Get access

Using Force to Save Face: The Performative Side of War


  • Ben D. Mor


The recent turn to emotions in foreign policy research has resulted in several studies of humiliation and revenge as motivations for the use of force. This paper proposes a dramaturgical perspective to expand on this research agenda, focusing on the performative aspects of foreign policy as remedial action to restore spoiled identities. The basic argument is that the visibility and transparency generated by the communications and information revolution have thrust decision makers onto a public stage on which their (live) performance and public image are constantly scrutinized by domestic and international audiences, making image predicaments and humiliation a constant threat. Discredited performances (such as military failures) call for facework, and the subsequent use of force then becomes, at least partly, a means of impression management to reclaim an identity, legitimate a role, and regain self-esteem. These ideas are investigated in a case study of Israeli decision making during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Get access to the full text of this article