But How Do You Stop Putin and the Taliban?

When I suggest not stealing billions of dollars from Afghanistan, and thereby not causing mass starvation and death, otherwise intelligent and informed people tell me that human rights demands that theft. Starving people to death is a means of protecting their “human rights,” in fact. How else can you (or the U.S. government) stop Taliban executions?

When I respond that you (the U.S. government) could ban capital punishment, stop arming and funding the world’s top executioners from Saudi Arabia on down, join the world’s major human rights treaties, sign onto and support the International Criminal Court, and then — from a credible position — seek to impose the rule of law in Afghanistan, sometimes people think that over as if none of it had ever occurred to them, as if basic logical steps had been literally unthinkable, whereas starving millions of little kids to death for their human rights had somehow made sense.

I also have yet to run across a single person in the United States not engaged in peace activism who doesn’t believe that the United States needs to stop “aggression” by “Putin” in Ukraine. Maybe I don’t interact enough with Fox News viewers who want a war with China or Mexico and think Russia is a less desirable war, but it’s not clear to me that such a person would dispute the spontaneous irrational Putinesque plot against Ukraine so much as just not care about it.

When I respond that if Russia had put Canada and Mexico into a military alliance, stuck missiles in Tijuana and Montreal, run giant war rehearsals in Ontario, and endlessly warned the world of a looming U.S. invasion of Prince Edward Island, and if the U.S. government had demanded that the troops and missiles and military war pacts be removed, our televisions would be telling us those were perfectly reasonable demands (which wouldn’t erase the fact that the United States has an enormous military and loves to threaten war, or the worse-than-irrelevant fact that the United States has domestic governmental flaws) — when I say all that, sometimes people act as if I’ve just revealed a mind-bending secret.

But how is that possible? How can perfectly smart people have no idea that NATO promised not to expand eastward when Russia agreed to the reunification of Germany, no idea that NATO has expanded right into the former USSR, no idea that the U.S. has missiles in Romania and Poland, no idea that Ukraine and NATO have built up a huge force on one side of Donbas (like Russia subsequently on the other), no idea that Russia would have liked to be an ally or member of NATO but was too valuable as an enemy, no idea that it takes two to tango, no idea that peace has to be carefully avoided but war diligently manufactured — and yet numerous very serious ideas to tell you regarding how to halt Putin’s invasions?

The answer is not a pleasant one, but I think it’s unavoidable. The thousands of people who’ve spent the past month giving interviews and making webinars and writing articles and blog posts and petitions and banners and teaching each other obvious facts about Ukraine and NATO exist in a different world from 99 percent of their neighbors who exist in the world created by newspapers and televisions. And this is extremely unfortunate because nobody — not even the weapons dealers already trumpeting the profits to be made in this war — wants war more badly than do newspapers and television outlets.

“Does Iraq have WMDs?” was not just a question they gave the wrong answer to. It was an absurd piece of propaganda prior to anyone answering it. You don’t get to invade and bomb a country whether or not its government possesses weapons. If you did, the world would have had the right to invade and bomb the United States which openly possessed all the weapons it falsely accused Iraq of having.

“How do you stop Putin’s invasion?” is not just a question they are giving the wrong answer to. It is an absurd piece of propaganda prior to anyone answering it. Asking it is part of a campaign to provoke just the invasion that the question pretends to be interested in preventing. Without threatening any invasion, Russia laid out two months ago what it wanted. The propaganda question “How do you stop Putin’s invasion?” or “Don’t you want to stop Putin’s invasion?” or “You aren’t in favor of Putin’s invasion, are you?” is premised on avoiding any awareness of the perfectly reasonable demands made by Russia while pretending instead that an “inscrutable” Asian monarch is inexplicably threatening irrational and unpredictable measures that can nonetheless best be forestalled by threatening, scaring, provoking, and insulting him. Because if you actually wanted to prevent a war in Donbas rather than create one, you would simply agree to the perfectly reasonable demands made by Russia in December, end this madness, and shift to addressing non-optional crises such as the Earth’s ecosystems and nuclear disarmament.

18 thoughts on “But How Do You Stop Putin and the Taliban?”

  1. Extremely well stated, David. I will forward relevantly. Similarly, how do you stop the blockade in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge? The very same answer you just gave: you end the damn mandates– a most reasonable demand of millions of people. Speaking of a million people, that’s around how many gathered in Canberra Australia TODAY with that same demand.In both countries,the joyful, loving exuberance demonstrating with their lives and behavior that the fear is gone! Cheers for the Trucker Convoys! Jon

    PS I will trust your sense of fairness and commitment to free speech not to censor this comment.

  2. There you go again, David, using common sense! I love your analogy of Russia putting missiles in Canada or Mexico. How would America react to that? I don’t understand it either, how so many people don’t see the hypocrisy. Even young children know the Golden Rule, that is is treating others as one wants to be treated. Imagine if another country did to the US what the US does to others. There are so many religious people who have no problem supporting these wars. Yet, it goes against every major religion. Our leaders may be psychopaths but the people need to think for themselves and demand they stop this dangerous nonsense.

  3. Do unto others…

    Thank you David, you’ve made the simple solution very simple. You only need to have the facts, and do a short reasoned analysis.
    What keeps me up at night is Chernobyl near Kiev, 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine, and US (and other militaries) being told that nuclear war is winnable. It isn’t. No one wants to breach Chernobyl, let alone explode a nuclear reactors…let alone have a miscalculation and unleash a nuclear holocaust. How would we explain this to our children? If we survive.

  4. “I also have yet to run across a single person in the United States not engaged in peace activism who doesn’t believe that the United States needs to stop “aggression” by “Putin” in Ukraine.”
    If it is any consolation the situation here in the UK might be slightly better. I read the comments on news items in the Daily Telegraph (generally regarded as right wing) and there is a persistent minority that are highly sceptical of the official narrative.
    Interestingly, there are more sceptics than one finds in comments in the supposedly “left wing” Guardian and Independent newspapers.

  5. Mr. Swanson,
    In your hypothetical threat on the US border, would you condone a pre-emptive invasion of Mexico or Canada? Do you endorse the Monroe Doctrine?
    The Cuban missile crisis ended with the guarantee that the US would not invade Cuba, which is a pledge that we have kept for almost 60 years. By contrast, Russia’s pledge in the 1994 Budapest memorandum to defend Ukraine’s borders in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal lasted only 20 years, when they annexed Crimea in 2014. We made the same pledge to Ukraine in 1994. Should we now renege on it, as well?
    No sane person wants war, but Ukraine has a right to its own foreign policy as does Canada and Mexico. The challenge is to avoid war without carving up the world into great power sphere’s of influence that trample the sovereignty of smaller nations.

    1. That comparisons are odious is an old axiom. In every comparison a likeness is drawn in regard to only one aspect or several aspects of the objects or notions compared, while the other aspects are tentatively and with reservation abstracted.
      The comparison between Cuba and the Ukraine is useful only in so far as it helps people understand why Russia might be concerned about events in Ukraine. Beyond that it becomes misleading.
      They are very different countries in very different situations. The Ukraine, like many Eastern European states, has significant ethnic and linguistic minorities. Since 2014 ultra-nationalists have been trampling these minorities. This has caused problems in Crimea and the Donbass independent of any action by the Russian government.
      You have to have an understanding of the makeup of these areas before making judgements about Russian interference.

      1. Mr. Hallam,
        I appreciate your comments, but if I may add a couple of points.:
        Before 2014, Crimea had an autonomous status within Ukraine. If you do some research, you will discover that it is the Tatar and Ukrainian minorities that are now facing discrimination.
        It is true that there is a problem with far-right groups in Ukraine, as there is throughout the region. However, they represent only a small fraction and have a similarly small representation in the Rada. Of course, they are well represented in the war in the East where their nationalistic enthusiasm is useful.
        With regards to the right-wing, compared to other countries in Eastern and Central Europe, they are not an outlier. If you are interested, I could give you a summary and history of right-wing groups in neighboring countries, including, of course, Russia.
        Finally, a minor point: please refer to the country as “Ukraine” – not ‘the’ Ukraine. There are no articles in Slavic languages. Historically, its use is a legacy from the centuries-old Russian occupation to imply that Ukraine is merely a region of Russia, and not a real country. This is an opinion voiced by Putin himself and speaks volumes about how he regards his neighbor.

        1. “There are no articles in Slavic languages.”
          I respect that, just as l respect the right of nations to use their own language.

        2. “It is true that there is a problem with far-right groups in Ukraine, as there is throughout the region.”
          However, it’s not just far-right ‘goups’ that’s the problem. Extreme nationalist / racist attitudes are quite widespread in Eastern Europe. I have worked with and been friendly with a number of Eastern Europeans over the last sixty years so I speak from experience. This covers ex-wehrmacht volunteers to recent migrants.
          There is antisemitism and colour discrimination, as one might expect . On top of that there is a lot of inter-regional racism.
          The thing I always find shocking is that it’s usually casual, rather than ideological. Plus there’s no respect for the British tradition of hypocrisy.

          1. I share your assessment of the casual racism that exists throughout the region. Although my roots are in Eastern Europe, I live in Texas. So I know first-hand that those attitudes are certainly not unique.
            Regarding the war in Eastern Ukraine, I recently finished an excellent English translation of Serhiy Zhadan’s novel, “The Orphanage”. It is pretty bleak, but captures both the waste and absurdity of the conflict, which will only increase exponentially if cooler heads do not prevail.

          2. New information just received today: (2/16)

            Vladimir Kozin speaks to Regis Tremblay about Russian Duma’s vote to
            recognize independence of Donbass region

          3. Best wishes to you from sunny Yorkshire.

            I’m glad that through our frank exchange of views we have found some common ground.

            Hopefully, the same can happen in “Ukraine”.

            As they say around here, “‘Tha’ can allus tell a Yorkshireman but tha’ can’t tell ‘im much’.”

  6. A good synopsis of the Russian position.
    It might be of interest to note that both the head of Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin and the head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik are members of Russia’s ruling party , United Russia. These are the highest officials in the ‘independent’ republics. It is interesting, therefore that the Duma’s ruling party would pass a resolution to recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed states.

    1. Best solution as i see it: recognition as Donbass region as independent,but allied with Russia as a protectorate, but the rest of Ukraine neutral like Switzerland. That would remove the motive for war among rational people. (Hey, but who’s rational in NATO, Ukraine, and US State Dept.,these days?)

      1. I do not disagree. I argued for neutrality for the ex-Warsaw Pact countries that became EU members 20 years ago. However, by that time, NATO membership was tied to EU membership.
        In Ukraine, support for EU integration and all of the opportunities that come with it, especially for young people has always been strong. That was what started Maidan in 2014 when Yanukovych turned from the agreement with the EU.
        But, at this point, after 8 years of struggle and sacrifice, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for any Ukrainian politician or government to officially write-off the Donbas (or even Crimea). There would be mass demonstrations and probably de-stabilize the government. The conventional wisdom says that this is precisely what Putin wants.
        However, I have a slightly different take.
        In the short run, the current government would probably not last. But if the country could survive, a new government that is not associated with the humiliation would be in a better position. Without Crimea and the Donbas, the base of the pro-Russian opposition, the country would be firmly pro-western in its orientation and minimize, if not eliminate any leverage Putin had.
        The west might even offer a type of Marshal Plan as an incentive. Along with the end of the costly war, Ukraine could actually prosper.
        Of course, there would still the issue of corrupt oligarchs.

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