Framing the Wars in the Gulf and in Bosnia: The Rhetorical Definitions of the Western Power Leaders in Action

Journal article

Kuusisto, Riikka (1998) Framing the Wars in the Gulf and in Bosnia: The Rhetorical Definitions of the Western Power Leaders in Action, Journal of Peace Research 35 (5): 603–620.

This article examines the rhetorical action of the Western major powers in defining two important international confrontations, the 1990-91 war against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf and the 1992-95 conflict among the Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The leaders of the United States, Great Britain and France constructed the efforts of the anti-Iraq coalition as a 'just war with a new world order as its goal' but represented the Bosnian strife as a 'cruel and meaningless slaughter that outside forces can do very little about', and thereby selected appropriate policies for dealing with the situations. In their statements in the Gulf, the Iraqi president was made the ultimate enemy, dangerous and evil, who had to be crushed in order to make the world safe again. As to Bosnia, the evanescent enemies left the Western powers bewildered and unwilling to dictate any solutions. Besides framing the conflicts as heroic battles or tragic feuds, the Western leaders employed various metaphors to make the distant events and their policies seem significant and coherent. The apparently harmless and light-hearted comparisons with children's stories, card games, business deals, and sports competitions induced forceful action in the Gulf; by contrast, paralleling the situation with sad dramas, horrible nightmares, violent natural catastrophes, and treacherous morasses made decisive interference impossible in Bosnia. The Gulf metaphors made clear to all the folly of leaving the princess in the lurch, not playing a winning hand, passing up the chance for a great investment, or canceling the Cup Final. In Bosnia, the metaphors made it unthinkable to dash onto the stage to defend the scapegoat, act on the visions of a frightening dream, stand in the way of the whirlwind, or try to cross the quicksand.

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