Ukraine and lessons of history
Winston Churchill is credited with saying “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The situation in Ukraine has led me to think a lot about Churchill, George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and other historical parallels.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy embodies attributes of all three of the historical figures noted above.
Like Ronald Reagan, he is a former actor who became the leader of his country, and who does not shy from standing up to Russia. Reagan’s strength in standing against Communism and the Soviet Union and his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” may very well have contributed to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet empire.
Russia has no moral authority. All it has to work its will is violence and threat of violence. That reflects weak leadership.
In many ways, Russia and/or the USSR have been like the Wizard of Oz, feeble men pretending to be strong and powerful. Reagan in his day and Zelenskyy today have served to pull back that curtain.
But I also see a lot of Churchill in Zelenskyy. During World War II the Germans bombed London unmercifully. Zelenskyy, like Churchill, has not stayed hunkered in a bunker somewhere, but has instead projected strength, and has given his own people courage, by himself stepping fearlessly into the aftermath of horrible atrocities.
A couple of years ago takeoffs of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters proliferated. The origin of those posters goes back to the British government in the lead up to World War II. “Keep Calm and Carry On” applies to both men’s leadership in similar circumstances.
And then there’s George Washington. Like Washington, Zelenskyy is leading a people fighting for liberty against a foe with far superior numbers and firepower. I wonder what Washington must have been thinking when he saw the full might of the British navy sailing into New York. What caused him to go on and fight when he knew he was out-manned and out-gunned?
I wonder if Zelenskyy had similar thoughts when he saw the infamous Russian convoy lining up to invade his country?
Neither man decided freedom wasn’t worth fighting for.
But what of learning the lessons of history?
If “we” in the civilized world have learned anything from history, I hope we have learned that Putin cannot be allowed to profit in any way from this war. The only thing holding us back from doing more to help Ukraine is that Putin has nuclear weapons.
Fair enough. Nobody wants World War III.
But if Putin somehow skates out of this, what lessons will be learned by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea?
Oh, if you have nuclear weapons you can get by with anything?
This is why Putin cannot be allowed to succeed.
Based on the indiscriminate killing of civilians, the brutality of execution-style killings in Bucha, the unprovoked nature of the invasion, and the other war crimes perpetrated buy Putin and the people who follow his orders, I believe even more should be done to help Ukraine.
Please understand that no one from Washington has called to solicit my opinion, but here it is nevertheless.
I believe we go beyond sanctions. We seize every asset of every Russian entity we can put our hands on, including the yachts and property of Russian Oligarchs. While it will only be a drop in the bucket to what will be needed, those funds should be used to help rebuild Ukraine when this is over.
And for Putin and the people who have carried out his orders? Even if we can’t physically put our hands on them, they must be tried for war crimes. And Russia needs to be ostracized from the world community as long as he is in power.
There is no way Russia is going to win this. No war is truly won until the hearts and minds of the losing side are won. The reason Germany and Japan are now friends is not because we defeated them militarily, but because we also won their hearts and minds.
Russia will never win the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. In fact, the Ukrainian people will hate Russians for generations to come.
In terms of Russia’s objectives, they have suffered major losses and they haven’t even gotten to the hard part yet.
While no one wants World War III, I believe our president erred in announcing what we wouldn’t do. We are dealing with a madman, and all options should, at least publicly, be on the table.
We know one lesson from history. We know what happens when a madman bent on building an empire invades neighboring countries in Europe. We simply cannot allow him to succeed.
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