On the size of the oceans, the distance from Pittsburgh to Columbus, and the need to shut down bad things while we can
An observation from Winston Churchill, prior to the United States entering World War II (but long after his own country had become a target of brutal and unprovoked assault): "I am very glad that the army, air, and naval frontiers of the United States have been advanced along a wide arc into the Atlantic Ocean, and that this will enable them to take danger by the throat while it is still hundreds of miles away from their homeland."
■ Clearly, that distance still tenders advantages to the United States today, though not nearly as many as it used to (and not in the same magnitude). Jet travel, satellites in space, and ICBMs do a lot to shrink the oceans.
■ These considerations matter in the world, even at a time decades removed from Churchill's observation. Consider the thought-provoking observation from Dr. John Chipman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies: "Putin may be hypersensitive to perceived provocation, but he has demonstrated hyper-responsiveness to perceived license. As the West has pedantically debated what it would not do, his room for destructive manoeuvre has grown."
■ It can be true that we want to avoid instigating conflict by our actions, but also find ourselves opening the door to the escalation of conflict by adversaries. Dithering and equivocation can have consequences, too.
■ Consider the necessarily hard-nosed view of Estonia's prime minister: "Ukraine must win". Estonia is only one among several countries -- particularly those bordering Russia -- with a compelling, existential need to see not just that hostilities cease, but that they cease because Ukraine has won the upper hand with the support of other countries. Estonia has fewer than 1.4 million people, making it smaller than New Hampshire in population. And their border with Russia is 183 miles long, or the distance from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Columbus, Ohio.
■ Estonia and its neighbors don't have the luxury of looking the other way. And while America does have at least some luxury in that regard, we should beware indulging it, no matter what some craven and cowardly members of Congress might want.
■ The oceans aren't as big as they were in World War II -- at least, not in practical effect. But the ambitions of tyrants remain as expansive as ever. That they can evidently be stopped at a cost only of material support and training for Ukraine's armed forces should be seen as the powerful leveraged advantage that it is. Let the oceans work, but remain steadfast in the knowledge that we still sometimes must "take danger by the throat".
America is generally awake now, but some of our elected officials aren’t (Library of Congress)