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Let's begin with a lesson in history: In early through mid-November of 1942, a joint British-American invasion of North Africa--Operation Torch--was launched with the objective of capturing Casablanca in Morocco. This invasion would prove a prelude to the opening of a second front in Normandy a couple of years later, and would involve 100,000 Allied troops and more than 800 ships. What's more, the invading Allies could not be sure of the reception they would receive from the French on shore. Would they be greeted as liberators or enemies? For the British had sunk the French fleet in nearby Algeria, fearing it would fall into German hands--and the collaborationist regime in Vichy was still denouncing the British as imperialists seeking only to further their own interests. Both sides were soon involved in a propaganda war to win the hearts and minds of the French population in North Africa.

Now once again a president of the United States has set out to unify foreign allies against a clear and present danger, this time from the dictatorial regime of North Korea's latest Kim. What should the president of the United States say to all those following his every word?

Here's a suggestion: How about taking his cue from none other than George S. Patton, who was not only a great commander in war but could strike a diplomatic note when necessary, as when he wrote to the Sultan of Morocco:

"Your majesty must realize the painful sentiments which I entertain in contemplating the necessity of shedding the blood of my friends, but the stern necessity of war demands that if the French armed forces continue to demonstrate the hostility they have already shown, it is my military duty and purpose to attack by air, by sea, and by land, with the utmost violence known to modern war."

The sultan got the point, and responded to the general's ultimatum with dispatch, sending him some ornamental daggers to go with the pearl-handed pistols the general customarily carried.

If our current president is no history buff, let's hope he's enough of a film fan to have seen the classic movie Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, owner and proprietor of Rick's Cafe Americaine in Casablanca and the luminous Ingrid Bergman as his lost love. The characters gather in that fabled city awaiting, usually in vain, for a passport, visa, or at least a letter assuring the bearer of a safe passage.

For a more complete exploration of these multiple layers of fact and fiction, see Mark Yost's excellent piece in the the Tuesday, November 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal, in which he points out how the historic real and the movie reel mix and match. For all things that rise to to converge in the capacious public mind as reality imitates fiction.

Even now a cast of characters that would rival Casablanca's may be gathering in every city along this president's route to Far Cathay, wondering how they, too, can escape the coming cataclysm, or, despite all odds, savor deliverance at last. For this is an old story, whose ending, for good or ill, has yet to be revealed. Which is why this is a story To Be Continued.

Editorial on 11/10/2017

Print Headline: What should he say?

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