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Narrative and the Making of U.S. National Security, Ronald R. Krebs

Reviewed by Jarrod Hayes



Do the words that policymakers use to talk about national security, and the way they deploy those words, matter for the actual practice of national security? The traditional response by American international relations scholars is either no—the material conditions of the international system drive security unmediated—or that discourses of national security objectively reflect the material security conditions in the international system. In this erudite and well-argued book, Ronald R. Krebs argues otherwise: events do not speak for themselves, and national security policy fundamentally relies on practices of interpretation that manifest as national security narratives. Krebs makes his case through two primarily theoretical chapters and four empirical chapters divided into two parts with extensive methodological appendices, with attendant chapters exploring the implications of his findings.

The core premise of the book is that humans use narratives to make sense of their world. Krebs distinguishes between two types of discourse, argument and storytelling/narrative. Argument takes place within the context of established or dominant narratives and the range of legitimacy that the dominant narrative establishes. Thus, argument relies on the priorities, understandings, and general principles established by the dominant narrative. Often, but not always, th

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