Saturday, December 10, 2022

Let's Make a Deal - An international diplomacy critique

This is a political post

There is a lot to unpack with the trade to get WNBA star Brittney Griner out of a Russian gulag.

I mean, it is truly amazing how I'm just finding out so many regular folks do a lil' international diplomacy on the side. And how they all suddenly appeared on social media swearing this was a bad deal. Well, in MY side capacity as an quasi semi kinda pretend international diplomat, astronaut, chef and chicken plucker I disagree. So let me tell you why.

First, this was the only deal on the table. This wasn't a maybe I can talk them into more, this was Griner or nothing situation. And like a coach trying to figure out do you take the field goal or go for the touchdown or fourth down, you take the points. Sure the ones we talk about go for it all, but the guys who win consistently year after year send out the kicker. Here, the points were getting at least one someone home. I've seen the article which indicated that at one point it maybe was one or the other - at which point I'm almost certain the ask was for both. Because a two-for-one is a good trade. Theoretically. But even if it was that fabled either or situation, why would you take the trained "soldier" and leave the citizen. I mean, that's just bad business.    

Then, the other half of this, claiming Viktor Bout is the "Most Dangerous Man in the World." Yes, and Micheal Jordan is the "Greatest Basketball Player in the World." And while it arguably was true when he was in his prime, in real terms it's been a long time since Viktor was in the gym shooting free throws. Bout was taken into custody in 2008, so it's been almost 15 years since he was truly connected. I'm only a geopolitical expert on the odd Tuesdays but I'm pretty sure whatever channels or networks Bout had in place have long since evaporated. Guys like him got their power from knowing who to call or where to go to get what was needed. And all of that, all of it, has changed since he was last in the game. Yeah, I'm certain he's still knows a guy or two who is doing something, but most of his resources are gone if not completely usurped, the circles he operated in have collapsed, transformed or shifted, and a lot of new players would happily knock him off for s-and-g on three ruble bet. He's still dangerous, but I doubt he'll be able to return to his previous level of infamy simply because getting back in just ain't easy.

(Note: Bout's main hook was that he used to sell surplus Russian gear. Well, unless he's going to Ukraine to pick it up where the deserters dropped it, he's got a minor inventory issue I don't see him fixing.)   

And finally, if this "trade" upsets you, congratulations, you've just been played. Because if you think for one minute that the Russians didn't calculate the outrage over a "black gay athlete" going home while a "former Marine" was "left behind" when setting this up then this is your first day. Framing is important here. I keep seeing it as a portrayed even in US media as the government freed a druggie black lesbian athlete over a proud US marine captured behind enemy lines. Why not say that a Two-time American Olympian freed from a hellish gulag? She hates America conservative pundits scream, because she knelt for the national anthem. But this is America, and believe it or not hating America is allowed because we have that thing called freedom. Remember that? Also, why no mention of why that proud US Marine is even in custody, er I mean former Marine. I mean aside from Whelan having been dishonorably discharged for stealing, lied about being a police officer, was arrested on espionage charges, had four passports, well, obviously the situation is exactly the same as some empty cartridges that once held some weed? Why have we taken to referring to him only as "former Marine"? While technically true, it seems like some people in the conservative media are trying to push folks buttons instead of inform them and let them make up their own minds. You know, like the slogan says.

In any case, Brittney needs to get her a big pizza, roll up one and relax. And I for one ain't mad.