In the past, I have made passing references to Ukraine, and those references have made clear my distaste for Putin’s brand of Russian adventurism, along with my sympathies for Ukraine, stuck as they are with us on their side, us being such a hapless chump of a superpower. For example, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had a bunch of nukes. We talked them into surrendering those nukes in exchange for us guaranteeing their borders. They were stupid enough to believe us, so it is partly their fault I guess.
But this promises to descend into the particulars too quickly. I do want to get there in subsequent installments, but first I want to make some distinctions between two different kinds of political issues. There are the “do triangles have three sides?” issues, and there are the “did Smith shoot Murphy on the night of the 13th?” issues. Whether minimum wage laws are a good idea is the former kind of issue, and who should own the Crimea is the latter kind.
Unfortunately, the latter kind of issue is the kind that winds up in shooting wars, when the issues are often far more murky than people like to pretend, while the former kind of issue is the kind where people are prone to adopt a live and let live approach. You know, some Christian traditions believe that it would be more generous and more in keeping with the social justice spirit of Christ if we let triangles have four sides, or perhaps even five. In other words, when everything is very clear and demonstrable, we exercise the spirit of charity. When everything is floating on the surface of one hundred thousand variables, and millions of actors, over the course of centuries, we start yelling how OBVIOUS it all is, and start hunting for our gun.
Put it another way. Some political issues are a test of your ability to think, and others are a test of your ability to investigate. Some are logical issues and others are historical issues. The former requires mental training and discipline, and the latter requires mental training, discipline, and a mountain of historical facts.
Let me give two examples, both close to home. The first example postulates that it costs ten dollars apiece to manufacture a widget. If the government requires the manufacturer to sell their widgets for five dollars apiece, will we still have any widgets soon? The second example asks whether we have a moral obligation to give the state of Georgia back to the Cherokee.
One other key factor has to be taken into consideration. When two nations come into conflict, the war will generally be fought by young men who cannot possibly know all the factors that led up to your average conflict, and who yet are still in a position to make an honorable decision.
One eighteen-year-old young man enlists the day after 9-11 and goes off to fight in a war in Iraq that was mismanaged by Bush and lost by Obama. Not only does he fight there, but he is killed there. Another eighteen-year-old agitates for the minimum wage to be hiked by a couple of bucks because wouldn’t it be grand? I admire the former, even as I object to the war.
I have nothing but admiration for the men who were killed in their valiant defense of our embassy in Benghazi. That is not likely to change, even if (when?) we discover that we had an operation in Benghazi in the first place because we were running guns to Syria, in order to provide them to rebel forces who would be, in short order, beheading Christians for the camera. In other words, a man can fight honorably in a stupid war. A man can only agitate for a stupid law by being a fool himself, or cynical, neither of which is good for his soul.
So this is the platform upon which I desire to sit as we discussion the convoluted issues that swirl around Russia, eastern Europe, and the West. And I would call upon all participants to acknowledge how complicated it necessarily is.