Tonawanda News

September 13, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Instant war and instant peace

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — That an offhand and sardonic comment by the U.S. Secretary of State, a response to a journalist’s question, is a fulcrum on which geopolitics moves, should not come as news to anyone who uses social media to make day-by-day choices. Or for that matter, anyone accustomed to quick decision-making.

Managers and mommies have been using this technique for generations; when in doubt, do something. Anything. Make a choice; you likely can overrule yourself later. This business of “carefully analyzing the information to better reach a consensus and choose the best course of endeavor,” so dear to football coaches and political animals, is not only a fraud, it’s obsolete.

It went roughly like this, earlier this week:

Random journalist at a press conference: What’s your ideal scenario, Mr. Kerry?

Mr. Kerry: That this Assad fellow in Syria takes his chemicals and puts them under international control.

(Three hours later) Mr. Lavrov, Russian foreign minister: Hell, if that’s all he wants I’ll get on the phone to Damascus right now.

Mr. Assad: Uh, what the Russian guy said.

President Obama, several days later: Back off, Republicans, we may be able to pull this off peacefully and without your venomous input.

Quick. Fast-developing. Open and transparent. So elementary even Fox News can understand it. A series of lucky breaks, to be sure, but realpolitik for an impatient world. Despite all the ceremonial diplomacy these people need to display, it’s clear they know how to use their Twitters and Facebooks and Instagrams, not to mention whatever spy channels to which they have access.

If you grew up in a world in which this stuff predated you, you won’t understand the improvement. There was a time when it was perfectly appropriate to drop a note into the U.S. Mail’s mail stream, on say, Tuesday evening. It would be picked up on Wednesday morning, and if the recipient was within 50 miles you, he or she would be reading it Thursday afternoon. Come to my party. I’m sorry. Here’s that information about football. Whatever.

These days … you know what it’s like these days. I feel like it’s the summer of 1969, humans are about to walk on the moon and local television reporters are searching for old-timers who remember the Wright Brothers and 1903 and Kitty Hawk for some charming but predictable observation.

Everyone today is a man or woman of action. That “pace that’s moving too fast” is the catalyst. If it still moves slowly it’s a reaction, not an action. (The law, for example: Society acts, law reacts. Also Quebec independence and certain people’s schedules regarding the repainting the interior walls of their homes.)

It is not so much that messages move instantaneously, it’s that responses are expected to move equally fast. We are all umpires now, firing yes/no answers. (If no response is received, it is presumed to be a no, like presidential veto power.) Again, a good thing: the 1815 Battle of New Orleans was fought although a peace treaty was arranged weeks earlier and the information had not yet arrived in the bayou. It’s unlikely you’ll need to factor in a time lag in information when you fight your battles.

It’s like there’s no inside information anymore, with action only limited by how interested in it you are. You read the paper, watch television news, stay plugged into the world via pocket-held devices, follow unfolding stories from (your preference) the White House, the Middle East, 1 Bills Drive, Hollywood, Wall Street, Yankee Stadium: news comes and goes, but what surprises you these days?

The world, as it is delivered by the aforementioned media, is nothing more than a roomful of cauldrons about to overflow, boiling pots that must by watched by someone. When something spills, the media arrives, narrates the cleanup of the mess, then goes away.

It is a good thing to observe a war can be potentially diffused by a few comments and phone calls, the way a water bill can be corrected. It is a good thing that journalists have a hand in it, that it’s not a case of back-room-of-the-palace dealing and that it can be watched by the common man or woman, the person who’ll be paying for the outcome, in real time.

However it turns out, democracy took a giant step this week, and so did the peace process. An indication that all this personal technology is not a tool for enslavement was on display. Did you see it?

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at