Academic journal article Style

When "Surge" Signifies Rapid Increases of American Combatants Sent to Foreign Warfare: Classical Enargeia for Contemporary Metaphor

Academic journal article Style

When "Surge" Signifies Rapid Increases of American Combatants Sent to Foreign Warfare: Classical Enargeia for Contemporary Metaphor

Article excerpt

The welcoming banner proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." On I May 2003, wearing sage green flight gear, President George W. Bush landed by U.S. Navy jet on an aircraft carrier off San Diego and announced victory by American armed forces in Iraq. With swift military might, Americans overcame Saddam Hussein's forces, ended the Iraqi dictator's regime, and brought him to trial for hangman's justice. Nevertheless, increasing deaths ensued for Americans--from rocket-propelled grenades, ubiquitous Kalashnikov assault weapons, and increasingly improved, lethal varieties of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)--in streets and alleys of Fallujah, Karbala, and Baghdad itself. By 1 May 2004, of 532 American service personnel killed in Iraq, 421 died after "Mission Accomplished" and 807 more deaths occurred from Memorial Day 2006 through Memorial Day 2007 (Carpenter 8-9).

Americans' martial "mission" in Iraq could be "accomplished" only by more troops with "boots on the ground," and in his State of the Union Address on 10 January 2007, President Bush announced his deploying more combatants there. With growing public disfavor of continuing warfare, however, doing so could elicit comparisons to Vietnam in the 1960s and President Lyndon Johnson's crumbling credibility. Although "surge" is not in President Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address, a more rhetorically advantageous wording became necessary; and his decision morphed into metaphor, whereby in a radio address of 12 April 2008, President Bush could say, "fifteen months ago this week, I announced the surge." By January 2009, more than 4,000 American troops had died in Iraq. By October 2009, commentary about that continued warring compared American martial endeavor to colonial warfare in 1913. Against Somalia's legendary "Mad Mullah," who "prefigured the rise of Osama bin Ladin--and the 'forever war' between Islam and the West," British politicians argued for "a more aggressive stance--a 'surge,' in today's parlance" (Bartholet 42-47). When "surge" is everyday "parlance" and a literal word for a mode of warfare, its destructiveness, and continuing casualties, the metaphor merits inquiry.

In a widely used dictionary, primary definitions of "surge" are "1. a) a large mass of moving water; wave; swell; billow, b) such waves or billows collectively. 2. a movement of or like that of a mass of water; violent, rolling, sweeping, or swelling motions: as the surge of the sea." Now, with ubiquitous computers and sophisticated home entertainment systems, Americans also know "surge" as "3. a short, sudden rush or excess of electric current in a circuit" (for which our surge protectors prevent damage). Quoted in 2007 newspaper commentary entitled "Words of War: Terms Carefully Chosen," George Lakoff noted how language "frames" political discourse: "It's no coincidence supporters of sending additional troops to Iraq advocate a 'surge' rather than an 'increase' ... [because] surge says it goes up and goes down--and not only that, it goes up and goes down quickly" (Stripling). From a larger linguistics perspective, "political and economic ideologies are framed in metaphorical terms. Like all other metaphors, political and economic metaphors can hide aspects of reality. But in the area of politics and economics, metaphors matter more because they constrain our lives" (Lakoff and Johnson 236). When "surge" constrains Americans' lives its analysis is predicated upon a directive drawn from studying organizational communication: identify and explain what is "exceptional--whether qualitatively or quantitatively--in producing or failing to produce, the desired effects" (Tompkins 432).

A 2004 National Communication Association Golden Anniversary Monograph Prize went to an "exemplar of engaged, contemporaneous rhetorical criticism" in Rhetoric & Public Affairs (Spectra 17). Therein, John Murphy found President Bush's discourse after 11 September 2001 to be epideictic; for unlike "deliberative discourse" justifying "expediency or practicality" of future action (such as warfare), "epideictic rhetoric" uses "appeals that unify the community and amplify its virtues" in the present because audiences are "observers" of how communicators echo "the voice of the people" (609). …

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