I Can’t Let This Pass

I can't let this pass. I try to stay out of current political fights as much as possible. There's just no winning from my position. But every so often, I just can't let this pass. And here we are–Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. I rise to speak from the perspective of history and leadership.

I take very strong exception to two statements, one by President Barack Obama and one by Secretary of State John Kerry. My comments below will assume that you have at least a decent knowledge of what's happening in the Ukraine. So, I will move into substance and not worry about summary.

President Obama said that this is no longer the “great game” of the Cold War. He meant that American policy in 2014 doesn't have to follow that of, say, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Secretary of State Kerry commented that it was unfathomable for a nation in 2014 to behave as it would have in the 19th century. He meant that Russia should act in a more enlightened, modern, and up-to-date fashion.

If this is the quality of reasoning in our leaders, we might as well surrender right now to whoever will take the keys. We're better off grabbing the first schmuck off the street to take these titled jobs because it really couldn't get any worse. And who knows, the person we grabbed could probably use the money.

Sorry for the sarcasm. Let's turn for a minute to my response.

First, as to Secretary of State Kerry's remark, there was slavery in the 19th century. There is slavery now. There was brutality and cruelty in the 19th century. There is brutality and cruelty now. There was organized violence in the 19th century….well, you get the picture. And on and on and on.

If you as a leader want to put your followers in an exposed position, then you should have a mindset that limits itself to what you think is acceptable behavior, acceptable attitudes, and acceptable worldviews. I guarantee by doing so, you'll be leading them into great risk.

Second, as to President Obama's comment, the phase “great game” actually originated in the 19th century, not the Cold War of the mid- to late-20th century. It reflected the moves and counter-moves of European monarchies and quasi-monarchies. Their actions pertained to the interests of a “ruling class.” It does great insult to the men and women of the American military who served, fought, and died on behalf in a clash of rival ways of life to thoughtlessly toss their records into the same kettle as those of the top-hatted diplomats and crown-stuffed monarchs of a hundred years before. More than that, if I'm right that Obama was using code for Ronald Reagan–and I think I am–then Obama clearly didn't agree with Reagan's view that the best strategy was “we win, they lose.” Had Obama been President of the United States in that situation, the outcome would have been vastly, and in my view, terribly, different.

A leader cannot mindlessly invoke words, phrases, and images that have no meaning in a current context. That leader also should not attempt to formulate decisions based on this same wretched comparison.

My apologies to whomever I've offended with my observations.