Defining the Enemy for the Post-Cold War World: Bill Clinton's Foreign Policy Discourse in Somalia and Haiti

Jason A. Edwards


United States presidents use images of savagery to identify and construct America’s adversaries, especially prior to and during some form of armed intervention. During the Cold War, presidents used images of modern savagery to craft a Soviet enemy and its proxies. In the post-Cold War world, Bill Clinton did not have the luxury of a monolithic enemy to organize American foreign policy. He faced a threat environment that was more complex, transnational, and diffuse. Within this environment, I argue Clinton used images of primitive and modern savagery to define America’s adversaries. An analysis of Clinton’s discourse reveals that his use of both of these rhetorical forms broadened how presidents construct America’s enemies. Moreover, the use of both images of savagery provided a rhetorical flexibility that was needed for the threat environment of the post-Cold War world. This essay contributes to deeper understandings of presidential rhetoric in general and crisis rhetoric in particular.

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