COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT
Battle, n. A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
When neighbors feud, lovers quarrel, or nations war, the predictable remedy prescribed by the voices of reason is communication. The prevailing view is that, faced with conflict, communicating is always the right thing to do: the UN Security Council encourages hostile countries to “hold talks,” and marriage counselors advise quarreling couples to “express their feelings.” So commonplace is the prescription that advice to the contrary seems anomalous; it’s difficult to imagine the secretary general imploring hostile nations to ...