Never, never, never, never give in
On pre-Internet memes, Churchill's defiant talking points, and the weekend's rapid turn of events in Ukraine
A cartoon has circulated since well before the time when memes were shared on the Internet, dating back to the days when clever jokes were shared via fax machines and office photocopiers. It depicts a seabird -- a pelican or a heron -- swallowing a frog. But the frog is defiantly choking the bird on its way down, creating a stalemate not unlike Aesop's fable about the greedy boy with his hand stuck in a jar because he knew too little to let go of what wasn't his.
■ It's hard not to think of that frog, never giving up, every time news of further progress issues forth from Ukraine. The most recent bold strikes to recover territory may well be remembered as a turning point in the war.
■ In October 1941, well after World War II had come to England but before it had drawn in the full force of the United States, Winston Churchill admonished an audience to "[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy..."
■ Morale has real-world value. A sense of the moral right really does matter. Willingness to stand and fight and spit in the face of darkness can be a force multiplier.
■ The war isn't over for Ukraine; it needs a sustained supply of heavy arms and munitions from other countries that realize the urgency of putting up a fight. But the people of Ukraine also deserve credit for learning and adapting quickly -- not just being defiant.
■ The cartoon frog choking the seabird is, metaphorically, a lot like the porcupine strategy for small countries facing the threat of attack from much bigger foes. The larger adversary might have more resources to commit to an invasion, but the defenders can make themselves too painful to digest.
■ What is worthy of admiration in the present case is that the metaphorical frog isn't just choking the bird into a stalemate, it's trying to bring the bird to its knees so that it flies away and never returns. No matter how this war ends, Ukraine and Russia will still be neighbors sharing a border hundreds of miles long.
■ It will easily be at least a generation before anything resembling mutual trust can be established across that border, though probably more. The "never" in "never give in" will have to last a very long time.
■ It's going to require permanent vigilance on the part of the defenders who appear to be on a hot streak. But it will also require a permanent commitment on the part of others (most especially Americans)to remain well-informed about and interested in the big picture of world affairs.
■ A peaceful world order doesn't happen spontaneously. It depends upon the assurance that the forces which would perpetrate evil will encounter righteous defenders who will "never, never, never, never" give in -- and allies committed to the idea that they should never have to.