This morning, watching and reading the media reports upon developments in the Ukraine and Iraq/Syria – not to mention recent events in Libya, Egypt and indeed Gaza – I was struck again by a realisation that is both blindly-obvious in one sense and yet also an eternal truth.
A reasonably intelligent alien who was hovering within monitoring distance of Planet Earth could be forgiven for gaining the impression that – whatever form of government, electoral system (if any), culture, religion or degree of sophistication it has applied through its brief history – the human race is troubled by relatively few absolute truths or principles.
Instead, fundamental issues of practicality tend to drive reactions to events. Pragmatism is at the core of every governmental and geo-political policy and decision.
Let’s take Ukraine.
If it was the year 2000 today, rather than 2014, and Saddam Hussein had annexed the Crimea and/or was fermenting insurrection in the eastern side of Ukraine via insidious assistance and/or just sending in his troops, the EU, NATO and ‘the West’ collectively would not just have spent the last few months wringing their hands and making vague promises about piecemeal economic sanctions.
Citing all the usual international conventions and absolute principles, they’d have already launched a full scale military action designed to teach the guy a lesson.
Why haven’t they?
Because, although Putin is about a mentally stable as Saddam Hussein used to be, he has actually got nuclear weapons at his disposal and doesn’t appear to give a row of beans what the rest of the world thinks about him or his strategies.
Which gives him a huge advantage is dealing with diplomatic and geo-political issues. As for bearing in mind his domestic audience, he can just put out a series of stirring press releases about ‘protecting Russian national interests’ and his ‘voting electorate’ not only immediately goes along with his madcap schemes but positively worships him.
Contrast that with the competing concerns burdening key Western leaders. Given the complete horlicks that they’ve made of it on virtually every occasion over the past two decades, the British and American electorates are no longer keen upon ‘policing the world’.
The EU and NATO are both hampered by their inability to make decisions either quickly or decisively … and probably also the fact that several of their members, whilst happy to blather on about principles, ethics and the framework of international law – and indeed pay handsomely for impressive uniforms and hardware – have not the slightest intention, when it comes to the crunch, of using their armed forces for anything but strictly ceremonial duties.
Furthermore – as we enter the centenary of the commencement of the First World War – our learned and revisionist historians are examining the entrails of what can happen when a combination of a small incident injected into a situation of tinder-dry tension (various strategic posturings and high-minded positions of principle having being taken by interested parties) … i.e. a four-year-long catastrophe of unimaginable carnage.
Nobody wants to repeat that recipe in 2014.
That said, the trouble with doing everything possible to avoid repeating the events of 1914, our lords and masters risk repeating the events of 1936 to 1939 when (arguably) appeasement of Hitler, whether by active weak-kneed pacifism or unintended default, inevitably led in to an irresistible headlong plunge towards the commencement of WW2.
In Life generally, there’s a degree to which whatever you do will be turn out to be wrong.
The ever-present conundrum for human statesmen is that, by the same token, doing nothing at all can also prove to be the wrong option.
Over to you, chaps … I’m going off to buy my Sunday newspapers and consume a full cooked breakfast at my local café.