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Foreign Policy Discourses of the Obama Years

For any action in foreign policy to be possible, it has to first appear as plausible in the spoken and written discourses of foreign policy. This is the basic axiom at the core of the case studies that Kovacs carries out in Foreign Policy Discourses of the Obama Years. In each case study, she investigates discursive products such as presidential speeches and news accounts, with the purpose of teasing out the types of meanings that emerge. These meanings, she argues, have an impact on the types of foreign policy action the Obama administration could plausibly undertake. The findings show both that foreign policy in the US is mostly understood and evaluated in terms of its impact on domestic politics, and that the study of discourses surrounding foreign policy is a useful tool for assessing administrations.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Politics, Discourse, Policy Chapter 2: New President, New Discourse, New Policy? Chapter 3: Troop Increases in Afghanistan, Troop Withdrawal from Iraq-Is It All About Middle Eastern Policy? Chapter 4: Osama bin Laden and the Usefulness of an Iconic Adversary Chapter 5: Under Attack: Benghazi and the Responses Chapter 6: Speaking of Syria: How Discourse Can Get Away from an Administration Chapter 7: What It Takes to Intervene-Changes from 2013 to 2014 Conclusion: Not So Foreign, Not So New

About the Author

Melinda Kovacs is assistant professor of political science at Missouri Western State University.


KovaÌ cs' insightful book illuminates Obama-era foreign-policy discourses on a wide range of subjects, including Afghanistan, Benghazi, Iraq, ISIS, Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. KovaÌ cs nimbly "biopsies" and dissects those bodies of discourse--in presidential speeches, partisan Congressional debates, mainstream media coverage, and even enemy propaganda--to explore a complex web of meaning that both enables and constrains U.S. foreign-policy action. Bismarck told us that "politics is the art of the possible, the attainable;" KovaÌ cs shows us how foreign policy actions are made possible, and plausible, by the webs of words and meaning spun in the political sphere. Further, her work ably highlights how even the most carefully crafted discursive strategies can spin, or be spun, out of control--a phenomenon that takes on new urgency in our brave new world of fake news and impulsive presidential tweets. From "red lines" to headlines, this timely book artfully combines observation and interpretation to reveal key themes involving 21st-century U.S. global leadership and military interventionism.--Jonathan M. DiCicco, Canisius College Wittgenstein's lessons on logic return to haunt the US national state in Kovacs' crucial contribution to a critique of capitalist democracies.--Salvatore Engel-Dimauro, SUNY, New Paltz

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