This week members of the Obama administration and the media are confronting the reality of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine with sheer disbelief. They simply can’t understand how the Russians can completely ignore the well-known fact that this is the 21st century, and it’s no longer socially acceptable to invade other countries.
Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have the most difficulty accepting this Russian aggression. He keeps repeating the same argument over and over again as if that will somehow miraculously convince the Russians to pack up and go home.
On Meet the Press last Sunday, he observed, “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century.”
Yesterday, while visiting the Ukraine, he added, “It is not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st century, G-8, major nation behavior.”
Clearly, Kerry is absolutely astonished that Vladimir Putin and the Russians would act so inappropriately. President Obama is equally flummoxed by the Russian’s actions. Yesterday, he attributed this breach with protocol to Putin receiving bad legal advice.
This isn’t the first time leaders of a superpower nation have been shocked at clearly inappropriate and frankly, quite rude, behavior by fellow humans inhabiting planet Earth.
King George III felt exactly the same way.
For those who either don’t remember their Revolutionary War history (or slept through it), the poorly equipped ragtag Revolutionary Army of George Washington defeated the King’s powerful British force by . . . hmm . . . cheating. Well, as a good American I grew up believing it was absolute brilliance that defeated the British. The Redcoats, however, clearly would argue otherwise.
You see, back in the day, war was a very organized civil gentlemanly affair. The British military was the most powerful in the world. They were well armed, fed, and dressed impeccably for every battle. In organized fashion, they played music and marched in line to confront their enemy. That’s how it was done in those days and no one did it in more glorious fashion than the British.
So what did the Americans who were clearly the underdogs decide to do?
They ignored all protocol and did what they needed to do to win. In their case, they adopted strategies learned from the Indians and carefully hid themselves before ambushing the hapless British soldiers who were all spit and polished, standing in neat little lines, only to be mowed down by an enemy they couldn’t see.
I’m sure they were as incensed by this behavior as Secretary Kerry is by Putin and the Russians today.
The fact is human history is a perfect guide to what we can expect from nations dealing with one another. Just because Secretary Kerry and President Obama decided that the world needs to play by new more civilized rules now that they are in charge does not mean it will happen that way. This isn’t boxing. There is no Marquess of Queensberry Rules for 21st century diplomatic behavior (except for those rolling around in John Kerry’s brain).
Clearly, we can follow one of two paths. We can either accept that we’re still human and likely to see behaviors we’ve seen throughout human history and react accordingly, or we can go the way of the Redcoats and remain incredibly offended that anyone is so impolite as to ignore basic rules of decorum. Take the first path, and the outcome is unsure but we stand a chance for success. Follow the second road, and we need only look to old King George to determine where that path leads.