Shrub & the Russky 

We at the Nashville Scene are interested in foreign affairs. It began several years ago when our entire editorial staff took a trip to Memphis. Since then, with our sensitivities heightened, we have often turned on CNN to see what is going on in the Global Village. This week, we found Texan George W. Bush getting chummy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the two of them hunched over their microphones with smiles on their faces and the fate of the rest of the world at stake.

The two were in ebullient moods, having just downed a couple of cold O’Doul’s after a spirited round of leg wrestling. Few substantive conversations had been held between the two, which is how Bush prefers to conduct foreign policy. You may remember that after his first meeting with Putin, Bush said he had taken the opportunity to look into the Soviet leader’s eyes to get a sense of the real man within. After doing so, he was impressed.

The distillation of all that confusing arms control stuff and foreign policy mumbo-jumbo into a process of staring at another man, eye-to-eye, and seeing what truly lies inside, was refreshing to most of the nation’s television audiences. But it immediately threw the Boston-to-Washington axis into a tizzy. Until now, most of the nation’s nerds had looked at arms control as a series of asterisks and footnotes, complicated agreements that Al Gore had committed to memory but that George Bush was proposing to sweep away. Bush was ushering in something far more revolutionary. Not only was he pronouncing it “nuculur,” but he and Putin were trying to start a new fraternity of backslapping, missile-shielding, eye-staring nations.

Whatever. It’s working, albeit slowly.

Gone are the days of pipe-smoking foreign policy apparatchiks. We’re now being run by the good ol’ boys. Bush is really angling for something novel in the arms control sphere. The idea is this: We create a missile shield. The shield knocks down anything that other nations fire at you. We would be forever safe. We also approach our greatest historical enemy—Russia—and offer them the same shield. The offer acknowledges that these two nations are no longer each others’ greatest threat. The greatest threats, in fact, come from: a) rogue nations and b) China.

Essentially, we arm the United States and Russia with this great, impregnable shield. At that point, Europe will have to fall under the shield as well. And then, at that point, Putin and Bush will be left to marvel at their handiwork. No longer will some ragtag revolutionary group be able to pack some hot uranium in a bootleg rocket and launch it at whomever they’re angry with. Instead, the ragtag rocket will simply get blown out of the sky by our wonderful, efficient shield.

Until now, the world has seemed a little astonished at Bush’s insistence on the missile shield. Europe, in particular, is beside itself. Even Putin hasn’t signed on, although many think he ultimately will. Slowly, Bush is making progress, with a Russian as his greatest potential ally. Let’s hope the damn thing works.

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