by Jacob Hartman
Far too often, sensible people are forced to respond to irrational arguments using the invented vocabulary of those they are arguing against. A well-known example is when Socialists utilize their favorite term, “Welfare,” when arguing for wealth transfer, leaving supporters of laissez-faire to defend an allegedly abusive free market as predefined by Socialist terminology. When I bear third person witness to events like those currently happening in Ukraine, I feel as if it has already been determined for me that Russia is an existential threat. After soaking in much of the propaganda on television, I sometimes get tricked into using the made-up words & definitions to describe my position. This is the power of fear-mongering, it shifts the conversation so that people must sift through all of the wordplay to understand the true message being conveyed. Instead, I consciously use my own words. I’m constantly reminded by Left & Right media organizations that hard-line economic sanctions are the only option, but what if that isn’t the case? They claim expanding the security blanket over Europe is necessary in the event that Russia wants to risk everything and invade the continent. Is it possible that these inane proposals would only benefit a growing “defense” bureaucracy and not the American people? Maybe our interests in Ukraine should be considered with respect to the welfare of Americans and not to the war lobby? Even when the proof of facts can not be determined by officially-provided evidence, those who still have questions are deemed troublemakers and truthers. Years ago I would be virtually persecuted by society for having such an opinion; however, is non-aggression, the engine of prosperity, not the most patriotic thing an American can support? Economic warfare and Militarism outside of defense are both aggressive actions that will only place American well-being in jeopardy.
The Cold War ended in the very early 90’s, and yet it seems the official consensus is that Russia retains all the tyrannically ambitious qualities the USSR used to have. Though I don’t underestimate Russia’s capabilities, I seriously doubt it’s international political goals are any different than those of the U.S. government. What’s more, Russia has a GDP that is less than two-thirds that of Germany’s. Assuming Russia does indeed seek empire, is Europe not capable of defending itself against a country that isn’t any more powerful than the next? Am I out of my mind or do we not have policymakers and media-heads who would support immediate military support in Ukraine without seriously considering all the possible consequences? No, we haven’t sent in our military, but will we? Surely using alliances as a bargaining chip in international politics tends to lead to war by heightening tensions unnecessarily.
Do Americans stand to lose anything if NATO doesn’t enlarge itself? Why are some pushing for the admission of Ukraine into NATO when a significant percentage of Ukrainians are hesitant to accept Western influence? Do D.C. and Kiev have to enter a pact so that Americans and Ukrainians can engage in mutually beneficial trade, or is it possible that peace and trade can prevail in the absence of military alliances? What if growing NATO into Eastern Europe only accomplishes political instability and uneasiness for a Russian people weary of the big American bully? Is it not in the interest of the American people to promote peace worldwide and to lead by example or should we aggressively expand our influence in spite of sovereign nations? Politically, our so-called leaders are forcing Russia into a corner. A cornered animal does what it must, especially if that cornered animal has an army and nuclear weapons. A common theme in history
concerning the build up to any war is the preceding economic warfare. Artificial trade barriers only ever end up hurting the common man on either side and rarely ever fulfill their purpose.
Economic sanctions fuel the fire of ambitious militarists while degrading the quality of life for all parties involved. If you’re a Keynesian, you may disagree, but I believe that any restriction of the economy, whether it’s inter or intranational, will artificially raise the prices of certain goods. That is not to say all restrictions are bad, however artificially-lowered supply creates higher prices. Trade wars accomplish nothing except to prevent the voluntary exchange between your countrymen and the people of another country for reasons specified by either government. Sanctions are nothing but a statement in international politics. Sanctions put in place by the U.N. Security Council were imposed on Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990’s and led to the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis due to causes such as starvation and lack of medicine. Instigating hardships on a nation’s people does nothing but incite hatred from those people. It’s called “blowback” and is a well known concept among foreign policy experts. Blowback can be caused by many things, military & economic, but surely economic sanctions proliferate the growth of our enemies worldwide by hurting regular people and increasing the likelihood that they will resort to violence against us. Would Russian businessmen want to declare war on the U.S. if a significant percentage of their deals were with Americans, or vice versa? Of course not, yet we justify Trade Warfare by claiming it isn’t destructive like Military Warfare when both are obviously terrible. Our sanctions will not gain many allies in Russia. If economic sanctions severely affected the quality of life for your countrymen and family surely that is reason enough to go to war? Is the fight over money not the leading cause of war in all of history? Men with hungry families are willing to do most anything. What would happen if our government did not impose any sanctions, would Russia become emboldened and start a new Russian Empire? Is it possible that Russia is just defending its own national interest? Is America not just as guilty of doing the same? Economic warfare is the strategy of political elites at the expense of innocent people, it is time that Russian and American people demand sensibility from their leaders.
I am not a Russian apologist since I know nothing about Russia’s intentions. However, irresponsible behavior on the part of the U.S. is not justified by the actions of the Russian government. The problem is a media that puts out an opinionated spin on a topic that should be discussed factually and thoroughly. Instead, we commoner dogs are thrown a quick six minute interview in which an uninformative shouting match ensues. The Crimean invasion can be called an annexation or an invasion depending on who you talk to, but maybe we should atleast be given the chance to have a discussion instead of hearing repeated phrases all over mainstream media about whether or not it was. I question whether it is Putin’s intent to annex the other parts of Ukraine, it seems a division of Ukraine would only bring Western influence closer to Russian borders, but he will help ethnic Russians in Ukraine if he feels it’s necessary. He gains relatively little from an involuntary annexation while risking everything. Having Ukraine act as a buffer zone would appear preferable to Putin but not to a power-hungry NATO. Fearmongers rarely ever mention the fact that Ukraine is historically the origin of Russia. Maybe Russia really is deeply involved in Ukraine, has the U.S. never done the same in countries that do not even border ours? I doubt our government is completely innocent concerning the ousting of democratically-elected Yanukovych. Was he corrupt? I have no idea. Should I risk my taxes and peace on an issue I know relatively little about? Probably not. Is the Russian government doing all this spontaneously or is it in reaction to actions made against it? Quickly pointing fingers from either side shortly after the tragedy of Flight 17 is irresponsible and not in the interest of truth. Anybody with a healthy respect for facts would hold judgement pending substantiated proof going either way. I hold no position surrounding the events of Flight 17, I wish only for investigations from multiple unbiased parties and until then will I reserve an opinion. That goes the same for anything I learn from a third-party perspective.
I realize that I discussed Russia more than Ukraine, but let’s not kid ourselves. This conflict is not only between Ukrainians but between two old rivals. It was not necessarily the domination of the American military that won the Cold War but our cultural prosperity that won the hearts of struggling Soviet citizens who wanted more freedom. We as a society will accomplish nothing by forcing our values onto those who live differently from us. Leading by example will bring about change better than any “official policy”. Having a morally noble government and people that mind their own business would facilitate better behavior from governments and organizations worldwide. If Americans remain neutral and allow Ukrainians to sort out their own issues, we will have nothing to lose and everything to gain. For those who say Ukraine is fighting off a foreign invader, I would ask them to look into the ethnic composition of eastern Ukraine as well as the historical context going back many decades. There is no need to rush IMF deals and a NATO alliance on a country that does not want those things. Ukrainians will come around to Western society if and only if Western society acts as a peaceful and prosperous culture. If we continue to meddle in others’ business at the expense of Americans’ safety and prosperity then Americans will eventually no longer be safe and prosperous.
Jacob Hartman is a writer and political activist from Riverside county.