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Fear and the Making of Foreign Policy

Europe and Beyond

Raymond Taras

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Can a society’s fear of foreigners engender xenophobic foreign policy?

This is a book about conflicts and fears: how domestic reasons are drawing countries in Europe into international events. There has been much research into why the U.S. and U.K. militaries intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones. But what explains France’s newfound international activism, which is taking its military to Libya, Mali and deeper into Africa? Why has Poland become deeply engaged in Ukraine’s politics? Why is Sweden, which has not fought a war since 1814, concerned with the fierce internal wars in Iraq and Syria? Can these actions be explained as countries simply protecting their national interests, or could domestic xenophobia also be playing a part?

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1. Fear and suspicion in contemporary politics: citizens, strangers, elites
2. Reconnecting culture with foreign policy
3. Reflections on designing research for the study of fear and foreign policy
4. French Muslims and France's foreign policy
5. Poland’s Fixation with Russia: Fear or Reason?
6. Sweden: the limits of humanitarianism at home and abroad
7. Summing up
Select bibliography

About the Author

Raymond Taras is Professor of Political Science at Tulane University.


An original and insightful approach to the understanding of foreign policy. Applying cultural, historical and psychological perspectives grounded in classical and modern scholarship, Raymond Taras shows how suspicions, hatreds and fears of real and imagined enemies are major factors in foreign policies. In so doing, he provides a needed corrective to the assumptions of rational decision making.

- William Safran, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder

This is a meticulously researched, very well written and compellingly argued work. Taras’ multidisciplinary approach makes for a book that will be informative and accessible to readers from different areas and at different levels of expertise.

- Metodi Siromahov, Royal Holloway, University of London, Nations and Nationalism

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