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Ukraine and the Illogic of Some People

By March 2, 2022Commentary

I have been spending a lot of time on Twitter reacting to all the Putin apologists out there, a number of whom are just paid agents and trolls.  Sometimes I wonder why I do this, since it is certainly futile, but I know the answer.  It isn’t dissimilar to why I feel so strongly about what has been done to children during the epidemic.  If you have any kind of a moral compass and even a modicum of human empathy, some things are just obviously wrong and can’t be excused or justified, and often they involve the innocent and the powerless.

People tend to analyze these international crises only through a focus on leaders and countries.  But I think most about the effect on the average citizen.  Two weeks ago, Ukraine was a fairly modern nation; people were going to work, to school; families were enjoying themselves.  There was an awareness of the Russian threat, but most likely few actually imagined he would invade the entire country, much less attempt to destroy it.  Now everyone’s life has been upended.  Millions are fleeing, never knowing if they will see family, friends, their home, their possessions, their work again.  Imagine being a child in this situation.  Imagine the terror, the anxiety, the sadness these people are enduring.  If you can’t imagine that, you have no empathy.

And why is this happening?  It is happening because of one person and one person only.  Vladimir Putin has a long resentment against the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he blames on the US and Europe, and a delusional fantasy that he can rebuild that Russian empire.  He is aging, and may be in poor health so that he feels more and more impelled to act on his fantasy.  He may have picked now because of a perception of weakness in the West, but this was foreordained and planned for years.  He was always going to invade Ukraine, unless he found another way to subjugate it, as he has with Belarus.  We have seen over his long reign that this is a conscience-less individual, a pyschopath.  He has no human feelings and no act is too brutal for him.  Remember, this is a man who personally authorizes the murder of opponents, inside or outside of Russia.

For a while, he was content to seem to be shrewd, duplicitous and manipulative, but not unreasonable or crazy.  That no longer seems to be the case.  The pictures of him at tables or in rooms far away from any other person reveal just how isolated he is.  The testimony of foreign leaders and emissaries who have met with him recently also speaks to this change.  I don’t think the distancing and isolation is CV-19 fear, it is fear that many of his own lieutenants want him gone.  It is also possible, as several have noted, that he is on steroids or other medication that induces a facial puffiness and sometimes may affect cognition and emotion.  He may have had a transplant, which also would lead to distancing due to immunocompromised status.  In any event, the bubble has intensified and his delusion is likely even stronger.  And so now the world must react to this psychopath.

As is always the case, these serious events bring out the best and worst in people.  And the typical flaws in human thinking and reasoning are revealed.  You must watch language carefully, it reveals biases.  And you must never lose sight of what is happening to the people of Ukraine.  One of my favorite Putin-apologist memes right now is the claim that Putin has been “provoked” by a series of actions by the US or Europe or that he was “forced” to act.  Use of language is always telling.  The works “provoked” or “forced” imply justification in a reaction, and absolve Putin of responsibility.  Putin wasn’t provoked or forced to do anything; he alone made this decision and took this action.  And the notion that it was provoked is clearly rebutted by the fact that it was long planned, this was no sudden reaction to some “provocation”.

There are a line of people saying that the “explanation” is that the US encouraged expansion of NATO or hostility to Russia or demonized Putin.  Putin is a demon, he does not need to be “demonized”.  There are evil people and he is one, notwithstanding the fact that a certain President once said he looked into his soul and saw something positive.  Putin has no soul.  The US created an alliance in Europe which was a reaction to Russia’s refusal to leave Eastern Europe and its turning those countries into vassals of Russia in the Soviet Union.  Ask anyone who lived in those countries during Russian rule and you will not hear a good word.  The alliance allowed the growth of strong economies and democracies which improved the standard of living of their citizens.  Of course the Eastern European countries that had been subjected to poverty and terror during Russia’s rule wanted to join the EU and NATO.  They never wanted to be subjugated again.  And they are all likely very glad they are part of NATO now, as they see non-member Ukraine being destroyed.

These “explanations” for Putin’s behavior are the usual academic even-handed, “sophisticated” analysis of a situation, which is nothing but a high-toned glossing over of evil, one which ultimately excuses it.  Another meme one sees frequently is that there are “far-right Nazis” in Ukraine and they are ultra-nationalists.  This somehow justifies Putin invading the entire country.  One semi-humorous aspect of this is that many far-right nationalists actually adore Putin.  Even in the US now you see some of these people saying we need a leader like Putin.  But what use of this language really is, and conservatives in the US are all too familiar with this tactic, is pejorative, lazy labeling as a shortcut for real thinking and analysis, which were it done, would not stand up.  Right now, I hope there are a lot of extreme nationalists in Ukraine, who are willing to fight the Russians to the death.

Finally, I love the morons whose logic skills extend to “someone in Ukraine did something bad sometime so it is fine that Putin invades and destroys the whole country” or “something bad happened somewhere else in the world and no one stopped it, so whatever Putin does should be okay too.”  People are not aware of how flimsy this literal non-sense is.  They get emotionally engaged and their ability to reason disappears.  Sound like the epidemic response?

And then we get the JD Vances and Tucker Carlsons of the world, people I often find admirable, but who take the approach that we just shouldn’t care what happens to Ukraine, it is not our business, we have our own problems, and it doesn’t affect us.  JD Vance will never get my vote or support now and I am disappointed in Tucker.  This is extraordinarily dangerous thinking, which the 20th century should well have taught us.  And the lack of humanity is distressing to me and speaks of some absence of basic empathy toward the plight of others.  Surely were they citizens of Ukraine they would not be saying “well, its just fine if no one helps me or cares about me”.  This turn your back on your neighbor attitude is most often compounded with the “explanations” or “justifications” for Putin’s actions.

I could go on with these examples that so enrage me on Twitter and elsewhere, but the bottom line, notwithstanding the apologists love affair with him, is that Vladimir Putin, a literal murdering psychopath, has sent his military forces into an independent country with the goal of subjugating that country’s population to his will and he does not care how much destruction he causes or how many people he kills in that effort.  There is no justification for what he is doing to the men, women and children of the Ukraine.  Period.  And attempts to “explain” it and to revisit history at this point are engaging in a sunk cost fallacy.  The issue now is how best to address his actions.

I don’t think it would be wise for the US to become directly involved militarily, mostly because Putin clearly is off his rocker and delusional and not constrained by any advisors he listens to.  But I do think we should send every bit of military assistance we can to the Ukrainians trying to fight for their country.  And I think we should make life as miserable as possible from Putin, his oligarch buddies, the country of Russia, and yes, even the Russian people.  That means shutting down purchases of all Russian exports, including oil and gas, and banning of imports to Russia.  It means not allowing Russia to participate in international events of any type.  It means seizing the assets of the oligarchs, selling them and giving the proceeds to the Ukrainian resistance or holding them as a fund for rebuilding Ukraine.  It means taking every possible step to make it clear to Putin, and more importantly, his military leaders and his wealthy advisors, that these actions will be unrelenting until there is a full and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine and return of the country’s independence.

And what will be the consequences of the invasion, which we already see unfolding?  Not what Putin imagined; as is typical with leaders who live in a literal bubble, delusion and fantasy predominate over reality.  Putin apparently believed he could waltz into Ukraine, be greeted as a liberator, or just roll over the country’s resistance, and that in any event, the West would express outrage, slap on a few ceremonial sanctions and go back to watching Instagram and TikTok videos.  What he has accomplished instead is creating greater resolve around the world, reuniting Europe in seeing him as a very dangerous person, causing Germany and other nations to rearm and to reinforce defenses against Russia, and causing his country’s economy to crater.  His people will suffer mightily and Russia will come out of this affair a vastly weakened nation.

He has likely inflicted heavy damage on his military, which now must expend tremendous resources in attempting to occupy an entire country hostile to his invading force.  It should be familiar to Russians from Afghanistan, and certainly is familiar to the rest of the world, that lethal technology is at a point where it is cheap and readily available to civilians.  Asymmetric warfare capabilities mean that no matter the technological superiority of an invading force, it will pay a heavy price.  IEDs, drones, ambushes–there are a multiplicity of tactics which make it dangerous for an occupier to ever leave a heavily fortified area.  Ukraine is an extremely large country with long borders with countries friendly to resistance to the Russians.  Handheld anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons will come into the country by the thousands.  This will be a Russian nightmare.

This is a most dangerous time.  Putin can never admit error or backtrack.  The only way out of this for him is literally genocide in Ukraine, which would remove opposition and which he certainly would be capable of, or he is removed from his position as leader of Russia.  We can assume that the oligarchs and the military are deep in discussions about how to accomplish this, and Putin can isolate himself all he wants, at some point it is just a matter of time before it occurs.  I would put the over/under at his remaining in office at 6 months.  Let’s all hope that happens soon, before he engages in some truly lunatic action, which he is fully capable of.

In the meantime, we all should stand with firm resolve against this atrocity, we should offer all the support we can to the citizens of Ukraine and we should remember that a better world happens only if we are willing to take those actions which make it happen.

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • rob says:

    I seriously believe if you could somehow eliminate the “paid agents and trolls” from the internet the amount of commentary would drop by at least 60%. This whole Putin situation makes it blindingly obvious because if you were to take the commentary at face value you’d have to believe that most Americans are diehard Putin supporters, which is really laughable. Then after realizing that it’s mostly all trolls and foreign influencers you need to extrapolate that insight into every other heated topic that gets discussed online. Most of it boils down to getting us all to hate each other and on that front their tactics are wildly successful.

  • Barb says:

    Exactly correct on all point!

  • Bushwacker says:

    I know, right? Some people, huh? It is like arguing with those neocons, and their oligarch overlords, who planned and carried out the 2003 US invasion and destruction of Iraq. I mean, Bush and co. Talk about psychopaths, amirite?

  • Kevin Roche says:

    I think I covered that logic in the post–something bad happened somewhere else sometime so anything Putin does is bad. Don’t be stupid

  • Evan says:

    The country that lied to invade Iraq is now the moral authority? The country that forced masks on children, the country that unemployed those that refused vaccines? The country that occupied Afghanistan for two decades, we are the world leader on Ethics?

    Pfff…Ukraine is a failed kleptocracy. It is the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe. Divide it up like the Balkans. It is simply not worth it.

    Biden…Putin…they are all creeps. Americans, Russians, it does not matter. The world is full of pigs at the trough.

  • Kevin Roche says:

    more lack of any logic and really nice display of empathy. If you were sitting in an Ukrainian city watching it being bombed to smithereens wonder how you would feel? This is frankly disgusting.

  • James Alt says:

    I hope your estimate about removing Putin is correct. I just wonder what Ukraine will look like after that time. I will assume that Russia will eventually take parts or Ukraine and that an insurgency will take root. I do think that this has shown that the Russian military isn’t as strong as it tried to put forward to intimidate it’s neighbors. It still has nukes which we see Putin falling back on as intimidation now that his military has been exposed. That being said, prayers for the Ukranian people as they fight this despot and hopes that Western countries will provide the military supplies necessary to bleed Russia.

  • JT says:

    For generations the Russian people, which included Ukrainians, have been oppressed by their leadership. Putin is just the latest tyrant. Haters of our country should all give up their US passports, pick any communist or socialist alternative and leave, amirite? God bless and good luck ! You would all piss your pants if your were asked to fight for your country and your freedoms You are completely clueless as to why you have the ability to sit in your safe little house and mindlessly comment about the world around you from a faceless platform.

    What we enjoy as freedom, in our great country as well as others, is the result of generations of brave people standing up to tyrants, not coddling them. War is not a neocon, republican or democrat dogma. In our system, the cycling of parties/presidents creates situations for any of them to be confronted with difficult options to support either the defense of our country or the spread of ideologies that we know will lead to defending our country. This is about tyrannical individuals and the global havoc the wreak when left unchecked. No population of people should live under such oppression and fear. It is up to the world’s sane and competent leaders to always strive for this outcome. It’s the Russian and Ukrainian people who need to be freed from Putin.

    Unfortunately, there will be others behind Putin which the world will have to deal with, regardless of which party temporarily occupies the Whitehouse.

  • Christopher B says:

    I agree with your comments in general. I hope that, if not now then sometime in the future, we can have a nuanced enough perspective to understand where we made strategic missteps that encouraged Putin to think that he could get away with this invasion in the same way he generally got away with compromising the governments of other former Soviet dependencies and previous incursions into Georgia and even the Ukraine itself.

  • The Dark Lord says:

    all good points … and valid … you often say Russia in certain contexts (NATO etc) when you mean the Soviet Union …

  • Joe Lampe says:

    From the United States Holocaust Museum:
    https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/invasion-of-poland-fall-1939

    Putin’s invasion has an eerie resemblance to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
    Unwillingness of the West to deter Hitler early on led to WWII.
    5,000 Javelin anti-tank 5,000 Stinger weapons are needed immediately by the Ukrainians.

  • Gregory says:

    Iraq 2003 had far less justification than what Russia is doing now.

    As for the Ukraine, ever since the West ousted their former, properly-elected president in 2014 and installed Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s comedian-actor, the country has been little more than a corrupt abyss. If that name isn’t familiar, he us the billionaire crook who laundered his money in the US, buying up old steel mills. Warren Steel in Ohio was so poorly mismanaged, because it was there to clean money, not make steel, it resulted in many employee injuries and accidents. The Ukrainian gov also has been shelling and oppressing Russians in the eastern regions for years. Finally, they invited NATO in to set up forces against Russia in their own backyard. The US flipped out and invaded Iraq over mythical WMDs.

  • John Oh says:

    Once the Russian tanks started to roll into Ukraine there could be no doubt about Putin being just plain evil. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past — the invasion and brutality are right now and the Ukrainians deserve the world’s support. Putin claims the US wants Ukraine in NATO to squeeze Russia. But why does Ukraine want to be in NATO? I think we see the answer each day since the invasion. Finland is now considering application to NATO. Putin must also be suffering from some mental disease because given the energy situation, his negotiating position only improves over time. Supply more energy to Western Europe, then increase the price, then hold them hostage to his demands. This is a longer game, but a much better one. The refugees. Thousands of Ukrainian women and children are fleeing to Poland and Hungary and other countries to survive. They may never come back, if they do they may not have a home, or their family. And it’s telling that Putin doesn’t appear to be telling the truth to Russians. It’s only as families get the news that a son has been killed that Russians are learning of the true cost. This is Putin and the brutality about to be unleashed on the conquered will be inhuman.

  • Dan says:

    Talk is cheap and pretty useless at this point. It would have been much more useful before the invasion when something not costing human lives could have been done. This reminds me of the first Iraq war and the wimpy warnings we gave Hussein to stop his invasion. Diplomacy matters and unfortunately all we have to stand up to Putin now is a bunch of pussies.

  • Kevin Roche says:

    more pure Putin apologist bullshit, made up crap. You imagine their is some justification for destroying Ukrainian cities and murdering Ukrainians, you need your head examined.

  • Kevin Roche says:

    clearly we and Europe should long ago put him on notice that his constant use of military force would not be tolerated and we should have maintained energy independence. One good thing that will come out of this is that Europe will move to be able to meet its energy needs with no Russian energy imports.

  • Ryan says:

    US imports of Russian oil and gas increased nearly 50% in 2021 over the prior 4 year period average (reference US EIA). Shutting down domestic oil production and bolstering Russia’s economic standing through US imports was and is a bad policy for the current administration. Combine that with zero fear of the US because Putin knows Biden is weak and we get the result we have. What’s happening to the people of Ukraine is horrible.

  • Kevin Roche says:

    I am truly shocked we are buying Russian oil, especially when we have the capability to be a huge net exporter

  • Bryon says:

    Great write up Mr. Roche. I would have loved to see it on Power Line, but 80% of commenters there are in the Tucker Carlson camp, unfortunately. So this would not go over well there.

    I, like you, like Tucker most of the time but not on foreign policy.

  • Pianoman says:

    The “tell” is that Putin was demanding the disbanding of NATO. He sees it as an existential threat to Russia’s goals.

    The fact that Germany is talking about re-arming is also a really big deal. The grade-school “commentary” that’s been happening over the past week has barely addressed it.

  • Kevin Roche says:

    unfortunately, he ends up being a Putin apologist, ignores Putin’s responsibility for what is happening. There is no justification for destroying cities and murdering civilians. And the people who know Putin best have said for a long time that he is determined to rebuild the Russian empire, no matter what

  • Gravy for Neocons says:

    There is no evidence that will convince those who side with George Soros and Joe Biden, who include the warhawk neocons here, that Russia is in the right here. They will stick with the corrupt and incompetent Zelinsky because Conservatism Inc and the main steam media tell them to. This could have been prevented if the west left Ukraine alone in 2014 and kept NATO out. It could already be over if Ukrain became neutral, but the puppet Zelinsky and his paymasters will drag this out and cause needless deaths and destruction.

    Christian, nationalist, non-globalist Russia has poked the eye of the globalist empire, and they don’t like it one bit. True Americans should applaud them. We are not the world police, nor an empire

  • Kevin Roche says:

    okay, I hardly know how to respond to this nonsense. Saying people side with something, calling names, etc. Making Russia sound good, you are a moron

  • Ben Swanson says:

    Thanks Kevin. We need empathy for the people of Ukraine who are in one of the most terrifying situations imaginable. Prayers and support are needed. We also need to remember and pray for the ordinary people of Russia, most of whom are probably in for a complete economic nightmare back home.

    I think many Americans are so insulated from war that it’s true effects are under appreciated. Can you imagine fleeing your home to go live in a subway station, or moving permanently to another country and watch your children slowly lose their language and American-ness? Or you never see your buddies again and are haunted by never knowing their fate?

    If some foreign nation invaded the US someday, heaven forbid, I’d hate the world to ignore my need because of their view on our country’s leader.

    There’s a saying in Africa, where we have likewise lacked empathy for the common person affected by war, When elephants fight, the grass suffers.

    Imagine yourself in the place of Ukraine and don’t let your hearts be hardened.

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