Editor’s note: All opinion pieces published in The Clerk represent the views and ideas of the author. To submit an opinion, contact us at email@example.com.
War is atrocious. There is no question about it. The actions of the world’s imperialist military powers in recent days and weeks disturb us, and we cannot remain silent as our government toes a precipice with atrocity and horror. Bi-Co SDS condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s violent escalations have taken innocent lives and infringed upon the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination. We similarly condemn the expansion of NATO and the US military industrial complex, and the disingenuous use of the Ukrainian conflict by American politicians thirsty for war. Intervention, sanctions, and military aid are all disastrous policies that will further harm the Ukrainian and Russian people and destabilize the region. The Ukrainian people deserve to be treated as more than just pawns in a geopolitical chess game, so as American subjects, we oppose American involvement in this conflict.
Foremost in our minds are the Ukrainian people, who are the victims of circumstances beyond their control, but steadfast in their resiliency. The imperialist forces fighting over Ukraine’s future do not have their best interests in mind, and it is their blood being spilt, their homes being burnt, and their lives being wrecked. As the US mobilizes its resources for war with Russia, we encourage everyone supporting interventions to consider the implications of these violent policies.
Sanctions are cruel: they are a weapon targeting the populace of a nation, felt most harshly by the sick, the elderly, children, the disabled, and the poor. Among these are Russians fighting against the war from the heart of the nation itself. Arms being sent to Ukraine will only exacerbate the violence over a longer time frame, having adverse effects on the people of Eastern Europe. For security to return to the region, it is important for the guns to be dropped on all sides and for discussion to recommence. The deployment of the tools of imperialism will never be the solution to conflicts abroad; thus, the American public cannot allow cruel and ineffective policies to be carried out by our government.
We stand in solidarity with the Russians brave enough to stand up to their government and protest the war being carried out in their name. To oppose war is never easy but always necessary. We must extend these same staunch opposition to war in our own country, the prime agent of imperialism and destruction. Within the same week that Russian forces entered Ukraine, America bombed Somalia, Saudi Arabia struck Yemen, and Israel launched attacks on Syria and Palestinians in Gaza. We have seen the catastrophes left behind in places battered by American imperialist war and American weapons. We know that American sanctions and war cripple societies and breed disaster everywhere they go. American imperialism must be combatted on all fronts.
Efforts to aid the Ukrainian people would be directly undermined by calls for further intervention from the US and NATO, bodies whose actions thus far have contributed to the escalation of the conflict. After agreeing in 1990 not to expand “one-inch eastward,” in the words of former US Secretary of State James Baker, NATO has absorbed many Eastern European countries. Russia was even a member state in the military alliance at one point before increased expansion became a point of tension in the mid-2000s. Since then, the question of Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO has heavily shaped Russia-Ukraine relations.
In 2014, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office and replaced in a parliamentary coup by US-backed leaders, Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko. President Poroshenko rallied around a Ukrainian nationalist agenda, ending military cooperation with Russia, and establishing the sole official state language as Ukrainian. The subsequent repression of Russian language and other minority languages, along with the empowerment of neo-Nazi elements of the military, precipitated an armed conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which is inhabited by a significant Russian-speaking minority.
In 2014-15, the countries agreed to a number of de-escalation measures known as the Minsk Agreements. In the time since, the Agreements have been violated by all sides and the war has now been ongoing for eight years in the Donbass region. There has been minimal international attention paid to the crisis or the rise of neo-Nazi elements. NATO powers’ refusal to seriously tend to the conflict or to guarantee Russia’s security (through guarantees that Ukraine would not join NATO or become a nuclear power) have been prime issues leading to the recent intervention.
Central to our concerns are the lives of working people of all nationalities and an end to the armed conflict. SDS supports an immediate ceasefire, adherence to the Minsk Agreements, security guarantees for both Ukraine and Russia, and a reinstatement of Ukrainian laws supportive of all national and ethnic groups within the sovereign borders. The guns need to be put down and discussions need to restart for peace and security to return to the region. To prevent our government from exacerbating this conflict through imperialism and war profiteering, we must oppose American intervention in Ukraine and condemn all forms of violence and war.
No US War on Russia! No NATO Expansion! No Sanctions!
Update: the original authors of the Opinions piece above have requested that the following message be appended.
Last week, BiCo SDS wrote an opinions article about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
titled “BiCo SDS Condemns Imperialist Warmongering” that was deeply insensitive and riddled
with factual inaccuracies. This article caused undo stress for Ukrainian students in the BiCo and
poisoned the dialogue surrounding this event by propagating misinformation. The criticism we
received—rightfully so—for publishing this article under our aegis, prompted much
introspection within the organization, and we feel it is our duty to apologize publicly and own up
to our mistake. We are deeply ashamed that our organization put such a document into the public
discourse, and we apologize unreservedly for the harm that our article caused. BiCo SDS does
not stand by the article which we submitted for publication in our name, and the individual
primarily responsible for its authorship is no longer associated with our organization. We have
nothing but gratitude to all those who brought our mistakes to our attention as we continue to
learn and grow as a group because of them.
In solidarity always,
Oh I know, if we don’t fight Russia they’ll just lay down their arms and stop the war.
And NATO “expansion” is Russian propaganda. NATO is a treaty organization, not an empire. Do your homework before you propagate your irresponsible holier-than-thou attitude toward everything.
Remember a time when the clerk said anonymous opinion pieces weren’t allowed? I guess if I wrote this I would also be too ashamed to put my name down.
There is one nation that is currently invading Ukraine. There is one nation that is acting as an imperialist aggressor. That one nation is not the United States, nor is it the collection of states who have pledged mutual self-defense through the NATO alliance. That one nation is Russia, whose actions seem motivated by Vladimir Putin’s personal obsession with resurrecting the territorial scope of The Russian Empire/The Soviet Union. In order to satiate his perverse desires, thousands of Ukrainians and Russians are dying; war is indeed atrocious. This article, by inappropriately implying there are multiple, rather than singular, “imperialist forces fighting over Ukraine’s future,” provides rhetorical cover for Russia’s single-handed invasion. It bears repeating: there is only one nation invading Ukraine, and that nation is Russia. This is a war between Putin’s soldiers and the Ukrainian resistance. To state anything other than this fact, plainly and without spin, is a disservice to those dying in Ukraine today at Russia’s hands.
To condemn “expansion of NATO and the US military industrial complex, and the disingenuous use of the Ukrainian conflict by American politicians thirsty for war” alongside Russia’s actions paints a false equivalency where there is none. Moreover, it is incredibly ignorant of the facts. What American politicians are pushing for direct military escalation right now? This article lists no names, only offering the vague “US military industrial complex” as responsible for the “warmongering” this article condemns. Any serious person paying a modicum of attention to the developments in Ukraine should be able to easily tell that Western powers, especially the US and NATO, are avoiding war at all costs. Like everyone knows, Ukraine has asked for a no-fly zone to be implemented, facilitated by NATO, to defend itself against Russian attacks. Western powers have rejected such requests, based on the sober logic that imposing and enforcing such a no-fly zone could lead to World War Three. Rather than warmongering, the West is trying to de-escalate the situation, and has been supportive of peace talks. French President Emmanuel Macron has been particularly active in such efforts.
It seems that the intent of the authors is to spin a situation involving Ukraine and Russia into one about the United States and allegations of its sinfulness. Although such a conversation, in a different context, would be wholly welcome and even productive, since the US does indeed have its flaws, it smacks of deflection and what-about-ism in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and provides cover and distraction for Russia’s imperial aggression—right out of the KGB’s old disinformation playbook. This article is a great example of what happens when you go so far left that you’re actually imperialist.
It is telling that emphatic final three requests of this article don’t mention Ukraine or the people suffering there at all. I stake a different position.
No Russian War on Ukraine! No Russian War on Ukraine! No Russian War on Ukraine!
This perspective is badly misinformed, and presents a false equivalence that is wrong on the merits.
The fact of the matter is that the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin’s Russia has invaded the sovereign democratic nation of Ukraine in a violent attempt to overthrow its government and erase its right to statehood. Putin has explicitly stated that he does not believe Ukraine has a right to exist, and his actions have been consistent with this perspective. There is one person responsible for the present suffering in Ukraine: Vladimir Putin. Not America, not NATO, not the West.
You claim that NATO has expanded eastward after pledging not to. What really happened is that after witnessing continued and repeated Russian aggression – be it in Chechnya, Georgia, or Crimea – nations in the former Eastern Bloc BEGGED to join NATO for their own protection, and NATO acquiesced. That you seem to think Russia was part of NATO at one point really makes me question whether you understand these topics enough to be commenting on them.
The democratically elected government of Ukraine is ASKING the West for weapons to assist in resisting imperialist Russia. At every step, Western nations have placed fear of escalation ahead of the cries of Ukraine for military aid. American president Joe Biden has pledged repeatedly not to enact a no-fly zone. Western leaders do not want to escalate this crisis; Putin does, because his regime relies on bluffing about his strength and betting that the West will back down and largely acquiesce to his demands, as we did in Crimea and Syria.
The Russian government has indicated no interest in serious negotiations. Vague calls for ‘diplomacy’ and ‘negotiation’ don’t matter when Russia is actively bombing civilians on the ground; they don’t save lives. What saves lives when dealing with an authoritarian bully like Putin is giving the Ukrainian people the means to defend themselves. What Ukraine needs are missiles to shoot down Russian planes, air-defense systems to shoot Russian missiles out of the sky, and jets to bomb Russian generals and military installations. Naively trusting a Russia that has repeatedly proven its insincerity only serves to empower Russian warmongering and imperialism.
Ukraine is not a NATO country. They only wanted to align further with the West after Russia’s continuous encroaching on their territory, culminating in the seizure of Crimea in 2014. Russian aggression toward Georgia in 2008 preceded this action. Ukraine wanted to be independent of the West while also more independent from their once mother country of Russia–yet geopolitical developments, like the Russian annexation of Georgia and Crimea, have pushed many Eastern Europeans to the brink. Ukraine ASKED to join NATO–and NATO has refused, precisely to avoid armed conflict in Ukraine. Yet Putin pressed on, and this kind of blatant support for a Russian takeover of Ukraine supports it; simply saying that you prefer peace, implying that Ukraine should just give up, is indeed support of Putin’s aims. The people of Ukraine deserve to choose how they are governed. To think that the Russian invasion is somehow the fault of the US is so irresponsibly perverse that it borders on Russian propaganda. Going to war with Russia is obviously something that few, including myself, desire. But to imply in this article that Ukraine should simply surrender is abominable.
I do not understand the premise of this article. It begins by condemning all “imperialist military powers” (what does that mean) and claiming that our government “toes a precipice.” This statement has no basis in reality: Russia has been waging all-out war in Ukraine for almost a month, while the Biden administration has explicitly said that U.S. military intervention would cause World War III and is thus off the table; the rest of NATO has followed suit. The criticism of NATO in general is also convoluted: Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, annexed Crimea in 2014, and invaded Ukraine this year without any NATO country attacking them. NATO thus does not threaten Russia’s “security” but rather their ability to force Ukraine to stay within its sphere of influence, in this case by brutally invading. The framing of the “coup” against Yanukovych is a great demonstration of how weak this theory of the case is: Yanukovych was aligned with Russia and also incredibly corrupt, amassing billions of dollars for himself, and was ousted by popular protest. If that’s what Russia wants for Ukraine, Ukraine is not going to get along with Russia. I can’t help but note the irony of SDS, which uses the name of an organization which dissolved in the 1970s, presenting this conflict as another example of America meddling in foreign affairs, as if Ukraine were Chile or Iran. Not everything is about us, and reflexive anti-Americanness is a bad frame of analysis.
“For security to return to the region, it is important for the guns to be dropped on all sides and for discussion to recommence” —
goofy ahh article
I couldn’t understand most of this article, but if I could I bet I would have liked it!
Anyways, happy world frog day everyone! Make sure to go out and kiss a frog and they might become a prince for you!
l + ratio
This article’s claim that it was the repression of the Russian language which led to the insurgency in Donbas is an inaccurate representation of the situation. The conflict started almost immediately after the 2014 Euromaidan protests (which were NOT merely a parliamentary coup) as a Russian attempt to destabilize Ukraine after it left their immediate orbit. To frame it as an oppressed minority trying to assert their rights is simply untrue, and feeds into the narrative Putin has created to defend his entire invasion. Also, the claim that the West should not give Ukraine any weapons because it will only prolong the conflict is quite disturbing. What is left unsaid here, yet the authors clearly acknowledge, is that the conflict would be longer because the Ukrainian people would have the proper equipment to defend themselves against Russian aggression. SDS’s policy proposals of not giving the Ukrainian government weapons and ending sanctions against Russia would essentially take away any pressure on Putin to end this unjustified invasion and its war crimes. I’m quite disturbed that this is a Haverford club’s response to such a blatant violation of human rights by Russia.
Like a commenter above, I also note the fact that the Clerk allowed for this article to be published anonymously, a courtesy they only seem to extend to some on campus.
Good point. The Clerk refused to publish the open letter from Students for Trust, Concern, and Respect last fall due the preferred format of signing under an organization/affiliation. Instead, that letter had to be published in The Bi-College News. Some could view such inconsistencies of when The Clerk will and won’t allow articles to be published by a group rather than by name as evidence of viewpoint discrimination
The Russians are putting the Ukranians into reduced echelon form; this is clearly reprehensible. However, it is baseless to claim that the kernel of the United States is warmongering and actively pushing for a linearly dependent Ukraine. The problem here is with the inconsistent matrix of Russia, not the consistent matrix of the United States — claiming otherwise undermines the invertibility of the situation.
This article is just begging to get destroyed by facts and logic
Baghdad Bob would be impressed by your ability to propagandize for ruthless dictators.
Remember when the Clerk said during the strike that they wouldn’t post anonymous pieces to their site? I do, good times.
It’s amazing the length this school and its institutions (ala the Clerk) will go to empower tankie extreme leftist clowns at the expense of reasonable people. When people had legitimate criticisms of the strike and wanted to publish anonymous pieces to avoid being canceled by the student body, the Clerk said no.
It’s frankly unbelievable that people at Haverford College are going to bat for a ruthless dictator by spreading his propaganda. The Clerk needs to do better or, at least, be consistent in their principles. Being better might be too much to ask.
Students for a Democratic Society is an actual group on campus… they advertise open meetings on their insta, students leaders and member are listed on Engage–nobody’s hiding behind anonymity
I would like to begin by offering my two cents on what’s known at Haverford the “Discourse on Discourse:”
1. When a group of students writes an op-ed with which you disagree, you can disagree with their ideas and contest boldly within the public sphere. You and I don’t need to resort to the worst forms of uncharity and overreaction. Those of us who are critical of campus monocultures should know better not to get swept up in tribal narratives: Distinguishing between propaganda and the earnest articulation of a worldview with which you disagree is *already* a difficult task. And waving one’s flag can easily become an immediate conservation-stopper.
2. We are getting a real-world lesson in the value of understanding the rationality of those you judge is wrong, and understanding the sense of pride of those you judge is vicious. Relatedly, we may recognize our limited ability to examine the media environment we inhabit, & understand its shaping effect on human behavior. It’s an effect of an internet-based media ecology where ‘the private’ consists of a window of ever-shrinking physical space and ‘the public’ is digitally mediated and concentrated through tiny screens. It’s also an effect that generates addiction to feelings of righteousness and narcissistic validation. Given the quality of some of the comments here, I say that our political discourse is becoming more superficial as we move inwards and towards the sphere of establishment and corporate influence.
3. It’s still the case, unless we are on the ground (or have a trusted primary source who is), that we have very little ability to distinguish truth from fiction re. the *current* situation in Ukraine, which, like all combat zones, is in flux and is radiating propaganda and lies (e.g. a hegemonic nationalistic distortion of history gets its rebuttal by distortion of a different kind). The outlines of the conflict may be clearer than they were weeks ago. But what is happening is not something we can know. We are navigating through the fogs of war.
4. I hope we all can pray for peace in Ukraine and an end to hostilities. Neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian working class (note: It’s worth looking into the issue of wheat shortage in Africa) deserve to suffer the decisions of their governments. Do not embrace hatred. Keep kindness and mercy in your heart.
I. On Economic sanctions, De-escalations, and the questions of who pays the price
It’s incredible how many people don’t understand how close to a big war we are and are willing to further internationalize a conflict they cannot control. If we had kept this regional, we might have helped Ukraine chew up Russian forces and force a retreat without escalation. Hence calls for tempering escalations—and not only for Ukraine’s sake—especially after the worrying amount of people calling for a no-fly zone: 1. (https://twitter.com/DrRadchenko/status/1498894376356962306) 2. (https://twitter.com/rcbregman/status/1498673316315467795).
The mainstream discourse around sanctions is revealing: suffering inflicted on the Russian people is not treated as regrettable but unavoidable. There‘s little discussion about how we might mitigate that suffering. What’s implied is that the Russians—perhaps all Russians—deserve what they’re getting. Relatedly, one may argue that this level of collective punishment is a consequence of a development that has accompanied the collapse of the liberal concept of the sovereign individual.
Many talk about arming an insurgency against Russian forces to bleed Moscow into suing for peace. But too few talk about the costs associated with this option, including a Russian military escalation that leads to even steeper civilian casualties.
And independently of where you stand, how long do you think the geopolitical and economic effects of the present war will be felt? Are you expecting months, years, or decades of inflation, recession, high prices, and instability? An essay by Nicholas Mulder: (https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2022/03/04/nicholas-mulder-who-studies-sanctions-declares-a-watershed-moment-in-global-economic-history)
II. Experts’ views on the perils of NATO expansion (Thread: https://twitter.com/RnaudBertrand/status/1498491107902062592)
“Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path.” The list of such eerily accurate predictions is long and expanding: George Kennan, Henry Kissinger, John Mearsheimer, Noam Chomsky, Stephen F. Cohen, Vladimir Pozner, Jeffrey Sachs, former US ambassador to the USSR, Clinton’s defense secretary, former UN deputy secretary-general …
A 2019 RAND study noted that if the US increases military support for Ukraine, “Russia might respond by mounting a new offensive and seizing more Ukrainian territory.” In the years since Trump and then Biden increase US weapons to Ukraine. Now Russia has invaded. (https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR3000/RR3063/RAND_RR3063.pdf)
III. On interventionism in Ukraine and the endless “War on Terror”
To be clear, NATO’s refusal to go to war with Russia and risk a nuclear conflagration is strategically sound. And a general opposition to Putin’s invasion is to be applauded. But we shall see, as the following piece shows, those wrongheaded FP efforts in blocking diplomacy with Russia and cementing support for US liberal hegemonic projects where Russia is a deterrent: (https://unlimitedhangout.com/2022/03/investigative-reports/ukraine-and-the-new-al-qaeda/, by Whitney A. Webb).
More readings: 1. “Ending the war in Ukraine requires acknowledging that it did not start last month. Since 2014, 14,000+ people, mostly on the rebel-held side, have died in a proxy war triggered by a US-backed coup, fueled with US weapons, & prolonged by thwarted diplomacy.” (via Aaron Maté, https://mate.substack.com/p/by-using-ukraine-to-fight-russia?s=w) 2. “Waltzing to Armageddon” by Chris Hedges on the rebirth of the Cold War and the doom it portends for humanity (https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/chris-hedges-waltzing-armageddon)
IV. On the US goal with NATO and EU’s strategic independence
A good guess is that the US goal with NATO will not be to make Europe strong and independent so it can focus on containing China. It will instead seek stronger controls on trade, energy, finance, etc; severely curtailing Europe’s ability to pursue policies at odds with US interests. The massive German increase in military spending is a very significant blow to the future of NATO. If strong nation-states such as Germany start to fund their own militaries then the logic of NATO appears to dissipate.
V. Bonus content:
1. A glimpse of the history behind Russia’s indiscriminate and inhumane invasion of Ukraine (https://jacobinmag.com/2022/03/doug-henwood-anatol-lieven-ukraine-russia-putin-sanctions-nuclear-war-history)
2. Putin’s inner circle (https://www.ft.com/content/503fb110-f91e-4bed-b6dc-0d09582dd007?shareType=nongift)
3. “Fog of War,” (https://newleftreview.org/sidecar/posts/fog-of-war), courtesy of the part of the intellectual Left which still provides unsentimental coverage of world events and geopolitical realities which flouts consensus
4. A Twitter thread on the template “[fact about the world] is a [bad person] talking point” (https://twitter.com/ClickingSeason/status/1500458456649814021)
5. Financial analysts at Citi argue that sustainable investment portfolios should include weapons companies. Climate action and social progress will require strong militaries, they say, capable of “defending the values of liberal democracies.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/04/business/military-stocks-russia-ukraine.html?referringSource=articleShare)
6. A somewhat impassioned deep-dive well worthy of your time on the rampant parasitic spread of bureaucratic mandates through which to drive through new waves of coercion and austerity. (https://twitter.com/alexandrosM/status/1503714520287498244)
Calling the war in the Donbas a “a proxy war triggered by a US-backed coup” is a great example of why no one take articles like this seriously. This isn’t the Cold War, it’s a Russia vs. Ukraine conflict, with Russia backing separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. Is the idea that it’s okay for them to invade Ukraine since they kind of already did multiple times already? Is any war involving a country with which the U.S. is friendly–not even allied–now a proxy war? Call Euromaidan a U.S.-backed coup all you want, but you can’t around the fact that the majority of Ukraine wanted to align with Europe, the Parliament approved it, and then the super-corrupt president rejected it and subsequently tried to crush protests. Criticizing sanctions is fair game but let’s be clear, saying that Russia should face no economic consequences and Ukraine should receive no military aid is saying that we should let Russia win this war. It’s also a little disingenuous to make fun of other people for getting caught up in “tribal narratives” and “propaganda” then turn around and cite Aaron Maté and ZeroHedge for the purpose of claiming that the U.S., or NATO (or who exactly?) is teetering on the edge of military intervention even though Biden has explicitly ruled it out.
For some technical reason, the site on which Chris Hedges posted his “Waltzing to Armageddon” went down at the time of my writing. ZeroHedge is one of the handfuls who reposted Hedges’ compact piece of work on Twitter. If you find him or Maté untrustworthy, that’s fine with me — These days, my parasociality only extends towards the working class across borders (whose incomes are spent mostly on food and energy, and whose personal savings are insufficient to absorb income squeeze).
I leave you with a link to a coherent neoconservative plea for “what needs to be done” in which the author recognizes the description “proxy war” as apt, AND YET offers a thoroughgoing explanation that is nowhere close to an apologia for Putin. Courtesy of Eliot A. Cohen, PhD. (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/03/ukraine-united-states-nato/627052/)
And, then, a 2019 CSIS post directly relevant to the question of whether or not that which is to be named is a proxy war (to note, the Wiki definition of the term is clarifying as well): (https://www.csis.org/analysis/not-contributing-enough-summary-european-military-and-development-assistance-ukraine-2014)
Plus a piece, albeit tangentially related to that which we are discussing, published in March 2014 by Foreign Policy wherein the analysts recognize both Putin’s aggression in Crimea and the partial complicity of the West in enabling the rise of ultra-nationalism. (https://archive.ph/lFRVs#selection-8505.0-8507.1)
“Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path.”
Wow these thinkers must have been really smart to realize that a country that invaded Georgia already, invaded Ukrainian Crimea already, and actively supported insurgents in areas of Ukraine would consider invading Ukraine. That was really hard to see and I’m impressed so many people got it right.
Also the implied part of the NATO expansion being bad here is that you feel Ukraine should just shut the fuck up and do what Russia says. It’s there fault for making Russia mad by being tied with the west and it’s the west’s fault for letting the Ukrainian people make decisions for themselves without consulting Russia. Good to see victim blaming is alive and well
So much of our political discourse is about subtext, tone, etiquette, or procedure. I am open to engaging with arguments and fact patterns, not meta-matters of vibe or ambience via a kind of moralized consumer advocacy (expressed through assertions of emotional exertion and social necessity).
I am sorry that you took my original post that way.
Dear Concerned Student, HC ’22,
The reason for commenting here was that your point does not make sense. You claim that “The list of such eerily accurate predictions is long and expanding” but again, these predictions are not impressive. Again, this is a country that has already invaded Georgia and parts of Ukraine before. It is hardly an impressive “prediction” that they would invade more of Ukraine.
When someone so clearly engages in a logical fallacy (post hoc, ergo Procter hoc), there is no reasonable way to respond other than pointing out the stupidity. If your argument made sense, I wouldn’t call it out! It seems you are trying to ignore others arguments by taking some moral high ground that does not exist. At the end of the day, this is more harmful to a discussion than anything I said.
**An imperfect but select timeline**
1996. William Perry, Prez. Clinton’s defense sec., expressed opposition to NATO expansion, according to Perry’s 2015 memoir
1997. Matlock Jr. spoke
1998. George Kennan spoke
Aug 1, 2008 — Aug 8, 2008. Russo-Georgian War
2008. (specific date unknown) Current CIA director Bill Burns wrote to Sec. Rice, according to his 2019 memoir
May 2010. Stephen F. Cohen’s talk at the Carnegie Council (https://youtu.be/mciLyG9iexE; and I can’t confirm but suspect that his views on Ukraine were formed after years of research)
Feb 20, 2014 — Ongoing. Russo-Ukrainian War
Apr, 2014. Cohen spoke again, this time on Democracy Now!
Sept 2015. Mearsheimer’s lecture at U Chicago
Oct 2018. Pozner spoke at Yale urging rapid negotiated settlements
I take your criticism that the word “prediction” was carelessly chosen. Clearly, as the timeline shows, not all of those voices are qualified to be called “predictions.” Some are qualified as “predictions,” and among them, only a small set of such predictions, especially those nontrivial ones made in the 90s, can be taken as “eerily accurate.”
Now, let’s delve into my logical fallacy.
A: US policies re. NATO expansion
B: Russia invades Ukraine
C: A causes B
The claim as stated by @RnaudBertrand, or the claim I take for granted: People who believed C predicted B, therefore C.
Your verdict: Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
The claim in which you think I committed a fallacy: B follows A chronologically; therefore, C.
Your reasoning: “People who believe C predicted B, therefore C” depends on “B follows A chronologically; therefore, C” to be true.
My thoughts (assuming my breakdown of your criticism is fair):
1. That “B follows A chronologically” is trivial in the sense that for “C: A causes B” to have sufficient explanatory power, one needs to find strong evidential support for why “C: A causes B” is plausible.
2. One way to effectively undermine C is give a coherent argument for how a Post-Soviet autocratic and militant Russia will act aggressively towards its neighboring states REGARDLESS of NATO expansion. If you have one, I would love to learn about it and we can discuss it.
3. A somewhat separate thing: think about how scientific theories are built. You can have lots of possible theories. No one experiment can eliminate all competing theories, and any experiment could get a spurious result due to statistics or some mistake by the experimenter. Relevant to our discussion is that we should pay attention to how we collect sources in our hyper digitally mediated experience, how we are tempted to cherry-pick those in favor of our oft-uncontested beliefs, etc.
4. One fallacy of mine you forgot to call out is argumentum ab auctoritate. I hope we all can learn from my mistake here as we navigate this world with or without the help of officially sanctioned narratives.
5. Mearsheimer’s much debated lecture (2015) is a curious one partly because he rejects the mainstream conceptual and rhetorical framework of imperialism in favor of an application of his own “great-power politics.” The lecture is controversial also because he maintains that the 2014 annexation of Crimea was *the* wakeup call for analysts and policymakers. This is consistent with the message from his recent interview with The New Yorker. “Up until 2014, we did not envision NATO expansion and E.U. expansion as a policy that was aimed at containing Russia … Nobody seriously thought that Russia was a threat before February 22, 2014.” (https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/why-john-mearsheimer-blames-the-us-for-the-crisis-in-ukraine)
6. Eileen, your follow-up post points to a good twofold question for Mearsheimer to which *I* have no answer: A. “How did the technocrats interested in international relations dismiss the obvious threats from a **pseudo-democratic, resolutely militant** Russia before 2008, or anytime in between 2008 and 2014?” And B. “Have you, John Joseph Mearsheimer, ever seriously considered, say, Matlock Jr.’s and Kennan’s views on NATO expansion which went public around 2000?” In all seriousness, I encourage you to write to firstname.lastname@example.org for a clarification.
7. The function of your claim “It seems you are trying to ignore others arguments by taking some moral high ground that does not exist” is unclear to me. It reads like a textbook example of non sequitur.
Your assertion that Mearsheimer saw this coming is inaccurate. On the contrary, he was very vocal about his belief that Russia would never invade Ukraine because Putin was “too smart for that.” Furthermore, I think many tenets of his argument were contingent on that belief, which is why he was so insistent on it. Mearsheimer’s credibility went completely out the window when this war began as far as I’m concerned.
Russia and Ukraine supply 25% of the world’s wheat exports. Bangladesh, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia are heavily dependent on these wheat exports and have impoverished populations who will be harmed by higher wheat prices. The war disrupting Ukraine’s crop planting and sanctions disrupting Russian exports will cause massive harm to those who can least afford it unless we take action to address it.
Dear Bi-Co SDS,
thank you for your opinion. I certainly wish you never thought to publish it or at least that you researched the facts you’re writing about more thoroughly than just through Russian state propaganda & wrote this opinion piece through significantly more critical lenses & actually discussed your claims pertaining to the Euromaidan protests, the war in Donbas and NATO’s “absorption” of Eastern European countries with people from Ukraine & the region (there are plenty of us at Bi-Co), who would very quickly correct your narrative. Since you made no such effort, let me point a couple of untruths & misinterpretations present in your article.
(1) NATO did not “absorb” Eastern European countries – former Eastern bloc countries *wanted* to become part of NATO & lobbied for it extensively. See for example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1996/10/22/eastern-european-countries-lobby-for-seat-at-the-nato-table/c2397abe-5d0b-4544-909a-76e5da434cd6/. Furthermore, majority of the population in all EE countries support their NATO membership (see https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/02/09/nato-seen-favorably-across-member-states/ from 2020, support is significantly higher since the start of the war). This opinion piece employs extremely patronizing viewpoint of US “expansion” in EE, which is totally incorrect.
(2) Russia was never a member of NATO. NATO and Russia signed a couple of very standard agreements for peace during the 1990s, but that’s it. See for example https://www.dw.com/en/nato-why-russia-has-a-problem-with-its-eastward-expansion/a-60891681.
(3) The 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests were NOT a US-backed coup but a popular protest by the Ukrainian people sparked by Yanukovych’s (who was Russia backed) decision to not sign EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. During the protests, significant violence was inflicted on the protesters from the side of the government forces, including physical assault & shooting of the protesters & kidnappings. See for example https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/understanding-ukraines-euromaidan-protests. It’s a disgrace that this article misinterprets such a defining moment in the modern Ukrainian history as US-backed & insinuates that people who died at the protests for their beliefs and values died for nothing.
(4) There is no evidence whatsoever that there ever was any repression of Russian speakers in Ukraine, but rather the opposite during the Soviet Union times. See for example https://web.archive.org/web/20210905170143/https:/carnegieendowment.org/2014/07/28/crying-genocide-use-and-abuse-of-political-rhetoric-in-russia-and-ukraine-pub-56265. Not to mention that it has absolutely nothing to do with the war in Donbas, which was started by Putin, who also illegally annexed Crimea, which if a fact & an act of aggression towards Ukraine that your article cleverly omits. See for example https://www.dw.com/en/fact-check-russia-falsely-blames-ukraine-for-starting-war/a-60999948.
(5) Whereas it is true that the Azov battalion has Neo-Nazi ideology (and is extremely problematic), it is ridiculous to handpick on it & claim that their existence was another reason for the war in Donbas. Especially considering the fact far-right movements in Ukraine are hardly on “rise” as this article claims. Quite the opposite actually, Ukraine is one of the few countries in Europe with no “extremist” parties in their parliament & visible in politics. See https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-the-far-right-just-got-humiliated-in-ukraine-s-election-but-don-t-write-it-off-1.7563138.
(6) The notion that NATO should guarantee Russia’s security by guaranteeing that Ukraine won’t join the alliance is absolutely ridiculous. Ukraine is a sovereign country that conducts its own foreign & security policy & can ally with whoever it wants, irrespective of what another country thinks about it. Additionally, there is no evidence whatsoever that NATO is a threat to Russia.
(7) The reason why Ukraine is not a nuclear power (again cleverly omitted in the article) is that in 1994, it gave up its nuclear weapons it inherited from USSR in exchange for security guarantees by Russia, the UK and the US. These security guarantees were broken in 2014 (twice) and now again, on a much more massive scale. See https://treaties.un.org/Pages/showDetails.aspx?objid=0800000280401fbb.
(8) If Ukraine puts down weapons, there will be no Ukraine. If Russia puts down weapons, there will be no war. The context of “putting down guns” is extremely different for both sides and it is disgraceful that the authors of this article don’t acknowledge that, especially given your claim of being “anti-imperialist”, yet sprouting solely imperialist nonsense in your opinion.
I sincerely hope members of Bi-Co SDS think about what you wrote & believe and consider engaging with this issue & your viewpoint of the world more critically. Good luck, you will need it.
and apologies, John Doe, the comment was supposed to be posted as a separate comment, not a reply.
No harm done, thanks for clarifying.
Glad to see we have an America First movement on campus.
Many of the comments on here are extremely thoughtful and well-put. Placing yourself above the fray by claiming that others are under “corporate interest” is a self-serving way to delegitimize the productive discourse under this post in order to add superficial moral weight to your opinion. It’s frankly a cop-out from engaging in good faith with the others on this site who want to have a real discussion on this issue.
If you truly want an “end to hostilities,” as you say, you should join us in calling for Russia to end its war on Ukraine. Surely, if you saw a child on the playground getting beaten up by another child, you would not ask the child being beaten to give in. You would try to pull the bully off of the victim’s back. Instead, you continue this mess of distraction–promoted by the original SDS piece–by pointing toward how hurt the Russian people are by this war. You are saying that Ukraine should surrender so that the Russian people can be free from sanctions. I could not think of a more perverted interpretation of an unprovoked attack on a peaceful, democratic nation.
Lastly, by claiming that “what is happening is not something we can know,” seems at odds with the many links and websites you believe support whatever obscure point you are trying to make about US hegemony in Ukraine. To an extent, this implies that we can know what is happening–you just distrust traditional news authorities and instead defer to random news sites, Twitter accounts, and Russian state media. It seems like you basically said: “nobody else knows what they are talking about–except for me. “So, if you feel proud standing up against US hegemony, or however you are trying to portray the Russian war on Ukraine, you are entitled to that. If you really think we are all awash in some sort of special interest and are incapable of analyzing foreign affairs on our own, then fine, think down on the general community. But if you want to actually engage in good faith discourse with everyone else in this comment section, you should stop acting like you have all the answers amidst a sea of “establishment and corporate interest.”
To The Clerk, please be consistent with your policy of allowing anonymous posts. Your bias is showing
I agree with this article, if only more Westerners understood the importance of staying out of affairs that don’t concern them.
Ah, if only it had been Students for a Democratic Society that had led the 1938 Munich negotiations, we’d truly have peace in our time
Please learn to delineate between an opinion that is different from yours and propaganda. Most of this comment section is disingenuous and written in bad faith, not actually in the interest of discourse.
When an article has such a high level of factual inaccuracy and clear lack of research (not to mention its use of the same exaggerated/fictitious points that the Kremlin uses to justify invading Ukraine), it is 1) definitely propaganda and 2) no longer necessary to fully respect the interest of discourse. An argument made without respect for peers or even the basic facts of the situation does not warrant respect in return, because it was clearly never present in the first place.
In other words: play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Please learn to delineate between something being “disingenuous and written in bad faith” and valid comments that you just disagree with. I hardly think it is fair to say Will, Jacob, Amos, Scott, and “Student for Ukraine” are all writing thoughtful comments. If they use language you disagree with, that does not give you the write to just write them off as in bad faith. If anything, that makes yours “disingenuous and written in bad faith”. Obviously some of the comments are what you say, but again this is completely unfair.
People in the comments have already done a pretty good job of responding to the BS in this article, so I’ll just add what I noticed.
This section: “Within the same week that Russian forces entered Ukraine, America bombed Somalia” is completely disingenuous. The two situations are not remotely similar. America is not trying to invade Somalia’s territory and kill civilians, in fact it is specifically responding to requests from the Somali government. Obviously there is a huge difference between these things, but you would never know if you accepted the authors framing as fact.
“Oh, would someone think of the poor, helpless authoritarian states!”
Terrible take. This reads like a propaganda piece. The “imperialist” actor in this war is the Russian government, not the countries *trying to stop the violence*. So-called “Students for a Democratic Society” should think about what countries actually support “democracy,” because Russia isn’t one of them. Putin is an authoritarian with genocidal imperialist ambitions. Perspectives like this only going to encourage him and dictators like him to invade more countries, murder more civilians, and destroy more democracies.
Democratic government is under threat in the modern world. This is not helping. If you’re going to write this kind of nonsense, at least have the courage to put your name on it: I can assure you that your freedom of speech would not be respected if you lived in Russia.
I’ve got a lot thoughts on this. I’m glad so many others in the comments have similarly voiced their disagreement with the authors.
1. The title is painful to read. It does a good job at letting informed readers know that Bi-Co SDS will not be taking a true stance on the war. For a group that chanted “Silence is Violence” to fight apathy towards anti-black racism a little more than a year ago, this article is a shameful retreat of that “necessary involvement” tenant. This lack of a stance furthered by no one individual signing their name to the statement.
2. By making a simplistic argument of “war is bad,” Bi-Co SDS is acting as if they are morally superior because they stand above the fray, outside of the conflict. This war was brought upon an innocent nation and innocent population in Ukraine. They turned to NATO for help because it is the only force in the world that can! Ukraine is not in the extremely privileged position where they can sit around and speculate about who is at fault and what might’ve gone wrong. They need help.
3. It is then extremely hypocritical to say “in our minds are the Ukrainian people, who are the victims of circumstances beyond their control, but steadfast in their resiliency” and then how could you be against Russian sanctions? The sanctions are meant to turn the population away from war. The Russian population knows this. SDS, the US government wants Russians to oppose war with the same vigor that you do.
4. SDS, if you are truly in favor of a democratic society, why not let the people/the masses of sovereign states determine which alliances they want to be part of. Popular support for joining NATO has skyrocketed in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Bosnia. Why should the peoples of these countries be denied their will? Because it might offend Putin?
5. Similarly, it seems strange to be repeating a talking point about James Baker as a criticism of NATO, when the Russians have more tangibly and more egregiously broken agreements made from the same era. In 1990, Ukraine handed five thousand nuclear warheads over to Russia with the promise that Russia would respect the nation’s sovereignty. This promise lasted 24 years until the invasion of Crimea broke it in 2014.
6. Poroshenko was a flawed leader, but he was one that believed in Ukraine. He is currently on the ground fighting the Russians now. He peacefully transitioned his power over to a member of a new oppositional party: Zelenskyy. The only former Ukrainian president to flee to Russia is the one you, SDS, seem to support: Yanukovych.
7. To give credence to the idea that “Neo-Nazis elements of the Ukraine military” were somehow serious problems is to play right into Putin’s hands. The Ukrainian is currently rallying behind a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister, while the Russian military bombed the sacred memorial of Babi Yar.
8. This article reads eerily similar to something that noted Stalinist Grover Furr wrote on social media following the initial invasion “It is a serious misreading of international politics to blame Russia without, in the same breath, blaming Ukraine and — and especially — the US, for this situation. As the dominant power in NATO, the US and its policy have made this war inevitable. Indeed, the war serves US ruling class interests so well that US rulers may well have desired this outcome. Under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the Russian rulers were basically compliant with NATO and US wishes. But the US and NATO have pushed Russia. again and again, broken the promise not to expand NATO, expanded NATO to Russia’s doorstep in the Baltics and Poland, and tried to get Ukraine into NATO. All Russian actions during the past 8 years can be traced to US-NATO aggressiveness towards Russia.” SDS, you have moved beyond socialism into the dangerous territory of Stalinism.
9. To Bi-Co SDS and the authors of this piece, there are Ukrainians all around us. Ukrainians go to our school. Ukrainians live in Haverford. There is a large Ukrainian community in Philadelphia. Please consider the impact that a public statement like this has on them. Would you read this article aloud to a Ukrainian?
I believe this take is not only extremely wrong, but also propagates ideas that are inherently anti-democratic and imperialistic in nature.
I am a Korean. Similar to the Ukranians, South Korea, as a democratic nation, has constantly faced security threats at their border by an authoritarian state. North Korea has been an ever-present threat to the daily lives of South Koreans. The DPRK has encroached into South Korean territory on many occasions (such as the numerous border tunnels, the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, and more.) We are under constant threat of North Korean attack. Even disregarding the nuclear capabilities of the DPRK, they have batteries of artillery capable of attacking Seoul, a city of 26 million, with devastating effects.
However, hardly anyone who actually lives in South Korea bats a single eye at Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threats. Hardly anyone cares about the fact that Seoul could be leveled at the blink of an eye. The reason? American intervention. The US Military has multiple garrisons in Korea which are ready for any threat of attack from the DPRK and other enemies. More importantly though, South Korea has a mutual defense agreement with the United States, similar to NATO. In the event that South Korea is attacked, we know that the Americans will come to assist us.
As I mentioned earlier, similar to Korea, Ukraine has had many border incursions at the hands of the Russians. In 1922 Ukraine was absorbed into the Soviet Union forcibly. In 2014 Crimea was annexed by Russia. Finally, we are seeing the Russians wage total war on Ukraine today. It is reasonable for the Ukrainians to pursue NATO for security.
This is where my first problem with the article begins. Ukraine is VOLUNTARILY pursuing membership of NATO. NATO is not coercing the Ukranians to join them. NATO is not even asking for the Ukranians to join them. After seeing what happened to the Finns, Georgians, Moldovans and the Chechens, Ukraine does not want to be next. Most of the former Warsaw Pact countries, for that matter, don’t want to be next. Claiming that NATO is absorbing countries is just incorrect.
Next, Sanctions. I agree with your point that sanctions are generally more harmful to the marginalized. However, these sanctions are particularly aimed towards the rich and powerful that are contributing to the Russian war machine. The people are not being targeted. The assets of Russian oligarchs have been frozen, export of military technology has been stopped, among many other sanctions. None of these directly target the Russian people. Sanctions are also the only way to intervene without risking World War 3. There are no other measures to disincentivize the Russian invasion without diplomacy (which Russia has effectively spat on) or putting boots on the ground.
Finally, the US and the rest of NATO is doing their best to NOT actively put boots on the ground and start another World War. The US and NATO governments have limited their activities to just sanctions and export of military equipment. Ukraine has called on the US and NATO to enact a no-fly zone, but their request was denied. Why? Because NATO and the US didn’t want to further provoke the Russians.
Please stop spreading misinformation and re-disseminating Kremlin propaganda. The Russians are the imperialist power, not the NATO powers.
Either you just fully support imperialism, but even giving the benefit of the doubt this is just extreme American exceptionalist. Bad things can also be done by other countries, you know, and the attacked people should be supported, not the attackers.
This is so embarrassing… SDS you gotta fact fact check your articles instead of quoting propaganda.
It seems that my post has attracted some pretty vituperative comments here in the same way as anyone advocating NATO restraint in Europe is smeared as a Putin apologist. For example, consider a recent post via the Crisis Group which argues for rapid negotiated settlements (https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/eastern-europe/ukraine/avoiding-even-worse-catastrophe-ukraine).
Few things to clarify:
1. “… Given the quality of some of the comments here, I say that our political discourse is becoming more superficial as we move inwards and towards the sphere of establishment and corporate influence.” (from my original post)
By “we,” I meant to say that you and I are just as susceptible to groupthink, information shortcuts, or whatnot in our algorithm-controlled, hyper-curated online experiences. And when these factors affect our thinking (our understanding of how one’s frenemy or “enemy” thinks, say), we make mistakes, thus possibly hurting the very people we think we are helping. I suggest we learn to cultivate an emotional discipline, and strive to be sober, lucid, and conscientious.
2. “*Many* of the comments on here are *extremely* thoughtful and well-put…But if *you* want to actually engage in good faith discourse *with everyone else* in this comment section…”
Still examining the accuracy of the claim above, I say that I will leave the final say to the earnest readers of the Clerk.
3. “You just distrust traditional news authorities and instead defer to *random* news sites, Twitter accounts, and *Russian state media*.”
Whitney Webb and Aaron Maté are understandably controversial. But please carefully provide your reasoning for those observations. “Russian state media” is a lazy way of exonerating oneself from the hard work of understanding another person’s point of view. It may be a last resort after patient examination, not the go-to reaction to something objectionable, or a product of disordered will.
I’d like to add two more points. First, skepticism or to raise questions is a function not of any political ideology but rather of the intellect; defense of humanities as thinking beings is not primarily ideological.
Second, I want to bring your attention to an internally incoherent pattern in this fact-checkers’ mentality. It seems to me that the officially sanctioned narratives BOTH assume the mantle of journalistic objectivity (against misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information, etc.) AND adopt strident moral clarity which is oftentimes in conflict with the former.
There seem to be some benefits in this incoherence. For one thing, it often forces more weakly positioned opponents into their apparent contradictions (in which they must defend the value of objectivity and their version of moral clarity), all the whole claiming no one has the monopoly on truth. What brings it together is an attempt to snooker opponents such that their claims are either objectively false or morally reprehensible, or both, all grounds for a priori disqualification. Hence, I join the likes of Michael Sandel in sharing a concern for democracy and for the search of the *common* good: Using institutional power to demote enemies to a status of epistemological and moral objection weakens the rationale for them to see any value in the preservation of the system from which they feel they are excluded.
4. “by (sic) claiming that ‘what is happening is not something we can know,’ seems at odds with the many links and websites you believe support whatever obscure point you are trying to make about US hegemony in Ukraine.”
The last charge is baffling primarily because a few sentences prior, I highlighted the word “current” with two asterisks. The point I made there is about the news coming out of ongoing war zones (And I hope I made it clear my opposition to the mass killing of innocents, etc.), about the myriad hypotheses about Putin’s motives after the events of 2014, etc.
your comment reeks of “im smarter than you because i can say big words”
Thanks for spending so much time defending how smart you are when there is a war going on. Using big words doesn’t make someone right about something. It’s easy to sling mud at me for pointing out factual things about your post—like the fact that you cite Russian state media—but keep your distraction from the facts up. People here are surely smart enough to see through that. And stop hiding behind a fake name. It’s cowardly. You obviously aren’t confident enough in your beliefs to put your name to them.
I have observed that you have been putatively and studiously utilizing my thesaurus to ascertain these labyrinthian and sophisticated linguistic forms. I give you my encomium!
Dear Merriam, Dom, and Jacob,
I reread my posts for the first time for some hours, expecting that I should have to re-qualify some of the opinions expressed herein. I found to my surprise I had nothing to retract, and nothing upon which I was ‘disposed to enLarge (sic).’
However, I would say that I am in favor of taking the core point of your comments — “use plain speech, & do so esp. for the sake of the orthodox Quakers at this school” — as a helpful feedback.
Cheers and cowardly yours,
Please educate yourself before posting the dumbest thing a Haverford student has written (high bar to clear, I’ve seen some of the essays I’ve handed in). You don’t display any command over the geopolitical, economic and historic facts that serve as a backdrop to understanding both the invasion and reaction to it.
I’m not from Ukraine, but thankfully you aren’t commenting about my country of origin. I don’t know how I’d be able to co-exist with someone who would justify the pulverization of my country like you’ve just justified Ukraine’s path to non-existence.
I’m not going to even attempt at pointing out all that’s wrong and omitted in your poorly-written, half-baked disaster of an article, I just want you to know that what you’ve written is of immense stupidity and anyone who respects themselves would be ashamed of saying, let alone writing, any of what you wrote.
Dear This guy’s biggest hater,
I felt bound to interject (I was never a member of the Bi-Co SDS, btw) in the first place because I was not sure of how many of the responses here were intended for elevating the quality of the discourse, for affirming perspectivism without its strong relativistic consequences, etc. What I saw was reluctance to recognize the expansion of NATO as at least one factor (among several) that led to conflict — which is permissible, as some presented their views respectfully and substantively. What I see now is a curiously new level of inquisition, accusation, self-righteousness, heresy-hunting (e.g. rhetorically trapping a perceived enemy under an expansive new constructions of “harm” and “violence”), and, lastly, assertion without evidence.
I. To confess, I don’t know much about IR. I keep it as a hobbyhorse. But in somewhat philosophical terms it shocks me how difficult the distinction between justification and explanation seems to be. You certainly have the liberty to accuse me of smuggling in dubious moral and ideological assumptions under the guise of being simply interested in understanding the role of nation-states in imperialism or geopolitics. Further, if you view all knowledge production as primarily campaigning (offering apologetics for what Putin has been doing, say) rather than search for truth, then all statements are evaluated in terms of rhetorical usefulness, moral clarity, or political expediency rather than validity, soundness, or predictive accuracy.
II. Pursuing national sovereignty means keeping foreign powers out of your domestic politics and not inviting them in. If the legal and moral bars are rising and it’s getting harder to invade countries, who is the hardest hit? How will a healthy balance of patriotism and cosmopolitanism be revived by reminding our governing elites of their duty to lead the nation when many of them appear to remain hostile to America’s national sovereignty, and, to the idea of welcoming refugees, as evidenced by events from the past twenty five years? How likely are the working class across borders to live a life with dignity, with “the social basis of self-respect?” How fair/unfair would it be to draw connection between the lack of accountability which plagues post-1991 American strategic thinking in Europe and the string of expensive wars there and elsewhere with countless lives and homes ruined and little to nothing productive to show for it?
III. Try spending some hours with a professor of your choosing and see if they (assuming some of them grew up in the War On Terror era) have any healthy or complete contempt for legacy media, especially for its bloodthirstiness, its pathological inability to admit fault, say sorry, do better, etc.
D. I leave you with a bit from Zelensky’s most recent interview with The Economist.
Zelensky responds to the question “Is the West afraid of Ukraine winning?” (Interview with The Economist, March 28, 2022. https://youtu.be/LNjiRmIWtss?t=706; From about 11:47 onward).
Zelensky: Everyone has varied interests. There are those in the West who don’t mind a long war because it would mean exhausting Russia, even if this means the demise of Ukraine and comes at the cost of Ukrainian lives. this is definitely in the interests of some countries. For other countries, it would be better if the war ended quickly, because Russia’s market is a big one that their economies are suffering as a result of the war. They would like to see Russia keep certain markets. Other, truly wealthy countries, recognize Nazism in Russia and definitely want Ukraine to be victorious. And there are still other countries, smaller countries, which support us completely, but they are moral liberal states and concerned with humanitarian issues. They want the war to end quickly at any cost, because they think people come first. And then there is the category of countries wanting the war to end quickly in any way possible because they can be considered as the “offices of the Russian Federation in Europe.”
Interviewer: As for the United States, are they in the first group?
Zelensky: We’ll see. But they help. A lot of countries in Europe, in NATO, especially, have, as our soldiers say, many instruments. This is why the USA has pushed a lot of countries to help us, but a little bit more slowly than we needed.
Man, if you literally spent just half the time you took in writing this comment researching the invasion, you’d understand something very simple: it was never about NATO expansion. Ukraine wasn’t anywhere close to joining NATO; NATO expansion was the cause of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, not its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
What this invasion is about is Putin’s ire over Ukraine’s efforts at becoming a full-fledged and strong democracy, as well as its expanding economy and rising standards of living. It’s about Ukraine’s desire to join the EU, which would amount to demonstrating that Ukraine, and maybe even Russia too someday, would be better off without the authoritarianism and oligarchy that Putin represents.
NATO is nothing but a sad excuse for Putin’s behavior today, and you’d know that too if you’d done ANY research whatsoever in the roots of the invasion. But no, please, by all means, keep educating yourself using pastel-colored infographics on Instagram, because we all know they tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
Also your condescending comment about meeting with professors cracks me up, because unlike you, I have a very vested interest in IR, knowing I am not from the US, and have actually spent long hours talking to the political science professors here at Haverford about a variety of issues, not just this invasion. So thanks, great idea buddy.
If there’s a reason these comments are not “in the interest of promoting discourse” on this post, it’s because the post doesn’t offer anything to discuss: it only showcases the writer’s utter ignorance on the topic.
Dear “An even bigger hater,”
Let’s get to the points.
Arguably, anyone with a “very vested” interest in IR knows how important it is to seek to understand the (fr)enemy’s perspective. Arguably, the first step in understanding a geopolitical issue with monumental stakes is to reconstruct – as faithfully as possible – the timeline of the conflict.
Russia post-Yeltsin has long considered the logic of NATO to be suspicious. In early 2008, a referendum was held in Georgia in support of NATO membership. As you said, Russia was determined to stop this. Specifically, Russia exploited the argument of self-determination of two Pro-Russian breakaway republics, and, through invasion, prevented Georgia from joining NATO. The Russo-Georgian War made it clear that Russia was willing to fight over the issue.
The question of Ukraine’s NATO membership remains one among many developments that have made the current crisis so acute. Why? The Russo-Ukraine War started in 2014, not 2022. One may argue that the/one seed of the 2014 conflict was planted long before the question of NATO membership arose — that the breakup of empires is traumatic, and that post-colonial and post-imperial crises always involve fateful decisions over national sovereignty, geopolitical allyship, trade partnership, etc.
I argue that at least one seed of the 2014 conflict was planted in 2008 when Ukraine’s NATO membership was discussed alongside Georgia’s. It’s decided that Georgia and Ukraine would not be admitted to the group immediately, but NATO continued to suggest that membership for both countries could happen at some later point. No timeframe was specified, and Putin took the wording “will become members” seriously.
It makes sense to some extent (I will return to this point later) to say that a successful and democratic Ukraine undermines the Russian oligopoly at home. But I want to understand why Putin continues to be paranoid about and militant towards countries such as Georgia and Ukraine trying to strengthen ties to the west.
It is unclear to me which source of frustration Putin finds more irritating, the outcomes of the 2013 demonstration (which toppled the Pro-Russian government that had abandoned an association agreement with the EU), or the missile defense system of NATO? There is a reason not to ignore the latter. Why? Because even years ago the Bush administration reassured Russia that the joint defense system was mainly about deterring Iran. For continued fears of regime change, Putin’s Russia never bought that argument.
In one of my previous comments, I referred to the distinction between *justification* and *explanation*. NATO’s eastward expansion partly but importantly *explains* Putin’s paranoia and militarism: against the background of pandemic-induced inflation (rising commodity prices, disruption of trade, immiseration of those living paycheck by paycheck, etc.), we saw an increase in Russia’s negotiating leverage — it supplies cheaper gas to Western Europe whose states were reluctant to sanction the supplier (higher energy prices -> graver inflation -> social unrest and unsavory election results). It is important to understand *what exactly* Putin chose this very moment to demand. Careful research of meeting minutes and reports from the past six months will show how much Putin wants Ukraine to renounce its NATO membership aspirations.
Lastly, we return to the questions of “democracy vs. autocracy” and of self-determination and national sovereignty. Once again – as I said in my previous comment – “pursuing national sovereignty means keeping foreign powers out of your domestic politics and not inviting them in.” It’s hard to say what it would mean for Ukraine to decide its own fate when Ukrainian politics is awash in foreign money. The real-life picture is particularly unfortunate for ordinary Ukrainians: For years, Russia and the west have tried to use a mix of carrots and sticks to acquire spheres of influence in Ukraine. (It’s for this reason that it’s apt to say Ukraine is a sacrificial pawn on the great-power/imperialist chessboard). Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty seem nominal regardless of whether it becomes a Russian puppet state, a western puppet state, or a buffer state. How can a state speak when its politicians belong to somebody else?
Some trivial points:
What are “pastel-colored infographics on Instagram” and who exactly has been educating herself through them? I am hopeful to see the evidence and argument for this assertion.
I am happy to hear that you have already spent long hours discussing a wide variety of topics with the Poli-Sci connoisseurs in the Bi-Co. Since you are very enthusiastic about IR, I see no difficulty in spending a couple of more hours delving into one of its key topics, i.e. the political economy of the Mass media. Edward Herman passed away a few years ago. I know Chomsky is still pretty active at responding to emails – from fanboys to haters alike.
So what I’m hearing is you condemn the BDS movement?
What the fuck