As Vladimir Putin continues his best attempt to impersonate a schoolyard bully albeit with unimaginably horrible weapons at his disposal, the reason for staying back and watching is clear enough. Clear, but wrong. The time has come: we cannot be spectators or a mere supply chain: we must use the weight of NATO to stop by force the humanitarian disaster that is Russia’s unnecessary war.
We are presently at risk of the “gamification” of this war. We listen to the updates and count how many cities are holding and which side has the most casualties. The bitter truth is that neither statistic is merely a number. Holding more cities than you’ve lost sounds good until the city is the one containing your home, business and all of your possessions. Having fewer deaths is little solace when that death is your child, spouse or parent.
Anyone who has a moral compass hopes Ukraine prevails. It is hard to think of a modern war where one side was more clearly the instigator of unprovoked conflict. The battlelines of war are frequently gray, here not nearly so: Russia is the aggressor, full stop.
We must be clear-eyed: a Russian victory only spreads totalitarianism. Any subsequent “peace” is but a prelude to Putin’s next steps in mimicking the Third Reich’s megalomaniacal leader. Appeasement was and still is an invitation to further conquest with such men.
To say we must engage Russia directly is not to be a warmonger. It is to recognize that as long as Putin believes he can war against an innocent neighbor and live to tell about it, waiting is only allowing him to kill more and prepare for the time we do finally engage.
President Zelensky put it succinctly: “After Ukraine —- if we don’t exist, God forbid —- then it will be Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Georgia, Poland. And they will keep going on until the Berlin Wall. They will continue.” As Jason Kettinger and I discussed in OFB’s latest Zippy episode, we are risking a Neville Chamberlin-style “peace for our time” that does nothing to avert war.
For those of us who dread that engagement — and everyone ought to — we should seek one last effort at deterrent, but one with use-of-force already green-lit if the deterrent fails. The United States and her allies should state that if Russia does not immediately and completely cease targeting non-military targets, we will immediately enforce a no-fly zone and use air power to disable any Russian convoys that remain in Ukraine and refuse to surrender.
I fear that Russia would assume we are bluffing and continue or, even assuming us serious, continue because war is what it wants.
We must be prepared for horrors as great as those in the past World Wars, something that cannot be thought in abstract, but also must be grounded in weeping spouses and mothers and children. Such pictures make our current course sound more peaceable and sensible, but if the conflict is inevitable and it is a question of how much genocide against Ukrainians must happen first, waiting only causes more bloodshed.
As Zelensky has asked, in his pleading for a no-fly zone, “If you can’t provide a timeline now, tell us how many people have to die. How many limbs have to fly off of people’s bodies, so you hear us? How many people will count, and we’ll wait until that moment when you feel comfortable.”
Would I write this if I were of the age presently qualifying for the draft? Such would surely weigh on me, but I hope I would. Could the war be so huge that a much broader draft including those of us who graduated out of the Selective Service age range years ago might find ourselves back in? It crosses my mind. I hope personal risk would not sway what I believe is right.
Inevitability helps cement my thoughts.
It is going to get worse. French President Macron believes “the worst is yet to come.” If it is going to get worse, it is better to act sooner that we might have fewer people mourning when we do finally look back at the horrors that came.