Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

Neo-Appeasement Fails

As hospitals, schools, and other civilian targets burn in Ukraine, Western powers continue to run around like headless chickens. After years of playing passive roles in the background, the western democracies are now being forced awake by the realities of the world. While politicians in Washington D.C., London, and Berlin try to interpret the unfolding disaster in the Ukraine through the lenses of passivity, a harsh truth is ever present in the background: the policies of neo-appeasement have failed.

The sham that is modern diplomacy took center stage during the Syrian conflict, when former President Obama created irrelevant ‘red lines’ in the sand. If Syria continued to use chemical weapons, he said, the United States would act. The sadistic Bashar al Assad knew who he was dealing with and didn’t fear the paper tiger roaring in Washington. Instead, he continued his campaign against the Syrian people and deployed chemical weapons with little fear of international repercussion. President Obama backtracked and ran from the promises he made and offered President Putin the reins to ‘handle the situation’ in Syria. Putin did, and under his guidance the two dictators utterly decimated the country. The result? The humiliation of the West, the emboldening of Russia, and the survival of the Assad regime.

A few years later, President Putin attacked Ukraine. Seeing the ineptitude of President Obama’s international policies, Putin seized Crimea and fomented a civil conflict in the eastern portion of the country. The western powers gasped, clutched their pearls, and issued sanctions. Ah yes, they indeed used the sanctions cards back then too. And the result? Putin maintains control of the Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine festered, and the simmering issue unresolved by sanctions festered until it erupted several weeks ago.

And now here we are, watching President Putin lay waste to the Ukraine. Towns are burning, cities are constantly shrieking with air raid sirens, and millions of citizens are fleeing into Europe. And what is the West doing to counter this offensive war? Sanctions! Because apparently, they think THIS time they will work. Sanctions did not destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nor did they cripple North Korea’s Kim regime. And we can see how shortsighted sanctions are when looking at Iran, where the West is bending over backwards to appease the ayatollahs in Tehran.

Sanctions do not prevent or end conflicts. The West should remember that money isn’t everything when it comes to politics. Ba’athist ideology kept Saddam in power through the international sanctions; Communist fanaticism keeps Pyongyang armed to the teeth; and Islamic extremism allows the ayatollahs to do as they please in Iran. And there is little doubt that Putin will see this conflict through to the end, despite all the sanctions. Sanctions may hurt, but they do not destroy. The only thing that can counter political violence is force.

Our politicians are now crippling themselves with fear over possibly offending Russia. Ukraine is begging for substantial aid, yet the West tiptoes around the Russian bear. The US has paused military tests in the hopes of not upsetting Putin. The US and other powers refuse to create a no-fly zone because they fear Putin’s rhetoric. Why would any country ally themselves with Western democracies if this is what they do when a country needs help? President Putin started this war. His forces are destroying maternity hospitals and apartment blocks. He is the aggressor. How is it that the aggressor now dictates international policy? How quickly politicians forgot the lessons of Hitler and Stalin.

Instead of allowing Russia the ability to dictate the rules of this war, the West should counter in kind and create a no-fly zone and fully arm the Ukrainians. Putin must be made an example of. If not, other despotic regimes will take notice. If Russia can seize large swaths of the Ukraine, China will see the green light to attack Taiwan. They then may swoop in to take islands from Japan. And on and on it will spin until Russia and China become the new superpowers while the West collapses into irrelevance.

Enough is enough. If the West fails to live up to its principles, another power will seize control. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if the West fades away the only thing left to replace it is authoritarianism. The West must act before it is too late.

About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.
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