The theatricality of war and diplomacy

Posted by Chris Rosser on Wed 08 January 2020
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29 years ago my parents sat me down and explained why war is terrible, certainly not a glamorous Hollywood game show. I remember it well to this day. There were other people on the end of those televised Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, complete with the live feeds, so mesmerisingly televised on the BBC and CNN. It was the first time war entered in my living room, packaged up as a public spectacle to be consumed at dinner time while people suffered and died.

Last night I had to do the same to my 8 year-old son. It's a far more painful subject than when you first tell your child about sex. As my wife and I explained the awful realities of war, I quietly hoped that someone would show restraint. Any idiot can lash out in anger, but turning the other cheek, as Christians often preach, takes a lot more guts. Alas, the Persians struck back at the Greeks, and now the world holds its breath to see that Trump does next. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

War has been played out on our screens since Vietnam -- with domestic consumption in mind. Now with Twitter and the 24/7 News cycle, war streams to my pocket in 240 character chunks and high-resolution footage.

As news unfolds today of Iran's retaliation against the United States, I'm reminded again that war is a deeply theatrical endeavour. Nothing galvanises political support and power better than a war. Yet, unity is an illusion. Twitter is predictably erupting with tribal factionalism and flag waving, howls of self righteousness on both sides, each pinning the blame on the other -- and most are largely ignorant of how this mess started in the first place. Playing out is the worst form of fandom, patriotism -- that virtue of the vicious as Oscar Wilde so elegantly stated.

To those of you who think this is a game, sitting back in comfort while clamouring for blood to be spilt, I have one thing to say: grow up.

I for one hope it doesn't come to that, and I suspect it won't.

Instead, what I think will unfold is an example of diplomacy by other means. Iran's launched a dozen missiles, and early reports suggest causalities are limited. Perhaps the United States' alert readiness was at play, or perhaps they were forewarned through back channels by their opposite numbers in Iran. With a bit of luck the next phase, American's inevitable strike back, will be similarly impotent. Perhaps an Iranian base or two will be bombed, its occupants already evacuated. Both sides will claim victory -- crowing about causalities and moral and strategic justifications to their audiences back home while the status quo returns.

With a little more luck, it will end there. So, it's with uncharacteristic optimism, that I hope cooler heads will prevail, and the two sides will return to talks, either openly or covertly. I guess it depends on the guys at the top. Will Trump wag the ultimate dog to defect from Impeachment? Will the Ayatollah finally have a crack at the Great Satan to justify his regime?

Will Trump wag the ultimate dog to defect from Impeachment?

I really hope this doesn't escalate further. I really hope I don't have to explain to my children why a lot of innocent people died because two hotheads of questionable sanity can't control their fragile egos.

Tomorrow will tell, I suppose.

Cover Photo by Thomas Ashlock on Unsplash

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