Resowing the Seeds of War: Presidential Peace Rhetoric Since 1945


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By Kurt Milberger and Michigan State University Press. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Ending a war, as Fred Charles Iklé wrote, poses a much greater challenge than beginning one. In addition to issues related to battle tactics, prisoners of war, diplomatic relations, and cease-fire negotiations, ending war involves domestic political calculations as well. Balancing tides of public opinion against policy needs poses a deep and enduring problem for presidents.

In this first-of-its-kind study, Resowing the Seeds of War explains how Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Obama managed the political, policy, and bureaucratic challenges that arise at the end of war via a series of rhetorical choices that reframe, modify, or unravel depictions of national enemies, the cause of the conflict, and the stakes for the nation and world. This end-of-war rhetoric justifies ending hostilities, rationalizes postwar national policy, argues for the construction of postwar security arrangements, and often sustains public support for massive financial investment in reconstruction.

By tracking presidential manipulations of savage imagery from World War II to the War on Terror, Resowing the Seeds of War concludes that even as metaphoric reframing facilitates exit from conflict, the same rhetorical gestures incur unexpected consequences that make national involvement in the next conflict more likely.

Stephen J. Heidt has taught at Florida Atlantic University, California Lutheran University, and California State University, Northridge, focusing on the form and function of presidential rhetoric in policy deliberation. He has published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, the Southern Communication Journal, and a number of edited volumes.

Resowing the Seeds of War: Presidential Peace Rhetoric since 1945 is available at and other fine booksellers. Stephen is @sjhrhetoric on Twitter. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on Twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo.

Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi people. The University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw.

34 episodes