I work with a wonderful young woman from Serbia. She’s one of the most competent people I’ve ever met: practical, insightful, and wise. She frequently leaves me tongue-tied, but never more than when we were on a break the other day, when she asked me, “What do you think should be done about what’s happening in Georgia?”
How the fuck can I answer that? I’m standing with a woman who went through war. She keeps her important documents packed in easily portable containers because she knows safety can crumble in an instant. Americans talk about natural disasters tearing their homes down around them: she watched homes get bombed into oblivion. And she’s been on the receiving end of large countries playing deadly political games with small ones.
I got the sense she expects America to do the right thing. How? I told her what I honestly believe to be true: the European Union is going to have to step up and take the lead on this one, because our credibility is shattered. How can America condemn Russia for expansionist, regime-changing belligerence when we’ve engaged in the same bad behavior? We have no diplomatic capital left. We’ve spent our moral authority. And our military readiness is a fucking joke. We can’t afford to kick Iran around, much less start a brawl with fucking Russia. And the Russians know it. We can’t bluff ’em: the bluff’s already been called.
I wish we could stop this. We can’t – not alone.
And I don’t know enough about the history and politics of the region to answer the whys. I don’t know exactly why Russia’s flexing its muscles, or why it chose Georgia to kick around. I don’t know what the people over there want. I don’t know what the separatists want from Russia, Georgia, or America. I don’t know what they expect us to do. I don’t know how they can expect us to do anything. I got the sense that some people are still looking to America to lead the way into peace and democracy. They don’t understand that our current regime has no comprehension of either.
“I just want leaders to stop invading countries and killing people,” I finally said. To which she laughed, and agreed: this is exactly what we all want, an end to the politics of the big guns and the military jack boot. We just want leaders who are willing to settle things with diplomacy and civility rather than reaching for bombs, without a single fucking care in the world as to the ordinary people who will die for their ambitions.
I wish America could lead on that front. I wish America had the diplomatic and moral might to say, with authority, without hypocrisy, that the killing needs to stop. We’ll help you stop it, and we’ll help you find solutions that work.
It’s sad how Pollyanna that sounds. Working together to negotiate the best possible outcome for all is the tough, strong way to handle international relations. It’s just the warmongers who have made “negotiation” a synonym for “weakness.” It’s the warmongers who have so squandered our political capital that we don’t have a penny to spare.