12 January 2018

When the truth is worse than a lie

Donald Trump has become known for making a great many statements which are, shall we say, other than congruent with the truth.  However, it would be wrong to say that he never tells the truth.  The problem is that he tends to tell the truth in cases where, in fact, lying would be the wiser course.

About a month ago, Trump announced that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there from its current location in Tel Aviv.  On a certain level this was simply acknowledging reality; Jerusalem is Israel's capital, and keeping the embassy in another city (albeit only 35 miles away) doubtless creates some practical inconveniences.  However, the real-world effect of Trump's statement was to inflame anti-American sentiment in much of the Middle East and to torpedo any US role as mediator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for the foreseeable future.

There is a genre of lying which forms an integral part of diplomacy, and is necessary for international relations to function as smoothly as they do. Trump doesn't seem to grasp that diplomacy sometimes requires fudging reality to sooth wounded pride. Everyone who functions in the real world knows that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and that there will never be any "Palestinian state" in the West Bank, just as everyone who functions in the real world knows that Taiwan and China are now two separate countries and probably always will be so. But when dealing with people who still wish that reality were other than it is, one is wise to avoid "rubbing it in".  Better to make a pretense of going along with their preferred fictions -- better, that is, to lie.

It's surprising that someone who claims to be a great negotiator doesn't realize this.

5 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

You wrote, "On a certain level this was simply acknowledging reality; Jerusalem is Israel's capital..."

I've been a strong supporter of Israel for a long time (since the 1950's), even lived there during 1974, and taught its history to students for many years. And it's obvious that no one can trust the Palestinian leaders. Look at how they were given back Gaza, yet turned on each other, even HAMAS leaders abusing some Fatah leaders, etc., and now using Gaza as a terror center!

However, like many of the leaders of the left in Israel have strongly stated, that doesn't mean its government's wrong policies ought to be defended. When I lived there, one marvelous Israeli woman speaker (don't remember her name) spoke to us kibbutsniks at a conference in northern Israel. She emphasized this in her speech; I wish I had a transcript of it now. She went much further than most in pointing out that Israel OUGHT to be a secular state where every person--regardless of ethnic and ideological background, religious or non-religious belief--is equal.

It is true that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, BUT it is also true that it is the center and capital of many other ethnic-religious-political groups, not only Jewish people.

Reconciliation and sharing are the key words here. But the Palestinian leadership (which praises murderers as they did again this last week in the rabbi's murder, and previously even the murder of a 13-year-old in her bedroom by a Muslim "martyr") refuses to do so.

That doesn't mean that then the Israeli government has the right to practice unjust policies, stealing land, and bulldozing an orchard of a Palestinian family who has owned their land since about 1905 during the Turkish period. The latter family even says they aren't enemies of the Jewish people, and they are committed to non-violence (unlike most Palestinians).

This, again, is very similar to the situation years ago in South Africa. Terrorists were a constant danger there, too, and so it was understandable why the Union of South Africa used harsh measures. HOWEVER, unjust and unequal actions against people as a group (whether Jews, Arabs, or black Africans) are wrong and ought to be opposed. Always.

Jerusalem needs to be a multiple capital, a center for all humans, NOT only Israelis.

This is getting too long, so I won't explain why I also disagree with your view of lying and diplomacy.

But thanks for raising more key issues. Your articles always get me thinking and writing:-)

12 January, 2018 08:56  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for your quick POV on this, because I'm lost. To be "honest" Infidel ... Trump amazes me, because I noticed a tremendous amount of flip- flopping ... I have no bloody idea on where he stands about much, but he seems to really fire up some folks, I guess a sort of "cult base", I didnt even expect him to be like this ... guess because I never followed much of him or watched his shows and stuff. One of the things that really got my atencion though recently ... is this "wall" thing. If I recall correctly during his campaign, he asked for about $10 billion, said he'll make Mexico pay, etc. Earlier this week, I heard he is NOW asking Congress for $18 billion for it (we're being hustled AGAIN, man ... everything he does is to squeeze a few more bucks outta someone)... geeez, man ... that's damn near doubled in price, and now of course, backing down from making Mexico pay, etc (Mexico's not f'n stupid enough to pay for it). For me guy, knowing a little about the trafficking of immigrants on the border. I would bet, that this wall does NOT stop illegal immigration, or even the drug trafficking he is also talking about. We are like, mega- capitalism as far as society ... believe me, guy ... when there is a buck to be made, and demand ... we will have as many border jumpers and dope, as we do guns, anywayz. On the dope side, meth manufacturers in the U.S. would love to slow the meth from Mexico, it's more business for them. Last week they caught 65 pounds of Chinese meth at DFW airport that came in from China, going to a house in Fort Worth (enough meth in other words to supply the metroplex), nothing to do with Mexico, still saturated here. As far as border jumpers, the price will increase a little (my neighbour, Pedro, paid $5000 to get up here from Honduras for example, back about 10 years ago) ... after a wall, maybe go up another $1000 or whatever ... supply meets demand, bottom line ... after all, it's capitalism. I was talking with my next door neighbour Bill this morning ... Bill talked about a new Trump Tweet where he called Haiti a "shithole" or something, on the news ... Bill said, "Hey Tommy, what does he (Trump) remind you of?" ... I said ... "I dont know, man?" ... Bill said "Queens" ... I said, "ahhh, f**k yeah, dude" ... that's right, Trump is like old school Queens, you know, like the sitcom 70's character Archie Bunker ... I laughed! {:-) Bill is from South Bronx (he's a Nuyorican), I stayed in Flatbush/ Brooklyn and Buffalo/ upstate, so that's why we got a laugh out of it ... I mean, like old school Queens is written all over the dude. Now I hear Trump is trying to hustle the democrats, saying no DACA without the "wall" ... that's f**ked up ... cant wait till this SOB is outta office!

12 January, 2018 09:44  
Anonymous psicop@agnostic-library.com said...

There's a phrase that describes the phenomenon at play here: "Diplomatic fiction." Until the Groper-in-Chief decided to move embassies, the US had entertained a diplomatic fiction that Israel's capital was actually Tel Aviv. But I've found that a lot of folks, especially Americans, don't really have any patience for diplomatic fictions.

If truth be told, Congress itself, a couple decades ago, lost patience with this particular diplomatic fiction, passing a law that said Jerusalem is Israel's capital and that the US embassy should move there ... unless the president certifies, every 6 months, that it can't feasibly be moved. Every president since then has issued such certifications (including the GiC once already, on 6/1/17). Now, apparently, that has ended.

Still, the skeptic in me notes how foolish it is to have to perform diplomatic dances of this kind, solely to salve the emotions of others. Is it really worth it for us to keep our embassy in Tel Aviv just so the Arab world won't go up in flames? Why should we keep indulging their infantilism in such a way?

A simple cost/benefit analysis, though, shows it probably was, in fact, worth it to go through these gyrations.

12 January, 2018 12:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daniel: When I say "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel", I'm talking about what is, not what should be (or what other people think should be). Israel is the only actual existing state of which Jerusalem is the capital, even though it's important to other people for religious reasons, and even though some people imagine a hypothetical future state of which Jerusalem would be the political capital.

One could raise various valid issues about past and present US treatment of the American Indians, but such issues don't negate the simple statement "Washington DC is the capital of the US".

Ranch: Trump said all kinds of bullshit during the campaign to get the rubes to vote for him. He may or may not have known he couldn't deliver half of it, but he's been scamming people all his life, so I doubt he even gave that aspect of it much thought. The Devil knows how much he even has real beliefs or goals at all, though the anti-Hispanic bigotry comes up so often that I tend to believe it's genuine.

Psicop: Yes, a "diplomatic fiction" sounds like a diplomatic name for what I'm referring to here as a "lie", though both terms strike me as equally valid.

The "gyrations" were indeed well worth it -- we have a material interest in the Arab world not "going up in flames", since internecine conflicts in the Middle East sometimes spill over into the West (as in 9/11). Actually, it's interesting that the reaction to Trump's announcement has been far less violent than many expected. Perhaps that's not surprising. The foundation of Israel was 69 years ago and the takeover of the West Bank was 50 years ago. Generational turnover is probably weakening the Arab feeling of territorial irredentism, just as has happened in Germany with regard to the territory lost to Poland and Russia in 1945. I hope so, at least. The Arab world today has much bigger and more immediate problems than fantasizing about retaking land lost half or three-quarters of a century ago.

12 January, 2018 15:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PS: If anyone's interested in my views on Israel more generally, see here.

12 January, 2018 15:41  

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