Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Conundrum-Staring us in the Face

 Ukraine, the casus belli of the moment, is a conundrum.

The problematic events in Ukraine, a Crimea Putin/Russia-US/the west standoff, evoked an oh-no-here-we-go-again sigh.  Will this be another Georgia (the country bordering Russia) and the one in which Russian troops remain to this day because the conservative darling of war George W. Bush simply let Russia take it?  No one cared about Georgia.  Of course, now when it is Obama facing his foreign policy emergency moment in Ukraine conservatives hopped on the anti-Obama train before it left the station.  They now care about it so much.  If the president is for something the Republicans will be against it excoriating him for, as some said, “feckless” leadership.  That’s a help--not!  Show the world how severely divided the US is as if it, especially Putin, did not know that fact already.  Did McCain of putrid politics without principles immediately want the US to rattle its sabers and invade yet another country?  Yes, sure, John, let’s have another 10 year war especially with a nuclear-armed nation.  We know how much the electorate loved the last illegal war in Iraq as the US invaded a sovereign nation based on a lie and how much fun it was. [A suggested note of community interest: The Rachel Maddow special tonight on MSNBC at 9:00 p.m. “Why We Did It” is being shown. My guess is she will show you why we are a war weary nation.]

Here’s a pop question for you:  How many wars has the US been involved since its inception?  Answer found among an interesting list of ad infinitum and ad nauseam wars at (I do not agree with all of the web’s slant but on US war making I think it correct):

“Since the United States existed she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.  In other words, there were only 21 calendar years in which the U.S. did not wage any wars.

To put this in perspective: Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.”

Does this nation want yet another war?  I suspect it does not hence the furious diplomatic efforts to avoid one.

It is hard to wax critical of the speck in the other guy’s eye when one has a log in one’s own. -- Matthew 7:1-6

History has its shades of gray though.  This latest dust up (we hope it remains just a “dust up”) is no different.

My grandparents on my mother's side emigrated to the US from two small mostly Jewish Diaspora shtetls (towns) of Shepatovka and Slavuta near Kiev, Ukraine.  If they had not left those grandparents, one aunt and one uncle born there would have been killed as would all of the others in the family line.  They would have died either in the Nazi Holocaust or from the pogroms (violent actions against Jews by Russians and the vicious anti-Semites of those areas in Eastern Europe) from which they fled.  Their progeny never would have achieved the success it did containing numbers of Ivy League school graduates, one Harvard educated doctor, one Johns Hopkins graduate and Stanford University surgeon, one speech therapist, one graduate of Yale Law School, one speech writer in the White House, one Wellesley College graduate, teachers, professors and more.  This country offered them possibilities.

How anyone can defend Russia with its history of pogroms, anti-Semitism and murderous tyrants like Stalin who killed millions, arrested, condemned to exile in Siberia thousands I do not know.  Putin’s Soviet KGB legacy he wants so much to resurrect with his macho style, vicious dogs and Cossacks-of-old unleashed against any innocent who dares to question him, or simply desires to wear a rainbow T-shirt, or sing a song without being pummeled, jailed or worse is not a man whose support the west should aspire to court.  There are ways to isolate this brutal man and the Russia of old without hopefully a drop more bloodshed but if in the end Crimea wants to join with Russia I say let em and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

The conundrum of my life continues.  While the west is not perfect I think it infinitely freer than anywhere else on earth.  I am, though, not unmindful of those who raise critiques and question western policy and its many often futile wars. It is a tribute to the west that we can critique it without fear of the thought police coming to get us in the night.

Man has had a long history filled with war, lies and death.  Indeed, life is nasty, brutish and short as Hobbs the 17th century philosopher once said.  It is no less so in our time but the advantages of western culture and free thought cannot be denied.  It stares us in the face whether we want to look at it or not.