The long march
On the long road to a peaceful world
Putting aside the sheer inhumanity of mass-scale violence against civilians, the seemingly indiscriminate destruction of a state that Russia claims it intends to occupy seems extraordinarily perverse even from an abstract strategic perspective. Someone will have to rebuild Ukraine, and the Kremlin's violent strategy maximizes the cost of that reconstruction.
■ But indeed we cannot put aside the sheer inhumanity of it. As the retired Australian general Mick Ryan puts it, "This is code for expending large amounts of cheap artillery & rockets to terrorise Ukrainian civilians & force a political accommodation."
■ It is the rightful conviction that most people are good at heart that makes it impossible to stomach the cruelty we sometimes see committed. If we were mere wild animals, brutality would be just ordinary. But we know humans are capable of better, because we see it. That's what makes brutality so excruciating to witness in Ukraine, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in South Sudan, and in too many other places.
■ Destruction is easy enough; even a losing aggressor can destroy. Building (and rebuilding) takes time, patience, and lots of money. None of the humanitarian relief required for victims of war would be necessary if belligerents didn't start those wars in the first place.
■ Writing of his experience as hostilities were underway early in World War II, Winston Churchill noted that, "Our first line of defence against invasion must be as ever the enemy's ports." But he certainly would have preferred never to have been drawn into war in the first place, and his experience has parallels today. As Gennady Rudkevich of Georgia College has remarked, "Now do people see why Central Europeans were so desperate to join NATO?"
■ Observing the defiance exhibited by free people in the face of attack, whether in Ukraine today or the United Kingdom some 80 years ago, we have to remember that hope alone isn't enough. We have to be willing to invest not only in the expense of reconstruction after the violence we cannot deny, but also in the preemption of violence.
■ It is awe-inspiring to hear of a high-ranking police officer willing to surrender himself in exchange for the freedom of children. But we have to convert that awe into the slower, less dramatic, and often unrewarding tasks of conducting defense at the enemy's (metaphorical) ports, by staring down illiberalism wherever it emerges and patiently investing both in the infrastructures of peace and in the necessaries of deterrence.
■ As Edward Luce notes regarding the successful UN resolution against Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "141 of 193 member states condemned Vladimir Putin's blatant violation of international law. But the 35 that abstained account for almost half the world's population." A world of mutualistic peace and freedom is not assured, even if we responsibly invest in it. But it definitely will not happen without.