To the editor:
Just what kind of a nation have we become? How quickly we have gone from a nation of peace keepers to a nation at war with half of the world; Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and now Russia. What next, Iran, North Korea? And why?
Harper, the man of conflicting answers, tells us that these are not really wars, but necessary conflicts. Necessary because we must stand with the USA and Israel as our major allies. Necessary because we must shoot others before they shoot us. Necessary because we are right and, as a matter of survival, those that disagree must be taught a lesson. Or are we getting the government that we deserve?
The easiest route is to not allow our emotions to be confused by facts. Go with the crowd, follow the blind reason of jingoistic logic, otherwise known as “confirmation bias”: accept only those facts that support your beliefs.
Case in point; the Ukraine, beloved ancestral homeland for many of our population. An emerging country now involved in a civil conflict with Russia as it seeks to sever historic republican bonds. Fearsome Russian hordes under the dictatorial leadership of ‘madman’ Putin now threaten the borders of this a pro-democratic state. Must we stand idle in the face of such a threat? Surely we must begin assembly of our atomic arsenal under our alliance with NATO. After all, we are good and Russia is evil.
But hold on a second: Is violence the only answer to violence? Before we allow our emotions to rule our reason, let’s first consider a few historic points;
1. The Ukraine is not and never has been a member of NATO.
2. Consider the historic moment when U.S. president Reagan made the famous declaration; “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down that (Berlin) wall!” And to the great credit of the USSR leadership, the wall came down and with it, the cold war came to an end. What is forgotten is that the agreement was based on the promise that NATO would not take advantage of the wall’s removal by expansion of its alliance, (along with its atomic missiles) in an eastward threat to the very borders of the USSR. Unformalized by written treaty, this ‘casual promise’ is now ‘casually forgotten.’ Strange how we understand the Cuban missile crisis and the NIMBY principles as they apply to us but not to others?
3. While the Ukraine was part of the USSR, Khrushchev, of Ukrainian birth, expanded the boundaries of the Ukraine to facilitate controlled access to the Black Sea, for the mutual benefit of neighbouring republics, and particularly Russia. A hypothetical comparative might be the an agreed alteration of our provincial borders. Say, Canada facilitating annexation of Labrador to Quebec for government convenience for some imaginable and friendly reason. Then Quebec decides to break from Canada and wants to take Labrador with it!
4. Putin is a dictator, he’s cruel but he is not dumb. He enjoys popular support at home because he is a strong man defending Russian honour and pride. Confrontation with NATO because of its disrespect for Russian sovereignty and interference in its internal affairs is an ideal platform for his continual hold on power.
Taking all of the facts into consideration, can we not become involved in a more positive way to work toward ending the conflict rather than inflaming it?
A similar analysis can be made with the Middle East conflicts. We have set up the state of Israel and are pledged to support its continued existence. Does this mean that we must now turn a blind eye to human rights? Are locked in to disregarding the rights and needs of those displaced and subjugated into perpetual refugee status as a consequence? Does this necessarily mean a religious divide with a disrespect or lack of appreciation for those of different beliefs?
“Do unto others as you would do unto you.” A Golden Rule for selective application?
With a true appreciation of historic facts, how can we rush to judgement with the typical good vs. evil paint brush? In any war of ideas which is more powerful—the provision of food or bullets? And what about ‘statesmanship’ and ‘diplomacy’ in working together with conflicted parties to find a better resolution than ‘might makes right’?
Of course there are always the less sane forces of anarchy and destruction. These are the extremist forces based on hatred in defiance of civilized reason. When terror, death and destruction becomes an end in itself, as with ISIS, we are truly then faced with a cancer that calls for a forceful protective response. In terms of our international community brotherhood, these forces of insane extremism are the exception rather than the rule. Anti-civilization terrorists should steel our will against such destructive forces , but should never destroy our faith in our fellow humans and the strength of community . And we should never reinforce their status by using cruelty to fight cruelty. Fairness is strength of character that multiplies by example.
Think about it. Hate and oppression are not reasoned responses. Speak up. If you truly care about a peaceful tomorrow, make your voice heard or remain complicit in silence.
Ian R. Sisett, Kelowna