Discourse Analysis of the last two Presidents’ Speeches of USA
MA student in North American Studies
Institute for North American & European Studies
“America is a symbol, even before it had been conquered was symbol of new world. America is the unique country which without any history was counterfeit based on enlightenment philosophy and its thinkers like Montesquieu, Lock and their thoughts” (Abazari, 2001).
America is a symbol of modern world or in better word, the best symbol. Abolishing native Indians society and constructing a new world is significant as abandon the old time and beginning a new era with all of its advantages and disadvantages, dangers and interests. Modernism has several aspects. It seems or at least American nation and government desire to pretend they are on peak in all of modern values which are pure, unconditional and universal. Americans (nation and government) believe that they are the best, unique and exceptional. In better word, Americans desire to conceptualize a metanarrative of American myth, with no critique and no opponent. They try to justify their Americo-centrism through grand narratives like freedom, democracy and human rights to interfere in global system to make it consistent with American interests.
Contrary, postmodern thinkers argue that our era is the end of grand narratives. There is no difference between grand narratives: enlightenment reason, science, religion and truth and justice as some universal concepts, or a big country like USA which is claiming and desire to be the exclusive narrator of the world. Postmodern thinkers claim that all the grand narratives are in dead end and in contemporary era all the concepts are relative and localized. It is a challengeable issue, which this article tries to consider through discourse analysis of the last two USA presidents’ speeches (Bill Clinton and George .W .Bush) with relying on Jean-François Lyotard’s theory of metanarratives in postmodern era and Michel Foucault’s theory, which detected the relation between truth and power and reproductive process of each of them by the other.
Key concepts: metanarrative, grand narrative, power, regime of truth, modernity, post modernity.
Conquest of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 was roughly coincide by the era that European people had been preparing themselves for one of the most important human turning point in its history and it was Renascence Movement which challenged the traditional dominant power of Christian church. This challenge led to a social movement was guided mostly by scientist, philosophers and religious Christian reformers to change the human’s view over him/herself and grant to all the people new rights. Their main targets were moderating the absolute power of Catholic church and monarchial system in order to each person could have its own religion , own property , and in general word every one could have its individual liberty to prove him/herself .
America was conquered and in better word got birth in such conditions. After conquest, America became the land of opportunity for all groups who were looking for a better future. Most of the immigrants in America were poor and landless people and also Puritans who were suffering of Aristocratic and Catholic Europe and the rest were merchants and artisans who hope to make a more profitable job in new world . America was known as New World with new dream of freedom and equality. However this dream was not got realized completely but it was in the mind of the most of the immigrants that they could fight for their ideals in America.
Establishing United States of America in 1776 and its independence of the Britain which was roughly coincide with French revolution for liberty and equality through Republic could be called as a start point of a new era in human life. A new era this is called Modern Time in front of ancient time.
Space of the world in this era was affected by Enlightenment philosophy. This philosophy based on reason and rationality initiate a new look at human being. Enlightenment movement had different features but the main principle which was coherent in all of them was seeking liberty and equality for all human beings in a secular life. However Enlightenment thinkers could not realize all of their ideals immediately, but they believed that they are starting a process for human emancipation. This was the beginning of the modern world in front of the ancient world.
America is a symbol of modern world (Abazari, 2001) or in better word, the best symbol. Abolishing native Indians society and constructing a new world is significant as abandon the old time and beginning a new era with all of its advantages and disadvantages, dangers and interests. Modernism has several aspects. in economic ; utilitarianism and capitalism , in politics ; liberal democracy and freedom of speech ; in science ; positivism and empiricism, in religion ; Protestantism and Puritanism or in better word freedom of religion and secularization of religion , and in other aspects ; individualism , reasonability and rationality based on enlightenment philosophy , bureaucratic system , and social movement for changing the structures of the society . All of the above features were valuable against the traditional values which were no longer valid. Americans had a great role in shaping modern world through developing science and industry, establishing the first new Liberal Democracy and initiating the first nation-state around the world, proving freedom of speech and religion. That is why American nation and government desire to pretend they are on peak in all of modern values which are pure, unconditional and universal.
Americans (nation and government) since the first day of establishing the USA believed that they should reach to fulfillment the American Promise to be the best and unique in fulfilling the human dignity and liberty at first for the Americans and at the second stage for the people of rest of the world . It means Americans are exceptional and have an exceptional duty to correct all nations’ mistakes and emancipate all the human beings.
American government has tried to justify this supremacy and uniqueness relying on freedom and democracy as absolute and unconditional concepts. In this way they could legitimize their political, cultural and military interventions in the international system.
But it is essentially paradoxical to force other people to civilization, freedom and democracy and American history since the beginning days of her born, suffer such a paradox about liberty and human equality dealing with its relationship with other race like Indians, Black slaves and even the White indentured servants and nations, Vietnameses, Latin American nations and the nation of the Middle East. And the main question of this paper is about this paradoxical situation which Americans involve with since infancy until now.
In better word, Americans desire to conceptualize a metanarrative of American myth, with no critique and no opponent.
They try to justify their Americo-centrism through other grand narratives like freedom, democracy and human rights to interfere in global system to make it consistent with American interests.
This paper through postmodern approach and relying on Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Foucault’s theory tries to show that these concepts during the modern time became grand narrative and had been used by the dominant powers specially Americans to legitimize their dominance while all the postmodern era is defined by “ incredulity toward metanarratives ”(Lyotard,1984:xxiv) . It means that in postmodern era all the values are localized and relative. In this way nobody can claim that has special right to leading the others and impose its values and interests on the others, the path that American government is used to act throughout.
Jean-Francois Lyotard and Metanarratives
Lyotard defines the postmodern as “incredulity toward metanarratives” (Lyotard, 1984: xxiv). As the terms implies, a metanarrative sets out the rules of narratives and language game. This means that the metanarrative organized language games, and determines the success or failure of each statement or language ‘move’ that take place in them. The basis of modernity is, for Lyotard, a certain type of metanarrative organization. Lyotard argues that from the earliest human societies right up until the present, narrative has continued to be the ‘quintessential form of customary knowledge ‘(1984:19).
For Lyotard, modernity is defined by its reliance upon grand narratives that depict human progress. He identifies two key types of modern metanarrative in the postmodern condition: the speculative grand narrative and the grand narrative of emancipation (or freedom).
The speculative grand narrative originates in the German philosophy of the early nineteenth century, which found its most detailed form in the writing of G.W.F.Hegel.The central idea of the speculative grand narrative is that human life or ‘spirit’ as Hegel calls it, progress by increasing its knowledge. All the different language games are brought together by philosophy in order to present a ‘universal “history” of spirit ‘(1984:34)
According to Lyotard, ‘true knowledge … is composed of a subject that guarantees their legitimacy’ (1984:35)
The second type of modern metanarrative is the grand narrative of emancipation. This grand narrative presented knowledge as being valuable because it is the basis of human freedom. Here, “humanity is the hero of liberty. All people have a right to science” (1984:31). This grand narrative begins for lyotard with the French Revolution in 1789. In this narrative knowledge is the basis of freedom from oppression, and the development in knowledge are valued because they set humanity free from suffering. The aim of this type of grand narrative is the emancipation of an enlightened humanity from dogma, mysticism, exploitation and suffering.
Under a grand narrative, all the social institutions such as law, education and technology combine to strive for a common goal for all humanity: absolute knowledge or universal emancipation.
According to Lyotard, though, the transformations in knowledge that have taken in during the last half-century have thrown these grand narratives into doubt. ‘The grand narrative has lost its credibility, regardless of whether it is a speculative grand narrative or a narrative of emancipation ’.
It is transformation of knowledge, marked by the “incredulity toward metanarraive”.
For Lyotard, unrelenting spread of capitalism has destroyed the traditional social bonds that link all of humanity in the grand narrative of progress.
Truth, the basis of the speculative grand narrative , and justice, the goal of the grand narrative of emancipation , no longer have the universal appeal they did for modernity .
(For Lyotard , the global spread of capitalism and the rapid developments in science and technology since world war have put an end to grand narratives. )
This change effects not just research and development, but identity itself. Located in a multiplicity of language games that no longer follow a single metanarrative, an individual’s identity become dispersed:”the social bond in linguistic, but is not woven with a single thread. It is a fabric formed by the intersection of at least two (and in reality on indeterminate number) of language games, obeying different rules. ”
With the destruction of the grand narratives, there is no longer any unifying identity for a subject or society. Instead individuals are the sites where ranges of conflicting moral and political codes interest and the social bond is fragmented.
Lyotard sees the grand narratives themselves as having always been politically problematic; for example the political ideas of reason and freedom from superstition provided a moral basis for colonial domination through capitalist expansion and missionary terrorism in Africa and the Middle East (see Lytard 1993:165-326). He thus argues that the best means to resist the globalization of capitalism is by increasing the fragmentation of language game.
He sees the capitalist system as ‘a vanguard machine dragging humanity after it, dehumanizing it’ (1984:63). For Lyotard the great threat of capitalism is it potential to reduce everything to its own system. He argues that although universal consensus is no longer possible,’justice as a value is neither outmoded nor suspect. We must thus arrive at an idea and practice of justice that is not linked to that of consensus’ (1984:66). This practice focuses on the individual ‘little narrative’ and their differences from each other, the fact that they are all reducible to the criterion of efficiency. Once the grand narratives have fallen away we are left only with the diverse range of language games, and the aim of postmodern criticism should be to do justice to them by allowing to be heard in their own terms.
Lyotard argues for the importance of respecting the differences between language games, and thus for the vital role that resistance to universal systems of organization plays today.
Michel Foucault: “Truth and Power”
Michel Foucault asserted that ‘truth is of the world, it is produced there by virtue of multiple constraints’. ( Foucault1979a:46). He contrasts the conventional view of truth conceived as a ‘richness, fecundity, a gentle and insidiously universal force ,with what he terms ‘the will to truth ’- that set of exclusionary practices whose function is to establish distinctions between those statements which will be considered true (Foucault1981:56).
Each society has its own ‘ regime of truth’, that is the type of statements which can be made by authorized people and accepted by the society as a whole , and which are distinguished from false statements by range of different practices .
‘My aim is not to write the social history of a prohibition but a political history of production of “truth” ’ (Foucault1988d:112)
And furthermore, in ‘Questions of method’, he adds that my problem is to see how [people] govern (themselves and others) by the production of truth … (by the production of truth I mean not the production of true utterances, but the establishment of domains in which the practice of true and false can be made at once ordered and pertinent)’ (Foucault1991b:79)
For example British writers within the colonial period often described the indigenous people of India and Africa as lazy , backward , dirty , inferior, ‘primitive’ and underdeveloped in comparison to a modern industrialized west (Said1978)
Thus, truth, power and knowledge are intricately connected and what we need to analyze is the working of power in the production of knowledge.
Thus what Foucault is concerned to assert is that truth is constructed and kept in place through a wide range of strategies which support and affirm it and which exclude and counter alternative versions of events.
Foucault suggests that it is important to counter the type of information which has been disseminated to us by the government and its institutions and in his own political activism; he considered that the production of knowledge could play an important role.
Methodology: Critical Discourse Analysis
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse, which views "language as a form of social practice" (Fairclough 1989: 20) and focuses on the ways social and political domination is reproduced by text and talk. CDA developed within several disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, such as 'critical linguistics' (exemplified by the seminal book Language and Control by Roger Fowler, Gunther Kress, Bob Hodge and Tony Trew, published in 1979).
Norman Fairclough's Language and Power (1989; 2001) and Critical Discourse Analysis (1995) articulate a three-dimensional framework for studying discourse, "where the aim is to map three separate forms of analysis onto one another: analysis of (spoken or written) language texts, analysis of discourse practice (processes of text production, distribution and consumption) and analysis of discursive events as instances of sociocultural practice" (1995: 2).
Critical discourse analysis is founded on the idea that there is unequal access to linguistic and social resources, resources that are controlled institutionally. The patterns of access to discourse and communicative events is one essential element for CDA. Although CDA is sometimes mistaken to represent a 'method' of discourse analysis, it is generally agreed upon that any explicit method in discourse studies, the humanities and social sciences may be used in CDA research, as long as it is able to adequately and relevantly produce insights into the way discourse reproduces(or resists)social and political inequality, power abuse or domination. That is, CDA does not limit its analysis to specific structures of text or talk, but systematically relate these to structures of the sociopolitical context.
In addition to linguistic theory, the approach draws from social theory — and contributions from Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu — in order to examine ideologies and power relations involved in discourse. Fairclough notes, "That language connects with the social through being the primary domain of ideology, and through being both a site of, and a stake in, struggles for power" (1989: 15).
I will use critical discourse analysis to explore the dominant discourse of the Clinton’s and G.W. Bush’s presidency. Further, by critical discourse analysis of these president’s speeches during their presidencies, the American political, economical and cultural domestic and international relations will be explored. By finding out the connections between these speeches and their historical and social contexts, the role of the presidents of the USA and their administrations in shaping the global discourse in favor of American political and economical scopes will be declared. Therefore, by looking at global dominant discourses, each part of these speeches would be meaningful.
America as mentioned before is the best example of a modern country and society and it seems that all of its politicians are thinking in modern discourse. However even in modern discourse it is not justifiable that one country claim to be the leader of the world because of economical and political power, it could be to some extent justified because of grand narratives of liberty and justice which were unconditional. The dominant views of the American politicians almost after World War II have been leading the world as the greatest nation and strongest country who has the first and greatest democracy. Considering the real American economical and political purposes through leading the world is not matter of this paper. But what is clear is that there are lots of interests for US by leadership for the world and US government are pursuing them. So the main principle of American politic during the different presidency periods was American leadership for the world which was legitimize mostly by grand narratives of freedom and democracy and it was instilled that American responsibility is expanding liberal democracy across the world. In each period freedom and democracy had and still have different enemies which were obviously US enemies. For a long time after World War II, freedom’s enemy was Communism and its biggest symbol Soviet Union and its allies. After collapsing the Soviet Union and finishing the cold war which almost was simultaneous by President Clinton inauguration, the American leadership got a new face and that was trying to make the global peace. In this period discourse of peace was predominant discourse of US governmental policy and their pretended task was creating peace, both for their nation and for the other nations. After President Clinton, George.W.Bush was elected and started his presidency with terrorist attacks against US and it was the important point that formed the president Bush foreign policy. The predominant discourse of President Bush’s presidency till now has been “War on Terror”. Attacks against US were interpreted as attacks against Freedom and Democracy and American responsibility became leading the “War on Terror”.
Discourse of Peace:
As it was mentioned above, predominant discourse during the Clinton’s presidency was discourse of peace. Discourse of peace had two dimensions: domestic peace and global peace.
Its domestic dimension was peace for American citizens in their daily life: “If we do that we will return over and over again to the principle that if we simply give ordinary people equal opportunity, quality education, and a fair shot at the American Dream, they will do extraordinary things” (Clinton, 1994).
In this way, Americans welfare was one of the most important Clinton’s priorities to strengthen American nation. Clinton policy was “to use it to expand opportunity at home and our leadership abroad”.
It is out of purposes of this paper to mention the details of the Clinton’s administration economic policy, but the implications of these policies are important.
Peace inside the borders of a country depends just on the people which are living in that country. When a nation could live in peace? It is an important question that President Clinton tried to answer to during his presidency period through his rhetoric.
Clinton’s programs include some principles to prepare good condition for all Americans who are living in a land of opportunity to ascertain American dream:
“America has always been a land of opportunity, a land where, if you work hard, you can get ahead” (Clinton, 1995).
Principles of Clinton’s domestic program were:
Creating more and more job
Equal educational opportunity and proving the quality of education
Decreasing crimes in the streets
Eliminating discrimination or violence because of race, religion, ancestry or gender.
These are axis of the President Clinton’s domestic policy for Americans after Cold War which suffered an extreme deficit and Clinton’s administration endeavored to change the situation for great nation;” These are great goals, worthy of a great nation”(Clinton, 2000).
All of the above principles are interrelation and all of them are in the way to keep peace for all American to make the strongest and safest country around the world, a nation who is deserved to be the only leader of the world.
“We believe in jobs, we believe in learning, and we believe in rewarding work. We believe in restoring the values that make America special”. (Clinton, 17 February 1993)
“As we take these steps together to renew our strength at home, we cannot turn away from our obligation to renew our leadership abroad. This is a promising moment” (Clinton, 1995).
For bring the peace for a society, the causes of the conflict must be eliminated.
Conflict is rooted in social conflict class and discrimination in all of its aspects which seemed to be decreased during the Clinton’s presidency, through empower people by welfare reform:
“Instead of taxing people with modest incomes into poverty, we helped them to work their way out of poverty by dramatically increasing the earned income tax credit. It will lift 15 million working families out of poverty, rewarding work over welfare, making it possible for people to be successful workers and successful parents. Now that's real welfare reform” (Clinton, 1994).
By eliminating the discrimination between minorities and white Americans, a nation could be formed, a nation that all Americans feel is belonged to and ought to effort to strengthen it.
“Over 200 years ago, our founders changed the entire course of human history by joining together to create a new country based on a single powerful idea: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Clinton, 1995).
“Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land” (Clinton, 1999).
Equality is for both genders, not just for men and Clinton mentioned it clearly:
“And let's make sure that women and men get equal pay for equal work by strengthening enforcement of equal pay laws” (Clinton, 1999).
By creating more job for Americans, [and prepare equal opportunity for education] and increasing the incomes, poverty would be restricted. More parents would have enough time to spend with their families and also equal education opportunity, will led to restriction of the causes of the committing crime and society would be more peaceful and safe for living and working to strengthen America before the 21st century;
“Our goal must be to enable all our people to make the most of their own lives -- with stronger families, more educational opportunity, economic security, safer streets, and a cleaner environment in a safer world” (Clinton, 1996).
“To make the American Dream achievable for all, we must make college affordable for all” (Clinton, 2000).
Other Clinton’s priorities during his presidency period were welfare reform, social security, Medicare, establishing USA accounts and supporting long-term care. All of them are in the way to provide a good situation for Americans to live happily:
“That means making sure every family has health care and the support to care for aging parents, the tools to bring their children up right, and that no child grows up in poverty”(Clinton, 2000).
According to Clinton, American must not be worried about their old aging and retirement.
“Every family will be able to succeed at home and at work, and no child will be raised in poverty. We will meet the challenge of the aging of America. We will assure quality, affordable health care, at last, for all Americans” (Clinton, 2000).
Clinton had not ignored the Native Americans who are a part of American nation and are in a bad situation. A nation, who claims to lead the world, must not have stain on their reputation, so Clinton affirms that:
“I also ask you to make special efforts to address the areas of our nation with the highest rates of poverty -- our Native American reservations and the Mississippi Delta, health care, education and law enforcement for our Native American communities. In this new century -- we should begin this new century by honoring our historic responsibility to empower the first Americans” (Clinton, 2000).
At the end of his presidency Clinton described his achievement and declares that America is ready to enter new millennium, as a strongest and safest country around the world:
“We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs; the fastest economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years. And next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history” (Clinton, 2000).
In this way by reinforcing American patriotism because they have strongest nation who gain their power through democracy and liberty Clinton persuaded Americans that they are justified and the best choice for leading the world to an international peace. But progress as a grand narrative had lost its legitimacy after World War II. Nuclear Bombarding in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and lots of such that massacre that happened because of scientific progress specially had been done by a nation who is claiming to be a metanarrative for leading the world to international peace.
After making peace for American families, for having strong families and secure society which new generations would grow up and get prepared for future to realizing American Dream, as a result, America would be as powerful as what is needed for being leader of the world to create the global peace, according to Clinton:
“As the world's greatest power, we must, therefore, maintain our defenses and our responsibilities” (Clinton, 1994).
“Our nation will be prepared to lead a world challenged by ethnic conflict, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the global democratic revolution, and the health of our environment” (Clinton, 1993).
Now, what is American responsibility?
“We must exercise responsibility not just at home, but around the world. On the eve of a new century, we have the power and the duty to build a new era of peace and security” (Clinton, 1998).
American responsibility is preserving peace around the world. But, when would the world be in peace? According to Clinton freedom and democracy are essentials for peace in the world.
For Clinton and other US governments freedom and democracy are two grand narratives for legitimizing American metanarrative across the world.
The world is changing and US must shape these changes, and every ways are accepted from diplomacy to using force;
“We will act; with peaceful diplomacy when ever possible, with force when necessary” (Clinton, 1993).
US must orient the changing world in their own way and their path is Freedom and Democracy by their own interpretation, because;
“The best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other; they make better trading partners and partners in diplomacy” (Clinton, 1994).
What is important is the US nation security that would be realized through peaceful world and such this peace would be created just by American leadership;
“Our security still depends upon our continued world leadership for peace and freedom and democracy. We still can't be strong at home unless we're strong abroad” (Clinton, 1995).
Creating global peace will be done with some strategies. One of them which seems was not as serious as Bush presidency period, was anti-terrorism activities;
“Accordingly, last night I signed an executive order that will block the assets in the United States of terrorist organizations that threaten to disrupt the peace process” (Clinton, 1995).
“As we work for peace, we must also meet threats to our nation's security -- including increased dangers from outlaw nations and terrorism. We will defend our security wherever we are threatened” (Clinton, 1999).
“This year, we secured indictments against terrorists and sanctions against those who harbor them” (Clinton, 1994).
Another way for creating peace across the world is to make economic relationship among the different nations and countries. Throughout a global financial system, and interdependence national interests, world would enjoy of a more peaceful era. In this way Clinton’s foreign policy was making new economic relationship with other countries like China;
“We must pursue a deeper dialogue with China -- for the sake of our interests and our ideals. An isolated China is not good for America. Because engaging China is the best way to work on our common challenges like ending nuclear testing, and to deal frankly with our fundamental differences like human rights” (Clinton ,1997).
“But this is about more than economics. By expanding trade, we can advance the cause of freedom and democracy around the world. There is no better example of this truth than Latin America where democracy and open markets are on the march together” (Clinton, 1997).
Another aspect of global financial system is giving more prosperity to other nations to live in welfare and get the opportunity to think about their destiny; liberty or tyranny?
“Where government provides opportunity and citizens honor the responsibility to give something back to their communities; an America which leads the world to new heights of peace and prosperity” (Clinton, 1998).
“First, we ought to tear down barriers, open markets, and expand trade. But at the same time, we must ensure that ordinary citizens in all countries actually benefit from trade” (Clinton, 1999).
Destructing the mass destruction weapons was another issue which Clinton’s administration felt that need to American leadership, which would lead to peaceful world;
“We worked to promote environmentally sustainable economic growth. We achieved agreements with Ukraine, with Belarus, with Kazakhstan to eliminate completely their nuclear arsenal. We are working to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We will seek early ratification of a treaty to ban chemical weapons worldwide. And earlier today, we joined with over 30 nations to begin negotiations on a comprehensive ban to stop all nuclear testing” (Clinton, 1994).
“The United States will lead the charge to extend indefinitely the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty -- to enact a comprehensive nuclear test ban -- and to eliminate chemical weapons” (Clinton ,1995).
Peace would not be realized without negotiation and that was one of the Clinton’s foreign policy during his presidency and tried to show another face of American leadership through the leading negotiations between opponent sides all around the world;
“We will also work for new progress toward the Middle East peace. Last year the world watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat at the White House when they had their historic handshake of reconciliation” (Clinton, 1994).
“All Americans can be proud that our leadership renewed hope for lasting peace in the Middle East. Now I ask Congress to provide resources so that all parties can implement the Wye Agreement -- to protect Israel's security, to stimulate the Palestinian economy, to support our friends in Jordan. We must not; we dare not, let them down. I hope you will help” (Clinton, 1999).
After using diplomacy, as Clinton mentioned if it was necessary, American military force would act in different regions of the earth. Americans should be proud of making peace in Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti and so other regions;
“Just think about what our troops have done in the last year, showing America at its best -- helping to save hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, moving with lightning speech to head off another threat to Kuwait, giving freedom and democracy back to the people of Haiti” (Clinton, 1995).
A secure and prosperous Europe is important for American security, so US became the strongest member of NATO to keep peace in Europe;
“When Europe is stable, prosperous and at peace, America is more secure” (Clinton, 1997).
“To that end, we must expand NATO by 1999, so that countries that were once our adversaries can become our allies” (Clinton, 1997).
Discourse of War on Terror
The Bush presidency period started with the greatest terrorist’s act against the “greatest nation” of the world. After the September 11 attacks, President Bush found the best reason for acting against terrorists aggressively. The September 11 attacks interpreted by President Bush, attacks against Freedom. President Bush equaled the America with the Freedom and Democracy clearly; “Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other” (Bush, 2001).
And assumed the right for US to judge and bring the terrorists to justice;
“We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done” (Bush, 2001).
President Bush immediately divides the world in two parts,
“Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (Bush, 2001).
“Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man, and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame” (Bush, 2003).
And declare the September 11 starting a war between the global terror network and Freedom. According to President Bush, this is a ‘world’s fight’,
“This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and Freedom” (Bush, 2001).
And the war on terror is a different and new war, one side is freedom and the other side is fear and US is its leader:
“Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail” (Bush, 2001).
President Bush decided to “hunt down and punish the responsible for these cowardly act” and it was the turning point for American foreign policy and also the rest of the world, which followed by war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Starting a new era which in war was the best way to expand Freedom and Democracy. This was the time that history called Americans;
“History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight. And we go forward with confidence, because this call of history has come to the right country” (Bush, 2003).
US started to find the roots of terror around the world and in this way pay the most attention to Middle East nations, which had been the most challengeable area for US, an area that is defined by Islam, radicalism and fundamentalism. Also Israel and Palestine conflicts and supporting Palestinian by its neighbors add the importance for US.
“Millions will see that freedom, equality, and material progress are possible at the heart of the Middle East. Leaders in the region will face the clearest evidence that free institutions and open societies are the only path to long-term national success and dignity. And a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world” (Bush, 2003).
“Israel must work to create the conditions that will allow a peaceful Palestinian state to emerge. And Arab nations must cut off funding and other support for terrorist organizations. America will work with every nation in the region that acts boldly for the sake of peace” (Bush, 2003).
President Bush introduced the axis of evil in the world;
“Terror sponsors: Iran, North Korea, Iraq .States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred” (Bush, 2004).
The issue of the mass destructive weapons which was noticed since Clinton’s presidency for imposing some sanctions against suspicious countries, followed by President Bush
“America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous regimes” (Bush, 2004).
One of the similarities between Clinton’s presidency and Bush’s presidency was emphasizing on American leadership, call of history and having a great opportunity for leading the world to freedom and democracy as two grand narratives, which were used for justifying American metanarrative:
“I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century”( Bush, 2004).
“This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature. And this nation is leading the world in confronting and defeating the man-made evil of international terrorism” (Bush, 2003).
“We’ve been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We've entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite” (Bush, 2006).
Bush assumed leading the world as a commitment for Americans
“One commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity” (Bush, 2006).
And predicted the world without American leadership would be very dangerous.
“The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world. Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth”(Bush, 2006).
Bush like his precedent rejected the isolationism and saw no honor in retreat.
“If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will -- But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil” (Bush, 2006).
“America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped rise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace. We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders” (Bush, 2006).
All of these preventive acts were for protecting Americans as the ‘greatest nation’ and ‘chosen nation’ which is chosen by God:
“Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places” (Bush , 2005).
Bush in his rhetoric, mentioned the results of his war on terror for the global peace and specially in Middle East
“As importantly, we are serving a vital and historic cause that will make our country safer. Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace” (Bush, 2004).
“Yet their future promises lives of dignity and freedom, and that is a world away from the squalid, vicious tyranny they have known. Across Iraq, life is being improved by liberty. Across the Middle East, people are safer because an unstable aggressor has been removed from power. Across the world, nations are more secure because an ally of terror has fallen” (Bush, 2003).
During the past thirteen years , US presidents rhetorically and for several times declared that US not only is deserved to lead the world but also it is their responsibility to lead the world and altering this leadership is dangerous for the world . It is nothing unless American metanarrative which is imposing itself on the world and legitimizes itself relying on two grand narratives of Freedom and Democracy.
Now after substantiation of the American metanarrative, I am going to talk about its challenges with postmodern thought.
As the term implies metanarrative sets out the rules of narratives and language game. This means that the metanarrative organizes language games, and determines the success or failure of each statement or language ‘move’ that take place in them. American metanarraive pretends that it deserves creating a new order for the language games around the world. It is challengeable throughout postmodern perspective in some ways.
First of all, Lyotard defined the postmodern as “incredulity toward metanarratives”.
According to Lyotard, though the transformations in knowledge that have taken place in during the last half-century have thrown these grand narratives into doubt. So the American metanarrative which desire to be the exclusive narrator of the history of the world and was based on grand narratives of Freedom and Democracy, in the time of “incredulity toward the grand narratives” would lose its legitimacy. It is one of the challenge that American politician are involved with.
But it seems that there is something wrong with unilateral leading a plural and multicultural world.
On the other hand, according to Foucault’s theory, each society has its own ‘ regime of truth’, that is the type of statements which can be made by authorized people and accepted by the society as a whole , and which are distinguished from false statements by range of different practices .In this way truth is a local and regional concept which is produced with the dominant local power and nobody can claim that it has the truth and others are in wrong way, so, throughout this point of view, the truth which exists in American society is produced by the dominant power in that region of the world and does not have any priority upon the other truth which are produced in other regions . The truth which is produced in US is based on two grand narratives of freedom and democracy and American government desire to impose this truth upon the rest of the world as a prior truth. There is no doubt that freedom and democracy are valuable for all people. What is wrong is that in such a world where in all the values are local and relative nobody can claim that is worthy to lead the others and impose its values on the others.
When the dominant power in a region is tyranny, the truth which is produced by this power is tyranny and as long as its nation decides to alter it, it would be dominant. It does not mean that tyranny is justified; it means that intervention in other countries to alter the tyranny is another kind of tyranny. Who can claim that USA is right in all of its affairs? Then why nobody is able to even talk about creating changes in American society and interfering in it? Because US is the most powerful country around the world .So American leadership in a world of differences seems to be paradoxical and anti-liberal. Everybody can see the signs of localism in the countries where US president and other ministers travel to. They vent their unsatisfactory of American metanarraive through anti-American demonstrations.
The third challenge of American metanarrative in postmodern era, which is interrelated with the two previous challenges is the language game issue .According to Lyotard , now, we are located in a multiplicity of language games that no longer follow a single metanarrative. In “The postmodern condition”, Lyotard refers to the different discourses as ‘language games’. The every structure of society is made up of the statements made in it and the rules it develops to decide whether particular moves are legitimate or illegitimate. Just as different types of games have distinct sets of rules, different societies have diverse forms of politics, law and legitimating. As subjects, we exist within this series of language games, whose different sets of rules make up who we are. But there is a question that is why different societies have different way of organizing the language games that make them up? For Lyotard the organization of the narratives and language games is performed by metanarratives.
If we assume each country or in general word each local culture a language game with its own grammar rule, each language game could not be perceived through the other grammar rules. In this way US is a language game with its own grammar rules and one of its opponents for example IRAN is another language game with different grammar rules. Through postmodern approach there is no right for American language game to impose its rules on the other language games. If there is something wrong within a grammar rule of a language game, it should be corrected by the people who are involved with it, not by a foreign force which its grammar rules are different.
As Lyotard mentioned, talking instead the others is a kind of “grammatical violence”. A violence which American governments seems has been involved with for a long time.
As Lyotard mentioned, it is better to replace the metanarratives with the individual ‘little narratives’.
May God bless all the little small narratives around the world, not only a Metanarrative of the America. References:
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