Jones will have to play hardball with the generals as well as the diplomats and soft-power advocates.
To be intent and serious to the point of callousness; play for keeps: You want to play hardball, here we go
[1973+; fr the presumed distinction in difficulty, severity, and manliness between baseball, that is, hardball, and softball]
: fields hardball questions in a practice TV interview/ despite his hardball attitude toward sponsors of offensive TV shows
Serious and consequential activity, work, etc; perilous and responsible doings: It's hardball now, it's not games anymore/ It's going to be hard ball. We're talking about physicians losing income
play hardball (1973+)