US Central Command and liberal imperial reach: 'Shaping the Central Region for the 21st Century'

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For over 30 years, the grand strategy of one of the most important commands in the US military, Central Command (CENTCOM), has consistently held fast to a commitment to neoliberal capitalism and an ostensibly free-market global economy. Any accrued national or global economic benefits are impossible to chart, of course, and so CENTCOM's securitization discourse relies upon vaguer, yet promissory logics about 'keeping the global economy open'. My aim in this paper is to show how the story of CENTCOM's mission is crucial to understanding how US military interventionism works today through a discursive geoeconomic imagination that is vague yet persuasive in its universalist dimensions. In a period marked by globalisation and new forms of capitalist accumulation, CENTCOM's mission has nevertheless habitually involved fashioning itself in a neoliberal 'world policeman' role, and to that end has employed a strategy that can be best described as one of 'geoeconomic deterrence'. The paper outlines the entwined military and economic security logics of this strategy, which have resulted in the Middle East and Central Asia being repeatedly conditioned as requiring forms of corrective military interventionism. Since its establishment in 1983, CENTCOM's strategy papers, mission statements and annual reports to Congress have collectively scripted practices of intervention and deterrence that rely upon dominant registers of military and economic risk. In critically considering CENTCOM's mission, the paper shows how the command's initiation fundamentally changed US foreign policy by solidifying the Carter Doctrine and subsequently committing to the geoeconomic shaping of the most energy-rich region on earth.




Morrissey, J. (2016). US Central Command and liberal imperial reach: “Shaping the Central Region for the 21st Century.” Geographical Journal, 182(1), 15–26.

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