Obama, the Media, and Framing the U.S. Exit from Iraq and Afghanistan. By Erika G. King. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014. 226 pp.
Erika G. King's new book is a systematic effort to document the voices in the domestic public sphere pertaining to U.S. policies on Afghanistan and Iraq. It specifically focuses on the Obama administration's "surge-then-exit policy" (p. 74) in Afghanistan in December 2009 and its decision to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq in August 2010. Although this period is anticlimactic compared to the 2001-2003 buildup, its voices illustrate equally as much about the recent state of U.S. political discourse.
The book is organized into five chapters. Chapter 1 discusses the contentious discourse surrounding the surge strategy in Iraq during the administration of George W. Bush. The chapter shows how General David Petraeus came to be publicly and politically associated with the surge strategy--conveniently serving as a vehicle for Bush to ward off attacks from the Democrats regarding his actions in Iraq. Chapter 2 highlights the Obama administration's strategy in Afghanistan. Obama had faulted the Bush administration for failing to deploy troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan and thereby losing ground to al Qaeda--that is, in the real war on terror. By casting the campaign in Afghanistan as a "war of necessity" (p. 51) and not as a war of choice, Obama legitimized the need to commit troops there as part of a surge-and-exit intervention. Chapter 3 then captures the various criticisms involving these surge-and-exit strategies in mainstream U.S. media outlets. Criticisms emerged concerning the legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai; the illegitimacy and ineffectiveness of U.S. forces on the ground as violence reigned in Pakistan; and Obama's decision making, especially involving a troop level purportedly insufficient to carry out a full-scale counterinsurgency mission and an exit plan that was unclear and indefinite (or, in contrast, too clear and definite in the eyes of some).
Chapter 4 shifts to Obama's framing of Iraq's situation from 2008 to 2010. It presents the administration's effort, in preparation for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, to account for its success and accomplishments as well as its aspirations for Iraq. Chapter 5, then, describes the voices in the domestic media that competed to define the U.S. legacy in Iraq in light of the long-term damage and the ongoing, unsettling situation there. One theme of this...