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Lessons of war

Feb 29, 2024 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

The second anniversary of Russia’s war on Ukraine has evoked mixed feelings in me as I struggle to make sense of it all. American author and philosopher, Ryan Holiday nicely summarizes the enigma of war when he states in a recent essay:

“War is unquestionably mankind at his worst. Yet, paradoxically, it is in war that men — individual men — often show the very best of themselves. War is often the result of greed, stupidity, or depravity. But in it, men are often brave, loyal, and selfless.”

The “greed, stupidity and depravity” of Putin and his oligarchic elite is obvious, as are the “brave, loyal and selfless” sacrifices being made by Ukraine’s armed forces as they fight overwhelming odds against a Russian military machine that mistakenly believed they would crush Ukraine in three days.

The war itself is a tremendous waste of lives caused by the ego and ambitions of a deranged psychopath wanting to re-create a Russian empire that long ago reached its “best before date”. All empires eventually crumble as civilization evolves inexorably, though unevenly, towards an equilibrium based on freedom, democracy and human rights, shedding historical tendencies based on authoritarianism and oppression. The road to that better future unfortunately is not lacking in potholes, and the war in Ukraine is one such example.

The war has exposed a number of difficult truths about the current state of international geopolitics. The most important one is the fact that the so-called free world’s commitment towards supporting freedom, justice and the rule of law in global affairs is problematic. To be sure, Ukraine’s allies have provided significant humanitarian and military aid to an embattled Ukraine, but such aid has often been given reluctantly and late and has fallen far short of what Ukraine needs to overcome the challenges it faces on the battlefield against a numerically superior, and better equipped enemy. To make things worse, the imposition of sanctions against the rogue Russan regime has been shown to be inadequate and hard to enforce.

The war has also brought to light the inadequacies of the various organizations that have been created over the past century whose ostensible purpose is to guarantee world peace and cooperation. The ineffectiveness and indeed uselessness, of the United Nations and its Security Council in maintaining world peace have been graphically demonstrated by this war. A radical restructuring of how the UN operates is long overdue, and in particular the elimination of the veto power that enables an aggressor nation that is a member of the Security Council such as Russia to block any actions that might interfere with its imperialistic transgressions.

The war has also shone a spotlight on NATO’s shortcomings. The alliance, whose stated goal is to ensure the security not only of its member states but the northern hemisphere in general, was caught unprepared when Russian troops invaded Ukraine back in February 2022. Although it has provided Ukraine with significant military aid, it is also clear that its intelligence apparatus, its inventory of military supplies and equipment, as well as its ability to quickly respond to external threats leave much to be desired. Further, several member countries of the alliance such as Turkey and Hungary have blatantly created roadblocks in providing the kind of aid and support that Ukraine desperately needs.

The EU has also been exposed as falling far short of providing the kind of unified and effective support to Ukraine that one would have expected. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is but a foreshadowing of what could happen to other countries in Eastern Europe if those countries do not stand firm in resisting this latest manifestation of Russian imperialism. And yet, it has taken two years of bloody conflict before many European countries that had become dependent on Russia for their fossil fuel needs, were persuaded to up their game and provide unequivocal and adequate support for Ukraine in its hour of need. Germany has been a prime example of this, while several other states such as Hungary and Slovakia, and even Poland to some extent, have prevented the EU from marshalling an effective, united front against the Russian invasion.

The most painful betrayal of the Ukraine’s just cause however, has been the schizophrenic behaviour of American politicians. The MAGA/Trump virus that has infected the Republican party in the U.S. has resulted in the complete turning off of the tap of indispensable American military aid to Ukraine. The brutal truth is that Ukraine cannot realistically win this war without the U.S. resuming its provision of critical military supplies and technology to the Ukrainian armed forces. One can only hope that sanity returns to the American political scene before it is too late.

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