Sunday, March 23, 2014
Russia's re-annexation of the Crimea has stirred up a lot of questions. Putin's counter denunciations of American unilateral actions throughout the world, including Kosovo, reflect their sense of national humiliation over the collapse of the Soviet empire. By all accounts, there are Russians both in Crimea and elsewhere who are proud and ecstatic about the peninsula rejoining "the motherland." Even Mikhail Gorbchev, architect of the Soviet dissolution, was quoted, applauding Russian retaking of Crimea! How differently we humans view what seems like the same circumstances.
Speaking of different views: you probably know that some people in the Middle East deny that the Holocaust ever took place! How many sincere Americans have questioned our own wars of intervention from Vietnam to Iraq, to name a few of our “adventures” into foreign countries. How about the 1950’s and the overthrow of an elected government in Iran favor of the installation of the Shah of Iran with covert CIA assistance (all for national security, of course!) How about American history in re slavery, racism, treatment of native tribes, and on and on? Is there anyone with clean hands?
On “the other hand,” are we Americans really just another chapter of the tale of humans grasping for power? Are we but the mirror image of the evil empire that fell after decades of the Cold War? We just happened to win that one?
What is true? Should the West do more than protest Russia’s unilateral action in Crimea? Should we do more than impose weak-willed, futile sanctions? Is this so wrong an evil that we should go to war? What if Texas wants to secede? Scotland? Northern California?
Abraham Lincoln fought to save the union in his conduct of the American Civil War. He was of course also against slavery. But initially his quest was simply to preserve the union: or, so, at least, he declared it to be, even if, as a consequence, slavery in the south was to be preserved as per the original Constitution. Whatever his thoughts on the matter, the question of a state or region's power to rise up and form its own nation is a darn good question. Some Southerners still fume about the whole thing.
I suppose, musing as much aloud to myself, that there ought to be a compelling moral or ethical reason for a state, province or some minority to secede. Secession must be a bit like disowning one's family to whom natural love and loyalty is otherwise owed. There would need to be, I believe, a case to make of mistreatment of one form or another to permit secession to occur. It shouldn't be merely be prejudice or selfishness in reverse---which, in a sense, the secession of the southern states of America essentially amounted to. What they saw as defense of their way of life was a commitment to the economic and social system of slavery. What they also sensed was the rising tide of northern industrialization that would, in time, eclipse the agrarian south for many decades to come--shifting money and power northward. Both reasons seem far too weak to bolster their case. Industrialization was a simple socio-economic fact for which no rebellion could have thwarted. Secession for this reason would have been futile anyway.
Ukraine, for all the outrage we might naturally feel here in the West, has suffered under its own leaders’ rampant corruption and mismanagement. I don't think I've heard the Russians of Crimea or even eastern Ukraine make accusations of mistreatment at the hands of Ukrainians. Their reasons for rejoining Russia are presumably more cultural and historical than economic or ethical. I am ill equipped to say anything intelligent or well-informed on that issue but I wonder, as many must surely also, what the right and moral response is to the annexation. Certainly wrist slapping sanctions are inevitable, politically, at least. Long term? Well, I can't imagine many Americans think it's worth WW 3!
Are we "just as bad" as the evil empire? Is it all merely a matter of perspective? Yes, and, well, No! Regardless of how poorly or well America may manifest the ideals on which our country was founded, those ideals stand emblazoned for the ages as the standard against which the body politic anywhere on this earth must be measured--including America.
But too many nations, newly formed since the end of WW2, are culturally and politically far, far away from being "in tune" with and ready to make the necessary personal sacrifices to manifest the ideals so eloquently put forth in the Declaration of Independence. How many former holdings of the colonial powers have made a tragic mess of their hard-won freedom?
With Indian independence in 1947 the slaughter was horrific. Genocide is still happening in Asia and Africa, e.g., and is too brutal for most of us to contemplate. Should the colonial powers have held on? Well, what difference does a question like that make at this late date? Conquest necessitates brutality and the imperial empires had run their course and suffered their own fate. The chaos that has resulted from the dissolution of those empires is evidently the price of freedom and the price is evidently very high. The American colonies paid a price for freedom, too.
Who would argue that America should have stayed out of WW 1? WW 2? Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? Some would; most would not. Doesn't matter now....these things have their own course to run and there's no use in "crying over spilt milk." But, now, with Russia on the loose again? Should countries like America continue to be the world's police force? I say a resounding "Maybe!"
In fact what I feel is needed and is long, long overdue is a kind of "Cooperative Union" of nations of like mind. Not West vs East; not 1st world vs 2nd or 3rd world. But nations whose cultures and consciousness are forward looking, expansive and inclusive, and willing to work together for shared goals that express worthwhile human values and ideals. Is this just another form of interconnected treaties such as existed before WW 1? I say “No,” because such an alliance would not be focused on mutual defense but would emphasizing mutual support and cooperation: culturally, economically, politically, and yes, if necessary, militarily.
How often has China and Russia defeated the legitimate role of the Security Council because, in essence, we don't share a mutual and cooperate set of ideals? I don't mind that such countries aren't ready for American-style democracy, but their own histories of ruthlessness towards their own people make our capitalistic excesses and self-interested maneuverings look like fist fights among school boys. We don't lack corruption and cronyism and there is much wrong with American life, culture and politics today, but there are certain values we share with other countries around the world (not just in Europe) that make for natural allies. Russia is simply not on our wavelength. Is China? That's more difficult to say because of the fast pace of change in what is generally a positive direction. But right now, my vote is NO.
I don't see how any culture or nation can join such a Cooperative Union if it doesn't possess some form of national transparency and accountability, a directional commitment to rule of law, and a culture working towards greater inclusiveness (within and without) and individual liberties.
This union would not be allies AGAINST anyone, but constitute countries that can work together without having to deal with obstreperous nations constantly thwarting our efforts out of a lack of essential harmony and consciousness. A cooperative of nations could, then, more responsibly and ethically act from time to time to intercede in global hotspots for the protection and safety of innocent people. Doing so by common agreement would tend to mitigate too strong or too narrow a motivation of self-interest. Such a union would serve as a model and inspiration to other countries.
Well, that's my Sunday night two cents. I hope Ukraine will get their country back together but by golly they are going to have to work for it. They've lost something valuable and I suspect they lost it partly deserving it and partly because it is "in the stars" for Russia to flex its imperialistic muscles and revenge its humiliation.
Is Russia a threat to peace-loving nations? Yes, no question about it. A friend of mine who has lived for periods of time in Russia told me a story I heard echoed in other forms about a man who was sent to Siberia under communism and to the end, however brutally treated he was, held Stalin in great esteem. Such is the blindness of human beings; such is the power of jingoism, like lemmings over a cliff. If Russians yearn still for empire and glory they happen to be about a century too late. It ain't gonna happen. They will be defeated if they really try to regain their lost empire and they will suffer even more than they have during this last century. It would trigger another world war and suffering would be worldwide but Russia would lose, I believe.
I hope this Crimea thing isn't like Hitler taking little bites of Europe and Lord Chamberlain declaring "peace at last" with each bite, but, we cannot really say for sure at this time, can we?
I don't mind whining a little bit about "Why help other nations who simply hate us?" Where is the boundary between helping and rescuing? We Americans are who we are and have done what we have done, but I think and hope America is learning some discernment, like wise parents eventually learn, that sometimes the kids have to get bruised and battered working through their own issues in order to grow up. We can't do it for them but we can stand ready to help if truly asked because we know that a rescue will merely “enable.”
Blessings to you on a fair Spring Equinox weekend where hope Springs Eternal and the promise of beauty and harmony, like a rainbow, shines before us.