The West is Always Right: Hypocrisy in the Ukrainian Conflict

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!

Putin: Syria?

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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More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Nationalism Is Dangerous And Should Be Eradicated

Western Tyranny and the Olympics: Stop Harassing Russia over its Human Rights Record

Different Perspectives: The West Is No Less Violent Than The Middle East

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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4 Responses to The West is Always Right: Hypocrisy in the Ukrainian Conflict

  1. peteybee says:

    bingo! spot on.

  2. ScottT says:

    I came across your article today and, since I disagree with it, I have added the following comments.

    There is no hypocrisy in the actual history; it only exists in the contrived history written above. It is not an “over simplification” but a fabricated, irrelevant portrayal. I believe that the analogies in it are invalid and its conclusions are questionable. I hope that you can carefully re-examine your stance.

    None of the situations mentioned above is similar to Crimea. Vietnam and Iraq had started their own wars: North Vietnam warring with South Vietnam and Iraq invading Kuwait. Perhaps you advocate a passive live-and-let-live policy? WWII demonstrates what result that policy can lead to.

    More importantly when the U.S. (or the West ) finally did get involved military in those two countries it did not start out with the intent of annexing those territories as Russia has done. It’s primary objective had been to stop the already begun wars and brutal violence. Iraq had been universally condemned for its invasion as has Russia now.

    In the Crimea there has been no civil war – no genocide as in the above examples. Russia’s claim that the people of Crimea were calling for help was prefabricated – a pretext for invasion and annexation, possibly as a start to re-unite the former Soviet Union. Now this may sound something like the G.W. Bush led invasion of Iraq with its trumped up charges of Weapons of Mass Destruction, but, again, Iraq had already invaded Kuwait, potentially destabilizing the entire vital oil-rich middle east.

    I don’t know how you drew in Syria to the hypothetical since the U.S. has no military troop presence there, whereas Russia does. But here again is a civil war started by the Syrians themselves. I can’t imagine what war or invasion you believe the U.S. started there? Are you advocating that the world powers stand by while brutal dictators commit genocide? I hope not.

    And Egypt? You lost me there.

    Guantanamo: to be sure that is a domestic embarrassment, but again, how is that remotely similar to the invasion and annexation of a part of a sovereign country? We have Guantanamo but then Russia has Siberia.

    You write “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 the problem is that the piece above doesn’t explain how they *are* similar. How can it?

    Finally, many can see mistakes made in the two listed examples of Vietnam and Iraq, in hindsight perhaps with good reason, but what are these “selfish” reasons you attach to the West for engaging militarily there?

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m afraid that I won’t be changing my stance, though, for the following reasons.

      “the piece above doesn’t explain how they *are* similar”

      This is what I wrote towards the end: ” 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.” That is the similarity, and that is the core reason why anyone would involve themselves in such a war.

      “In the Crimea there has been no civil war ”

      Speaking of core reasons… I think this is the core of our disagreement. My argument is that the similarity stems from the fact that there IS a civil war in Ukraine, and yours relies on the fact that there isn’t. In this case, I really do believe that Ukraine was at the start of a civil war. A democratically elected president, backed up by about half of the country, was forced out of government in a non-democratic way. There were riots on the streets, which were supported by some and rejected by others. As I said in the piece itself, Ukraine is a country divided into two factions, and these factions had begun to fight. Perhaps the war wasn’t as bad as it was in those other countries yet, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have become that bad.

      Additionally, I’d like to mention that no matter what Russia did, there was always going to be trouble. If you have a country that is so clearly divided into two factions, with two different languages and two different nationalities, then in times of crisis, that will lead to violence. In the end, Ukraine was pestered by a civil war, and Russia stepped into try and resolve that.

      “More importantly when the U.S. (or the West ) finally did get involved military in those two countries it did not start out with the intent of annexing those territories as Russia has done”

      True, that is a definite change from history. However, not only was this not yet the case at the time of writing of this piece, but aside from that I also think it’s a detail. The annexation is Russia’s solution to the problem, and the issue I’m bringing up here is the getting engaged in the conflict in the first place. Now that Russia has done so, I would argue that annexation of Crimea might be a good solution for all parties involved, if that could (temporarily) solve the conflict and give Ukraine the chance to have elections without as much ethnic differences.

      “Are you advocating that the world powers stand by while brutal dictators commit genocide? I hope not.”

      What genocide? They are civil wars, not genocide. The only genocide the world has seen in recent years is the US murdering thousands of Muslim civilians with their drone strikes because they want to execute (without trial) a few people they suspect might be terrorists. None of the wars I mentioned are in any way comparable to a genocide.

      “what are these “selfish” reasons you attach to the West for engaging militarily there?”

      Are you suggesting that the US invaded Iraq and Vietnam because they cared so much about their well-being? They invaded Iraq because of power and oil and they invaded Vietnam because they hated Communism (the war on Communism was a generally accepted concept). They did these things purely for selfish reasons, which is evident judging from the way US presidents refused to leave Vietnam even when they were losing the war just because they didn’t want to lose face, and how in Iraq we’re now murdering the same civilians we once claimed to be protecting.

      Countries cannot involve themselves in conflicts for anything but selfish reasons, because if they did, their people would argue that it is wasted money, that they should be spending on domestic issues. Simply said, countries are not people, so they are incapable of such altruism.

      So ultimately, I argue that the conflict in Ukraine is very similar to those other wars because it is a civil war. There are two opposing sides, and they are solving their issues through violence rather than democracy. That makes it a civil war, and that makes Russia’s intervention very similar to the intervention of the US in previous decades. However, I want to stress that I am in no way in agreement with Russia’s actions. I am only arguing that they are doing the same thing as the US did, and that I sincerely hope that people will realise this the next time Western countries are on the verge of picking a side in a civil war.

      Edit: I found this article by Al Jazeera very interesting, and it makes similar claims to what I have said before, including the comparison with previous civil wars: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/ukraine-crisis-crimea-russia-201433045710220137.html

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