Resowing the Seeds of War: Presidential Peace Rhetoric Since 1945

Stephen J. Heidt joins us to discuss his book Resowing the Seeds of War: Presidential Peace Rhetoric since 1945.

Ending a war, as Fred Charles Iklé wrote, poses a much greater challenge than beginning one. In addition to issues related to battle tactics, prisoners of war, diplomatic relations, and cease-fire negotiations, ending war involves domestic political calculations as well. Balancing tides of public opinion against policy needs poses a deep and enduring problem for presidents.

In this first-of-its-kind study, Resowing the Seeds of War explains how Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Obama managed the political, policy, and bureaucratic challenges that arise at the end of war via a series of rhetorical choices that reframe, modify, or unravel depictions of national enemies, the cause of the conflict, and the stakes for the nation and world. This end-of-war rhetoric justifies ending hostilities, rationalizes postwar national policy, argues for the construction of postwar security arrangements, and often sustains public support for massive financial investment in reconstruction.

By tracking presidential manipulations of savage imagery from World War II to the War on Terror, Resowing the Seeds of War concludes that even as metaphoric reframing facilitates exit from conflict, the same rhetorical gestures incur unexpected consequences that make national involvement in the next conflict more likely. 

Stephen J. Heidt has taught at Florida Atlantic University, California Lutheran University, and California State University, Northridge, focusing on the form and function of presidential rhetoric in policy deliberation. He has published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, the Southern Communication Journal, and a number of edited volumes.

Resowing the Seeds of War: Presidential Peace Rhetoric since 1945 is available at msupress.org and other fine booksellers. Stephen is @sjhrhetoric on Twitter. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on Twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

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