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Campus Access

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



counterinsurgency, war on terror, Iraq, discourse, narrative, FM 3-24


The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24) was published in 2006 and used by the military to consolidate counterinsurgency strategies and tactics and correct the growing military problems in Iraq. However, rather unusually, this military doctrinal publication was also heavily publicized through a wide array of media to the American public giving it an important role in political discourse and the rhetorical history of the U.S. ‘war on terror’. Beyond its military application, the FM 3-24 can be understood as a rhetorical device used by the Bush Administration to repair a collapsing ‘war on terror’ narrative and shore up plummeting public support for the war in Iraq, which had reached its lowest levels at the time of the manual’s publication. Still more important is the language in the text itself, which bears a conspicuous tone of benevolence, historically uncharacteristic to military doctrine. Despite this ‘spirit of goodwill,’ the FM 3-24, in fact, functions as a segment of the ‘war on terror’ narrative and an ideological vehicle for American global hegemony directed primarily toward American audiences. This view is justified by three main trends in the text: One, the manual omits mention of, or minimizes, the moral and political impact of military invasions on foreign countries that necessarily precede counterinsurgency operations; two, it relies fundamentally on legal arrangements with occupied countries that favor American prerogatives; and three, it reduces counterinsurgencies to a simple dichotomy between good and evil, the latter role being assigned to anyone who opposes the United States, which therefore denies the political complexities of that opposition. The FM 3-24 is a prescriptive document that has been 1) designed to militarily extend or reinforce American global power through counterinsurgency operations and 2) used politically to reproduce or justify particular attitudes in the American public that will foster support for those operations.


First Advisor

Benjamin Bailey

Second Advisor

Leda Cooks