Most Americans are not involved directly, or even indirectly,
in foreign policy. What most Americans know about current
foreign affairs is what they read, watch or hear in the media.
Relationships between nations, regions and various alliances
are complicated matters which like individual human
relationships employ simultaneously two languages. The
first language is a language that promotes images and
deceptions --- and is usually spoken aloud. The second
language is one of self-interests and real intentions --- and is
often unspoken. Real diplomacy is the consequence of the
two languages, just as real individual relationships are the
understanding of the two languages spoken between two
The timeless difficulty of our species is the difficulty of
distinguishing between the two.
Just in the past century on the world stage, misunderstanding
what major powers really meant with their intentions has led
to unspeakable violence and wars. The Western democracies
mistranslated the Central Powers in Europe in the first decade
of the century, and they misread a German dictator in the
third decade. In the fifth decade, they did not misunderstand
the Soviet totalitarian threat, and a protracted Cold War
ended without global violence.
The latter experience demonstrated that international
communication failure is not inevitable. After World War I,
the Versailles Peace treaty helped provoke World War II.
After World War II, a plan of economic recovery for former
enemies, helped prevent another war. Resisting threats,
instead of ignoring them, proved to be vital to keeping the
peace and promoting prosperity and freedom.
But we are now in a new century. Mired in a series of costly
and seemingly unfulfilling local wars, the world’s democratic
powers grew weary, and a recent period of disengagement
History has a few constants. One is the endless rising of
new aggressive and violent forces --- arising always in
totalitarian states and groups. Much as the various
democratic states, large and small, might not want to have
to deal with these international pathologies, history
indelibly informs us that these malign forces do not go away
However understandable is the impulse in the democracies
not to have to constantly deal with threats, the most recent
period of disengagement in the world has quickly revealed
that new and dangerous threats did not fail to appear and
grow --- whether they came from the Middle East,Venezuela
and Cuba, or from North Korea. Russia has renewed a
certain belligerent series of actions. Even the inevitable
emergence of China (potentially a competitor and not an
enemy) obviously cannot be treated with indifference.
Just as Harry Truman foresaw the early Soviet threat and
Ronald Reagan saw the later Soviet threat, the new American
president is attempting to confront the threats of our own
time. He is employing a new language --- some of which is
unsettling --- but so far it seem to be working better than the
old language. He might not be successful in his disruptions
of the status quo, but even those who dislike him or oppose
his politics, have a vital stake in his being successful.
World movements move at their own speed. It is perhaps
a time for all of us to understand better the real languages
being spoken in our interests.
In our form of democracy,there is always time to change
those who speak for us, if necessary or merited --- at a
proper time and at the ballot box.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.