so-called diplomatic tsunami

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 11 04:18:15 UTC 2011

>From the Miami Herald:  originally here:
Israel facing 'diplomatic tsunami' with Arab neighbors. Sheera Frenkel.
McClatchy Newspapers. 09.10.11
> "Within a week Israel has found itself two friends down and about to face a
> so-called diplomatic tsunami with the Palestinians," said one European envoy
> in Jerusalem, who spoke on condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol.

There are all sorts of odd things here (and in the rest of the article), but
the first thing that got my attention was "diplomatic tsunami". Then I
wondered about the "so-called".

Google definition (via MWOL) is what I thought it might be:

1. Used to show that something or someone is commonly designated by the name
> or term specified
> 2. Used to express one's view that such a name or term is inappropriate

OED is a bit oblique on the first one, splitting it into two somewhat
underdescribed categories:

1. a. In predicative use (properly without hyphen): Called or designated by
> that name.
>  b. Qualified by /properly/.

 2. In attributive use (hyphened): Called or designated by this name or
> term, but not properly entitled to it or correctly described by it. Also
> loosely or catachr. as a term of abuse.

Personally, I like the MW version better, but, historically, OED seems
accurate--early examples are /explanatory/ "so-called": "so called
because...". On second thought, they appear to be not compatible. In the OED
1.a. version, one can substitute either "so" (e.g., with "thus") or "called"
(e.g., with "identified") and the result would be klugy (not an OED word
BTW), but understandable. No such substitution can be made for MW 1.,
non-explanatory version. For example, it does not work in the original
example above. And their syntactic roles are completely different. The odd
thing is that the OED lemma does not contradict the MW meaning, but none of
the examples conform to that formula (and none are after 1863!). So, it
looks like it needs to differentiate between the two.

Another thing that occurred to me is that "so-called" often implies that the
name is not universal (when it does not imply that the name is not
appropriate at all). X is "so-called" because there is some group of people,
united by some property, that uses this identification. In other words, it
refers to something that I doubt the meaning of, but I also know that
someone uses that identification. For example, "Nepal is the home of the
so-called yeti" implies two things--people who believe in such things refer
to them as "yeti" AND this "yeti" is endemic to Nepal. (Don't worry about
the accuracy of the example itself.) Saying, "In the so-called Carbomite
Maneuver...", implies that those who are not trekkies may not be familiar
with the term "carbomite maneuver" which trekkies use to identify some
strategic plot (so called because of it's use in one of the original Star
Trek episodes, where, in turn, it was completely made up). So the
implication is not just that the term is commonly associated with the
underlying concept (token?), but that the audience may not be familiar with
the term--in fact, the term may well be "common" only in specific
circumstances and otherwise obscure.

This is exactly the case with the "diplomatic tsunami". My initial reaction
was that it was made up--perhaps even by the very diplomat quoted in the
article. But why, in this case, use "so-called"? There must be an underlying
group that shares common use of "diplomatic tsunami". In fact, there is--a
quick check of current news immediately reveals "diplomatic tsunami" on
Al-Jazeera. (The report in the Miami Herald is from McClatchy, so it has no
relation to Al-Jazeera.)
 Israel's diplomatic tsunami. Rachel Shabi. Al-Jazeera. 09 Sep 2011 15:43

> The story is that when the Palestinian Authority puts in a UN bid for
> statehood, in a few weeks time, it will precipitate what Israel describes as
> a "diplomatic tsunami" - a wave of hostility as nations stampede to back the
> Palestinians, leaving Israel unsupported and alone.

 To make matters more interesting, the words "diplomatic tsunami" are linked
directly to another article, this one in Ha'aretz back in March.
Barak: Israel facing regional 'earthquake' and diplomatic 'tsunami'. Natasha
Mozgovaya and Haaretz Service. 03:53 23.03.11

> Israel is facing an "earthquake" rattling Middle East regimes as well as
> the threat of an anti-Israeli diplomatic tsunami, Defense Minister Ehud
> Barak said Tuesday.

This is backed up by another post that traces the origin of the term to
March 13, 2011, in an Ehud Barak speech.
Barak: ‘Israel’s ‘diplomatic tsunami’ is approaching. Posted on March 15,

> On March 13, 2011 – Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies
> in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted that Israel
> could face a *diplomatic tsunami* if the deadlock in Benji-Abbas peace
> talks continues. He also warned that the campaign to *delegitimize *the
> Zionist entity was picking momentum and "an international movement that may
> recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders."

> What Barak meant by the 'diplomatic tsunami'--was not the recognition
> of PA’s  unelected government by some countries in far-away South America or
> Africa, but the current political mood within the Muslim world. The fall of
> Israel’s Arab security guards in Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon, and more to
> happen in Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries
> ruled by western puppet regimes. As the result of these changes, the Zionist
> around the world are in panic on the thought of Islamists filling the vacuum
> which indirectly will increase Iranian influence.

 [emphasis in original]

A bit more digging gets even closer--actually published on March 13.
Barak: Israel must advance peace or face a 'diplomatic tsunami'. Barak
Ravid. 20:37 13.03.11

> Israel could face a diplomatic tsunami if the standstill in Mideast peace
> talks continues, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday, adding that a
> massive campaign to delegitimize Israel was at hand.

> Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on
> Sunday, Barak said that as that September deadline nears "we stand to face a
> diplomatic tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of," Barak
> said, adding that there was "an international movement that may recognize a
> Palestinian state within the 1967 borders."

"It's a mistake not to notice this tsunami. Israel's delegitimization is in
> sight, even if citizens don't see it. It is a very dangerous situation, one
> that requires action," the defense minister said, adding that "diplomatic
> initiative" would "reduce risks down the road."

So this is nice, neat and compact--we have the origin of Israel's
"diplomatic tsunami" and the exact date when it was coined, right?

Not so fast!
GLOBAL DIPLOMATIC TSUNAMI. K. N. Rao. 29 November 2010, 9:00 AM

> At a time when USA is busy resuscitating its moribund domestic economy the
> Wikileaks has created a global diplomatic tsunami ruining its international
> reputation as the most untrustworthy nation of the world spying even on UN
> officials and its known international friends even in UK which gave to
> George Bush his poodle called Tony Blair.   [paywalled]
 Release of U.S. State Department documents to cause diplomatic tsunami,
Manoyan says. PanARMENIAN.Net  November 28, 2010 | Copyright

> The release of U.S. State Department documents will cause a real diplomatic
> tsunami, according to ARF Hay Dat and Political Affairs Office Director Kiro
> Manoyan.
Assessing WikiLeak's Damage To U.S. National Security. James Zumwalt. Human
Events. 12/05/2010

> He [PFC Bradley Manning] is a man who has triggered a diplomatic tsunami
> that will circle much of the globe, destroying US trust and confidence in
> its wake.
> ...
> At a time we are trying to put fires out started by North Korea’s
> aggression, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Mexican drug gangs crossing
> over our borders, Hezbollah terrorists linking up with drug gangs, China’s
> extraterritorial claims, etc., we should not be faced with dealing with the
> damage created by PFC Manning’s diplomatic tsunami.  Originally from
A diplomatic tsunami is brewing over the corpse of Lebanon's government. The
Daily Star, Lebanon, Editorial. February 21, 2005
> Lebanon and Syria are not unlike the Pacific Basin that produced the
> tsunami that recently devastated Southeast and South Asia. Here in Beirut,
> however, it is a diplomatic tsunami that is brewing, with the assassination
> of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri akin to the earthquake that produced
> the tidal wave. Even the initial effects of this storm are serious enough,
> and Syrian President Bashar Assad and the regime he heads have taken a
> battering. More, much more, should be expected.
Damascus must act now, right now, to avoid the force of a diplomatic
tsunami. The Daily Star, Lebanon, Editorial. March 04, 2005 12:00 AM

> The diplomatic tsunami that could first be observed rising toward Syria
> with the passage last September of UN Resolution 1559 is now in full swell
> and rushing toward Damascus at an ever-increasing rate of knots. What began
> as a U.S.-French initiative now has the full weight of the United Nations
> behind it, as well as, most recently, the individual voices of Germany and,
> significantly, of Syria's traditional ally, Russia.
> ...
> "Immediate" is the word employed by the now formidable array of capitals in
> asking Syria to withdraw its uniformed and non-uniformed forces from
> Lebanon. When it comes to a tsunami, however, the best advice is to move
> like the wind to avoid the full force of disaster.
Nuclear deal RIP?  C Uday Bhaskar, Dayly News & Analysis. Thursday, May 22,
2008, 19:58 IST

> The 10th anniversary of the Pokhran II nuclear tests elicited modest
> interest in Washington DC; this was in sharp contrast to the
> politico-diplomatic tsunami in May 1998, when Bill Clinton was President of
> the United States. At the time US Secretary of State Madeline Albright went
> ballistic — India was the target of considerable anger for having crossed
> the nuclear Rubicon.
Ninjas Are From Japan (Cont...). Owen Rodriguez, Bragging Writes. September
30, 2009 10:19 AM

> "If you really did wipe out all three of these guys there would have been
> reporters from all over the globe covering this. You would have created a
> diplomatic tsunami--excuse the pun," Craig grinned.

"Tsunamis are Japanese," Gavin corrected.

There is an entry in UD, under Chirac:

"French President J.Chirac’s remarks on President T. Mbeki’s peace efforts
in Ivory Coast have unleashed a political and diplomatic tsunami in Africa
and in the Diaspora. During a state visit to Senegal in February 2005, the
French Head of State said: 'West Africa is West Africa. It has its own
characteristics. You have to know it well.' Pr Shadrack described the French
President’s comments as representative of a 'typical racist mentality of a
former colonizer'."

This is confirmed as having originated here:
Is France the curse of Africa?. Djeukam Tchameni. 3/11/05

The opinion piece appeared a week later in [Rwanda] New Times:

Another article from 2005 also mentions Chirac, but ties the term to
Lebanese took a cue from Iraq. Trudy Rubin,  April 27, 2005

> Hariri's death also provoked international anger against Syria, not just
> from the Bush team but from Chirac, and from key Arab countries such as
> Saudi Arabia. (Hariri was close to the ruling family.)

"This was a diplomatic tsunami against Syria," says Mroue. "They had no
> friends on the globe."

 Jamil Mroue is "editor of the Beirut Daily Star".

Another one that I particularly like, unfortunately, has no date attached:
Our Nuclear-Free Opportunity. Nathan Pyles, The Reagan Vision. [No date.]
> Berners-Lee’s innovation and decision to make web access unfettered and
> free, has been a diplomatic tsunami.

The list is not exhaustive, but illustrative. To sum up, there appear to be
several possibly linked clusters that appeared long before Barak's speech:
February-March 2005 in the Beirut Daily Star, in reference to the
international response against Syria in the wake of the Hariri murder; an
immediately following opinion by Djeukam Tchameni, targeting Jacques Chirac
for expressing a neo-colonial sentiment; a response to Wikileaks in late
2010 that initially appeared on astrology websites and, later, in Human
Events, and several isolated incidents in 2008-9. But the Barak speech on
March 13, 2011 clearly served as a vector, as the mention of "diplomatic
tsunami" has exploded over the summer, leading up to the McClatchy piece
with which I started this post.


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