#Russia, #Ukraine, and Carl Schurz

As I write this (5:30am Tuesday) it seems Russian forces are moving into the areas of eastern Ukraine that declared independence in 2014. This is likely the prelude to the ultimate storm, depending on where these forces ultimately deploy, and how Ukrainian forces react. I suspect the more ultra-nationalist elements within the Ukrainian armed forces will open fire and trigger a violent “shock and awe” exercise by Russia. Domestically, the posturing is well underway, and before the military situation escalates further and dominates the discussions, I’d like to say a few words about patriotism.

Vladimir Vladimirovich setting the next phase of events in motion. Official Kremlin Photo.

I’ve written before about Civil War General (later Senator and Secretary of the Interior) Carl Schurz. His most famous remark is probably related to a toast by Commodore Stephen Decatur, and while often abbreviated, is vital to repeat in whole: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” On these pages are a lot of words that, to a politically biased or casual reader, might seem to support Russia in general and Putin specifically. I’ve spent my life as an analyst, and my primary role is to understand situations from an unbiased perspective. That is often uncomfortable – people love to hear about the flaws and mistakes of the “other,” but really don’t like looking in the mirror. It is especially difficult when the “other” isn’t the most savory of characters, and has some problematic aspects. But the truth is the truth, and we owe it to ourselves and the future to hold ourselves to fixed standards without regard to the actions of the “other.” Saying “they are worse” is a dangerous track – especially when it blinds you to just how bad your own actions are, and can lead you down a path where, to an objective observer, you’re not only not “better than the other,” you have become the same or worse. Sadly, I fear this is where we have gone.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of comments accusing anyone who points out the legitimacy of some of Russia’s positions or actions in this crisis as Kremlin Apologists, Putin Fans, or other derogatory labels. Yes, there are some who seem to gravitate towards authoritarian figures, or reflexively support anyone who the “mainstream” seems to demonize. But there are solid reasons to be extremely disturbed by the actions of the Government of the United States that led us to this point (link to rant last year about this). It is no disservice to point out that much of the blame for the current situation lies with three decades of failed post cold war leadership provided by the current and previous five Presidents. Given the power the US wielded in that time frame, the catastrophic state of the global political situation largely lies at the door of the Congress and White House, and the middle finger of blame points equally at both political parties. Trying to smear those who think that the US is on the wrong track with the broad brush of the odious Tucker Carlsons or tRump MAGA fanatics is a political tactic to avoid facing responsibility for these failures, and paths to resolving the difficult problems created as a result.

It has become fashionable to imply that even trying to understand a contrary point of view is wrong. In today’s politically charged environment, it also invites the accusation of having sympathy for that point of view, especially if understanding the contrary point of view acknowledges the validity of some of the points they make. This is utterly absurd. The entire basis for negotiation is to seek out and find points of agreement and valid points of commonality. To fail to understand the “other” and demonize them is to destroy the negotiation process before it even starts. We see this domestically in discussions of race, economics, and other hot topic issues, and it is a point that Russia has made forcefully in the last two months – that the US fails to substantively respond to or acknowledge their concerns. Saying the “other” is illegitimate may be expedient politically, but it is toxic from the standpoint of getting things done.

There are dangerous times ahead. Please don’t fall into the trap of reflexively ignoring voices that are contrary to the mainstream (especially Government sponsored) narrative, or likewise agreeing with the leaders of your political tribe without critical thinking because their carefully crafted words fit your preconceptions. And be especially careful about projecting domestic political fights into this complex international crisis. This situation is messy enough without overlaying our woke vs. MAGA madness on it …

10 thoughts on “#Russia, #Ukraine, and Carl Schurz

  1. This whole situation makes me heart sore and aggravated with nearly every government player and every single media source. I have felt this way about the domestic polices, but the international inferno is so much worse. I am religious myself, so I am praying with all my might. Thanks for the insight.

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  2. I’d like to add something. This morning I was so upset by hearing a BBC broadcast. Lynsey Addario, of The New York Times had no detectable emotional sadness in her voice during her interview with BBC; as she describes photographing a entire family lying dead in the street trying after a Russian bombardment yesterday.
    There should be limits on what can lawfully be photographed and displayed in print or online by media companies. The sanctity of life cannot be used as sensational deviceto produce headlines designed to boost the sales of such media sellers. This type of photo journalism must be held to limits as this type of photo is utterly despicable.

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    • There have been at least 4,000 civilian deaths out of around 14,000 total in Donbas. Most of the civilian deaths in recent years have apparently been from the Ukrainian military (or affiliated militias) indiscriminate fire into civilian areas. That’s not propaganda, that’s according to independent observers like OSCE . I didn’t seen anyone in the western media even mentioning it. Even today the Ukrainians are firing into their own civilian areas, so I’d want independent verification it was actually Russian fire behind the deaths. From what I’ve seen Russia has been trying to be careful (well, as careful as you can in a hostile fire zone). And, of course, the daily bombing by Saudi Arabia of Yemen will never see the light of day. So it’s worse than just sensationalize to produce headlines, it’s war propaganda designed to influence the population into supporting a war that is utterly insane since it can go nuclear … the Russians aren’t saints, but this isn’t entirely their fault, either. (Note: edited to fix typo and clarify)

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  3. I understand your position well. I am 12 years weary from writing on such matters as these. Now I wish to see greater lengths taken to upload the Sanctity of Life in every single instance across the globe.
    Good day to you.
    Christina

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