NATO Now and Then: Alliance Agents and Structures in Anarchical International Society

Anarchy, Society, and Alliances

Anarchy and society are major themes of current international relations. Like other similar couples – agents and structures, conflict and cooperation, disintegration and integration, war and peace – the two are often opposed in the literature. This article uses NATO as an example to suggest that these theoretical binary pairs are not mutually exclusive, but rather coexist in the real world. They are densely braided in different levels and sectors of the global system, coexisting in parallel, tracking each other through space and time. (See, for example Beer, 1981, 1969; Buchan, 1977; Hall, 2012; Little, 2013; Murray, 2013).

The 20th century was branded as the anarchic century of total war by Raymond Aron. It contained two World Wars separated only by the comma of a generation. Immediately following the end of World War II, the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe signaled the arrival of the Cold War. These sequential hot and cold wars marked the anarchic disintegration and collapse of the international social order that had followed the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

At the same time, the 20th century hosted the continuing growth of international society. The League of Nations followed the First World War and the United Nations was a bookend to the Second. When major international violence occurred, it was socially organized. In both World Wars, the world was neatly divided into opposing camps, with some scattered neutrals. Within these armed camps, particularly among the Allies during World War II, there emerged highly institutionalized forms of cooperation. Military forces remained under national control, but, there was an Allied chain of command on the Western front, at the top of which stood General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The Cold War and the political instability following a harsh winter in 1947 motivated Western leaders to build on this organization  and to create other institutions of international society, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which was established in 1949. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter legitimated individual or collective self-defence against an armed attack. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty made very clear that NATO self defence was to operate within the context of the new United Nations system where the United Nations Security Council was (in principle) the custodian of international peace and security.

NATO’s first Secretary General, Lord Ismay succinctly combined the anarchic and social realities when he stated that NATO’s tasks were to keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in.[Move hyperlink from purple to red text]

Alliances are anarchy’s children, but they are also particular forms of international society. They are war communities; born of war, preparing for war, waging war. NATO is, paradoxically, an international community whose reason for being is international conflict.

Alliance Agents and Structures

In the context of mixed international anarchy and society, NATO also blended agents and structures. (See Royo, 2012; Pickworth, 2011; Giddens, 1984). Among the agents present at the creation were American leaders – US President Harry S. Truman; Secretaries of State George Marshall and Dean Acheson; General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

European military and political leaders also played major roles. NATO’s initial political leaders were highly distinguished. Lord Hastings “Pug” Ismay had been Winston Churchill’s chief military aide during World War II and he represented both Britain and the Commonwealth. NATO’s second Secretary General, from 1957-1961, Paul Henri Charles Spaak, had been Belgian Prime Minister in the 1930s and 1940s, the first President of the UN General Assembly and one of the founders of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Union. These leaders built on the structures that they had helped to create during the preceding war. Allied cooperation during World War II had laid the basis for preserving physical and institutional forms of Allied cooperation.

In Paris, the most fundamental structures were the buildings that NATO occupied. The Palais de Chaillot, had been a German headquarters. After the war, it was converted to Allied use, becoming the site of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary forces (SHAEF) and then of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. This headquarters building was succeeded by others at the Porte Dauphine in Paris and then at Mons in Belgium. These structures are architectural. But other structures are organizational. The NATO civilian organizational structureincludes about 50 separate units, and the military structure about 100 administrative units.

If one looks at NATO’s creation and historical evolution, it is hard to say that agents do not matter. NATO institutions were and are full of people, all of whom have contributed to its development and mission. Agents and structures are different magnifications of the same process. Individuals are obviously important actors. At the same time, if one looks at the mind-numbing organization charts, it is also hard to say that structure doesn’t matter. The dense, concrete physical and organizational facticity of NATO on the ground today is overwhelming. Yet, it is also difficult to avoid the impression of bureaucratic drift. One does not know if the founding agents, viewing the results of their handiwork more than half a century later, would be elated or dismayed at what they had wrought.

Alliance Dynamics

Alliance dynamics look both outward and inward. NATO agents and structures, at different levels, participate symmetrically in both anarchic and social elements of the international system.  They prepare to fight, if necessary, in an anarchic international system – the Cold War or the Global War on Terror. At the same time, they create and take advantage of the cooperative elements of international society – the United Nations or the European Union, for example, to achieve that task.

NATO agents and structures also participate asymmetrically in both anarchic and social elements of the international system. During chaotic international time periods, when external anarchy increases- like the Cold War – we see movement toward tighter, stronger internal NATO relations. Other more peaceful time periods – after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before 9/11 – where international anarchy appears to abate and society gains ground, can imply an internal loss of mission; weaker, looser cooperation; and less constraint of the alliance’s national actors. Simmering conflicts—Greece and Turkey—may have more room to grow.

NATO, as an international political-military regional organization, seamlessly moves between international anarchy and international society. The Cold War is over, but relations with Russia and the newly independent central and Eastern European republics need to be managed. New members are admitted to NATO—Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia. Military operations are conducted: Afghanistan, the Balkans, Iraq, Libya. There are crisis and defense planning and coordination and many other tasks under the umbrella of collective defense.

Agents and structures interact. Individuals, acting the name of sovereign nation states, create international structures; and these structures, in turn, link states together. This evolutionary, path dependent, process can work over time to create historical and emerging alliances. The outcome is heavily contingent, depending on contextual mixes of anarchy and society, agents and structures. Other alliances such as the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization followed different trajectories in a changing global environment, disbanding following the end of the Cold War and Vietnam. However, NATO, now and then, still thrives.


Beer, Francis A. 1981. Peace against War: The Ecology of Interna­tional Violence. (San Francisco: W. H. Free­man).

Beer, Francis A. 1972. The Political Economy of Alliances: Bene­fits, Costs, and Institu­tions in NATO. (Beverly Hills: Sage).

Beer, Francis A. 1970. Alliances: Latent War Communities in the Contem­porary World, edited. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston).

Beer, Francis A. 1969. Integration and Disintegration in NATO: Pro­cesses of Alliance Cohesion and Prospects for Atlantic Community. (Columbus: Ohio State Uni­versity Press).

Bull, Hedley. 1977. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.

Giddens, Anthony. 1984. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, Cambridge UK: Polity Press.

Hall, Ian. 2012. “Taming the Anarchical Society”. e-International Relations.

Little, Richard. 2013. “Reassessing the Expansion of the International Society” e-International Relations.

Murray, Robert W. 2013. System, Society, and the World: Exploring the English School of International Relations. (United Kingdom: e-International Relations).

Pickworth, Elizabeth. 2011. “The Theory of Structure: An Analysis” e-International Relations.

Royo, Joseph. 2012. “Agency and International Relations: An Alternative Lens” e-International Relations.

Francis A. Beer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His blog, Mythic America, is at

This article first appeared in e-International Relations (August 27, 2013)


How Many Wars at the Same Time ?

Should the United States be Ready to Fight Two Wars at the Same Time ?

Previously published in the Morningside Post

A lot depends on how one defines “fight”, “two wars”, and “at the same time”.
During its early history, the United States, according to many definitions of these terms, did not fight as many as two wars at the same time. During the 20th century, according to other definitions, the United States did not fight as few as two wars at the same time. I doubt that it was ever historically necessary for the United States to be able to fight exactly as many or as few as two wars at the same time. Based on past performance, this metric does not appear to be particularly useful as a guide to present or future policy over changing conditions.
A more useful maxim, derived from classical international relations theory, is that the United States should have the capabilities to defend its vital national interests. One of its vital national interests, as President Eisenhower emphasized, is to maintain a healthy economy. While national security is important, so also is the security of national citizens.
American military capabilities should change, as American interests and the nature of international threats and violence also change. It always has been and always will be necessary for the United States to be able to fight as many or as few wars as may be crucial to American vital national interests.
There is no magic number.

Francis Beer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he has been President of the International Studies Association/West.

Globalizing Walls

Globalizing Walls

By  on April 3, 2013 

Published in e-International Relations

 Globalization seems to homogenize the world as technology dissolves the barriers of time and space. The proliferation of international actors and links appears to eat away at the very foundations of the Westphalian state system. Where the global meets the local is at the walls that define the external objective boundaries of political units and the internal subjective identities of their citizens.

Media Walls

As walls dissolve, they also spread.  Walls have spread physically with the globalizing architecture of the modern world; and they have spread virtually through the proliferation of wall signs, symbols, and images. They are vertical exclamations interrupting the horizontal flow of space. Walls are the thin hard shells of cities and nations. In the modern world, moreover, walls no longer only sit on the physical ground but occupy cyberspace as well.

Walls thus appear where one might think them least likely, in the broadcasts of news media with global aspirations. Two networks—CNN and BBC have created news broadcasts that aspire to a global, rather than a regional, national, or local audience. More recently Aljazeera has launched an English language television news program. All three networks either broadcast in English or wish to do so and have created websites that shadow their regular television programming. As part of an ongoing research program on globalizing media, we captured these websites for brief sampling periods in July and November 2004 and more comprehensively for all of 2005. We recorded at regular midnight intervals and then searched the resulting files for walls.

Modern media carry images of and references to walls. Many of the discrete references are figures of speech. The BBC sample, for example, includes the following figurative phrases: backs against the wall, chest wall, crater wall, mark on the wall, torn down walls, wall of silence, wall-to-wall, and writing on the wall. Wall Street gets quite a lot of play. Talk about the interplay of signifiers—a street named for a wall that refers to the American financial community. But there are also many physical walls in the news broadcasts. The walls are often destroyed in natural or human catastrophes like earthquakes, floods, or warfare.

We may think of these as private walls, important to their owners but without wider public significance. Beyond these private walls stand public walls with political significance as they enclose and separate larger political communities. Such walls gratify some and offend others. Historical public walls include the Great Wall of China and the Berlin wall. The Israeli-Palestinian wall and US-Mexican wall are more contemporary.

Consistent with their global aspirations, each of the news networks carries reports about each of these walls. Yet, each network also reflects its own individual identity giving each of the walls a different significance in its reports.

Dead Walls

Some walls are mainly sites of historical memory. These dead walls, like dead metaphors whose origins are long forgotten, are the exoskeleton remains of disappeared cities and empires. These are walls like the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall.

The most magnificent is certainly the Great Wall of China. On September 12 2005, CNN carried a story on “China: Hiking the Great Wall.” The caption to one of the photos said that “adventurous travelers can explore and even camp put in watchtowers along the Great Wall of China.” The state as museum meets global adventure travel.

When walls stay up that is one kind of memory. Another kind of wall memory is when they come down. Sometimes the something that does not love a wall achieves its total destruction. So, for example, on October 3, 2005, BBC News World Edition marked the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with pictures of young people celebrating. One picture showed young people celebrating near the wall in 1990.

An earlier story, on November 9, 2004 had shown young people dancing at the Brandenburg gate. The same story juxtaposed the stone wall of an older building, with a German flag on top, with the steel and glass wall of a new structure.

The Berlin Wall is an icon of historical memory, but it is much more. The BBC News website, a globalizing medium with British roots, tells a story of new Germany joyfully rising from a dark past. Moving away from the walls of the Cold War, it shows young people and modern technology asserting their coming of age. The story appears uncontroversial, an interesting scene of renewal and growth appropriate for media aiming at a multi-national global audience.

Yet, one wonders how this triumphal tone appeals to Russians, who lost tens of millions of people fighting against the Germans within the memory of many still alive.

Living Walls

Living walls are still being created. Some of these, like those that memorialize the Holocaust, may look toward the past and seek to preserve its memory. Other walls mark contested territorial boundaries.

Holocaust Walls

A BBC story of January 23, 2005 carried the headline “Holocaust memorial opens in Paris.” The photo here is very different from the ones above. Instead of young people gaily celebrating and the marvels of modern technology, the photo showed older people pointing at the wall. The caption reads “most of the victims died in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.” One wonders how this sample of the older Jewish demographic in the globalizing media’s audience felt about the earlier festivities of German youth and the dynamic of German modernization.

The Israeli Wall

Of the three news networks, Aljazeera gave the most attention to the wall being built by the Israelis to separate themselves from the Palestinians. Though Aljazeera has ambitions as a global news network, the flood of text and images about the Israeli wall makes it clear that it Aljazeera’s heart is in the Middle East, and on one side of the wall. As with the Berlin Wall, media images show the younger generation seeking to transcend the wall.

Aljazeera stories on its websites of March 14 and August 14, 2005 show children walking with their mother a child walking near the wall. Captions on the photos say that “Palestinians say the wall is absorbing some of their lands” and that “the wall makes it almost impossible for children to get to schools.” Another photo, from July 10, 2005, shows a young couple getting married. The caption is “Palestinians have reacted furiously to the Israeli plan.”

All is not sweetness and light. On June 5, 2005, the photo to the left showed “protesters pulling down a wall in a symbolic protest in Bait Sarik.”

On July 11, the Aljazeera caption again said that “Palestinians have reacted angrily to the Israeli plan.” The Palestinian protester’s sign “Apartheid Wall” added punch to the image as it linked their struggle that of the South Africans.

Young people carrying the Palestinian flag appear on the wall on February 23. In the caption, “Palestinians say the wall blocks them from having a viable state.” And on October 6, the image of young people, the flag, and the wall combine with the caption “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are being walled out of the city.”

On July 26, 2004, there are also young people wrapped in an Israeli flag, but they do not appear to be near the wall. The Aljazeera caption says that “Sharon’s disengagement plan is seen by some as just a US pleaser.”

Embassy Walls

CNN ran fewer stories on the Berlin wall than BBC and on the Israel wall than Aljazeera. One might have expected similar stories on the Mexican wall, but it was too early. There was, however an interesting story about North Koreans seeking asylum in Embassies on January 23, 2005. The caption said that “in September a large group scaled the wall around the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.” Young people climbing walls redux.

Mythical Walls

Walls, as we have suggested, are not only physical structures but also mythical ones that define liminality, uniting and dividing political communities. In borderlands, walls mark the edges of different communities. They set off different worlds of meaning, separating self and other, “us” and “them.” Sometimes they mark the margins of the clash of civilizations.

Wall stories are embedded in reports of globalizing news networks. In these media stories, different walls do different things. Each wall has its own story. Such walls as the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall are sites of memory, markers of past histories different from the present and from each other. Contemporary walls and fences between Israel and the Palestinians, the United States and Mexico are less sedimented. They mark currently contested sites; frontier borders where separate political communities flow together. These walls require constant physical mending. Natural and human forces want to bring them down and turn them into walls of memory.

Wall stories tell of the creation and the destruction. They condense the memories and myths of those who are walled in and those who are walled out, the offense and the defense, those who give offense and those who receive it.

As globalizing media tell wall stories, they give the walls legitimacy and power. Wall stories imply that the walls are important news. Wall stories reflect and construct an important part of the myths–the dominant narratives– of past history, present events, and the prospective future of globalizing culture. Aiming at a global audience, globalizing media should tell particular kinds of war stories. They should not report from one side or another of the walls. They should be on both sides of the walls, with a style that appears fair and balanced. At the same time, the globalizing media do not just report the facts. They also interpret, and their stories inevitably come from a particular perspective. The soil of the roots flavors the wine from the vines. The BBC reporting colors the Berlin Wall in dark colors that may not quite suit the taste of some Russians with long memories. Aljazeera’s depiction of the Israeli wall is not designed to appeal to Jews. Each network appeals to a segment of the global audience, but not the whole.

Wall stories memorialize the past and show the present becoming the future. Some try to tear them down; President Ronald Reagan calls on Chairman Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Some try to evade them, for example Mexican immigrants at the southern border of the United States. Others try to build them up. The walls in the news stories are metaphors of community and division. They mix geography and history. They carry material and mythical meanings for the societies on either side, as well as beyond, and for emerging global culture.

Francis A. Beer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His personal blog is Mythic America.

G. Robert Boynton is Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. His personal blog is Globalizing News.



Beer, Francis A. and G. Robert Boynton. 2009. Globalizing Media and International News. Iowa City IA: University of Iowa

Brown, Wendy. 2010. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Cambridge MA and Brooklyn NY. Zone Books.

Burgess, J. Peter. 1994. “European Borders: History of Space/Space of History”.

Jones, Reece. 2012. Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel. London and New York: Zed Books.

Lesham, Noam. 2012. “Beyond the Wall: Writing Conflict and History in Jerusalem”. (November 10).

Loyd, Jenna M., Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, eds. 2012. Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis. University of Georgia Press. Athens, Georgia.

Pegasus. nd. Research on Place and Space: Borders, Edges, Liminality, Marginality. University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Sasikumar, Karthika. 2012. “Review–Border Walls”.

Vale, Peter. 2009. Understanding the fall of the wall and other time tales. (June 1).

How Words Matter: Rhetoric, Politics, and International Relations

Many rhetoricians believe that rhetoric, like art, should be pursued and studied for its own sake.  Speakers and writers concerned with politics, however, have long known that rhetoric is very much of this world.  A pure art and science of rhetoric may be a desirable goal, but rhetoric in this world is not goal-free or context invariant.  Political rhetoricians  from the time of the Sophists through Classical figures like Aristotle, Cicero, Caesar and Quintilian have long known that rhetoric can be the high road to political power.

Cicero.jpg 962 × 600 – Attributed to Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.)

The development of language and the development of politics have been tightly bound together.  One of the most striking and central passages in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan is where he makes it quite explicit that the central power of the sovereign is the power to stabilize the meanings of words within the commonwealth.  Political rulers during the Middle Ages were anxious to define and determine languages within their sovereign boundaries as a device for communicating their power and authority.  Machiavelli lays particular importance on The Prince’s use of language as a device for inspiring the proper obedience among his subjects.  Language becomes the defining framework for political authority and communication.  It also emerges as a primary means of motivating political actors.  The symbolic subjective dimension helps to determine the disposition of the physical and the material.  The pen, as it is said, becomes at least as mighty as the sword.  It is not enough for Julius Caesar to conquer the Carthaginians and to cross the Rubicon.  He must also write a history of the Gallic Wars.  Images and actions join together in a way that makes the physical and virtual worlds inseparable.

In spite of this connection between language and politics, students of politics have not always been eager to recognize the political importance of language.  Scholars of international relations, in particular, have long been dismissive or ambivalent about the importance of language and rhetoric.  Thucydides, in the Melian debate of The Peloponnesian Wars, dismisses the use of mere words. On the other hand,  it is important to note that Thucydides’ views come to us down through history through the medium of the written text.  And it is also important to note that the work itself, the Peloponnesian Wars, embodies a highly structured dramaturgical design, reminiscent and reflective of the finest works of the Greek Classical dramatists. There is, of course, an important stylistic dimension to the work.  Argumentation forms the central core structure.  The actors are presented in a series of set argumentations or debates and finally there is a literary dimension reminiscent of postmodern perspectives.  In this work, the virtual, the symbolic assume a critical life of their own.

Nevertheless, scholars of international relations have not laid, in general, a heavy emphasis on language and rhetoric.  As Thucydides tells us, “The strong do as they will while the weak do as they must”.  In an outlook reminiscent of Plato’s belief in Forms, more modern scholars such as Hans Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz set forth a stark, essentialist view of international relations, international realism.  This view is based on their intuitive grasp of the essence of international relations, its geometric structure.  The system of international relations, in this perspective, consists of a minimalist field of forces.  Nations are essentially power robots.  They define their national interests in terms of power and they use whatever means, including war, to maximize that power.  Words are decidedly weaker, lighter, inferior to military force in this drive for power.  Nations that do not follow the structural laws of the system are quickly eliminated.  The system evolves to favor the survival of the powerful.  International relations, in this view, are the domain of specialists in coercion, not of specialists in persuasion.  The system of international relations consists, In Lasswell’s term,  of garrison states.  Non-garrison states are either incorporated into the garrison states or cease to exist.  This modernist, deep structural, essentialist, minimalist view is appealing because of its simplicity, its parsimony, its linearity – its cleanness.

Unfortunately, this view does not really do justice either to the complexities of the modern world, to international relations, or to politics in general.  A growing body of literature has now begun to recognize that our understanding of the relationship between politics and language must go beyond discussion of “cheap talk” and begin to deal seriously with political rhetoric with the politics and strategy of rhetoric.

Words matter, first of all, because they reflect the minds and thoughts of those who speak or write them, those who hear them or read them.  It is true that political actors very often, perhaps usually, do not say what they really think or mean.  An important part of political action is dissimulation to the extent that political action and political talk are strategic.  It would be naive to take words at their face value.  Nevertheless, the basis of any strategy must be the assumption that words do have an effect and an important one.  The actors may not say what they mean, but their words must, in their minds, carry a meaning that they would wish them to have.  The actors may not express what they think but they must express at least what they think their audience would want to hear or what would move their audience.  Political talk, then, may or may not be an authentic expression of the minds and thoughts of political actors.  Nevertheless, in its strategic form, political language must be importantly related to these minds and thoughts.  If political language is to have a strategic effect, words must matter and matter in an important way.


Political Rally; Nuremberg, Germany, 1934.

Talk may appear to be cheap because the marginal cost of each additional word seems to be close to zero.  Major economic investments are not required for President Obama or President Putin to utter the next word.  At the same time the infrastructure for the transmission of words and messages is far from inconsequential.  The modern media, as well as multibillion dollar state and corporate public relations enterprises exist precisely for the transmission of these messages.  Though a good deal of media content is commercial in form, its substance is always deeply political.  The dominance of world culture by Western media is the best example of this.

Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream, Washington DC Mall, August 28, 1963


Words are, of course, also a form of action and verbal behavior.  Verbal action is equivalent to non-verbal action and operates parallel to it. We can see the importance of words by examining their political role more closely in the field of international relations.  In the first place, the dominant theory of international relations, realism, is expressed verbally.  Words are used to develop, support and maintain this theory as the dominant interpretation.  In the same way words problematize realism and can help to validate other interpretations.

  • Words express the memories and histories of international relations.
  • Words express the narratives and myths of international relations.
  • Words express the perceptions of the observers and actors of international relations.
  • Words are used to convey many of the messages and signals of international relations.
  • Words and combined with each other, and with different forms of non-verbal behavior, into rhetorical strategies of persuasion.
  • Words are used to make peace.
  • Words are used for negotiation and bargaining.
  • Words are used to publicize the positions and views of different international actors.
  • Words are used to bind together international allies.
  • Words are used to command soldiers.
  •  Words are used to differentiate friends from enemy, self from other.
  •  Words are used to construct coalitions and hierarchies.
  •  Words are used to develop strategies, to articulate and discern preferences, utilities and probabilities.
  •  Words are used to describe trends and projections.
  •  Words are used to develop plans and policies.
  • Words are used to order military activities.
  • Words are used to coordinate economic international activities.
  • Words are used in debates and speeches over foreign affairs and reports that deal with foreign affairs.
  • Words are used in diplomacy.
  • Words express logic, cognition and ideas.
  • Words express interests and emotions.
  • Words express both the simplicity and complexity of international relations.
  • Words are both stimuli and responses in international relations.
  • Words construct political power and authority.
  • Words construct the rituals and meanings of politics.
  • Words construct identity and interest, privilege and disadvantage.
  • Words construct domination and subordination, victims and executioners,  resistance, rebellion and death.

We often wish for “magic words” that will quickly and easily bend others to our will. They may exist, but, if so, they are very elusive, hiding from us when we need them most. Yet talk is not just “cheap talk”, or “just rhetoric”.

Words matter for political leaders who talk and write, and for citizens,  journalists, and scholars who talk and write about them.