My wife and I have five wonderful grandchildren – four boys and a girl. We await the arrival of another grandson in a few weeks. Dealing with our children’s children is vastly different than what it was like raising our own – especially in the area of discipline. As parents, we tried various methods and tactics to effectively influence the behavior and mold the character of our kids.
As grandparents, we do nothing. It’s very cool.
Well, actually, there are times – occasionally – when I watch my wife attempt to muscle up and scold one of the grandkids. Me? I avoid such moments, usually by finding the most readily available refined sugar delivery mechanism. But once in a while the mother of my children tries to play tough with an errant grandchild.
It’s amusing to watch. Usually it starts with a warning: “Don’t do that.” Then, the always pointless counting, “one, two – I promise, I mean it – three, three and a half.” And it’s always the same - an exercise in familial futility.
Why? Because our brilliant (really, they are!) grandchildren simply don’t believe she has the resident resolve to actually follow through on a tough love tactic.
In a very real sense, this is similar to what we seem to be seeing and hearing these days from the new administration with respect to its foreign policy machinations. Gone are the days when the mantra “speak softly and carry a big stick” was the coin of America’s diplomatic realm. These famous words were first uttered by Theodore Roosevelt two weeks before he ascended to the presidency in the wake of the assassination of William McKinley. We speak softly these days, but there is no big stick.
The stick has been traded for schtick.
The new diplomacy, advanced at every stop on President Obama’s recent foreign tour, is about reaching out, waxing cathartic about America’s shortcomings, flattering Europe, and bowing toward the Muslim world. And when the nation-formerly-known-as-part-of-the-axis-of-evil defies us by lobbing a missile into the air and sea, our voice is slightly raised, but not too much.
Everything is being tempered by a new international ethic of “moral authority.” The idea is that if enough nations will say to naughty North Korea, “Shame on you,” Kim Jong il will get – as we say in church – “under conviction” and “repent” of his roguish sins. And the nations will sing with one voice the song Cum-bay-ah.
We can all then look forward to even bigger geopolitical goose bumps as we are led toward a brave new world.