The Fragile Welfare State
It's strike season here in Finland, unions are throwing their weight around and a peculiar situation is brewing in the healthcare sector.
Healthcare services here are mainly provided by the state and municipals. The nurses are demanding a 24% pay increase. Legally the nurses have a rather limited possibility to go on strike. They can do it, but they still have to maintain the functionality of the healthcare services. So it is not an effective strike.
So now the nurses are threatening a mass resignation. A little under 13,000 of the country's 25,000 nurses would resign.
Predictably, the left is applauding this action. Especially now that the 'right' (the Finnish right being left of the Democrats) is in power.
But all this leaves the average people in a predicament. The healthcare services are already spread thin and this mass resignation would probably cripple the system. The private sector is small and unable to handle the influx of patients. And many people can't afford private care, since their taxes should have covered it already.
I can't help but wonder once more how fragile the welfare state really is. What is painted as warm and cuddly 'free' healthcare, is really a bureucratic behemoth. People are normally forced to seek private care on many occasions (physical therapy, dental work, optometric care and pretty much any specialized care), even though it is supposed to be provided by the state. That is bad enough, but now the whole thing is about to come crashing down.
I better not get sick any time soon...
Tough Guy Diplomacy
Cowboy diplomacy has been used to describe the current adventurist foreign policy of the United States. It refers to to the hostile, foolish and inept way that George W. Bush has conducted foreign affairs in the recent past. And while this may be descriptive of his particular brand of diplomacy, it fails to take into account the deeper problems of aggressive diplomacy.
One problem of 'tough guy diplomacy' is that it, by its nature, hinders rational resolutions. Once committed to an act, one cannot disengage without loosing face. Take, for example, the Cuban missile crisis. The rational approach clearly shows that, since the US had missiles in Turkey, the USSR had a legitimate reason to equal the playing field. So to resolve the issue, either the US had to allow missiles in Cuba, or withdraw its missiles from Turkey. Yet the world almost ended due to personal and national egos. Granted, reason triumphed in the end, but only barely.
Another example is the Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein's reasoning for invading Kuwait is unknown. Perhaps he thought the US would not intervene, perhaps there was a misunderstanding of diplomatic messages. But trying to face down the US, when intervention was clear, was irrational at best. The Iran-Iraq War clearly showed to everyone, even the Iraqi leadership, that the Iraqi army would be no match to the Coalition forces. But Hussein did not withdraw from Kuwait. Why? Because backing down would have made him look weak, and a weak dictator is a dead dictator. His internal enemies might have very well tried to take advantage of the situation. To see what else he would back down from.
The early phases of the Yom Kippur War brought plenty of success to the Egyptian forces. And while they were near total defeat by the end, the early success did remove the burden of past losses and thus freed the leadership from appearing weak if they made peace. With Syria the situation was very different, as their progress in the Golan Heights wasn't as successful and even lost territory in the end. Syria never had the luxury of this catharsis and is still at odds with Israel.
The problems the US is facing in the Middle East fall into the same category. A withdrawal from Iraq is equated with showing weakness. Taking into consideration the demands of the enemy is blasphemy. Concluding that the enemy's reason for acting is anything but pure hate is treason. Talking with Iran is out of the question. The world is seen in binary; one or zero, yes or no. And the outcomes are all too well known.