Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology

By Robert L. Ivie; Philip Wander et al. | Go to book overview

2
Rhetoric and Cold War: A Strategic Approach

Martin J. Medhurst

A strategic approach to Cold War rhetoric is predicated upon a realist view of the world; not the world as it ought to be or as we might wish it to be, but the world as it currently exists with its varying political systems, governmental philosophies, economic assumptions, power relationships, and dominant personalities. By adopting a realist position, one also embraces an accompanying axiom: that systems, philosophies, assumptions, relationships, and personalities change and that one's response to any given situation must change with them, reflecting reality as it currently exists or is perceived to exist rather than what existed last week, last month, or last year or what might exist tomorrow, next week, or next year. Decisions are made according to a reading of the current situational configuration. Such a reading involves the collection, analysis, and interpretation of numerous pieces of data and the weighing of that data in light of the strategic assumptions and goals held by those in decision- making positions.

Cold War, like its "hot" counterpart, is a contest. It is a contest between competing systems as represented, for example, by the Soviet Union and the United States. It is a contest involving such tangibles as geography, markets, spheres of influence, and military alliances, as well as such intangibles as public opinion, attitudes, images, expectations, and beliefs about whatever system is currently in ascendancy. The contest, in other words, is both material and psychological in nature.

The currency of Cold War combat -- the tokens used in the contest -- is rhetorical discourse: discourse intentionally designed to achieve a particular goal with one or more specific audience. While the weapons of a hot war are guns, bombs, missiles, and the like, Cold War weapons are words, images, symbolic actions, and, on occasion, physical actions undertaken by covert means. For the most part, however, Cold War is a matter of symbolic action, action intended to forward the accomplishment of strategic goals -- social, political, economic, military, or diplomatic.

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