It is easy to understand that those who suffer the consequences (of war) find it unacceptably complacent to ask why it happened and whether it could have been avoided. Understandable, but wrong. If we are to respond to tragedy in a way that helps the victims and avoids the even worse catastrophes that lie ahead, it is prudent and necessary to learn as much as we can about what went wrong and how the course could have been corrected. Heroic gestures can be gratifying. They are not helpful.NOAM CHOMSKY
The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war confront us with all sorts of aporias. It is difficult to think constructively about what is happening as we watch on our televisions the destruction on the ground and the ominous prophecies voiced by our analysts about our global future.
The comfortable alternative at the moment is unanimous and unrestrained condemnation of the Russian government’s crime against international law, forgetting entirely the background that has brought us to our current circumstances.
So, on this note, I will refrain from joining the chorus of the so-called “Western media”. Firstly, because I consider it a form of moral self-deprecation to join in this kind of textbook response to which social media and “emoticons and flags” communication repeatedly enjoin us.
More than ever, we need intelligence. As Noam Chomsky says, and it has been proven time and again in history, “heroic gestures may be gratifying”, but they are not useful. The key word here is gestures. In an emotivist society like the one we live in, politics is reduced to gestures, and when gestures are over, in the absence of politics, what is left is war, violence, the arbitrariness of power.
My reasoning in this case is as follows: “It is not acceptable that after so many atrocious wars, after so many intelligent bombings, after so many collateral victims, after the fabrication of so many failed countries by the grace of our so-called “freedom and democracy”, after having swallowed so many caricatured portraits of perverse dictators, insane terrorists, psychotic rebels, after so many millions of displaced people, after so many refugee camps, after so many migratory crises; let us continue “like sheep to the slaughter”, as they say in Spain, nodding to the superficial explanations offered to us by the corporate and bureaucratic establishment that governs us overtly or covertly.
Is this war, and any other previous war, really about madmen, perverts, retrogrades and the like? Do I really have to believe that the problem is characters like Putin, Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi, Netanhyahu, Milosevic, Bush or Trump? Can the vulgar biographical portraits of these characters explain, for example, the existence of nuclear arsenals in the world, of the huge budgetary percentages dedicated to armament and the surveillance of citizens in pursuit of our security? Do I really have to agree once again to the narrative of the good Westerners (racists, chauvinists, colonialists, imperialists and genocidaires in all their military campaigns of conquest or intervention over the last five hundred years, who today, as yesterday, present themselves as defenders of Christianity, civilisation, freedom or democracy in the world, to justify their outrages)? Do I really have to assent to the vulgate of the evil, dark, obscene and narcissistic rulers of the opposing bloc, who respond in a brutal, dictatorial, genocidal way to the imperialist pretensions of the powerful North Atlantic leaders in the service of the corporate network they serve? Do we really have oligarchs in Russia and good capitalists in the West? Do I really have to boast about our liberal democracies in contrast to the despotism of the East, as has been the custom in old Europe since its origins?
For all these reasons, I consider it a form of moral self-loathing to be forced to accept moral lessons from societies that embody violence, that accumulate weapons of mass destruction, that attack democracies in the world that threaten their hegemony, or impose puppet governments against their populations to defend their interests, that are primarily responsible for inequality through exploitation and dispossession in the world, that accumulate the highest rate of environmental pollution and ecological destruction that we all suffer.
Secondly, because, although there is one main culprit responsible for the deaths and hardship experienced today, primarily by Ukrainians, but which will spread across the globe due to the consequences of the war and the Western coalition’s response to the Russian offensive, when one pays attention to the publications before the crisis finally erupted violently, neither the United States, nor the European Union, and certainly not President Zelenski are any less to blame for what has happened.
NATO leaders should be put in the dock along with Vladimir Putin. Their current indignation and their uncoordinated and unproductive response to the invasion and war is proof of their responsibility for the outcome we are witnessing. The hyperactivity on the media front to give visibility to the strenuous effort to demonstrate coalition resolve in the face of aggression is more a symptom of covert guilt than an effective treatment to contain the violence and avoid greater evils.
Unless NATO is willing to become directly involved in the conflict militarily, which would mean a military confrontation that threatens to become the first nuclear war (remember that the crime of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was perpetrated against a state and a people, the Japanese, that had no means of response, nor was it a threat in such terms to the United States), the only solution is diplomatic negotiation.
Successful diplomatic negotiation in this case will not be achieved by imposing the logic of winners and losers in absolute terms. The problem is that such a diplomatic negotiation will clearly show the responsibility that the European Union, the United States and President Zelenski himself, who is now being hailed on social media as a hero, are complicit in the hostilities and jointly responsible for the war crimes being perpetrated.
Obviously, this is not to disparage the Ukrainian people’s resistance, but it does redefine our interpretation of recent history. Ukraine is at serious risk of becoming a “failed state” largely because its political leader has decided, despite the danger of such a decision in the current global geopolitical scenario, to abandon its role of neutrality in an era of open but undeclared war between the “West”, Russia and China.
The longer a diplomatic understanding between the parties is delayed, the greater the suffering of the population on the ground, and the greater the global socio-economic consequences of the conflict. The question, then, is why does the EU maintain a belligerent rhetoric in which it actively or passively asserts that such a diplomatic understanding is blocked at the moment, and instead favours exclusively a militaristic response (arming the Ukrainian resistance) and economic sanctions?
Perhaps NATO allies and Zelensky himself want to hide their complicity in the war debacle, because in the end, the only possible solution, unless Russia is defeated militarily, or Putin’s regime is overthrown by the internal opposition, can only be, ultimately, something akin to what Russia demanded before the outbreak of hostilities: that NATO stand back and stop playing with fire on its borders, as it has been doing systematically in recent years, and as is happening in Asia, in the maritime median that Australia, Britain and the United States claim to defend against China.
Should that happen, should Ukraine finally decide to accept a status of neutrality on the European geopolitical stage, and Russia obtain an acceptable guarantee of security for its territorial integrity from the European Union and NATO, then the invasion and war of Ukraine would be the greatest blunder imaginable, and the suffering of the Ukrainian population truly pointless.
Can Europe and the United States afford such an understanding for an end to hostilities, or is it really not just Putin who is inescapably captive to their decisions, and the European bloc has signed a deal with the devil by tying its fate to the inevitable “decline of the American empire”?
Let me add, for the avoidance of misunderstanding, that all this does not detract, as Chomsky himself has pointed out, from the fact that the invasion of Ukraine is an unjustified crime that will be remembered in the annals of history in a manner analogous to the US invasion of Iraq at the time.