February 3, 2003

Making a case for war…

How do you get a nation ready for war? What arguments do you use, or, rather, what appeals? I contend that it cannot be done by logos alone (the ideal Aristotle and his modern counterpart Edward P. J. Corbett would have us embrace). No. We humans are passionate creatures…even conservatives.

Steve Chapman criticizes the State of the Union address and President Bush for making an emotional (pathos) argument for war with Iraq. Would that cool reason should prevail. But cool reason does not get a people fired up for war. It may certainly cool them to the prospect.

Should we be fired up for war? Should we fight Iraq? I do not know. I leave such questions to the war bloggers. My interest in this is the rhetoric of war as it appears in the Bush 2003 SOTU. If his goal is to prepare us for war, if his goal is to persuade us that war is right, then he is doing the time-honored thing to make that case: appealing to our emotions.

Is it working? I think it’s too soon to tell, although flat poll numbers suggest that Americans this time around were looking for an argument far more like what Chapman desires.

The thinking seems to be–and I agree–that Bush needed to use facts to outline his argument for war. If this sentiment is indeed pervasive, it may indicate an as yet unarticulated rejection of war. If no facts are forthcoming, then all that’s left are emotional appeals. And if we are crying for facts, then we may be crying for peace. (via Thinking It Through)

One Response

  1. you might be interested in this from Jul 2002
    at the bottom it says:
    Regarding military intervention, much research has shown that a large majority of the U.S. public favors military intervention only if it meets all these criteria:
    1. Named and identified leader(s) are rogues guilty of one or more of these heinous crimes: (a) international terrorism or drug trafficking, (b) gross violations of human rights, (c) acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
    2. Non-military means: diplomacy, peace building, negotiations, have been tried, given a real chance to succeed, and have not stopped the rogue behavior.
    3. A key group of countries and UN resolutions support the proposed military intervention.
    4. A high-minded goal is portrayed as part of the purpose of the intervention.
    Surprisingly, the U.S. public is not averse to taking considerable casualties and costs of an intervention, if all the above conditions are met. The elite and media view that the U.S. public will not accept casualties is false.

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