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What Then Must We Do? - John Samuel Tieman

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Axar.az presents the article "What Then Must We Do? " by John Samuel Tieman.

Back in my hippie days, Dan and I stopped at a roadside diner. Our waitress had on a button. Everyone wore one in those days. Her button read, “Question Authority!” Dan questioned every item on the menu. The waitress “got totally bent”, as we used to say. “You're the authority,” said Dan, “so I'm questioning you.” She gave Dan “totally bad vibes, man,” then threw both of us out. There's a current events lesson here. You only know how a conflict begins. You can never know how it will end. Vladimir Putin started a war. Most of the world has turned against him. Who knows how this invasion will end? Which poses another question. What must America now do?

The invasion has focused on the United States in three ways that are surprising and hopeful. First, there is extraordinary unity. Most of the world has condemned the invasion. By an overwhelming vote, the United Nations denounced Russia. Even neutral Switzerland plans to adopt all the sanctions that the European Union has imposed upon Russian. When Pres. Joe Biden condemned the invasion in his “State Of The Union Address”, he was enthusiastically applauded by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Because Donald Trump described Vladimir Putin’s invasion as “genius” and “savvy”, the former president has also been condemned, and his support has been eroded. What a change. How often are American opinions so congruent both nationally and internationally?

Second, this invasion has unified Americans by focusing them on a conflict that, in its simplest formation, pits democracy against autocracy. The Ukraine is far from a perfect democracy, but Ukrainians are making clear one democratic choice, and it's not Putin. This reminds Americans of the kind of patriotism we had before the Trump Administration. We are restored, at least for now, to a patriotism that is not characterized by obsequious groveling before a populist autocrat spewing ethno-nationalism. There is a worldwide trend toward this combination of autocracy and racist nationalism, one that has been going on for decades. Trump is one manifestation of that trend. America's reaction to the Ukrainian invasion shows, for the moment, a clear shift away from all that.

Third, there is nationwide agreement that we must support the Ukraine. A recent NewsHour/Marist poll shows that 83% of Americans favor sanctions against Russia. 61% support sanctions even if energy prices rise.

How long will our resolve last? There are times when my countrymen have all the grit of an ice sickle in a heatwave. The tools we have chosen are slow-moving. We are seizing the assets of Russian oligarchs. The US, along with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, are removing Russian banks from SWIFT, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world. This will limit Pres. Putin's ability to pay for his war. Americans are barred from transactions involving the Russian central bank. As time goes on, can we stay unified and consistent? I know my people. Patience is not our forte. Nor is nonviolence. There will be pressure to go full Rambo. For example, folks may want NATO to enforce a “no-fly zone”. This would almost assuredly provoke armed conflict between NATO and Russia. Such armed conflict raises the specter of an escalation, and each incremental escalation, in turn, raises the specter of an eventual nuclear war.

Leo Tolstoy said that the greatest moral question is, “What then must we do?” Pres. Biden's approval has risen from 39% to 47%. He has an opportunity. His opportunity is not simply to stand against autocracy. That's not enough. Nor are sanctions enough. We must lead by example. Pres. Biden's opportunity is to show that our form of democracy works on bread-and-butter issues. In his recent “State Of The Union Address”, he spoke about child care, police reform, lower gas prices, mental health, cancer, aid for those addicted to drugs. “What then must we do?” We defeat autocracy by showing that a representative democracy, imbued with civil liberties, can adequately address the needs of our own people. This may not defeat Vladimir Putin. It can defeat Donald Trump.

Date
2022.03.14 / 11:47
Author
Axar.az
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