Wednesday, January 19, 2022

"Big nations can't bluff"...Biden blows it!

I have never been able either to comprehend or to countenance the level of chicanery that seems attached to weak and grovelling men who aspire to and desperately pursue power and status. Everyone knows that they have had to “kiss ass” so many times, it has become routine, normal, and even expected, from their perspective. They also have had to twist both the truth and themselves in the wind of whatever situation placed them in a negative light, as they scramble in vain to squirm out of that black light, especially if someone they consider important to their career path is watching.

Power and the pursuit of power begats secrecy, deception, manipulation, and downright scurrilous behaviour. The full truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has no place in the lexicon of values for those in positions of power.

First off, they have literally no idea of the kind of work, the specificity or the complexity of those in their charge, and what’s more, they simply do not want to know. In that way, they escape the fine details of having to face whatever injustices might be operating at the shop floor/office floor level. They justify this ignorance as “we do not have either the time or the energy to get down into the weeds of each person’s job, or their complaints, or their life story. We have to maintain a clear perspective on the gestalt of the operation, so that we can discern if and when a ‘big fire’ is breaking out. And by ‘bug fire’ they inevitably mean, the kind of fire that will sink their personal narcissistic ambitions, plans and their conscious or unconscious genuflecting to the false god of their own brass ring.

“A secret is something you tell only to one person at a time!” is a verbatim phrase I have heard from the mouth of such a man, desperate to prove himself as a ‘top dog’ on the totem pole of his profession. And then, as if to reinforce that vacuity, he notes that his own superior has ordered that no political crisis must ever reach the office of that superior, lest the superior too will have to contend with the political mess that has been rising, like slime, to the top of the organization’s agenda.

Characterizing those in their orbit in a manner that ‘patronizes’ and detaches them from the real authenticity of their ‘charges’, calling them with descriptive monikers like “immature”, ‘self-absorbed,’ radical,’ ‘too idealistic,’ ‘going through a rough patch’….these are just some of the ways that they dismiss any who take exception to their way of operating.

Years after a long professional relationship of disdain, even contempt between a supervisor and a potential employee rejected in the interview, to approach that unsuccessful candidate with an “apology” for not having hired him/her, is another sign of a degree of false humility verging on dissembling….It is shame and guilt that prompts such an abject apology, given the successful career of that interviewee in another local setting.

Weak men, too, are those who are so enmeshed in the modus operandi of “saying whatever others want to hear” so that they curry only positive ‘reviews’ in the hope, too often successfully proven as worthy, that, if, and when the time comes for either a vote or a recommendation for promotion, because they ‘have no enemies’ they are promoted.

It is not that only sycophants are promoted; it is that too many wily, cunning, solo-flyers have and continue to rise to the top of too many organizations, both in politics and in corporations, including academia, social services, ecclesial bodies and health care organizations. The model of the “successful” role model, who wears the brass ring, drives the BMW, vacations in the Mediterranean or the South Pacific, and lives in a 5000 square foot McMansion, can only come to a crashing halt when s/he meets a concrete wall of realization that s/he has been faking it throughout the decades of his/her career.

It is not that powerful people are not intelligent; they are.

It is not that powerful people are not insightful; they are.

It is not even that powerful people are not charismatic; they are.

It is, however, what comprises charisma, and insight for how to climb, and intelligence for how to slide through the hurdles, the speed bumps, the small and medium-sized conflicts, and the unruffled performance in the interview process that assures too many decision makers that ‘this is our choice’ for CEO.

Glib, charismatic, uber-confident, unwavering, unapologetic, quick-witted, never skipping a breath when pressed for a response to a difficult question like ‘what would you do in this situation’….after all, those making the decisions have mastered the formula, and given that they have achieved through such imitation, why would they not given lasting legacy to that model in their own decisions?

“He rose to the top because he had no enemies,” is a phrase so often uttered, not by those who competed for the top job against him, but from objective observers who have traced his career path from the beginning. And, or course, once installed, those people (men and women) are extremely difficult to extract from those positions. They have honed their ’diplomatic skills’ and their rhinoceros skin, and their deaf ear, and their blind eye, and especially their shading of all ‘inconvenient truths’ especially those that might have bruised their ego and their reputation.

And, for those of us outside the “inner circles” wherever we go, and preferring that outsider status, we watch sometimes with ironic humour, sometimes with tragic sadness, and other times, with patient scepticism and doubt knowing that such people are ‘in over their head’ without realizing it.

Have you ever noticed, too, that those in positions of power have an image of the culture they seek to implant, a culture that need compliant “plants” in their greenhouse, to grow to a certain height, to blossom in a certain season and manner, and to wither in an appropriate time frame, predictably, given the history of that particular culture.

Joe Biden held a second press conference today, honouring his first full year in office. And, likeable, affable, compassionate, empathic, and ‘mature’ “Joe” uttered many statements, many of them written and delivered to attempt to recover some of the lost ground he has experienced on the last few months, now with an approval rating of somewhere in the 30% range, with a disapproval rate of 53%....

So he had to ‘sell’ some of his administration’s accomplishments over the last twelve months. Agreed.

And he was asked to address the current military build-up on the eastern border of Ukraine. And, voluble as he is, peppering his lines with “no joke, I’m serious”…he uttered these words, “Big nations cannot bluff!”

As if to remind his audience that the United States, under his presidency, was not bluffing when it repeats “serious repercussions” against Russia, should Putin attack Ukraine. And yet, after two-hundred years of American “bluffing” and pounding its national chest, and huffing and puffing about how its engagement in the Middle East, for example, has nothing to do with the oil reserves in that region, and then compliantly covering the existence of nuclear weapons in Israel from full disclosure on the world’s geopolitical stage, and then …..the list of American bluffing and huffing and puffing, (not exclusively by trump) is legion…and yet, without being confronted in that presser, Biden demonstrates how hollow, weak and ineffectual is his administration in the face of another  huffing and puffing desperate Russian leader.

Damon Linker in The Week, January 14, 2022 in a piece entitled, “Putin calls America’s bluff on Ukraine,” writes:

Russia has amassed significant forces along the border of Ukraine. Talks between Russia and NATO appear to have broken down. Members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment are beginning to suggest the need to respond to any Russian military moves against Ukraine with a strong show of force. How did we get here, seemingly on track toward either direct military confrontation with a nuclear-armed state nearly 5,000 miles from American shores, or poised to back down and retreat in the face of a frontal challenge to a military alliance led by the United States?

The answer is that we go here by bluffing---and the evident decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call our bluff. One possible response to this unhappy situation is to continue bluffing in the hopes that Putin with eventually blink. The other far more reasonable path is to reassess the decision that got us here in the first place and move forward with less unsustainable hubris….We have been able to fight a series of small (if intractable) wars around the world because, in each case, our opponent has been vastly weaker than we are. But we have also extended implicit security guarantees to places where a strong or rising regions power has competing interests. And we’ve handled such situations by acting as if we’re willing to defend certain countries against formidable military threats when we’ve never really been prepared to do so.

This approach to conducting foreign policy worked well enough so long as no one called our bluff. Our willingness and ability to project power to the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa served as supposed evidence of our resolve everywhere.

Thank you Mr. Linker!

Biden’s words rang so hollow that one can only envision, in both Bejing and Moscow, men are excitedly quaffing their favourite liquid refreshment and laughing uproariously, most likely on a secure vitural connection between the two capitals. America has stated she is unprepared to put “boots on the ground” in Ukraine, that she will defend Taiwan against Chinese attempts to take her over, that any nuclear threats from North Korea will be met with serious repercussions.

At what point, Mr. Biden, is the American voice not to be considered the “master of the bluff”, especially when you publicly utter those unforgiveable words of denial?

This space has never advocated military action as the optimum solution to any conflict. And we urged a withdrawal from Afghanistan years before the Biden administration made the decision to withdraw. And we are not arguing here for military action on the border of Russia and Ukraine. However, we do expect that the words of the American president, hours prior to a potential invasion of Ukraine, will at least have the temerity and the authenticity to refrain from uttering the blatantly ridiculous.

Canadians are watching and listening to the tidal wave of rhetoric from both sides, amid a pandemic in which barely 2% of the southern half of the globe have been vaccinated, and where the virus still continues to rampage. A military conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not a chapter in world history that any of us can tolerate. And the sabre rattling on both sides, with the U.S. continuing to diagnose Putin’s various moves as either bluffing or not, while he keeps his poker hand very close to his vest.

If we were to enter from another planet, which leader would we discern might have the upper hand in strategy, even if not in military might?

And which leader would we judge to be more easily manipulated, though whatever trickery, chicanery or even bluffing?

The answers are obvious, and the stature of the United States is becoming more tarnished by the hour.

None of us envisioned this kind of scenario in 2022, after four  years of incompetent negligence verging on the criminal in the Oval Office. 


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home