‘Our Altruism’

For my money, the best Viet Nam War movie wasn’t about the Viet Nam War.  In its wake, numerous cinematic efforts tried, without a lot of success, to come to terms with its tragedy, destructiveness, alienation and lies.  But the Australian production, “Breaker Morant,” about the British Boer War, cast a smaller net and, in so doing, made a bigger point and did it better than the others.  In it, three Australian soldiers get caught up in and crushed by a change in British policy brought on by international concerns.  The bloodless cynicism of the British high command in executing the three on trumped-up charges, designed solely to appease Germany, perfectly conveyed the risks run by “the little man,” a.k.a., you and me, forever under the thumb of power elites.

I thought about “Breaker Morant” when I read this the other day.  Niall Ferguson is a historian and commentator I highly respect.  He’s one of those who, when he talks, people listen, or should.  Relying on sources in the Biden and Boris Johnson administrations, here’s what Ferguson concludes about Western policy toward Russia and Ukraine.

Reading this carefully, I conclude that the U.S. intends to keep this war going…

I have evidence from other sources to corroborate this. “The only end game now,” a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month, “is the end of Putin regime. Until then, all the time Putin stays, [Russia] will be a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations…

I gather that senior British figures are talking in similar terms. There is a belief that “the U.K.’s No. 1 option is for the conflict to be extended and thereby bleed Putin.” Again and again, I hear such language. It helps explain, among other things, the lack of any diplomatic effort by the U.S. to secure a cease-fire.  It also explains the readiness of President Joe Biden to call Putin a war criminal.

It also explains Biden’s more recent statement that Putin “cannot remain in power.” 

If that’s the plan, it’s failing spectacularly.  In fact, as Dmitri Simes, Jr., reporting from Moscow, indispensably informs us, Western policy makes Russian withdrawal politically impossible for Putin.  Meanwhile, among everyday Russians, his approval rating remains high. 

[A] national survey conducted by a group of independent research organizations between February 28 and March 1… found that 58% of Russians backed Moscow's actions in Ukraine, while 23% opposed it. 

Putin is not bleeding.

No, the ones losing blood are the Ukrainian people.  No one knows how many Ukrainians have so far been slaughtered, how many courageous soldiers, little children, pregnant mothers and old folks.  No one can say with any certainty how many have been maimed, seen legs and arms blown away, been blinded.  How many are starving right now in Mariupol or dying of treatable illnesses?  Who knows?  Some four million Ukrainians have fled their country that’s being torn to shreds and another 12 million are trapped, unable to get away.  How long will it take to rebuild the country once the war, that Biden, et al are so happy to prolong, someday mercifully ends?  Who can guess?

If not Putin, who else is bleeding?  That would be the Russian people and the soldiers they sent off to fight this war.  No one in the West sheds a tear for Russian soldiers, but the simple fact is that they didn’t start this war.  For many, the army might have been the best job available, at least until February 24th.  Nor did they take part in the vastly flawed planning and execution of the invasion.  They’re just stuck there without food or fuel in a hostile country paying the price for the incompetence of their “betters.”  So far, almost 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda, a pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper.   

And what about everyday Russians whose sons, husbands and fathers have been dragooned into the fight?  What about the crash of the ruble, the loss of jobs and the ability to purchase basic food, fuel and shelter?

Yes, it seems everyone’s bleeding except Putin.  And Joe Biden and other Western leaders want it to go on and on and on.  Americans stand foursquare with the Ukrainian people as we should.  The news media daily trumpet our support and deep respect for them.  So does Biden, except his is a lie.  He sits somewhere on a lofty plain scanning the far horizon beyond the mind-numbing calamity befalling millions of people who cannot vote in the U.S. and whose lives and health enter into his calculations only as a talking point, an applause line.  It’s his policy to forget them and their agonies altogether, to ignore the tons of blood spilled and to be spilled in his quixotic and almost certain-to-fail policy of regime change in Russia. 

No, as in the movie, the little people never get a second thought when great powers make their polices nor again when they’re remade, and remade still again.  How many more need to die or be maimed in order to satisfy the West’s animus against Vladimir Putin.  How many Russians need to die or be maimed in order to satisfy Putin’s weird dreams of a latter-day Imperial Russia?

In the movie, a British general, speaking privately to an aide, castigates Germany for having designs on Boer territory because of its rich natural resources.  To which the aide sarcastically responds “Ah, they lack our altruism.”  Putin’s happy willingness to slaughter his own young men in pursuit of a chimera and Biden’s equally happy willingness to prolong the horror of war for millions of innocent people in pursuit of his own brought that line to my mind.

There is a hard and terrible reality to war that those who don’t fight it, who only send others to, never seem to notice.  They can never burn in hell long enough.


1 comment

Janice Fiamengo

Excellent commentary. If the Biden administration really cared about Ukraine, it would have tamped down the anti-Putin rhetoric and sought through all channels a negotiated peace. Instead, it did the opposite.

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