A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 9, 2012

On the Introduction of the Phrase "Nuclear Duck" to Policy Debates

BBC Iran correspondent James Reynolds ponders Bibi Netanyahu's remark:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?" Mr Netanyahu asked. "That's right, it's a duck - but this duck is a nuclear duck. And it's time the world started calling a duck a duck."
 The old "If it walks like a duck" analogy is examined at some length and then Reynolds concludes:
Now Mr Netanyahu has used the phrase in Washington. It was perhaps only time before someone decided that the hitherto silent victim deserved a right of reply.
"I've never been so humiliated in all my life," says Daffy Duck in a video mash-up of Mr Netanyahu's speech posted on YouTube, "Quack, quack."
Here's the video in question at YouTube, at least until the Looney Tunes people claim infringement:

Reynolds raises an obvious point about the overused duck metaphor, but I'm struck by the coining of a new phrase here, "nuclear duck." At first it evokes something even more sinister than "backpack nukes": the true WMD, a Waterfowl of Mass Destruction.

I don't mean to be flippant about a serious subject (oh, alright, I do), but it's also a fact that the duck imagery usually gets employed when you're a bit short on hard evidence, so you resort to accusing your antagonist of being ducklike. (This could be considered fowl play. Sorry.) So is time for a serious Marxist analysis. Don't worry: I don't mean Karl.

Ducks and war, of course, should bring to the mind of ever literate person that classic philosophical meditation on diplomacy, war, and futility, the Marx Brothers' immortal Duck Soup (1933). Now, it's true that, beyond its title, Duck Soup has absolutely nothing to do with ducks, but that makes as much sense as the rest of it.

Unfortunately I can't find the classic battle scenes online, but the "We're going to war!" production number is, and sadly, it reminds me all too much of the present mood:

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