Even with all of the tensions and warnings, Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, shocked the world. This violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could easily expand to a broader war. This puts progressives, as I think myself to be, in position of wondering how do we wage peace? Is there a path to peace?
As I write this, I don’t know.
Whatever the path to peace may be, the path for social justice would not allow for accepting Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, I also am aware that Western Imperialism has acted just as viciously in its own interests, and that the US and the West continue to promote wars in their interests.
Perhaps the #HackersAgainstPutin group could do infrastructure damage to stop the war? Anonymous claimed credit for knocking down Russian government websites. Would this be enough? And could this escalate to cyber warfare that would harm or even kill civilians if infrastructure fails in combatant countries?
Could a world-wide strike be the path, opposed to all war and demanding peace? Is such a thing possible even? How do we follow Gandhi’s path of non-violence and quickly grow it to a global scale? I can’t imagine that it could be done in time to help the people in Ukraine.
And history provides warnings about where this invasion could lead. In fact, Putin followed a playbook used in 1939. One of the demands Hitler presented for negotiation just before the invasion of Poland was “safeguarding the German minority in Poland.” Putin said in his speech announcing the invasion that its “goal is to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years.” By dawn of 24 February 2022, the Russian army attacked Ukraine with a blitzkrieg, aiming for military targets. The blitzkrieg strategy was first used pre-dawn of September 1, 1939, starting the invasion of Poland. The USSR joined Germany in attacking Poland on 17 September of that year.
How do we protect peace and simultaneously prevent further expansion through military force?
And who to stand behind for justice? It is not as though the U.S. does not use military force, directly and indirectly. The shadows of Vietnam, Irag, Libya, and Afghanistan loom over this battle. Can we trust the US and NATO to do the right thing?
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart offers an apt quote from 1943 to frame his argument that this time, we need to support the US, even progressives who rightly attack the US for its hypocrisy and war-mongering:
In 1943, the Hungarian-born journalist Arthur Koestler wrote: “In this war we are fighting against a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” That’s a good motto for American progressives to adopt in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” in The Guardian
Beinart acknowledges the lies of the U.S.: Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.
And then he goes on to explain the connection to the 1943 quote:
But this hypocrisy wouldn’t have fazed Koestler, because it’s nothing new. In 1943, the alliance that fought Hitler was led by a British prime minister who championed imperialism, an American president who presided over racial apartheid, and Joseph Stalin. Koestler’s point wasn’t that the US or Britain, let alone the USSR, were virtuous in general. It was that they were virtuous relative to Nazi Germany in the specific circumstances of the second world war, and that these sinful governments were the only ones with the geopolitical heft to stop a totalitarian takeover of Europe.
These extended quotes give the overall argument. Beinart continues to develop it with a focus on the invasion of Ukraine. He points out that there are times when Russia had been on the relatively virtuous side and the US not, with examples. And times when the US has been relatively virtuous, and Russia not. In the end, for this case, we have to think clearly and make a choice.
As Beinart writes: “But Koestler’s point was that progressives can puncture America’s pretensions to universal virtue while still recognizing that it is sometimes one of the few instruments available to combat evil.”
Peter Beinart’s essay is worth reading in full here.
While I do not support much of what the U.S. does, in this situation, I agree with Beinart that it is, relative to Putin’s invasion, the more virtuous side to support.
However, I still really want to find a non-violent path to peace for all. I recognize that, today, this seems an impossibly distant goal. It probably won’t be reached in my lifetime. Sadly, it has been made more distant, seemingly less possible, with this invasion.
My heart, thoughts, and good will goes out to the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine who are caught between the anvil and the hammer. May peace return.
I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine during the next two weeks, but as editor, I have decided to have a special section in The BeZine’s Spring issue, one devoted to peace in Ukraine. Give us your thoughts, share your poetry, send your art.
The Spring issue comes out on or shortly after 15 March.
Special Section Deadline: March 8.
Please consider submitting your work and please encourage your contacts to submit to this special section.
May Peace Prevail on Earth.
—Michael Dickel ©2022 except quotes
As I have been writing this blog post…this is breaking news:
One news brief on MSN (via AP)
two very different pronouncements
RUSSIA PUTS NUCLEAR FORCES ON ALERT
In a shocking move that immediately unearthed fears many thought permanently buried from the Cold War of the previous century, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch, ratcheting up tensions with Europe and the United States over the conflict that is dangerously poised to expand beyond the former frontiers of the defunct U.S.S.R.
The Russian president told his defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in “special regime of combat duty.”
He said that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia in addition to stiff economic sanctions and cutting leading Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE TO HOLD TALKS
After rejecting Putin’s offer to meet in the Belarusian city of Homel on the grounds that their common neighbor was facilitating the Russia assault, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to send a Ukrainian delegation to meet with Russian counterparts at an unspecified time and location on the Belarusian border.
The announcement comes hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place elsewhere than Belarus, a country that has supported Putin directly by allowing Russia to use its territory as a staging ground.
Zelenskyy, who has refused to abandon Kyiv, named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative venues for talks, before accepting the Belarus border.
The Kremlin added later that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had offered to help broker an end to fighting in a call with Putin. It didn’t say whether the Russian leader accepted.
Beauchamp, Zack. “Putin’s “Nazi” rhetoric reveals his terrifying war aims in Ukraine.” Vox. 24 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]
Beinart, Peter. “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” The Guardian online 26 February 2022 [accessed: 27 Feb 2022]
Marker, Jake. “A Prayer for Those Who Stayed: Yearning for a peace that falls like wildflowers” Tablet 25 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]
Stanley, Jason. “The antisemitism animating Putin’s claim to ‘denazify’ Ukraine.” The Guardian online 26 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]