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Well, not necessarily but…
There is a melancholy feeling of late. Somehow we are facing the end of western civilization. But is it really? For that matter, if it were the end, would we actually recognize it as such? Even a modest familiarity with world history tells us that we are hardly the first to face that question. It might be obvious if we were Romans in Britain in 410 AD, when the order came from Rome for the last legions to leave. Then a hard decision was needed; pack up and go, or stay and take your chances. Even more obvious would be to be in Constantinople in May 1453. Then Mehmet’s great gun pounding at the city walls would make the message clear.
Just as often, however, the signs may be there but not so clear. The spice merchant in Petra might remark on the declining number of caravans coming through. A farmer in Sumeria might puzzle over recent crop failures. The future might seem bleak, or maybe not. Perhaps things will be better next season. Maybe the king has something up his sleeve that will set matters right.
It is to this issue that I recommend the podcast, Fall of Civilizations. I found this series of podcasts on YouTube but all the details can be found at fallofcivilizations.com. The podcast is the work of Paul Cooper who both writes and narrates the podcast. Each episode runs about three to four hours and is a deep dive into the entire history of significant civilizations and well worth the investment of time.
Perhaps the current apocalyptic fog is being driven, at least in part, by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Serious argument is made as to whether we should be involved, and support by our government and others has been just enough to keep it going but not enough to push it to a decisive end, short of complete surrender by Ukraine.
One of the most vocal critics is Tucker Carlson. He obviously has a bully pulpit to preach from and he has a definite talent for asking uncomfortable questions. But, as with Vietnam, Iraq, and all the conflicts in which we have been involved since WWII, there are no answers. Tucker simply says we should quit, give up. Perhaps it is the thing to do at this juncture, but just how would this be brought about? Would we stop answering the phone when Zelensky calls? Would we call Vladimir and tell him he won and can have anything he wants? Most significantly, would we just stand by as Putin devours Ukraine, obliterates the population? We cannot predict the future, not any of it, save maybe for a demonstration of the laws of gravity. Without a reasonable estimate of future possibilities, no decision, whether to stay the course, cut and run, seek a compromise, negotiate a truce, would be sensible. On this, Mr. Carlson is stone silent.
There is a reason for defending Ukraine, one which has hardly been touched. The cold fact is that Ukraine is a sovereign country and Russia has willfully violated that sovereignty. Our whole international system relies on the sanctity of borders and requires international consent to change them. Allow Russia to prevail, and all that crumbles into dust. Defending Ukraine has nothing to do with any past history, nor with any supposed political sympathies of some Ukrainians. Particularly useless is to complain that the Ukraine government is corrupt. Just which set of corrupt oligarchs should we side with? Either Ukraine’s borders remain intact, or there are no borders for anyone.
It may be naive, but at least it is a principle to consider. The situation is hideously complicated by the energy debacle. Even so, it does not seem a wise choice to just step back and watch it all burn, all the while smugly saying, “We told you so!”Published in