2013: Year of the Standoff?

Recent headlines focused on a hostage situation in Alabama. Congress is split down the middle over fiscal reforms, threatening cuts where it hurts us most. China and Japan nearly started World War III on 29 January 2013, when the Chinese prepared to open fire on a Japanese destroyer in a disputed sea zone. Why is it people aren’t coming to compromises of late?

In the case of the hostage situation, it’s quite likely a compromise didn’t happen because the hostage-taker was not sane. He refused to act in the best interests of every party involved, including himself, and wound up dead. The hostage could also have been killed: I forgot to mention the recent standoff in Algeria that ended badly for many people. What does it earn a party to stick by their guns if it just means they wind up dead? Maybe there are some principles worth dying for, but $55 billion in defense cuts? A bunch of rocks in the South China Sea? Come on, now. Criminals in standoffs don’t fare well, this we know. But when governments are involved in standoffs with each other, both parties have a high chance of a bad outcome.

In Congress, both parties need to not be ready to “neener neener neener” each other, should one side extend a concession. We need graciousness on both sides, so that we can encourage a functional government. Congress is broken and the partisanship is as disgusting as it is debilitating. This is exactly, EXACTLY the sort of thing that brought down Yugoslavia. We don’t need to go down that road.

China and Japan… the solution is hard. Japan is fading. It needs to step down. Solving major demographic shifts and deep fiscal issues should *not* involve “Go down in a blaze of glory!” as a step. And why should Japan back down in this case? Well, it would be a nice way of starting to say “sorry” for a series of wars that destroyed tens of millions of lives in China and elsewhere. Give China the rocks, it’ll be a nice gesture.

My suspicion is that Congress will make a grudging compromise, but it’ll be so bitter that they will have an even harder time making the next major compromise. They’re not getting better at getting along, they’re getting worse. The USA is not yet at the breaking point. China and Japan are a different story. These guys are already pointing guns at each other, with fingers on their triggers. They are at a breaking point, and that does not bode well for a clean compromise sort of finish.

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