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chapter 8 Revising the Cold War Narrative to Encompass Terrorist Threats Vietnam and Beyond Carol Winkler, Georga State University In September of 2006, the Bush Administration released its National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. The document portrayed the current war on terror as different from previous conflicts, with a key distinguishing feature being the nature of the threat. As the National Strategy surmised, “Our understanding of the enemy has evolved as well. Today, the principal terrorist enemy confronting the United States is a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals—and their state and non-state supporters—which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends.”1 Presidential depictions of terrorists as transnational actors with ideological objectives, however, are not new. The nation’s leaders named Nazi terrorists and communist terrorists during the twentieth century as global movements in conflict with democratic models of governance. John F. Kennedy introduced communism and terrorism as a linguistic merger reminiscent of the “Nazi Vietnam and Beyond | 183 terrorist” label employed during World War II. In an open letter written to President Diem of South Vietnam in 1961, Kennedy applauded the people of South Vietnam for their refusal to submit to “Communist terror.”2 The Johnson and Nixon administrations echoed Kennedy’s approach with their own repeated references to communist terrorists in their Cold War narratives.3 This chapter explains how presidents have retrofitted the Cold War narrative , complete with its ideological underpinnings, to construct terrorism in the post–Cold War period. The Vietnam War functions as a critical starting point, given the decision by presidents elected from both parties to rely on the Cold War strategy to discuss terrorism publicly. As I indicate, the subsequent executive branch statements of Republican administrations have continued to utilize elements of the Cold War narrative to frame their public responses to terrorism. Democratic administrations are omitted from this analysis due to their decisions to adopt crime (not war) narratives to explain the threat from terrorism.4 To illustrate the progressions of terrorism’s merger with the Cold War narrative, I examine three conventional elements of the narrative: the scene, the enemy character, and the hero character. Internal memoranda, polling results, and drafts of public reports provide insight into the motivations that lay behind the administration’s public communication strategies. The analysis demonstrates that while the Cold War narrative has been resilient in terrorism discourse, it has undergone subtle shifts that influence public knowledge of American foreign policy information. Scene Conventional Cold War discourse locates the scene of its narrative in the newly free nations around the globe. The defeat of fascism left many nations on the precipice of enhanced freedom and liberty, uncertain of whether they could nurture their newly acquired freedoms into full-fledged democratic regimes.5 Cold War narratives always depict newfound freedoms around the globe to be precarious. Robert Ivie focuses on the dominance of such a theme in his metaphorical analysis: “Cold War rhetors talk variously of the beacon of liberty as a flickering flame, freedom as a frail body threatened by the cancer of Communism, as a defenseless quarry set upon by relentless predators, and so on.”6 Cold War scenes are fragile, requiring a strong commitment by both the United States and the emerging democratic nation to bring the promise of self-determination to fruition. 184 | Carol Winkler In presidential terrorism discourse during the Vietnam War, South Vietnam functioned as the emerging democracy that required assistance to ensure its own freedom. The various administrations depicted South Vietnam as having no realistic hope of defending itself from forces outside its own border without U.S. military assistance. Johnson reasoned: “Most of the non-Communist nations of Asia cannot, by themselves and alone, resist the growing might and the grasping ambition of Asian communism.”7 Nixon pointedly blamed the Johnson Administration for the ongoing fragility of the scene, arguing: “The policy of the previous administration . . . did not adequately stress the goal of strengthening the South Vietnamese so that they could defend themselves when we left.”8 Even when Nixon touted his policy of Vietnamization, he portrayed South Vietnam as incapable of mounting an effective indigenous defense. As the Vietnam War entered its second decade, the Nixon Administration expanded the scope of the narrative’s fragile scene beyond South Vietnam. Advocating the domino theory, Nixon maintained that other fledgling democracies would be at risk should South Vietnam fall to the communists. He warned that “abandoning our commitment in Vietnam...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781603444613
Related ISBN
9781585446278
MARC Record
OCLC
654776099
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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