A number of opinions have been expressed on the significance of the current events in Ukraine.
Even here in the West, where condemnation of the Russian invasion is nearly unanimous, opinions about what it may mean for the future are varied. And this is understandable; a saying attributed to Yogi Berra goes "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future", while Samuel Goldwyn is said to have phrased it as advice: "Never make predictions, especially about the future".
It turns out the first version seems to be the original, and it is from a section on political jokes in a book by a Danish politician.
That is definitely reasonable. The future can be affected by many factors of which we have no knowledge.
I will begin by looking at a couple of questions about which there are good points in the arguments for both sides.
One could say "stronger" by pointing at the following things: Other countries, like Finland and Sweden, are expressing new interest in joining NATO; several NATO members are inspired by the recent events to increase their military spending, particularly on their contribution to NATO; and there has been a strong and united resolve on sanctions, despite the difficulties Europe may face with heating fuel when winter comes.
But while Ukraine is not a NATO member, surely the fact that Russia's threat of nuclear retaliation against interference with their invasion of Ukraine was so effective must make many people living in European countries wonder if the United States would really risk nuclear bombs hitting their cities for the sake of the people of Estonia or Poland or wherever? If preventing the horrors unfolding in Ukraine was not enough reason, will a piece of paper really make all the difference?
Some people say it will be won, because the fierce defense of the Ukrainian people, fighting for survival, and armed with equipment from the Western world, has led to massive losses on the part of Russian troops.
But Russia is much larger than Ukraine. And part of the reason that Ukraine could put up resistance is because Russia hadn't thought it necessary to use its missiles to reduce Ukraine's cities to rubble before invading, instead of after withdrawing.
And Russia has nuclear weapons.
So Ukraine can't possibly "win" in the sense of Ukrainian tanks being on the streets of a ruined Moscow, with Putin dead or in hiding.
If Ukraine doesn't lose - in the sense that the few Ukrainians who have not been expelled from Ukraine, and still survive, can no longer resist, and the country is ruled with an iron fist from Russia and settled with Russians - then the realistic possibilities for its "victory" look like this:
In the most optimistic scenario, sanctions lead to discontent by someone in Russia who is able to stop Putin. Hostilities end, and Russia under a new regime negotiates with the West to end sanctions.
Even in that case, it is unlikely that Russia will have to pay in full to rebuild the damage it inflicted on Ukraine. After all, if a heavy economic burden is placed on the Russian people now that they have a regime that is more to our liking... they will become discontented with it, and it won't last.
In other words, we've learned from what happened in Germany with the Treaty of Versailles.
It is also unlikely that Russia, when it ends this conflict voluntarily, would have to scrap its nuclear weapons - and its conventional ones too, and adopt a Peace Constitution like Japan's.
If for no other reason that the U.S. taxpayer would rather not have to foot the bill for preventing Russia from being invaded by the People's Republic of China.
In a less optimistic scenario, Putin will just lose interest in Ukraine, withdraw its forces, and the Ukrainian people can rebuild in the knowledge that Putin could just invade again any time he feels like it.
In either of these scenarios, then, the best one as well as the worst, the future economic development of Ukraine would be stunted because people would not be confident to invest their money into building industry within Ukraine.
Thus, to an extent, the aggressors will have won, instead of being shown to have lost by a strong, confident, successful Ukraine that is one of the world's leading developed economies. After all, the Ukrainian people have suffered so much, surely they deserve nothing less?
Some recent commentaries on the conflict has said that Ukraine must win, not in the sense of obtaining Russia's surrender, but merely in the sense of forcing Russia to withdraw, because Russia cannot make use of its advantages by attacking Ukraine with nuclear weapons, or by increasing its conventional forces by a general mobilization.
While this line of reasoning seems plausible, I think that it is dangerously over-optimistic.
The threat of nuclear attack from Russia prevented the Western allies from responding with direct military force to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Why would this be any different if Russia did drop an atomic bomb on Kiev? Not, however, that I think this is at all a likely event, but I simply don't agree with the logic that claims that there is any real external threat playing a role in dissuading Russia from doing this.
Since Russia has cast their war of aggression against Ukraine as a "special military operation", doesn't this mean that a general mobilization would be an admission that Putin was lying, which he couldn't afford to make?
Again, this is wild optimism. Since Putin has lied once, he is perfectly capable of lying again. He could, for example, claim that circumstances have changed, and there are now NATO tanks roaming Ukraine attacking Russian forces, and so a general mobilization is needed.
Even though there was not one iota of truth in that claim. Not one single NATO tank in Ukraine is needed for Putin to claim that multiple NATO tank divisions are in Ukraine and headed towards Moscow itself; all Putin needs to tell lies are his tongue, his lips, his teeth, and his lungs. And, unlike a nuclear attack on Ukraine, I think a Russian general mobilization sometime in the future is very likely.
Since Russia would retain its nuclear arsenal even if this resulted in every Russian male of military age perishing in the meatgrinder of the Ukraine conflict, I do not share the optimism that this would just accelerate the pace at which Western military aid, in its present form, would, in addition to helping Ukraine to survive, also eliminate Russia as a future threat.
Helping Ukraine to survive is a good thing, and a good reason for aid to Ukraine. But expecting Russia to disappear as a threat without the collapse of the Putin regime, however, is wild, reckless optimism. As long as he can always start a nuclear World War III on his way out, Russia will be a threat.
The last good policy recommendation I had was that, before Russia invaded, but after Crimea, the West should have garissoned Ukraine just like NATO allies were during the Cold War, so that it would have been clear an invasion of Ukraine would trigger World War III. Now that Russia got the initiative, by making blocking their invasion the trigger for World War III instead, the West has failed the same test the Allies failed in Czechoslovakia, and so Putin feeling bold enough to invade the Baltics, imagining that the West has been shown to be a paper tiger, is a real possibility.
One could hope that if Russia had no conventional forces left with which to invade the Baltics, then such an invasion would be forestalled, but Putin has the option of declaring victory in Ukraine and pulling out at any moment, and then invading somewhere else with what he has left, as well as making mischief in many other ways.
Things seem to be going our way at the moment. This is not the same as victory being inevitable. Given the tendency of people in general, as opposed to a minority of intellectuals, to prize national glory above freedom, it may not be just lies and propaganda that Putin still enjoys broad popular support, at least in some senses and to some extent. And he is known to be taking good and extensive precautions against being assassinated.
A possible scenario is that the war will continue until, after Vladimir Putin steps down in the normal course of Russian politics, with his party returning to power after elections under a different leader, Russia will declare victory and withdraw from Ukraine. Then, with nothing of substance having actually changed in Russia, Russia will seek the removal of Western sanctions.
While it would be reckless optimism on Russia's part to think they will get that immediately, I also think it would be reckless optimism on my part to think that they would not get that eventually.
And so, for the moment, they would seem to be settling for keeping a tight grip on Russia, while they wait to find a new, more workable plan for either restoring Russia's former glory or world conquest, whichever is their goal.
Since Vladimir Putin lied after Crimea about not having any more territorial desires in Ukraine, proceeding later to take parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, I am not inclined to trust what he says are his goals.
Looking at his actions, one can see whose playbook he is copying.
His invasion of Georgia was claimed to have been prompted by the mistreatment of an ethnic Russian minority in South Ossetia and Abkhazia within Georgia.
Just as allegations of the mistreatment of an ethnic German minority in the Sudetenland within Czechoslovakia was the claimed rationale for the German invasion of that part of Czechoslovakia.
After the invasion of Crimea, Putin assured the world that he had no further intent to acquire territory within Ukraine. Just as after the Sudetenland, Hitler claimed to have no further territorial ambitions in Czechoslovakia.
But Hitler then took over all of Czechoslovakia.
And Putin then took parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, and is now aiming at the conquest of all of Ukraine.
That the failure of the West to defend Ukraine would suggest to Putin that he could also get away with annexing some of the newer members of NATO that were once part of the Soviet Union, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, hardly seems a stretch.
And either way, the world loses: NATO can respond in force, leading to a nuclear World War III, or it can fail to respond, leading to NATO unravelling, and Russia eventually conquering all of Europe, one country at a time.
This seems like a question that it is indecent to even ask.
Every innocent life matters, on a scale it is impossible to comprehend!
But this question is asked, although usually in a form where it is phrased very differently.
Thus, some people will point out that claims that "the whole world" is outraged about what Russia has done are... exaggerated.
The industrialized Western world is outraged, yes. But what about all the rest of the world?
Well, if one uses mainland China, India, and Brazil as examples, it's fairly easy to dismiss those countries' positions as being meaningful.
The People's Republic of China: Xinjiang. Tibet. Tienanmen Square. And so on. Why would its government be concerned about evil, given that it is evil too?
Brazil: Bolsonaro has been willing to talk in public about exterminating Brazil's indigenous people. So he can be put down on the evil list too.
India: Although "the world's largest democracy", India is currently governed by a political party known as the BJP. Which is infamous for condoning sectarian violence by India's Hindu majority against minority group members.
But while it is easy to dismiss Third World indifference on the basis that few Third World nations are genuinely functioning democracies, there is more to this that we should not ignore.
The West was... somewhat... outraged when much the same happened in Kosovo as what is now happening in Ukraine.
But after Serbia finally stopped pumelling it, the world largely forgot about what was left of Kosovo, which was left to fend for itself afterwards.
It is said that Hitler asked, as he began to put into action his genocide against the Jews, "Who remembers the Armenians"?
Some people in the West do remember the Armenians - and in fact, considerably more than remember what went on in the Belgian Congo, today known as Zaire, under King Leopold II of Belgium.
Large numbers of that country's men were pressed into service on farms, where they were forced to work at an exhausting pace - those who slackened often ended up being mutilated as punishment, with limbs cut off.
While the Holocaust is, rightly, recognized as a profoundly significant historical event, this seems to be left as an obscure footnote to history, of which only a few have even heard.
So should we be surprised that many in Africa - or even many sympathetic to Africans - think that the West does not value African lives, and is completely hypocritical whenever it talks about human rights?
Of course, this view is... unfair. Of course the Holocaust garnered more attention. One reason is that the Jewish people are an integral part of most Western nations, and they have made immense contributions to the arts and the sciences. An even bigger reason, of course, that when Germany was carrying out the Holocaust, it also called itself to the attention of other Western nations by fighting World War II against them.
The economic and military might of such countries as Britain and France, let alone the United States, means that what happens to them will affect the destiny of the whole world.
What happens in the Zaire... will not.
That is the brutal reality that in the past has made history textbooks in the Western world... somewhat parochial. Efforts to remedy this, of course, run into a limit on the number of pages, and so the result is often simply a few feel-good pages about the contributions of other cultures, rather than any detail on what they have experienced.
The war in Ukraine is causing untold suffering for the Ukrainian people. And it also carries a risk, as Putin becomes frustrated with its progress, that he might respond to Western aid for Ukraine with nuclear war, as has occasionally been threatened.
So, surely, we should seek to end that war as quickly as possible, and that would mean by peace negotiations? After all, since Russia has nuclear weapons, a just solution to the war, meaning one where Putin and other Russian leaders are put on trial for war crimes, where Russia makes reparations to Ukraine for the damage it caused, and where Russia is disarmed so that it can no longer threaten its neighbors, like Japan after World War II, cannot possibly be achieved by means of a military victory, so the fact that regrettably Ukraine will need to make compromises to end the war cannot be avoided.
The error in such reasoning is that, while it is entirely true that there is little prospect of a truly just conclusion to the war, the nature and extent of the compromises Ukraine would need to accept for peace, depending on the circumstances under which peace negotiations begin, could vary over a wide range.
At present, it seems obvious to many that Vladimir Putin could not be trusted to abide by any agreement that might be reached, and is unlikely to give up his aim of the total conquest of Ukraine. Hence, a negotiated peace would amount only to a temporary truce that would benefit Russia by allowing it to regroup and re-arm.
After all, the one thing Putin would not agree to is to permit Ukraine, during such a temporary truce, to join NATO and gain the full protection of Article 5 of the treaty on which it is based; nothing less than that would succeed in obtaining a durable peace for Ukraine, as opposed to a truce which would end at Putin's convenience.
The name Belarus doesn't sound too different from Byelorussia, the name by which the country used to be known. As it happens, "Byelo" is the Russian word for white. And Russia is, presumably, the word for Russia.
And so I was quite bemused to read a pamphlet emphasising that the name of Belarus is Belarus, not White Russia!
I have learned that I was, however, quite mistaken, as surprising as that may seem.
The "rus" in Belarus actually stands for Ruthenia, which basically consists of Belarus and Ukraine, although this term was also an old name for Russia (and it is Russia after which the element Ruthenium is named, therefore, as if this all wasn't confusing enough).
At one time, someone proposed to call the Belarusian language "Kryvian", after the name of one of the largest tribes in that country; so I learned on Wikipedia. To be bolder, I might propose that if Belarus becomes free, and just as the Ukrainians have decided that they did not want their country known as "Little Russia", their own people have similar sentiments, it could be named Kryvia!
Of course, though, Belarus is not free. Unlike Ukraine, it did not have its own equivalent of the Orange Revolution.
This prompts speculations that I am inclined to consider as invidious - speculations that somehow the Belarusian people are less courageous than Ukrainians, less ardent in their love of freedom or so on. But that would have to be considered against the alternative, that they were just less fortunate.
In researching the timeline of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, I learned that it essentially happened by accident! Did the Ukrainian people rise up against Yanukovych because he went against his promises, and started aligning the country with Russia and abandoning plans to work toward joining the European Union?
No! If Yanukovych hadn't responded in a heavy-handed and brutal manner to small protests against this, the rest of the country was fully prepared to accept his change of direction with apathy and indifference!
And later, Ukraine avoided confrontation with Russia over the seizure of Crimea, and the operations in Donetsk and Luhansk.
And thus, the conclusion seems to be clear: Yanukovych and Putin are both the authors of their own misfortune. Had they not resorted to force... Ukraine would have fallen into Russia's lap, acquiescing to Russian dominance and control, on the "boiled frog" principle!
Perhaps it's not quite that simple. There are reasons that history unfolded as it did. In the case of Yanukovych, it is in the nature of tyrants to view any protest against their rule conducted openly as an existential threat.
In the case of Putin: after Yanukovych's mistake was already an established fact, Ukraine was on the road to integration with the EU and NATO. After that happened, even if in a few years, a new Yanukovych might manage to win a future election in Ukraine, it would then be too late to redirect Ukraine from being part of the West to being integrated closely with Russia.
So the Orange Revolution was the critical juncture in history that meant that despite the Ukrainian people actually not being all that much more virtuous than the Belarusian people - who number among themselves many courageous opponents to Lukashenko's tyranny - it was no longer the case that if Putin just bided his time, and worked with honey rather than vinegar, Ukraine would eventually just fall into his lap.
This is what made it "rational" to invade Ukraine, if one accepts the premise that Russia ought to be in control of Ukraine, no matter what its people think. That premise is false both from our own moral standpoint, and from the standpoint that Russia needs Ukraine as a buffer from the West for its own security (if, without Ukraine, NATO would invade Russia, and Russia's nuclear weapons are somehow insufficient to prevent this, why haven't Russia's nuclear weapons been insufficient to prevent an invasion of Russia in response to its war against Ukraine) but if we make the very reasonable assumption that Putin wants Russia to be strong enough to be able to conduct aggression against the NATO alliance at some point in the future, it might be that possession of Ukraine would be useful to that end. Secure access to the ports of Crimea even in trying circumstances, and larger food supplies.
And since nuclear threats prevented the U.S. from directly defending Ukraine and preventing the invasion from even starting, then despite the Baltics being in NATO under Article 5 protection, doubts about the resolve of the United States to fully defend them have entered the discussion... and so the invasion of Ukraine becomes a rational act in a strategy to weaken and divide NATO.
The problem with Putin repeating Hitler's playbook of Sudetenland (Luhansk and Donetsk), then Czechoslovakia (all of Ukraine) and then Poland (Estonia, Latvia, and/or Lithuania), of course, is that if that is Putin's plan, as seems so obvious, it rather mitigates against the successful execution of that plan to throw all of one's country's soldiers into a meatgrinder in Ukraine, so that one doesn't actually have any left with which to invade the Baltics, let alone occupy all of Festung Europa.
From his grave, Hitler must be laughing at Putin.
So Putin should have switched to launching drones and missiles against the power stations of Ukraine rather earlier than he actually did, it would seem. The usual explanation of this is that Putin, to maintain his control of power, has so terrified his subordinates, that they had been telling him all sorts of lies about how well the war was going. Although that sounds plausible, the extent to which that would have had to have happened rather strains my credulity.
Thus, not only are we dealing with a horrifying human tragedy from the Ukrainian viewpoint, but with a situation which, from the Russian viewpoint, is surreal; Putin is inflicting misery on Ukraine seemingly with no other goal but to avoid admitting failure... in a strategy that had no hope of success... and thus weakening his hold on power.
And it is only through Lukashenko's sheer luck that things did not happen much the same way in Belarus, returning to the topic of this section; not through a failing on the part of the Belarusian people.
Because I have no reason to dare to imagine that the United States has a magic wand to wave to eliminate Russia's nuclear capabilities, which would be followed by a crushing military defeat of Russia and an occupation which would wipe out any aberrant forms of Russian nationalism for good, I think the world will have irrevocably become a more dangerous place for the near future because of this invasion.
The West should have drawn its red line in Ukraine before Putin got a chance to draw his red line - long before the current invasion, shortly after either of the two previous incursions, Ukraine should have been drawn firmly within the U.S. perimeter of protection in a manner equivalent to being a full member of NATO.
But it's now too late to correct this past blunder.
Or is it? After all, all that we have to do is render Russia's nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete". And, as this may have reminded you, at one time President Ronald Reagan spoke of doing just that. So perhaps it's time to dust off the plans for the Strategic Defense Initiative?
At the time, however, one reason cited for SDI being impractical was that computers simply weren't advanced enough to reliably recognize the launch of Soviet missiles. Not only are today's computers a lot more powerful than they were back in the 1980s, but, more specifically, very impressive strides have been made in artificial intelligence. This has been due to what is known as "deep learning", based on low-precision floating-point matrix multiplication with the use of GPU technology.
I cannot claim the necessary expertise in the field to provide a definite judgment on this, but it does at least seem as though we are much closer to the point where something like the SDI could be made to work than we were during Ronald Reagan's term of office.
We may be confident that the NATO countries are safe. But just as some of the people living in those countries are nervous, it's entirely possible that Putin may decide that what he got away with in Ukraine shows that the West is bluffing. And so he could call our bluff.
Which could mean the Baltic countries and the former Soviet satellites are conquered by Russia - or that a U.S. attempt to defend them leads to a global thermonuclear war.
Which, as we all know, is a Very Bad Thing.
Thus, while naturally it is generally felt that the United States did the only responsible thing, and yielding to emotion, and sending U.S. tanks into Ukraine to halt the Russian advance would have been insanity...
That could have been the right course, which would have made Putin back off, and the present course instead is the same course of appeasement which was taken when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, and which led to Hitler also invading Poland - which made war inevitable.
This is what we have to start thinking about.
During the Cold War, it was well realized that Mutual Assured Destruction was "insane" - but the alternative would be that the destructiveness of nuclear weapons would inevitably lead to dictators being bold, while democracies, controlled by ordinary people who want to live, would be timid, with the result that eventually the nuclear-armed tyrants would win and control the whole world.
We can hope and pray that, somehow, the Western world will be very lucky, even if such luck is, in some senses, more than it deserves.
But we can also realize that the situation for the survival of any kind of freedom in the world is far more serious than seems to be realized, and thus this moment in history demands more courage, and perhaps also more ingenuity and originality, than has yet been forthcoming.
And there is, of course, another factor.
Putin was willing to stave off an electoral challenge to his rule by enacting a law requiring opposition Presidential candidates to hold rallies in Moscow, and also intimidating anyone from renting a hall to Kasparov.
In the United States, some state governments are willing to enact measures that make it especially awkward for black people to vote. The number of polling stations is made very low in predominantly black neighborhoods, ensuring long line-ups to vote, and then laws are even passed to outlaw providing water to people standing in those lines.
Donald Trump was defeated in 2020 because the need for mail-in ballots due to the hazard from COVID-19 prevented such voter suppression measures.
The American people will be disappointed in Biden for not having prevented the tragedy in Ukraine. That may affect his popularity in the next election.
So, given the shift in the behavior of the Republican Party, could it be that if a Republican President is elected in 2024, and the invasion of Ukraine could be just the thing to tilt the balance in the favor of this, then since the United States would now be ruled by a leader willing to employ Putin-style tactics to hold on to power, the United States would become a tyranny, along with mainland China and Russia, the world's two other nuclear superpowers... meaning a perpetual night for freedom on this planet?
Of course, there is one reason why this concern may be overblown.
It is not as if voter suppression measures aimed at black Americans are anything new in American history, so if their imposition meant the death of American democracy, then it would never have existed.
Presumably, in order to impose a genuinely tyrannical regime on Americans, as black people wouldn't be the only ones to object to that, something would have to be done to coerce white voters as well.
How did Barack Obama become the first black President of the United States in 2008?
To me, it seemed the obvious cause was this:
There was a close election race between Obama and John McCain.
One news commentator dared to voice the "unthinkable": if a terrorist attack took place during the campaign, would that affect the outcome, so that McCain would win in a landslide?
While that didn't happen, the corresponding opposite event did. The stock market crashed.
Historically, the Democratic Party is known to be more concerned with addressing the problem of unemployment, such as may be exacerbated by a stock market crash.
And, shortly after, John McCain commented on it by saying people should not be too concerned, as the "fundamentals" of the economy were sound.
While that may be a true statement, it is well known that the physical capability of the country to continue full production is not sufficient to prevent mass unemployment following a stock market crash. As well, his words echoed those of Herbert Hoover following the 1929 stock market crash that caused the Great Depression.
Then, subsequently, when the Republican President George W. Bush showed more sense than McCain, and pressed Congress to enact emergency measures to contain the damage from the stock market crash... John McCain obstructed these measures until he got some more gravy for his state.
At this point, John McCain shouldn't have been able to be elected dog-catcher, right?
But yet, what actually happened come election day was this: Obama won narrowly, but the majority of white voters voted for McCain. If it hadn't been for black voters, McCain would still have won.
From my viewpoint here in Canada, it looks as though black voters in the United States are the only ones with any sense. Or, to be more precise, black voters as a group are one in which voters with sense are in the majority; there are plenty of white voters who do have some sense too, but they're in the minority among white voters.
In addition to the Electoral College, liberals in America blame a successful effort by certain sinister rich and powerful people to keep a huge bloc of American voters ignorant and stupid. I myself find it hard to come up with any other explanation.
But back in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton reminded the Democratic Party - in a speech that has been twisted and distorted into the very opposite of what she actually said - that most of the people who were about to vote for Trump weren't "deplorable", they weren't bigots filled with hate, but instead they saw him as the only politician who was taking the economy, and other issues of great direct importance in the places where they lived, seriously.
The fact that Donald Trump actually managed to come so close to winning in 2020, despite cynically minimizing the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, apparently in hopes that the economy could hum along without interference either from pandemic restrictions or all the deaths that would result from a lack of public-health measures, so that as an incumbent during good economic times he would be re-elected, however, seems to indicate that the proportion of "deplorables" among Republican voters was higher than Hillary Clinton had estimated.
Are we then doomed? Will the tragedy in Ukraine be blamed on Joe Biden by enough misinformed Americans so as to lead to the Republicans gaining more power, and more opportunities to undermine democracy in the United States, leading to a world where Russia and China find a congenial partner in the Republican-ruled nation?
What Canada appears to need is a leader who will arrange for Canada to have its very own nuclear deterrent force prior to the 2024 elections in the United States, so that we will remain free, come what may.
Of course, that is extremely unlikely to happen.
Is there a solution that can happen? Can the Democrats win the 2024 Presidential elections? Can the Republican Party be led away from the madness of Trump back to being a sane and responsible alternative in the American political system?
I'm afraid that I don't have a course of action to recommend now.
Yes, we should do everything in our power to aid Ukraine, and sanction Russia. But those measures don't guarantee a solution to the problem. They don't guarantee a speedy end to the conflict in Ukraine, and they don't guarantee the future health of democracy in the United States.
The root cause of Ukraine being left in a situation where this could happen, though, is not due to recent issues in American politics which allowed Donald Trump to get elected.
After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, why didn't the United States see this as a major crisis, and respond, once Russia withdrew from Georgia, by providing Georgia with American troops, stationed all along its borders, the way American troops were stationed at West Germany's border with East Germany during the Cold War?
Why wasn't it seen as absolutely vital that a newly aggressive Russia not be permitted to take one more inch of territory from the Free World?
I mean, after all, if the West fought in far-off Korea and Vietnam because the advance of Communism everywhere had to be stopped, and this was because, in World War II, we learned the lesson of how appeasement doesn't work, then certainly that lesson is still as true today as it was then?
The answer is obvious enough.
We all remember McCarthyism; after the Korean War started, after the Soviets exploded their first nuclear weapon, people who, decades ago, were decieved by Communist propaganda, but who didn't support aggression, but did support things like a better deal for working people, or equality for black people, or for the schools to include evolution in their teaching of biology, were hounded and persecuted.
But nobody ever came for Charles Lindbergh or Henry Ford.
Political parties in the United States don't just listen to voters. They also listen to campaign donors, because without money to advertise, a political party can sink into obscurity and not be considered as one of the likely alternatives when voting.
And campaign donors are usually people with money to spare. So Big Business has an outsize influence over the political process.
From the Red Scare of the 1920s onwards, what was happening was easily visible. Yes, even under Lenin, Communist Russia was a cruel tyranny, and it was right to oppose it.
But Communism, with its goal of world revolution, with the call of Marx for the working people to rebel, was percieved as an existential threat by many businessmen. This was not true of Fascism as it rose in Italy, and it was not true of Nazism in Germany either.
Which is why it took until Pearl Harbor for the United States to join World War II. Instead of World War II starting, say, when Italy invaded Ethiopia. Or the day after the Kristallnacht.
Putin's Russia is Fascist instead of Communist. So the same elites who have promoted opposition to essential public health measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, who made it possible for an absolute disaster like Donald Trump to rise to power... saw Russia as being insignificant and no particular threat or concern.
As long as he isn't tempting the working class to rise up, invading the odd neighboring country and taking away its freedom is no big deal.
The trouble is, though, that definitely during the Cold War, while the Democratic Party under John F. Kennedy was taking the United States in the right direction, later on one couldn't simply say Left good, Right bad. Communism was an evil tyranny; the fault of the Right was not in opposing it, but rather in failing to oppose Fascism in equal measure.
And many on the Left were apathetic towards Communism. They claimed it was a lie on the part of right-wing forces that Russia was a tyranny. Basically, they were embittered by McCarthyism to such an extent that they were no longer objective.
Every threat to democracy, whether it uses ideological window-dressing from the Left or the Right, has to be opposed equally.
Oh, and by the way, another misconception needs to be disposed of here.
Hitler, of course, was the leader of the Nazi party. And "Nazi" was a shortened version of National Socialist German Worker's Party. There you have it! Hitler was a Socialist! Nazism was really just another variety of Communism!
Sorry, no. Any political movement that believes the place for women is Kinder, Kirche, Küche (Children, Church, and Kitchen) is not Left-wing.
But they're half right. Hitler was not a Libertarian. He was not a hard-line free enterpriser, in the "traditional liberal" wing of the Republican Party (Before Trump).
Where does one put Hitler - or, rather, Hitler's ideological window dressing; Hitler, like Stalin, was all about absolute power for himself personally; just like Russia under Stalin was no "worker's paradise", Hitler had no problems with declaring the Japanese "honorary Aryans" - on the political spectrum?
Hitler wasn't a Laborite gone wild, but he wasn't a Tory gone wild either. No.
The Nazi ideology combined advocacy for the workers over the capitalists on the one hand with social conservatism on the other.
Hitler was a populist gone wild.
And, just as the crimes of Stalin are no reason for people to stop voting for the NDP (in Canada) or the Labor Party (in the UK), the fact that Hitler's ideology was an exaggerated form of populism does not mean that populism is necessarily bad.
After all, I think many people, even if they don't want to see discrimination against the groups involved, feel that by emphasizing things like LGBTQ+ issues, rather than support for stronger trade unions... are falling into a right-wing trap that they're perfectly well aware of, and thus are missing the chance to become a mass movement that can win elections.
Historically, though, the record of populism has not been good. Before there was Donald Trump, there was Huey Long in the United States. Elsewhere, nearly every populist has turned out to be a demagogue; populist movements also tended to be racist or quickly co-opted by racism.
Thus, even if some problems are most obvious in the United States, the whole Western democratic world seems to be caught in a quagmire; the government isn't really under the control of, or working for, the overwhelming majority of the people who are ordinary working-class people.
Part of the quagmire is that because the education system hasn't been made to work properly, so that nearly everyone is well-educated, intelligent, and skilled in critical thinking, there are legitimate reasons not to quite trust the working class with the reins of government, which is why the problem has been allowed to perpetuate itself.
"Jeffersonian Democracy or Bust!" makes a good bumper sticker, but we also need a good plan to ensure we don't go bust.