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The rhetorical strategy of George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-1991: how to help lose a war you won

Hurst, Steven A. (2004) The rhetorical strategy of George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-1991: how to help lose a war you won. Political studies, 52 (2). pp. 376-392. ISSN 1467-9248

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Abstract

Public perceptions of the relative failure of the first Bush administration's policy in the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990–91 can be attributed in large part to its failure both to remove Saddam Hussein from office and to eliminate Iraq's nuclear weapons programme. Those objectives were not, in fact, among those that the administration initially set out to achieve. Midway through the crisis, however, it altered its rhetorical strategy in a fashion that helped to emphasize their significance in the public mind. This rhetorical shift resulted from a belief that its primary objectives were failing to maintain public support for its policies. However, the evidence for such a decline in public support is ambiguous at best, and there is no evidence that the change of rhetoric had any effect upon public support. The Bush administration unnecessarily drew attention to objectives that it could not achieve and helped to ensure public disillusion with the eventual outcome of the conflict.

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