By Jason Jones and John Zmirak
Are you willing to send your child to die for Nikita Khruschev’s legacy? As history buffs will remember, Khrushchev was the man who brought the United States to the brink of nuclear war, and civilization to the very edge of extinction, in 1962 when he stuck his nose deep into our backyard by placing Soviet nuclear missiles 90 miles off our shore in Cuba.
Dying and killing for Khrushchev is precisely what any use of American troops in the current Ukrainian quagmire would amount to – since the flashpoint of conflict that could spark a global war is the status of the ancient Russian province of Crimea. That classically Russian region was arbitrarily transferred in 1954 by Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev without the approval of its Russian-speaking inhabitants. This capricious move hardly mattered at the time, since the whole Soviet Union was a vast and politically uniform totalitarian state. But that transfer became much more meaningful when that evil empire collapsed in 1990 – leaving Ukraine independent and the vast Russian Black Sea fleet headquartered in what was now a foreign country. Ukraine proper (without the grafted on appendage of the Crimea) was itself hopelessly divided among those who spoke Ukrainian and those who spoke Russian, and among Eastern rite Catholics and three separate, mutually hostile Eastern Orthodox churches – not to mention the restive Crimean Tatars, who’d survived Stalin’s attempted genocide in the 1930s.
Ukraine’s independence was a great historic victory for one of the martyred peoples of Europe. Along with Poland and Byelorus, it was one of the lands that had suffered the most from the genocides and brutal wars launched by the vicious totalitarian Soviet and German regimes. Some six to 10 million Ukrainians were intentionally starved to death by their Soviet occupiers, as part of the utopian Marxist plan for collectivizing agriculture. When the Germans invaded, they quickly proved that they were no liberators. Ukrainians, along with other Slavs, were to be treated as subhumans, fit only for grinding labor – and eventual deportation to death beyond the Urals, to make room for “Aryan” colonists. Or so the Nazis planned.
But Ukrainian independence in 1990 was also a dicey prospect, given the centuries-long Russian history of occupying and dominating that region. One advantage Ukraine had was an arsenal of nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviets. Had those weapons been left in its hands, Ukraine would have been forever safe from foreign aggression. But the U.S. and other nations intervened and convinced Ukraine to give those weapons back to Russia as part of a deal in 1994, in which we replaced its nuclear safety blanket with – a promise to defend Ukraine’s borders ourselves. That’s right. The geniuses of the Clinton administration thought world peace would be best served by making the dubious, artificial borders between Russia and Ukraine a trip wire for war between the United States and Russia. And now some saber-rattling Americans are calling for us to honor that thoughtless promise.
The situation in Ukraine is tragic. Every major political party is hopelessly corrupt, and a fierce hostility divides the western Ukrainians, who regard themselves as a recently freed captive nation, from those in the east who look to Russia as their patron and protector. The current crisis, brought on by a feckless attempt by the European Union to pull Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, has seen the overthrow of a legitimately elected president by rioters in the streets – and his headlong flight for his life to the Russian border. Now the Russian speakers of Crimea want to peel their region away from the pro-EU faction that controls Kiev, and Putin’s Russia has chosen to help them.
Do you understand these events well enough to decide who is in the right? Neither do we. Nor do the same talking heads who promised, a decade ago, that bringing democracy to Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” which would “fund itself” through the oil revenues of a new, pro-American government presiding peacefully from Baghdad.
Eleven years, thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars later, Iraq is still a shattered and bloody “failed state” – and “experts” such as William Kristol and John McCain, who helped to promote that war, are somehow still taken seriously.
Now, as we crawl up to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I – a massive conflict that began over fractious Slavic provinces that the combatants knew little about – we hear the voices of self-important commentators who claim that “American values” are at stake, and American “strength” must be put on display. In 1914, German, Austrian, French, Russian, Serbian and British prestige were all on the line – and the leaders of each of those nations put that prestige ahead of prudence, sanity and the sanctity of human life, with the outcome of more than 10 million dead, the destruction of three of those nations and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks, then the Nazis.
We should not imitate Khruschev by sticking our nose into Russia’s business, not even in defense of what warmongering idealists claim are American values. America has no more business tinkering in Ukraine than China has meddling in Mexico. We do not fully understand what is happening over there, and we have no stake in it. If we got involved, the Russians would rightly see us trying to treat their country as our colony – and they would respond with outraged national pride. And the Russians, unlike the Ukrainians, kept their nukes. Is it anything less than insane for us to risk a genocidal nuclear confrontation to safeguard Khrushchev’s whim, or to back the demands of one set of rioters against another?
If the tea party is really serious about shrinking big government, now is the time to walk that talk. Nothing grows government or breaks budgets like reckless wars of choice. So tea-party voters need to start making calls and sending emails to smack down those Republicans who opportunistically call President Obama “weak” for behaving responsibly. Any Republican who shouts for confrontation with Russia deserves to be crushed in the primaries by patriotic voters who refuse to waste the trillions of dollars and countless thousands of lives that any conflict with Russia would cost us.
As Christians, we know that war should be the very last resort, once every other possible means has been tried to resolve a conflict. Do we say this because we are cowards? Or sickly humanitarians who prefer dishonor to death? No, we say it because we are realists, and we know what war amounts to: A carte blanche for all the worst forms of human behavior, from mass killing to gang rape, from mass theft to organized torture. That is what war really is, and those who chomp at the bit for the chance to exert military power ought to be labeled as what they are: the pornographers of violence.
Let Americans who crave the opportunity to “talk tough” and assert themselves find some other way to raise their low testosterone levels. Our soldiers didn’t sign up to be the plastic counters in these people’s game of Risk.
Jason Jones and John Zmirak are co-authors of the forthcoming “The Race to Save Our Century,” which will be released July 28, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.