A whole-mouthed gulp of Tampa’s April air reminds us that jasmine and gardenia mixed on a salty gulf breeze may be the best taste in the world. This mix of fragrances means that, if the clouds in the heavens are arranged correctly, the Lightning are in the playoffs and the first sunny innings of Rays baseball are peaking through at the Trop. Our multi-sensory, three-sport solidarity floats on an energized air that strikes with a microcosmic electricity.
Strikes are the dominant theme this spring. Coach Cash has taken a long view on pitching that has yet to yield enough of them. Calling on the bullpen for short rotations feels like it may not yield the strikes that contemporary experts assert are necessary to win games. The Rays’ pitching approach is, at best, “complicated.” Defense is the less exciting path to victory, especially when the sluggers languish. Meanwhile, Coach Cash asks us to, “Stay positive.” The Red Sox may be dominating, but let’s trust the long view: we can make the Rays great again.
The air in Douma, Syria lately has been significantly more caustic. This was hardly the first time that Assad, contrary to international law and human decency, struck—with a lethal combination of sarin and chlorine—to exact mass murder upon the people of his own nation. Apologists argue that the situation in Syria is, “complicated,” a multi-lateral warren of shifting alliances and enemies: a division of players that include terrorist-backed rebels, opportunistic Islamist regimes, the Syrian government, NATO allies, and Ruso-Iranian proxies. America’s equivocation in the conflict—overstepped red-lines and caliphate whack-a-mole-ing—reflects as much a crisis of humanity as a dearth of strategy.
America’s long view of democracy-building—hollowed words emanating from a hollowed out diplomatic corps—falters in the wake of short-term defensive strikes. Three decimated chemical facilities proved an out, but hardly a, “mission accomplished.” Those three strikes no more mean a victory than a vetoed Security Council resolution means an end to the principles of the Geneva conventions.
But, but, strikes!
Calling on the tried-and-true bullpen of the willing—U.S., France, and Britain—the ability of Assad to again gas his own people was bombed into supposed oblivion. Secretary Mattis called this a, “One-time shot.” Mattis’s boss answered with contradictory long-term bluster that such strikes may be, “sustained.” The lack of clarity in this message, to the American people and our enemies alike, calls to question whether we truly have a long-term vision coming from Washington and CENTCOMmed from South Tampa.
If the complicated messaging and lackluster execution—wearing out starters then dipping into the bullpen to pick up a few short-viewed Ks to maintain distraction— can be pieced into a cohesive, long-term vision, then so be it. Part of being an American—sports fan—is putting faith in higher powers: managers and POTUSes surrounded by acolytes.
Fortunately for those of us in Tampa, our team’s manager has a strategy built upon winning, a mission easily defined and accomplished by scoring—more than a few well-timed strikes—more offensive points in the theater of sport. His strategy for achieving it may not be the best in the short run, but may prove genius (if unexciting) in the long run. Coach Cash, we trust, has a brave and unconventional strategy for stringing together wins when they matter and for disregarding the stack of not-wins as part of a broader vision. He certainly has the standout talent to make it happen.
Unfortunately for those of us in America—and for the freedom-dreamers in Syria—our Commander in Chief may not have such a well-conceived strategy. To be fair, defining victory is a bit more complicated when the field is a desert and the diamond is mounted in black gold. The strike-dotted, isolationist-when-convenient strategy of non-intervention only works in the short run. Abandoning the fight in Syria is a study in callous cut-and-running. We are charged, for the sake of humanity, to preserve life even where we cannot exert the American ideals of democracy, opportunity, and equality.
The dog days of summer—sunny days greeting late day thunder-soaks—still loom before us. Our own air will get thicker before the crisp autumn breezes greet the playoffs; meanwhile, we are safe from genocidal toxins if not caustic rhetoric.
With mid-terms approaching , a referendum on a Syria strategy—strikes notwithstanding—is more imminent than battlefield victory. Regarding our homegrown manager’s charge, though, let’s gulp a deep, fragrant, un-poisoned breath, look forward, and stay positive.