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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same: Obama’s West Point Address on Afghanistan

Mon, November 15, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Hilton San Francisco, Floor: Ballroom Level, Yosemite Foyer


On December 2, 2009, President Barack Obama addressed the Corps of Cadets at West Point. In this speech, he outlined the future strategy for the war overseas, including a timeline for troop reduction in Iraq and a plan to send an additional 30, 000 troops into Afghanistan. Despite the promises of change that Obama made during the election, much of the justification for this strategy in Afghanistan bears a striking resistance to the rhetoric that Bush used to justify the war in Iraq. In this paper, I will explore this speech in relation to those given by Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. I argue that any rhetorical overlap that exists is present because both Bush and Obama were operating within the overarching ideology of American exceptionalism. This ideology is comprised of a fluid collection of mythical narratives that are malleable enough to be rhetorically effective for presidential discourse, despite the politics of any particular president. I am interested in investigating the ways that American exceptionalism acts as a rhetorical bridge from Bush to Obama in the context of the War on Terror.


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