War or Peace

Currently there is a lot of talk about #US, #NATO, #Russia, and #Ukraine. It is interesting to see the divergence of opinions and in some cases the reversal of Democrat and Republican views. Most show political ideology and others show a serious lack of understanding history. Is it prudent to ignore the Russian attempt to coerce Ukraine and the west rather than go to war? What is then the reaction when Russia attacks in order to compel the world to accepts it demands? Why are we facing a situation that could affect the world in a most dangerous manner?

One side sees it as a way to prove the current administration is willing to face up to a bully and protect democracy while the other side sees it as pay back for all the attacks on the past administration over Russia. The Obama administration presented the Iran deal as “This or War.” In her book “The March to Folly” writer and historian Barbra Tuchman pointed out the many times in history nations went to war for all the wrong reasons. In a follow-on book “The Guns of August” Tuchman recounted how Europe fell into WWI for the most transient of reasons. What Tuchman did not talk about was the reasons nations go to war when it becomes necessary to protect itself and its political system.

Today the west is faced with the question of diplomacy vs war. All of course wish to see diplomacy win out but at what cost. The Trump administration took a lot of criticism for being nationalistic. We heard how he was destroying the liberal world order.  Does Russia need to bargain with the west? The threat of sanctions is real and could impact Russia in the long term. In the short term however using force can achieve all of Russia’s aims.

Russia does not fear any repercussions since it has done much the same thing in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Again, following the annexation of Crimea and the Russian supported breakaway of the Donbas region of Ukraine we see no real action by the west. The fighting in Ukraine only slowed down when the Trump administration began to supply Ukraine with military with equipment. Where have we seen this before, Germany and the Sudetenland, Italy and Ethiopia and Japan and Manchuria.

Diplomacy was tried in all three instances and failed in the end, resulting in war. Could a different type of diplomacy have worked, more robust, more threatening? Carl von Clausewitz told us “War is a continuation of Politics by other means.”  In his book “Arms and Influence” Thomas Schelling tells us of the two types of use of the military in diplomacy, to coerce an outcome by threat, which is what Russia is doing right now, or to compel with the use of force. How to avoid either without going to war is to have a military option that is sufficient and believed that will make traditional diplomacy a viable option. The concept of mutually assured destruction kept the world safe during the cold war. The closest the world came to nuclear war was the Cuban missile crisis when cooler more mature heads prevailed.

Like the 1930’s many are saying this is not our concern, it’s a European problem. Just as in the 1930’s allowing the problem to fester and explode it will eventually return to us. Also, to those who say we should take care of our own problems like the southern border, we can do both if we act as a united country and leave the politics behind.

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