May 2, 2011

“Global Drops out of “War on Terror” in post-bin Laden Narrative

When President Obama addressed the nation and the world last night to report Osama bin Laden’ death, I was surprised by the absence of a global element in his message.  Obama is known for his multilateral, global approach to foreign affairs, and it the lens through which he seems most comfortable framing American actions in the world.  The war waged by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was relentlessly globalized, as the name “global war on terror” suggested.  And it has been a consistent thread in U.S. messaging to remind those in the Middle East and Central Asia, and elsewhere, that bin Laden’s brand of global jihad killed more Muslims than any other group.

Obama’s message last night made a strange reversal.  The larger narrative framing the search for and killing of bin Laden was emphatically Americanized.

The effect of this framing, if there is any, remains to be seen.   In the global swirl of fast moving media, not to mention events, the President’s words may soon fall away as memorable in the global context.  Or they may be picked up—Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis as may wonder how much of the brunt of an effort reconceptualized as primarily American they must be called to bear.

We can be sure however, that the reminder that Obama was at the helm during this moment of American bravery is intended as a formative statements in the story of his presidency, which is now being written in advance of the 2012 presidential elections.


0 thoughts on ““Global Drops out of “War on Terror” in post-bin Laden Narrative

  1. Excellent! Surprisingly Obama’s global message has usually been spot on, his SC advisor, Ben Rhodes, was great during the rest of this story, just not on Obama’s speech.

  2. I think you guys have nailed why there was no global element to the message — it was sacrificed to the domestic message that we are in an unsupportable, elective war, pursued unilaterally, for corporate interests, at the expense of the rest of the world. The framing of the War on Terror as unjust caused any benefits from the raid to be contradicted by the political rhetoric. (Wholly predictable) Result: cacophony.

  3. I too was struck by the missed opportunity to remind the global audience what OBL has brought to everyone in terms of death, damage and extraordinary burdens. One wonders if the foreign policy/strategic communication team was in the loop early enough to influence the President’s message?

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