Sunday, May 22, 2022

Meanwhile, here in the West

 I've been following the war on YouTube.  The Ukrainians have mounted a stirring defense and are being applauded by Western nations.  They claim to only need regular replenishment of their weapons and ammunition in order to drive Russia completely out of most of territorial Ukraine.  Much of the Eastern part is inhabited by Russians and Russian speaking Ukrainians.  Samuel P. Huntington years ago in his Clash of Civilizations wrote about this.  He thought that Ukraine would be split up with the Eastern part becoming part of Russia and the Western part becoming forever independent, but he thought it would happen peacefully and logically.  Since his day, however, the view is growing among anthropologists that our species is much more warlike than was previously thought.  The idea of peaceful little scavengers has given way (to a significant degree) to a blood-thirsty ancestry not above eating our fallen enemies.  At one point around 40,000 years ago, during the Cro Magnon period, we went on a rampage and wiped out all competing species.  Huntington missed out on our current view of our species.

Francis Fukuyama in his overly optimistic The End of History and the Last Man thought that Western economic and political systems being so much more efficient than anything else out there would soon pervade the entire world and history, the sort of history involving war, would end.  However, the second part of his thesis involved the risk of autocrats, dictators, leaders whose egos would drive them to start wars for their own ego-centric reasons, and Putin seems to fit that pattern.  And the last men with weak chests and weak wills "may" let them get away with it.  In Putin's case the "may" may have turned to "will."

The historians who have studied Russia describe Russia’s well-deserved paranoia.  Danger historically, even before Napoleon came from the West.  Russians would be driven further and further to the east until the invader’s supply lines became exhausted and then they would retaliate and drive the enemy from their land.  But if their close-by buffer states side with the potential enemy, then the Russians when they are invaded might not have the necessary territory to retreat to. 

We hear mostly about Russian dissidents and soldiers unwilling to fight, but Putin has a lot of support among Russians, and they are as paranoid as he is.  We in the West insist that we have no interest invading Russia, but each year the Russians celebrate the time when the last invasion (Hitler's) was defeated.  There is no longer a Hitler anyplace in the West as far as we know and so we think Putin's paranoia unjustified, but the Russians who lived through the last invasion and their children find the steady encroachment of the West, albeit peaceful from our point of view, threatening. 

On the positive side, the Russian paranoia won't risk nuclear war.  They love their land and have always depended upon their armies -- traditionally not very competent at the beginning of their wars, but as they are winnowed while being driven further and further to the east, the soldiers who remain become super-soldiers well capable of defeating the enemy.  Why should they resort to weapons which could destroy large parts of their homeland?  They don't need to. Their land armies will take care of them. 

Once again, the Russians have begun poorly, but if they don't succeed in reacquiring their Communist era buffer states, they'll settle for what they have -- for now -- and then work on correcting the flaws in their soldiery, tactics and weapons.  They are not interested in World War Three, but later on, if the future gives them some other opportunities, they'll attempt to inch their borders westward once again.

As to what we in the West ought to do.  I think we're doing it.  The Russians may have their paranoia, but it isn't ours and our democratically based economies aren't comfortable with nations which have psychological problems, however historically deserved.  We in the West see no need for Putin's Russia to attack its neighbors.  Why don't they become as peaceful as we are -- as we prepare for war?  We know we have peaceful intentions, but at the same time we will not tolerate nations who start wars and are well prepared and positioned to crush them in warfare -- which we are extremely good at, by the way. :-)

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