The Discourse Trap and the US Military: From the War on Terror to the Surge

Hardcover | March 20, 2013

byJeffrey Michaels

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A 'discourse trap' is a phenomenon seen worldwide in which the discourses and associated terminology devised for political or military reasons can entrap policymakers by motivating or constraining their actions. Beginning with the discourse of 'counter-terrorism' that occurred post 9/11, this book examines the language employed inside the US Defense Department during the period 2001-2012. Michaels demonstrates how during the course of a conflict, the politics of terminology can constitute an important battlefield in its own right. As the studies of 'Global War on Terror', 'Shock and Awe', 'Iraq Adversary Characterizations' and 'The Surge' presented here demonstrate, the language of war had a direct impact on US strategy and operations, and not necessarily a positive one.

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A 'discourse trap' is a phenomenon seen worldwide in which the discourses and associated terminology devised for political or military reasons can entrap policymakers by motivating or constraining their actions. Beginning with the discourse of 'counter-terrorism' that occurred post 9/11, this book examines the language employed inside ...

Jeffrey H. Michaels is a Lecturer in Defence Studies at King's College London, UK. Previously he worked as a Research Associate in the Department of War Studies and has served as an intelligence officer attached to the US European Command and the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:278 pages, 11.09 × 5.74 × 0.83 inPublished:March 20, 2013Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:023037204X

ISBN - 13:9780230372047

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Global War on Terrorism
3. Shock and Awe
4. Characterizing the Irregular Adversary in Iraq
5. The Surge: From Iraq to Afghanistan
6. Conclusion

Editorial Reviews

"The Discourse Trap and the US Military is one of the most important books written on warfare since 9/11. It exposes how military officers and policy makers become trapped by the language that they use to describe and justify the conduct of war. Moralistic sounding bromides like 'protect the population' cover up and give a faux-reality to the death and destruction of war. Jeffrey Michaels' excellent new book brings to the fore the reality of American warfare since 9/11 and how that reality has been distorted by the discourse trap." - Gian P. Gentile, Professor of Military History, United States Military Academy, USA"Michaels has produced an important and challenging study of how terminology constrains both analysis and action. This book demonstrates how terms, once introduced, gain a life of their own and end up distorting rather than aiding policy-making. Michaels reminds us that discourse is prescriptive as well as descriptive and challenges policy-makers to use it with far greater precision than is commonly the case. In his examination of this critically worthy yet hitherto under-researched topic, Michaels has produced an important book that should be widely read by academics and policy makers alike." - David Ucko, Assistant Professor, College of International Security Affairs, U.S. National Defense University, USA"This book is the first systematic analysis of the pernicious effects U.S. official rhetoric had on military operations in the first decade of the 21st century. Through the prism of language and discourse, Jeffrey Michaels guides the reader through the U.S. Department of Defense's thinking and decision making surrounding the multiple operations that collectively became known as the Global War on Terror. In many ways it provides the most complete historical account to date of the Pentagon's policies and activities in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th." -Lowell H. Schwartz, Political Scientist, RAND Corporation, USA