Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Back To The Real Campaign Issues

Campaign 2008: Jaw, Jaw, War, War


Winston Churchill, master of eloquent bellicosity, is also remembered for saying that "'Jaw, jaw' is better than 'war, war.'"

Winston Churchill, master of eloquent bellicosity, is also remembered for saying that "'Jaw, jaw' is better than 'war, war.'" As a general matter, who could disagree? If conflicts can be settled by the arts of politics and diplomacy, they should be. But are there situations when "jaw, jaw" makes things more dangerous than the plausible threat of "war, war"? Can the soft power of "jaw, jaw" change minds bent on wickedness, absent the mind-concentrating possibility of the use of hard power ?

The classic cautionary tale here involves Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler. Prime Minister Chamberlain's "jaw, jaw" with Hitler at the 1938 Munich conference wrote a death sentence for independent Czechoslovakia; when Chamberlain returned to London to proclaim "peace with honor" to the cheering throng, Sir Orme Sargent, a senior Foreign Office official, observed acidly, "You might think that we had won a major victory instead of betraying a minor country." That betrayal -- which was rooted in Chamberlain's vane conviction that he could talk Hitler into reason and moderation -- helped unleash the dogs of war, on very unfavorable terms for the defenders of civilization.

The Kennedy-Khrushchev summit of 1961 was another example of "jaw, jaw" making things worse. By Kennedy's own (off-the-record) testimony, the Soviet dictator ran roughshod over him. Coming shortly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, the Vienna summit left Kennedy worried that Khrushchev judged him a weakling -- a premonition that proved warranted a year later when the Soviet Union began installing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba, dramatically escalating the Cold War. The net result of a failed "jaw, jaw" between JFK and "Mr. K"? The Cuban Missile Crisis, and a world teetering on the brink of "one minute to midnight"(as Michael Dobbs' new book on the drama of October 1962 puts it.)

"Jaw, jaw" was unavailing in the 1990s as Yugoslavia came apart at the seams; "jaw, jaw" has arguably made matters worse with North Korea (now a nuclear power), Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Burma. On the other hand, "jaw, jaw" prevented a bloody little war between Argentina and Chile in the late 1970s; "jaw, jaw" broke the political-military logjam between Egypt and Israel and led to the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty; and "jaw, jaw" may just have taken hold in the embryonic political institutions of Iraq, making something approaching responsible and responsive government possible there.

In the presidential campaign, the question of whether "jaw, jaw" is always better than "war, war" will likely focus on Iran.

For six years, the world has known about Iran's secret nuclear programs. American and European diplomacy has failed to get Iran to come clean on what it's really up. The U.N. has proven less-than-useless; the organizations's chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed El Baradei, is usually dismissive of western security concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Last December's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which claimed that Iran had stopped pursuing the weaponization of nuclear technology shortly after Saddam Hussein fell, is of cold comfort when you realize that building the bomb itself is relatively easy; what the Iranians have been concentrating on in recent years is hard part -- creating sufficient quantities of weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls Israel a "stinking corpse" and pledges to wipe it off the map; he's made similar threats against the U.S. and Great Britain. Ahmadinejad's political fevers, and those of the mullahs who hold ultimate authority in Iran, involve apocalyptic speculations: as they understand Shi'a eschatology, vaporizing Jerusalem will hasten the messianic age. Is Ahmadinejad a man to whom one can talk reason? Are the mullahs?
If the Iranian nuclear program is not halted, the next president of the United States will almost certainly face the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran that can wreak havoc in the Middle East, transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists, or, in its more subtle moments, conduct nuclear blackmail. How is "jaw, jaw" to prevent this, if Iran's leaders imagine the West to be feckless?
That is a question of the gravest moral and strategic import. It must be discussed seriously in the weeks ahead.


This is a clever little ditty that Mr. Weigel has written. What he fails to mention is that we have already tried the pre emptive war strategy in Iraq, choosing war war over blah blah. He also fails to mention that the UN's chief weapons investigator Mohamed Al Baradei was correct in his assessment of the nuclear capabiliy of Iraq, and that neocons like Mr. Weigel, disparaged his assessment then, as Weigel is doing now, with regards to Iran. Actually, the failure to mention the Iraq war in this piece is very telling. Apparently Mr. Weigel thinks Americans have short term memory issues. I don't have short term memory issues. I encourage Mr. Weigel to view this video before he writes his next piece. Actually I would encourage all Americans to view that video because it is a sobering reminder about our potential future under McCain.

Sarah Palin has had her moment in the political spotlight. It's time to forget her and get back to the real issues. It's not McCain's Vice President, as incredulous a pick as she is, it's McCain that's the real issue.
I took a closer look at the photo of the cover I used for this post and found this article by Pat Buchanan. It contains the quote of his used in the video. It too is worth reading.


  1. Colleen, I realize if McCain wins this election what it will ultimately mean and the link aptly describes the consequences of voting for McCain. If he wins I'll be packing my bags, but not sure where to go. Maybe Canada?

  2. I don't know Butterfly, if Palin's first dude gets his way, maybe Alaska. I wouldn't mind getting $3200/yr just for being a citizen.

    You might want to get moving there now though. I suspect immigration will be a major issue if the first dude and his supporters get their way. Oy yea, and ya better get there before the rapture.

  3. Colleen, I just read your comment on my blog, and you're right: to my amazement, we have dovetailed posts again, as though we had been talking about these themes rather than writing independently of each other miles apart.

    Same themes: the issues, issues, issues, and stop the lying; war as a moral issue that demands pro-life consideration every bit as much as abortion; and the abuse of religion to cover lies.

    I think this is the most important federal election of my lifetime. And if this is a test, I think the American people may well be on their way to failing the test. Lie to people (who are willing to swallow the lies) often enough, dumb them down, and you can get them to do practically anything, especially if you invoke God as your authority.

  4. Bill, you hit the nail on the head in your comment to Colleen: "same themes: the issues, issues, and stop the lying; war as a moral issues that demands pro-life consideration every bit as much as abortion; and the abuse of religion to cover lies."

    Sorry to just uncreatively parrot back what you said. I just can't seem to find words lately and you've done such a good job, as well as Colleen in getting the words that I know to be true. I do feel a tremendous sense of dire emergency though in trying to get through to people.

    Colleen, I forwarded the utube link to some who may or may not be considering McCain as their candidate. I shudder to think of McCain getting into office and drafting people into his "other" wars. If that happens there will definitely be an anti-War movement and John Dear will have his hands full organizing them I guess and doing what he was probably born to do.

    I've noticed on NCR that there have been a lot of reasonable comments back about this election, about denying communion, which is a very good sign. It seemed that not that long ago there were swarms of fundamentalist right wing neo-cons responding with their hate dribble.

    Bill, we've been getting lots of rain here finally on Saturday and today.

  5. I dont know if anyone knows it or not, but today is World Day of Prayer and the first day of 11 Days of Global Unity. It is an interfaith event sponsored by Unity Church. Among the speakers will be Arun Gandhi.

    I looked on several catholic websites, including NCR and not one of them has any coverage of either event. The catholic church's support is conspicuously absent.

    Friday is the 2nd anniversary of the popes inflammatory comments about islam and violence. Lots of coverage of that. Yesterday, David Gibson wrote on beliefnet: "in contrast with America's post-9/11 strategy, there has been some important progress in relations between Rome and Islam".

    What struck me about this was that only a week ago, the pope reiterated the "only one true church" doctrine.

    I watch synchronicities very closely, as I believe they are one of the tools that the "otherside" to communicate to us. I've noticed a a common theme emerging in the last few weeks, not a new theme, but one that is more in the open now ...

    --- the catholic church does not want peace.

    The democrat/democrat abortion war, no doubt was started and is being fueled by the bishopric. I wonder how much money or what promises were made to each of those catholic senators who attacked pelosi?

    The church support of Palin/McCain. Has anyone stopped and thought this through? I dont think so! Palin is an evangelical christian. What is one common them in their religion? Hatred of catholicism and a belief the the antichrist will be one of the popes. The church is telling us the prefered candidate is one who is anti-catholic. Hello people!!!

    (have you noticed that McCain is already 2nd chair in the media?)

    The ever increasing actions by the church to silence not only catholic liberal thought, but ALL liberal thought. Interesting isnt it though, that almost all of these actions are directed against women.

    Then there is the obvious church support of governments and government officials who favor war over peace.


    Canada isnt any better. Just last week, the PM used a loophole he put in after he was elected and dissolved the Canadian parliament. (cute trick) He hopes that the subsequent reelection will give the "conservative" party the majority. Can anyone see the catholic church's hand here? I can. More in the background than in the US, but still present.


    You have a more global perspective than I do, I'm curious to what are you seeing in this regard? (church not wanting peace)