Launching Diplomatic Missiles

Condoleezza Rice fires off opening salvo in peace talks…

I knew I had to do this eventually. No matter how great my distaste for war, my proximity to the human lifeform makes hearing about it an inevitability. Too bad I write about rhetoric, as rhetoric seems the first weapon of all wars.

It wasn’t as if the entire staff of the Metaphor Observatory hadn’t noticed the war in Iraq. Nor had we ignored it. We simply avoided the subject in hopes that we hadn’t received a call to arms. Then this little tidbit took the headlines of the Toronto Star:

Toronto Star, Jul. 24, 2006. 09:59 AM

“Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into Lebanon in heavy fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas on Monday, while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Lebanon to launch diplomatic efforts aimed at ending 13 days of warfare.”

Where do I begin…?!!

The United States has made clear its opposition to Lebanon’s Hezbollethargy, and has crystallized its support for Israel’s anti-Hezbollah campaign. Though the U.S. has shown a reluctance to get directly involved in the conflict, it has sent Condie Rice over to oil the seized negotiations. However, as the photo’s telling visual metaphor shows, negotiations with Lebanon are at arm’s length, with the U.S. reaching over a solid, dark wall. Their “everything’s groovy” toothiness is a grin reminder of the gaping gap between politics and truth, and is in hilarious contrast to their ten-foot-pole handshake (or should I say “gap-toothed handshake”…?!).

Meanwhile, the segment “launch diplomatic efforts aimed at…” seems appropriate here. Condie’s launch of diplomacy was missile-like indeed, since she approached Lebanon powers – on Lebanon soil – to state her opposition to the Lebanon state. Lebanon wants a ceasefire, the U.S. does not. It could be said that her mission was nothing more than a diplomatic missile, aimed at changing the landscape of Lebanon’s politics by wiping out a specific political target.

Like any other contemporary feature, war affects language. During times of war, metaphors of war are sure to come into greater use. We see this above with “launch“, and we’re bound to see it in metaphoriferous words and phrases like “firestorm of controversy”, “crossfire“, “bombarded with questions”, “battleground” or “salvo“. Unfortunately, as rhetoric currently has it, it might be a while before we hear the word “peace“.

In her words, Condoleezza Rice flattered Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora when she said “Thank you for your courage and steadfastness”. But behind the words, we may see “courage” as “you’ve got some nerve, standing up to us like this” and “steadfastness” as “impenetrability”. In the final analysis, she did not scare him nor break through his defenses: Condie’s smiling diplomatic missile was a dud.


Along the same front….

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart cited the above photo later the same day, pondering “If only the Associated Press photo of the event could in some way metaphorically capture that awkwardness…”. Metaphor is never squandered on the Daily Show, we happily observe.

Which brings us a few days later to Thursday’s show, with the caption: “Boy Band Bombshell!”. The question is, would he have chosen the “bombshell” metaphor before the latest war in the Middle East? What’s on our minds may slip out through the metaphor, whether as individuals, or as a whole culture. And for many of us, the war is now forefront.

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