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Contribution to Book
The Generic U.S. Presidential War Narrative: Justifying Military Force and Imagining the Nation
Discourses of War and Peace (2013)
  • Adam Hodges
In his 1795 essay on perpetual peace, Kant points out that in political systems where power rests with the people and their representatives, “the consent of the citizens is required to decide whether or not war is to be declared” (Kant 1991: 100). In theory, the necessity of obtaining the consent of citizens should help stave off unwarranted uses of the military because, as Kant explains, “it is very natural that they [the citizens] will have great hesitation in embarking on so dangerous an enterprise” (Kant 1991: 100). In other words, and more specific to the American context, given the need for presidents to gain public support for war, citizens and their representatives are supposed to act as a crucial curb to potential abuses of power that might lead to questionable uses of the military. Yet, when a president addresses the nation and makes a case for war—even in the absence of a direct invasion or an egregious threat—consent is typically granted on the part of the citizenry as a whole. Thus, a critical issue that Kant does not discuss is the topic taken up by many discourse scholars interested in war and peace—namely, how presidential rhetoric serves to convince citizens that military force is needed where hesitation and opposition should otherwise prevail. Or, in critical terms, how do presidents discursively manufacture consent for war? 
Publication Date
Adam Hodges
Oxford University Press
Citation Information
Adam Hodges. "The Generic U.S. Presidential War Narrative: Justifying Military Force and Imagining the Nation" New YorkDiscourses of War and Peace (2013)
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