At the annual conference of the National Communication Association in San Francisco in November 2010, graduate student John Minbiole won a top paper award from the Political Communication Division for his paper, "Narratives of Power: Historical Factors and Initial Decisions in George W. Bush's Interviews on the Iraq Surge, 2007"
Justifications for war are often forward-looking, probabilistic statements that outline their arguments in terms of necessity - usually understood to be the need to protect a nation from a serious threat. In January of 2007, President George W. Bush delivered a nationally televised speech in which he outlined the justifications and operational details for a "surge" strategy for the war in Iraq, a war that was mired in difficulty and becoming unpopular with American citizens. Around this time, Bush gave interviews to three major news organizations (the Washington Post, CBS News' 60 Minutes, and NPR). This study uses methods of textual analysis and rhetorical criticism to analyze these interview texts for three components of persuasive discourse: narrative devices such as characterization, metaphor and forward-looking, conditional statements that emphasize certain consequences and entailments; metanarrative, or those narratives which encompass larger historical and social perspectives (Clarke, 1996); and structuring absences, or concepts that a text avoids but at the same time cannot ignore (Dyer, 1993).
Through the use of narrative, Bush makes a discursive claim on the nature of the threat from extremists and terrorists as well as future events. A metanarrative of paternalism towards Iraq combines with a metanarrative that calls for the automatic support of the troops, extending the conceit of a long, ideological struggle. Structurally absent from the texts is the historical and contextual nature of the situation in Iraq, as well as the fact that Bush's decision for the surge is subordinate to the most crucial decision, the one to go to war in Iraq in the first place.