Vagueness as a political strategy: weasel words in security council resolutions relating to the second gulf war
Scotto di Carlo, Giuseppina (2011) Vagueness as a political strategy: weasel words in security council resolutions relating to the second gulf war. [Tesi di dottorato] (Inedito)
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Over the last few years the diplomatic language of UN resolutions has repeatedly been questioned for the excessive presence of vagueness. In an era of expanding international contacts between different legal systems, international institutions such as the UN are constantly faced with the need to overcome cultural divergences of their recipient countries. In order to meet these requirements, UN diplomatic texts may use vague words quite extensively. Such terms, whose meaning is very flexible, variable and strictly dependent on context and interpretation, have been defined by Mellinkoff (1963: 21) as “weasel words”. The use of vague terms could be connected to the genre of diplomatic texts, as resolutions should be applicable to every international contingency. However, excessive vagueness could also lead to biased or even strategically-motivated interpretations of resolutions, undermining their legal impact and triggering conflicts instead of diplomatic solutions. This doctoral thesis is based on two main research aims: A first section aims at investigating on whether the use of strategic vagueness in Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq has contributed to the breakout of the second Gulf war instead of a diplomatic solution of the controversy. Using the qualitative Discourse-Historical approach (Wodak 2000) and quantitative analysis tools (Antconc and Sketch Engine), special attention is given to the historical/political consequences of vagueness used in that framework, and to the study of vague ‘weasel words’ (Mellinkoff 1963), modals, and adjectives contained in the corpus. The hypothesis of intentional vagueness is further reinforced through an analysis of the American legislation related to the outbreak of the war, to reveal how the U.S. has interpreted UN legislation and to understand the purposes and consequences of vague language contained in it. A second section of the study was originated by the desire to understand whether the same patterns would be used in resolutions relating to the Iranian 2010 nuclear crises revealing a relationship between the choice of vague linguistic features and intent to use intentional vagueness as a political strategy. The findings indicate that: - Vagueness in resolutions has triggered the Iraqi conflict instead of diplomatic solutions. - Similar patterns can also be found in resolutions relating to the Iranian 2010 nuclear crises: although being less vague than the resolutions relating to Iraq in order to avoid the same historical consequences, the legislation related to the Iranian nuclear controversy still suggests the UN intentional use of some vague linguistic patterns as a political strategy.
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