I repeat – confidence IS high


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!

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18 Responses »

  1. isn’t that true for almost any “international” relationship? isn’t that true even of the relationship between the IMF (not even a country) and Romania?

    Romania not having a strategy is a problem regardless of American presence or interests. It keeps everybody shortsighted … making life here a superficial game of poker (see recent politics) at the account of … say … creating a healthy society and country?

  2. The IMF is US controlled and serving US interests.
    Any world power sees sattelite states (read: colonies) like Romania as bags of resources to exploit. And we just happened to move from being a Russian satelite to an American sattelite after the revolution.

    Nothing really changed but the master. Creating a healthy country and society that stands on it’s own is something completely different that no world power actually wants.

    • Would you believe me if I told you that any scrap of legislation (at least those issued in the financial area) is sent to the IMF office for approval before being adopted by the Government? I think you would.

      • We’re way over our heads in debt to them (and planning to borrow even more money!) so of course we have to kiss their ass and suck their c*ck at every corner. There is no real easy for for Romania out of this one at this point rly.

      • Damn it to hell. Not long ago, a liberal Government kicked out the door the IMF representatives and now we’re bound to kiss the hem of their robes every time one of them waltzes in?! I don’t think that global crisis could explain contracting this kind of loan. On top of this, some of those “austerity measures” dictated by them and obediently accepted by…someone have been laughable (the minimum tax) and with zero fiscal effectiveness.

    • Excellent put, dragul meu Vasile!

      It has been a long while since Romania has done anything that serves its own interests. Actually, throughout our history, the periods of time when Romania has served itself were few and far between and almost always in these times Romania wad ruled by 1 person with vision (think of Stefan cel Mare). Romania almost never did anything good when it was ruled by a ‘group of people’ except to serve that group – and if the interests of that group happened to coincide with those of Romania, then what a happy coincidence, but otherwise there was and will be nothing great in its future. Look at the political class of past and today here in Romania: almost never have they served any other purpose than their own, their associates’, and that of a foreign power. I have really stopped believing that any kind of politics can rescue Romania (or most countries for that matter) from the death spiral it is in. Romania was always at the confluence of different interests held by different world powers(or should I put it another way: world bullies?) and in this situation it is always good to have the ‘slaves’ divided and hopelessly fighting among themselves. Unless we replace the whole form of government altogether (just swapping some politicians for others will do absolutely no good – actually it worsens things because by the time one group of people satisfy to a certain degree their own interests and may start to ‘do’ something for Romania for a change, the next group of ‘flamanzila’ comes along to consume everything), maybe with a form of government involving all public offices being held by specialists (btw, I always wondered, why do you have to have a certain theoretical and practical schooling to occupy any other job, but for governing a country you require nothing of the sorts and public offices can be occupied by anyone, as long as you are politically chosen to do so? this I will never understand.. but I digress) or another Dictator or King to impose his own vision of the future of the country, we romanians will never do something good for the majority of us (and I am ashamed to say this). Democracy may be good for some countries, but it doesn’t really seem to be working properly here..
      After we have exhausted all other nations too look up to, we have found America to be our saviour.. we have been waiting for America to come here and save us that now we are willing to swallow any crap it feeds us without even asking why does it stink..
      Don’t get me wrong, I love people in general, be they romanians, hungarians, americans or gipsies, but sometimes ‘groups’ of people do a lot of harm to themselves and others.
      I really hope that we all can wake up sometime and say: hey, my neighbour is a human being just like me and its basic needs are like my own, so I cannot hurt him and if I can, I must help him, so that we may all live as good as possible – but alas, this will not happen anytime soon.
      Still I do hope that we will all realise (and better sooner than later) that a major change is needed, both is us and in the ‘group’ leaders, otherwise this ‘freedom’ that we now believe to be living in will is nothing but a deceit and that are all, one way or another, slaves to other men, corporations, nations, etc.

  3. Wow, sorry for the long post, I now look back at it and realise it may not make for an easy read :)

  4. So this is the name of the game. Not that we weren’t perfectly aware of this state of facts but, you see, we like to dream. “grin” As for the anti-Russian feelings, you know, personally I’m remembered by the eighteenth century Belgium: when occupied by Austria, they yearned for France to come and free them and when occupied by France, they longed to see the Austrians back.

    • No, we like to avoid responsibility. This way we can blame the Americans or Europe or the Russians for everything and just be the eternal victim because it’s cozy and there’s a sort of romance to it. It justifies the place we’re in and we don’t really have to do anything to feel better but complain more.

      Actually trying to do something (god knows what) implies taking responsibility and assuming the yet unknown consequences. As a people, as a whole. Who in their right mind wants that kind of responsibility? Ceausescu was the last guy who said “NO!” to foreign powers and what happened to him? That’s right, he got shot to death.

      Whoever doesn’t want to play ball is deemed a rouge nation. See Iran or Cuba or Ecuador and the likes. Even if a goverment would be willing to assume such a responsibility, now as part of the EU and NATO not even going rogue is an option anymore.

      • Well, as you said, the matter of avoiding responsibility is now a moot point, as neither the Americans or EU would be willing to risk their security plans by letting a country with a strategical geopolitical position to actually decide for itself. But, frankly, in every country’s destiny comes from time to time a moment when several thousands (or more) people get to say: Enough! No more of it! I guess the only choice we have is whether to be eagles for a day or sheep for a lifetime.

    • There is actually one angle that Romania can play on this actually. Be expensive. Give it to them, let them have their missile bases. But make it hard and make them pay. Do it true balkan style. Tax them for every single thing. And if they start bitching, threaten to go to the opposition for support.
      Everybody criticises the USL for getting close to the Russians, but if there is one smart move they did, it was that one.

      Being ‘eagles’ won’t help us at this point. See what happened to Lybia and their ‘eagleness’. Greece is still being very ‘eagle’ and quite in the gutters. We can realistically only be sheep or foxes. Only foxes can still pull something out of this.

      • That’s a bit complicated since it’s our politicians who should be foxes enough to squeeze a good deal for Romania out of American administration. Considering what kind of people we elected to represent us so far…better not to think about it. I’m afraid that we, the common people, don’t have much choice: either we keep our mouths shut and heads bowed or actually begin to be more vocal and tell our beloved politicians that unless they want us to be eagles with them, they better start be foxes with the Americans. There. Isn’t that a good compromise? Otherwise..I really don’t know. Those huge debts to IMF and WB aren’t going to disappear overnight and Romania’s perspectives of economic development are pretty much closed. When I remember that Ceausescu starved us to pay the external debts, I really don’t want to live enough to queue up again for several hours only to buy “tacâmuri de pui˝…

  5. It was inspiring to read about the two women in Romania who worked tirelessy for a year to launch the successful “Let’s Do It, Romania!” nationwide trash clean-up last fall, turning out over a quarter-million volunteers — including Sam. That spirit got recognized and lauded by the US Embassy, which then sponsored financially a “Restart Romania” competition that elicited hundreds of ideas for improving Romania (without waiting for the media or the politicians), and offering start-up money from the Embassy to fund the best of those ideas, thereby to bolster the refreshing attitude of self-reliance and ingenuity being manifested by young Romanians who weren’t content to just complain. Was that somehow a sinister and
    selfish gesture on the part of the USA? Or was it perhaps sincerely meant to be helpful?

    • USA is not the devil nor is it an angel. It is just a state and states act exclusively based on interests never on feelings. USA is interested that its allies are strong up to a point but not further so America will help sometimes. Nobody wants competitors.
      What is also important is that this constant international struggle has always been a game between rulers. Wars were always decided by kings, so to speak.
      So kind feelings between nations or kind gestures may exist but in the end state policy is not decided by ordinary people.

  6. omg the people of this forum are full of shit just look at this link check romania s position compared to monster america.http://www.brainbench.com/globalskills2005/Brainbench_GlobalSkillsReport2005.pdf

    and then please explain america s plan for when the aliens come. perhaps they will explain the efficient system we re employing here using money and everyman to himself. yeah that will impress the aliens and they will pick america because of their powerful and sustainable economic model based on….wait for it wait for it…finite growth..and so on… he could n take it little SAM ( the medals fizz added)…he had to say it: If america wants it can kick romania s ass whenever they want. like van damme kicking bruzlii yeahhhh. fuckin pathetic.

  7. God Bless America!

  8. have you ever heard of fireflies? (licurici?)

  9. It’s all about game theory.

    Sam is right, Romanians [politicians, but most other Romanians as well] are rather backgammon than chess players. Why? Because of the dice – unlike chess, if something goes wrong in backgammon, one can always blame “the unfair dice”.

    Regarding the lack of Romanian strategy – that’s both an advantage, as well as a drawback for foreign strategists. It’s tough – typical game theory concepts cannot be applied to Romania (that’s what Sam likes about Romania – and indeed it is appealing from a certain point of view). There are some historical trends, but beyond that it’s all pretty random.

    Oh, and about the U.S. of A strategy – it is often pretty straightforward, and hence reverse engineer-able.

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