Hawks and pigeons, geopolitical birds

While other industries, such as central banks, reuse these terms, hawks and pigeons are initially geopolitical actors. Who hasn’t heard of this during international negotiations or the formation of a new diplomatic team? The bestiary has expanded (Chinese “warrior wolves”, Turkish ultranationalist “gray wolves”, supporters of President Erdogan, etc.), but these two birds have a clear advantage. Imaginary supporters of war are falcons, and peaceful – pigeons. In the case of falcons, the symbolism is clear, because the animal, in addition to the stern appearance, is a hunter. The dove, in addition to its white symbol of purity, owes much of its fame to Pablo Picasso, who made it an image of peace in 1949 at the request of Aragon, as well as in the communist movement, despite biblical inspiration (the bird that brings Noah’s olive leaf after flood). The United Nations will address this on several occasions, including in its actions in support of women. Therefore, we note that the entry of the pigeon in international relations in the 21st century is more common than the falcon. Between them, hawks and pigeons, which often carry a flag with stars, create a false Manichean image of international relations. Not true, because the dialectic of good and evil is both artificial and vague. Who, moreover, can wear today?

Manichean view. Hawks want war, pigeons want peace. Are Republicans in Washington still using hawks and Democrats using pigeons? In the elephant party (let’s stay animals), Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump fuel this rhetoric. The first Star Wars, its invasion of Grenada in 1983, its strikes on Libya in 1986, and its desire to fight the “evil empire” were examples of this. Two Afghan and Iraq wars of the second too. With the spectacle, Trump promises to “completely destroy” North Korea or respond to any Iranian attack “a thousand times stronger.” Conversely, in the donkey party (undoubtedly…) Jimmy Carter’s peace at Camp David (1978), which Bill Clinton forged between Rabin and Arafat in 1993, or Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” better fit what others in France called would be “collombitud”.

“Pigeons can beat. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize even before he made his first real diplomatic steps, Barack Obama was then president of drone attacks and cybernetics.

Elsewhere, labeling is also important. Apparently, Putin is a hawk because he invaded Georgia, destabilized Ukraine, annexed Crimea, sent troops to Syria, threatened the West, and multiplied demonstrations of military force. Yeltsin was a dove whose sympathy in the eyes of the West was confirmed by the fact that she did not always fly straight: so, bon vivant. In Israel, too, workers or centrists are often believed to be more peaceful than Likud, whom Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu have brutally portrayed. Except that, as we can imagine, nothing is so simple.

Paradoxes. Pigeons can beat. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize before his first real diplomatic steps, Barack Obama was then president of drones and cyber attacks. Falcons also know how to have a dialogue or make peace, like Reagan with Gorbachev or Trump with the Abraham Accords in the Middle East. Then pigeons and hawks seek to prove that they are able to break free from the clichés that falsified them in public debate, and know that they must surprise, for the sake of national interests. Finally, man himself is nothing in the decision-making process: a militant or peaceful reputation is primarily about the environment being tested. The senior decision-maker is responsible for arbitrage between influences. We try to guess whether the advisers are “at war” or smart. If they have experience in negotiations or ultimatums. If they have special international prisms (we want to convince ourselves in France that a French-speaking American secretary of state or a lover of French cuisine will be kind to us until we selflessly forget to protect American interests).

“Who are the birds today? Do Erdogan, Putin, and Xi Jinping symbolize a hawk camp, and Biden, Merkel, or Macron a pigeon camp? Is it enough to advocate military intervention or sanctions, to criticize the weakness or inconsistency of decision-makers (…) to earn the title of hawk? »

And diplomacy needs paradoxes. A peace signed by a falcon is worth more than a peace signed by a dove: it is a “peace of the brave”, better than a confession of weakness. Moreover, pigeons end badly as they are naive: Sadat, Rabin … And then everyone has the right to change their mind, harden or soften their position according to experience, suddenly want to play history and even more for power. Former soldiers want to become peacekeepers (as Ariel Sharon was tempted to do, but too late), former negotiators refuse to have the image of a traitor (as claimed by Mahmoud Abbas). The camps were never finally established.

Poses. Who are the birds today? Do Erdogan, Putin, and Xi Jinping symbolize a hawk camp, and Biden, Merkel, or Macron a pigeon camp? Is it enough to advocate military intervention or sanctions, to criticize the weakness or inconsistency of decision-makers (as do former advisers like John Bolton, or in private circles like the famous “French neoconservatives”) to earn his Falcon title? Is it enough to convene negotiations or convene an international conference to get your pigeon star? However, provocations or brutal initiatives on the one hand, calls for peace on the other, decide between the heroes, as well as the brutality of their rhetoric: the one who believed in bile, the one who did not believe in it. But pigeons and falcons are poses, strategic roles with variable geometry, more than nature itself, essentialists and finals. We are talking about international relations, not doomsday.

>>>>> Find other series of our series “Animal Spirits” here.

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