Metaphors that Justify WarKevin SteinerTruth UncloakedDo you think we had all the information that was at the President’s disposalwhen he made the decision to deploy our troops in the Gulf? Do you thinkhaving that information might have made you feel more comfortable about ourinvolvement? Should our government decide what we get to know and what wedon’t? By in large, we hear exactly what our government wants us to hear.Knowing this, at no other time paralleled in history, we want the truth; wethirst for it like those traveling through the desert without water and we aretired of being manipulated and deceived by those we elect to serve our interests.
However, more often than not, we settle for what is given to us. Our truth iswrapped by the media and promoted as gospel without hesitation or moralreservation. Our acceptance of and reliance upon the media for sensitive,truthful, information brings a sense of security and knowledge of world affairsthat satisfies our internal push for social involvement (even if it is at thepoint of acknowledgment only). We are happy with the knowledge because there isno discernible contradictions and seldom question its relevancy, focus orcontent. Then later, a contradictory report erupts in the media and we begin toquestion even what we see. The short footage shown by the media concerning thebeating of Rodney King was out of context.
Who is responsible for thedisparity? The media. They decide what we hear and see. They manipulate todramatize for the dollar. Gossip, murder, rape, political espionage, treason,drug deals, incest, wife battering, muggings, immoral behavior of all sizesshapes and volumes seem to appeal to human interest and the Networks use it tobuild their ratings while claiming they proclaim truth for all (double effect).These people and their focus gave us the Gulf War everyday, around the clock.Would it be surprising to know that the media not only reports the news theyhelp facilitate public approval that could justify a war through the use ofmetaphors alone? The use of metaphors in war and everyday life is common and animportant method employed to eventually arrive at a position of approval formilitary action.
Before the use of metaphors is discussed it is necessary tounderstand specific conditions in which any war is justified.Conditions Necessary to Justify a WarTwo specific conditions are necessary to justify war. First, directaggression against the United States, our allies, or those who are unable toprotect themselves against direct aggression. Second, indirect aggressionagainst the U.
S.. During both conditions the moral correctness, realisticthreat and potential harm would be assessed to determine an appropriate response.After a decision has been made from those premises, war could morally bejustified and action should be taken. However, indirect aggression is the mostdifficult premise to evaluate. Its relevancy to our nation and allies isdifficult to determine succinctly.
In order to understand how we would dealwith such a condition to engage in a war built on this premise one mustunderstand U.S. ideology.Current U. S.
ideology insists that direct aggression be met with selfdefense. Under this condition, the main concerns are the safety of its citizens,the freedom to exercise their rights and proportional intervention against theaggressor to ensure such safety and freedom. An example of U. S. policy forthis situation occurred on December 7, 1941. The United States declared war onJapan in self defense. U.
S. response was considered necessary and imminent.Indirect aggression on the other hand, it is not so easy to establish a just war.Every war fought after W.W.
II rested on the U.S. response to indirectaggression.
Capitalism and democracy is directly opposed to dictatorship andcommunism. The fear of such tyrannical rule made most Americans shudder. Anypossibility of communistic rule or influence was perceived as a direct threatand destroyed, if by no other reason, by fear.. The thought established in the1950′ sheds a great amount of light on U.S. policy as it relates to communism.
The cold war was a reality. Commercials were made over the radio about the needfor bomb shelters and the possible attack that would be launched from Russia.People fear anything that is unfamiliar. Communism was heralded as a terribledisease that would spread like the plague and American policy was a directreflection of that fear. Any opportunity to defeat communism or to prevent it’scapture of other nations was considered a just venture that would elevate apotential threat to our nation.
The Vietnam war was fought against communism andso was the Korean conflict.New Policy-World Responsibility and the Protection of Human RightsThe Wall fell in the late 80’s and the cold war disappeared. American policyhad to make several adjustments to the new world order and our responsibility toit. Another concept was developed in addition to a just war fought on indirectand direct aggression against us: The protection of others who could not protectthemselves (not an ally) against an unjust enemy.
The U S could not make a connection of indirect aggression against us but ithad another card to play. A poll was released by several news papers andmagazines asking Americans what reasons did they think we could use to justifycoming to the aid of Kuwait. The results: They would not support ourinvolvement based upon indirect aggression. However, they would support theother position offered by the Bush administration in support of human rights.Political and economic considerations are always woven into every militaryaction and considered in-depth relating to the cost of war in both areas ofconcern. The Public was not politically or economically sagacious in the termsof justifying action. No one questioned the use of two scenarios.
Why did thegovernment give us two options? Was our involvement so questionable or werethere more reasons? Studying the reasons for the use of metaphors might helpand knowing how the President approached the situation.Old Policy-Create Empathy to Gain Approval for Justifying a WarHow did the President justify a war? It’s simple–gain public support. Ifthe public believes going to war is morally correct (even if they do not knowall the facts) the war is universally justified and the President can wash hishands at the expense of public interest. The public makes its determinationseveral ways.
In reference to the Gulf crisis, the involvement of the stateinitiates involvement of the media and the media passes on information to thepublic and the public makes the decision that justifies of condemns militaryaction. Since the President had already deployed the military he counted on themedia to educate the people on the injustice Kuwait had suffered and support hisdecision to deploy and possibly go to war if need be. Eventually, publicthought would be reflected by congressional vote.Strategy of the State and the Role of the MediaSince information from the media is the central player in this decision itshould be examined closely.
There are three specific functions of the mediaduring a war. “Delivering the facts” concept of the media serves three largerpurposes for the state. First, the media will be giving information to thepeople and the people are needed to gain a firm vote in congress. This is notas simple as it appears you must put yourself in the shoes of the President. Hehas put his political career in jeopardy if he does not gain support (it iselection year). If he is forced to withdraw military support after he hasdeployed US looks like a red-headed step-child in the face of world opinion. Soit would follow that large amount of information and many meetings would beconducted before he would take such action based upon information that thepublic is not privileged to see.
The three things he needs from the public inorder to gain full support for his actions are: Capture the interest of thevoters; promote empathy for Kuwait; and make the public feel that US involvementis necessary to the point of answering polls ect…
. The media would ensurethat American’s got everything that the White House had to offer includingpassing on every intercepted electronic impulse that passed from the scene ofthe potential conflict. Almost every briefing and commentary had at least onething in common-metaphors.
The Use of MetaphorsThe use of metaphors by the state was launched again and again throughouthistory. It is nothing new and it serves its purpose well. First, metaphors area very powerful tool capable of the worst acts imaginable.”Metaphors can kill.
The discourse over whether to go to war in thegulf was a panarama of metaphor. Secretary of State Baker saw SaddamHussein as ‘sitting on our economic lifeline.’ President Bush portrayedhim as having a ‘stranglehold’ on our economy. General Schwartzkopfcharacterized the occupation of Kuwait as a ‘rape’ that was ongoing.”(Lakoff, 1991)The Legalists Paradigm-The Bridge to EmpathyIt is obvious to see the “legalistic paradigm” that Walzer discusses in histheory at work here (Walzer, 1977). The idea of course it to gain support ofthe public and maybe even convince themselves what they are doing is right.
Public support is gained by getting them to empathize. Empathy is alwaysbridged by what we hold as common between parties. So the use of metaphors isthe bridge that we use to establish that common ground.
Metaphors provide uswith a view that is not foreign to our understanding and way of life. Theyassign meaning to our everyday lifestyle by forming together clustered amountsof information and their systems into a short title. For example: when the wordrape is mentioned many things come to mind and an emotional response probablyaccompanies it. When speaking about a war, metaphors are often hurled aroundlike popcorn at a movie theater bulging with teenagers.
Metaphors like rape andthe like, which threaten by their very nature, cause us to rally and promoteaction. Metaphors are extremely powerful when used to explain events,especially if reciprocation is in question. According to Lakoff, “The mostnatural way to justify a war on moral grounds is to use a metaphor (Lakoff,1991). Many of our current uses of metaphors are a direct result of Carl vonClausewitz view on war.U.S. Ideology and Foreign PolicyAccording to, a Prussian General, when the costs of war exceeds thepolitical gains, the war should cease or never be entered.
Another one of hispoints is if at anytime a war would prove beneficial for the state it should bepursued. His “views on war became dominant in American foreign policy circlesduring the Vietnam War” (Lakoff, 1991). He has continued to influence us evenrecently:”The New York Times, on November 12, 1990, ran a front-page storyannouncing that a national debate had begun as to whether theUnitedStates should go to war in the Persian Gulf. The Times described thedebateas defined by Clausewitz’s metaphor on a literal level ofunderstanding andthen the poised the questions: What then in the nation’s politicalobjectivein the gulf and what level of sacrifice is it worth?'”The emphasis wasn’t directed at the metaphors but at the costs. Theinfluence of metaphors should not be understated.
They are an intrinsic elementwithin any strategist’s mind and often follow in close relation to one’spersonal rights.The-State-as-Person System MetaphorThe first metaphor under consideration is “The State-as-Person System,” morecommonly referred to as the legalist paradigm which is built upon the domesticanalogy (Walzer, 1977). The state is the person who is living a normal life insociety. The area in which he lives is considered his home (Country). Ofcourse he lives with his friends and family and scattered around are enemies hemay have to face. His enemies represent the aggressive state(s) that attempt toruin, change or destroy those whom he cares for, has respect for, or destroy hispossessions or seek his destruction. In other words disrupt his manner of life.
The Fairy Tale MetaphorThe next metaphor under consideration is the “Fairy Tale of the Just War.””The scenario: A crime is committed by the villain against aninnocent victim (typically an assault, theft, or kidnapping). Theoffense occurs due to an imbalance of power and creates a moralimbalance. The hero makes scarifies; he undergoes difficulties,typically making an arduous journey…The villain is inherentlyevil.
.. and thus reasoning with him is out of the question. Thehero is left with no choice but to engage in battle. The herodefeats the villain and rescues the victim.
The moral balance isrestored. The enemy-as-a-demon metaphor arises as a consequenceof the fact that we understand what a just war is in terms of afairy tale”(Lakoff, 1991).From our youth stories like this have brought about the intense feeling ofjustice- good always wins. These stories capture the imagination and paint apicture of those who employ it as the heroes no doubt. This was one of theanalogies used by the Bush administration in a poll that gained the largestpublic backing (Metaphorical Definition p.
2).The Violent Crime MetaphorThe last Metaphor under consideration is “War as Violent Crime.” Thismetaphor is dualistic in its approach.
War is, in reality, violence andincorporates “murder, assault, kidnapping, arson… and theft” (Lakoff, 1991),and at the same time could be viewed from the point of peace and a terribledomestic crime.
Iraq represents the evil criminal and the coalition representsthe hero who will triumph and stop the criminal from committing unlawful acts.All the while the coalition is doing the same under the cloak of justice. Itboils down to who did it first. Reaction is in the same manner could bejustified in the name of a rescue and self-defense.These are only some of the main analogies used during the Gulf War to gainpolitical support for an approval of U. S. commitment.
ConclusionNo, we don’t know all the facts and that is a certainty we must realize evenwhen witnessed by a camera. We have a new role that has yet to be fullyunderstood and planned for so it would not be considered wild for us to beinvolved in just about anything until we make our position clear. It remaincertain however when the use of metaphors crop up in the media and at pressconferences the aim is for your empathy and support without knowing the wholestory. There would be no need for the use of metaphors when talking about warif there was nothing to hide.
The metaphorical options used by the government assured voter confidence anda “no-lose” situation for the President’s decision about the Gulf War.BibliographyNew York Times. November 12, 1990.Walzer, Michael Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with HistoricalInformation. Basic Books: HarperCollins, USA, 1977.
Lakoff, George. Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War inthe Gulf. November, 1991; UC Berkeley CA.