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Another Small Man's War

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Another Small Man's War

"A great satisfaction of growing old, one of many, is assuming the role of witness to the wobbling of the world and seeing irreversible changes. The downside, besides listening to the delusions of the young, is hearing the same hackneyed opinions over and over"the discoveries that are not new, the proposed solutions that will solve nothing."

Paul Theroux

So it begins. The "wobbling of the world." Again. Russia invades a sovereign nation and the world, despite all its bloated military might, basically cowers and can only send thoughts and prayers to the people of Ukraine. Talking heads in the media scream that this is unprecedented! the first such excursion on the European soil in 80 years! Their revisionist history ignores, among other recent dismal events, wars in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, for example.

Also not "unprecedented," the devastation of a region simply because of male ego, in this case one perhaps suffering from vodka intoxication and a small man's complex. Actually, with a small tip of the cap to Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi, the root of most wars can be traced to male aggression. It has never ceased to amaze me how one delusional man can negatively affect an entire world? Instead of labeling Putin's invasion madness, former President and twice impeached Donald Trump calls it "genius." Fox News' Tucker Carlson dismisses the invasion and instead asks if Putin has ever done anything to us to earn our wrath. No wonder the state-controlled media in Russia replays those Carlson quotes on loop.

Here is another Theroux quote: "Politicians are always inferior to their citizens. No one is well governed." Truth.

Witness as the world continues to veer away from democracy toward autocracy and authoritarianism. In Barbara Walter's new book "How Civil Wars Start," she writes, "The love affair with democratization that marked the twentieth century and the very beginning of the twenty-first century is over." She cites an "erosion" of democracy in France, Costa Rica, Iceland, Hungary, India and too many other nations. I would include the United States, thanks to Trump opening a Pandora's box of nationalistic, tribalism that promotes division over unity and self-interest over country. Our second civil war began on January 6, 2021, and will continue indefinitely or until the United States no longer resembles its former self.

As Walter so expertly chronicles, Ukraine had its brief opportunity to escape its autocratic and corrupt aggressor to the east, but now, as Putin invokes his coup de grà ce, and the world clutches its collective pearls, that chance is over.

Taiwan and Japan beware. China is watching all of this closely. If NATO is impotent in Europe, led by the most powerful military country in the world, how will any coalition react if China choses to flex its military muscle? After all, has any country been able to halt the reeducation and genocide of its Uyghur ethnic minority? Certainly there was no concerted blowback during the recent 2022 Winter Olympics. United Nations Secretary Antà nio Guterres, checking in from no doubt from a five-star hotel in China, called this winter's Olympics an "instrument for peace"The Olympic Games is an extremely important event, and it's an event that symbolizes the role of sports in bringing people together and in promoting peace."

In deference to China's Xi Jinping and his "instrument of peace," Putin held off his bloody invasion until the Beijing Olympics had concluded. Quite a gentleman.

A final quote, this one from writer Chris Hedges: "Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history." In my lifetime of more than a half century I cannot recall a time that there was not some war raging somewhere on this beleaguered planet.

So cue the footage of thousands of refugees flooding into Poland, Hungry, and other parts of the European continent. Perhaps this time those destination countries will be more welcoming to this latest round of displaced persons than they were to those dark-skinned Muslims fleeing Africa and Syria. We shall see once again how race trumps (and that is the correct verb) compassion.

Cue the skeletons of bombed-out buildings, the environmental destruction so rarely mentioned, the fresh laying of land mines to maim future generations, the reports of Russian troops raping and torturing (and, of course, the subsequent denials), and the mangled corpses of innocent women and babies. Call it "collateral" damage instead of what it really is: cold-blooded murder.

So, just how "new" is the invasion of Ukraine? Who cannot notice that the present repeats the past, and the future promises more of the same.


Stephen J. Lyons is the author of five books of essays and journalism. His newest book is "West of East."

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Stephen J. Lyons contributes commentary and journalism to a variety of national and international newspapers and magazines. He the author of five books of essays and journalism. His most recent book is "West of East," published by Finishing Line (more...)

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