Some Thoughts On The Russian Invasion Of Georgia

Vladimir Putin – who is most likely as much in control of Russia as he ever was – has said that the collapse of the U.S.S.R. ranks as “the greatest political catastrophe in history” and claimed that its reintegration was a matter of “historical destiny.” And he has been working for years toward reunifying and synchronizing the former Soviet empire under Russian rule.

But this was an empire that Ronald Reagan described as evil. The great and just passed Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn provided the intellectual and moral grounds for that assignation in his Harvard address, “A World Split Apart.” Solzhenitsyn began by saying, “Harvard’s motto is Veritas” (i.e., truth). And then he proceeded to launch into a sobering examination of Veritas.

It was a speech that excoriated not only the Soviet Union, but also the West for its immorality, materialism, and godlessness. It provoked outrage among liberal academia and sparked indignant editorials in the liberal media. “He believes himself to be in possession of The Truth,” the New York Times editorialized in what amounted to the ultimate postmodernist condemnation, “and so sees error wherever he looks.” But other columnists, such as Michael Novak, called the address, “The most important religious document of our time.”

Solzhenistsyn’s address raised postmodern issues and examined history in a distinctly Christian way. Its very title alluded to the postmodern condition: “A World Split Apart.” He affirmed traditional cultures against the all-encompassing mass culture of Western secularism. He dissected the West’s materialism and concern for comfort and pleasure, which he argued had drained away our capacity for courage and sacrifice. he deplored the way our laws had been disconnected from morality. “Society has turned out to have scarce defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example against the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror,” he said. He blasted the irresponsibility of the news media and the West’s “TV stupor.” Your scholars are free in the legal sense,” he said, “but they are hemmed in by the idols of the prevailing fad.” He attacked “humanism which has lost its Christian heritage,” and cited the obsolescence of the “ossified formulas of the Enlightenment.”

Solzhenistsyn’s point was that the West had largely forfeited the moral and intellectual resources needed to confront genuine evil. With no absolute canons of objective truth, the moral and even the rational is replaced by the aesthetic. We believe in what we like. Today, people unused to thinking in terms of absolute, objective truth still have opinions and strongly held beliefs. In fact, their beliefs prove to be even more difficult to dislodge, because they admit to no ultimate external criteria by which they can be judged and be shown to be wrong. Since their beliefs are a function of the will, they cling to them willfully. Since their beliefs will tend to have no foundation other than their preferences and personality, they will interpret any criticism of their beliefs as a personal attack. Engage practically anyone in a discussion of some controversial issue today, and this problem will show itself.

As evil rises on the march, how do we confront it, when we do not even believe that it exists or know what it is? How can we unify to stop it when we are fractured into this identity group or that? How do we rise up and sacrifice to stop such evil when we are focused on our immediate comforts and environments?

Russia under former KGB officer Vladimir Putin has largely eradicated the fledgling democracy that had slowly been building and embracing a totalitarian state.

We are in a malaise. And I believe that it is the outrage over that malaise that prompted Paul Zannucci to write what he described as “an unadulterated rant.”

It sounds like the Russians are ceasing their military operations. Whether they will now consolidate their gains, or withdraw, is an open question. Very likely they will do the former, and the democratically elected government will give way to a Russian-installed puppet government. Certainly the two Georgian provinces that were leaning toward Russia will be seized from Georgia.

But this is very likely not the end of Russian maneuvers in their former satellites. Ukraine is very likely next. After the dust-up from Georgia begins to settle, I believe we will see Russia begin to exercise the same under-the-radar political strong-arm tactics that it used against Georgia prior to the shooting.

Ultimately, I believe that a coalition based on mutual self-interests will form between Russia and Islam. Russia wants its former satellites back; Muslims want Israel to be wiped off the map. And the large Muslim populations of eastern Europe may agree to Russian headship if Russia helps them annihilate the state of Israel.

We can already see this alliance forming, as Russia increasingly forms a military alliance with the rogue Islamic state of Iran.

And that is probably a major part of the America hesitation in dealing with the Russian invasion of Georgia: if we alienate Russia, they won’t help us reign in the nuclear ambitions of Iran.

My view is this: if we are counting on Russia – which has actively been aiding Iran’s nuclear ambitions by providing equipment and expertise – to help us dissuade Iran from doing what it has repeatedly asserted that it is intent upon doing, then we might as well be waiting for a cold day in hell.

Do we have the moral will to prevent these frightening scenarios from unfolding?

If we look back to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, we see Hitler boldly moving on one of his neighbors (e.g., Czechoslovakia, Poland), and then waiting to see what the international reaction would be. When he sensed the reaction was weak, he moved again. And he kept moving in bolder and bolder fashion until a pacifistic West finally woke up to a global conflagration that it had failed both to prevent or even to prepare for.

Most of the world – including our “allies” in the West – have succumbed to a malaise that is frighteningly similar to that of their ancestors. Our European allies have come to believe that we can appease evil by compromising and bargaining with it. Military action is to be avoided at all cost.

Meanwhile, our enemies feel no such similar constraints about using military action and/or terrorism to obtain their ends.

We can no longer count on our allies to truly stand with us. It is up to the United States to realize that evil can no more be contained than cancer, that cancer spreads unless destroyed, and that force must be met with force. Meanwhile, more and more of our enemies and former enemies are beginning to take steps that will lead to terrifying consequences in the years to come unless they are stopped.

Let me say, by way of a political observation, that the United States cannot prevent or stand against evil by becoming more like our European allies. Both the history of human civilization and a study of the great religious systems of man tell us that we cannot compromise with evil. Winston Churchill did not argue that we should be like Europe when it surrendered and compromised and ignored the storm that was overtaking it; he argued that Britain had to stand against Nazi fascism with everything it had. We must stand against evil. Even if that means standing alone.

It’s going to be up to the United States and Israel to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And it’s primarily going to be up to the United States to contain Russia’s ambition to restore its former Soviet-era territorial greatness.

Can we mobilize the awareness, the courage, and the willingness to sacrifice to prevent these things from happening?

Only if we begin by listening to the warning of the late, great Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

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