When war is black and white not gray: Why Ukraine weighs heavy on us

by Bob Schwartz

For a long time, America has been involved in wars of shades of gray. Not that right and wrong weren’t involved, but that the equities weren’t always so clear. Vietnam was a glaring example: an unachievable outcome, corruption and inhumanity on both sides, lies and lies, and so much death for what? A glaring example, but just one.

Ukraine is not that. A powerful and sinister leader, driven by demons, whatever they are, is determined to roll over an innocent nation and its people. “Justified” by lies so obvious that they match the Master of Lies who once led America. Not the first and only example of brutality in recent years (China has forced citizens into ethnic concentration camps, right now), but one that shakes us differently.

What weighs on us, at least on me, is the absolute impotence of genuinely concerned nations. Sanctions and isolation do indeed inflict pain on Russia, pain which won’t be soon (or ever) relieved, but pain that will not stop the onslaught and slaughter. The tools exist to stop Russia in its tracks, but the realities of military back-and-forth, and the formalities of international law, prevent using them. Plainly, just one direct confrontation between Russia and the West will lead to escalation, and no one—not the smartest statesmen or generals—can know where that leads. In a crude calculation of better the devil you know, better to allow Russia to have Ukraine and work it out later than to take actions that have the potential for another European-wide war, knowing that the last two European-wide wars are grotesquely infamous, and those without nuclear.

And that is the weight we feel.