I've been watching the Ukraine incident unfold with this in mind. I think back to West Side Story where the two gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, go after one another and one lone young man, the hero Tony, tries to bridge the gap. He ends up dead. Mostly because he didn't have the tools to quell the gangs.
Today's conflicts aren't much different. Our Secretary of State can preach to the Russians, or any of our other adversaries, about how they're behaving in an outmoded manner all he wants. The reason why they thumb their nose at him and our President is because neither has the will nor the tools to have any clout.
One reader seems to think every time I write along these lines I'm advocating war. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am advocating being able to go to war as a last result if necessary. An ability to show strength that gives those adversaries pause. With the Defense Department cutting the Pentagon budgets to the extent they are, they're diminishing that deterrent.
In an ideal world negotiating would work. Everyone would get something and life would go on. We can't even do that within our own government. Why should the world follow our rhetoric on an grander scale knowing we have no will to lead?
Putin doesn't care which decade his behavior is most reminiscent of. He knows there is no will to stop him nor the ability. He will continue on until he gets bored, take a rest then get back to it. Whatever 'it' may suit his fancy.
Also in an ideal world there would be at least one other player who has the tools to stop him yet chooses not to utilize those tools unless the need is dire. That role used to be filled by the United States. I think it really began changing when Bush went into Iraq. I remain furious with him for that action. The U.S. doesn't start wars. It ends them. Pair that now with a pacifist detachment from all that goes on outside our borders it has done nothing but embolden bullies of all stripes.
The Europeans are of no help because they have done what we're about to do - allow our lust for spending overpower good sense and put the economy at even more peril than its already at. They've become beholden to the Russians for life sustaining gas. They're strong trading partners just as they are with Iran. With Russia pulling the strings.
We're like Tony now. We no longer have the tools. The waffling from the President makes him no one to fear. The weakness of our allies make them no one to fear. And the bully rules.
As in other parts of the world, there will be those who will try to step up to the plate. It will probably be students. Bored, lack of opportunities, tired of sacrificing for the selfishness and corruption of their leaders. Without the counterweight to the bullies they will not succeed. Look at Iran. Look at what had once been feasible in Syria until we dithered it away. How many others?
Will the pendulum ever swing back? I don't anticipate it in my lifetime. The Republicans in our area, which is small town conservative America, can't even get their heads together on what they represent. The Democrats are facing similar problems. Those defecting from their ranks are doing so to save their careers, not because a policy is just plain wrong.
Grass roots. It begins there. Left unchecked you get what we have today. The bully that will always be, will continue to win.