More lives for naught
On the cheapness of words, commanders who grieve, and the increasingly dangerous choices of Russia's government
When faced with a complex problem and limited access to the truth, a sound course of action is to look at the flow of resources. It's easy to increase the supply of rhetoric -- talk is cheap, after all. But the truth is usually found in the actual commitments that people make with resources that are scarcer than mere words.
■ It is credibly believed that Russia has drafted 300,000 men into the military since late October, and in some corners, it is believed that another 500,000 may be called up soon.
■ Pressing 800,000 conscripts into service to fight a war would be an enormous commitment under any circumstances. For comparison, the Allies in World War II committed 160,000 troops to invade Normandy on D-Day. That operation was enormous in its own right, and it ultimately resulted in victory on the European continent. What the Allies sought to do on D-Day was just and righteous, and Eisenhower rightly grieved the lives lost.
■ But sending five times that number to fight a mad war of aggression against Ukraine is a dreadful confirmation of something Dwight Eisenhower wrote after WWII. Eisenhower noted, "Americans assess the cost of war in terms of human lives, the Russians in the over-all drain on the nation." Many of those whom Russia will send into action will be killed or injured. Many others will be be damaged or broken by the experience, likely to return home with new demons or worse. Russia would be making an extremely large and hazardous gamble with its own domestic future by taking such a risk, to say nothing of its appalling crimes against the people of Ukraine.
■ Someday, we will know the resolution of the Kremlin's awful war. Perhaps it will mark a historical low point and the last moment before a peaceful liberalization, with Russia's present autocrat deposed and the country on a path towards economic and political harmonization with the free world. It happened in (West) Germany, after all.
■ But for now, we can only try to recognize what patterns are being repeated, and Russia's leadership is making choices that show no moral growth over the ones its dictators made eight decades ago. It's troubling enough that the people of a peaceful neighbor are being forced to suffer from an unjust invasion. It compounds the tragedy to imagine that Russia's soul may emerge even sicker at the end than it started.