The United States’ reaction to the Arab Spring
A critical stylistic analysis
This study explores ideological embedding in US presidential rhetoric on aggression and conflict. Specifically, it examines President Obama’s first official statement on each of the 2011 popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. The first statements are sampled because they are often carefully timed and phrased to project position and perspective. The objective of the study is to examine how Obama’s speeches on the Arab Spring articulate US ideological assumptions about the pro-reform protests (and protestors), the aggressive responses of the embattled regimes and the conflict which developed as a result. The methodology of analysis is constituted by the analytical framework of Critical Stylistics. Findings from the analysis reveal the ways in which value systems and sets of beliefs may be structured in the language of aggression and conflict, and, more specifically, the ways in which Obama’s ideological attitudes and assumptions are embedded in the structure of his statements. Obama’s construction of the different unrests, for example, is evident in the naming conventions, his evaluation of the revolutionaries and their oppressors is reflected in the transitivity patterns, and the US regional priorities are signposted by the structural subordination options.
Keywords: Arab spring, Middle East and North Africa, US foreign policy, critical stylistics, Barack Obama
Published online: 21 July 2014
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