Once a crane passed the examinations to become a diplomat. It couldn’t be denied, of course, that much of the crane’s success (both in the examinations and in its long, illustrious career) was owed to family connections and timely political contributions. On the other hand, there was also broad agreement that the crane was a most distinguished-looking bird. It presented precisely the kind of stately, slow movement that inspires mutual high regard among members of the Foreign Service. In this spirit, the crane could often be observed spending a great deal of time carefully deliberating on the most prudent placement of its feet. There were protocols to be followed, after all, and codes of etiquette to be observed. Waters must be endlessly tested. It was naive to think these sorts of things could be rushed or shortened in any way. Perhaps they could in the chaos of common life, but hardly in the measured footwork of high diplomacy. The same must be said for the many gala receptions at which attendance was de rigueur for the crane. Night after night it could be seen tirelessly performing this duty in the company of others charged with weighty and often secret responsibilities. Toasting one another while sampling an array of exquisite hors d’oeuvres, they might nod thoughtfully in agreement with such solemn declarations as “We now find ourselves at a critical juncture and appeal to all concerned parties to set aside their differences and engage in a substantive and frank exchange of views on the difficult issues before us.” “Hear, hear,” the crane would say in properly dignified tones as it shifted ever so slowly from one foot to the other. Its response might sometimes change to “tut, tut,” however, at reports that those not so patient with the diplomatic pace, perspectives, procedures, and protocols by which the crane ordered its reality were being gassed in the streets outside or slaughtered by their own governments. “Diplomacy must succeed, we all recognize, in steering a steady course between conflicting exigencies and satisfying all parties concerned,” it would declare down its impressive beak. “The alternative is simply unthinkable.” Every time diplomacy in fact failed, every time the alternative became not only thinkable but terrifyingly real, the crane could be seen leaving troubled waters behind with an air of urbane ennui over the “unfortunate and shortsighted” behavior of brutal tyrants, thuggish fanatics, genocidal maniacs, ideological hacks, partisan bullies, and their ilk. At such times the crane seriously considered the invitations it regularly received to join the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the WTO, the World Bank, a multinational cosmetics firm and so forth. But the crane always resolved, as it winged away from another diplomatic fiasco, to continue for a while yet with high-level statecraft. Whatever the setbacks, it remained “guardedly optimistic,” convinced that without it the world would be much worse off. In the next post to which the crane was appointed, it would just have to devote more time to determining the most prudent placement of its feet was all.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans