Yesterday I posted on Facebook (my personal page) the same photo as I did here on the website, entitled simply The only thing missing is the ping-pong table. It was a photo of Philip H Gordon, the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. State Department (equivalent to the Foreign Ministry) and his entourage meeting with Traian Basescu in a garage.
One Romanian in particular got angry that I was mocking the Americans in the photo with my made-up and completely farcical thought and speech bubbles. Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion and I have no problem with someone vehemently disagreeing with me. But it brought to mind several other conversations on other topics that I’ve had with Romanians over the years.
Although I’ve tried in the past to write about it and talk about it, sometimes on the individual level, about just what a huge difference there is from the American government‘s mentality on Romania and the mentality Romanians have about Romania, I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.
My erstwhile critic last night was upset because he felt that the Americans had come to Romania to do this country some good and therefore I shouldn’t be mocking them. I know in other discussions such as about missile bases here in this country, Romanians feel that if the Americans are doing something that benefits them then it seems rather pointless (or wrong) to criticize those actions.
I have no personal beef with Phil Gordon or his compadres that came with him (including at least two FSP guards that I saw, interestingly enough) but I know their types very well. Even if we assume that their lightning visit to Romania to meet with both Basescu as well as the USL was a good thing for Romania, do not be mistaken. America is no one’s friend.
Quite simply put, the American government has a strategy. Romania, as far as I can tell, does not. The American government has an enormous list of objectives and they will do anything to achieve them. If encouraging democracy in Romania helps accomplish those objectives then they will do it. If propping up a brutal dictator like Ceausescu helps accomplish those objectives then they will do that. If dropping nuclear bombs on Bucharest furthered America’s strategy then by God they’d be doing that tomorrow.
What strategy does the Romanian government have? I really don’t know. For example, what’s the plan for the Republic of Moldova and the lingering Transnistria situation? Does anyone know? I doubt it. I mean is the strategy to unite RM and Romania into one country? Is it to completely remove the Russian Army from Tiraspol? I know lots of people have their personal opinions on this and some politicians make some pretty speeches but nowhere have I ever seen anyone outline the strategy, a long-term plan to achieve objectives.
It’s interesting that many Romanians are good at poker, a game that involves making the most of the hand you are dealt. But when it comes to deep strategy games like chess or go, countries like America, Russia and China excel at these. Strategy games involve looking at the resources on hand and then planning not only the next moves but also developing counter-moves for what your opponent will do.
I promise you that somewhere in the basement of the Pentagon there is a file on the American government’s strategy in case extraterrestrials show up on Earth and what impact that will have on the world’s philosophical and religious views (most of the “Big 3″ religions are predicated upon the Creator making Earth unique and humans special). I’ve never seen that file but I would bet my life’s savings that it exists. The Romanian government on the other hand is lucky to make a plan for what they’re going to do in the next six months.
So yes, of course, sometimes the American government’s pursuit of their objectives coincides with what is good for Romania. Romania and the USA are allies and so you’d expect that. But do not ever be fooled into thinking the American government is your friend or wants what’s “best” for you or anything else. Romania gets from the American government exactly what the American government wants to give it, including the endlessly delayed promise to give Romanians visa waivers to enter the United States.
Romania is also hampered by the fact that most people here are almost obsessively anti-Russian, or against the idea of Russian government and commercial involvement in Romania’s affairs. This just makes the Philip Gordons of the world laugh with glee because they know that they can do demand anything of Romania (*coughcough* selling unnecessary F-16s *coughcough) and Romania has no choice but to say “yes sir, may I please have another, sir”. America wants a missile base on Romanian soil, America gets a missile base on Romanian soil. America wants to torture prisoners in a secret jail in downtown Bucharest, America gets a torture center in Bucharest. It’s as simple as that.
And if America wants to fly in some heavies and make sure Basescu gets back in office, you can be sure it will happen and there’s not a damn thing any Romanians can do about it. So yeah, excuse me for sticking my tongue out at the absurdity of the whole thing so let’s hoist the flag and all of us can put our hands on our hearts and chant in unison God Bless the United States. Amen!