By Leon Aron, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Leon Aron is a resident scholar and the Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
Two wars – one in Gaza the other in eastern Ukraine – are unfolding simultaneously. They have nothing in common except this: both should be being seen as unambiguous in terms of which side is right and which wrong. And second, both are likely to end in a strategic (i.e. long-term) defeat for the right side because of the attitudes that shape the approach of Western leaders to both wars.
The facts are not in dispute. In Ukraine, the legitimate government in Kiev is trying to restore Ukrainian sovereignty over its territory, in practical terms seized by Russia in a proxy war using professional special troops, intelligence officers and mercenaries (kontraktniki) to train assorted thugs known collectively as "rebels" or "separatists" who are being armed and supplied by Russia.
In Gaza, Israel is battling a fundamentalist terrorist organization dedicated to killing Jews, Christians and gays and oppressing women. As in Ukraine, they attacked first, by firing hundreds missiles at Israeli cities and towns.
Yet in neither case has the justness of the causes led the "West" to wish for a victory by the "right" side, rather than a "truce" or "ceasefire," which, as everyone knows, the "wrongs" are going to violate as soon as they recover, regroup, and resupply.
Two reasons in the post-modern canon could provide an explanation. First, while someone's victory implies someone's defeat, "peace" – no matter how fraudulent or short-lived – superficially has no losers, and for that reason is vastly preferable. Second, the "right" and "wrong," the "just" and "unjust," the "good and evil" are inherently suspect because values themselves are suspect. Western opinion makers appear to have learned from elite universities that "values" are "individual" and "subjective." As a result, they must be taken out of political discourse and decision-making. Hence, too, the coverage by the elite media of the West of both wars as "conflicts" in which the word "just" or its synonyms never once appear, both sides are somehow equally at fault, and therefore a victory by one side is not more morally agreeable than by the other.
So strong are these ideological imperatives that not even a tragedy can influence them. Neither the downing of the MH17, almost certainly by a Russia-supplied surface-to-air missile, nor the murder of three Israeli teenagers nor repugnancy over the deliberate sacrifice of civilians by Hamas can introduce morality into these wars and make victory over evil preferred to peace.
The death of just wars isn't merely a reflection of the prevailing Western mentality. When tragedy isn't recognized as a moral phenomenon, which would assign guilt and causes to punish the guilty, more tragedy ensues and more death.
In the two wars I mentioned, the "operational" consequences of this zeitgeist are perfectly obvious. If Ukraine is to renew its successful offensive, which it unilaterally suspended for several days after the downing of the MH17 to facilitate access to the crash site, and suspended again for one day yesterday for the same reason, then the Kremlin – which for domestic political reasons cannot afford a defeat in Ukraine – is bound to cry "fratricidal civil war." It will then likely call for an immediate ceasefire (which of course leaves its proxies in control of what they hold today) and can be expected to threaten to move regular troops across the border to "protect innocent civilian lives."
To prevent Russia's direct aggression (and thus the need to impose additional sanctions that may be politically uncomfortable for the EU members) the "West" will put pressure on Ukraine, which, as before, will announce a unilateral ceasefire. There may even follow, as demanded by Russia, direct negotiations between a democratically elected government of one of the largest European countries and violent mercenary thugs. That is, until the "rebels" again attack a high value symbolic target – as they've done with the Donetsk airport – and the "cycle of violence" (a sterile, value-free term) will start again.
In Jerusalem, as in Kiev, Israel will be forced to accept a ceasefire by U.S. diplomacy, which ipso facto equates a vibrant democracy with a theocratic dictatorship by fanatical terrorists. Hamas will rebuild the tunnels, will replenish its arsenal of missiles, and then will begin anew abducting or murdering more Israeli civilians and soldiers and shooting missiles at the Jews.
@Chrissy: lunch is over. I'll get back to you later; let me know what you think! TTYL
HOW ALLIANCE AGAINS HITLER WAS FORMED IN WW2:
The factual materials are collected mostly from Encyclopedia Britannica.
SPANISH CIVIL WAR (1936-1939):
Military revolt against the Republican government of Spain. The revolt was supported by conservative elements within the country. When an initial military coup failed to win control of the entire country, a bloody civil war ensued, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The Nationalists (led by general Franco), as the rebels were called, received aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States. The nationalists took upper hand and Franco was installed at a dictator for many decades.
MUNICH AGREEMENT (September 30, 1938):
A settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. After his success in absorbing Austria into Germany proper in March 1938, Adolf Hitler looked covetously at Czechoslovakia, where about three million people in the Sudeten area were of German origin. It became known in May 1938 that Hitler and his generals were drawing up a plan for the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovaks were relying on military assistance from France, with which they had an alliance. The Soviet Union also had a treaty with Czechoslovakia, and it indicated willingness to cooperate with France and Great Britain if they decided to come to Czechoslovakia’s defense, but the Soviet Union and its potential services were ignored throughout the crisis.
As Hitler continued to make inflammatory speeches demanding that Germans in Czechoslovakia be reunited with their homeland, war seemed imminent. Neither France nor Britain felt prepared to defend Czechoslovakia, however, and both were anxious to avoid a military confrontation with Germany at almost any cost. In mid-September, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, offered to go to Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden to discuss the situation personally with the Führer. Hitler agreed to take no military action without further discussion, and Chamberlain agreed to try to persuade his cabinet and the French to accept the results of a plebiscite in the Sudetenland. The French premier, Édouard Daladier, and his foreign minister, Georges Bonnet, then went to London, where a joint proposal was prepared stipulating that all areas with a population that was more than 50 percent Sudeten German be returned to Germany. The Czechoslovaks were not consulted. The Czechoslovak government initially rejected the proposal but was forced to accept it reluctantly on September 21.
On September 22 Chamberlain again flew to Germany and met Hitler at Godesberg, where he was dismayed to learn that Hitler had stiffened his demands: he now wanted the Sudetenland occupied by the German army and the Czechoslovaks evacuated from the area by September 28. Chamberlain agreed to submit the new proposal to the Czechoslovaks, who rejected it, as did the British cabinet and the French. On the 24th the French ordered a partial mobilization; the Czechoslovaks had ordered a general mobilization one day earlier.
In a last-minute effort to avoid war, Chamberlain then proposed that a four-power conference be convened immediately to settle the dispute. Hitler agreed, and on September 29, Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier, and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met in Munich, where Mussolini introduced a written plan that was accepted by all as the Munich Agreement. (Many years later it was discovered that the so-called Italian plan had been prepared in the German Foreign Office.) It was almost identical to the Godesberg proposal: the German army was to complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by October 10, and an international commission would decide the future of other disputed areas. Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could either resist Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The Czechoslovak government chose to submit.
Before leaving Munich, Chamberlain and Hitler signed a paper declaring their mutual desire to resolve differences through consultation to assure peace. Both Daladier and Chamberlain returned home to jubilant welcoming crowds relieved that the threat of war had passed, and Chamberlain told the British public that he had achieved “peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.” His words were immediately challenged by his greatest critic, Winston Churchill, who declared, “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.” Indeed, Chamberlain’s policies were discredited the following year, when Hitler annexed the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March and then precipitated World War II by invading Poland in September.
Very nice information, Igor. So what do you think about the similarity between Putin's behavior of the last one year and Hitler's behavior in 1938? many of us are seeing a strong correlation between the 2 guys. both were "insecure small little men" on the inside, both hungry for "power and domination" on the outside, both capable of arousing great military machines which can cause much death and destruction, and both countries (Germany in 1938 and Russia in 2013) are hurting enough economically to want their "crazy" dictator leader to do something "heroically stupid" like starting a very very bad war.............
Reply on comparing Putin to Hitler:
No comparing Putin and Hitler is based on insufficient understanding. I could compare Putin with U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Similarity is in exaggerated concern for internal undermining forces inspired from abroad.
Why Putin cannot be compared to Hitler? I will list features of Hitler, which you do not see in Putin:
1. Hitler is extreme proponent of German national superiority. Putin is ardent federalist. During Putin's time all ethnic groups (more that 150 ethnicities live in Russia) recieved unprecedented support in developing their culture. The nationalism is not tolerated by Russian laws and propagande of ethnic superiority or instigation of ethnic violence is persecuted by law.
2. Hitler commited mass extermination of people based on ethnicity or religion. Putin did not.
3. Htler invaded Chechoslovakia under pretence of re-joining Sudets germans. Situatio with Crimea cannot be compared.
Crimea and the role of Nikita Khrushchev: During 1930’s Krushchev was making a political career as a party leader in Ukraine (for references see encyclopedia brittanica and wikepedia). He was involved in Stalin’s purges in 1930’s. Although he made attempts to alleviate hunger in Ukraine (above), he could not do much about it as Stalin was firm in his agricultural and industrial policies. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev became a general secretary of Communist party and by default the leader of the Government. In 1954 Khrushchev transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine (of course it still was part of USSR and nothing really changed at this time as army and currency was under USSR control). There are various explanations for this transfer by Khrushchev, including atonement for purges in 1930’s, his guilt feeling about famine, need for administrative streamlining of construction projects and a gift to Ukraine on 300 year anniversary of unification Ukraine and Russia. No matter what the reason was, this was done and in 1991 after break up of USSR Crimea physically ended up in another country.
Ukraine (after dissolution of USSR):
Over 24 years after establishing independence have past. We have seen multiple changes of government and two revolutions.
The west provided huge financial aid (from taxpayer’s pockets) which did not to stabilize the country politically and economically. Western financial aid directed to support “Ukrainian Democracy” was ending up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. Much of it also ended up with ultra-radical nationalist movements training armed nationalists who helped to capture power in Western Ukraine and Kiev. Part of the reason is continuous corruption leading to absorption of the western money in the pockets of few.
Intense political strife due to orientation of East/South Ukraine towards Russia and Western areas towards Europe and USA. The present leaders in Kiev used anti-Russian nationalists to usurp power. This was not a peaceful process. The footage of armed government buildings take over in Western Ukraine and Kiev back in February was shown by many new channels. This was called a revolution and received an approval by USA and Western Europe. At the same, the decision of the West to legitimize the present rulers in Kiev leads to referendum in Crimea and it’s re-unification with Russia. The two key factors are essential to understand:
1. True will of the majority of Crimean population. If you have doubts, arrange a week of great summer vacation there for very affordable price and talk to people there.
2. Crimea’s strategic position. During negotiations of West/East Germany unification Gorbachev had agreement with the West that NATO will not expand to Eastern Europe. It is possible that after USSR break up the West decided that those agreements are not to be followed. The result of last 20 years of NATO expansion is that European part of Russia is surrounded by NATO. Many times Russia raised concerns about it. Obviously, in present situation, the threat of Sevastopol (one of the key Russian navy bases) and Crimea at large becoming a province of NATO did not look too good.
Present confrontation in the Eastern Ukraine:
This is a major Russian-speaking region. The Civil war is raging and “anti-terrorist” special operation forces mainly composed on nationalistic elements (you can see Bandera emblem on their sleeves) intend to crush resistance. How the events unfold nobody knows, but continuous support of nationalistic government in Kiev by USA may lead to more intense involvement of Russia. I hope that all this will not lead to direct confrontation between Russia and US as both countries have nuclear potential to turn everything into ash.
The situation in Crimea cannot be compared?!? It is identical!
I am reading some replies and it is obvious that many in the West are just now aware that many Ukrainian units consist of nationalistic brigades: they have bandera emblem on their sleeves. That is why so many civilians are killed in Donetsk/Luhansk. Western media mostly ignores this. The chorus of parrots will continue blaming Putin.
You forgot one important difference. Putin has a heated swimming pool. Hitler did not!
is it academia elitism taking the use of 'just wars' out of the discussion, or the fact that it is very hard to justify wars for profit under any morality code?
America lost it's standing on the moral high ground in Iraq between 2001 and 2012. We went to war with a country purely for profit driven reasons. Our standing in the world and our voice at the negotiations table were extremely tarnished once we decided profit was a good enough reason, and torturing P.O.W.s for information leading to more profit became ok.
Being hesitant to use our military does not make us weak on the world stage. Blatantly using our military to turn a profit forever damaged our credentials as a moderator of peace. It will take the world a long time to listen to us talk about what is right and wrong morally. The world will not listen to us if our biggest claim is our ability to bully the little guys. They listened because we fought against the bullies.
Thank you guest. That was an absolutely superb comment. yes, indeed, America has lost all its credibility on the world stage. War has become this awful means by which the US military industrial complex sees nothing more than dollar signs dancing before its eyes. What makes it even worse, is that we Americans just do not have the money, so the Iraq war was conducted on "tab" which means that US $ 3 trillion was added to our national debt, which now is crossing US $ 18 trillion.
Wow talking about drinking the cool-aide. To place things in such a simplified context that follows the narrative of some within progressive thinking with no original thought or deep analysis of your own is truly not amazing,just one of the herd..
sign you mixed the Kool ( not cool) aid
It is so COOL to know that there is no such thing as BAD behavior. There is no such thing as good. Or bad.
How can I say this? Because I am a super brain. Much more brainy than YOU, you loser...
Ha ha. I WIN.
All Top politicians and all top businessmen are interested to make more money and more money by selling weapons and expend their business around the world,where they can produce cheaper goods and get more profit. They have no human values and no care of human life in poor countries. We are remembering about First world war in 1914 but forgetting the human value in poor countries and make war in different parts of world, continue to sale weapons in another countries and get money by selling weapons? There is a UNO security council members for what? They have responsibilities for world peace and care for all human being, nature plants and animals? But they all care for their business and power? If all Top politicians and all top business communities come together for save the world and save the nature plants and animals. Take firm determination to save the life of all human beings, plants and animals. We all are on earth for short time and time comes and we leave this world. No one is living on earth more than 150 or 200 years, all will have to leave this world and at the time of leaving this world, nothing come with us? Money, house, family or friends all will stay here and nothing will go with us? why we do not understand this secret and do bad for others and others countries and poor people left in war? People die in war and with weapons and all top politicians and top businessman watching news on TV, Newspaper and internet, no one is coming together to stop war and crimes against poor and helpless people. All are busy to make money and sale weapons and destroy the world? I request all the top politician, please come together and unite all top leaders and businessmen to save the human value on earth and save the plants and animals and make the beautiful world.
Thank you Bhola. Incredible wisdom from ages past. You are right. Extremely greedy businessmen are controlling power hungry politicians, with no regard at all towards life, limb, pollution, good behavior, kindness to others, respect, love, helping the downtrodden, mother nature, planet earth. We humans most certainly deserve to by hit by an asteroid and vaporized huh? When are we going to blessed with a Mother Theresa like saint who can lead us???
Just love your comment: "When are we going to be blessed with a Mother Theresa like saint who can lead us"............ wow, that was powerful. Yes indeed............... "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us all from evil"............... isn't that a part of a christian prayer somewhere??? It sure seems like leaders throughout our planet, these days, are leading us very much under the hypnotic control of money, the biggest temptation there is, and are delivering all of us into the evils of war, discord, destruction, dysfunction, despair and death............. :( If there was ever a time when we badly needed Mother Theresa to guide us............ it is now...........
Lol @ Bigwilliestyles, im glad you remembered how much i detest racism and bigotry! Back to the compensation i spoke of for the native americans~i wasnt thinking of the reservations when i said it. They were compensated financially as were their descendants for a number of years! And yes they did get the reservations and with those came the right to create their own laws to be enforced solely by them. But also they had choices of whether they wished to live on them or not. They are allowed to manufacture/produce items and sell them as they wish. Palestinians are not. And they do not have to fear comming or going! Palestinians also dont have that luxury.
So very true @ Bhola! Sad isnt it when GREED is the biggest motivator! And shameful!
There is no such thing as morality or right or rights or wrong or wrongs, only beliefs, thoughts, feelings, words, actions, and results are real. War is just a relatively unimportant example of yet another human activity where all of the preceding fully applies. There never was a “just war”. It’s an Oxymoron.
There are wars that should be fought, win or lose; there are wars that should be fought, but only if one wins; there are wars that should be fought when a tie or better can be achieved, and there are wars that should not be fought at all – none of those things apply to any participants, except for leaders on one side or usually on both.
For example, the United States should have gone to war and got rid of Saddam, as it did. The United States should have presumed that the same thing would most likely have to be done if anyone ever re-assembled a State covering all of Iraq (an impossibility without war threatening American interests), and a bad idea for everyone on Earth in any case). The United States should have assumed that one of the follow-on events would be something exactly like ISIS, and planned for it.
The United States should otherwise have done no intervening whatsoever, left the country in shambles, and ignored the suffering. Unless one or more local parties developed a credible case for popular support in ONE particular area and a credible claim of maybe being able and willing to provide some security, order, justice, freedom, and prosperity to that area; then the United States should have offered an open checkbook and any desired non-military personal whose safety or lives would not be at risk if they went to help at the Local’s request.
Moral is like law: a tool for promoting security order justice freedom and prosperity. What does that, one does not regret, provided one’s own part was done as one’s best effort. THAT to me is also moral, and nothing else deserves the term: “moral”. NOTHING.
Except smerica did not go to war in Iraq to promot security, order, justice, or freedom. Just prosperity, the prosperity of a rediculously small minority of people in the world at the great expense of pretty much everyone else in the world. That is pretty much the opposite of morality, even by your own definition. America didnt even put forth a good effort with concise goals or achievable outcome, or even with fully supplied troops.
We took a bunch of men, dropped them in the desert and told them to kill things until nothing moved, then move up and do it again. We were moving fleets upon fleets of military vehicles through empty desert with no real goals, all for profit of a very very few world wide. It wasnt even close to trying to do the right thing in any humanitarian sense, it was purely about expending high amounts of fuel to make huge dollars for the people with the contracts to supply the oil (it was the same people making the decisions to drive around pointlessly).
In this world what is moral but what the powers that be tell us is moral? God is replaced by the state or political apparatus and we eat crumbs from its table...
"sigh* you are an idiot........no rights and wrongs. How absurd.
ps I couldn't past the absurdity of your first statements......but then thought I should try. But after reading your last statement....I can't waste the time. You are ridiculous. your first statement: "there is no morality........." Your last statement:
"THAT is moral to me...." *sigh* again. There IS Right and Wrong......and YOU ARE WRONG!
If you believe there is no right and wrong, then you are a complete moron.
no one is really responding to the actual article-the point is that we have so lost our moral compass that it is difficult for most of us to keep enough focus to see who is in the "right" and who is in the "wrong". When a kid in the schoolyard gets knocked down by a bully and his friends, then gets up and fights back-when the principle shows up the fair thing would be that the bully gets detention and the get that was beat up goes without punishment. right and wrong. Not one of the above comments seems to understand the concept-they go all over the map-proving the point of the authro of the article!
Morals are more than lessons from spiritual belief. Spiritual belief is just an attempt to answer the unanswerable questions with more tangible ideas than philosophical debate. To provide shelter from the storm. To believe completely the stories and lessons and find comfort is ok, wise even, wise for more reasons than the fear of eternal damnation, metaphorically or spiritually.
I agree with don and with the article. Thanks you so much for writing this...I was starting to wonder if I was the crazy one
Israel shoots at Hamas members riding on a motorcycle past a UN shelter and says that Hamas is firing from behind human shields. They were DRIVING PAST, even by Israel's own admission, yet they saw it necessary to fire powerful missiles at them that killed and wounded civilians in the shelter. Israel has morals the way the devil has morals. Israel wants to reduce the Palestinian population by any means necessary, and are happy to see the opportunity to do so in a war.
Hamas is an evil gang of murderers. You'd shoot at them also, if they were firing at your house and kids.
Is Israel right and moral?
Oh and U R Usless
well said....in the US death has come to TRUTH.....RIGHT.....WRONG....JUST and UNJUST. it is indeed an amoral world. CULTURAL RELATIVISM reigns in our country. ( which of course taken to its logical end point....can ONLY conflict and contradict itself) There CAN ONLY BE right and wrong......there is no CONFLICT when it's followed to it's logical end.
how did we become such an immoral world? all religions teach us basic principles such as: thou shallt not kill and love thy neighbor. But even if we push religion aside, just common sense should guide us to live our lives based on love and kindness. it is much less stressful and gives a person much more joy to live a simple life, not too material, but filled with genuine friends and happy family. morals actually make sense, believe it or not. most immoral behavior stems from greed and selfish acts. time for all of us to move away from that ignorance and head towards a life based on love and kindness.
Ya know, I think we lost our compassion around the same time we forgot about upper-case letters.
Wow. and black is white.
The democratically elected government in Ukraine was ousted by western supported unrest. The current crisis is the reaction of poeple who were quite happy to be Ukrainian but are resisting being forced to give up their historic ties to Russia.
The Palistinian people are held in abject poverty for decades in what ammounts to a "" camp called Gaza. Practically defenseless they are periodically pounded by one of the most sophisticated military's in the world.
Those US supported actions are not amoral, the word is immoral.
thank you. USA and Israel have most certainly become the biggest terrorists on planet earth........... they just have a very very very big problem admitting it............ :)
This individual forgot 1800 killed civilian and the occupied situation of the Palestinian Territories, the continued settlement and many other unfair things...that is as hearing Israeli television.
How absurd. This article talks about "two wars", as if there are only two: Ukraine and Gaza. Meanwhile, the war which is the bloodiest, and the most concerning--ISIS in Iraq–not mentioned. Get some priorities.
A tremendous column. We see the failures of moral relativism when we can't tell right from wrong. It's why we have to use absurd euphemisms like "man made disasters." It does seem to be the reason why we're all trying to "stop the cycle of violence," but we can't agree on how to root out evil.
This is pure BS. The govt in Ukraine was installed via a coup, and is associated with the worst of the slavic nationalists, bigots and racists that even the Nazis were queasy about They have committed any number of atrocities against ethic Russians. Meanwhile, the Israeli's are running an open air concentration camp, repeatedly violate international laws, shameless use propaganda to justify what amounts ethnic cleansing.
this is a pathetic attempt to advance a particular political agenda using context dependent moral arguments that are based on ignoring all credible counter claims.
"The death of just wars isn't merely a reflection of the prevailing Western mentality. When tragedy isn't recognized as a moral phenomenon, which would assign guilt and causes to punish the guilty, more tragedy ensues and more death." So the article reads but the wars being discussed are both Eastern mentality; Russia, Israel, the Gaza Strip are all Middle-East. Yes, Russia is Middle-East.
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