Selling Afghanistan: A Discourse Analysis of Canada's Military Intervention, 2001-08

By Boucher, Jean-Christophe | International Journal, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Selling Afghanistan: A Discourse Analysis of Canada's Military Intervention, 2001-08


Boucher, Jean-Christophe, International Journal


Since 2001, Canada's successive federal governments have gone to great pains to explain the military intervention in Afghanistan to Canadians. In spite of these attempts, communicating with the public about Canada's involvement in Afghanistan has been a challenge for political leaders. Many commentators have been critical of the Canadian government's communication strategy and have alleged that disapproval for the mission was greatly influenced by the inability of Canadian officials to present a clear and transparent public message on Afghanistan.' Though this view is widely held, there has been no rigorous empirical examination of the content of the official discourse on the Canadian operation in Afghanistan since 2001. Given the absence of such analyses, the following questions must be addressed: is this harsh judgment of Canadian officials warranted? If so, does it imply that successive Canadian governments have failed to effectively explain Canada's presence in, and policies towards, Afghanistan?

This article examines how successive Canadian governments have explained and justified Canada's presence in Afghanistan between September 2001 and March 2008. In particular, I examine how successive Canadian governments (those of Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper) have presented and sold Canada's presence in Afghanistan. My findings reveal that there has been a significant variation in the quality and content of government speeches on Afghanistan. Based on these findings, the article reinforces criticisms that this varying quality and content has weakened the coherence of the successive governments' Afghan message.

To conduct this study, I collected all published speeches made by prime ministers, ministers of national defence, and ministers of foreign affairs and international trade between September 2001 and March 2008. In all, 101 speeches mentioning the Afghan issue were examined.2 Though I endeavoured to collect all the speeches available, it is possible that some may have escaped my attention. However, on an aggregate level, this should not overly affect the analysis. It should be noted, furthermore, that it is not my aim to analyze the accuracy of the speeches, but rather to analyze their coherence. As such, I have observed that the Canadian government's message on Afghanistan has been chaotic for most of the past seven years, with the rationales and justifications for the mission undergoing notable shifts. This leads me to conclude that the federal government has not succeeded in clearly communicating the logic behind Canada's intervention and actions in Afghanistan.

The article begins by reviewing critiques of the Canadian government's efforts to explain the Afghan mission. Next, it outlines the three types of justification used to legitimize Canada's intervention in Afghanistan, and compares how the Chrétien, Martin, and Harper governments employed these justifications. In conclusion, the article assesses whether existing critiques of the governments' communication strategies are fair.

CANADA GOES TO AFGHANISTAN: COMMUNICATION KERFUFFLE

Certain high-profile commentators have been dismayed by the Canadian government's efforts to communicate and explain Canada's role in Afghanistan. Janice Stein and Eugene Lang, for instance, assert that the Afghan mission suffers from a personality disorder. The federal government was unable, they say, to explain the various reasons why Canada invested substantial military and financial assets in Afghanistan, describing the mission as being one of sanction, combat, and/or reconstruction. Stein and Lang argue that "[n]o country can afford to go to war with... confusion of purpose. Canada's leaders would need to make compelling arguments for why Canada is fighting far away from home."3 They further contend that the rationale behind the mission was confused and deficient.

The independent panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan, chaired by John Manley and whose report was published in January 2008, agreed with this critical assessment. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Selling Afghanistan: A Discourse Analysis of Canada's Military Intervention, 2001-08
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.