America Responds to Terrorism: Conflict Resolution Strategies of Clinton, Bush and Obama. By Karen A. Feste. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 276 pp.
In America Responds to Terrorism, Karen A. Feste uses frame theory to explore the responses of the three most recent presidential administrations to problems of international terrorism. Following a chapter outlining frame theory, the author applies the theory to presidential frames. In further chapters, she explores the framing of conflict escalation, the terrorism threat itself, and terrorism conflict resolution, ending with the use of framing analysis in evaluating presidential statements. Three chapters then explore the strategies of the Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Obama administrations. In its analysis, the book makes valuable use of extracts from statements and other documents and presents numerous tables that provide extensive further data. There is a substantial bibliography and an appropriately detailed index.
In using frame theory as the underlying tool of analysis, Feste identifies it as providing "a perspective that highlights subjective features of conflict seen through the lens of decision makers. Frames are created out of belief structures, values, and experiences that result in perceptions, assumptions, and explanations of the way the world operates" (p. 4). In a view that is especially pertinent to the subject of this study, she sees a frame as "a central organizing idea for making sense of relevant events and suggesting what is at issue. The rhetorical power of a frame comes from its function to heighten the saliency of some aspects of reality over others" (p. 15, emphasis added).
The overall outcome of the security framing of the three administrations is a contrast of approaches, with President Bill Clinton adopting a conflict avoidance strategy, President George W. Bush embracing a fight-to-win policy, and President Barack Obama going for a problem-solving approach. In the traditional parlance of international relations, one might categorize them, respectively, as being rooted in liberalism, realism, and constructivism. The book is necessarily preliminary in its assessment of the Obama approach, having little more than two years to cover. However, it is fair to say that this part of the text stands up well, at least at the time of writing this review (February 2012).
America Responds to Terrorism has much of value. The use of frame theory generally works well and provides...