Boomers Still Follow Mainstream News and See a World in a Mess

Over the years of running BoomerCafé.com, we’ve learned a lot about the boomer generation. One common thread among boomers seems to be a desire to know the world in a wider perspective. Today, that knowledge is troublesome because the world seems to be in a mess, more dangerous than ever. We are lucky that BoomerCafé.com co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs spent much of his career reporting news as a foreign correspondent and foreign analyst. He sheds some light on Syria and the current world situation.

By Greg Dobbs

You might be right to wonder, what’s the big deal? The United States and Russia announced (on May 7th) that they are going to work together to try to end the fierce civil war in Syria, which threatens to destabilize the whole region … as if it’s otherwise a wellspring of stability. And as if these two world powers can succeed in the wake of nothing but failures so far. Well, the one thing we can count on is, if we don’t get in the game, we can’t possibly come out with a winner.

The U.S.-Russia plan? It’s hardly novel. The goal is to convene an international conference with the combatants themselves at the table. So if you say “Good luck” in a cynical tone, you might be right. First, because one side or another is likely to refuse to sit at a table and talk with its mortal enemies— and remember, one of the big obstacles is that there are more than just two sides in this war. Second, because if there’s one thing to which no one in Syria has proved responsive, at least to this point, it’s diplomacy.

Greg Dobbs reports from Moscow.

Greg Dobbs reports from Moscow.

But this is a big deal anyway, because in this poker game on a global scale, the chips are being bet on a bigger battlefield than Syria. They fall on the fragile and sometimes hostile relationship between the brokers themselves: the U.S. (which half-heartedly supports Syria’s rebels), and Russia (which unsmilingly supports Syria’s President Assad).

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that our friendship these days is just one matchstick warmer than it was in the days of the Cold War. We accuse each other of everything from disrespect to malfeasance to brutality to espionage. They say we’re “Russophobic;” we say they’re “anti-American.”

Maybe we’re both right. But that’s why the outreach is so important. And well-conceived. Because for a change, American foreign policy isn’t premised primarily on providing incentives that we’d want if we were in our counterparts’ shoes; we keep trying that approach and it rarely works. This time, although still in the interest of American national security, it is premised on what the counterpart wants which is, in Russia’s case, respect.

I’ve covered news on that side of the world over a span of 35 years — both when Russia was the hammerhead of the Soviet Empire and since it became independent. Back in the day, when the Soviets spoke, the world trembled. They liked that. They called it respect. What President Putin and his populace want today, even crave, is a place again on the world stage. Respect. Don’t forget, they still have a nuclear arsenal, and some alliances we’d like to alter. They want to be taken seriously once again. They are nationalists; they believe they deserve it.

I’ve seen signs of that when covering a wide spectrum of stories there in just the past few years, from thugs breaking heads to support Putin’s aggressive pro-Russia presidency, to teens promoting the adoption of abandoned orphans to keep them in Russian hands, to the Russian space program, which has an honorable heritage and, ever since the latter part of the Cold War, a record of cooperation with ours. Although such stories are vastly different in theme, they’re all about nationalism.

Maybe something will come of this new joint effort to finally get the combatants in Syria to talk about ending the war. Maybe not. But at least if the U.S. and Russia follow through on their intent to work together diplomatically on a big issue for the first time in a long time, then there will be benefits, even if ultimately they’re not felt in Syria. Maybe Russia will see the value of a global partnership between two great powers, rather than reflexively and nationalistically opposing much of what we set out to do to build a better world, or at least to avert a worse one.

Then again, since it’s still a game of poker, maybe not.


  1. This is an excellent article on the mess in Syria generally. There are no easy solutions, not even easy possible solutions. But what struck me most about your piece was the word ‘respect’. Yes, Russia wants respect, some would argue like the Mafia Don wants respect, and America wants respect, like a rich CEO wants respect. The thing is that, in my opinion, respect has to be earned by the deeds you do to make the world a better place, not by the arsenal you possess or the economic power you can wield. Naive or what?

  2. “. . . at least if the U.S. and Russia follow through on their intent to work together diplomatically on a big issue for the first time in a long time, then there will be benefits, even if ultimately they’re not felt in Syria.” Indeed, Greg, to the degree that they both “look outside their own self interests”. Thanks for this excellent piece – most cogent and timely.

  3. The problem is that all these diplomats bring the past into the meetings with them instead of looking at the future. Which is why they don’t trust each other even before they sit down to meet.

    I have done a lot of traveling and talking and learning from others in lots of countries and the one thing we have in common is how we cook. If all these overpaid diplomats and politicians had to hold their meetings in a kitchen and make their meals together they might learn to really talk to one another, and to see that they all want the same thing and also that we really aren’t that different from each other. So they need to sit at a kitchen table, not a board room table.

    There are so many reasons the world economy is in trouble. As someone who lives in a new country every six months we are constantly watching not only the political but the social climate in at least the next four countries we plan to live in. When you are monitoring countries in this fashion you begin to see the issues very up close. I don’t really think these leaders are looking at the issues as a global problem, and they are global. Just need someone to look outside their own self interests to see it.

  4. Excellent post, and yes, we boomers are concerned! I know I am as a European where nationalism is really rearing its ugly head and everything is made more complicated by the German insistence on austerity that is sending all of Southern Europe – Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal – down the drain! Think of it, over 60 percent of the young in Greece are now unemployed, that’s a whole generation killed!

    The injustice in the world – the wars, the pain – is heartbreaking and we’re still at square one, with Russia trying to make a comeback as a world power and Europe in disarray.

    Yes, the outlook is really dire! Not to mention other facts, like the growing income inequality across our planet, causing what I see as serious tensions in the future (more than now – but for sure in the future) between the one percent that can enjoy all the benefits of technical progress and the others, the 99 percent, that can’t…

  5. My opinion is that the world will always be a tinderbox. There will be threats, wars and skirmishes forever. Religion, boundary disputes, people who just hate each other, resources–whatever it may be, there will always be global issues in dispute.

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