No matter how old I get, it continues to shock me how little rulers care about human life.
If they care at all, it is usually with a degree of self-centered abstraction. If too many middle-class boys get drafted, the Vietnam War will become unpopular. If the Covid stats look bad, it might hurt at the upcoming election. We can determine that they have no real concern for human life by examining their actions when their power is not at risk.
The same people who despaired of each nursing home resident lost to corona now recklessly toy with nuclear brinkmanship to an extent we have not seen since 1962 – and back then the Dr Strangeloves were at least wise enough to realize the gravity of the game they were playing. They at least showed some consistency by having shrugged off the very Covid-like Asian Flu a few years earlier.
Laying out the reasoning of both sides in the Ukraine conflict will illustrate how low human lives are on the list of priorities for world rulers.
For the West, Ukraine is seen as nothing more than a tool to poke the bear. It is a pawn in the Great Game of blunting Russian influence and hopefully ousting Putin from power.
The best outcome for the GAE would be a new leader under the Western yoke, like the rest of Europe. The second-best and more likely outcome would be a collapsed state that poses no danger to Western interests like previous triumphs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and others.
Russian meddling in Ukrainian politics was a mirror-image of the West’s and served a similar aim of power projection. The current war is as much about Russia’s prestige on the world stage as it is about NATO expansion. It is also about the aging Putin’s chapter in history. Why be remembered as a mere Vespasian when you can be a Diocletian?
While it’s hard to see through the propaganda, even some Putin fans admit that the Russian military is conducting the campaign with a level of concern for its own soldiers’ lives that matches historic precedents.
To be fair, Putin probably thought that the conflict was going to be shorter and less bloody. Still, all I see are both sides calmly choosing to maim and kill Russians and Ukrainians instead of pursuing peaceful options that we will discuss in a moment.
Much of the Great Game seems to take place in the imaginations of its few thousand participants. How exactly do missiles or other forces in Ukraine threaten Russia? They have an enormous nuclear stockpile that cannot be entirely wiped out before they can launch a retaliatory strike. Western ghoul logic seems to go like this:
- Expand NATO/EU into Ukraine.
- Rainbow flags fly over the Kremlin and Putin cops a bayonet up the arse.
Russian ghouls seem to believe the disjointed logic of their enemies.
I may be wrong about this. Serious question for the armchair Bismarcks: how does Western domination of Ukraine threaten Russia’s stability, aside from the blow to Kremlin prestige? Answers should be specific and take into account (a) heaps of nukes and (b) Russia’s existing control of Crimea. I must be strict about this because so far I’ve only seen vague arguments that ignore the fact that Russia can blow up the world.
Great Game logic has often seemed suspect to me. Strategy Bros love explaining how control of Afghanistan is vital because of gas pipelines etc. etc. This always seemed like bullshit to me because no one ever manages to control Afghanistan and pipelines can easily be blown up by whoever doesn’t want them there. The recent withdrawal from that Godforsaken hellhole did not destroy the US anymore than it destroyed the USSR (which had bigger problems at the time), the British Empire or anyone else.
I am convinced that it is possible to be a stable, prosperous great power while staying the hell away from Afghanistan.
I could make the same argument about the supposedly vital strategic importance of other places – Taiwan, Cuba, Israel etc. – but that may take us too far from Ukraine.
The West had an easy path to peace – agreeing to leave Ukraine as a neutral state. Probably Ukraine and Russia would have been happy with a deal where it joined the EU but was formally excluded from NATO. That would have allowed Ukrainians to escape to Western Europe and work, which is the main thing they want, while limiting the perceived threat to Russia and preserving some of its dignity.
I don’t see how that would have hurt Western interests, or, to put it differently, what goddamn difference that would have made to any normal American or European. No harm done except to the feelings of Nuland-type lunatics.
Russia had a more difficult path to peace, but it was certainly there: exercise restraint in the face of Western provocations in Ukraine (especially the apparent American pressure on Kiev to ignore the Minsk agreements), restrict involvement to the breakaway provinces and generally focus instead on more important issues like corruption and (as we now know) reforming the military. All the de-dollarization it is doing now did not require a war.
Face it, Putin Stans: his country is a mess. ‘Better than it was in 1999’ is a low bar. Cleaning up Russian institutions and becoming a prosperous nation is a much harder task than conquering some portion of Ukraine, which is probably why he went with the latter.
If Russia was more like Finland, the Russian people would be less worried about shenanigans in Ukraine and the Russian state would feel less threatened by it.
Before World War I, states normally resolved conflicts through negotiated treaties. The English word ‘peace’ comes from the Latin ‘pax‘ or ‘treaty’. Why do you have peace? Because there’s currently a treaty in force. Very Roman thinking.
In old wars, once it was clear who was most likely to win, hostilities were halted and terms reached. We get this and you get that. Since the age of total war, it has become dishonourable (appeasement!) to negotiate. The West demands total victory or eternal war. Like the Romans, they ‘make a desert and call it peace’, but at least the Romans were neutralizing plausible threats on their own frontiers.
If our rulers really cared about Ukrainian lives, they would encourage a ceasefire and negotiations. For the reasons discussed, that is the last thing they want.
I do not mean that pre-1914 rulers cared more about human life than modern rulers do. Obviously that is not true. Rather, I’m pointing out that historic means of ending conflicts have been unfairly swept from the table. Not every enemy is Hitler and not every peacenik is Chamberlain. Each situation is unique.
There is a small chance that the present conflict could broaden and/or go nuclear, if only to the extent of tactical weapons. Both sides are more interested in amorphous goals of prestige and influence than they are in the deaths of potentially millions of people and the long-term contamination of a globally important break basket region.
I am not a pacifist. War is a grim necessity, such as in the case of self-defence. I don’t blame Ukrainian soldiers for defending their homeland. I also have sympathy for Russian soldiers pushed into this madness, whatever their views.
However, it is very hard to find a recent war that was deeply justified. Most involved a long period of diplomatic and strategic blundering leading up to the point where self-defence was required. Even the Second World War.
Returning to the Covidians, they would protest that they support lethal aid for Ukraine despite their earlier support for strict, supposedly life-saving containment measures against coronavirus because there’s been an invasion in case you haven’t heard.
This demonstrates yet again how imbecilic and malleable is public opinion. They forget that the US has invaded many countries, some presently. The NPC brigade said little about Azerbaijan’s invasion of Armenia. Sure, that was a complicated situation, but so is this one. They say nothing about the GAE-backed air war against Yemen. That gore doesn’t go viral on Twitter, let alone get displayed with horror on corporate media.
I could go on but my reader gets it.
Perhaps there are governments that care human life, at least of their own citizens. Current GAE regimes are not among them. Our rulers do not care whether we live or die except so far as it effects their own position. They do not lie awake at night haunted by images of incinerated Ukrainians or Yemenis or Americans, praying in tears for forgiveness and guidance.
They sleep soundly, get up each morning and do it again.
Cuntocracy is lindy.