There are moments – increasingly more and more as the days wear on – where I feel as if we are in July 1914, sometime between the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the actual outbreak of war in August 2014.
You missed the assassination, you say? There has not been a single (or signal) event like that, just a series of increasingly aggressive confrontations of words and finger pointing between ourselves and (it seems) a lot of different people: the Russians, the Syrians, the Chinese, now (apparently) the Yemenis.
I cannot remember – at least in recent memory – the number of times I have heard of repeated discontinuations of the ability to communicate (broken diplomatic relations) or accusations of a grey war on both sides: “You bombed this; no, you broke into this; no, you shot this at that.”
Boom, boom, boom go the drum beats. Softly, but with ever increasing intensity.
Good heavens, the Cold War was an amusement park compared to this, at least the latter half that I remember. We confronted each other, we called each names, we mocked the other side – but not since the Cuban Missile Crisis did we engage in such brinksmanship. The memories were too fresh, the acknowledgment of potential tragedy too near.
But that generation is gone – at least from our shores and leadership – and we are left with people who seem to view the whole thing as a sort of video game, something without consequences where one can just hit the “reset” button and start over.
Never in all my recent years – since the collapse of the Soviet Union – can I remember such repeated and continued attempts to threaten and bluster and push the envelope.
Boom, boom, boom.
You will remember what happened in July 1914 of course: everyone claimed that they did actually desire war but that once mobilization plans were put into place, they simply could not be stopped. War became a fait accompli, mostly because of the fact that everyone was reacting to someone else and no country was willing to be the first to take a step back.
War and suffering have become unreal to us, a video game that we play and put away, a thing we watch online and perhaps are shocked by but then go back to security and placidity of our First World lives. We have had too many incidents with no personal consequences – oh, we may know veterans or a family that has lost someone, but we view almost with impunity the ability of our country to dabble in military conflicts with no impact to us.
My fear? Someday, in the not too distant future, we will look back at this time and wonder why someone - perhaps ourselves – did not have the courage to call out “Stop”.
Boom, boom, boom.