George Orwell said the farther a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it and that in times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
Although we often have a vested interest in ignoring or denying it, truth is neither relative nor subjective, and it stands alone in all its majesty, however elusive. In a Pavlovian/Nietzschean perversion, humans have been conditioned by our elected officials and the mass media to perceive lies as truth, and the results have brought us to the brink of extinction and an era in which rational individuals cannot cope with reality when confronted with it. Over the years, as a student, journalist, and human being, finding truth wherever it resides has been paramount. Not being beholden to any organization to whom I owe my existence for sustenance or allegiance to my homeland has enabled me to alter my once intransigent stances when new information was brought to my attention, and the change was noticeable to friends and family who said I was a better writer and person because of it.
In any pursuit of truth, it is understood that we might never arrive at a definite answer. As we learned from the great Greek philosophers, we must proceed as though, in principle, we can find truth by asking questions, many of which will be unanswered because ignorance, the alternative, is unacceptable, and the unexamined life is not worth living. There have been other factors in my coming of age and the quest for truth—specifically, the editors-in-chief of two excellent publications, Chronicles and Merion West. My recent friendship with Dr. Paul Gottfried has been critical in helping me craft the opinion pieces I strive to write. He is unquestionably the most formidable academic I have ever met, and I have met quite a few. His life experiences and age have made this possible, but I argue that education at every level was more rigorous in his days as a student than today. When I have a question about history or politics, an email to Paul is my first action.
Erich J. Prince has made a niche for himself as someone who has given a platform to all points of view at Merion West. He is the only editor I have allowed to modify my work; the result has always been a better final product. I present my thoughts on the War In Ukraine with these two gentlemen in mind and my 87-year-old Russian mother, who has not heard from her cousin in Belarus for a year. The War in Ukraine is the gravest threat to civilization since WWII. Still, you would not discern that watching American legacy media, which seems fixated on Hunter Biden’s laptop, migrants breaching America’s southern border, or former President Trump’s dalliances with courtesans and penchant for groping women. In the 1960s, the sight of American soldiers coming home in body bags every evening on the news angered American citizens enough to mobilize and ultimately stop the Vietnam War, which raged on far longer than it should have. Our American media has learned from their past mistakes. As a result, there is very little footage of the devastation and carnage of the War in Ukraine, which has desensitized the public as to what is going on. In his 1945 essay “Notes on Nationalism,” Orwell asserted that the nationalists and mass manipulators of his time justified their actions with writings that amounted to “plain forgery in which material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed for their original context and doctored to change their meaning,” and where “events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied.”
Daniel Sharp’s Merion West article, The Russo-Ukrainian War: A Very Simple Conflict, evocates some of Orwell’s ideas. Sharp appears more interested in trying for a cabinet position in a future Nikki Haley administration or helping himself in his quest to discuss the benefits of American hegemony over a dirty martini with Bill Kristol at the Blue Duck Tavern rather than a complete assessment of the war. To be clear, the primary sources for his article are two books by Ukrainian historian Professor Serhii Plokhy: The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine and The Russo-Ukrainian War. Sharp argues that some in the West, through either “innocent ignorance or mendacity,” are unaware that due to the fourth and final degree of the Central Rada, the Ukrainian People’s Republic became an independent, free, and sovereign state of the Ukrainian people, subject to no one. Ukraine is not the first independent nation overtaken by a country they have a long history with and has received help from the United States. Tibet was once independent, and what happened to Tibet is relevant to what is happening between Russia and Ukraine and the United States’ modus operandi:
“Tibet was a fully functioning and independent state before the Chinese invasion. It threatened none of its neighbors, fed its population year after year with no help from the outside world, and owed nothing to any country or international institution. In late 1949, Communist forces entered areas of Eastern (Kham) and Northeastern Tibet (Amdo), then under the military occupation of Nationalist (Guomindang) supported warlord regimes. Mao Zedong met Stalin on January 22, 1950, and asked the Soviet Air Force to transport supplies for the invasion of Tibet. Stalin replied: It is good you are preparing to attack Tibet. The Tibetans need to be subdued. The full-scale invasion took place on October 5, 1950.”
Many Americans who get their information about Tibet from Hollywood celebrities like Richard Gere are unaware that the CIA helped to direct a Tibetan guerilla campaign, carried out in the name of the Dalai Lama, against the Chinese occupiers of Tibet from 1956 to 1968.
CIA officer Ken Knaus asserted that “when it no longer served US purposes, the United States abandoned Tibet.” Thousands of lives were lost in the resistance, and the Dalai Lama summed up the CIA operation, saying, “The US Government had involved itself in his country’s affairs not to help Tibet but only as a cold war tactic to challenge the Chinese.”
I have neither read Professor Plokhy’s books nor doubt his acumen regarding an independent Ukraine and the antisemitic pogroms of 1905, and my understanding of his historical scholarship is based upon Sharp’s interpretation of Plokhy’s ideas. Plokhy felt that as a historian, he could offer something that others lacked when it came to understanding the most significant military conflict in Europe since World War II and that his words might actually have some impact on the course of events, and that with his book, he could be of service to his country. Still, his narrative of the War in Ukraine should be more thorough. Adherence to truth should supersede being of service to your country. The 2003 documentary The Fog Of War expressed many essential points regarding military leaders’ difficulty making decisions amid battle and how many things only become apparent in hindsight. Sharp says Plokhy lost a cousin in the War in Ukraine and completed his book in a short period. I argue that these factors that plague military leaders also affect historians and journalists, contributing to the narrative’s incompleteness and bias. Plokhy’s books are the foundation for Sharp’s opinion piece, which should be turned into a screenplay. Perhaps someday Raytheon and Halliburton will invest in the eventual Hollywood movie starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Volodymyr Zelensky, hoping to stop the “revanchist barbarism” of President Putin, played by someone along the lines of Richard “Jaws” Kiel or Rutger Hauer.
Only their explanation of the Russo-Ukrainian War will suffice in the fictional universe that Sharp and Plokhy appear to inhabit. The war is neither about NATO expansion nor American perfidy, reasons Sharp believes to be Russian propaganda or “pseudo-explanations” like proxy wars. According to Sharp, the origins of the war lie in Vladimir Putin’s imperialist dreams and his desire for a restored Russian empire. They offer this speech to add credence to their claim, but I had a different take after reading it. In his plea to the Ukrainian people, Putin laid out an alternative approach, appealing to those in Ukraine who resent the West’s subversion of Western Civilization and perversion of Christianity. There were no threats of violence or war. He made his case to the Ukrainian people that they might have a better future by aligning themselves with him rather than the West. As Sharp explains, Putin believes “Russia is the last great hope of true Christianity and traditional values and Moscow is the “Third Rome.” From high atop the moral high ground from which he preaches, Sharp distills the Russo-Ukrainian War into the following:
“A democratic nation with a long multicultural history, struggling towards a progressive and internationalist future, was invaded by its fascistic, imperialist neighbor. The Ukrainian side is the only side to be on, and the Ukrainian people should be supported for as long as they need and desire to be. Some things are really that simple.”
Sharp tends to talk down to anyone who disagrees with him, referring to alternative narratives as “idiocies.” With reasoning as misleading as Sharp displays in his article, Sharp should look closer to home when looking for individuals who spawn idiocies.
Even though Sharp and Plokhy claim that the NATO expansion has nothing to do with the war, it is not a valid claim. The first issue Vladimir Putin discussed after the invasion was the expansion of NATO and thirty years of broken promises by the West. Dismissing Putin as a liar who cannot be trusted does not dismiss this essential fact. NATO has always been important in discussing US-Russian relations. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. If you relinquish control over your part of Germany, “we will move NATO not one inch eastward.” Gorbachev let Germany go, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Washington rethought the bargain and reneged on their promise. George F. Keenan was the architect of America’s post-World War II strategy of containment of the Soviet Union. As Madeline Albright stood with the foreign ministers of The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland and welcomed these countries into the North American Treaty Alliance, Keenan believed, as did most other Russian experts in the United States, that expanding NATO would damage beyond repair U. S. efforts to transform Russia from enemy to partner. Keenan asserted that expanding NATO into Central Europe was “the most fateful error in American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” NATO expansion has always been of primary importance in U.S./ Russian relations. Jeffrey Sachs’s excellent article effectively illustrates world leaders’ false promises to Russia and that the NATO issue is at the center of this war, despite the protestations of Plokhy and Sharp.
Sharp says that although American dominance is ending, America “remains the first and last hope of democracy in this new and dangerous world.” The fact that the United States has interfered in the elections of many nations, with methods that include financial support to preferred parties and the circulation of propaganda and assassinations and overthrows of democratically elected regimes, is not addressed by Sharp. Moreover, Sharp does not mention the events of February 22, 2014, when Assistant Secretary for European Foreign Affairs Victoria Nuland was the mastermind of a CIA-backed coup that plotted the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. For Vladimir Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected government and pro-Russian president he rightly labeled a “coup”- was the final straw. Putin responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. Suppose Putin were committed to creating a greater Russia. In that case, his intentions would have arisen before February 22. Still, there is no evidence that he was planning on taking Crimea, much less any other territory in Ukraine before that date.
Sharp says, “It is a nice irony that the disgraced leader of the Brexit charge, Boris Johnson, should have ended up as one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies.” He continued, He is undoubtedly more popular in Ukraine than in Britain, and his support of Ukraine might be the only thing he is remembered fondly for.” I will remember Johnson fondly for his role in Brexit but will hold him in contempt should the War in Ukraine spiral out of control. A peace deal Boris Johnson was involved with was in progress early in 2022, as reported by the Ukrainian Pravda on April 9, 2022. At the behest of the West, Johnson changed course. The terms of the deal were reasonable; Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea. In exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries. The United States is treating President Putin as a modern-day Adolf Hitler and believes that striking a deal with him would repeat the mistake of Munich. Sharp says that Putin’s “so-called legitimate security concerns do not grant him the right to veto membership of NATO or bully other nations into staying out of it.” John Mearsheimer points out that this is a dangerous way of thinking. He raises the question of whether Cuba had the right to form a military alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He answers it by stating that the United States did not think so, and the Russians think the same way about Ukraine joining the West. He believed it was in Ukraine’s best interests to understand these facts and tread carefully when dealing with its more powerful neighbor.
In John le Carré’s novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, low-level operatives risk their lives under orders from masters playing a game known only to themselves, which they abandon when it suits them. By then, their pawns were dead. From Tibet to Vietnam to Iraq, and now Ukraine, the history of the United States foreign policy is turning out to be the real-life version of le Carre’s novel, and the United States is using Ukraine as a pawn in their proxy war against Russia. How many more Ukrainians and Russians will die before the United States stops funding the war? Moreover, will the United States government send their soldiers to fight once they have fought to the last Ukrainian? “Sharp asserts that for all its crimes and hypocrisies, American power remains the bulwark of liberty in the world, and everyone should be grateful for it in circumstances like the War in Ukraine. He thinks a simple sentence can explain away a century of American regime change by force, but I am not falling for his America has done some bad things, but the alternatives are worse argument. Perhaps Dick Cheney would be more receptive to his argument.
If life in the United States is superior to life in Russia, it is because I can live another day after writing this indictment against the country I love and have lived all my life. My grievances are not with Russia or Ukraine but with my own country, which I feel has acted irresponsibly. The United States claims to support a nation’s quest for independence, but you can not pick and choose who gets your military and financial support based on your geopolitical aspirations. The United States supports democracy, but if you have a worldwide reputation for turning over election results that you are unhappy with, it is evident that you are no friend of genuine democracy and instead promote an American style of democracy with regular elections but no serious challenges to business interests. Finally, you cannot champion human rights and support activist groups in the United States with substantial financial contributions but disregard human rights abuses in China and Africa. Although Vladimir Putin bears the most significant responsibility for the War in Ukraine as he fired the opening salvo, the United States and their unwillingness to pursue peace or treat Vladimir Putin with the respect he deserves as the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, and their funding of the war implicate them as part of the reason for the war for many in the eyes of the world. It’s that simple. There is no question that Daniel Sharp’s opinion piece at Merion West was not a shoddy blurb. It was a deep dive by a heterodox thinker who is the managing editor at Aero and has taken stances all across the political spectrum. Sharp based his opinion piece on the work of an esteemed and well-respected historian, and they are both trying to advance an agenda. I am doing the same with my response, as I present a narrative that might be wrong. I do not stand behind my words with the conviction Daniel Sharp displays. I have never spent time in Russia or Ukraine but I have dear friends and relatives in both nations. Foreigners commenting from the perimeter must always understand that they could never understand the War in Ukraine with as much insight as the citizens of Russia and Ukraine. The same can be said for the problems facing Israel and Palestine and the deep division in the United States.
Nevertheless, my points, which others have made before me, need to be heard and addressed because how conflicts are resolved has worldwide repercussions. Let us hope there will be a peaceful resolution to this crisis before it is too late, and it is not too late. We must never seek war over peace and diplomacy. Let us hope the leaders of the nations that shape world affairs feel the same way. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.