Monday, July 27, 2009

Tailgunner Joe...

“I can see Putin sitting in Moscow saying, 'Jesus Christ, Iran gets the nuclear weapon, who goes first?' Moscow, not Washington.” -Joe Biden
I am watching a Russian war movie, a gift from a student who always has a new film as he comes along to his lessons. In the scene I have just seen, a Russian soldier runs down a Chechnya soldier; they have been in a fire fight, the Chechnya has been running, but simply, the Russian soldier has more energy and at the river, overtakes him, clunking him over the head with the butt of his AK. And this is the moment, here in this Russian film, that the Russian soldier, without panic or any particular fear, washes his face and head in the river while the Chechnya lies a few meters away. But there is no move to kill him (and I suppose no thought in the “Saving Private Ryan” sense that allowing him to live my allow the man to come back and kill more Russians later on) and the Russian simply allows the Chechnya to live and only asks that he accepts his fate as the loser. A simple deal, really: Simply see that you are beaten and there is no need to kill you.

So this moment got me thinking about some remarks made by Joe Biden recently:

Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend to U.S.

From: WSJ

Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal.

Mr. Biden said he believes Russia's economic problems are part of a series of developments that have contributed to a significant rethinking by Moscow of its international self-interest. The geographical proximity of the emerging nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea is also likely to make Russia more cooperative with the U.S. in blocking their growth, he said.

But in the interview, at the end of a four-day trip to Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Biden said domestic troubles are the most important factor driving Russia's new global outlook. "I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold," he said.

"Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions," Mr. Biden said. "They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable."

Now, I am sure that most of us know, and I am relatively sure that Biden knew, the Russian mind set when he gave this speech. That Russian soldure is exactly a perfect representation of the local attitude towards its neighbors and especially towards $10-a-ticket-Americans. I am personally sure even that this has always been exactly what the Russian mentality is and probably has been since since the time of the tsars or at least since they were shooting dogs into the cosmos. Tanya’s attitude towards me not the least of my evidences attesting to this.

But in reading that article, I received a rather unfortunate feeling when thinking about these remarks made by our current Vice President of the United States of American (how one of my students likes to say it). To me, to speak of actually winning against the Russians, and this even after how many years of the cold war?- because of strength yet and because of a lack of comprehension on the part of the Kremlin, is exactly the sort of nonsense that Russia thrives upon. It is their pap and pabulum, their daily bread and even their rason-de-etre probably for keeping their neo-nazi, $100- a-month, gas-mongering, milk-warring way of life going. And I am not just speaking about the “Brat” films (Did you become strong by stealing the money? No, you did not!”), works of genius by the way, which everyone should take trouble of finding and sitting though, even if the humor escapes, in terms of local philosophy and wisdom. It is just that even the idea of playing a heavy hand is so ridiculous. I mean, don’t we know better already? If Biden, and Obama truly feel that they have the wherewithal, man and technical power and, and especially in these times of crisis, the fiscal means to overwhelm and finally put away the Russians, as if this was a useful solution, they are truly kidding themselves.

I mean first of all, exactly how many years now have the Russian people been living on fumes and vapor and light and shadow? How many years of experience have there been following the horse and plow, in their rubber boots, sweeping with a bundle of twigs and burying potatoes in the winter without any other possibility to feed the family? How many years now have they already been living on nothing? What’s the point of threats and irresponsibly pompous ideas of winning and losing? Why even strike such a ridiculous stance?

What I am trying to get at this evening is that the Russians, and the Belarusian’s of course, our new gambling partners of the not so far east, are not going to buy into this sort of shoot from the hip, all words and no muscle kind of rhetoric. They have lived tough, through ridiculously difficult times, and that is all that have ever known. And in these times of crises, where, if you can even imagine this, it is getting even worse, and yet they are still carrying on and plaguing each other with bureaucratically controlled suppressions and threats, why would we ever think that there is going to be another wall tumbling, flag waving, newsworthy sound bite for the disinterest of an American audience, hitting its collective bong and laconically surfing porn sites while waiting for their pizza to arrive? I mean, look at Ukraine where even the oh-my-she-is-still sexy Yulia Tymishenko went back to the Russians, a Babe Ruth to the Red Sox shocker if ever there was. Or, even if there were actually another way other than being in violent, philosophical opposition to the only 233-year old, poor, tired, huddled masses, truth, justice and the American way rhetoric (Joe McCarthy now spinning away like a top) the Russkies would still have to process the idea via a filter made in the good ol’ USSR, that vodka fueled love nest of nostalgia, that warm spot in the heart which even the young, who never actually knew of such a thing, remember with fondest of brotherly memory. Of course, that fleeting majority, that pensioner fueled fifty-first percent which might still yet believe that Badkie has something to say, is now fading away in deference to European money and empty cable TV dreams, but there isn’t and has never been any real possibilities to finance anything but the skeleton of such dreams. So even if the seed actually pachinko’d through and landed in a few centimeters of clean soil, it would get trampled by the constant current Poland-like assaults of greed, avarice and mutual distrust.

So in the end, what you never get is a feel good story because it simply doesn’t exist here. And worse, adding insult to injury might still lend itself only to a kamikaze, Planet of the Apes response of “yea, well, we already know how to farm irradiated land by hand so fuck you”, sort of mentality. Can you understand me?

So, what I am saying is: What was the point of the bravado?

If I have understood correctly, the man we have so interestingly entrusted our near future was supposed to be a negotiator, a real politician, a real bargain maker and a real bringer-together of even epic proportions, if I am not being too MLK-y by saying so. And heck, even I believe in Obama and I wouldn’t believe in a coin toss if you gave me heads, tails and a thousand-to-one-odds that the son of a bitch lands standing up on its side! People, that American flag you see flying over my still, though amazingly so, publicly accessed bit of nonsense, the Being Had Times, is and only is there because America has elected one Mr. Barak Obama. Read the sidebar. It says: I am an American living in Belarus! I like this guy and I like him specifically because of his "lets shine some light on the problems and see if we can’t clean up the mess a little" attitude. He is not George Bush, he’s rational.

So it was and only was because of the fact that we seem to have elected a reasonable man, that I am so shocked, amused and depressed by this piece of cold war rhetoric by Joe Biden. Joe, please, I know we don’t know each other, but please, explain to me to which audience did you think you were speaking to when you made those remarks? Were you playing to the lowest common denominator here? Were you thinking USA Today and a quick and glib sound bite? Was this an ego thing and you just wanted to get away with personally dropping a Slim Pickens’ Bombarino straight down on Stalin himself as some throw-back high school fantasy, some sort of dreamy, fetish-like, Patrick-Swazy-was-hot-in-Red-Dawn sort of deal? Do you still live in the 20th century? Or do you really think that you are going to get under Vladimir Putin’s, uh, sorry, I mean Medvedev’s skin? What’s the gain of trash talking? Why the provocation?

No remark, no matter how glib, is going to mobilize three hundred million, $100-a-month share-croppers to vote no. The game’s already over. It’s all just about money. We all already know they are fascists and all of those golden, second-hand Russian (ironically) roulette tables, spinning away nightly here in Belarus already tell the tale of who actually won that great, endless, frozen combat. Hey, drugs, prostitutes and gambling. Michael Corleone would’ve been proud.

I say it is not needed because in the end, adding insult to injury does not an open-handshake make. The game’s already over, just take your free cocktail, put your two bucks down and shut the fuck up already.