Notes on The Wars, Major and Minor

No war strategy is rational which does not include a sober accounting for how you will live next to your former enemy after the fighting has ended. How will relations be normalized? How will past conflicts be put aside under the new post-war conditions? How can some measure of good faith and good will be achieved in the aftermath of the extreme measures taken and the damage that cannot be undone? Those are not questions for later, bridges to be crossed when you get to them. They are questions that must inform every choice you make in the midst of the fighting. For we do not, unless we are barbarians, wage war for the sake of death and destruction, but rather for the sake of the resulting peace. Hence, that peace, which is to say our hopes for it, ought to be before our minds at all times. This is not to say that brutal measures may not have to be taken during a war. But even the brutality must be constrained to what seems genuinely unavoidable, and what can be reconciled with the prospect of co-existing peaceably, if not amiably, with the survivors afterwards.

Every argument made for supporting Israel by those (such as in the U.S. Congress, and above all in the Trump-populist faction of the Republican Party) who simultaneously reject support for Ukraine is as tangible and cynical an example of moral hypocrisy and political infantilism as you will ever see. Israel’s war is limited regionally; Ukraine’s has self-evident global implications. Israel’s enemy is amoral and ugly but by far the weaker party; Ukraine’s enemy has the largest nuclear arsenal on Earth. Israel’s enemy has members and supporters who shout nonsense slogans about destroying the West, but has absolutely no practical means to do so, nor any realistic institutional force (other than the West’s own suicidal tendencies); Ukraine’s enemy speaks as a permanent member of the UN Security Council about nuking Western nations, and engages in systematic efforts to influence the dynamics of American electoral politics to its benefit (sorry, Trumpsters, the truth is too obvious to be masked by your owner’s “witch hunt” whining). Israel can mop the floor with its enemy without a penny of additional foreign assistance, as she is effectively doing right now; Ukraine’s fall is assured without Western help, and would lead to an aggressive and greatly emboldened Russian dictatorship lining up its troops a thousand kilometres closer to the heart of Western Europe, undoing much of the security gains made through the fall of the Soviet Union. It might also be mentioned, although it would make no dent in the hard heads of the anti-Ukraine populists, that in the current Middle East crisis, Russia has overtly aligned itself with Hamas and against Israel — and that in spite of Netanyahu having been almost as pathetic a sycophant and obfuscator for Putin as Trump has been. 

In aligning itself with the Palestinian cause, the Kremlin has dared to play the ultimate Big Lie game, opposing Israel by condemning the latter’s position as an unjust occupier which therefore has “no right to self-defense.” The implication by analogy: Russia herself is not occupying Ukraine, but rather it is the Ukrainian government which is, like Israel to the Palestinians, the unjust occupier of Russia’s territory, and hence Ukraine’s self-defense (and its support by Western nations) is likewise illegitimate and unjust. This is the kind of brazen propagandizing tyranny that Putin’s worldwide apologists, from Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán and Marine Le Pen are rationalizing and propping up with their anti-West diatribes about Russia’s “legitimate security interests” and “NATO’s provocation” of their hero Vladimir.

If you are capable of understanding what the Kremlin is saying, and of recognizing that their branding of Israel as an occupier is an attempt to copy and paste that false narrative onto their own uber-Hamas-like atrocities, then you have no further excuses for pretending not to see the evil essence and dark trajectory of Putin’s war. But if you have made it this far still able to maintain your willful blindness in the cause of authoritarian populism, then I suppose no amount of connecting the dots will ever save you.

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