This chapter focuses on the way that senior policy-makers discursively constructed the 'war on terrorism' as a 'good' war. It examines the ways in which the discourse of the 'good war on terrorism' manages its inherent tensions and contradictions. The power of the 'good (new) war' construction lies in the fact that from within the confines of the discourse itself, it is virtually impossible to deny the legitimacy of the war or to suggest any kind of non-military alternative. Even if the Bush-led 'war on terrorism' is sometimes poorly executed, it is extremely difficult to argue against the rightness and justice of the overall counter-terrorist war. Two main discursive constructions can be observed in the official discourse about the war's cause: first, that it is a legally defined defensive war; and second, that it is a war to secure justice and to defend freedom.
This book is about the public language of the 'war on terrorism' and the way in which language has been deployed to justify and normalise a global campaign of counter-terrorism. It explains how the war on terrorism has been reproduced and amplified by key social actors and how it has become the dominant political narrative in America today, enjoying widespread bipartisan and popular support. The book also explains why the language of politics is so important and the main methodological approach for analysing the language of counter-terrorism, namely, critical discourse analysis. Then, it provides the comparison drawn between the September 11, 2001 attacks and World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the most noticeable aspects of the language surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001 is its constant reference to tragedy, grievance and the exceptional suffering of the American people. The book focuses on the way in which language was deployed to construct the main identities of the protagonists. It demonstrates how terrorism is rhetorically constructed as posing a catastrophic threat to the American 'way of life', to freedom, liberty and democracy and even to civilisation itself. The book analyses how the administration's counter-terrorism campaign has been rhetorically constructed as an essentially 'good' and 'just war', similar to America's role in World War II. Finally, the book concludes that responsible citizens have a moral duty to oppose and resist the official language of counter-terrorism.
This chapter examines the way the threat of terrorism facing America since September 11, 2001 has been constructed discursively and the reasons it is so crucial to the prosecution of the 'war on terrorism'. It then examines the discursive construction or 'writing' of threat and danger. Following this, the chapter also examines the reasons it is necessary for officials to construct threat and fear. The 'reality effect' of terrorist violence induces an anxiety that no amount of rationalising can counteract; the visual pictures of violence are far more powerful than any counter-factual statistics could ever be. Although threat and danger is ultimately a matter of perception and perceptions can vary greatly from person to person, it would still be possible to present a range of perspectives and information which would allow a less hysterical assessment of the situation.
This chapter sees the application of the communicative imperatives to the decision-making process surrounding the use of force in Kosovo. The analysis focuses primarily on deliberations within the Security Council, at the Holbrooke negotiations in 1998, and at the Rambouillet Conference in 1999 and offers an evaluation of the communicative practices adopted to justify the use of force. The interpretive power of the communicative imperatives unsettles conventional interpretations of the military intervention in 1999 through its contestation of the degree to which the communicative practices surrounding the decision to intervene were legitimate. Crucially, the communicative ethics framework challenges the enabling justification of last resort and highlights key moments of illegitimate dialogue which paved the way for the use of force.
The chapter explores the ‘linguistic turn’ in critical and social theory of which Habermas was a central proponent and which has considerably influenced constructivist and critical theorists in International Relations. By exploring the work of scholars in both critical and constructivist IR camps who bring together the tripartite themes of the legitimacy of the use of force, a communicative-theoretic approach, and the intervention in Kosovo, the chapter argues that the underlying purposes of the critical and constructivist projects in IR remain somewhat different. Moreover, neither, as they have been articulated to date, fully captures the potential offered by a Habermasian-informed analysis of the role of justifications for the use of force.
Building on existing theories of communicative ethics and the limitations to Habermas's project identified in earlier chapters, this chapter articulates a series of communicative imperatives and a set of issues regarding the relationship between theory and practice which strike at the heart of the emancipatory and evaluative orientation of critical theory. The communicative imperatives have two key purposes: to operate as an instrument of critique and to guide actors and participants in the normative development of practical dialogue. The chapter seeks to facilitate our understanding of the role of language in the construction of legitimacy and to contribute to the procedural argument that how we arrive at decisions may be as important as the substance of those decisions.
Dialogue as normative grounds and object of critique
The chapter introduces Habermas's key concepts for a communicative ethics and sets out the relevant debates surrounding his theory of communicative action and discourse ethics. It then looks at a variety of critical interventions which have contributed to reformulations of discourse ethics and how these themes have played out in the application of Habermasian theory to IR. Exploring the conversation between Habermas and those who have adopted and critiqued his theoretical position within IR serves to frame the wider debates concerning Habermas's project and sets out a number of key concerns with his approach. These concerns clarify why communicative ethics as it is developed in this book cannot simply map onto Habermas's own theoretical position. The chapter begins to articulate an alternative conception of communicative ethics which takes inspiration from but is not synonymous to Habermas's position.
When is the use of force for humanitarian purposes legitimate? The book examines this question through one of the most controversial examples of humanitarian intervention in the post-Cold War period: the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo. In the face of contemporary problems of legitimacy and justification, the book offers a deep engagement with developments at the intersection of Habermasian communicative ethics and International Relations. The result is a set of rigorous normative guidelines – the ‘communicative imperatives’ – intended for application in analyses of the process and legitimacy of international deliberations around the use of force. The book provides an innovative contribution to the theory of communicative ethics through which actors are able to critique and evaluate decisions to use force. The communicative ethics framework contributes a critical communicative dimension to the question of legitimacy that extends beyond the moral and legal approaches so often applied to the intervention in Kosovo. The application of the communicative imperatives reveals forms of communicative distortion which serves to contest conventional accounts of the legitimacy of the use of force in Kosovo.