One of the things you learn when you go from working class to middle class is that the men get softer the further you go up the class ladder. By softer I mean less inclined to throw a punch. At the lower end of the scale, you better be able to back up your words with your fists or a knife or a gun. Otherwise, you better know how to keep your mouth shut and steer clear of trouble.
In elite society, alpha males are quick with the witty jibe and enforce their dominance with clever repartee. Careful politicking, networking and favor trading is how one advances in the upper classes. Words, not deeds, are the currency of the rich. In the lower classes, too much talking can get you killed. In the upper classes, being glib is like being tough, it is the thing expected of people of high status.
I thought about that as Obama stumbled and bumbled is way back from the brink of war yesterday. He and his advisers are from the same world. Upper middle and upper class childhoods. Prep schools then elite colleges. After college it was law school, government service and perhaps stints at elite Wall Street firms to take care of the finances. Then eventually service in the upper reaches of government or perhaps an NGO.
In the hermetically sealed world of American politics, this is not big thing. Everyone is playing by the same rules of the pseudo-meritocracy. Obama played the game better than most and was able to parlay his race into the top job. He has always dealt with people who have have the same mental models as he has, so he is unable to comprehend that there are people working from different mental frameworks.
In foreign policy, things are a bit different. In the Syria crisis, one of the major players is Vladimir Putin. He has probably killed people as a member of the KGB. He has certainly ordered people killed as he has gone up the food chain. He’s not Ivan the Terrible, but he is a genuine bad ass who made it to the top of the heap in a world where mistakes get you killed or let you kill your rival. He’s also dealt with the fashionable careerists who not dominate the elites of western countries.
You may think I’m overdoing it with Putin, but consider another major player. That would be Assad of Syria. He could easily have negotiated a deal to leave Syria and settle in Europe. Hell, he could do a deal with Obama and moved to New York City. Instead, he stays in Syria, fighting the rebels. According to various reports, 100,000 civilians have been killed since this thing started. It takes a genuine badass to be in charge of a tribe willing to kill anyone in their way. Assad may have got to his place through nepotism, but he remains in power by killing anyone who challenges him.
You can go through the entire roster of players in this story, Jews, Arabs and Persians, and find a whole bunch of seriously bad dudes. The thing about bad dudes, whether they are Arab dictators or the president of the local Hell’s Angels chapter, is they have no illusions about the human condition. They also know their limits. Sonny at the biker bar knows he is not talking you out of your interests. The House of Saud knows the only way to stay in power is to use it. Talking about it does nothing.
That’s why Obama & Co were outwitted by Putin and Assad. These are men fully equipped to deal with the realities of that part of the world. They have no illusions about what can be done. Obama and his people walk around thinking that a clever speech or well crafted argument is going to get everyone to do what they say. That’s how it has always worked for them. It is how they were trained. The result is they lost this round to Russia and the empire is showing it weakness.