Balances of Power

Students have watched closely as Russia invaded a neighbor in a manner every bit as brazen as the start of the world’s last thirty-year war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Some have worried whether or not other nations will be pulled into this conflict. Only time will tell. The more provocative question involves why Russia invaded in the first place.

The answer boils down to three words: Putin wanted to.

Justifications for that answer get conspiratorial and weird quickly. I can’t find an ideological thread that holds water. Putin certainly doesn’t long for a return to communism. More than one journalist has asked if Putin has lost his mind. Putin claimed that the legitimately elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zalensky, is a Nazi, and that Russia would demilitarize Ukraine to protect the world from another Holocaust. (Zalensky is Jewish, which renders Putin’s claims ridiculous.) Putin has also placed the armed forces of his country on “high nuclear alert,” which has stoked fears that he would use such weapons if the fortunes of war turned against him.

Putin ordered the invasion simply because he could. He knows that the conflicts in the Middle East have exhausted Americans’ willingness to send soldiers overseas to defend the freedom of other people. He knows that his annexation of Crimea in 2014 brought no more than rhetorical virtue signaling and a light slap on the wrist. He knows what every bully knows: he’s going to keep trampling on those who are weaker until somebody has the audacity to give him a bloody nose.

The confirmation of this premise lies in the fact that his methods appeal to other bullies, most notably China’s President, Xi Jinping–Putin’s most vocal ally. Both of these men mistake autocracy for governance. Both seek to expand the geopolitical influence their countries currently possess. Both imprison and kill dissidents. Both use disinformation campaigns to justify their ruthlessness and to destabilize actual democracies.

Both of these men must smile a little each time they read of books being burned in America, or the lengths to which some have gone to absolve the January 6 rioters of their efforts to destroy American democracy. Indeed, the growth of the far right and the far left in our own country during the last fifteen years has made it more difficult for American institutions to govern toward the middle.

Of course, Putin and Xi haven’t had to do too much to send us down the primrose path of political incontinence. Think of how the disastrous Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission made it possible for the super wealthy to impose their political beliefs (and financial needs) on everyone else. Think of the ways that social media have destroyed traditional–and more fact-based–forms of journalism.

American history shows that compromise lies at the heart of politics. What can be done to find viable compromises that will prevent our country from looking more like China or Russia? Do we even still have the political fortitude to govern towards the broad middle way?

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7 Responses to Balances of Power

  1. Vishnu Gadepalli says:

    The rise of social media has definitely had an impact on news and the communication of current events. Now, virtually anyone with an internet connection is a click away from conveying a thought or idea. Though that is good that people can have a more active role in society, it also opens the door to the rise of misinformation. It is a much more prevalent problem as of late for that reason. Compromises are important in order to maintain diplomatic relations in politics, but at a point, compromises won’t cut it. A way to find viable compromises abroad is to rebuild the country domestically, coming out of the pandemic. There is a lot of distrust regarding the media and the government in general, so rebuilding regarding that could be a potential solution. Also bettering relations with other like-minded countries would be important. A coalition of nations with good intentions is better than a coalition of nations with bad intentions. I believe that as a nation, we do have the political fortitude to govern more moderately and preserve our democracy. Nothing is 100% “good”, and politics is no exception. There are important aspects from both aisles that should be taken into consideration. While it is important that we promote free speech and expression of thought, the spread of disinformation is becoming a bigger issue, however if more people report the actual information, the truth will weigh out the falsities.

  2. Bill Arnoldus says:

    One reason for the invasion of the Ukraine is that Ukraine is actively trying to join NATO. Putin puts high priority on having buffer states around Russia to stop the spread of Western influence into Russia (capitalism). Putin already had Belarus under his paw and now that Ukraine is close to joining NATO, Putin realized that the sooner the better to invade before Ukraine is a part of NATO. He waited until after the Olympics to invade.

    Compromise may be at the heart of current politics and maintaining a stable country, but radical change is the fire that ignites the people of a nation to really shape what it is now. George Washington (created USA), Abraham Lincoln (led USA through civil war) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (led USA through Great Depression), are commonly known as the best leaders this country has seen because of the radical change they led their country through. Same is probably known in Russia about the Bolsheviks (created Soviet Russia, later Soviet Union). Putin views the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster to ever happen. He’s willing to invade Ukraine to maintain what he can of the remnants or even piece back together what he can of the Soviet Union.

    One of the biggest reasons America has not ended up like Russia or China during it’s hardest times is because the leaders have successfully led their country through radical change in economics and politics in the names of capitalism and democracy and it has worked! If it didn’t work during the Great Depression then the people of the United States would have revolted and perhaps gone down the same path as the Russians, Italians and Japanese during WW2.

    I don’t know what the broad middle way is referencing.

  3. Gordon Welch says:

    Winston Churchill once stated, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

    The United States has a reputation for pushing through tough situations. Especially ones in which democracy is challenged and tried again and again. Democracy doesn’t seem amazing from time to time, but it seems that it is the best form of government that one can have until a new one is ever brought forth. For the United States to look less like China and Russia, it needs to follow democracy every step of the way through this challenge. The question now is, do we have a strong enough leader and team of government to get us through this. I personally think the best leader in recent history who could’ve best handled this situation left office on January 20, 2017, but the current leader will do. With this in mind along with other factors including NATO and nuclear weapons, this will hopefully be an easy test for democracy, but a strong test to Russia. With their stock market collapsing, protests all over Russia, soldiers refusing to fight, Russia will likely collapse from within.

    Lastly, I don’t think the United States will govern along the broad middle way for a long time. Right now, it seems that no one wants a leader who is considered a moderate. Everyone is either apart of an all right or all left group, no in-between. Until large support is given to a moderate presidential candidate, who knows when or if this will ever happen, then we may see a change in the way people think of politics in the United States.

    • Carolena Graham says:

      I agree with Gorden but I reject the statement “Everyone is either a part of an all right or all left group, no in-between”. The United States is extremely divided but there is a large population who are in between. In which their voices are often silenced. These people believe in certain aspects of the Democratic and Republican parties. I also believe this population is growing because of the fact that Trump didn’t always make the best decisions and his character is highly inappropriate for the position he held; It seems as if Biden isn’t doing enough with the power he has. I do believe that the United States will never be on the level China and Russia are because our citizens will never submit and will physically reject being constrained.

  4. Jon Kiesel says:

    Update the elective system in all aspects: Presidential, Senate, House, everything. Make it somehow more selective and incentivizing for more worthy people. These recent elections, since 2016, have made us, citizens of America, choose between unfavorable candidates as there’s more cons than pros for each of them. The structure of the elective system, first past the post, also makes it to where there’s only two candidates worth voting for, and thus every voter doesn’t have any reason to know about third party candidates. This isn’t just pragmatically flawed, but this is also unethical in my view, seeing that the system diminishes the options voters have in holding their government accountable.

    I think that if we simply change the electoral system, away from first past the post and into something more like a ranked voting system, then there will be much better decisions made from our government, including but not limited to a better allocation of military and diplomatic relations. Such an improvement will make certain that we won’t corrupt into a country like Russia or China.

  5. Jeremiah McClain says:

    As long as we have the resources the invade another country, I think we will let our emotions get the best of us.I never though that we were able to just bomb another country without consequence. One would assume that is against the law. Regardless, I don’t think we will ever be satisfied with the quality of our country and will always resort to violence.

  6. Aaron+Sharp says:

    It’s thought that social media is the cause of the political shift towards polar sides instead of the middle. A lot of this is due to people getting their news from propaganda instead of reliable sources, and journalistic integrity has gone down the drain. Moderates are uncommon, and are growing even more uncommon. The left is just as bad as the right, and it’s only getting worse. News sources like Fox News are becoming “too liberal” which is absurd, and more and more propaganda is being spread through sources like twitter, especially now that Elon Musk has bought out Twitter to promote “freedom of speech”.

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