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A Portfolio Theory of Foreign Affairs: U.S. Relations with the Muslim World

34 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2011 Last revised: 18 Aug 2011

Ali Khan

Washburn University /Legal Scholar Academy

Date Written: February 1, 2011


The portfolio theory presents foreign policy as a series of financial, military, diplomatic, and ideological investments in international relations. Portfolios protect and promote the state’s interests through beneficial treaties, such as trade agreements, security measures, such as peace pacts and defense alliances, foreign assistance programs, cultural exchanges, and diplomatic initiatives to resolve global, regional, and bilateral problems.

The portfolio theory explains how vested portfolios survive political changes and ideological shifts, preserving the foreign policy inertia and continuity. Contrary to popular expectations that the U.S. foreign policy would change with new administration, many portfolios do not change. U.S. portfolio managers frequently fortify key portfolios with federal legislation. The legislative fortification of portfolios makes it harder for subsequent portfolio managers to affect fundamental changes in foreign policy. The Obama administration, therefore, has limited options to reverse the portfolios that prior administrations launched, mostly in the form of economic and trade sanctions, to modify the behavior of Muslim states and militant groups that do not support, or out-right impede, U.S. global or regional interests.

Unfortunately, the future relations between the U.S. and the Muslims world are full of contentions. U.S. special stakeholders and epistemic groups continue to paint Islam as a threat to American interests and values at home and abroad. Even U.S. general stakeholders hold an unfavorable view of Muslims and find connections between Islam and violence. On the other side, Muslims perceive U.S. portfolio managers as anti-Islamic, inclined to punish Muslim states and degrade Islam. Frustrated with ineffectual and non-representative governments, Muslim militants, as special stakeholders, continue to challenge international peace and security. Great effort is needed to readjust and discard failed international portfolios.

Keywords: U.S, Foreign Policy, Muslim States, Islam

Suggested Citation

Khan, Ali, A Portfolio Theory of Foreign Affairs: U.S. Relations with the Muslim World (February 1, 2011). Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Ali Khan (Contact Author)

Washburn University /Legal Scholar Academy ( email )

Topeka, KS 66610
United States
7856701671 (Phone)


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