Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Susan Stoudinger Northcutt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Earl Conteh-Morgan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Harvey Nelsen, Ph.D.


Foreign Policy, South Asia, SAARC


The United States has a long-standing interest in the political events of South Asia. This research focuses specifically on U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic nations of this region, Pakistan and Afghanistan (Referred to as Islamic South Asia). This research examines a variety of primary and secondary sources in an effort to understand the historical context and theoretical framework of U.S. policy.

It has been suggested by scholars that the age of realism has come to an end. This study seeks to verify this claim. Does realism provide the theoretical base necessary for policy success in Islamic South Asia? If it does, then can it continue to serve as the theoretical guide in the post-Cold War era? U.S. policy actions and the logic supporting them are examined in an effort to critique realism and to assess the policy toward this region.

The purpose of this study is to examine whether the continued use of the realist theory is substantiated, based on its record of past policy successes and failures. One of the core arguments against realism is that the level of analysis is too rigid, thus failing to recognize internal constraints in state affairs. Of the many internal issues facing a state, none outweigh the role of culture within the social context of this region. This is exemplified in the case studies of the three most pivotal events influencing U.S. policy. Having examining the foundation and application of the realist based policies toward the region, this study will then evaluate the success or failure of U.S. policy. This evaluation is based on an analysis of the stated goals compared to the results of policy actions.

Considering the dangers on the horizon, this research also offers several guidelines for creating a more successful long-term strategy toward Islamic South Asia. Having already witnessed the collapse of the state in Afghanistan and the potential for state failure in a nuclear Pakistan, the concerns relating to this region are extensive. Weapons of mass destruction, environmental crisis, and social instability are just few of the problems addressed in this study. The variety of potential disasters emanating from this region makes this region and U.S. policy towards it a paramount concern.