Keywords: Discourse Analysis; Institutional Discourse; Vagueness in Security Council Resolutions.
This paper sets out to investigate patterns of linguistic vagueness in United Nations Security Council resolutions. In particular, the study aims to tease out whether the use of strategic vagueness has contributed to the breakout of the 2002-2003 Gulf war instead of leading to a diplomatic settlement of the controversies, and whether similar patterns have emerged in resolutions addressing other international political crises. The study presents a comparative analysis between a corpus of UN Security Council resolutions relating to the Second Gulf War and a corpus of resolutions concerning the 2010 Iranian nuclear crisis, focussing on two specific sections of the text type under scrutiny: preambulatory and operative clauses. The analysis shows how vague wording can be used to lead to intentionally biased interpretations of the law, as in the case of the Iraq War when vague formulations enabled the US to justify its military intervention, or to mitigate international tensions, as it is supposedly the case with the Iranian nuclear crisis.