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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Reykjavik On My Mind

Everyone has mentioned how this War on Terror will probably never have an USS Missouri moment.

You know, this:



The exact moment when a formal surrender was signed on board a battleship, when awkwardly dressed Japanese representatives in top hats, penned their names to a piece of paper, alongside battle-hardened, khaki uniformed American military personnel.

(The better to show the world that they, the Americans, meant business, and yet had all the insousiance not to put on their Dress As, because they didn't have to, after all. They were the conquerors).

But I was thinking about this carefully today, after watching the bulbous-eyed Tim Russert interview Mike Wallace, who is retiring from 60 Minutes looking not very dissimilar from almost 40 years ago, when he started his newsmagazine career.

Wallace was mentioning his reminiscences of US Presidents when he got to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

And that's when it clicked.

Never mind, the US Missouri, you know what the War on Terror will never have?

This:



We will never have a Reykjavik.

Never will an US President and Osama Bin-Laden, or any Al-Qaeda leader, sit down and have a summit together.

This is so understood, as to be superfluous to even mention it.

But here's the thing:

The visual impact of this, cannot be overstated.

No US President will be able to shake hands with Bin-Laden, and portray himself as statesmanlike to the world -- the kind of man who has convictions, but is willing to meet his counterpart at least for talks.

Since Al-Qaeda is an international organisational cell, without a homeland, it cannot represent any specific country, ideology, or goal.

It has no real leader.

It has no legal standing.

It has no bargaining chips.

It has nothing.

Nothing that we as a nation, or as a people, could sit down and try to hammer out our differences with, or at least, to be able to stand a world where both existed in opposite corners.

I'd never thought I would ever say this, but the Soviet Union actually offered Americans more during the Cold War, than anything Al-Qaeda can, or will be able to.

It offered incremental dialogue and interaction, which could be frosty, or be defrosted in turns.

But there was a linear progression which you could see unfold before you, which allows people to plot in their minds, where we two adversaries are.

Even if you say that an US President can meet with say, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, he is not Osama Bin-Laden, or a member of Al-Qaeda, indeed, he is our erstwhile ally.

Even an leader like in Syria or Iran, is not a member of Al-Qaeda, but merely perhaps receptive and therefore loosely collusive to their ideas.

To Al-Qaeda, these are competing sources of power, and that's all.

How you win against a non-traditional entity like this, I don't know.

It's a situation which more than just lacks clarity. It lacks substance.

When I was growing up, I thought the Cold War was a zero-sum game. Either they won, or we did. And we did.

But in fact, this situation makes traditional foreign policy experts pine for the Cold War, because no matter what we do, there is no end-game in the War on Terror.

To have an end-game, you have to have had a middle-game, like Kennedy-Krushchev-Vienna in 1962, like Reykjavik in 1986.

Never mind that neither of those summits were successful.

Their true successes lay in like adversaries meeting in a neutral space.

We today have no such thing as neutral space, let alone having like adversaries.

We are shadow boxing with terrorists, on uncertain ground, with no beginning, middle or end in sight.

And there's nothing we can do about it, except to "win".

For a world used to having the clear-cut USS Missouri moments, I wonder if it's occured to them, there are no Reykjaviks along the way either.

4 Comments:

  • Ah, but you never know...there may be a moment, not a formal moment, of course, where the 'surrender' occurs! That may not happen as well, but history may spin in a funny way...'to the shores of Tripoli', in the Marine Corps hymn; is that an early 'surrender moment' for Barbary Coast terrorism? Maybe we'll get a 'surrender anthem' out of Bono!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Mar 19, 10:15:00 am GMT-5  

  • The Reykjavik pic needs a caption:

    "I'm telling you Gorby, the action I got after King's Row was incredible!"

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Mar 19, 12:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Ah, but you never know...there may be a moment, not a formal moment, of course, where the 'surrender' occurs!

    From your lips, to God's ears, Ron...

    That may not happen as well, but history may spin in a funny way...'to the shores of Tripoli', in the Marine Corps hymn; is that an early 'surrender moment' for Barbary Coast terrorism? Maybe we'll get a 'surrender anthem' out of Bono!

    I'd put my money on Toby Keith, before Bono, Ron. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 21, 04:27:00 am GMT-5  

  • "I'm telling you Gorby, the action I got after King's Row was incredible!"

    "Thanks Mikhail. Hell's Cat of the Navy was my favourite too."

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 21, 04:28:00 am GMT-5  

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