Review of International Studies

Research Article

Human rights narrative in the George W. Bush Administrations



This article examines the human rights claims made by the George W. Bush Administrations of their post 9/11 foreign and security policy. Two common scholastic explanations of this narrative are evaluated: (i) that human rights constitute, at least in part, independent foreign policy goals and; (ii) that the human rights claims of policymakers can be dismissed as hypocritical rhetoric. The article informs and progresses this debate by revisiting the works of the early twentieth century political culture theorists Gabriel Almond, Graham Wallas and Edward Bernays. The article details the consistent use of a human rights narrative by administration officials as a technique of political discipline. The article identifies five linguistic mechanisms through which this technique of discipline was made manifest in practice. The article thereby explains how a human rights narrative was employed as an instrument to inculcate, rather than describe, reality.

(Online publication April 30 2010)

Jan Hancock is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Cape Breton University. He completed his PhD at Southampton University and held lecturing and research posts at Birkbeck College and Manchester University before moving to Cape Breton. His most recent monograph, Human Rights and US Foreign Policy, was published by Routledge in 2007.