Winston Churchill famously said that “To ‘Jaw, Jaw’ is always better than to ‘War, War.’” My experience as U.S. ambassador to ECOSOC (the U.N. Economic and Social Council) and assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs compels me to disagree. Since the ultimate purpose of war is to break the enemy’s will, talk that effectively stigmatizes one’s adversaries can be a decisively important strategic weapon. It can dissolve their internal cohesion by planting and cultivating moral doubts about their cause, literally demoralizing their forces. This in turn can exacerbate divisions, fomenting and emboldening internal opposition to their war effort.
The use and abuse of propaganda was a standard feature of strategic planning, long before it became a fixture of the national security infrastructure of just about every nation on earth. I have always
Given the rhetorically aggressive approach that characterized Donald Trump’s tactics against his opponents in the late election, I have no doubt that he understands the strategic use and abuse of propaganda. Still, his assertion in the tweet quoted above, that the U.N. has great potential, reminds me of the oft quoted saying about South America’s largest country (I first heard it from the 20th century’s American emissary par excellence Vernon Walters, while traveling with him as a young Policy Planning staffer.): “Brazil is the land of the future, and always will be.” Perhaps it’s even more fitting to apply this observation to the U.N. system. It is supposed to represent a world that realizes the potential union of humanity. But it is a potential that human nature at once assumes and contradicts.
Taking Donald Trump’s manifest political disposition into account, I’m sure he understands how strategically damaging talk can be when strategically deployed. I’m also sure he knows that, when people get together to talk at U.N. meetings “having a good time” is a false front, maintained mainly for propaganda purposes. The real intention is to give someone else a bad time. He tweeted in the context of the U.N. majority’s latest propaganda assault on their favorite “whipping boy,” the state of Israel. As I repeatedly predicted when I ran against him for a U.S. Senate seat in 2004, Barack Obama has ultimately betrayed America’s best interests in relation to Israel. In refusing to veto UNSC Resolution 2334, Barack Obama has acted in keeping with his background as a hardline leftist ideologue. From the first he sought to humiliate Israel; and now, at the last, he has “joined the jackals” to betray her.
I acquired the understanding needed to grasp the full import of this betrayal when I served under the tutelage of an expert in the intricacies of multilateral diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Especially in the context of the U.N.-based assault against Israel, Ambassador Kirkpatrick understood how propaganda can be fashioned into a powerful weapon. By refusing to exercise the U.S. prerogative to veto U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, Barack Obama puts the United States in the position of formally surrendering to the PLO’s longstanding strategic abuse of the U.N. system.
In a Commentary article in 1989, Ambassador Kirkpatrick discussed the PLO’s strategy “to use the arenas and instrumentalities of diplomacy – especially multilateral diplomacy – and public relations to achieve legitimacy, and then to use legitimacy to win territory. The notion that might can make right is common enough in our cynical times. That a presumption of right could be the basis for creating might is a less familiar idea.”
The presumption of right on one side encourages the presumption of wrong on the other. As Ambassador Kirkpatrick observed, “Both Americans and Israelis have been slow to understand that terrorist attacks are self-consciously political acts. The youthful martyrs of the West Bank seem to prove the PLO’s point: that Palestinians are David and Israel is a heartless Goliath.” Obviously, allowing terrorist attacks to be legitimized in this way does not only affect Israel’s security. It affects the security of every nation faced with the threat of terrorist attacks, speciously legitimized by false claims of political righteousness.
This implication is especially ominous because it creates an escape clause from the rules of war, which the existing system of international organizations was supposed to clarify and enforce. Instead, charges of aggression and brutality have become the “politically correct” basis for hamstringing governments as they deal with attacks against their citizens, at home and abroad. Meanwhile, claims of political righteousness prejudice decisions on matters that are supposed to be subject to the rule of law, and outcomes that are supposed to be the fruit of negotiated agreement.
Bloody, murderous terrorist acts targeted against unarmed people are used to enforce and advance the agenda of the practitioners of terror. They are put in play against the existence and maintenance of peacefully intended suburban developments, whose very existence is decried as evidence of brutality and persecution.
Given the results of this or that talk fest at the U.N., too many Americans still casually assume that it’s just harmless palaver. The president of the United States ought not to encourage this delusion. Given that the front lines of the terrorists’ war have been extended from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to New York, Boston and San Bernardino, its long past time to dispense with it altogether. Therefore, I doubt that President-elect Trump really subscribes to the notion that the U.N.’s “Jaw, Jaw” is simply about overpaid diplomats/bureaucrats “having a good time.”
Therefore, I pray that he will extend his appreciation of the damaging strategic uses of rhetorical warfare – which he has already demonstrated in America’s politics – to the diplomatic venues, where it may truly be of service to our common good. Jeanne Kirkpatrick thought we should war against lies with truth. She saw that, in our epoch, Jaw, Jaw is often a form of War, War. Even when we were indisputably the world’s greatest national power, it was a war we could ill afford to lose, or even neglect. How can it be otherwise now?
Written by Alan Keyes
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