Ukrainian Realities

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The Ukraine!! How did we get here? In defiance of our endlessly repeated promise to banish “Hate” from our schools, offices and social media, Vladimir Putin has proved once more, if proof be needed, of its staying power. Instead of awkward conversations about sex with their children, a difficult talk rendered felonious in many Blue State jurisdictions, the nation’s parents are now faced with explaining Vladimir Putin, the Ukraine and Hunter Biden.

Where are the experts when you need them? A nation that cowered in their bunkered homes for two years, terror stricken by a simulacrum of the common flu, is now seriously considering no-fly zones over Russian armored columns. What does the Science say? Does Dr. Fauci have an opinion?

Social media is alive with the reasoned analysis of the neighborhood’s pundits. The talking heads of 24/7 news channels are bringing their well-known expertise to bear. In a stunning turn-about, CNN and Fox News find themselves dangerously close to agreement. The cultural battle lines are suddenly thrown into chaos, as Right and Left split into unaccustomed internal debate. The situation is so fraught that even The View’s Joy Behar, a woman of near Oprah-like status, has found her always clueless self-referential rambling, previously given reverential hearing now ridiculed.

For now, the Ukraine has our sympathy. There is something about underdogs and bullies that explains Realpolitik, the international balance of power, to a nation curated by Influencers, a recently coined job title for teenagers adept at creating Tik Tok videos.

But then, in the defense of the hoi polloi, it was Aristotle who first pointed out the obvious, “Nature abhors a vacuum”. John Kerry, as near to a “wise man” as exists in Adorable America, has articulated the Biden Administration’s concern over the impact of war in the Ukraine. And I quote:

“But I am concerned in terms of climate efforts that a war is the last thing you need with respect to a united effort to deal with the climate challenge”

Actually quoting the expressed thoughts of Adorable America’s leaders is perhaps unfair given that they are simply mouthpieces for “experts” and Scientists. But clearly, Henry Kissinger has left the building.

The world’s actors have been carefully watching us. We are a power, of military and economic might fearful to reckon with, but they clearly see a growing sense of fecklessness. Benghazi, the “Red Line” in Syria, the debacle of the Iranian Accord, the fiasco of our Afghanistan disengagement. An aircraft carrier burns to destruction in San Diego, the home harbor of the 7th Fleet. The ghosts of the USS Yorktown’s crew watch and weep. Our friends cringe, bullies grow bold and those at risk draw up contingency plans.

America’s Adorables, comfortable in their enclaves, need not worry. While Adam Smith has joined all those other dead white men in well-deserved oblivion, our betters instinctively remember the truth of his observation, “there is a lot of ruin in a nation”. Cheap labor continues to pour across our border, Adorable neighborhoods will continue to have their lawns manicured and toilets cleaned at rock bottom prices. Adorable jobs are safe as the world continues to revolve around the US Dollar. But then there is that worrisome news that Saudi Arabia is now selling OPEC oil for Chinese yuan.

But those peoples on the fraying edges of the Pax Americana, are concerned. The world is a dangerous neighborhood without a dependable cop on the beat. And the cop that everybody has been depending on is going wobbly.

As the cops on the beat in America’s urban centers can testify, their job is thankless. America wound up with the job of policing the nations despite the near unanimous warnings against such bravado by our Founding Fathers. But both fearful and confident, we took the job and it’s been good for Adorable America and friends. But a cop that doesn’t believe in law and order is dangerous to have around.

And it’s clear that America, at least our leadership class, no longer believes in law and order, even in our own cities. The White Patriarchy that was volunteered to free the world’s oppressed in the 20th Century has been fired, replaced by a Therapeutic Rainbow Coalition committed to encouraging unicorn habitat.

And in truth, asking Americans to sacrifice anything for a “nation” they couldn’t find on a map is asking a bit much. One wonders how many Americans could find Ukraine on a map without assistance from Google or cable news? One wonders how many Americans could find Texas on a map without the kindly assistance of Google?

In the interests of full disclosure, my family is from the Ukraine. Paraphrasing President Kennedy all those years ago, back before one needed a Biology degree to identify the fairer sex, “Ich ben ein Ukrainian.” It was Russia in the guise of a Soviet Union that forcibly starved to death my extended family in the Holodomor. My sympathies are with those folks in the Ukraine. Some of those shooting rifles at Russian tanks are probably distant cousins only one generation removed. Given the porous ethnic borders of Ukraine/Russia, some of those soldiers in the Russian tanks might be my distant cousins as well.

But upon reflection, the rights and wrongs of this bloody disaster in the making are not as clear cut as we might wish. Our media paints a picture of Russia’s invasion as an unequivocal case of good vs evil with Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB apparatchik and oligarch in chief, as an ersatz reincarnation of Adolf Hitler in the 1930’s. But then our media’s record of presenting a reasonably unbiased account of anything is suspect.

In the present day, it must be said that the Ukraine is winning the propaganda war which definitely boggles one’s understanding of recent realities. How can that be? Where are those Russian masters of disinformation, those prodigies of propaganda that stole the election in 2016 for Donald Trump? Could it be that our media, so badly fooled by Russian misinformation in 2016 has shed its innocent naivety, now presenting an honest and unbiased view?

If our experience in the past decades has any value, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, it should have taught us to stay out of family fights. Family fights are not about what you think they are. Outsiders find themselves ducking pots and pans thrown by both sides.

Russia and the Ukraine are very close cousins, but very different places from America, and different from Western Europe as well. Western Europe itself is waking from the kumbaya moment brought on by the fall of the Iron Curtain to find that Warsaw is not London, that Budapest or Bucharest are not Paris or Berlin.

If we think we understand what is going on in the either Moscow or the Kyiv (Kiev), we fool ourselves. And both Moscow and Kyiv are light years closer to our understanding than the clouded cultures of their respective flyover countries.

We might take the advice of Solomon and search out wisdom, attempting to confront preconceptions that obscure reality if such might be found. It is the received wisdom of Adorable America that someone cannot possibly understand a neighbor who grew up across the street, went to the same schools and had the same career if that person is a different color or uses a different pronoun.

Yet in an astounding leap of logic, we imagine ourselves simpatico with the Slavic peoples of Russia & the Ukraine. Even accepting as gospel truth the bilious calumnies of the New York Times 1619 Project now educational dogma, the United States has endured a bare minimum of the worst evils that humanity inflicts upon itself. How are we to understand how centuries of suffering shape a people, a nation?

Perhaps no people group on earth, with the possible exception of the Jews, has suffered more or longer than the Slavs. For millennia, like waves on the seashore, one invader after another – from Atilla to Genghis Khan to Tamerlane to Heinz Guderian – has swept across their homes in orgies of fire, rapine and death. The Slavs have inhabited the disputed marches between Christendom and Mohammed for fifteen centuries. Their daughters populated the harems of sultans and sheiks, their sons filled the ranks of the Mameluke slave armies. Even the present day finds the Slavs a most fertile field for human traffickers.

While the catalog of Vladimir Putin’s villainy is long indeed, we might take a moment to consider. Has Russia or the Ukraine ever had a more liberal and righteous ruler than Putin? Liberal and righteous by the standards of Adorable America, anyway.

Perhaps the most liberal and righteous ruler of Russia prior to Vladimir Putin was Nicholas II, Tsar of all the Russias as the 19th Century turned into the 20th. Nicholas II met a bad end, being replaced by another Vladimir, Vladimir Lenin by name. Perhaps the Vladimir of our own time is not such a bad Vladimir after all.

Americans are a special people. We expect happy endings. We believe abandoned kittens will find a loving home and that love will find a way. Our wealth, our power and our ubiquitous entertainment monopoly have created a bubble within which our Pollyannaish expectations have infected a niche ecosystem of friends and allies similarly situated, well ensconced in the fat of their own lands.

Can there be a happy ending in the Ukraine? Happy for who? What would it even look like? I think everyone can agree that ending attacks on women and children is a good place to start. The women and children of such varied locales as Kabul, Damascus, Fallujah, Caracas, Acapulco, et.al. might agree on that. But then what about all those women who demand equality? Are they to be denied equal treatment?

It is said that Vladimir Putin’s office features a prominent portrait of another Tsar, Nicholas I – the forebear of the aforementioned Nicholas II. Nicholas I sought to civilize Russia, to educate and enlighten it, that Russia might join with England and France as a civilized Christian nation, befitting its size and power. Ever since the late 17th Century in the time of Peter the Great, Russia had been the little brother, in conscious imitation of and desperately wanting to be like his older brothers, England & France.

England and France didn’t see the need to seat the “barbarous asiatics” of Russia at the table of civilized nations. Instead they joined with the Turks of the Ottoman Empire to keep the Russians in their place. The Turks, that enlightened civilization of Mohammed ruling the Mid-East, that enlightened civilization of Mohammed that still had slave markets. After all, blond green eyed Ukrainian girls were all the rage in discriminating harems.

And so the 1850’s saw the Crimean War, ugly years of bloodshed in the Ukraine with the grotesque sight of Christendom’s leading nations joining hands with the great empire of the Muslims against their fellow Christian nation, the Russians.

More than anyone else, the Crimean War was the child of John Temple an Irishman. One might think an Irishman to be more sympathetic to oppressed peoples, but alas, oft times those of the oppressed hired as taskmasters are coldest to the aspirations of the huddled masses. Mr. Temple is remembered by his title Lord Palmerston, serving as both Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister of Great Britain over a period of some decades. A liberal of the Liberal Party in both politics and worldview, Lord Palmerston was deeply offended by Russia, its autocracy and its culture.

Strangely enough, Lord Palmerston viewed the slaves of the American South differently from the serfs of Russia. Five years after the war in Crimea during the American Civil War, he was Great Britain’s Prime Minister as well and apparently sympathetic to the cause of the Confederacy. Lord Palmerston flirted repeatedly with recognizing the government of Jefferson Davis.

Great Britain’s recognition of the American South would bring with it the use of England’s Royal Navy to break the Union blockade of southern ports, perhaps the 19th Century’s version of economic sanctions. It was only the strong anti-slavery conscience of the heavily evangelical Christian English middle class preventing Palmerston’s intervention in our Civil War, which might well have resulted in Southern victory and independence.

Lord Palmerston was nothing if not a deft user of the day’s media. Newspaper horror stories of Russian barbarity stoked the passions of patriotic Englishmen to a high pitch. In due time, Palmerston’s yellow press got him the war he wanted. In contrast to the Keystone Kops populating today’s Foggy Bottom, Palmerston was also a deft user of international diplomacy as well. His war in the Crimea had English casualties to be sure, but they were small compared to the sacrifices of England’s allies; the French and the Turks, not to mention the Russian and the civilian (Ukranian) dead.

The Crimean War might be best remembered for the poem of Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade. It has provided a trenchant depiction of the plight of those on the front lines ever since, whether infantryman slogging through rain drenched jungle, cop patrolling the gang infested ‘hood or corporate minion toiling at the behest of Mahogany Row:

“Forward, the Light Brigade!

Was there a man dismayed?

Not though the soldier knew

Someone had blundered

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do or die”

The world has been inspired by the Ukrainians, both the volunteer facing off against Russian tanks and their leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Mr. Zelensky, a former professional comedian, stands tall amid the leadership of the West, men and women of unconscious comedic flair. On our media feeds we see a brave people fighting for their country, a country newly fashioned, a country of lesser age than President Biden has been a senior politician.

Their enemy is faceless and seemingly a conscript assemblage of the frightened, the incompetent and the cruelly criminal. Maternity hospitals and theaters are bombed by these barbarians, though the adjective “asiatic” is not used as an adjective for the word “barbarians” as it would be problematic and poll poorly among snowflakes.

I really would like to buy into the story line. I want to believe it. But I don’t think the deft hand of Lord Palmerston could have set the scene any better. Perhaps it is the truth. Perhaps it is a good part of the truth and perhaps it is simply a reality show, Survivor; Ukraine with live ammo.

There is truly evil in the world. The clips of hijacked airliners flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York are fresh in our memory. They define a generational coming of age. Just as in the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, the community of nations rallied with us then to condemn this evil visited upon us. “The civilized world” was united then as now against these terrorists, pledging assistance to fight this vile attack upon peaceful civilians.

The unity didn’t last and a lot of innocent people died, became refugees or made homeless. As another British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, reasoned, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Human tragedies, like the Twin Towers or the invasion of the Ukraine, are crises too good to waste. They allow those with agendas to get on with them.

Perhaps no people suffered more from the tragedy of the Twin towers than the Iraqi’s. Iraq is a patchwork country, thrown together at the negotiating table very like the Ukraine. While the earlier mentioned Winston Churchill set the borders for Iraq, the Ukraine’s borders owe their shape to a triumvirate, Leon Trotsky, Woodrow Wilson and Nikita Khrushchev. Both countries are a mixture of ethnicities, faiths and cultures thrown together, sometimes friends, more often bitter enemies for many centuries.

It is not only Moscow and Vladimir Putin with an agenda, there are those in Washington, or Berlin, or Tehran, or Beijing with an agenda as well. One imagines that even Volodymyr Zelenskyy has an agenda.

Not that having an agenda is a bad thing. We expect our leaders to have an agenda, otherwise we, the sheep, are destined to wander in the wilderness. Rather than loitering in the land of the lotus eaters, lunching on manna and quail, we need to be moving toward the Promised Land.

But the Israelites in the wilderness had Moses, whereas we have Joe Biden et.al. There is this troubling “Russian disinformation” about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and an unnamed associate, “the big guy”, having a close relationship with key Ukrainian figures involving the payment of substantial sums of cash to Hunter and “the big guy” for their expertise in the business of “energy”.

When this whiff of corruption was unearthed by a computer repairman in the weeks leading up to the 2020 Presidential election, the responsible national media pooh-poohed the story. Over fifty serving CIA officers signed their name to a letter saying it contained “all the classic earmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign”. As a sidenote, the repairman has since gone out of business, harassed by anonymous vandals, phone calls and most ominously, the IRS.

After nearly two years of “investigation”, even the New York Times has finally acknowledged the reality of the Hunter Biden laptop and its contents. Powerful evidence of corruption that could have changed an election was deep sixed by the “responsible media”, the same “responsible media” now enflaming our passions over the Ukraine.

So now there is a war between Russia and the Ukraine. We are being sold on the idea that we must support the Ukrainians. Those selling us on the support for the Ukrainians once sold us on the idea that Donald Trump was a Russian stooge, elected by Russian manipulation of our 2016 election. Over some years of investigation, that idea turned out to be false, stories planted by operatives of the Hilary Clinton campaign. One wonders where these operatives hang their hats these days? And who pays their salaries?

In the years before the Russian invasion, we were fed a steady diet of stories about corruption in the Ukraine. In Tom Clancy’s later novels, the Ukrainians replaced the Cold War’s Bulgarians as the source of heavy handed thugs in the employ of the bad guys. Even as corrupt Russian ex-apparatchiks cornered London’s luxury home market, media reports of incompetent corruption by Ukrainian ex-apparatchiks was risible, a light hearted comedic counterpoint to the doings in London.

Transparency International publishes a well regarded Corruption Index, ranking the world’s governments on their corruption or lack thereof. The Ukraine has a score of 33 ranking 117th, comparable to such stalwarts of integrity as Zambia, Sierra Leone and Egypt. Russia comes in only slightly lower at 30, ranking at 129th, just below Pakistan at a score of 31.

What does this all mean? I don’t know, but it makes me very suspicious of just about everything I see or hear relating to Russia or the Ukraine. It was Aeschylus, the great Greek playwright born in 525 BC who first said that “Truth is the first casualty of war”.  And Aeschylus knew of what he spoke. Despite his great celebrity as an artist, he directed his grave be simply marked, “Aeschylus, he fought at Marathon”.

America no longer has artists like Aeschylus or Jimmy Stewart, let alone great artists, but even so, there can be truth in the poetry of those who have not heard the cannons or to quote Lord Tennyson further, “Boldly rode and well, into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell”.

One such is Jackson Browne, I find his words to be more and more insightful, the older I get. In 1986, he wrote “Lives in the Balance”. I listen to it often. It speaks of our times:

“You might ask what it takes to remember

When you know that you’ve seen it before

Where a government lies to a people

And a country is drifting to war

There’s a shadow on the faces

Of the men who send the guns

To the wars that are fought in places

Where there business interests run”

That same song paints a poignant picture of those who live in those places where the guns are sent.

“And there are lives in the balance

There are people under fire

There are children at the cannons

And there is blood on the wire”

We are asked to dare the holocaust of nuclear war to defend a nation we cannot find on a map. We are asked to dare the holocaust of nuclear war led by people we would not trust to operate our children’s daycare.

At the end of the day, the war in the Ukraine is not our war, unless we desire to bring Rudyard Kipling back from the graveyard of Dead White Males. Listen to cable news for a day, then read Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden”. Written at the dawn of the 20th Century, the very idea of a “White Man’s Burden” is now so racist as to be unconscionable, yet just read Kipling’s words in light of the war in the Ukraine. The words are different, but the spirit is the same.

The war in the Ukraine is not our war, but that war, whatever the outcome will change our world. Change it in ways we are not equipped to deal with. No matter the outcome of the Ukraine business.`

Recent years have seen our country’s leadership tied up in knots dealing with the fatuous, the cretinous, the moronic and the risible. In the bubble of our wealth and power, we have become children. Our newest Supreme Court justice declines to give an opinion on the difference between a woman and a man.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign in the circus of public affairs in recent days has been the acknowledgment of the Biden laptop’s authenticity by the New York Times. The Times, regardless of its post 2016 descent into a disturbed infantilism, regards itself as the Newspaper of Record. For better or worse, it is indeed such and our world has been much the worse for its psychosis.

Its failures have been many and deserving of punishment, but that is the past. The New York Times is the voice, the conscience, the alter ego of our elite, our leadership. Perhaps this admission of duty’s dereliction is the first robin of spring. Perhaps those who lead our country are ready to return to responsible adulthood.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave us the opportunity to make the world a better place. Instead of magnanimity and benevolence, we repeated all of mistakes made at Versailles at the end of WWI. Humility fled the room and we indulged our foolishness, gazing into our navel and declaring it wisdom, pursuing wealth without thought of consequence to ourselves or others. That day is over, the opportunity is lost, the wolves gather out in the dark.

A new generation of leaders is needed. We need to deal with the troubles in our own house before we attempt to supervise the neighborhood. As far as the war in the Ukraine goes, it might be well to remember the words of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of Matthew;  the Gospel of the Traitorous Tax Collector:

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the log in your own eye? . . . . First remove the log in your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”

 

3 Responses to “Ukrainian Realities”

  1. Stephen Westfall says:

    Well written Bill. When people such as Tucker Carlson, who dare to propose that we not get involved in Ukraine, get castigated as traitors, one wonders why the castigators are so anxious to take up arms in a war that could quickly turn dangerous and deadly for many Americans.

  2. Jeffrey N Esbenshade says:

    This Nov do NOT vote for any DEMS.

  3. Dave W says:

    I enjoyed your article, which brought up some questions. Why have most of the sanctions against Russia turned out detrimental to the US, and not Russia? Why does there seem to be an attempt to depose leaders who are nationalistic and not submitted to the globalists (Trump, Putin, Gaddafi, Sadam Hussein, etc.) It must be a coincidence, since they tell us there are no conspiracies.

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