One of the strange developments of our modern era is the emphasis on speech over deeds. When I was growing up, the phrase “talk is cheap” was still prevalent. Now it seems that all anybody ever does is talk.
Maybe the rise of the internet and social media has helped feed this sense that talking about action is an acceptable substitute for it. One need not actually help anyone – merely voicing your wishes that they be helped is considered enough.
Hashtag diplomacy is therefore a natural outgrowth of this. When confronted with a difficult situation, the easy way out is to do a selfie promising noble sentiments. Does this actually solve the problem? No, but that would be hard.
Defeating Boko Haram would take major concerted efforts and is fraught with peril. It’s a lot easier to send a tweet and claim you’ve done the right thing.
The obvious problem arises when other people – people who oppose you – prefer actions to words. Indeed, there are some people who use words as a cover for action, to confuse or demoralize their opponents, for example.
These people can be expected to say the right things – or at least things that aren’t obviously wrong – and then go about doing what they want.
Thus while the President of the United States has now addressed the downing of the Malaysian airliner on three separate occasions, no actual action has been taken.
Meanwhile, the Russians – after a pause to regroup – are now right back at doing whatever they please in the Ukraine. One might have thought their little IFF error would have given the Russian proxies pause before reactivating their air defenses, but that would only happen if they actually felt remorse for their actions.
If one buys into the ends justifying the means, then the deaths of hundreds of passengers are a regrettable incident that must not be allowed to undermine the main of objective of restoring Mother Russia to her ancient glory.
One must admit there is a certain degree of cold logic here. After all, no sane civilian pilot will now fly anywhere near the disputed region, so why not open fire when practicable?
The key is that Russia feels no shame about its actions and that seems to be the only weapon in the present administration’s arsenal. I’ve said before, we have no good military options in the Ukraine.
The best we can do is try to build up our allies while seeking a favorable accommodation. Instead, we’re talking semi-tough will looking very weak.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TALKERS ACT? Ah, yes, this does happen from time to time. When people used to just talking decide to act, all manner of bad things can happen. This is because they are not used to organizing, planning or in any way thinking through their actions. The marvelous thing about using words is that one can disavow them if they look like they aren’t working. This
White House is particularly good at forgetting what it just finished saying.
Actions are harder to take back, and if you don’t think them out, you may go very far astray.
I see that we are now looking at sending advisors to help the Ukraine. It may make the administration feel better and give it better talking points (“See! We’re taking actual action!”) but all it will do is escalate the situation further. Given the operational state of the Ukrainian armed forces and the supply lines needed to reach them, it is hard to see what this can do other than simply antagonize Russia.
You see, people of action understand that there must be a purpose behind their moves. Simply acting for the sake of acting rarely ends well.
It is hard to see how this will improve the situation.