World Weary but Respectful (continued)

By George Snider

Current calamities [include] Ukraine, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and Chinese territorial claims. One could have added the atrocities of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda’s bomb factories in Yemen and the children’s exodus from Central America to our southern border, plus the perils of cyberterrorism and global climate change. Really, is the 21st century an age of enlightenment, or is it an age of extreme instability and anxiety?

On the Yale 62 website, classmates have blamed Bush/Cheney for having done too much to stir up trouble in the Middle East and Obama, all by himself, for doing too little to quiet it down (though more often the former than the latter). In truth, history tends to repeat itself no matter what Republicans or Democrats do. In numerous nations, centuries-old tribal and religious divisions defied efforts by the British, French, Russians and others to impose order and stability well before we Americans tried. In Vietnam, long before the French fell at Dien Bien Phu, the invading hordes of Genghis Khan met a similar fate two years in a row. Did the French learn from the Mongols, or the Americans from the French? Or from the Russian conquest of Afghanistan or the long, complex history of Mesopotamia?

Human nature seems to be, well, human in nature, by which I mean that those inclined to warlike behavior, criminal activity or dictatorial power continue to do so and are likely to take advantage of whatever technology can advance their devious objectives, now or in the future. (In fact, as recent events have shown, it’s not just the bad guys who invent computer viruses, worms and other malware to disable the enemy, and complex algorithms to learn the passwords and secrets of foes and friends alike.) At the least, our efforts to impose democracy on unwilling or unready nations, or to achieve Obama’s vision of a postmodern era driven by diplomacy and the rule of law, seem to face an uphill battle. Plus la change, plus c’est la meme chose.

So when Nora and I arrive in Hungary to begin our Danube river cruise westward, it will be with a heightened respect for yet another region that has known its fair share of invasions and political upheavals over the course of modern history. God’s experiment continues.”

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