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Good Talk


The best language for discussing issues with nations like North Korea and Iran is the “soothing” kind of language. We have to slow things down, suggest a few ideas, and not go overboard. Huffing, puffing, and posturing gets headlines, but usually doesn’t bring satisfactory results when you’re looking for a lasting strategy.

If we examine the culture of Korea, we see that it harks back to Confucianism: family, stability, and filial prerogative. We may thus find some commonality with our own principles.

The best strategy for Iran is different, but the challenge is no less daunting. There’s a population of old religious zealots mixing it up with the post revolution generation of nonreligious young people. Something like the U.S. in the 60’s, but with an even greater generation gap between the college students and their parents.

Applying soothing talk during recent visits to Asia didn’t seem to help the president or the U.S. position, but that’s why knowledgeable and rational diplomats need to take their time negotiating.

We can all remember the linguistic skill that President Kennedy brought out during the 1962 missile crisis in Cuba. He changed the threatening word “blockade” to “quarantine” during the ships’maneuvers.

We all have this ability to meaningfully communicate. You see it after a war when people sit down and work out the details at a table. It’s a pity that they don’t bring out the table first.



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