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|Grammar + Politics and the Use of the Passive Mood|
Aug. 15th, 2008 at 6:01 am
The US’s George W. Bush, the UK’s Gordon Brown, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy — each of them has embarked on a collision course with good usage by declaring Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia “unacceptable.” Haven’t they read rule #11 in Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style? It couldn’t be clearer: “Use the active voice.”
When I hear public figures say that Russia’s actions are unacceptable, I’m left to wonder, “Just exactly who is unwilling to accept them?”
Nor do we find any unwillingness to accept Russia’s actions among the peace-loving, Patriotic Americans who love their country enough to despise its wars and the wars of its allies. They’re still too busy celebrating their impact on Israel’s last military action and protesting US and allied involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Plus, they don’t mind at all when America’s enemies attack America’s friends — only the other way around. Don’t hold your breath waiting for outrage from them. They won’t give Georgia another thought until it becomes a stylish hobby like Tibet.
Perhaps it is acceptable for Russia to dismantle non-threatening, pro-Western Democracies that were once among its sphere of influence. Many are comparing Russia’s recent actions to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and one could make a number of tidy comparisons between this and the CIA’s various ham-fisted attempts to dismantle several Marxist regimes that seemed poised to move toward the USSR. One could argue that we should just let history repeat itself, ignore Russia for strategic reasons, and dig in for another cold war.
But the problem is this: If we are, at the bottom of it, unwilling to go to war with Russia over Georgia, then what good does it do to pretend that someone won’t accept the invasion? Putin is betting, like Hussein did in 1989, that the US and other nations will accept it and will not act to protect their ally. Putin will win this bet. George W. Bush’s rhetoric about Russia’s invasion of Georgia is as bellicose as his father’s was about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, but George W. Bush won’t back his rhetoric up with action. Empty talk in the face of overwhelming force does not solve foreign policy problems, and one could reasonably wonder if such rhetoric is really any different from the whacky statements of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf during the Iraq invasion.
My solution: re-arm Japan.