Friday, March 7, 2014

Cacophony and heavy metal not the stuff of reflective resolution

With Putin's puppets in the Kremlin moving to approve the secession of the Crimea from Ukraine and its adoption by Russia, a move the west says is illegitimate, and Putin himself rebuffing Obama's call for negotiations including officials from Kiev, and publicly threatening reciprocal sanctions on the U.S. while changing the terms of the gas sale to Ukraine by removing the discount offered to Yanukovich, and the dialogue of the "deaf" continuing between Kerry and Lavrov, it is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, this morning, who calls for Ukraine not to become an outpost for either the west or Russia, but rather a bridge between the west and Russia.
The ninety-year-old academic-turned diplomat-turned-international consultant still merits serious listening, in the old "E.F. Hutton" mode (people listen when Hutton speaks). However, seeing the 'big picture' is unlikely by many, including both Obama and Putin, at this time, in the midst of a flurry of mixed reports, rumours, innuendo and threats, that amount to a kind of rock-concert cacophony in which no one really hears the words of any single song, but rather pulsates to the monster "beat", almost hypnotically, (and the beat here is one of a counterpoint of statements and counter-statements from Washington and Moscow, interrupted occasionally by a few milder riffs from Berlin and London, and the occasional trill from New York's United Nations.
There is a kind of unfolding, moveable theatre being staged by the chief diplomats, purportedly for the benefit of their respective theatre audiences back home, that seems to evoke echoes of the dysfunctional dialogue between the history professor and his college-president's daughter wife in Edward Albee's play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, in which both protagonists were quickly becoming inebriated. Much anger, accusation, counter-accusation, charges of hypocrisy by both sides, without any sign that either side would prefer a resolution to the actual furor of verbal jousting.
It is drama that portrays a kind of hollow emptiness, both to the words and to the prospects for anything substantial to emerge, especially given all the old wounds and scars and pre-rehearsed rhetoric of combat, in which all sides are steeped, and perhaps even mired.
The core learning from the tobacco industry's fight to survive, given the compelling arguments against their products from science, we now learn, was "doubt"....sow doubt and the chaos that results will preserve our position to sell cigarettes.
Both Obama and Putin seem to have lifted a page from the legal manual of those tobacco companies, and thrown their "hypocrisy" and "doubt" rhetoric at each other; of course the respective media agents on both sides run with the latest salvo, and the more thoughtful and more insightful and the more reflective and less combative words of people like Kissinger get lost in the fray.
We have already crossed the proverbial threshold of war, in which the first casualty is "truth"....and who knows where this drama will finds its denoument, or its peaceful resolution...and when.
However, what we do know is that heavy metal rhythm and cacophonous arguments are not the stuff of calm, reflective and serious "getting-to-yes" processes. In fact, they are our guarantee that getting-to-yes is not the goal of either side. Kissinger's bridge seems only a mirage on a foggy oil painting hanging over the Maidan, noticed by no one walking by. Perhaps one day, it will hang in the very room where Kerry and Lavrov or perhaps Obama and Putin put this mess to a resolution, without firing a shot.

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