A surprising number of my conservative FB friends, and also of my real- life friends, got lost in the moral tall weeds in the past month or so. I mean that they seem to hesitate between the victim, Ukraine, and the aggressor, Russia. Thirty days-plus after the beginning of the Russian invasion, faced with the utter destruction of whole Ukrainian cities, they still hesitate to condemn anyone clearly. Instead, they seem to be saying, often – not always – that there must be wrong on both sides, like a timid teacher on a boys’ play ground.
This is disturbing but not all that surprising. They are worried that the US might somehow be drawn into the war in Europe. I will admit that the two main last instances of American military adventurism should inspire caution. I mean Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s possible that my conservative friends do not trust the current American ability to conduct a foreign war, nor to extricate the country from one. The fact that old, senile Mr. Biden is the current Commander-in-Chief does not help restore confidence. But, there is more to their unwillingness to choose sides.
After being exposed for at least ten years to the mendacity of conventional media, it takes some effort to admit that what they are saying and showing is the closest approximation of reality available. (By the way, I have an advantage in this respect because I follow both American media and French language media. I find that they overlap quite well.)
In my experience, conservatives, especially those leaning libertarian, tend to be intellectual types. As such, they initially offer resistance to the notion that things may be pretty much what they seem to be.
And then, there is the fact that inside the mind of libertarian-leaning conservatives is a secret core of pacifism. To my mind, that’s a personally comfortable, but morally indefensible position. Others have taken it apart better that I could.
Last but probably more important is the fact that the libertarianism that influences them (that influences me) does not have much by way of foreign policy thought. It seems to me that theoreticians of libertarianism think of the world from the standpoint of a city apartment with doors and windows tightly shut and safely locked. Faced with unprovoked aggression against a peaceful country by a tyrant who is also a gangster and a killer, they are intellectually defenseless.
A highly visible unimpeachable metric might go a long way toward pulling my conservative friends out of the tall weeds. It turns out there is one. Let me explain. Before the invasion of thirty-three days ago, Russian dictator Putin justified it in advance, in part by claiming that Ukraine, the country, was persecuting its Russian speaking minority. We should think of the latter as an ethnic group. I don’t know what percentage of the total population of the Ukraine those might make up but, the figures I give below probably mean that it does not matter.
Inhabitant of the Ukraine have been fleeing the violence and the destruction in large numbers. Where they flee to is a sort of practical vote. If Russian-speaking Ukrainians had been persecuted, you would expect them to flee toward Russia. It seems that they don’t.
According to the UN specialized refugee agency about 4,200,000 Ukrainian nationals have left their country as to about April 3rd. Of those, 350,000 went to Russia. That’s a little over 8%. That’s only a little more than went to small Slovakia. That’s fewer than went to tiny and fragile Moldova. How can that be, I ask, if Ukraine was persecuting Russian speakers before the war?
Ukrainian citizens of all kinds have been voting with their feet.
Incidentally, the numbers above do not include those numerous citizens of Ukraine who were forcibly deported to Russia, according to increasingly credible reports from the theater of war.
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