Imagining the Enemy: American Presidential War Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George Walker Bush

Jason Flanagan

Research output: Book/ReportBook


"The American public has an appetite for presidential leadership, and is often critical of presidents who are slow to offer such leadership. Moreover, the leadership they expect is not merely the fulfillment of the president's constitutional role, but also a form of popular rhetorical leadership. The American public does not make comparable demands for leadership of any other public official, thus giving the president tremendous power to shape social and political reality. This power is even greater in times of international crisis or war, when a number of factors combine to augment the power of presidential rhetoric and thus ensure that such rhetoric defines American political reality. Presidential definitions of the enemy become, at least initially, how the enemy actually "is" for the American people." "Given the central role of enemy images in the development, evolution and resolution of international conflicts, understanding presidential images of the enemy is vital to understanding international relations and American foreign policy. This study examines the genesis and evolution of enemy images in the presidential rhetoric that defined the conflicts which have in turn shaped the modern world, including World War I, World War II, the early Cold War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the so-called Global War on Terrorism and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It explores the rhetorical continuities that cut across these very different conflicts and presidencies, and the interconnections between presidential images of the enemy and prevailing images of the American self."
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationClaremont, California
Number of pages251
ISBN (Print)9781930053601
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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