War Is Over, If You Want It

Friday, March 27, 2009


With no armistice, surrender or fanfare a war may have quietly come to an end this week. The 'War on Terror' is being replaced rhetorically by the Pentagon and the president with 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' Political Communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson looks back at our most recent metaphorical war and what was won and lost.

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Comments [7]

Matt W. from Arlington, VA

My point was that by not recognizing that the military option was a policy choice and not just a language choice, it calls into question Ms. Hall-Jamison's public policy credentials.

Ms. Hall-Jamison is an interesting commentator, and the resemblance to Senator Lott is remarkable, but the failure to understand the public policy decisions that were a precursor to the linguistic choice of the GWOT crosses the line between intellectual dishonesty professional academic misconduct. Any interview with Defense Department and White House officials clearly show that the policy choice occurred before the construction of a war metaphor, in clear contradiction to Ms. Hall-Jamison's statements to OTM.

Apr. 03 2009 11:57 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Romulans tend to need black hair dye to pass for Vulcans.

Apr. 01 2009 12:55 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I will concede to Matt W's point that the military option was a policy, as well as a linguistic, choice though a misguided and, as Mr./Ms. Diggins points out, an illegal one.

However, if one examines Prof. Hall-Jamieson's credentials, her area of expertise is in political communication (upon which I have exclusively seen or heard her asked to comment), not policy, and her position as Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center is, almost undoubtedly, primarily an administrative rather than an academic one. I doubt that she would disagree that the wars were policy but she, as usual, was asked about the change in language by the Obama administration.

As she is my 93-year old mother's favorite commentator, I have watched quite a lot of her language (and, yes, even sometimes visual image) deconstructions and, as I remember it, she isn't shy about critiquing Democratic communications gaffs as well as Republican ones.

While I see no resemblance between their ways of thinking, I have never been able to shake the feeling that she is really former Sen. Trent Lott's long lost sister and, now that Kevin has brought it up, they both look like Romulans to me. The glasses and the hair styles obscure the eyebrows and the ears.

Apr. 01 2009 12:51 AM
A. Diggins from Illinois

I'm relieved to hear this piece now, but where was Kathleen Hall Jamieson and other scholars in the months immediately following 9-11? As a former student of international law I was floored by the military rhetoric and policy announced by President Bush and VP Cheney within days of 9-11. I had learned in law school that terrorists are international criminals who should be prosecuted, and only official covert actions could be used to intercept criminal conspiracies and stop them. I felt it was a huge and obviously stupid mistake for President Bush to validate the violent extremists' claims to be "at war" with our country by his agreeing that we were "at war" against them. He played right into their bloody hands. The "War on Terror" hyperbole he indulged in lured gullible and “patriotic” lawmakers into approving the unjustified invasion and war against Iraq. Perhaps so many were fooled by the militant extremists' methodology of using weaponry and claiming to be “warriors” for their god. Whatever the case, the Bush administration's preference for ignoring and belittling settled principles of Constitutional and international law, choosing instead the image of glorious and justified military action pushed our country down a dirty detour that resulted in unprincipled policies such as invasion and nation-building, killing and maiming untold civilians, the torture and indefinite detention of innocents, unreliable intelligence, and coerced confessions that are, tragically, useless to secure conviction of those who actually are dangerous criminals in our traditional legal courts. The relatively large number of militant Islamic extremists worldwide and the significant impact their violent actions have on our country notwithstanding, they are our enemies in a criminal sense, not a military sense. Our country's official policies should flow from this fact.

Mar. 31 2009 11:43 PM
Jeff Laufle from Seattle, WA

I disagreed with the Bush administration's deliberate choice to pursue a "war" rather than a law enforcement action against our attackers. The fact that it's an undeclared war, with no defined end point and highly questionable legal machinations, is a serious flaw in Bush's strategy which President Obama has inherited.

I must note that Bob Garfield and Kathleen Hall Jamieson both perpetuated the laziness of Bushspeak in continuing to refer to it as a "war on terror," an expression which the news media have largely and inexplicably embraced. Terror is an emotion. We have been in a campaign against politically motivated violence against civilians; the word for such violence is "terrorism."

But Ms. Jamieson's point that it's a conflict against a tactic instead of addressing motives was a telling one. The Bush administration (as far as I could tell) never assiduously examined why we were attacked. And as I perceived it, the news media, with perhaps a few exceptions such as the Christian Science Monitor, were largely unhelpful on that issue.

Will we ever do what we really need to do, which
is to address the foundations of the terrorism that has been directed against us? The Obama administration has been presented with a huge opportunity.

Mar. 31 2009 12:35 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Ms. Hall-Jamieson makes a striking error in her description of the policy choice the Bush Administration faced after September 11th, 2001. Ms. Hall Jamieson states that the choice was between a language of law enforcement or the language of war. This statement is an irresponsible and ideological revision of history that must be challenged.

The events of September 11th, 2001 prompted a policy choice, not a language choice. The Bush Administration chose between a law enforcement policy and a war policy in response to the attack.

To describe the policy choice made by the Administration as a language choice minimizes the relevance of the study of public policy and political science to zero.

The Annenberg Foundation and University of Pennsylvania should take note of their public policy center operating as a center for ideological rhetoric and historical revision instead of the premier institution researching the link between communication and public policy.

It seems to me that the public policy part has been effortlessly jettisoned in favor of a partisan attack in the foundations larger war against Republicans, conservatives, and free market advocates.

At least Hall-Jamieson has taken her own advice and identified an enemy and not simply a tactic.

Mar. 30 2009 07:50 PM
MC from Montpelier, VT

Interesting. Let's declare peace on the environment.

Mar. 29 2009 03:09 PM

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