When the big boys play, the little kids get hurt

Melvyn Magree

I’m not talking about playgrounds but battle grounds.  And too many big boys want to make everywhere a battle ground.
Does anyone really know what Vladimir Putin’s game is with Ukraine and other countries bordering Russia?  Is he on a power trip, or is he concerned that the West is encroaching on Russia and is a threat to Russia’s existence?
If it is strictly a power trip, then he is following in the steps of the tsars and Stalin.  The tsars and Stalin used their populations as cannon fodder for their own ends.  How many people are going to die before Putin’s goals are met?  Will the shooting down of Malaysia Air 17 give him pause in his power trip?
If he is concerned with the West encroaching on Russia, maybe he should join the West in providing a parliamentary and economic framework for all of Europe.  Major threats to Russia have all but disappeared.  Napoleon is dead, and today’s France has no interest in attacking Moscow.  The Kaiser and Hitler are both dead, and today’s Germany has no interest in attacking Leningrad or Stalingrad.
Whatever Putin’s game is with Ukraine, let’s hope that he takes to heart that his big-boy play has really hurt lots of “little kids” who have nothing to do with his game.
Israel is a parliamentary state with many political parties.  No party ever seems to gain a majority of seats.  In order to govern, parties have to form coalitions.  Too often these coalitions include some religious party that believes that God gave Israel to the Jews about 3,000 years ago.  About 2,000 years ago, the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and Jews fled to Europe and Africa.  Others moved in and eventually became today’s Arabs.
About eighty years ago, Hitler with his big-boy games decided that Jews were not part of these games and started executing them in obscene numbers.  Those Jews who could fled the areas Hitler controlled, some of them fleeing to Palestine.
To simplify history, all hell broke loose when the big boys of the European and American powers declared through the U.N. that a certain part of Palestine would become the new state of Israel. Now another set of big boys is playing various games that never seem to end.  The latest games are kidnapping and killing teenagers for no other reason than that they were of the “other.”  Now that game has escalated, with all the “little kids” in Gaza wondering where they can flee to escape the violence of the game.
Nicholas Kristof wrote a good column on how the intransigence of both sides perpetuates the problem.  See “Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East?” in the New York Times Sunday Review, July 20, 2014.
Mosaddegh was the duly elected prime minister of Iran.  He decided that Iran wasn’t getting enough marbles from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and nationalized it.  The big boys in Whitehall and Foggy Bottom arranged to have Mosaddegh overthrown and have Reza Pahlavi reinstated as shah.  Among other things the shah did was have his secret service, Savak, take out the little kids that didn’t play the shah’s way.
Savak’s dirty tricks were no secret.  In fact, a colleague who was supporting a Univac computer in Tehran asked me to join him.  No way did I want to move from Sweden to a country like Iran.  In fact, in the last year I was in Sweden (1974), Iranian students were demonstrating in Stockholm against the shah.
By 1979 Ayotollah Khomeni had overthrown the shah and set up a new set of big-boy rules. Many of these rules were not to the little kids’ benefit.
But the big boys in Washington were not happy with the overthrow of the shah, especially when the U.S. embassy was taken over and diplomats held prisoner.
And matters got worse.  First, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, even when he used poison gas on Iranian troops.  Second, when the U.S. decided Saddam was not to its liking and went to war against him, the U.S. shot down an Iranian airliner with over 200 “little kids” on board, few if any of whom were part of the big-boy games.
And still the games go on, though in a more civilized manner than for the last two decades.  Iran is negotiating with the U.S. and others about how much nuclear capability Iran should have.  But the big boys like the U.S. and the U.K. aren’t offering to reduce their own nuclear capability, a capability that some hawks wouldn’t hesitate using to flatten Iran, including all the “little kids” who have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear capability or intentions.
Another big-boy game going on is China’s assertion of sovereignty over offshore islands.  I recently read an article by a Chinese or Vietnamese author who said that China really has more to gain by playing nice than by throwing its weight around.  It is ironic that China is still holding a grudge about another nation that threw its weight around to gain supremacy in the Western Pacific: Japan.
The “little kids” sing, “When will they ever learn,” and the big boys never do.