Thursday, August 14, 2008

Me and Ray Charles have been thinking about ....

The wire services report Russia has finally stopped trying to make Georgia its bitch. Again. When you're the birthplace of Josef Stalin, it's hard to separate yourself from the life and times of the former Soviet Union and as Georgia found out out, there's only so far having friends in the West will take you. Moral indignation is certainly no match for a T-72 tank of which the Russians had many and the Georgians not so much.

The good news, I think, should be that most of us here in the Land of the Round Doorknobs didn't expect to see live video from Atlanta, which is what I had feared would happen. We have had so little appreciation for geography in recent years from the White House on down, so I think things are looking up.

One of the more discomfiting things for me, a fifty-six year old man, has been how the events unfolding 'over there' reinforced my never-put-to-rest suspicions about bringing the Russian Bear to its knees (sorry, Roger). As a retired and very tired Cold Warrior, I and the generations who grew up in the Shadow of the Bomb, always expected to hear the footfall in the night or feel the knee to the groin that we knew the Evil Empire was more than capable of delivering.

Looking back, Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD, was absolutely crazy as a strategy and I'm grateful that I've never had to explain it (yet) to my two twenty-something year old children, but take my word for it, it made sense in its time. You had to be there. That it's now an online game is yet more New Mother Nature taking over.

There's a lot to be said for Pax America, especially if you're an American (okay, perhaps only if you're an American). By way of comparisons: Pax Romana lasted about two hundred years and encompassed the Birth of Christ, which proved to be an epoch, not to mention empire, changing event--not that I'm comparing it to the Fall of the Wall or the Elevation of Terrorism as an Art form, but the stresses and strains were similar, I suspect. And while the sun never set on the British Empire for an extended period of time, there was more than a fair amount of turbulence.

And here we are, still more butter than guns as the 21st Century rolls through its first decade, and five years into conflicts half way across the Earth with those who will be satisfied only when we are dead, or when they, themselves, are. But we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves or daunted by the world we've created.

It's been a tough couple of decades for Russia, all things considered. I think it was in Hedrick Smith's "The Russians" where someone explained 'the Communists pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.' Such was the challenge that faced Russia after the Soviet Union imploded. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before whatever we call teasing and disparagement at the international relations level proved to be too much to bear in Moscow. Maybe all of that, and the funeral ten days ago of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was a perfect storm fated to happen with Georgia the designated victim.

If nothing else, it teaches me the value of not dragging a stick across the bars, no matter how firmly fastened the locks on the cage may appear. And for the rest of us, almost totally (if not criminally) self-absorbed, we can continue to contemplate (and complain about) the price of gas, the baseball pennant races and when starters are gonna start playing in NFL pre-season games. Y'know, the important stuff. Meanwhile, let's listen to Brother Ray...
-bill kenny

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