ABSTRACT

In 2008, it was widely believed that the election of Barack Obama to the United States presidency would herald a significant shift in the country’s security and counterterrorism approach, perhaps even precipitating an end to the much-maligned global ‘war on terror’. However, a number of studies of his first years in office have concluded that the continuities between Bush’s ‘war on terror’ and Obama’s ‘war against violent extremism’ have been much greater than the noted differences, which were, in any case, comparatively minor. Moreover, the potential for a major change in policy and approach by Obama was highly circumscribed due to the institutionalization and cultural sedimentation of the war on terror discourse, the vested interests and functionality inherent in its continuation, the broader cultural acceptance and diffusion of the key terrorism narratives, the absence of a powerful change agent, and the missing structural conditions necessary for precipitating major discursive change (see Jackson 2011, 2013; McCrisken 2011, 2012).