Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Linguistic Innovations as Policy Substitute

The European Union foreign ministers meeting yesterday seems to have been more succesful in producing linguistic innovations than in agreeing on a forceful policy.

After much discussion, it was agreed to "call for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable cease-fire."

This was evidently a comprimise between those that wanted an immediate cease-fire and those that did not.

But the compromise is nothing but a linguistic exercise of an equally innovative and debatable character.

Any reader of the history of war and peace would argue that a cease-fire always comes first, that it's not really meant to be sustainable over a longer time, since it is just an end to ongoing military activities in the absence of the broader political deal or agreement that will have to follow.

To talk about a cease-fire being sustainable is to imply that it can substitute for a broader political deal. In my opinion, that's a highly debatable concept, unproven in the past and likely to fail also tomorrow.

It is sometimes argued that the Balkan wars saw numerous cease-fires that were not sustainable. True. But the problem was nearly always that they feel apart after a while because they were not followed by broader political ageeements and a broader cessation of hostilities.

It is when a cease-fire is then followed by a broader peace deal of some sort that you can really talk about a broader cessation of hostilies between the warring parties.

That's - in my opinion - the way the language is normally used.

But now it's the other way around.

It seems as now this war is starting to produce collateral damage also in the linguistic field.

That would be OK if this wasn't a reflecting of a profound muddling also of the political line.

But I fear it is.