Last Friday, I was greeted by a copy of the Carletonian with a response to my Viewpoint article that I published on April 8. The Viewpoint article in question raised some excellent points about the dangers of moving into Ukraine and criticized the notion of military intervention. I find it necessary to clarify that I view intervention as necessary not because I want to extend U.S. foreign influence, but because I want to utilize our hegemony to assert hard power against Russia to prevent future atrocities. At this moment, the Ukrainian government has opened up investigations into 6,000 cases of alleged war crimes perpetrated by the Russian military. It’s beyond likely that 6,000 is a low-ball estimate of the number of atrocities inflicted on the Ukrainian people. Evidence collection in the throes of war is difficult, and it’s unlikely that all mass graves containing civilians will be found, at least not right now. An overarching theme of last week’s piece is that a world war is not desirable and that if the U.S. gets involved, there will be U.S. military casualties. To this, I think it better to not think of whether it is the obligation of the U.S. military to“die for Ukraine”; rather, the question should be phrased as whether the U.S. military should fight for Ukraine to prevent genocide and war crimes and to protect the integrity of the world’s borders. I stand by my original piece—I believe that in the twenty-first century, any nation should stand up to genocide and massacres, and I especially believe that because of my family’s own experience with genocide. But the Viewpoint article from last week raises points that do not pertain to genocide and massacres, but instead shift the conversation towards issues of conventional warfare on the global scale. This piece will dive slightly into this but will overall maintain the thesis of preventing further war crimes.
One aspect of U.S. foreign policy that often is overlooked is the perspective of Ukrainians on intervention. Nearly 90% of Ukrainians support foreign military intervention on their behalf. I find it difficult for someone to reconcile their sympathies with the plight of the Ukrainians while denying them an intervention that they overwhelmingly approve of. I echo the statements that I mentioned in my original piece—to not stop war crimes is to be complicit in them. In fact, to not intervene when a nation overwhelmingly requests military assistance while their population is being massacred is not only selfish, but downright cruel. How many civilians need to die before intervention is justified?
I understand that intervention is not ideal, and I’m not saying that it is, but Russia has broken the “era of peace” mentioned in last week’s Viewpoint. Russia, not the United States, was the one that threw the Helsinki Accords out the door. And it was Russia, not anyone else, who decided to march its troops into a sovereign nation. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that in an ironic twist, intervention is necessary to restore the “era of peace.” If Putin is allowed to move Russia’s border across Ukraine, what stops him from reclaiming the entirety of the former Warsaw Pact? What stops him from moving his border even further? The Helsinki Accords, the treaty that is seen as the hallmark of European nations respecting each other’s independence and borders, has just witnessed its worst violation since the Serbian invasion of Bosnia. Enforcement is necessary to maintain the fragile peace of the last few decades.
So if it has been established that this “era of peace” is to be upheld, then why is it the United States’ job to uphold that peace? The answer: if not us, then who? The U.S. is the sole hegemonic power left on Earth after the fall of the Soviet Union, and with that great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility is to preserve the rights of nations’ borders and the rights of civilians to not be massacred.
Last week’s response made it clear that there is a real concern about U.S. soldiers dying in combat. They convey this message by invoking images of a potential third World War, and, in doing so, they draw a comparison to the last World War with the invasion of Poland. Not only do I find this comparison to be misused, but I also find it to be incredibly problematic. But if we are comparing an invasion of Ukraine to an invasion of Poland, I would raise the immediate question of what would have happened if the world had not intervened against Germany? What would have happened if the world sat back as Hitler bombed cities and massacred millions because they feared a death toll similar to that of WWI? After the Second World War, a common sentiment arose among the leaders of the world as images and stories of the Holocaust gained more attention: Never Again. It is my belief that Never Again is not a nice sentiment or a catchy slogan; it’s a promise, a promise that the United States as the world’s sole hegemon has an obligation to uphold. The United States and Europe failed this obligation in Bosnia.We can not afford to fail again. The world, and the U.S. for that matter, have a poor track record as it pertains to human rights and not perpetrating war crimes. But the point that I made two weeks ago was to convey the message that the world should learn from its mistakes. If the desire to prevent an eternal Srebrenica, Treblinka, Holodomor or Wounded Knee makes me conceited in hypermiliterism, then I don’t know what is worth fighting for.