The Brave Reluctants
By R. D. Flavin


1900 cover illustration by W. W. Denslow, 1902 photograph of Arthur Hill as the Cowardly Lion, and Bert Lahr from the 1939 film adaptation, MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

"He is my dog, Toto," answered Dorothy.
"Is he made of tin, or stuffed?" asked the Lion.
"Neither. He's a--a--a meat dog," said the girl.
"Oh! He's a curious animal and seems remarkably small, now that I look at him. No one would think of biting such a little thing, except a coward like me," continued the Lion sadly.
"What makes you a coward?" asked Dorothy, looking at the great beast in wonder, for he was as big as a small horse.
"It's a mystery," replied the Lion. "I suppose I was born that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way. Whenever I've met a man I've been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has always run away as fast as he could go. If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself--I'm such a coward; but just as soon as they hear me roar they all try to get away from me, and of course I let them go."

     As is well known, the so-called “Cowardly Lion” proved to be quite heroic when needed and was awarded the “Courage Medal” from Professor Marvel (aka “The Wizard of Oz”) in the 1939 film.  In the original publication (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Pictures by W. W. Denslow; 1900, George M. Hill: Chicago, New York), it seems his reward for courage took the form of some alcoholic beverage (probably gin):

"I have come for my courage," announced the Lion, entering the room.
"Very well," answered the little man; "I will get it for you."
He went to a cupboard and reaching up to a high shelf took down a square green bottle, the contents of which he poured into a green-gold dish, beautifully carved. Placing this before the Cowardly Lion, who sniffed at it as if he did not like it, the Wizard said:
"What is it?" asked the Lion.
"Well," answered Oz, "if it were inside of you, it would be courage. You know, of course, that courage is always inside one; so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible."
The Lion hesitated no longer, but drank till the dish was empty.
"How do you feel now?" asked Oz.
"Full of courage," replied the Lion, who went joyfully back to his friends to tell them of his good fortune.

     Courage, like bravery, is usually a purposeful action, though is sometimes manifest through inaction or “holding back.”  Reluctance or an unwillingness to proceed may sometimes be considered a prudent choice.  Brave reluctance when faced with instinctual reaction is rare, though not unknown nor often not entirely and thoroughly understood.

     When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on March 8, 2014 on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China with 227 passengers from various nations along with 12 Malaysian crew members, most assumed the plane had crashed.  To date, no debris has been located and the disappearance stubbornly resembles an episode of The Twilight Zone television series.  Except, the missing plane, passengers, and crew are real and the disappearance was not scripted by Rod Serling or any of the other half-dozen screenwriter contributors.  Now, it's difficult to accept the mysterious and unknown, but sometimes (as in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370) one has no choice but to say it's enigmatic and no answers (or guesses) are satisfactory.

     The July 17, 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from a surface-to-air missile over Eastern Ukraine with 298 passengers and crew is in a different category, as everyone knows it was a Russian supplied Buk missile system (SA-11 "Gadfly") that the Pro-Russian Ukrainians used (either purposely or accidentally is still unknown), and said Buk system was quickly hauled back into Russian territory for obvious reasons.  There's said to be video of the transfer, but I've yet to see it.  Regardless, Russia is actively assisting the Eastern Ukrainian Separatists with an end-game similar to its recent takeover of Crimea.  Matters seem to get uglier on a daily basis.

     As the flight originated in Amsterdam and it's believed approximately 193 were Dutch, the restraint of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been admirable.  As has the reluctance of Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia not to risk any lives in the gruesome and dangerous task of recovering physical remains, as fighting in the area continues and there are reports the area surrounding the wreckage has been seeded with landmines.  Actually I consider all of Europe and the U.S. to be brave reluctants by not taking direct military action.  Kind of like when Pres. Obama was expected to attack Syria for using gas on its own people but didn't.  Sometimes it takes courage to wait...

Mark Rutte (Prime Minister of the Netherlands), Tony Abbott (Prime Minister of Australia), Najib Razak (Prime Minister of Malaysia), and Barack Obama (President of the United States of America).

     After the emergence of the Pro-Russian Eastern Ukrainian military movement, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, reminded the world of the 1994 Budapest Memorandums, specifically the one which reads: “The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”  The use of the term “weapons” need not be WMD, as conventional aggression may still conquer a country, such as Russia's recent takeover of Crimea.  So far, there's been shallow economic sanctions against Russia and more media at the plane crash site than investigators or armed personal to assist Ukrainian interests.  Ukraine gave up nearly two hundred nuclear bombs for a promise of future protection against aggression and it appears ...there was some fine print somewhere that Ukraine didn't understand...

     Linguistic and ethnic components are important in establishing a nation or country, though the United States would never consider giving large tracts of land to the Hispanics, let alone honor their past treaties with the Native Americans.  The Kurds have had problems for years, yet few beside academics seem to care about their ancient history and modern issues with Turkey and Iraq.

     The retired Russian intelligence officer, Colonal Igor Ivanovich “Girkin” Strelkov, participated in the Russian seizure of Crimea and now serves as the de facto leader of the Pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine, though he issues his commands as if he's a power-drunk philosopher ready to engage in ethnic and social cleansing.  By most accounts, he's a polite tyrant...

     President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the Post-Soviet leader of Russia,seems nostalgic for his KGB past, posits a hard-line of intolerance, and any honest discussion of his behavior would ultimately invoke Godwin's Law...  The similarities are too creepy...  It's said the Pres. Obama telephoned Pres. Putin the other day and that instead of discussing the situation in Eastern Ukraine, they argued about how the new film, Guardians of the Galaxy, would fit into the overall cinematic Marvel Universe.  Needless to add, they couldn't agree...

Petro Poroshenko (President of Ukraine), Igor Girkin Srelkov (unofficial leader of the Eastern Ukraine Resistance), and Vladimir Putin (President of Russia).

     The problems faced with Putin and the Ukraine represent just one of many critical and problematic areas of conflict around the world.  Especially noteworthy is the emergence of ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (and many changing variants) has achieved the unique distinction of being too brutal in its tactics for al-Qaeda.  That's a “wow” for all the wrong reasons!  The terrorist group at one time had Iraqi military forces dropping their weapons and running away and took control of Mosul, Takrit, and was closing in on Baghdad before the Iraqi military decided to take up their arms and begin to fight back.  They have also staged many attacks in Western Syria, often accompanied by atrocities involving women and children.  Their “leader,” Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has spoken of taking back Muslim lands in Spain and eventually ...the entire world.  One would expect nothing less than total global domination from such a madman.  That Pres. Obama has only authorized 300 military advisers to assist the Iraqi forces seems surprising, at least to me.  I'd think that in memory of all our losses in Iraq we would want to secure the country...  To repeat, to secure the country of Iraq that we sacrificed so much for their freedom. Just saying...

     And, finally, among the many despots and ugly gangsters that trouble the world, mention must be made of the vicious thugs of the Nigerian Boko Haram ("Western education is a sin") who came to the attention of Western media after the April 2014 kidnapping of over 200 school girls.  Last week, they kidnapped the wife of the Vice Prime Minister of Cameroon...  Yet, since their inception in the mid-1990s, the terrorist group has killed at least 1000, but likely many more.  Their leader, Abukar Shekau, has ties to al-Qaeda and many African ethnic hate-groups.  Reams of paper protests have been issued by various governments and the United Nations, yet no significant military force has yet to stand up against these cheap thugs and murderers.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Caliph and leader of ISIS – now, simply, the Islamic State ot IS) and Abukar Shekau (leader of the Nigerian Buko Haram).

     Perhaps our brave reluctants are realists who understand limitations and recognize how easy it is for minor conflicts to escalate into major wars.  We must do right, but not at the expense of our humanity.  Now, we just have to figure out how...

Lions, and tigers, and bears don't seem too bad when faced with the thought of WWIII,


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