The Supply Side Frame

Kumar Ramanathan kramanathan at
Tue Oct 9 14:54:29 EST 2001

Instead of focusing on jingoistic rhetoric in a burkian light, can't we dig
deeper? What needs attention, in my mind at least, is US Foreign Policy in
the Middle East. With that said, how would you superimpose Burke in the
construction of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East? Rhetorically, the good
vs. evil battle ground has been established. In fact, this ground has
historically resurrected itself. Recall Reagan when he appealed that
terrorists must not be allowed to disrupt the "civilized" world. There were
appeals even made in calling this a war where the rules of engagement were
not entirely known.

Sounds familiar.

As professors and students of rhetoric, it is our moral imperative to
understand how United States foreign policy affects the lives of millions in
the Middle East and in the United States. There has been no mainstream media
outlet that has done a decent job in covering this. Furthermore, as students
of language, our input is essential in asserting the rhetorical tensions
present in US foreign policy. One question: Is the scapegoat principle
inherent in all policy creation? I would say yes and there must be other
rhetorical means to shift emphasis.

Who is good and who is evil is completely irrelevant. As far as I am
concerned, US policy in the Middle East has been only tyrannical, and this
is how the "evildoers" justify their actions. Let's face it, folks,
"democracy" does not work everywhere. A country needs to be ready to make
that sort of conversion. Again, what happened on September 11 affected me in
ways that I will never share with any of you, but as a student of rhetoric,
this is far from a battle of good vs. evil. This is about a world which is
becoming increasingly unstable and we are all to blame, including the US.
The bigger question is how are we all going to live with each other?

Students and scholars of rhetoric, we also need to pay closer attention to
the rhetoric of diplomacy and not turn this into some half-wit's critique of
what they saw on television. No one has asked the question of diplomatic
meetings between the US and the Middle East for the past 20 years. Questions
of diplomatic history are paramount in order to understand "terrorist"
activities. Here is something else for all of you to chew on: In 2000, the
State Department and the CIA issued this report on terrorism where they
defined it as the following:
The Patterns of Global Terrorism (released by the State Department and the
CIA) defines terrorism as the following:

"The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence
perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or
clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

The term ‘international terrorism’ means terrorism involving citizens or the
territory of more than one country.

The term ‘terrorist group’ means any group practicing, or that has
significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism

"To influence an audience" should get everybody writing. Come on, Burke
scholars, give me all that you got.

Ann Coulter is an idiot. In that statement, this vicious human being sounds
too much like Bin Laden, and I mean that with all sincerity.

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-kb at [mailto:owner-kb at]On Behalf Of
Edappel8 at
Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2001 2:51 PM
To: kb at
Subject: The Supply Side Frame

I sent the following post to CRTNET.  I thought I'd send it to kb also,
it deals with, directly or indirectly, several dramatistic themes, namely,
the motive of perfection, the entelechial dimension of symbols, symbolic
selection and deflection, scope and reduction, and, of course, language as
motive.  I don't mean I go into all these facets of Burkeanism in my post.
seasoned Burkoid will, though, note the relevance of those constructs to my

I'm still not "domesticated" vis-a-vis the CRTNET audience, I do not
 I suspect there are many, many conservatives on the list I've already
offended, and may do so again with this screed.

How is the Right, and even some Moderates, framing the Administration's "War
on Terrorism"?  It's Good vs. Evil.
President Bush has framed the issue in just such a way.  We're going to root
out and eliminate the "evildoers" and all those regimes that support or turn
a blind eye to them.  In one statement, in fact, Bush said we will eradicate
all the "evildoers" in the world.
Charles Krauthammer, writing originally in the Washington Post, has no
trouble calling for such "clarity."  "Has there ever been a time," he says,
"when the distinction between good and evil was more clear?'"  "At a time
like this," he adds, "those who search for shades of evil, or root causes,
for extenuations, are, to borrow from Lance Morrow, 'too philosophical for
decent company'" (reprinted in the Lancaster [PA] Sunday News, Sept. 23).
Michael Kelly (Washington Post, Sept. 26) regards the evil of 9/11 as so
global and hideous, he attaches it to the pacifist peace marchers in
Washington, who would resist searching it out and destroying it.  "Pacifism
is," he contends, "inescapably and profoundly immoral. . . . They [the
pacifists] are objectively proterrorist."  As a pacifist, "You are saying,
fact I believe that it is better to allow more Americans--perhaps a great
many more--to be murdered than to capture or kill the murderers.  That is
pacifist position, and it is evil."
Ann Coulter, in her now-famous commentary on the National Review website,
imputed this odious evil even unto the "smilers" of the Muslim world.  "This
is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly
involved in this paticular terrorist attack," Coulter cautioned.  "Those
responsible include ANYONE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD WHO SMILED in response to
the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olsen. . . . We know who the
homicidal maniacs are.  They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.
should invade their country, kill their leaders, and convert them to
Christianity. . . . We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians.
That's war.  And this is war" (emphasis added).
And why not, David Horowitz, a Coulter apologist, argues.  "We have been
attacked in the most heinous way in the history of warfare" (Fox News, Oct.
We don't really have to know, we don't really want to know, what specific
motivations these senseless terrorists have, or think they have, said
Medved, the conservative movie critic, on ABC's Politically Incorrect.
There's just evil in the world, that's all: blind, irrational hatred and
wickedness.  It's useless and naive to try to fathom it.
Now, a rhetorical critic is not delving deeply into the nonobvious when he
she notes that the Pristinely-Good-vs.-the-Endemic-and-Inexplicable-Evil
frame absolves the victims of these Evil acts from reflexivity, looking
inward at what they might have done to provoke such rage and carnage.  The
question Newsweek addresswes on the cover of its current issue, "Why They
Hate Us," is either irrelevant or self-servingly answerable.  Why, say
Right-Wingers from Peter Beinart, editor, and Martin Peretz, publisher, of
The New Republic, to radio icon Rush Limbaugh, they are just "jealous,"
"envious," of our "happiness" and "success" as a nation and a culture (TNR,
Sept. 24; see especially Peretz, "Israel, the United States, and Evil:
Counting").  The Muslim/Arab World can't stand it that we have so much, and
they, so little; that we serve as a standing rebuke to their "backward"
religion and culture.  Envy is by far the greatest of the "Seven Deadly
Sins," William F. Buckley, Jr., the Founding Father of the current multitude
of conservative ideologues has been telling us for five decades.
What is nonobvious is the creative reframing of the conflict Norah Vincent
accomplishes in her Oct 3rd column in the Los Angeles Times.  She calls the
frame the United States is now basing its new "War on Terrorism" on one of
"supply side" combat, after the economic model implemented during the Reagan
years.  She likens our present approach to the "War on Drugs."  In that
encounter, we were "routinely dusting coca crops with herbicides and
firebombing cocaine production in Colombia, impounding smuggled shipments at
the border, overcrowding our prisons by giving hefty sentences to petty drug
offenders"--all to little avail because WE DIDN'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THE
SIDE OF DEMAND!  We couldn't impede the importation of all the drugs from
South America.  The drug cartel could make a profit on a mere 10 percent
success rate.
We are embarking once again, says Vincent, on a supply-side crusade that
promises about the same level of success: very little.  We can't keep all
terrorists out of the U. S.  Many, many are already here.  We can't keep
all away from our far-flung and vulnerably exposed outposts.  There are too
many of those bases and too many "enemies" out there who "hate" us and will
sacrifice their lives to express that hatred.  What we need to do, if
to be any hope of curtailing or sharply reducing the number and severity of
terrorist attacks in the future (what success has Britain or Israel had with
"supply side" approaches?) is to address "demand."  That requires rewriting
the Good-vs.-Evil senario into one that accommodates the "shades of evil, or
root causes," Krauthammer wants to ignore.
Is USAmerica up to it?  Does the "loyal opposition" have the courage to swim
against the currents of "patriotic" indignation that have given George W.
Bush 80 to 90 percent approval to extirpate the "evildoers" and ask
It's Good vs. Evil, the Right assures us.  Let's liquidate the "supply" of
terrorism because there really is no "demand" that we need to recognize,
is in the slightest degree worthy of consideration.

Ed Appel

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