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  • Reverend James Squire

Ethics to Fast Track Ukraine

There is a strong argument which has surfaced more recently that the way to resolve the War in Ukraine is to fast-track Ukraine into the NATO and the European Union. This makes ethical sense on many different levels. It means that the U.S. and European countries could formally be part of the defense of Ukraine. The ethical reason that this should be done is based on Just War Theory. A simple explanation of this reason is that the war is being fought from a position of self-defense to fight the Russians. Everyone agrees that Russia is the aggressor.

When a bomb is dropped on a train station that has “for the children” written in Russian on the remaining bomb part to be seen by all, we are seeing such an escalation of the unconventional nature of the war that is being conducted by the Russians. These two reasons are enough to demand a different response to the Russian threat. In addition, there is a moral question to be addressed, “What do you want our children to think about our lack of ethical intervention?”

There are numerous reasons that Ukraine has not been admitted to NATO. They are based on proper procedures that need to be followed in ORDINARY TIMES. For example, the nation that wants to join must show that they have been supportive of NATO policies and that their democracy is free of any corruption. The list goes on and include such issues as other countries have applied before Ukraine so Ukraine must take its place in line. One of the reasons ironically is that it could be is construed by the Russians as a threat and create further division when we desire to keep Russia happy. Again, each reason for Ukraine not joining is treated as such in ordinary times. Context matters. The context is now different.

From an ethical stand point it is always a temptation to inform our behavior because of rationalizations of why we can’t act ethically than there are arguments of why we should act at all costs with ethical actions action on our side.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter of rationalization. If you repeat a stance repeatedly it becomes reality. A look at Trump’s Big Lie is an example of this. So, if we keep saying that we can only support Ukraine as best we can, then that has become our rationalization for our lack of total commitment to the Ukrainian people.

There is another ethical principle that people have forgotten. Ukraine is fighting the war so that we don’t have to. We are letting children die because of these rationalizations. Recall that in the Civil War and the Vietnam War, we had an ethical issue that has only recently surfaced again with Trump’s bone spurs as the reason he couldn’t fight in Vietnam. There was a sense of injustice that, for the most part but not all, that the Vietnam war was fought on the backs of the middle class and the poor. As egregious as this fact is it is not as bad as in the Civil War where you could pay someone to go off to war on your behalf. Classism seems to infiltrate war culture. When I listen to the backgrounds of the Ukrainian people, for the most part it is a war fought by ordinary folks. However, the way that people who would normally be exempt for duty have come back to Ukraine or are between certain ages that allow them to be part of the effort. It feels more like a peoples’ war for love of country.

The Ukrainian people are reluctantly asking for help as we would be reluctant to ask someone to fight our battles when we were growing up. Even today in School culture when many of us were children, the last thing that we wanted to see were our parents at school. We saw that as an embarrassment. Now parents come with a lawyer in tow. They are helicopter parents.

Let’s take this to the ethical psychological level of everyday life apart from war but also has a definite bearing on the War in Ukraine.

Putin has been referred to as a bully and someone who has never made friends with the truth. I grew up with people like that as I am sure that the reader has as well. Most contemporary research into the psychology of the bully point to two things that bullies lack. Although, the bully appears strong, we know now that they lack self-esteem and a sense of belonging. I can firmly indicate based on my experiences in my youth and my 38 years of working with young people in a school community that this is true. Show me a bully and I will show you someone with poor self-esteem and a poor sense of belonging. Their power is a façade.

Putin has created the best cultural environment for him to address his weaknesses and achieve a façade of strength. He has cut off all awareness of how badly his troops have performed in Ukraine. He has indicated that he is fighting against Nazism, a term that still stirs fears in the hearts of the Russian people. His approval rating of 88% has never been higher. His efforts on behalf of Russia in this war have been fueled by his sense that Russia has lost its glow because it doesn’t seem to belong to the world around it. Our efforts to isolate Russia have made that feeling even worst.

Bullies usually bring other people with them, but from my experience you never see them in a contact sport. They operate outside of violence. Compare Putin’s involvement with that of President Zelensky. Zelensky is front and center in the violence. Putin is protected behind a desk watching a TV screen. That reminds me of Trump on January 6. When did he ever “fight like hell in a physical manner?”

Then there are the lies that Putin uses to shape a world where he can continue to bully others.

Lies have become a cultural phenomenon. White is black, rain is sun. We can rationalize anything. Take a look at the interview of McConnell with a reporter to see this in action regarding his moral line.

It is immoral to allow others to fight our battles for us. We operate from fear of nuclear attack, but that possibility will always be present in normal times, and these are not normal times. The only way to address Russia is with “Truth” and the fast tracking of Ukraine so that we communicate that we won’t tolerate an unjust war any more. We won’t sacrifice others so that we are protected. We stand firm! That is the only thing that stops bully culture on the local school level. It will be the only thing that will stop Putin on a world level who is prepared to do anything because “Without Putin (Russia) why should there be a planet.” His words that we forget at our own peril. (See video below)

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