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Framing the Threat

How Politicians justify their Policies

Authors: Imke Köhler Publisher: De Gruyter Publication date: 2019 Publication language: Angielski Number of pages: 294 Publication formats: EAN: 9783110626056 ISBN: 9783110626056 Category: Political science & theory Publisher's index: - Bibliographic note: -


There is great power in the use of words: words create most of what we consider to be real and true. Framing our words and narratives is thus a tool of power – but a power that also comes with limitations.

This intriguing issue is the topic of Framing the Threat, an investigation of the relationship between language and security and of how discourse creates the scope of possibility for political action.

In particular, the book scrutinizes and compares the security narratives of the former US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It shows how their framings of identity, i.e., of the American ‘self’ and the enemy ‘other’ facilitated a certain construction of threat that shaped the presidents’ detention and interrogation policies. By defining what was necessary in the name of national security, Bush’s narrative justified the operation of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and rendered the mistreatment of detainees possible – a situation that would have otherwise been illegal. Bush’s framings therefore enabled legal limits to be pushed and made the violation of rules appear legitimate. Obama, in contrast, constructed a threat scenario that required an end to rule violations, and the closure of Guantanamo for security reasons. According to this narrative, a return to the rule of law was imperative if the American people were to be kept safe. However, Obama’s framing was continually challenged, and it was never able to dominate public discourse. Consequently, Framing the Threat argues Obama was unable to implement the policy changes he had announced.


  • With Thankfulness 8
  • Contents 10
  • List of Tables 13
  • List of Abbreviations 14
  • Part I: Research Design 18
  • 1. Introduction 18
  • 2. Constructivism 30
  • Part II: Theoretical Framework and Methodology 30
  • 3. Discourse Theory 48
  • 4. Security Discourse 57
  • 5. Mode of Conduct 78
  • 6. Bush’s Security Discourse and Policies 94
  • Part III: Empiricism 94
  • 7. Obama’s Security Discourse and Policies 165
  • 8. Findings and Implications 228
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