A Few More Random Observations About Ukraine

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As the war in Ukraine continues to unfold, and as online discussion about it has resulted in any number of comments that can’t all be true, a few observations have occurred to me. I would like to share them with you here, with the understanding that you will read them as a motley gathering of detached comments. I am sure there is a thread in there somewhere, but this is no necklace. Think of it as a handful of pearls.

Christians should refrain from pontificating about the war unless they are actively involved in trying to help ameliorate the suffering caused by the war. I have vouched for my friends in JEEP, who are doing really good work, and unless you have another good work that you trust, then lend a hand there. If you want to talk about the war, that could be good, depending on what you say, but whether it is good or not, it is important do something tangible for the widows and orphans first (Jas. 2:16; 1 John 3:17).

This will help avoid the temptation that many online observers will face, which is the challenge of successfully pivoting from one field of expertise to another in such a short time. I mean, having to transition from amateur expertise regarding infectious respiratory illnesses to amateur expertise on eastern European affairs is not a leap that everyone should try to make. And especially if they have done nothing for the widow and orphan.

Avoid conspiratorial thinking, and by that I mean a narrow explanation that explains absolutely everything. If you think that this whole thing is a charade cooked up by a shadowy international globalist cabal, you will have trouble deciding where to stop. I mean, if this is just a Potemkin war, put on for show and to keep the rubes distracted, then it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that Putin himself was in on it, agreeing to conduct a lame invasion just for show. And why would Putin expose himself like that? Out of the three top possible end games to all of this, a dead Putin is one of them. So I would urge everyone to avoid hot insider takes from anyone who is ex-CIA, ex-KGB, anti-Mossad, anti-Joooos, or pro-Clinton Global Initiative, and who has a one-size-fits-all explanation. There are many players.

To our friends in Ukraine. We know that we do not know what it is like to have our homeland invaded like this, and our cities shelled, and civilians targeted, and all the rest of it. And we also know that it must be greatly heartening to have virtually the entire international community rally to your cause. Your courage and your savvy have helped to make a certain kind of nationalism cool again, and this is entirely a good thing. But you have to understand that many of the people currently posturing on behalf of Ukraine represent a class that regular folks in the West have learned to loathe and distrust over the last two years. If we have painstakingly gotten to the point where we don’t believe anything they say, we don’t want to give that up simply because they are standing with Ukraine. Nothing personal with regard to you guys.

Also to our friends in Ukraine. You may be appalled by the thesis offered by Peter Hitchens, which is that the West missed an opportunity back in the 90’s to bring Russia to a more sensible way of being Russian. Disagreeing with him is fine, and I differ with parts of what he is arguing myself. And full disclosure: Peter is a friend of mine. But please keep in mind that over the last two years, Peter has been a one-man liberty army in the UK, standing virtually alone against the kind of regnant folly that the global autocrats are trying to cram down our throats everywhere. He is no friend of Putin at all. A suffocating autocracy is being established in the UK, and Peter has been virtually the only one resisting it. He is a true friend of liberty, and I think he should be honored as such.

Why are the Ukrainians fighting so doggedly? That question was once posed by a Yankee to a captured Confederate soldier, and the answer was, “Because you’re here.” Keep it up, and stay after it. I believe that you stand a good chance of winning this war. And that leads to the next thing.

It is fairly obvious that pretty much everyone has been astonished at how many losses the Russians have taken, at how their strategic offensive has stalled out, and how rapidly images of their brutality have circulated around the world. It has been obvious that our assessment of Russian capabilities was grossly inflated, and it is also obvious that our surprise at discovering the opposite was genuine. It is very easy to talk about how Russian felt threatened by NATO, but surely it is obvious now that NATO felt threatened by Russia. Perhaps if our intelligence had been better we wouldn’t have been, but it seems obvious that we were. And countries like Poland that felt threatened by Russia, and who wanted to get into NATO as a consequence, were wanting to do that for reasons of defense only. Anybody who thinks that the Poles were itching to carve out a little piece of western Russia for themselves is delusional. While it may be true that Russia felt threatened by Poland and Poland felt threatened by Russia, and all at the same time, the cases are still dissimilar because Poland was right to feel that way. Right? Wrong? These are unusual words, oh, stranger.

I have said before that we should try to read the story on the basis of information that is generally available, on the surface. In ancient times, there were no cameras on the battlefield (the Battle of Marathon). In recent times, there were television crews on the battlefield (Vietnam). The presence of those cameras altered the way fighting had to be done, and altered it radically. In this war, there are cameras everywhere. This is therefore a social media war, and Putin has done more in three weeks to make Russia an international pariah, and a paper tiger. Way to go, man.

In a previous post on this topic, I have distinguished jus ad bellum from jus in bello. The former has to do with how justice should determine a decision to go to war in the first place, and the latter has to do with just conduct in your way of fighting in the course of the war. Now the fact that the Russians have so quickly moved to the terrorist tactic of making direct war on civilians (a violation of jus in bello) reveals that they were likely just as disinterested in justice when it came to the ad bellum decision also.

A lot more to say, but it can wait.