope in the fact that a strong component of American culture favors nonviolence, embraces humanitarianism, and if cultivated can contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Richard J. Payne is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at Illinois State University. He is the author of Opportunities and Dangers of Soviet-Cuban Expansion: Toward a Pragmatic U. S. Policy, also published by SUNY Press; The Nonsuperpowers and South Africa; The West European Allies, the Third World, and U. S. Foreign Policy; and The Third World and South Africa: Post-Apartheid Challenges.


"Payne's exposition of the profound influence of cultural factors on state behavior offers a needed corrective to the 'realist' school that still dominates academic writing on international relations (in which military and economic factors are emphasized to the virtual exclusion of ideational considerations); it can also help policymakers become more self-aware of the cultural biases implicit in their actions and statements. The book's hard-hitting exposition of American cultural myths and prejudices and their reflection on U. S. foreign policy, plus its accessible style, should make it useful in a variety of courses—from American Civilization to International Relations to Peace Studies—and to laypersons attentive to public affairs. " — Seyom Brown, Brandeis University

"The author addresses a foreign policy problem of major significance, that of the complex relationship between a nation's culture and its international behavior. Payne establishes a sound basis for his assertion that (1) American foreign policy has been heavily dependent on the use of culturally reinforced violence, and (2) the future cost of resolving conflicts through violence will probably become vastly more burdensome. The time is right for a book that suggests constructive new directions for American foreign policy. This is a much-needed book. " — Henry T. Nash, Wheaton College