Jaw-War? – Let’s Not Carpet-Bomb Dresden.

The Rhetoric of International Dispute 101 – a Noddy / Abbott guide

Are we outraged? Shall we do something about it? Shall we have Jaw-Jaw or War-War? Let me think. Shall we ask the public if it is in favour of armed intervention that might lead to war? Poll? Referendum? Debate?

No-one is in favour or War-War. Never met a single soul. Anywhere. Ever.

Question is, are you a pacifist activist, or are you a politician of state? More to the point, do you know the difference?

What we’d all prefer is Jaw-Jaw. Actually we might prefer to be lying on the beach, but that’s another story. Let’s get people around the table to talk. Let’s get independent mediators to facilitate that and to independently assess the facts of the outrage brought to the table. Good so far. We’ve brought the horse to the water. Now what?

What are the motives and aims of the people around this table to find solutions? What are the aims and solutions desired by each party? How many parties and aims are there, in fact? Have we been here before? How much do we already think we know? How many of those issues are beyond the immediate outrage? Which reminds me, has the outrage stopped yet?

We need things to focus the mind on the immediate as well as solve the Gordian knot we call The Middle East question. Don’t mention the Jews / Israelis. Rats, just did. Now what? Repeat. We need something to focus on the immediate whilst we wrestle with the (practically) timeless.

We need Jaw-War.

Whether at the conference table or in Trump tweets / diplomatic missives the rhetoric must include real carrots and sticks. Real risk and reward. Real skin in the game. And they need to be credible. Not hollow threats or impossible promises. These  need to be chosen carefully and delivered precisely, surgically, because there are few second chances once promises and threats are broken and mistakes are made. And choosing carefully means with immediate care, care in the moment as well as care for the bigger picture. It does not mean slowly and exhaustively debating every option, now. No stone unturned.

Carefully chosen because each sanction, rhetorical or physical, has limited use. We won’t be carpet-bombing Dresden again any time soon. How did it come to that? Seriously, that’s not a rhetorical question, ask yourself. How did it come to that?

At the same time, ie simultaneously and continuously, those making the immediate Jaw-War decisions, need to take responsibility and be held to account. It’s tough at the top. As well as our institutions of our free democracies, we also need the standing Jaw-Jaw table. The conference that never ends. We can be sure that in the time of some future immediate outrage, that steaming pile of unresolved issues will still be there on the table. You may recall that was the conclusion last time we carpet-bombed Dresden.

No-one wants War-War. That’s failure. Total disaster. We’d all prefer the Jaw-Jaw alternative, but to get that we need integration, not binary choice.

We need Jaw-War.

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[Post Note: It had to happen. Implied and actual criticisms of Diane Abbott always get cast as sexist-racist:

I’m a “Corbynsceptic” and all the Corbynsceptics I know are fellow humans. Corbyn and all the “Corbynistas” are also fellow humans.

I’m sceptical – as the original post here is an example – that Corbyn / Abbott etc are making the gaffe of conflating activism with politics. And they’re doing it with the content (policy) and with the process of getting the best outcomes to happen (politics / rhetoric / media-interviews / debate / diplomacy etc.) Both. Both of them. All of them … Owen Jones, Paul Mason, John McDonnell you name them. And they’re all individuals. Good in parts, ideas and actions. Well all except Owen, but that’s another story 😉 I’m a big fan of Paul Mason in fact, but that’s another story too.

If by “Corbynsceptics” Stephen Bush meant the “Corbynista vs Corbynsceptic” memeplex he does indeed have a point. The standard content and patterns of communication (memes) reflect the archetypes on which they hang (caricatured identities of difference) and in doing so reinforce them to the point of polarisation. It’s a natural evolutionary process that information goes through. We humans have to do everything in our power to steer our communications away from those archetypal polarising caricatures. Corbynista or Corbynsceptic, we owe it to ourselves.

Bush may be right, a Google of media references will indeed prove his (and my) memetic point. As I say, it’s a given, a natural phenomenon. My criticism is that he shouldn’t be reinforcing it?]


Also published on Medium.

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