Words and War

Edgar Knowlton writes:: In Singapore on July 4 , 1963 I heard a lecture at the US Embassy contrasting Churchill and Roosevelt as leaders. The point was made that because of his integrity, Churchill was inferior to Roosevelt. Churchill could be predicted, but Roosevelt, who lied and shifted and charmed, kept both friends and enemies off balance, which was a great advantage for a war leader. Recently Geoge W, Bush warned against sending "mixed messages." But surely we should not be sending the same messages to terrorists that we do to others. Silence may be better. Keep the enemy guessing. Would that Acheson had not announced in 1950 that the US did NOT consider South Korea within the periphery of its defence. Truman had to shift to the UN. I suspect that President Bush is too young, "noble," and naif to think of wartime leadership strategy.

RH: Edgar touches on an important point: the power of odd remarks. Dean Acheson´s remark triggered the Korean war.  Did he realize what he was saying? Ambassador Glaspie likewise triggered the first Iraq war by saying to Saddam Hussein that the US took no position on Iraq's claim to Kuwait. She was reprimanded by Washington, but I think she was only following instructions. So much is said publicly by US officials about US international policies that I fear some foreign power might draw the wrong conclusions.

Your comments are invited. Read te home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu/ E-mail to hilton@stanford.edu. Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: September 26, 2004