Friday, September 5, 2014

TFP Column: Participation Foreign Policy

One of the things that has always been the most valuable about sports for young people are the lessons they learn in life that have nothing to do with the sports themselves. The price involved with sacrificing individual effort to contribute to a team as one learns to compete as a part of one, the expense incurred individually and together for violating the rules of the game, the cost and reward of competing honorably, of being good losers and, even more important, of comporting oneself as even better winners are all lessons that I like many learned on the sporting fields (and the ice rinks). Looking back, they proved themselves far more significant than the scores of the games, any personal ability garnered (or lack thereof) or any awards won (or lost).

Of course, we wouldn’t know much about such things these days. Youth baseball for example, is a game now played first without a pitcher so that everyone can know what it means to get a hit — not that this is something which should normally matter because no one’s allowed to keep score when hits and runs occur anyway. And if some politically incorrect fool should dare to do so by accident, “mercy rules” will no doubt bring such an atrocity to a speedy end so that the self-esteem of the losers won’t be damaged too terribly in the process of defeat that never really happened.

Such nonsense was painful enough to watch when your children are involved and even more horrible to talk about in terms of the valuable ideals being forever lost. It’s absolutely horrifying however to see this philosophy come to a sort of feckless fruition by watching our nation’s leaders apparently using the same rules when playing at foreign policy around the world.

Having fallen prey to a form of foreign policy participation in which your goal is “not to do anything dumb,” or “to do as little damage as possible,” our current commander-in-chief seems unable to grasp that the rest of the world cares far more about the scores of such trials and more than content to tally the score of this particular contest with the severed heads of our players if available, those of nearby fans if not.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as “war weary” as the next citizen, having watched Democrat and Republican administrations alike fail at nation-building around the world for far longer than Hasbro had the game “Risk” for sale (originally released in 1957 under the apt name “The Conquest of the World” by the way). Ever able to win the wars, our team has consistently (one might even say unflaggingly) proven itself all but incompetent in its ability to afterward “win the peace.”

Our “old-school” opponents, however — nations not yet fallen on the depredations of T-ball and certainly not that of the mercy rule — still prefer to play a game where the rules say that leaders still lead (and not from behind) and any game worth playing is worth winning (and not just strategically exiting the field of play when it seems convenient). Add in that many of those teams are inspired by a form of religious zealotry that not only causes them to still believe that God (Allah if you’re being specific) is not only on their side, but is personally inspiring them to greater sacrifice through after-life bonuses and perhaps you can begin to see how serious and dangerous today’s field of play has now become.

Not so dangerous however, as the group continuing to call the plays on our side of the field. Our leaders, graduates of years sensitivity training and self-esteem nurturing, apparently seem satisfied with having shown up on the world stage for a bit of participation, but only as long as such efforts have no long-term effects on the only real game that counts to them — winning elections.
As Tom Hanks famously said in “A League of Their Own”: “There’s no crying in baseball.” Neither apparently, are there (or should there be) participation trophies in foreign policy. The lines on the world map may, for the most part, be arbitrarily and artificially drawn from Ukraine to Iraq, and from Syria to Iran, but the blood being shed and the thousands lives being lost in the current game of foreign policy being played there is proving neither arbitrary nor artificial. 

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