Tuesday, January 28, 2014

give peace a chance -- maybe one in a trillion

Political cartoonists (and other cynical types) are sharpening their pens as I write.

In yesterday's newspaper, I ran across a story that looked as if it could be the first draft of a Monty Python skit.

The cameras zoom in on the pope and two children standing in a window at the Vatican.  The pope prays for peace in Ukraine, and the children release two white doves as "a peace gesture."

As the children and the other innocents in the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square gaze into the sky, the refugees from Noah's ark soar up, up, up to spread the hope of peace in Ukraine.  Only to be attacked by a crow and a sea gull. 

A crow and sea gull.  I ask you -- who could have seen that coming?

Well, anyone who knows peace does not come from releasing prey in the presence of predators.  I fear the picture of doves being attacked by their natural foes is a more realistic symbol than the pope had wished.

The article ends with a rather desultory: "It was not clear what happened to the doves as they flew across Rome."

We know, though.  Even though we may wish that doves released by children are something other than an empty gesture, we know the chances are very great the doves will end up as links in the food chain.

The darting doves reminded me of another newspaper article I read recently.  One of those "where are they now" pieces.  This one was about Bob Packwood.  The former United States Senator from Oregon.

I first met Bob in 1968 when he was a state legislator challenging Oregon's political powerhouse -- Wayne Morse.  Bob had just announced his candidacy, and I was lucky enough to get an appointment to interview him for my college radio show.

It was the start of an acquaintanceship that has lasted for years.  A couple of years later, I interviewed him in his senate office. 

After we were done with business, he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.  He said: "Steve, in politics there are no friends; only allies."

At the time, I was naive enough to believe it was one of the most cynical things I had ever heard.  I was soon to find out (as he would, as well) that it was true.

I am still something of an idealist.  But the years have knocked off a number of the edges -- to be replaced by a patina of realism.

American presidents like to think they are the doves in the pope's little morality play -- that they can control international affairs.  Try telling that to President Obama, who just months ago was drawing red lines in Syria and threatening the removal of the Assad regime.  And who now finds American interests starting to line up closer with Syria's in a hope to try to get something out of Iran.

But a President Romney would probably being taking a similar path.  Just as a President Gore would have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after 11 September 2001.  All because American interests in those circumstances afforded very little flexibility.

In truth, presidents more often than not are the sea gull or the crow.  It is the nature of politics.  And that may not be a bad thing.

Now that I have lived almost 50 more years, I think Bob had it only partly correct.  In politics, there may be no friends.  But, there are times when there are no allies, either.

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