US elite discourse on the EU as a security actor
Constructivist accounts of the EU’s emergence as a security actor typically focus on changing conceptions of the Union’s role within a European context, at both national and EU levels. But few studies have analysed how significant Others in the international system understand the EU’s evolving role, which is assumed to play an important role in EU identity construction. This thesis analyses the nature of the US elite’s discourse on the EU, assessing the relative influence of factors - internal and external to the elite - in shaping its evaluations of EU security action. The study adopts a discursive institutionalist approach exploring how differing ideas about the EU are expressed and modifying this framework to examine how agents purposefully shape discourse in line with their preferences. By adapting the framework to focus on competing elite sub-groups, the project seeks to analyse discursive attempts at institutional change in greater detail. The study employed a qualitative content analysis of more than 100 texts produced by an ideologically and institutionally representative group of American foreign policy analysts and officials, in two cases: common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and counter terrorism cooperation. Public and classified official texts in the public domain were analysed to compare coordinative and communicative discourse. The findings indicate that ideological cleavages are mirrored in distinct narrative accounts of EU, which cross cut the Union’s differing security policy competence levels. While perceptions of European disunity and weakness dominated both conservative and liberal accounts, conservative analysts continued to portray EU security integration as threatening to US interests, a theme which has declined in importance in mainstream official discourse since the early 2000s. Empirically, the thesis provides a rich analysis of discourse on the EU in a context with significance both for scholars and policymakers concerned with external perceptions of the EU as a security actor. It provides a novel assessment of how American officials’ assessments of the EU differ in public and in private. By analysing the discursive tactics of influential elite sub-groups, it reveals an arena for competing accounts of the EU in which the Union’s differing policy competences are overshadowed by the elite’s ideological cleavages.