Democracy is held as the apotheosis of governance, the pinnacle of societal organization that replaced a long succession of failed predecessors (monarchy, oligarchies, dictatorships, etc). Its sine qua non is the peaceful exercise of power and authority. But that peaceful guise is an illusion. Those who submit to the majority’s wishes do so not out of a noble love for democracy, but rather out of fear of its enforcement. Democracy, after you strip away all the slogans and grade-school platitudes, is a proxy for violence.
When a country wages war against another (Russia vs Ukraine) this is democratic enforcement in action. Consider: Russia aggressively occupying Ukraine is no different than a newly elected political regime imposing its intentions upon resistant members of a populace who did not vote for them or who didn’t vote at all (a null vote being a vote against all candidates). Happens all the time. Don’t pay your taxes, sell products that are “illegal”, fail to close your business when ordered to do so – in comes the fully armed SWAT team, guns drawn. Those decrying Russia’s actions in Ukraine would nod approvingly had there been an election in Ukraine and Russia and the losing side just happened to be everyone in Ukraine (not too dissimilar to every US presidential election). Internalized violence against one’s own citizens (no offense Canada) is laudatory under democratic regimes. Externalized violence against another country’s citizens is condemned vociferously. There is no difference other than the existence of imaginary lines.
To be clear, the point here is not to suggest that one country invading another is “ok”. Quite the contrary. Aggression is reprehensible. Just as reprehensible as the mob rule otherwise known as “democracy.” Democracy is the veneer of civility that conceals the sociopath’s instinct to rule (libido dominandi). When the ruled resist, the veneer cracks, and the aggressive nature of the presumptive rulers is revealed.
Should we then, as outsiders, get involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict? Quite simply, “no.” Not because it’s tolerable for bullies to get away with naked aggression, but rather because there is no “we” here. There is no United States. There is no Germany. There is no Canada. Only people. To say that “we” should intervene on behalf of Ukraine is to say that if your neighbor gets involved in a bar fight you should order your children to intercede. This is absurd. If YOU want to help then YOU are free to get on a plane and take up arms in Ukraine. Likewise you are free to welcome Ukrainian refugees into your home. However, you have no moral authority to compel anyone else to engage in these actions. This applies to sanctions as well. Sanctions are not “peaceful”. They are an act of war, and a stupid one at that. They never harm the leaders. They only harm third parties on both sides (to whit: Italy and Belgium are asking that proposed Russian sanctions not include luxury goods as it would harm their respective economies). US sanctions killed a million Iraqi children in the 1990s. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright thought it was “worth it.” Tell me how that is not an act of war (and a hideous one at that)? Sanctions presuppose a paternalistic mindset on the part of a country’s rulers, as though harming citizens is like harming their children. They are not their children. They do not care. Sanctions always miss the mark. They punish the individual who has no power or culpability while those responsible easily work around it with their connections.
So what should be done? A good start would be dismantling NATO. The impending admission of Ukraine into NATO is Putin’s issue. This should not be surprising given the repeated broken promises of Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama to halt the eastward expansion of NATO. Had Soviet leaders promised stop the expansion of the Warsaw Pact in South America but instead allowed it to slowly creep over the decades up through Latin America and today Mexico was poised to join, does anyone honestly believe American leaders would not feel a demilitarization of Mexico was warranted?
NATO is an anachronism that serves no purpose other than to antagonize Russia and increase the odds of pulling the world into WWWIII (given NATO’s WWI-style defense pact wherein an attack on one member is considered an attack on all). Its entire mission is bellicose, in contrast to the UN (of which Russia is a member) whose mandate is one of only peace. Dissolving NATO or at a minimum renouncing any possibility of Ukrainian membership would undermine any pretext Putin has for continuing this current conflict. Or perhaps reconsider what a newly elected Putin suggested back in 2000 – Russia joins NATO. #DefundNATO