Writing Wars on Terrorism: The Rhetoric of Counter-Terrorism from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush Jr

Richard Dean Wells Jackson

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Abstract

The construction of any kind of sustained political violence, including large-scale counter-terrorism campaigns, requires a powerful political discourse capable of enlisting widespread consent and subduing dissent. Employing the methodology of critical discourse analysis (CDA), this paper examines the key features and characteristics of the discourse of Bush Jr's second 'war on terrorism', in large measure by comparing it to the first 'war on terrorism' inaugurated by Reagan. I argue that the genealogical roots of Bush Jr's counter-terrorism policies can be found in the discursive constructions at the heart of Reagan's approach, and that both discourses make similar appeals to formative American political narratives. The paper also argues that the Bush Jr and Reagan 'wars on terrorism' have functioned in similar ways to structure overall foreign policy formation, write American identity, reflexively construct external threats, and discipline internal and external opponents. Finally, the paper suggests that it is possible to critique American counter-terrorism policy from both an ethical-normative perspective, and a realist-pragmatic viewpoint.
Original languageEnglish
Pages22-25
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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