Diplomacy…

I’m not, either by training or disposition, suited for the world of diplomacy. There they use find words and polite phrases to make even the simplest issues sound complex. The complex issues, well, they make sound too difficult for a mere mortal to comprehend. Certainly not all people will ever grasp the detail of policy but the brad strokes don’t feel like they should be out of reach.

While I can’t in good conscience support all of the activities on the world stage of our current president, I do have something of a gut feeling that an occasional shake up in the polite world of diplomacy might actually be a net good overall. Turning the polite, made-for-tv photo op frippery of international diplomacy on its ear makes a dark little corner of my heart just a little bit happy.

With the G7 conference left in a tizzy, I’m waiting with great interest to see what news comes from Singapore. I fully expect the hand wringing of the international media, talking heads, the left here at home to be something worth seeing – even if only for its entertainment value.

No, I don’t want to watch the world burn, but I don’t mind at all seeing it dragged out of its comfort zone from time to time.

Like I said, I’d well and truly suck as a diplomat.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Capitulation. I’m appalled that a corporation with the size and resources of Sony Pictures folded like a rag doll when faced with what basically scales up to nation-state level cyber bullying. Personally, I would have put The Interview on every screen possible, made it available for free online, and publicized the hell out of it at every step – a full page ad in the Sunday New York Times unequivocally stating that Sony will not be intimidated or extorted. I’m even more alarmed at the silence coming out of our political leaders in Washington. At first blush this was a cyber attack directed against a private company, but what it really was is an attack on intellectual property every bit as real as an attack on a US flagged ship on the high seas or a missile targeted at one of our cities. Hacking carried out at the behest of a foreign power should be treated as seriously and responded to with as much fury as a conventional attack on American soil. If cyber is going to be the new frontier, we’d damn well better start defending it instead of showing cowardice in the face of the enemy.

2. Story Time. I’m sure all your family traditions and legends of Christmases past are very important to you. The memories undoubtedly fill you with happiness and joy. As someone who’s only a step or two removed from being a complete stranger, however, your stories don’t do much for me besides make me wonder why the hell I’m sitting here listing to you tell me about mid-century Christmas in the American heartland. It’s not so much that I don’t care about Christmas as it is I don’t care about *your* version of Christmas in 1964. It’s a distinction that some people seem to have a much more difficult time making than they really should.

3. Cuba. The Cold War’s over. We won. The very best thing we can do for the hungry and oppressed people of Cuba in the 21st century is welcome their island country into the warm embrace of the Monroe Doctrine, normalize relations, open two or three Atlantis-style resorts, a few casinos, and turn the place into a tourist destination. Some day in the not too distant future the Brothers Castro are going to be dead and I’d rather our interests have a leg up then find themselves looking in from the outside.

In the streets…

I was a kid when the Berlin Wall fell. I watched it, like the rest of the world, from on the living room television on the still new medium of 24-hour cable news. A few years later, on Christmas Day 1991, I watched the red banner of the Soviet Union lowered atop the Kremlin for the last time and the Evil Empire vote itself out of existence. It was supposed to be the “end of history” and a new era of peace and prosperity as the cold war between superpowers ended with a wimper and not a bang. And it seemed that way. For a while.

With the benefit of hindsight, we all know now that history was mostly just taking a breather. An operational pause if you will. Instead of stable, peaceful, and decidedly American, we discovered that without the weight of two competing superpowers, the world was a complex and and downright messy. The price of winning the Cold War was learning to live in a much less certain world full of unintended consequences.

I’m once again watching unimaginable events beamed from space into the comfort of my own living room. Twenty years have passed, the names and places have changed, but it’s the same old story. A change is gonna come. In Egypt. In Libya. Perhaps in Saudi Arabia and across the whole Middle East the world is proving, once again, that it’s still a complicated place. After all, we’re still America and it’s our long-held obligation to midwife democracy wherever in the world it might take root. We must, together, stand with these people who are rising up against decades of ruthless tyranny – not to dominate them – but to help them on the path to real and lasting democracy crafted to suit the particular needs of their country and their culture.

We have a moment, and just a moment, where history hangs in the balance. We’ve proved our mettle in two grinding wars to defeat a ruthless enemy on the battlefield. Now let us show our mettle as peacemakers and diplomats to take away the very chaos, instability, and hatred that sustain our enemies.