Grand Strategy: Cold War Rhetoric and The Fight Against ISIS

Containing (Un)American Bodies

G.W. Bush Administration Narratives of Threat and Containment

I was intrigued by this article’s citing Khalilzdad’s argument that “grand strategy would bring purpose to the United States, since “(d)uring the Cold War, the United States was relatively certain of its objective of containment, [and now] it is not [clear bout its objective]””. This remark deeply reflects what I heard Farah Pandith, the first and former Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the State Department, assert in a speech in April. Having left the bureaucracy of the state department and the federal government, she was able to express her personal opinions without hesitation.

While discussing the complex and multi-faceted situation we face in attempting to defeat ISIS, she enumerated efforts that must be made on the internet, within marginalized Muslim communities and in aiding rebel allies on the ground. Moreover, she noted that the U.S.’ governmental and civilian response to ISIS is fractured. You have individual citizens who lie on completely opposite sides of the spectrum: some arguing that we must send troops to annihilate ISIS, others claiming that Obama founded ISIS, and some maintaining that the U.S. should no longer seek involvement in Middle Eastern affairs we’ve created enough disaster already. More importantly, however, Pandith noted the weakness in the government’s strategy: whether comparing Obama, Kerry or Congress’ stances on the matter, the federal government is disunited in its stance. During the Cold War, the narrative spread by the government was steady and paramount – the government communicating the message that a fight was imminent and that it was crucial that the populace unite, because if we didn’t fight this cause together we would lose the fight altogether. She asserted that unless the American government establish a narrative absolutely and existentially focused on the fight against ISIS, the U.S.’ efforts in Syria and Iraq will be insignificant and ineffective.


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