I won't pretend that I wasn't quietly satisfied at the hockey "Winter War" when I got up this morning.
The 2014 Sochi Olympic Games as Putin's pet project always irked me. I know, I konw, the guy is no worse than many another politician, just another grifting thug, but he's a grifting thug in charge of a hell of a big country with pretensions of global power and seeing the Finns piss in his morning kvass was as satisfying as watching a Gingrich marriage fail or a Wall Street CEO perp-walked.
No matter how painful the failure, if the object of the pain is really loathsome you just can't help smiling when they get booted in the nuts.
I don't pretend that my country is a treasure. But Russia is, by all accounts, a goddamn mess.
That made me think about how many of the world's nations and governments are similarly completely screwed, at least for the people who have to live with them.
My friend Labrys mentions a couple of the more visible of these sorts of screw-jobs this morning: Ukraine. Syria. North Korea.
The amazing thing I come across is the number of people - largely on the Right but extending across the political spectrum to the "liberal interventionists" - who seem to think that the United States should use its Green Lantern powers of armed force to "straighten out" these fucked-up places.
In most of these people it seems to me that their "analysis" completely elides why these places are so damn fucked up right now. Which is, simply put, that they were always fucked up for one reason or another (or a cascade of multiple reasons..!) and are just showing the latest symptoms of that total fuckedupitude.
I mean, how the hell was, short of a massive sociopolitical and economic makeover, Ukraine every going to be a haven of social peace, economic dynamism, and political good-government? Ukraine is an internally divided pseudostate suffering from the usual post-Soviet hangover of thugokleptocracy and economic malaise. The conflict between the West-leaning “Ukranian” western part and the Soviet-leaning, “Russian” eastern and southern parts was almost inevitable and almost equally doomed to messy political breakdown.
How the fuck is anyone, let alone some helicopter foreign power, going to change that without an investment of blood and treasure that would make the Roman or British Empires look as brief and shallow as a Hollywood marriage?
Syria? Gee…autocratic rule by a Shiite minority over a Sunni majority in a part of the world where the lagacies of Ottoman and colonial rule range from dysfunctional to toxic and are constantly rubbed raw by the irritant of Israeli and U.S. (and Soviet) fucking-around? Who’d have thought that THAT would end up being fucked up and difficult to fix?
North Korea? What sane person even wants to stick a fist in THAT tar-baby? The best possible outcome from intervention – nearly immediate collapse of the Kim regime – still leaves the neighbors China and South Korea with an impoverished and desperate mess on their hands that makes the unification of Germany look like child’s play by comparison.
The worst possible outcome is so nightmarish to make anyone but a complete idiot shudder.
My Bride, lovely woman that she is, is perhaps a great example of this. She has recently become fascinated with North Korea, and was glued to her tablet as the U.N. laid out its case against the North Korean government. And what a case it is: Murders, judicial and otherwise. Rape, torture, infanticide, starvation, confinements that make the Cell of Little Ease look like a chaise lounge...
She was, as any decent person should be, appalled. But what appalled her more was my cynical response to her report of the U.N.'s call to action.
"Yeah. Sure." I said. "And who the hell is going to do that?" She asked what I meant.
"The Norks won't do anything, the people are beat-down and the Kimistas like things how they are. There's almost no economic or political leverage strong enough to make the Kim regime people chance making reforms that will end with them getting Ceaușescued.
The Chinese don't want to prod them in case the place falls apart and they get overrun with a gajillion starving Norks. The South Koreans want that even less plus with the possibility of nerve gas sauce on the side?
We, the U.S., already have too damn much on our plate to want a potential geopolitical disaster on the Pacific Rim. Nobody else has either the give-a-shit, the muscle, or both."
"Plus, frankly, what the hell could you do?
North Korea is a fucking black hole of bad governance and economic disaster that has intentionally cut itself off from the sane world. It's never had a moment of civil society or modern democracy, not a scintilla of economic sanity, or social normality since some time before the Japanese invaded a-way the fuck back near the turn of the 20th Century. North Korea is a complete fuckstory, and simply arriving with an M203 in one hand and an Ipad in the other? Ain't gonna change that."
"Regardless of what happens to the Kim regime, North Korea is destined to be fucked up for generations unless the North Korean people can manage a miracle AND some combination of foreign powers can help them and not fuck up somehow, which is more likely than not."
She desperately wanted to believe that there was something that the Good People of the World could do to change that. And in that she's no different than the other good people of my country who want the U.S. to "help" Syria, or Ukraine, or Egypt, or Nigeria, or Venezuela.
Or the assholes that just want to nuke 'em until they glow and then pick off the survivors in the dark.
Neither approach is an actual sane foreign policy.
Which needs to accept that a whole lot of the world is utterly screwed, politically, and pretty much all those of us in the relatively-unscrewed portions can do is stay the fuck out of their nuthouse and learn from them that good government is precious and not to be taken - or thrown away - lightly.
By, for example, electing idiots, grifters, and morons who will reject things like science and rationality in favor of religious nonsense and economic snake-oil. By pretending that economies are magic and not created by humans with human failings and, thus, liable to reward thieves and charlatans if not judiciously managed. By blundering about the globe expending blood and treasure trying to unfuck places that can only be unfucked by those living there with a critical stake in accomplishing and preserving the unfucking.
By ignoring that social and political divisions are far easier to create than repair, and that once the social, political, and economic cohesion of a polity is wrecked it may be impossible to reassemble.
Once we've figured that out then we might simply be able to sit back and just enjoy watching a gang of plucky Finns take an axe to their asshole neighbor's motti.
That and enjoy watching the Russian autocrat forced to listen to the organ in his hockey palace play him a sad, sad song.