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Summer 2023 articles

“US Boots on the Ground,” the Enemy, and Post-Cold War Presidential Rhetoric

Marta Kobylska

Abstract

This article is an investigation into the case of the enemy in American post-Cold War presidential rhetoric regarding the deployment of US ground troops to the fight overseas. It examines the links between the two themes from the perspective of Kenneth Burke’s rhetoric of identification and Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar’s strategies of out-casting. A close analysis of presidential addresses to the nation announcing the deployment of American combat troops abroad is followed by a discussion of the implications of presidential rhetorical choices for active followership.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 “Where Does the Phrase ‘Boots on the Ground’ Come from?” BBC, last modified September 30, 2014, htt (...)
  • 2 “‘Boots on the Ground’ Is a Favorite Phrase in the ISIS Debate,” Courier & Press, last modified Sep (...)
  • 3 “Where Does the Phrase ‘Boots on the Ground’ Come from?”
  • 4 Quoted in John K. Cooley, “US Rapid Strike Force: How to Get There First with the Most,” Christian (...)

1In contemporary discussions of American military engagements abroad, “boots on the ground” is a common phrase to describe committing US troops to fight overseas. The synecdochic use of the word “boot” to mean “soldier” has been in use since World War I,1 but the phrase “boots on the ground,” meaning “infantry in the field” is a fairly recent development.2 As New York Times columnist William Safire and army historian Matthew Seelinger point out, the earliest digital record of the term dates back to an April 11, 1980, Christian Science Monitor article in which General Volney F. Warner gave an interview about the Iranian Hostage Crisis.3 Mapping out strategic problems for the United States in the Persian Gulf, Warner suggested that “‘getting US combat boots on the ground’ would signal to an enemy that the US is physically guarding the area and can only be dislodged at the risk of war.”4

  • 5 George W. Bush, “Remarks on the New Oval Office Carpet and an Exchange with Reporters,” The America (...)
  • 6 Josh Earnest, “Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest 10/30/15,” The White House, (...)

2In post-Cold War debates concerning American military involvement overseas, US presidents have conventionally employed the phrase when discussing deployment of combat troops to fight on foreign soil. George W. Bush, for instance, did so in a review of US actions in Afghanistan, delivered in December 2001, when he said, “once we were able to bring our military strength, made our military strength—air strength, in particular—with boots on the ground, commitment of troops, [the objective to hold accountable those who had harbored Al Qaida] unfolded well.”5 The same term is sometimes understood to mean not just any deployment of US troops, but rather, and specifically, “a large-scale, long-term ground combat operation.”6

  • 7 Ibid.
  • 8 Barack Obama, “Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News ‘Meet the Press,’” The American Presidency Pro (...)
  • 9 “NBC News Exclusive: Pres. Obama Tells Lester Holt He Sees ‘Disparities in How White, Black, Hispan (...)

3This particular understanding can be traced back to an October 30, 2015, press briefing by then-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Barack Obama spoke in the same vein in a November 2, 2015, interview with NBC anchor Lester Holt. When asked whether his decision to “put a small number—fewer than 50—Special Operations Forces on the ground inside of Syria in a train, advise and assist role”7 contradicted what he had repeatedly said over the course of the previous two years—that he would not put American boots on the ground in Syria8—the president responded, “this is just an extension of what we were continuing to do. We are not putting U.S. troops on the frontlines fighting firefights with ISIL. . . . we are not going to be fighting like we did in Iraq with battalions and occupations.”9 Understood in this way, “boots of the ground” means more than the mere presence of American military personnel, which Obama was proposing, but rather their active engagement with some enemy.

  • 10 Carlo Galli, Amanda Minervini, and Adam Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy,” CR: The New Centennial Re (...)

4Focusing on rhetoric regarding the deployment of US ground troops to the fight overseas, this study examines how American presidents talked of the enemy after 1989 as a means of achieving broad and strong public support for their decisions to put boots on the ground by sending troops into combat. Key to this study is the development of an understanding of the relationship of rhetoric and politics with respect to the duel concepts of the enemy and war. Carlo Galli et al. recognize the difficulty in talking about how war links, in its relation with politics, to the concept of the enemy, writing, “Precisely like war and politics, the enemy thus has a function that is ambiguous, even ungraspable. These notions may seem intuitively easy to define and to conceptualize, but the moment one scrutinizes them more closely, they reveal themselves to be changing and elusive.”10 Because this study is an investigation into how the trope of the enemy in American presidential rhetoric is used to justify and promote policy regarding the use of ground troops, much of its focus will of necessity be political.

  • 11 Quoted in Vincent J. Esposito, “War as a Continuation of Politics,” Military Review 11 (1955): 54-6 (...)
  • 12 Ibid.
  • 13 Ibid.
  • 14 Ibid.
  • 15 Robert L. Ivie, “Democratic Dissent and the Trick of Rhetorical Critique,” Cultural Studies ↔ Criti (...)
  • 16 Robert L. Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other: Rhetorical Constructions of Terrorism,” The Rev (...)

5Concerning the intersection of war and policy, military theorist Carl von Clausewitz writes, “Over and above all means of intercourse between nations is policy. All the elements which enter into war . . . are of a political nature.”11 War, he observed, “is nothing but the continuation of political intercourse” and “the manifestation of policy itself.”12 Policy creates war and “war is only its instrument.”13 Inherent in Clausewitz’s conception of war is the enemy and “the demand for [its] destruction.”14 Rhetorical theorist Robert L. Ivie further describes the relationship between war and the enemy, writing, “War, in its purest form, signals the presence of an enemy to coerce, combat, and destroy . . . ”15 An attitude of war, he notes, consists of “hostilities between sheer enemies” who “hold nothing in common” and “speak of one another as evil.”16

  • 17 Quoted in Jeremy Engels, “Friend or Foe?: Naming the Enemy,” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 12, no. 1 (...)
  • 18 Engels, “Friend or Foe?” 56.

6As in war, the enemy plays a central role in politics. As a means of linking the enemy to politics, communication scholar Jeremy Engels turns to rhetoric. He argues that the political dimension of enmity invites rhetorical treatment. In doing so, he quotes from Jacques Derrida’s discussion of political theorist Carl Schmitt: “If the political is to exist, one must know who everyone is, who is a friend and who is an enemy, and this knowing is not in the mode of theoretical knowledge but in one of a practical identification.”17 Or, as Engels put it, if the enemy is to be constitutive of the political, it must exist on a practical level that binds politics to the practice of rhetoric.18

2. The Context of this Study

  • 19 Jeremy Engels, The Politics of Resentment: A Genealogy (University Park: Penn State University Pres (...)
  • 20 Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order: ‘Out-Casting’ the Double (...)
  • 21 Ofer Zur, “The Love of Hating: The Psychology of Enmity,” History of European Ideas 13, no. 4 (1991 (...)
  • 22 Galli, Minervini, and Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy”; Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other”; (...)
  • 23 Engels, “Friend or Foe?”; Galli, Minervini, and Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy”; Ivie and Giner, “ (...)
  • 24 Jason A. Edwards, “Defining the Enemy for the Post-Cold War World: Bill Clinton’s Foreign Policy Di (...)
  • 25 Ivie and Giner, Hunt the Devil; Ivie and Giner, “Hunting the Devil”; Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, (...)
  • 26 Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar, “Enforcing Justice, Justifying Force. America’s Justification o (...)
  • 27 Kenneth Burke, “The Rhetorical Situation,” in Communication: Ethical and Moral Issues, ed. Lee Thay (...)

7Much research has examined the rhetorical construction of the enemy within the context of US foreign policy discourse.19 Some studies specifically analyze representation of the enemy as depicted in the foreign policy rhetoric of American post-Cold War presidents.20 A number of inquiries have been made into the image of the enemy21 on its own terms, as well as its relationship to the Other22 and the Us.23 Comprehensive analyses on creation of the enemy trope have highlighted the perspectives of savagery,24 demonology,25 and dehumanization.26 Relevant to the present examination is rhetorical literature on the construction of the enemy which looks at the concept in reference to US post-Cold War foreign policy. Earlier studies are cited only insofar as they pertain to the distinction between presidential rhetoric of the enemy before and after 1989. Of the scholarship that has investigated the concept of the enemy during the post-Cold War period, the writings of Ivie and Engels especially warrant the attention of rhetorical scholars, because they are grounded in the tradition of Kenneth Burke and draw from his theory of identification.27

  • 28 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order”; Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions(...)

8The image of the enemy as antagonist during the Cold War era is long-standing and well known. Most definitions are variations of the same concept: the enemy represents a villain whose evil actions directly and seriously threaten the security and basic—primarily democratic—values of the United States. Integral to this representation is the need for and possible use of physical force in order to fight and defeat the enemy. This representation of the enemy most commonly finds itself associated with the state of the Soviet Union, but can also be seen in the persons of Omar Torrijos, Manuel Noriega, Fidel Castro, or Saddam Hussein.28

  • 29 Engels, “Friend or Foe?”; Ivie and Giner, “Hunting the Devil”; Lazar and Lazar, “Enforcing Justice, (...)

9Since the end of the Cold War, the representation of the enemy has gone beyond its being defined solely as an enemy state or an adversarial state actor. The identity of America’s post-1989 enemy has been extended to cover the broader threat and narrower concern of terror/terrorism. Tracking the evolution of the term enemy through relevant scholarly literature leads to the perception of it as a non-state actor driven by politics to gain power, by hate to cause chaos, and by ideology to use any means necessary to achieve its goals. The enemy represents the antithesis of basic human—and by extension American—values. The alleged lack of (Western) ethics leaves the enemy open to being characterized as savage, barbaric, uncivilized, criminal, and evil, and thus provides the rhetorical space to refer to its actions in such terms as aggression, attack, invasion, and violation.29

  • 30 Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions.”
  • 31 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 239-240.

10Shifts in American post-Cold War thinking about the world order, other nations, and the means required to manage relations with them30 go together with changes in the presidential rhetoric of adversarial threats. The enemy trope has been adapted to the changing geopolitical landscape of the New World Order that emerged in the wake of the Cold War. This article examines the evolving construction of the enemy. In doing so, it takes into consideration changes in power structures and in the means and ends of US foreign policy within the context of post-Cold War presidential foreign policy rhetoric. If geopolitical bipolarity disappears, as Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar argues it will,31 how will the idea of the enemy adapt and endure? Specifically, this article investigates this question, and the representation of the enemy in general, within presidential rhetoric regarding the use of US ground troops. It extends previous analyses and discussions on the subject in two significant ways. First, it examines such rhetoric as used by all post-Cold War presidents, including President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump; and second, it looks at such rhetoric exclusively with respect to the issue of combat troop deployment. Challenges posed by critical international developments demand constant reinterpretation of traditional concepts in order to offer rhetorically effective definitions of the enemy as bases for justifying the deployment of ground troops to fight it.

3. Kenneth Burke’s Theory of Identification

11This article explores some of the links between the synecdochic term boots on the ground and the enemy trope from the perspective of the rhetoric of identification. An international conflict, a foreign policy crisis, and a war offer opportunities to reexamine US presidential rhetoric designed to identify speaker with audience in order to gain the latter’s approval for deployment of US ground forces beyond the nation’s borders. Presidents do not merely state that they are sending combat troops to the fight overseas; they apprise the public of the strategic thinking informing their plan to deploy American military forces abroad, and they seek to win support for that deployment. Each president’s rhetoric addresses such questions as: What sort of situation and what kind of enemy demands the use of ground troops? What benefits of conventional force deployment outweigh the (political) risks involved in moving military personnel to hostile environments? In answering these and similar questions, Kenneth Burke offers a relevant rhetorical theory centering around the key term “identification,” which does much to explain some of the key ways with which presidents persuade Americans to agree that the US has a responsibility to engage in combat operations under specifically defined circumstances.

  • 32 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 20.
  • 33 Ibid., 21.
  • 34 Ibid., 46.
  • 35 Ibid., 22.

12Identification, or to use another of Burke’s terms, “consubstantiality,” is a relationship in which the interests of two parties are joined, or in which it is assumed that they are, or in which one party is persuaded to believe they are conjoined with the other whether or not that is the case.32 In A Rhetoric of Motives, Burke explains consubstantiality as a doctrine in which “substance, in the old philosophies, was an act; and a way of life is an acting-together; and in acting together, men have common sensations, concepts, images, ideas, attitudes that make them consubstantial.”33 Burke’s understanding of identification is situated within the study of persuasion in particular and communication in general, for “a speaker persuades an audience by the use of stylistic identifications; his act of persuasion may be for the purpose of causing the audience to identify itself with the speaker’s interests; and the speaker draws on identification of interests to establish rapport between himself and his audience.”34 Thinking in Burkean terms concerning identification also entails a consideration of division, for “Identification is affirmed with earnestness precisely because there is division. Identification is compensatory to division. If men were not apart from one another, there would be no need for the rhetorician to proclaim their unity.”35 The rhetoric of identification, then, is concerned with the means of addressing points of identification when positions of self/identity differ.

  • 36 Ibid., 46.
  • 37 Burke, “The Rhetorical Situation,” 268.
  • 38 Ibid., 268-269.

13For Burke, the means of doing so are “the resources of identification whereby a sense of consubstantiality is symbolically established between beings of unequal status.”36 In “The Rhetorical Situation,” Burke notes, “one’s notions of his personal identity may involve identification not just with mankind or the world in general, but by some kind of congregation that also implies some related norms of differentiation or segregation.”37 Of the many potential meanings identification can assume, Burke describes three. The term can designate “a way to establish rapport with audience by the stressing of sympathies held in common.” It can represent itself in statements in which people are rhetorically manipulated to falsely, albeit unwittingly, assume a sense of shared interest. It can also be considered under the heading of “identification by antithesis, the most urgent form of congregation by segregation,” which is effected through “union by some opposition shared in common.”38

4. Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar’s Strategies of Out-Casting

  • 39 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 21.
  • 40 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 229.
  • 41 Ibid., 230.
  • 42 Ibid., 227-238.

14To develop an understanding of how American post-Cold War presidents, in their use of the enemy trope, exploited the rhetoric of identification by antithesis as a means of ostensibly erasing divisions, and thus leading otherwise disparate parties to become “both joined and separate, at once a distinct substance and consubstantial with another,”39 we turn to Lazar and Lazar’s discussion of statements across three American post-Cold War administrations—from George H. W. Bush through William J. Clinton to George W. Bush—regarding the rhetorical construction of the enemy. Lazar and Lazar identify four strategies with which presidents articulated the enemy within the context of the New World Order. First, they characterized the enemy’s values as “deviant and morally repugnant”40 and their beliefs and visions as “‘radical’ and fanatical, antithetical to liberalism, and [connoting] intolerance and irrationality.”41 Second, they criminalized the enemy, represented its actions as premeditated and calculated violence, characterized babies, women, civilians as the innocent victims of that violence, and used graphic language to describe the horror of the crimes the victims endured. Third, they represented the enemy as a stereotype of bellicosity, moral degeneracy, duplicity, and other negative traits associated with the uncivilized Other. Finally, they vilified the enemy, defining it and its actions as evil and disassociating it from religion or God.42

15What follows is an analysis of presidential rhetoric that justifies putting boots on the ground in reference to some designated enemy as a means of identification by antithesis. This analysis employs Lazar and Lazar’s taxonomy, briefly sketched above, as a template. The analysis examines ten speeches by five post-Cold War American presidents across time and in terms of specific critical situations/wars. In eight out of the ten speeches, the presidents announced the deployment of combat troops for military purposes. Troops sent to Somalia in 1992 went on a humanitarian mission to provide famine relief. The dispatch of US troops to Bosnia in 1995 was authorized to carry out peace enforcement tasks. The material for the study includes President George H. W. Bush’s speeches concerning Panama (December 20, 1989), the Persian Gulf (February 23, 1991), and Somalia (December 4, 1992); President William J. Clinton’s speeches on Somalia (October 7, 1993), Haiti (September 15, 1994), and Bosnia (November 27, 1995); President George W. Bush’s speeches regarding Afghanistan (October 7, 2001) and Iraq (March 17, 2003); President Barack Obama’s speech regarding Afghanistan (December 1, 2009); and President Donald J. Trump’s speech on Afghanistan (August 21, 2017). In addition, presidential communication related to the speeches listed is included for supplemental insights.

5. Analysis

16This study’s analysis starts with the assumption that the rhetoric by which the post-Cold War presidents seek support for decisions to send troops to the fight overseas is similar across administrations in a number of important ways.

  • 43 George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama,” The (...)
  • 44 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti,” The American Presidency Project, last modifie (...)
  • 45 George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq,” The American Presidency Project, last modified Mar (...)
  • 46 Barack Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York,” The American (...)
  • 47 George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia,” The American Presidency Pro (...)
  • 48 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

17Indeed, the structure of such addresses is very much the same: the speeches begin with the announcement of military action. “Last night,” Bush Sr. starts, “I ordered U.S. military forces to Panama.”43 “Tonight,” Clinton commences, “I want to speak with you about why the United States is leading the international effort to restore democratic government in Haiti.”44 The primary audience for such announcements is the American public. This is indicated by the presidents’ salutations to “my fellow citizens”45 or “my fellow Americans”46 and opening statements like, “I want to talk to you today about the tragedy in Somalia,”47 or “I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan.”48

  • 49 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia,” The American Presidency Project, last modif (...)
  • 50 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 51 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 52 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 53 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herze (...)

18Following the announcement is a narrative that focuses on justification for the use of force. One rationale is that the military action is simply a continuation of the policies of previous administrations. Clinton reminds his audience of “why our troops went into Somalia in the first place.”49 Similarly, Obama recalls “why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place.”50 Reasons also include the enemy’s refusal to resolve issues through peaceful political means. Speaking about the situation in Haiti, Clinton emphasizes that “for 3 years, we and other nations have worked exhaustively to find a diplomatic solution, only to have the dictators reject each one.”51 Bush Jr. emphasizes that “For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war . . . Our good faith has not been returned.”52 Finally, the most compelling explanation favoring the use of ground troops is the enemy’s brutality and cruelty. Most representative of this approach is Clinton’s graphic language in describing war crimes in Bosnia, as when he reports to the American people about “skeletal prisoners caged behind barbed-wire fences; women and girls raped as a tool of war; defenseless men and boys shot down into mass graves, evoking visions of World War II concentration camps; and endless lines of refugees marching toward a future of despair.”53

  • 54 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 55 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 56 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 57 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

19Once the rationale is established, presidents underscore the difficulty of military leadership. “No President makes decisions like this one without deep thought and prayer,” Clinton assures the American people when speaking about the situation regarding Haiti. “But it’s my job as President and Commander in Chief to take those actions that I believe will best protect our national security interests.”54 Obama speaks in the same vein when he admits, “I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”55 To make proposed military intervention more palatable to a war-weary populace, presidents accentuate that the interventions are of limited scope and short duration. Describing America’s role in Bosnia, Clinton promises that “Our mission will be limited, focused, and under the command of an American general.”56 Likewise, outlining America’s strategy in Afghanistan, Obama declares, “As your Commander in Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service.”57

  • 58 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 22.
  • 59 Ibid.
  • 60 Ibid., 20.
  • 61 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 229.
  • 62 Ibid., 230.
  • 63 William J. Clinton, “The President’s News Conference,” The American Presidency Project, last modifi (...)
  • 64 George H. W. Bush, “Interview with Gerd Helbig of ZDF, German Television,” The American Presidency (...)
  • 65 Clinton, “The President’s News Conference.”

20Key to winning support for decisions regarding military intervention is presidential language that focuses on the enemy. In the tradition of Burke, such rhetoric functions to unite men who are by nature divided, in this case, unifying them against a common threat.58 Confronting divisions necessitates identification,59 in which “A is not identical with his colleague, B. But insofar as their interests are joined, A is identified with B. Or he may identify himself with B even when their interests are not joined, if he assumes that they are, or is persuaded to believe so.”60 The first step in the process, relying here upon Lazar and Lazar’s taxonomy, is describing America’s enemy as “deviant and morally repugnant”61 as well as “‘radical’ and fanatical, antithetical to liberalism, and [connoting] intolerance and irrationality.”62 Upon close inspection, the language of both Bush Sr. and Clinton defines the enemy as a threat to world peace, national security, and human values.63 For Bush Sr., the enemy designates “instability, unpredictability,” and “lack of confidence in each other.”64 For Clinton, it is expressed in “terrorism . . . the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” and “unforeseen developments in countries around NATO.”65

  • 66 George W. Bush, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the United States Response to th (...)
  • 67 George W. Bush, “Remarks by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the Conservative Poli (...)
  • 68 Barack Obama, “Interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News - Part 1 of 4,” The American Presidency Pro (...)
  • 69 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks Introducing Governor Mike Pence as the 2016 Republican Vice Presidential (...)

21Definitions proffered by the next three presidents—Bush Jr., Obama, and Trump—are more restrictive in that they narrow the meaning of the enemy to terrorists and terrorism. Bush Jr. captures the essence of that term when he calls the enemya radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”66 The enemy, per Bush Jr., “is not just al Qaeda, but every terrorist group of global reach”67 In the same vein, Obama identifies the enemy as not only “Al Qaeda, the Taliban,” but “a whole host of networks that are bent on attacking America, who have a distorted ideology, who have perverted the faith of Islam.”68 Perhaps the most direct rhetor is Trump, who brazenly names the enemy as “Radical Islam. Radical Islamic terrorism.”69

  • 70 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti”; Bush, “Address to (...)
  • 71 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somal (...)
  • 72 Donald J. Trump, “Address to the Nation on United States Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia fro (...)
  • 73 George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes Against Al Qaida Training Camps and Talib (...)
  • 74 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq;” Bush, “Address to the Nation (...)
  • 75 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 76 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 77 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 78 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 79 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 80 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”
  • 81 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 82 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”
  • 83 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implemen (...)
  • 84 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Cl (...)
  • 85 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nat (...)
  • 86 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Cl (...)
  • 87 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq;” Clinton, “Address to the Nat (...)
  • 88 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nat (...)
  • 89 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Ground Action in the Persian Gulf.”
  • 90 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

22A second rhetorical means of effecting identification through antithesis is that of characterizing the enemy as a criminal. A survey of presidential rhetoric promoting the use of ground troops reveals that the enemy confronted by post-Cold War America is typically described in criminal terms. Indeed, this and related terms dominated presidential rhetoric vilifying the enemy. Across the statements examined for this study, presidents repeatedly designate the nation’s enemies as “dictators”70 “gangs,”71 thugs,”72 “outlaws,”73 “terrorists,74” “criminals,”75 and “killers.”76 Labels of “tyrants,”77 “lawless men,”78 “extremists,”79 “predators,”80 “operatives,”81 and “losers”82 are used occasionally. Mentions of enemies are consistently linked to the acts of beating, shooting, and killing;83 to arrests, brutal interrogations, and assaults;84 to the cases of mass executions, mass starvation, and mass suffering;85 to bloodshed, loss, and destructions;86 and to campaigns of rape, terror, torture, mutilation, and slaughter.87 Particular emphasis is placed upon the purposefulness of the enemy’s wanton and lawless violence.88 Bush Sr. speaking of “redoubling of Saddam Hussein’s efforts to destroy completely Kuwait and its people”89 is one such example. Clinton’s warning that “the war [in Bosnia] will reignite; the slaughter of innocents will begin again”90 underscores the enemy’s continued resort to brutality.

  • 91 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 92 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 93 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”
  • 94 Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”
  • 95 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 96 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 97 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

23Linking the enemy to pain, suffering, and death is also emphasized in order to demonstrate its contemptible disregard for human life. This emphasis is realized through graphic description of the enemy’s actions, as exemplified by Bush Jr.’s talk of Iraq’s “wars of aggression . . . poison factories . . . executions of dissidents . . . torture chambers and rape rooms,”91 or through direct and straightforward speech, as in the case of Obama, who recalls that “On September 11th, 2001, 19 men hijacked 4 airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station.”92 The enemy’s violent actions are made even more explicit in the emotionally charged descriptions of victims, such as Bush Sr.’s references to “the loss of innocent Panamanians”93 and “the starving people of Somalia,”94 Clinton’s remarks regarding “Haitian orphans’”95 and Bosnia’s “innocent civilians, especially children,”96 and Trump’s mention of the “innocent men, women, and children”97 of Afghanistan.

  • 98 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 99 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 100 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 101 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 102 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 103 Ibid.
  • 104 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 105 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

24Once the enemy is defined as a deviant and morally repugnant criminal, the rhetorical construction of the debased nature of the enemy, per Lazar and Lazar, is further elaborated upon through the use of negative stereotypes, such as when presidents refer to the enemies’ aggression in either generalizing terms, claiming that they “cling to power”98 and “operate with impunity”99 or stating specifically that they “turn Bosnia’s playgrounds and marketplaces into killing fields,”100 “seek an overthrow of the Afghan Government,” and “[use] Afghan land for their own purposes.”101 Presidents also exploit terms highlighting the enemy’s brutality, as, for instance, in Clinton’s statements in which the enemy is depicted as one who commits “brutal atrocities,” conducts “a reign of terror,”102 slays and slashes with machetes, mutilates and desecrates human bodies;103 or as seen in Obama’s remarks in which the enemy is tied to acts of ruthlessness, repressiveness, radicalism, brazenness, devastation, and violent extremism.104 In his speeches, Bush Jr. takes pains to point out the enemy’s perverse predilection to deceive, blackmail, conceal, and plot.105

  • 106 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”
  • 107 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 108 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.”
  • 109 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”

25Wording related to hiding is common too. In speeches by both Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., enemies are said to be “in hiding”106 and they “burrow into caves.”107 Such terms, connected with animal behaviors, dehumanize the enemy and suggest that it is ashamed or fearful of pursuit. If the enemy were not culpable, there would be no need for shame or fear. There are other representations of the enemy as nonhuman as well, often speaking of it in metaphorical terms as when Obama explains that “We’re in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country.”108 Another example is offered by Clinton, when he recalls that “we came to Somalia to rescue innocent people in a burning house. We’ve nearly put the fire out, but some smoldering embers remain. If we leave them now, those embers will reignite into flames, and people will die again. If we stay a short while longer and do the right things, we’ve got a reasonable chance of cooling off the embers and getting other firefighters to take our place.”109 In both cases, presidents attach nonhuman characteristics to the enemy as a rhetorical means of reflecting its untamed and unpredictable nature.

  • 110 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”
  • 111 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 112 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 113 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 114 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

26The specter of threat—to American values, beliefs, and icons—is often key to defining the enemy. This specter regularly reappears in presidential statements. Bush Sr. calls out “General Noriega’s reckless threats and attacks upon Americans in Panama.”110 Clinton references General Raoul Cedras’ brutal atrocities that threaten tens of thousands of Haitians.”111 Bush Jr. points to the alleged existential threat posed by Iraq, stating, “The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.”112 A similar concern is expressed by Obama in his remarks regarding Afghanistan: “Our overarching goal . . . [is] to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”113 Similarly, Trump acknowledges the ongoing need for America to mitigate threats: “we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. Terrorists take heed: America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.”114

  • 115 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 116 Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”
  • 117 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 118 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 119 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 120 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 121 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 122 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 123 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 124 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 125 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 126 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”
  • 127 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

27The concept of threat is rhetorically constructed in a number of ways. One means of doing so is to align the enemy with concepts that elaborate upon the nature of the perceived threat, including “chaos,” “disorder,” “regime,”115 “starvation,” and “anarchy.”116 This is done through language that describes the enemy’s values as “unusual,” “extraordinary,”117 “violent,”118 and “extremist.”119 Presidents frequently tie the enemy’s beliefs with ideas promoted by the ideologies of “fascism and communism”120 and with the mechanisms of “repression,”121 “extremism,”122 “intolerance,” “destruction,” “terrorism,” “[rivalry],” and “organized crime”123 associated with those discredited ideologies. The enemy is said to be driven by “violence” in general and “deep hatred of America and our friends”124 in particular. Its intention is to “hold back the wave of democracy and progress”125 and “to fight and to disrupt.”126 Its ambition is to “kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people” and “shift [others’] attention with panic and weaken [their] morale with fear.”127

  • 128 Kenneth Burke, “Definition of Man,” The Hudson Review 16, no. 4 (1963-1964): 491-514.
  • 129 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 130 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 131 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”
  • 132 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 133 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

28The fourth and final category defining the enemy, according to Lazar and Lazar, is that of evil. The enemy is thus an entity separate from and hostile toward God and religion. Burke calls an enemy who is the embodiment of evil “a ‘perfect’ enemy.”128 In the case of Bush Jr., terrorists are evil129 and so too their plans.130 In the case of Trump, evil is the very ideology driving terrorists.131 Vilification is further achieved in certain instances through disassociation of the enemy from the Islamic religion it supposedly champions. When announcing US strikes in Afghanistan, Bush Jr. spoke of “barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name.”132 Similarly, while announcing the increase of US troops in Afghanistan, Obama referred to “Al Qaida, a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam . . . to justify the slaughter of innocents.”133

  • 134 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”
  • 135 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 136 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”
  • 137 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 138 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”
  • 139 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

29Finally, the evil character of the enemy is reflected in a rhetoric of alienation which isolates the enemy from its own people, censuring the former while favoring—and seeking the favor of—the latter. This is another rhetorical tool in the arsenal of identification through division. One way this is accomplished is by ostensibly speaking on behalf of the people, as in the case of Bush Sr.: “The Panamanian people want democracy, peace, and the chance for a better life in dignity and freedom,”134 or Clinton: “There’s no question that the Haitian people want to embrace democracy.”135 Another method of separating the enemy from its people is through addressing the people directly, as Bush Jr. did when he said, “Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you,”136 or when Obama personally spoke to the Afghanis: “I want the Afghan people to understand: America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country.”137 Still another means of fostering division is to note the innate power the people possess and encourage them to stand up to their oppressors, as Trump did in saying, “It is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace.”138 Speaking in broader terms, Obama proclaimed, “we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world, one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.”139

  • 140 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 55.
  • 141 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

30In soliciting public support for military intervention, post-Cold War presidents frequently reference American values, Western ethics, and Christian morality, placing them on the side of God and religion, in stark contrast to the enemy. According to Burke, “You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his.”140 While all presidents rely on the rhetorical power of the enemy as a means of drumming up public support for the use of ground troops, for some, deriding the enemy and its actions as evil is of secondary importance to making manifest America’s moral superiority when dealing with an adversary. Across the statements examined for this study, representation of the enemy’s acts as not just criminal but also evil provides the necessary prompt to justify a forceful American military response. This formula is particularly clear when Obama declares that sending troops into Afghanistan is justified and will be conducted “Under the banner of . . . domestic unity and international legitimacy—and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Usama bin Laden . . .”141

  • 142 Ibid.

31The legitimacy of America’s actions is emphasized through statements that describe them in causal terms, with the US depicted as reluctantly but righteously responding to an unprovoked act of aggression. As Obama explained, “America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight,” a fight that he places within the broader context of protecting and promoting America’s principles. “For unlike the great powers of old,” Obama claimed, “we have not sought world domination . . . We do not seek to occupy other nations. . . What we have fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren.” 142

  • 143 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 144 Ibid.
  • 145 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 146 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”
  • 147 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”
  • 148 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
  • 149 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 150 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

32In the presidential rhetoric that is the focus of this study, peace is the apex value toward which America aspires. It is no wonder, then, that “American Presidents have worked for peace.”143 The same is true of the nation they govern. The United States is described as “a peaceful nation”144 whose international leadership “[makes] the difference for peace.”145 The American inclination toward peace is not ephemeral, according to Clinton, but enduring. He asserts this temporal claim through past declarations—“We did not go to Somalia with a military purpose,”146 present declarations—“we come in peace,”147 and declarations regarding the future—we “will not be . . . fighting a war.”148 Such irenic statements accompany presidential expressions of assurance that Americans “speak out on behalf of . . . human rights and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.”149 Calls for others to join the US and “demonstrate [their] commitment to civilization, order, and to peace”150 suggest that America sees itself as an enlightened and advanced society that eschews violence, lacks hostility, and is dedicated to peaceful pursuits at home and abroad under the rule of law.

  • 151 Ibid.
  • 152 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”
  • 153 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”
  • 154 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”
  • 155 Ibid.

33If America is “a force for peace,”151 then it is also understood to be a force for good. Claims, such as Bush Sr.’s assertion that “The people of the United States seek only to support [the Panamanian people] in pursuit of . . . noble goals”152 are another way of underscoring America’s desire to accomplish good through its activities. Declarations such as “we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith”153 assert that the US is on the side of good because it is on the side of a faith described as “one of the world’s great religions.”154 Similarly, affirmations that “We are a partner and a friend” of peaceful nations and Americans are with “those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity”155 serve to associate the US with that which is deemed good by designating America as part of the family of nations that are peaceable, ordered, and righteous.

6. Conclusion

34This analysis of American presidential post-Cold War rhetoric indicates that the enemy, as a rhetorical construct, is frequently used to justify deploying the military for potential combat. Conceptualization of the enemy, however, is neither fixed nor random. In the space of three decades, presidential depictions of the enemy have developed from an elusive and ambiguous notion of some threat posed to domestic and global peace, stability, and security to the narrower concept of an individual or non-state actor engaged in intrastate and international terrorism. But in many ways, the enemy is a blank slate that can be defined in whatever way presidents determine helps them to best make their case: as a wanton criminal engaged in calculated violence and horrific violations of human rights; as an uncivilized entity characterized by aggression, degeneracy, and deceit; or as a debased and dedicated opponent of American values, Christian morality, and Western ethics. It is argued that the need to address such a potent and persistent adversary, however defined, often requires the use of force, thus justifying presidential decisions to take military action.

35These findings have important implications for understanding how America’s post-Cold War presidents have rhetorically attempted to foster identification with their audiences in order to win support for the commitment of US ground troops beyond American borders. The fact that they argue in terms of an enemy that is neither fixed nor random indicates a shift since 1989 in presidential rhetoric. During the Cold War, presidents argued for the need to contain America’s stabile ideological adversaries: the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies, and communist China. Fighting to restrain the spread of communism’s ideological contamination was viewed as being just as important as curbing through military intervention the geo-political expansion of the communist regimes’ rule in such places as Korea and Vietnam. The demise of the Soviet Union, coupled with the West’s increasingly amical economic and political ties with China, did not result in what some expected would be a prolonged period of peace. Instead, new bad actors, at least from an American point of view, emerged to threaten the nascent new world order. The enemy the US now confronted was identified as individuals (e.g., Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein) or non-state entities (e.g., Al Qaida, ISIL), rather than nation states against which recognized international rules regarding war applied.

36The threat posed by such enemies was not for the most part ideological, but was instead primarily practical, such as the need to liberate Kuwait; to re-establish order in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia; and to protect the US and its allies from acts of terrorism. The threats posed post-1989 also differed from those of the Cold War in terms of duration, with the former lasting decades and the latter mostly of immediate concern and lasting a relatively short span of time. This new type of enemy and the nature of the threat it poses require a different rhetorical approach than that which presidents employed during the Cold War. This study identifies the key features, and provides a preliminary sketch, of that rhetoric. This rhetorical approach affords presidents great flexibility with respect to confronting threats abroad, especially through military means, while simultaneously inoculating them against adverse political consequences domestically.

37One means of accomplishing this is through the rhetorical criminalization of the enemy, whether it is an individual or non-state entity. Criminalization defines the enemy in terms of what the enemy does. Pointing to territorial incursions, the theft of another nation’s natural resources, and wreaking ecological devastation illustrate how the enemy’s criminal actions are an affront to the American public’s sense of justice; while graphic descriptions of genocide, rape, torture, and the wanton slaughter of innocent victims are intended to raise the ire and pull the heartstrings of Americans. This depraved criminality must be stopped, an assertion which might require military action on the part of the US. The use of force against such provocation is not an act of war against a nation state, however, but rather a police action contra people construed as dangerous and destructive criminals. This distinction is significant. Prolonged wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan have left the American people with no appetite for war. In contrast, police action—limited in focus and duration—renders military intervention more palatable. Additionally, rhetoric criminalizing the person and acts of the enemy enables presidents to depict themselves and their nation as fair and neutral arbiters of the international economic, political, and social orders as well as guardians of the lives, freedoms, and rights of people regardless of their ethnic, national, racial, or religious identities.

38Finally, implications with respect to the tendency of presidents to emphasize America’s moral superiority over the enemy it may militarily confront are twofold. First, arguing for the deployment of US combat troops abroad as being consistent with America’s values, Christian morality, and Western ethics appeals to the natural chauvinism of the mainstream American public by contrasting the US, with its positive attributes, against the enemy, defined as intrinsically evil, and with which America is prepared to enter into a moral contest as well as military combat. Second, demonizing the enemy by contrast tends to paint in positive terms those who oppose it and tarnish those who do not. This adds an additional dimension to identification through division. Those who support the president’s call for military action against the enemy are by definition on the side of good; those who oppose it, by default support the enemy and are therefore consigned to the side of evil.

  • 156 Burke, Dramatism and Development, 28.

39This bifurcation rhetorically rewards supporters of a president’s suggested course of action and levies a potential political liability upon opponents. The efficacy of this rhetorical tactic can be seen in the unanimous vote for the US Senate’s 2001 joint resolution to invade Afghanistan, the lopsided vote in the US House of Representatives favoring the 2002 resolution to go to war with Iraq, as well as positive poll numbers indicating initial public favor for those military actions. As Burke writes, the application of antithesis “can serve to deflect criticism; a politician can call any criticism of his policies ‘unpatriotic,’ on the grounds that it reinforces the claims of the nation’s enemies.”156 Additionally, this same application of antithesis also disperses potential blame by relieving the president of sole responsibility. The lopsided legislative votes and high poll numbers implicate Congress and the public in the decisions to deploy American troops. This does not absolve presidents from risk, but it reduces their share of personal and political costs when military missions go awry or if they do not accomplish their objectives.

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Notes

1 “Where Does the Phrase ‘Boots on the Ground’ Come from?” BBC, last modified September 30, 2014, https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-29413429.

2 “‘Boots on the Ground’ Is a Favorite Phrase in the ISIS Debate,” Courier & Press, last modified September 30, 2014, https://archive.courierpress.com/news/politics/elections/national/boots-on-the-ground-is-a-favorite-phrase-in-the-isis-debate-ep-641842939-324648721.html.

3 “Where Does the Phrase ‘Boots on the Ground’ Come from?”

4 Quoted in John K. Cooley, “US Rapid Strike Force: How to Get There First with the Most,” Christian Science Monitor, last modified April 11, 1980, https://www.csmonitor.com/1980/0411/041149.html.

5 George W. Bush, “Remarks on the New Oval Office Carpet and an Exchange with Reporters,” The American Presidency Project, last modified December 21, 2001, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-the-new-oval-office-carpet-and-exchange-with-reporters.

6 Josh Earnest, “Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest 10/30/15,” The White House, last modified October 30, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/10/30/daily-press-briefing-press-secretary-josh-earnest-103015.

7 Ibid.

8 Barack Obama, “Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News ‘Meet the Press,’” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 7, 2014, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/interview-with-chuck-todd-nbc-news-meet-the-press-5; Barack Obama, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Syria,” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 10, 2013, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-the-situation-syria; Barack Obama, “The President’s Weekly Address,” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 7, 2013, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/the-presidents-weekly-address-336; Barack Obama, “Remarks on the Situation in Syria,” The American Presidency Project, last modified August 31, 2013, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-the-situation-syria-0; Barack Obama, “Remarks at National Defense University,” The American Presidency Project, last modified May 23, 2013, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-national-defense-university.

9 “NBC News Exclusive: Pres. Obama Tells Lester Holt He Sees ‘Disparities in How White, Black, Hispanic Suspects Are Treated,’” NBC News, last modified November 2, 2015, https://press.nbcnews.com/2015/11/02/nbc-news-exclusive-pres-obama-tells-lester-holt-he-sees-disparities-in-how-white-black-hispanic-suspects-are-treated/.

10 Carlo Galli, Amanda Minervini, and Adam Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy,” CR: The New Centennial Review 9, no. 2 (2009): 195-219, 196.

11 Quoted in Vincent J. Esposito, “War as a Continuation of Politics,” Military Review 11 (1955): 54-62, 56.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Robert L. Ivie, “Democratic Dissent and the Trick of Rhetorical Critique,” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies 5, no. 3 (2005): 276-293, 278.

16 Robert L. Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other: Rhetorical Constructions of Terrorism,” The Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies 25, no. 3 (2003): 181-200, 190.

17 Quoted in Jeremy Engels, “Friend or Foe?: Naming the Enemy,” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 12, no. 1 (2009): 37-64, 40.

18 Engels, “Friend or Foe?” 56.

19 Jeremy Engels, The Politics of Resentment: A Genealogy (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015); Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner, Hunt the Devil. A Demonology of US War Culture (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2015); Steven E. Lobell, “Engaging the Enemy and the Lessons for the Obama Administration,” Political Science Quarterly 128, no. 2 (2013): 261-287; Jeremy Engels, Enemyship: Democracy and Counter-Revolution in the Early Republic (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010); Engels, “Friend or Foe?”; Jason C. Flanagan, Imagining the Enemy: American Presidential War Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George Walker Bush (Claremont: Regina, 2009); Galli, Minervini, and Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy”; Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner, “Hunting the Devil: Democracy’s Rhetorical Impulse to War,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2007): 580-598; Richard Jackson, “Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic Terrorism’ in Political and Academic Discourse,” Government and Opposition 42, no. 3 (2007): 394-426; Robert L. Ivie, “Savagery in Democracy’s Empire,” Third World Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2005): 55-65; Jason C. Flanagan, “Woodrow Wilson’s ‘Rhetorical Restructuring’: The Transformation of the American Self and the Construction of the German Enemy,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 7, no. 2 (2004): 115-148; Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other;” Vilho Harle, The Enemy with a Thousand Faces (London: Praeger, 2000); Dale Spender, “The Politics of Naming,” in The Composition of Ourselves, ed. Marcia Curtis (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2000), 195-200; David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998); Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu and the Vietnam Decisions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); Keith Allan, and Kate Burridge, Euphemism and Dysphemism: Language Used as Shield and Weapon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); Robert W. Rieber, ed., The Psychology of War and Peace: The Image of the Enemy (New York: New Press, 1991); Robert L. Ivie, “Images of Savagery in American Justifications for War,” Communication Monographs 47 (1980): 279-290.

20 Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order: ‘Out-Casting’ the Double Face of Threat,” Discourse and Society 15, no. 2/3 (2004): 223-242; Mary E. Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions: Rhetorical Hybrids after the Cold War,” Western Journal of Communication 59 (1995): 214-227.

21 Ofer Zur, “The Love of Hating: The Psychology of Enmity,” History of European Ideas 13, no. 4 (1991): 345-369; Heikki Luostarinen, “Finnish Russophobia: The Story of an Enemy Image,” Journal of Peace Research 26, no. 2 (1989): 123-137; Riitta Wahlstrom, “On the Psychological Basis of Peace Education: Enemy Image and Development of Moral Judgement,” Presentation at the Eleventh Conference of the International Peace Research Association, April 13, 1986, Brighton, United Kingdom.

22 Galli, Minervini, and Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy”; Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other”; James A. Aho, This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Vilho Harle, “On the Concepts of the ‘Other’ and the ‘Enemy,’” History of European Ideas 19, no. 1-3 (1994): 27-34; Ira Chernus, “War and the Enemy in the Thought of Mircea Eliade,” History of European Ideas 13, no. 4 (1991): 335-344.

23 Engels, “Friend or Foe?”; Galli, Minervini, and Sitze, “On War and on the Enemy”; Ivie and Giner, “Hunting the Devil.”

24 Jason A. Edwards, “Defining the Enemy for the Post-Cold War World: Bill Clinton’s Foreign Policy Discourse in Somalia and Haiti,” International Journal of Communication 2 (2008): 830-847; Ivie, “Savagery in Democracy’s Empire”; John R. Butler, “Somalia and the Imperial Savage: Continuities in the Rhetoric of War,” Western Journal of Communication 66 (2002): 1-24; Ivie, “Images of Savagery in American Justifications for War.”

25 Ivie and Giner, Hunt the Devil; Ivie and Giner, “Hunting the Devil”; Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes of Political Demonology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

26 Annita Lazar and Michelle M. Lazar, “Enforcing Justice, Justifying Force. America’s Justification of Violence in the New World Order,” in Discourse, War and Terrorism, eds. Adam Hodges and Chad Nilep (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2007), 45-65; Jonathan Anderson, “‘Evil’ Revisited,” Administration and Society 26, no. 37 (2006): 737-739; Nick Haslam, “Dehumanization: An Integrative Review,” Personality and Social Psychology Review 10, no. 3 (2006): 252-264; Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004); Kimberly C. Elliott, “Subverting the Rhetorical Construction of Enemies through Worldwide Enfoldment,” Women and Language 27, no. 2 (2004): 98-103.

27 Kenneth Burke, “The Rhetorical Situation,” in Communication: Ethical and Moral Issues, ed. Lee Thayer (New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1973), 263-275; Kenneth Burke, Dramatism and Development (Barre: Clark University Press, 1972), 28; Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 19-29.

28 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order”; Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions”; Thomas A. Hollihan, “The Public Controversy over the Panama Canal Treaties: An Analysis of American Foreign Policy Rhetoric,” Western Journal of Speech Communication 50, no. 4 (1986): 368-387.

29 Engels, “Friend or Foe?”; Ivie and Giner, “Hunting the Devil”; Lazar and Lazar, “Enforcing Justice, Justifying Force; Ivie, “Democratic Dissent and the Trick of Rhetorical Critique”; Ivie, “Savagery in Democracy’s Empire”; Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order”; Ivie, “Evil Enemy Versus Agonistic Other”; Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions.”

30 Stuckey, “Competing Foreign Policy Visions.”

31 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 239-240.

32 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 20.

33 Ibid., 21.

34 Ibid., 46.

35 Ibid., 22.

36 Ibid., 46.

37 Burke, “The Rhetorical Situation,” 268.

38 Ibid., 268-269.

39 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 21.

40 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 229.

41 Ibid., 230.

42 Ibid., 227-238.

43 George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama,” The American Presidency Project, last modified December 20, 1989, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-announcing-united-states-military-action-panama.

44 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti,” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 15, 1994, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-haiti.

45 George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq,” The American Presidency Project, last modified March 17, 2003, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-iraq; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

46 Barack Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York,” The American Presidency Project, last modified December 1, 2009, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-the-united-states-military-academy-west-point-new-york-1; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

47 George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia,” The American Presidency Project, last modified December 4, 1992, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-the-situation-somalia.

48 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

49 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia,” The American Presidency Project, last modified October 7, 1993, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-somalia.

50 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

51 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

52 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

53 William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” The American Presidency Project, last modified November 27, 1995, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-implementation-the-peace-agreement-bosnia-herzegovina.

54 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

55 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

56 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

57 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

58 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 22.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid., 20.

61 Lazar and Lazar, “The Discourse of the New World Order,” 229.

62 Ibid., 230.

63 William J. Clinton, “The President’s News Conference,” The American Presidency Project, last modified June 17, 1993, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/the-presidents-news-conference-1223; George H. W. Bush, “Radio Address to the Nation on the National Day of Prayer,” The American Presidency Project, last modified February 2, 1991, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/radio-address-the-nation-the-national-day-prayer.

64 George H. W. Bush, “Interview with Gerd Helbig of ZDF, German Television,” The American Presidency Project, last modified May 24, 1990, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/interview-with-gerd-helbig-zdf-german-television.

65 Clinton, “The President’s News Conference.”

66 George W. Bush, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the United States Response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11,” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 20, 2001, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-before-joint-session-the-congress-the-united-states-response-the-terrorist-attacks.

67 George W. Bush, “Remarks by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the Conservative Political Action Conference,” The American Presidency Project, last modified February 1, 2002, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-the-national-security-advisor-condoleezza-rice-the-conservative-political-action.

68 Barack Obama, “Interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News - Part 1 of 4,” The American Presidency Project, last modified September 4, 2008, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/interview-with-bill-oreilly-fox-news-part-1-4.

69 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks Introducing Governor Mike Pence as the 2016 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee in New York City,” The American Presidency Project, last modified July 16, 2016, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-introducing-governor-mike-pence-the-2016-republican-vice-presidential-nominee-new.

70 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

71 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”

72 Donald J. Trump, “Address to the Nation on United States Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia,” The American Presidency Project, last modified August 21, 2017, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-united-states-strategy-afghanistan-and-south-asia-from-joint-base-myer; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq;” Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

73 George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes Against Al Qaida Training Camps and Taliban Military Installations in Afghanistan,” The American Presidency Project, last modified October 7, 2001, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-announcing-strikes-against-al-qaida-training-camps-and-taliban-military; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”

74 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq;” Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

75 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

76 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

77 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

78 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

79 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

80 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

81 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

82 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

83 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

84 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia”; George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Ground Action in the Persian Gulf,” The American Presidency Project, last modified February 23, 1991, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-nation-announcing-allied-military-ground-action-the-persian-gulf; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

85 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”

86 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Ground Action in the Persian Gulf”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

87 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq;” Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

88 Trump, “Address to the Nation”; Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti;” Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia”; Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Ground Action in the Persian Gulf.”

89 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Ground Action in the Persian Gulf.”

90 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

91 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

92 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

93 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

94 Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”

95 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

96 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

97 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

98 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

99 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

100 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

101 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

102 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

103 Ibid.

104 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

105 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

106 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

107 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

108 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.”

109 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”

110 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

111 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

112 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

113 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

114 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

115 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

116 Bush, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia.”

117 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

118 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy”; Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

119 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

120 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

121 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

122 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

123 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

124 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

125 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

126 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”

127 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

128 Kenneth Burke, “Definition of Man,” The Hudson Review 16, no. 4 (1963-1964): 491-514.

129 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

130 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

131 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

132 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

133 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

134 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

135 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

136 Bush, “Address to the Nation on Iraq.”

137 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

138 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

139 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

140 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives, 55.

141 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

142 Ibid.

143 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

144 Ibid.

145 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

146 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Somalia.”

147 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Haiti.”

148 Clinton, “Address to the Nation on Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

149 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

150 Trump, “Address to the Nation.”

151 Ibid.

152 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing United States Military Action in Panama.”

153 Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Strikes.”

154 Obama, “Remarks at the United States Military Academy.”

155 Ibid.

156 Burke, Dramatism and Development, 28.

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References

Electronic reference

Marta Kobylska, “US Boots on the Ground,” the Enemy, and Post-Cold War Presidential RhetoricEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 18-2 | 2023, Online since 03 July 2023, connection on 14 April 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/20303; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ejas.20303

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About the author

Marta Kobylska

Marta Kobylska is an Assistant Professor at the University of Rzeszow, Poland. Her research focuses on rhetoric and the US presidency, with an emphasis on post-Cold War presidential foreign policy crisis rhetoric.

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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