"To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war."
The source is Winston Churchill, on the occasion of a White House meeting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, to co-ordinate positions against Communism when Vietnam was a serious blot on the horizon.
It also helps to explain the efforts of Barack Obama and John Kerry to bring Israel and Palestinians closer to negotiations, in the context of nuclear bluster from North Korea and the failure of yet another round of discussions with Iran about its nuclear activities. Also clouding the Americans'' credibility is their brokered arrangement between Israel and Turkey that seems to be falling apart.
One can be frustrated, and even angry at the US leadership for its failures until now and the prospect of continued failure due to naivete or incompetence. Or remember Churchill, and conclude that the best Washington can do is to keep the gab flowing. It doesn''t solve anything, but it is better than deaths and destruction.
The obvious question is, does it only delay the inevitable, and make the eventual conflict more costly for the US and its allies? And the ally that is most important to me should be obvious to all who bother to read this.
There is no obvious answer to that obvious question.
One of the worst scenarios--that Iran acquires nuclear weapons--does not mean that war is assured. The US and USSR, as well as India and Pakistan, and so far North Korea suggest that the awful weapons may not be employed, even in the event of conventional warfare between the parties or their clients.
For a long and detailed article on what might be Israel''s ultimate assurance of its security, see this article on German-Israeli cooperation on the supply of submarines said to be equipped with nuclear missiles.
Will such cooperation continue and survive comments from German and other European leaders about Israel''s need to accommodate Palestinians'' concerns?
Read the article and reach your own conclusions. So far, Germany''s cooperation with Israel''s concern to create a retaliatory capacity against the prospect of a strategic attack has held firm. Both countries'' activities are clouded by ambiguity, obfuscation, and claims of innocence.
Among the reports are that Germany is covering one-third of the cost of at least some of the submarines, and that Israel is able to use US military aid for some of the equipment.
Nothing is certain in the murky reports about the German-American-Israeli cooperation on weapons and their capacity to deter an attack, Kerry''s aspirations and Palestinian and Israeli postures toward one another, or the continued frustration in the Americans'' and Europeans'' pursuit of agreement with Iran.
There are four interpretations possible for continued Obama-Kerry efforts with Israel and the Palestinians.
1) Both Americans, along with their enormous and extensively educated staffs are dumb as hell, and have no hope of comprehending anything as far as this from their home towns.
This is the most depressing of the options. It''s not to be dismissed altogether, but we can hope that things are not that bad in the world''s capital.
2) Both Americans, along with their enormous and extensively educated staffs know what they are up against, and are covering their collective ass. They are making the effort, and talking a great deal about their effort, in order to convince themselves and others that they are doing what is appropriate.
"Covering your ass" explains a lot of what happens in international diplomacy, as well as in the domestic politics of every country I know anything about. It does not render government as efficient as portrayed in the text books taught in the lower grades. Already in the upper grades, however, and more certainly in universities, students should be taught that governing is a muddled enterprise, with shortfalls likely between policy declarations and what is actually delivered.
3) Both Americans, along with their enormous and extensively educated staffs know what they are up against, yet are hopeful that continued pressure, along with an occasional offer of goodies or the threat of curtailing the goodies on offer, will produce acceptable results.
This option brings us to assessments of the Americans not all that different from the possibilities associated with interpretation #1. It leads us to hope for the best, without expecting it to happen.
4) A fourth option suggests that there is more realism at the summit of the United States than implied by the first or third options. American leaders may not expect any results from their efforts, but continued talk may postpone destruction and provide opportunities for something positive to develop.
Iran is different than Palestine.
Israel can live with low level violence from Palestinians, contained with frequent incursions against limited targets and occasional reminders of the need for Palestinian modesty by more serious destruction. Palestinians also live with the status quo, aspiring for more, promising it to their people, but existing in ways that are no worse and arguably better than most Muslims elsewhere.
It is as hard to read the comments from the summit of Israel on Iran as it is to be sure of just what is the capacity of those submarines built by Germany for Israel with technology and funding from Germany, the US, and Israel. The Prime Minister''s comments on the day to remember the Holocaust may have been the bluster meant for his local and international audiences on that day when the mantra is "Never again," or they may indicate that Israel will not tolerate anyone else''s bluster on the subject, and that a preemptive attack is likely.
We may be back to Churchill''s epigram that talking is better than killing, along with that other verbal balm, "So far so good."