Some things just hit the irritation button as soon as they arise, such as a recent article I read saying that France would restrict coverage of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The French government gave two French broadcast networks exclusive rights to the main celebration at Normandy. Luckily, they dropped restrictions on live video coverage after international backlash.
Was the Normandy invasion and the subsequent liberation of Europe something that the French copyrighted? As I recall, they had not been doing a good job of managing their affairs under Nazi occupation. What would they say on air? “D-Day is presented for a private audience and any rebroadcast of the accounts of this invasion are strictly forbidden without permission.”
The French have a word for it. So do I: chutzpah.
Then there is diplomacy. The United States has had a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists. But with some fancy diplomatic footwork, it found it acceptable not to deal with terrorists but fine to talk with their agents.
As a result, a U.S. Army soldier held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for almost five years was set free in exchange for five top Taliban leaders held by the U.S. in Guantanamo. They must live under some restrictions in Qatar for a year in a deal brokered by the Qatar government. During a deluge of criticism of the deal, U.S. officials said it was an important diplomatic move because it opened negotiations between Taliban and Afghan leadership.
At least diplomacy was given a boost by President Barack Obama when speaking to the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. The default to military action will no longer be assumed, Obama said. Instead, diplomacy, economic strength, international law and international unity will be looked to replace military intervention.
Diplomacy, rather than war, has been church policy for many decades. Last fall, Pope Francis appealed to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” to the Syrian civil war and instead seek “a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation.”
Pope Paul VI, in a 1965 visit to the United Nations, said, “No more war, war never again.” St. John Paul II, too, spoke strongly against war, criticizing the United States invasion of Iraq.
There are many methods, other than war, to have renegade nations toe the line. Money is always an effective means. The U.S. Department of the Treasury tracks foreign assets in order to freeze funds, using banks, not bullets, to achieve a purpose.
Diplomatic and economic leverage must have new meaning. It has been almost 50 years since Pope Paul VI called for “war never again.”
The history of the last half-century has provided more than enough evidence to show the futility of war as an instrument of national policy. It is more than time to make diplomatic and economic leverage the preferential option in the conduct of foreign affairs.
Kent, retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.