Something very special happened this week: finally, after all those years of people supporting war for the sake of “democracy”, the Western world has changed its mind and decided that war is wrong. It took a while, but to some extent, this change of heart makes me very happy. After all, the wars in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq all started for the same reasons and ended in similar chaos, so it was about time people begun to realise that war isn’t the answer. There is one problem, however: the argument isn’t exactly that Western countries shouldn’t go to war… it’s just that Russia shouldn’t.
Obama spent 90 minutes on the phone with Putin to try and talk him out of sending an army to Ukraine. The news, as usual, is rather one-sided, only talking about the arguments Obama has and then adding that Putin didn’t obey, not really bothering to mention his arguments. But can we just take a moment to think about how this conversation went?
Obama: Sending your troops to Ukraine is a violation of international law!
Putin: And sending troops to Vietnam wasn’t?
Obama: That was a long time ago, and it was a mistake.
Putin: How about Iraq then?
Obama: Well, that was Bush’s doing, and that was also a mistake!
Obama: Well… I had perfectly valid arguments to push for that war…
Putin: So do we. Oh, and speaking of international law… Guantanamo bay?
Obama: That’s all different! We’re talking about Ukraine now!
And indeed, fictional Obama is right. It is about Ukraine and Russia is doing the wrong thing. But what astonishes me is that it took so long for people to realise this. Apparently, us people in the West are so incapable of introspection that we don’t even realise our own mistakes until our enemy makes the same one. And even then we’re still too ignorant to see the similarities. Time will tell, but despite these very recent progressions in Western thinking, I have little doubt that the same people who are now accusing Russia of engaging into a war for selfish reasons are the very same people who will shout the loudest once it is believed that the West should engage in a similar war somewhere else.
Of course, people will argue that this is different, that Syria, Egypt or Iraq cannot be compared to Ukraine. That what Russia is doing is much worse. But we only believe that because it’s what we want to believe. The truth is that Ukraine is a country divided into two factions, and these two factions have clashed, just like they did in all those other countries tormented by civil wars. It’s a gross oversimplification of the conflict, but it’s all that matters. All other facts about the conflict are concerned with who is right and who is wrong, but as always in these conflicts, there is no good and bad, light and dark, just and unjust. Those things belong to fiction. Good and bad are almost always subjective.
Russia decided to act based on its own, selfish needs. So did the West. All I can hope is that we won’t forget this. That we will remember our opposition to this war and that we will use that knowledge to make the right decision if we ever seem to be heading to war once again. Because war is wrong, even when the West is starting it.
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See you next Monday!
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