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Reviving the diplomatic ‘game’

Whatever happens in November, America will be like a huge lumbering oil tanker, like the Exxon Valdez, needing to or deliberately changing direction, needing to make a course change as fast as possible to fit the needs of the election results. But like that tanker needing 8 slow miles to make a significant course change, America will be changing course — for the better or worse. It will be painful for half the population, no matter who prevails.

If the incumbent wins, authoritarianism will return with a vengeance, blind “full steam ahead” belligerency revived vis-à-vis the world’s other powers, and, above all, measures will be taken to solidify the incumbent’s grip on the DC power, even at the expense of our global respect and standing from long-standing allies, many of whom will be discarded. World safety will be the casualty, I fear. The players able to cash in on the incumbent’s desire of isolationism will be China, Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia and, never least, North Korea.

If Biden wins, he will have an immediate issue to face: “How much time do I have to right the course before mid-term elections take away my power?” And like the Exxon Valdez, “Do I have enough time to avoid Darwin’s Reef?” That time-crunch is what sunk Obama’s strategies, begun so well, that quickly came up against “defeat Obama at any cost” belligerency. Many of those same players, like Mitch McConnell, will likely still be in power. Biden’s goal? To calm the waters, steer the ship to safety, return to be the exceptionalism nation promoting the voice of democracy and, above all, slow or thwart the authoritarian states globally — while we still can.

So much media attention has been paid to the supposed value of diplomacy to cure all ills, that commentators have begun to use the word as a shield, a panacea for struggle and war, and, above all, a sharply barbed tool to expose those who fail to maintain its lofty values exposed to media ridicule. Having witnessed the diplomatic game, especially at the U.N. at the highest levels, let me assure you that diplomacy is nothing more than a ritualized give-and-take of lying, cheating, blaming, finger-pointing and oh-so-genteel vitriol. It does, thankfully and usually, stop short of physical battle, but often assures lower levels of armed struggle for years to come.

They used to say that loose lips sink ships. In this day and age, I would say that the loose lips are all the viral media’s doing along with the incumbent’s mouth pieces like FOX, Limbaugh, et. al. Plain, slogan talk is direct and understandable. Pudgy, wobbling lips and tweets that ooze hurt and create “alternative facts,” do more harm precisely because the simplistic words are taken as true by way too many Americans. Surely, he could not be lying through his teeth, could he? Racism and prejudice play out here — we’ve all seen it.

But remember, that a cultured demeanor is hardly evidence of truthful intent either. If it were, these would still be the British Colonies and Hirohito would be emperor of all of Asia.

Let’s look at increasingly authoritarian Poland, Turkey, Philippines and Hungary and a whole host of other countries that make us very happy that don’t have a vote in the Security Council, whoever wins in November. Their goals are internal power and absolute control. To what end? Power, dictatorial control over their populations. Not big enough to play on a world stage, they become assistants to larger powers who want absolute global control: Russia and China. Russia, who sees power and control as a means to raise up their population and benefit from economic growth they do not work for and China, to force countries to pay homage (in the form of wealth and ceded power).

NATO countries’ and especially France’s and Germany’s problems are much more complex. The people there really do not want war. They have had enough. They know that if the USA is forced to go in, anywhere, with our troops, NATO will be called on in support. Simply put, the EU’s population has no stomach for war at the moment and, either from the incumbent’s blunders or the desperate efforts of a next administration to change course, any hint of war may find NATO countries baulking, quickly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we’re in this soup whether we supported the incumbent or not. Just because we hope he goes, doesn’t mean we won’t have to clean up his mess. And that mess may lead us either into diplomacy (with hopeful success) or conflict and all the horror that will bring. The ship’s course we’re on currently is headed straight toward that underwater reef. I do not think there will be a chance to avoid all of it. A glancing blow and some oil leaking like the Exxon Valdez are the best we can hope for.


 Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, currently lives in New Mexico.

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