Logical Gal and a better “S-word”

11 Mar


Words matter!  They have the power to build up and also to destroy.  Just think back to childhood when you were taunted by another child’s belittling epithets!

But words and pithy slogans also carry power to mobilize people.  Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu when appealing to Congress, adroitly wielded 2 such words.  Referring to Iran, the Israeli Prime Minister announced that the nuclear plan proposed FOR her by Western allies poses a ‘threat’. What kind of threat?  Here’s where contrasting word choice brought clarity in 5 seconds.

“a threat to Israel’s survival as opposed to a threat to America’s security”

Those terms (in bold) frame differing assertions. Hence, two different ‘S-words’ carry divergent presuppositions.

Let’s look at some potential presuppositions that America and Israel might employ to ground foreign policy decisions, assumptions built into their assertions.

The United States:

  • Risks to our country’s security come in various forms
  • All security risks are not equal
  • Security risks require prioritizing and subsequent assigning to different decision-making bodies for evaluation (i.e. White House, Congress, the military, the market place…)
  • Response resources are limited; therefore, some security risks might have to be tolerated for a period of time or indefinitely


  • Risks to our country’s survival come primarily from nuclear-armed neighbors
  • If Israel does not survive as a nation, than all other problems are moot
  • Prioritization of national resources must be driven by our country’s ability to remain viable and survive as a sovereign nation-state

Do you see the force of rhetoric, of which word choice is a tool, to tap into presuppositions, which in turn drive actions?

May we all, from private individuals to public officials, take our words seriously as a resource, a gift and a responsibility.

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