Tuesday, March 1, 2022

History Demonstrates That Military Action, Not Words, is the Only Way to Stop Tyrants From Conquering and Killing Their Neighbors

"As always when it comes to stopping dictators, with every delay the price goes up. Western leaders have protested over the potential costs of action [in] Ukraine at every turn only to be faced with the well-established historical fact that the real costs of inaction are always higher. Now the only options left are risky and difficult, and yet they must be tried. The best reason for acting to stop Putin today is brutally simple: it will only get harder tomorrow."--Garry Kasparov, 2014

The reality about Russia's invasion of Ukraine is that the West can use military means to stop Vladimir Putin now--which will not be easy, but is necessary--or the West can use military means to stop Vladimir Putin later. That is not a message that anyone wants to read, hear, or think about, but it is the sad, grim truth. Autocratic nationalists do not voluntarily stop conquering and killing their neighbors; they stop conquering and killing their neighbors when a superior military force stops them from conquering and killing their neighbors. Think of Napoleon, Hitler, or any other autocratic nationalist: as Khan Noonien Singh aptly put it in the original Star Trek episode "Space Seed": "Such men dare take what they want."

The West underestimated Hitler's ambitions and Nazi Germany's military might; the West thought that Hitler could be appeased with small bites of territorial "apple," not understanding that Hitler intended to consume the whole apple, and then take the orange grove as well.  

Putin received his training and indoctrination in the Soviet Union, but he is not trying to resurrect the Soviet Union per se; he is an autocratic Russian nationalist who has a grandiose belief about Russia's history and a grandiose plan for Russia's future. If he is not stopped militarily, he will conquer by force every region, territory, and/or country that used to be under Soviet control so that he can create (or, from his perspective, restore) a Russian empire--and, like previous autocratic nationalists, he will not stop there, because he cannot stop there: autocratic nationalists live not to rule, but to conquer, and their empires inevitably grow or collapse, but such empires typically are not capable of prolonged stability. 

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov opposed the Soviet Union's oppression, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union he has been warning about the dangers of Putin's autocratic Russian nationalism. In 2015, Kasparov prophetically declared:

We have been facing this problem for quite a while. And so many mistakes have been made. These mistakes created an impression for Putin and his cronies and also his clients like Assad and others in the world. Iranian Ayatollahs. The West is weak. The West is not willing to get engaged. So the West will give them anything they want. Before we talk about the right strategy, what the leaders of the free world must do, let's talk about what they must not do. You cannot project weakness. Yes, I know that America will never consider seriously boots on the ground in Ukraine. Why are you talking about it? Why do you say publicly that you will not do that?

...Many talk about Clinton's presidency as a great success. I wouldn't doubt certain achievements in economy. But geopolitically, it was the greatest disaster among all because it's not about the final position. The game is still on. In 1992, America was all powerful. It could design the world map the way it wanted. In 2000, al-Qaeda was ready to strike. So what happened in these eight years?

Eight years of complacency, of doing nothing. Nobody formulated policies for Russia, for Soviet Union, for Islamic terrorism. It requires a global vision. The same way as Winston Churchill, Harry Truman had these policies designed in 1946, in 1947. The Marshall plan. There were plans. Plans they learned from World War II and they knew that to oppose Stalin and to oppose Communism, they needed to come up with a grand strategy and also leadership.

When I hear about potential dangers of confronting Putin today, my first question is, "Is he more dangerous than Joseph Stalin in 1948?" For 11 months, American and British planes had been supplying West Berlin besieged by Stalin's troops. And Joseph Stalin didn't shoot a single American plane. Why? Because Harry Truman already used nuclear weapons. And Stalin, as every good dictator, had an animal instinct. He knew where he could be repulsed. So he knew that Harry Truman could not play a game. It happened in 1962, when Khrushchev recognized that he pushed JFK to the ropes. And Ronald Reagan. And don't tell me that the Soviet Union in 1981, 82, 83, was less powerful than Putin's Russia today.

Here is what Kasparov says now: "Putin's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 ended any reasonable doubts as to his nature and threat. Any attempts to negotiate with Putin since then were corruption, cowardice, and cynicism. He should have been isolated instantly. Instead, here we are."

The West did not stop Putin in 2014, and Putin took advantage by annexing Crimea; that was Putin's first bite out of Ukraine, and now--emboldened by the West's timidity--Putin has decided to eat the rest of the meal. Russia's invasion of Ukraine will likely end with a "cease fire" that results in Putin having outright control of significant portions of Ukraine, and exercising indirect control (via a puppet government) over the rest of Ukraine. Putin will declare victory but also say that the battle to restore Russian glory is not over. The West will foolishly breathe a sigh of relief after direct, open combat in Ukraine ends--and, in the not too distant future, Putin will set his sights on his next "meal." America did not confront Hitler until he already controlled most of Europe. Let's hope that America and the West do not make the same mistake with Putin.

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