The conflict in Georgia underscores the ongoing public debate over leadership in an ever-changing political landscape. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, alliances were reaffirmed in the West, to avoid a potential re-emergence of cold war at some point in the future. There has been the perception of a world-at-peace that encourages further cooperation between an ever-larger group of nations unified against global conflict. Notable exceptions include Bosnia, Chechnya, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and more recently, Georgia.
Those who aspire to world leadership have historically relied on military might to accomplish their goals. Once this has been accomplished, and an infrastructure has been established, the dominant world powers will attempt to retain control with a variety of measures, including world trade, military alliances, and a perception of overall moral leadership.
The framework for this leadership may differ widely in origin, but the court of world-opinion will largely determine its success or failure. The political dialogues regarding which system is superior, and the reasons why this-is-so will vary for obvious reasons of vested interest, but the goal is still the domination of one system over another. World opinion matters, so we are not surprised, for example, that China seeks to put her best foot forward in striving to impress all of us with her accomplishments on the world stage which the Olympics provides. We understand that public perception weighs the benefits and successes together with the failures and misperceptions in the court of world opinion. Similarly, Russia has her own stage on which to display her new-found wealth of resources and trade alliances.
How this all works-out when the dust settles is dependent on many factors, not least of which is moral leadership. Each of the competing systems has displayed moments of greatness and moments of moral failure. Every competing governmental system seeks to justify its failures as a necessary means-to-an-end-approach that will culminate in improved conditions for all concerned. Hitler's quest for Arian supremacy was derailed by the world's perception that German leadership at the cost of forty million lives was just too-expensive. Japan's world-domination-quest into China and the Pacific also proved to be too costly in terms of lives destroyed. The use of the atomic bomb by the U.S. in Japan is still used as prima-facie to deter those who aspire to world leadership through violent means.
How then do we determine, as a world community, which governmental system is superior to all others? Totalitarian regimes testify that their superiority rests, in part, on their ability to preserve peace through authority. Democracies claim that their strength is derived from a system which empowers their citizenry to aspire to and achieve greatness. Participation in either system requires trust that the system will afford both opportunity and protection for its citizens. When economic turmoil strains political alliances, and civil conflicts spill over borders to extract solutions, the world watches and waits for news of a moral nature. Who did what to whom, and for how long? Was this necessary?
How can these issues be resolved so that a lasting peace is the result? Let us journey to a higher peak from which to observe our earthly struggles: The One God who made us all and permits and enables the governments that exist to perform their duties, also has a high moral platform from which to observe and determine the outcomes of our various cooperative and competitive systems of governance. He is very concerned about outcomes, since this is the planet which He created, sustains, and will ultimately rule over Himself. But God is also very interested in the "means-to-an-end" that we employ. It is not "all right" with Him when we abandon moral principles for the sake of expediency. In the meantime, as we have been "left to our own devices," let us unite with each other in the resolve to find peaceful means of solving our differences.
The world has abundant natural resources and gifted leadership to enable us to resolve our differences, provide for our needs and support each other in the beneficial development of our planet. Let us all accept our just criticisms with the humbleness to admit when we make mistakes in policy and let us make the most of every opportunity for friendship and cooperation in the world around us. As China is showing us, they also welcome this opportunity for friendship and cooperation with the world. If we exchange our fears for celebration and treat our neighbors as friends, who knows what great things may be accomplished? Our optimism with the things that unite us, and our patience with each other in those things that divide us will go a long way toward building bridges of cooperation between us.
The same can apply to our Russian neighbors, who also are recent converts to our Western ways. All of us have experienced a little "wounded pride" in the way we are perceived by the world around us. We, as individuals, are affected by national policy and its consequences. When our country loses standing in the world, we can relate to how Russia has felt in its policy failures and its loss of standing on the world stage. The danger that all of us face is that the recovery of our national dignity may seem to be more important than achieving a harmonious and working relationship with our neighbors. There is room for all of us when we behave like good neighbors, but there is no room for any of us to destroy each other with our words and our weapons.
In the Olympics, there are those who compete for individual glory, team spirit, and national pride. The forum is that of a shared interest in athletic excellence. We draw inspiration from those whose skills and patient resolution have guided their lives for many years in preparation for these games. How much more should we all endure the discipline of a shared responsibility with our neighbors for the preservation of our earth. Let us resolve to be humbler and better neighbors to those who share our planet with us.
Our thanks and admiration to China for hosting us in these magnificent Summer Olympic Games of 2008. May God bless us all as we work to overcome those obstacles that still separate us and build bridges that unify us.