Thursday, October 3, 2013

Russia’s Mini-Civil War (and our own #ShutStorm)

Fittingly, I have (for the moment) reached 666 Twitter followers (thanks to Reason’s Cathy Young and NYSalon’s Alan Miller) just in time for:

1. Halloween

2. My hashtag coinage #ShutStorm getting used by The Daily Show (feel the pride) to describe the current partial “shutdown” of the federal government (my attitude toward the shutdown was briefly explained in my prior blog entry)

(which is also causing “meltdown” in some left-leaning brains as well as some military-family brains -- and my research, in which admittedly N = 3, shows one tends to get unfriended on Facebook by those, uh, feisty individuals who sort of fall into both categories -- yet I am so little different from them in the grand scheme of things, growing up a Northeastern atheist with a dad who’d been in the Navy)

3. A second G.K. Chesterton book arriving in the mail from a generous Dawn Eden (I’ll blog of it by Halloween)

4. The death of Tom Clancy, just two months prior to the release of his Russia-themed President Jack Ryan novel Command Authority.

But who needs fiction?  Exactly twenty years ago today, Russian president Yeltsin and the Russian parliament ended up in a small-scale shooting war.  And an American on the parliamentarian protesters’ side (agree with them or not) died a hero in the process.  (I hope Pussy Riot’s doing OK, come to think of it.)

Twenty years later, of course, Russia has managed to look like a model of statesmanship -- with talk of a Nobel nomination for Putin (to match Obama’s, I suppose) over his sort-of defusing of the potentially-broader Syria war.  I wonder how many Americans even know that Syria is in some sense a Russian client state and that the deranged jihadists trying to topple the government of Syria are partly American-aided pawns who might well come back to haunt us like other dubious semi-clients. 

It’s less like good guys vs. bad guys than like layers of self-interest and madness over there (and perhaps one day Kenya and who knows where else).  If the abandonment for now of interventionist notions about Syria is evidence of a big upsurge in antiwar sentiment in the U.S., I think it’s more because the public is wary of muddles than because they sympathize with the other side or are calculating likely humanitarian benefits or any of those other, more pristine metrics one uses when confident about our ability to rectify such situations. 

And a wariness of muddles is a sign of intellectual maturity, I think.  It might have prevented World War I.

Here’s hoping a similar appreciation of complexity and messiness occurs in domestic policy debates.  If gridlock instead yields the usual “our side great, their side evil” reactions, there’ll be plenty of that noise ahead, it appears.  I will try to sit it out as calmly and quietly as I did the protracted uncertainty over the winner of the 2000 presidential election.  That should surprise no one who understands where I’m really coming from.

And so I will blog next about the sedate topic of modeling public-opinion formation as examined by the journal Critical Review.  Don’t let the ShutStorm freak you out, even if (as I hope) the government never reopens. 

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