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Winning the War of Words: Selling the War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq
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1 Introduction GEORGE W. BUSH publicly announced during his 2000 election campaign and through- out his fi rst eight months in offi ce that he sought to promote a more retrenched foreign policy during his tenure in offi ce he intended to avoid the type of open- ended humanitarian and nation-building military engagements pursued by his predecessor. The United States was enjoying a decade of unipolar superpower status since the fall of the Soviet Union, and Bush’s approach to foreign policy showed signs of defensive posturing and selective engagement. Yet in spite of this initially defensive approach, after the attacks executed by substate actors on September 11, 2001, the president and much of his Cabinet shifted from a defen- sive to an offensive approach focused on preemptive use of force, eventually lead- ing to U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. 1 The Bush administration’s shift from selective engagement to primacy represented a signifi cant shift in risk pro- pensity while America’s relative position in the world system remained unchanged, even after the September 11 attacks. 2 This inquiry will argue that the president utilized framing effects and threat rhetoric in order to successfully accomplish risky foreign policy shifts. While the administration may not have been under risk, they presented a situation to the public that implied a need for decisions to be made under risk or uncertainty, allowing prospect theory to be applied to the pres- ident’s framing of the issues. This investigation looks at the relationship between presidential framing and public support for the president and his war policies. In doing so, this study posits that the president used prospect theory tenets as a form of political communica- tion and persuasion. While some of the president’s communication can be accounted for as agenda setting, a framing explanation seeks to explain more spe- cifi cally how the president not only changed the subject of foreign policy debate