Some Thoughts on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

by Daniel A. Kaufman


[1] Whatever one thinks of the idea that Russia requires some “buffer zone” around its country (in the age of missiles, drones, and air and sea power, the notion that land-contiguity offers some special threat from major powers strikes me as making little sense), Russian expansion will just mean that countries other than Ukraine will suddenly find themselves in the position of “threatening Russia’s borders.” Russia is tricking the world into playing a sucker’s game.

[2] Those who suggest that efforts to add Ukraine to the roster of NATO countries are responsible for Russia’s invasion have failed to consider that had Ukraine joined NATO, the current invasion would not be happening.

[3] Russia’s behavior justifies Ukraine’s desire to join NATO and incentivizes every one of its neighbors to do the same.

[4] Russia’s behavior in Ukraine incentivizes every country on the earth to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

[5] That Russia hasn’t already prevailed in its invasion of Ukraine reveals that it is, to a great extent, a paper tiger, when compared with the US and NATO.

[6] Russia’s nuclear threats are unconvincing and should not deter the US or any other major power from imposing sanctions, seizing assets, grabbing and extraditing war criminals, or supporting the Ukrainian war effort through direct and indirect aid.

[7] One cannot simultaneously think that there should be no resistance/opposition/punishment to/of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that we should have global political institutions, international laws and courts, and all the rest.

[8] A nation cannot fail to come to the aid of another country crying for help, during a vicious invasion, and then also tell it that it shouldn’t build up its military or develop nuclear weapons.

[9] If Russia is stopped and/or severely punished by the international community for its invasion of Ukraine community – including bringing Russian leaders before war crimes tribunals – China likely will forgo any invasion of Taiwan and rely on soft power to ensure dominance in its region.

[10] While Ukraine, Russia, and indeed all of Eastern Europe boast their fair share of Jew-haters, Ukraine, with a Jewish president (and a former professional comedian), hardly requires “de-Nazification,” as Putin has claimed in one of his sillier rationalizations for the invasion.

[11] If the Russian mafiosos, oligarchs, and generals (who have been busily getting rich, since the collapse of the USSR) have any brains, they’ll quietly disappear Putin before he gets them all: (a) bankrupted; (b) torn to pieces by angry Russians, who have been bankrupted.

[12] Fecklessness is the developed world’s most prominent and dangerous flaw today.

[13] One of the most depressing developments among the so-called “thinking classes” of the developed world has been the turning of fecklessness from a fault into a virtue.

[14] Thinking that it’s worse to try and fail to avert or mitigate a bloodbath than to do nothing and watch a bloodbath happen is not a moral position, but rather, moral derangement; a matter of people confusing self-absorption and preciousness – Not in my name! Not with my tax dollars! – with virtue.

[15] States are not individual persons and occupy a different space in the moral landscape. A country that refuses to aid another country that has been attacked or to appropriately sanction the attacking country is not comparable with an individual, who is a pacifist as a matter of principle.

[16] The combination of “Military invasions of other countries and mass murder are terrible and should never happen” and “We should give people who engage in military invasions and mass murder carte blanche” is morally bankrupt, as well as incoherent.


51 responses to “Some Thoughts on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine”

  1. I could not agree more. Thank you.

  2. henryharlow

    All good with me other than #6 and #9. On #6 this is an interesting take on how deal with Russia as a nuclear power “Take It From JFK—Appeasement Over Confrontation” see here: Now, to be sure, I don’t know if the JFK approach is the answer either and it worked in the past. If one is ready to risk an escalation from Putin with tactical nuclear weapons then OK go for it. What would be the result/response if he did that? I sure don’t know and I would rather not go there if we do not have to do so. I do agree at some point Putin needs to be stopped I just don’t know exactly at what point. On #9 I think China is a much different case than Russia. Sure they will be looking at how the world responds and already maybe wish they had not gotten involved at the level that have so far. I doubt when the time comes with Taiwan what happens to Russia will stop them. Russia is a gnat compared to China. If they are willing to pay the military price they will take Taiwan one day if their “soft power” efforts don’t seal the deal somewhere down the line maybe sooner than later. In no case that the USA military have gamed out does the USA win if China wants to take China militarily. Taiwan’s best option is to make it so costly militarily to China they won’t go for it militarily anytime soon.

  3. Björn Carlsten

    Nicely put.

    Writing from Sweden, it’s interesting how extraordinarily counterproductive Putin’s behavior seems. For a long time, the question of joining NATO was a dead political issue; now, roughly half of all Swedes in recent polls say they want us to join. Also following the Ukraine invasion, our PM announced an increase in defence spending. And Russia can’t leave well alone. Just a few days ago, Russian fighter jets deliberately crossed Swedish airspace. It’s almost as if Putin wished for all of his western neighbors to join NATO and strengthen their militaries.

  4. Your comment in 2 assumes that NATO countries would actually abide by their Article 5 obligations if Ukraine had joined NATO. The whole problem with NATO expansion to former Soviet Republics is that includes countries in NATO that the big NATO powers (US/France/UK) would not or might not actually defend if attacked because of a lack of political will or an absence of popular support. For example if Ukraine had been a NATO member in the Trump administration and Russia had attacked there is little or no chance that Trump would have allowed the US military to defend Ukraine. We should never enter into defense pacts with countries we are not prepared to defend. Because the political climate has now changed NATO members are now more unified than they have been since the Cold War ended. But if Trump is reelected don’t count on the US to defend NATO members which are former Soviet Republics from any Russian attack.

    In 9 you mean “international community” not “international for”. 12 and 13 are in essence the same point and are weakened by using “fecklessness” twice; a word that people don’t often use and is confusing to some. I think Bob
    is a good example of weak and ineffective responses that don’t solve problems or help find solutions, but just leave him mired in blaming America and the “Blob” for every international policy crisis or error.

  5. Thanks for pointing out the missing word. I have fixed it.

  6. Gordon Barnes

    Here is a guide to the informal fallacies in this post. I’ll probably only get through the first nine.

    1. Slippery Slope.
    2. Non sequitur — from (A) If Ukraine is in NATO, then no invasion, it does not follow that (B) Ukraine pursuing NATO did not cause the invasion.
    3. Another non sequitur — from (A) now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, Ukraine has even more reason to join NATO, it does not follow that (B) prior to this invasion, it was smart for Ukraine to pursue NATO. In fact, it now seems pretty clear that it was NOT smart to try to join NATO; or do you think that it’s turning out well for them?
    4. Another slippery slope
    5. Sure — a paper tiger with a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. A paper tiger. Absolutely.
    6. Picture a Poseidon torpedo sitting off the coast from Washington DC, which is just 38 miles from the coast, because that’s what they’re designed to do. Why do you think they built that weapon? Just to bluff with it? I honestly hope you’re right, but I doubt it’s a smart bet to make.
    7. Another non sequitur — the international bodies should be sensible and responsible. If Russia tells you, in 2006, that it is unacceptable to have Georgia and Ukraine join NATO, then don’t insist on it after NATO has already expanded twice, contrary to the promise that was made to the old Soviet Union when it collapsed. That’s asking for trouble, and they had to know it.
    8. Welcome to NATO.
    9. Does the name “Franz Ferdinand” mean anything to you?

  7. Rageforthemachine

    In reference to #1 it is rather to strange that people actually argued that Russia(or the old Soviet Union) is entitled to that buffer zone. Aside from the direct implication that any nation which believes they have achieved superpower status is allowed to deny the sovereignty of other countries around them by turning them into military chess pieces, it seems ridiculous, not only in the modern age, but at any time since after WW2 that the Russians had to worry about tanks rolling into their country. Any attempt at that by the West to be successful would require massive build up and preparation, easily detectable with modern surveillance.

  8. Sounds very solid. You seem to know a lot about the situation. I can think of another scenario. Just as the US drove Russia out of Afghanistan, then abandoned the country to the Taliban leaving behind 80 odd billion $$ worth of armament, so the US drives Russia out of Ukraine, then abandons it to neo-Nazis leaving behind tons of armament. Looks like the same playbook. Hope I’m wrong.

  9. It is time we recognized that we are in the midst of a world war against fascism – against the encroachment on our rights and opportunities in liberal states with democratic aspirations, by the far right in every developed nation. And in a war, discourse comes to an end, and if one does not choose a side, a side will be chosen for one.

    Putin is a Stalinist Hitler-wannabe, the way Trump is a Mussolini-wannabe, or Xi a Mao-wannabe. Anyone who misses this or excuses it with subtle differentiation for the point of elaborating some form of appeasement is betraying themselves. The first time tragedy, the second time farce – but farce with a bloody vengence, farce costing tens of thousands of lives unnecessarily.

    If the Ukrainianeans are as committed to their national identity as reports indicate (and being partly of Ukranean descent, I suspect this is so), they will fight in the fields, in the hills, on the borders, and if the Russians are so unfortunate to conquer the nation, they will carry this war into Russia itself.

    None of this can possibly end well. Although I agree with pretty much nothing Trump apologist and general worm Lindsay Graham has to say, I agree with him that it is in the interest of Russia itself that Putin be assassinated.

    Apologists for criminal thugs like Putin merit no respect. Russia is not the arbiter of what other nations can do, should do, or may do. We do not live in an age of monarchial control, as Putin-apologists seems to suggest. Nato owes Putin nothin; but it owes its own interests and those of democratic aspirastions in Western Europe everything, since that is what it was developed to defend.

    “If Russia tells you, in 2006, that it is unacceptable to have Georgia and Ukraine join NATO,” then fuck Russia. And neither the Ukranean nor the Russian people should suffer from that archaic 19th century world-view.

    This is but a battle; Russia will win the ground, but lose the soul. The war continues. Fascism never sleeps. Liberals must be ever vigilant, and stop getting side-tracked into uselsss ‘culture-wars;’ the real war (involving real lives lost or won) remainS political and economic. Pay attention to it.

  10. Terranbiped

    All regurgitated word salad cud. There’s nothing new under the Sun here. Those nations able, will do what is practical and feasible. There’s no geopolitical or historical puzzle wrapped in an enigma to dissect, there is only the mind of Putin.

    The fool , in his quest for glories past and a Napoleonic complex, paradoxically in a giant’s body of 11 time zones, has triggered an inflection point in the timeline that will put him and his Russia in a rut deeper than a tank tread in the melting permafrost. Ultimately he will do himself nor his country any good. The world advances and Russian potential wallows in the bogs of its own making; a dinosaur of a bygone age and reasoning.

    Minus nukes, St Petersburg and petro, a mere backwater in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, of no particular interest and to be a voided.

  11. Well said.
    What’s the best Putin can hope for: an instant forty going on fifty million enemies inside the house.

  12. Gordon Barnes

    That is exactly what the United States did throughout Latin America for decades. With the exception of Cuba (where we tried, but notoriously failed), no state was allowed to emerge that was allied with the Soviet Union. When Allende was democratically elected, we first “made the economy scream”, as Kissinger put it, and then orchestrated his assassination. We did it as far away as Africa, too. Lumumba wanted to ally with the Soviet Union, so we killed him too. The only thing that is “strange” is thinking that this is not how the real world works.

  13. Terranbiped

    Thanks for cutting through the extraneous intellectualizations and laying the heart of the matter on the table.

    The time comes when a people can no longer bear to have the boot on their face.

  14. Yes, especially now that the rationalizers and “whatabouters” have joined in.

  15. Gordon Barnes

    As soon as you resort to ad hominem and invective, you tacitly admit that you have no good reasons or arguments in support of your claims. That is exactly what the Woke left does now, all the time. So I am amazed when you resort to the very same tactics, seemingly without any sense of hypocrisy.
    This naive narrative is contradicted by literally decades of American malfeasance AGAINST democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere — Lumumba, Allende, and all over Central America. In many of those cases, the US destroyed a democratically elected President because he was perceived as a threat. Of course, back then some of you were cheering for the US too, so I shouldn’t be surprised by this. But your oversimplified, good-guys-and-bad-guys narrative was as childish back then as it is now. The world is much more complicated than that, and it always has been.

  16. Gordon Barnes

    “Rationalizer” means “someone who gives arguments in support of a position, and “whatabouter” means “someone who demands logical consistency in your views”. So yes, I am both a rationalizer and a whatabouter.
    As you, hopefully, know by now, there was no indication of an invasion of Ukraine until the United States signed a statement on November 10, saying that Ukraine should be able to join NATO. It is not a coincidence that we now have an invasion of Ukraine. That decision brought it about. Now, I gather that your position is that we SHOULD go to war with Russia to defend Ukraine’s right to join NATO. Is that right? If that is your position, then I assume that you have carefully calculated the risk of all-out nuclear war as a result. I would, sincerely, like to know how you arrived at your calculation. My own opinion is not that Putin is justified in what he is doing, but that our actions will bring about a great amount of suffering and death for many people, and to no good end. The reason is that Ukraine has no chance of winning unless we do something that will get us into the war, and create a very serious risk of nuclear war. Now — on what basis do you disagree with that? The risk here is significant, right? So the evidence that you are right needs to be very good.
    Lots of people are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, right up until they get lots of innocent people killed.

  17. While I really shouldn’t have to say this, given how plain and uncomplicated my list is, with the exception of [11], in which I give advice to Russian mafiosos, oligarchs, and generals, I offer no recommendations or imperatives here. None. I simply am offering my thoughts on the situation, the players, and what I think will fly and what won’t.

    But, reading is hard and emotions on this subject are understandably intense, so it was worth repeating regardless of its obviousness.

  18. Gordon, perhaps the Electric Agora isn’t for you? You keep trying to have conversations with someone who has no intention of conversing with you. You see, when you start out and go on the way you have been, you guarantee that I’m never going to reply.

    Now, if you’re just performing for the audience, then carry on. I just didn’t want you to get frustrated, upon figuring out I’m not going to engage with you. At least not so long as you operate in the mode you’ve been doing thus far. If you want to have a normal conversation, I’m always up for it.

  19. Lucien Mott

    Going to give some push back here, point by point.
    1. Putin and the top Russian leadership do not just consider it a buffer zone but a sphere of influence. Because they believe they are a major power and because of Russian history they feel they are entitled to it. Russian leaders other than Putin would view it this way.
    2. I certainly have considered what would have happen if Ukraine had joined NATO, a possible world war. There are red lines in the sand and putting Ukraine in NATO is one of them. From the Russian perspective supplying NATO weapons to Ukraine is almost equivalent to Ukraine joining NATO.
    3. See above
    4. Yes, I agree, nation’s without Nukes are in a weakened position, certainly Iran believes that as does North Korea.
    5. Hard to call a nation with the nuclear arsenal like Russia’s a paper tiger. Clearly, they miscalculated the resistance they would encounter. The Russian modernization did not go as far as some analyze had argued-see NYT articles on the new Russian military. In a way, however, Ukrainian effective resistance leads into Putin’s narative. How would Ukraine be performing without NATO weapons. I suspect the conflict would have been over by now without those weapons.
    6. I wish as I was as confident as you on this point.
    7. Yes, there should be punishments for this reckless and brutal invasion of Ukraine, there should also be consequences for the United States as well for their illegal and destructive military actions which have caused hundreds of thousands (millions) of civilian deaths since WWII.
    8. Ok
    9. I take your point but an attack on Taiwan is a far different prospect.
    10. The de-Nazification line by Putin really leads one to question his mental stability.
    11. Well, we will see, but it is a mistake to assume this is all Putin, there are real Russian concerns behind this.
    12. This is a very dangerous situation which requires a lot of thought and good sense on the part of the WEST. It was a lack of forethought on the part of U.S. and NATO policy which got us here, which allowed Putin and his cronies to paint the world as conspiring against Russia instead of fulling integrating into the global economic and political structure.
    13. See above
    14. Ok, but it’s a very dangerous situation, to escalate it could cause a lot more suffering.
    15. If this is an attack on Biden, ok, but he has a lot to consider, if you are arguing for U.S. troops-No fly zone, be careful. Such actions could escalate this situation to a point where no one could turn back.
    16. ok

  20. Terranbiped

    No doubt your concerns would be applauded and appreciated in the parlors of the dialectic but surely you have a sense of which worldview is preferable on the scales of human well-being; which side is the good guys, warts and all.

    I think most Ukrainians do without being childish.

  21. Some interesting observations here. One thing I want to make sure is clear, though, is that my claim that Russia is a paper tiger was deliberately and specifically in comparison with the US and NATO. And as you know, I don’t have any use for the whataboutism in [7]

    [15] was most definitely *not* an attack on Biden. Rather, it is in response to something a number of self-styling “progressives” have said over at BHTV and that I’m hearing a lot elsewhere as well.

    Re: [11], I do not think there are *any* legitimate concerns that could remotely justify what Russia has done. None.

  22. Terran, I have found that many, many self-styling “progressives” are either incapable of making or unwilling to make ordinary distinctions — like between bad, worse, and worst — in contrast with most everyone else.

  23. Gordon Barnes

    I haven’t done anything here that you don’t do all the time. You regularly call people “stupid”, etc., especially if they disagree with you on certain subjects. (And weren’t you a fan of Jerry Fodor drawing a square on the wall and banging his head into it in response to a grad student’s question? When did you suddenly get so thin skinned?). I honestly thought you would be up for being challenged in a serious way. If I’m punchy about it, it’s to push for serious thought about it. But that’s fine. So be it.

  24. Lucien Mott

    If you are in America, you are living in a country that violates other countries sovereignty all of the time. Can you imagine living in say Pakistan and an American drone bombs a house in your neighborhood? America did not even inform Pakistan when they took out Bin Laden. We do it all the time, we are the last place on earth to lecture other countries on violation of sovereignty. Whether we believe it or not, Russia thinks of themselves as a great power. Finally, our modern age is not so modern, it is only because this is happening in Europe and those fleeing are white that is causing us to freak out.

  25. Greg Guy

    Lol. The facile term ‘whataboutism’ just mean ‘please don’t force me to develop any self awareness’. Get this conversation on the topic of Israel and suddenly Kauffman is Professor Whatabouter. ‘But whatabout other countries… why is it always Israel… whatabout Burma… whatabout China… whatabout…’

    For the simplistic homilies in this article to matter they need to engage with the real world. Clearly they are written by someone living in la-la land without much grasp of current geopolitical details.

  26. Lucien Mott

    I think it is this type of thinking that has brought us to this point. No doubt Russia would be better off without Putin, that Russia would be better off integrated into the global economic and political order, but they are not. It is a fantasy to think that we have reached this point just because Putin and the oligarchs are a bunch of SOB. There are two sides here and U.S policy has had a lot to do with why we are here.

  27. So, why read my stuff, if it’s so terrible? Don’t you have better things to do?

  28. Who’s thin-skinned? I just don’t want you getting frustrated. As I said, “carry on.”

  29. Also, who says I wouldn’t be up for being challenged in a serious way? If you’d done that, I would have been happy to discuss the matter with you.

  30. Lucien Mott

    On 11, yes I agree, there are no legitimate concerns which justifies what Russia is doing, in history, there rarely are. I suppose I am concerned about this situation getting out of hand. A wider war will would be a disaster.

  31. Rageforthemachine

    Mr. Barnes. Now you are forcing me to use the dreaded term I truly despise, whataboutism. My comment referenced an argument made by Soviet, and now Russian apologists, so I haven’t yet made any reference to my own position on the Cold War policies of either the West or the East. Yes if it is unethical for one entity to do an act it is unethical for every entity to do it, and by the same principle if it is ethical for one it is ethical for all. People now are making the argument that Russia has the right to be antsy on the basis of its surrounding countries aligning themselves with the West. If Russia has the right to interfere with other countries on the basis of their self-interest than so does and did the U.S. and the incidents you and Lucien referenced were perfectly allowable. If Russia doesn’t have that right then neither does or did the U.S., but that also means that not only Latin American countries, but former Soviet Republics are free to align themselves with whoever they wish.

  32. Rageforthemachine

    My understanding though is Sweden was always de facto on the side of NATO. If push had ever came to shove between the US and the Soviets Sweden was always going to actively support NATO so joining it now would just formalize an already existing policy.

  33. Greg Guy

    I think we all agree that what Russia has done is completely unacceptable. But it is an inescapable fact that we live in a world where Russia is very far from the only country behaving in such a matter. So why the hand wringing and pseudo tough talk about Ukraine and not about Yemen or Libya? For us cynics it sounds very much a case of intellectual cowards to who brim with righteousness when it is easy and acceptable, but prefer to look the other way when it would require some serious courage to take a moral stand.

  34. Greg Guy

    Why read your stuff? For the fucking lulz of course. It’s funny because like a lot of academics you think your skills are transferable. Maybe you’re an ok philosopher but your grasp of political reality is at the level of an adolescent. Yet you actually believe that you are making insightful comments while others that disagree with you are the simpletons. You’re bloody hilarious in your pompous narcissism. Way better than TV.

  35. Love you too, man.

  36. terranbiped

    I don’t believe anyone here is in favor of the carnage going on in Yemen and other ‘shit-hole’ countries or inured to the hypocrisies that infest all the whatabout examples one can think of. But, you and others have made an important point about the seeming racism or white Euro centrism that has America and the rest of the “civilized world” hyperventilating” and swooning on the couch in self righteous paroxysms.

    This is hard to deny and should be addressed, not that one bad act gives the go ahead to another just to maintain intellectual and moral consistency. We are and have been killer apes but, as Pinker and others have pointed out, not so much as before. Still far from perfect, but Putin has crossed a trip wire and committed what most Westerners now consider the unthinkable, the unacceptable, the taboo, the atavistic, the only imagined impossibility of a 20th Century Cold War materialization of a ground war in Europe. Hearkening back memories of civilized white people and modern cities being turned into rubble and ash. The optics, the reality that here we go again, that a monster has been resurrected and once again stalks the homeland of civilization and polite society is quite the cold slap in the face. After all, who really believes any NATO country wants to conquer Russia of all places? So twentieth century… So KGB thuggish mindset.

    So what of Pakistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq? We can’t turn a blind eye to our own hypocrisy anymore than we can “rationalize ” the legitimacy of Putin’s delusional nostalgia of grandeur, and paranoia. But, jettisoning old primitive ways and embracing egalitarian enlightenment is often a slow step by step process that begins in self interest and slowly expands out from our tribal nucleus and who we most relate to. The very fact that we, America and the West, react almost reflexively that war on the European continent is unthinkable, is a step closer to thinking and practicing that war anywhere is just as unacceptable. It’s an important and crucial step to forever putting down the stone ax against another. Are we ethnocentric, racist in our foreign affairs? Do these brown regions, at this moment in history represent the trouble spots and proxy wars of competing global ideologies and powers? Yes. But, we have to start somewhere, and if it be Europe first, and the rest of the world next, so be it.

    Clueless neanderthal Putin doesn’t seem to appreciate the gravity and implications of his actions and how he has moved the timeline of development back half a century. He has committed the unpardonable, thinking his porous attempts of controlling the media will keep his own population blind, dumb and cowed. He has completely misread the room and instead of projecting strength and greatness to the world, looks like a failed little man with a big gun surrounded by past comrades who hate his stone age guts. Just as China has been recently alienating its neighbors and is now attentively watching this crude behavior, as Russia exemplifies the folly of such a course.

  37. I’ve been with you up until now, but the idea that our concern with Ukraine has anything to do with racism is something I just can’t agree with.

  38. terranbiped

    Dan, I guess I should have clarified that I didn’t mean racism in the old or usual sense of the word. I tried to imply that it is only natural human behavior to be more sensitized to that which is more familiar e.g., white Europeans being shelled in the 21st century. Do you honestly think that the bulk of Americans view what is happening in Ukraine the same as the usual reportage of third world atrocities? Were Americans chanting save the Iraqi people and wearing the equivalent of blue and yellow ribbons and T-shirts? Not in my neck of the woods and only minimally on television where it always looks like business as usual in those “uncivilized” parts of the world. Not raw conscious racism that only white or European people deserve better. I don’t think many people think in those terms, only that they can relate more emotionally and empathetically for a longer period of time and perhaps find the imagery harder to ignore before changing the channel. I would be glad to be proven wrong.

    It would be interesting to hear from a Black American on this subject.

  39. I remember some pretty massive anti-Iraq war demonstrations. I opposed it myself. The only military adventures I’ve supported during my lifetime were the first Iraq war, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, and the operations against the Serbs, after the massacres in Kosovo.

    I would agree with you that people in the developed world find it more shocking when developed nations invade one another. I guess I find this neither surprising nor particularly untoward.

  40. Terranbiped

    I agree with your conclusion.

    I think anti war demonstrations misses the point. I think the underlying sentiment expressed here by those beating the hypocrisy, double standard drum, going by the countries enumerated implies an implicit bias of Western powers treating brown people differently. These days that’s tantamount to being a racist by the ever broadening brush called white supremacy.

    I think some of these accusations may be valid even if only in the most subtlest subliminal of ways. In any case it doesn’t look good.

  41. I have no doubt that developed nations are more concerned with invasions of/from developed nations. Indeed, I would expect that. I don’t think it’s based in racism, at least not now and at the policy level. [I can’t read people’s hearts] Indeed, even among developed nations there are informal hierarchies.

  42. iffish

    Couldn’t agree more with this. Putin is a poster boy for fascist thugs and neo-reactionaries in just about every country other than Ukraine. Defeating him is a blow against fascism everywhere. The amount of supposed ‘leftists’ that can’t see this, and are busy fellating the Putin regime, is absolutely sick making.

  43. The pseudo sophistication is my favorite part. Pure gold, that.

  44. Robert Gressis

    I’m pretty sure there was a high degree of freaking out about Putin among the intelligentsia since the 2016 election of Trump. Tons of people blamed Putin for Trump’s victory; then there was Russiagate, and Trump’s general affinity for him. Putin has been public enemy #1 among the liberals and progressives who dominate discourse for a while now, so I’m not sold that the only reason, or the main reason, or even a substantial reason, for why people are freaking out about this is that the Ukrainians are white.

    I mean, you could just as easily say that the reason we’ve been obsessed with Putin as much as we have (rather than Xi) is that he’s white.

  45. It’s strange that you would frame your response in terms of “fallacies”, even informal ones. It seems to me to be in somewhat bad faith. After all, Kaufman’s not writing a treatise here, nor is he necessarily drawing conclusions based entirely on deductive reasoning.

    And all this is not even to begin to mention that Kaufman very likely understands fallacies as well as you do (if not better). So why should he need a “guide”?

    Indeed your very framing itself hints at something like a fallacy, as you must be implying, on some level, that there should not be procedural and rhetorical differences across varying pieces of writing; and if there are then the writer doesn’t understand the content of his opinions. But of course these differences exist. (Put differently you seem to think that logic, even of the informal kind, is the last word on forming correct non-mathematical opinions. But how does logic self-certify when views fall outside mathematized forms?)

    In the end I don’t see why you can’t read the piece here as a whole, and then give your reply as a whole as well, as opposed to the piecemeal and arguably sanctimonious reply you’ve produced here. What’s the spirit of the opinions, and not just the technical details of how the opinions are arrived at?

  46. The funniest part is that I didn’t make a single: prescription; suggestion; proposal; etc. Just some observations, chosen from what I thought were a set of pretty bleeding obvious propositions. It’s similar to the “x things everyone used to understand” and “x questions about y” that I often do. Their not meant to be controversial. Quite the opposite.

    I do it in part, to see just how many deranged people there are; that is, to see just how many people will work themselves into a froth or twist themselves into pretzels to reject a bunch of humdrum, ordinary observations and thoughts. And to get a measure of how far away from normal our thinking is getting.

  47. I think Putin fooled a lot of people into perceiving him as a world leader for the 21st Century – fairly easy to do in the age of the internet, multiple ‘realities’ available on it, and a wildly proliferating culture of celebrity. In fact he’s a 19th Century thinker with 20th Century aspirations – much like the fascists he clearly learned from. Already the Russian people are getting buried under Stalinist misinformation and repression – but without even the hope, however unfounded, for a better Marxist future. It’s all about the Putin. The cruelty we are already seeing will get worse. No one is getting out of this happy or whole.

    The “whataboutist” rhetoric showing up around this is weak, to say the least, and shows a surprising misunderstanding of the nature of liberal democratic social and political processes. It is possible to oppose the policies of one’s own government and still support that government when the policies are congruent with one’s own principles. And yet we abide by the Constitution of the liberal state, despite its flaws, and obey it’s laws, in order to participate in efforts to improve those laws and the policies of that government. Otherwise we become outcasts in our own land; and while I know how that feels, I can’t say that it is a condition I would suggest for others. Besides, where does such rhetoric leave us but paralyzed by cynicism and unctuous arrogance.. And that’s not an attitude leading to constructive conversation or collective effort.

  48. It is wrong to say ‘Russia says this,” “Russia does this,” on the basis of demands by a dictator or a junta. “Russia” is the Russian people, not their power-hungry autocrats. Putin does not represent Russia.

    Fascists are cultural parastes. They always claim to represent the core of the culture, with their references to lost empires and myths of former greatness. But the real culture is simply people as they are and as they do to survive.

    Cynicism is no response to this; fear will not cushion the blow. The confrontation with fascism should produce, not appeasement, but collective will.

  49. Marc Levesque

    I’m glad to see a lot of thoughtful comments.

    On Nazism, I gather M. Putin is referencing, the 2004 rehabilitation of the nationalist Stepan Bandera, and various far right political groups, which includes militias and an army battalion that openly wear Nazi symbols and admit to supporting their values. Still, that doesn’t in any way justify the current violence.

    I don’t believe in intractable conflict, but hyperbole, stereotypes and other polarizing rhetorical moves can make it hard, sometimes near impossible, to have meaningful conversations or deescalate conflict.

    EJ wrote

    1) “It is wrong to say ‘Russia says this,” “Russia does this,” on the basis of demands by a dictator or a junta. “Russia” is the Russian people…”

    For sure, needs repeating.

    2) “The “whataboutist” rhetoric showing up … It is possible to oppose the policies of one’s own government and still support that government when the policies are congruent with one’s own principles … Besides, where does such rhetoric leave us but paralyzed by cynicism and unctuous arrogance. And that’s not an attitude leading to constructive conversation or collective effort.”

    I don’t think its use is only detrimental. It can serve as reminder of western governments’ past actions and their consequences, including past actions in the build up to the current conflict, helping us elaborate what direction current actions and policies should take, and also to remind and help us understand how those past actions are actively being perceived by others. Harm reduction, both short and long term, being dependent on an increase in mutual understanding and in self-awareness .

    But its use and tone can also be counterproductive. In those cases I’m probably just as annoyed with what about arguments as I am with the labeling them whataboutisim.

  50. Gordon Barnes

    I was being obnoxious. I apologized to Dan. It’s a bad habit, and I just need to quit it. He was very gracious, which I appreciate.

  51. Been there many times. I hope you will keep commenting.