Time for unity

See Disclaimer.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unjustifiable. Its direct human costs are already abominable, with a dreadful expectation of far more to come. Its broader consequences are unpredictable, with some of the extreme scenarios globally terrifying.

The US is providing global leadership in a coordinated worldwide response to the invasion. That response has used diplomacy, sanctions on Russia, and military aid (short of boots on the ground) to Ukraine. It has been a powerful response, even if it did not avoid the war.

In fact, it is in this coordinated response that lies the hope that the conflict will remain local. In the absence of such a response, there would be far greater likelihood of Russian invading other neighboring countries, in an effort to regain past regional hegemony. And a third (and nuclear!) world war would be a far greater possibility, now or later.

Faced with a clear and present danger, the Biden Administration has shown courage, skill and leadership. Given highly complex choices, their actions have been thoughtful. These actions have balanced strength with moderation, and have remained adaptable to fast evolving events. Some argue that the actions have been too little, or too much—with the spectrum of opposing views an indirect endorsement of the path actually taken.

 it is now urgent that Americans raise to the occasion, uniting around a common purpose. In its most basic form, the purpose is preventing autocracy from regaining a broader strategic foothold in Europe, with deep global (and, yes, US) implications. In its broadest form, the purpose should also include minimizing the tragedy imposed on innocent people by the arbitrary whims of a power-hungry dictator.

The first of the above purposes is so clearly in our national self-interest, that it should unite Americans from all political quadrants. The second, more humanitarian-minded, purpose is more debatable if taken alone: Why address human tragedy in Ukraine, but not, say, in Rwanda? But these two purposes are so naturally intertwined in Ukraine that addressing one without the other would make no sense.

Of course, uniting America around anything is far easier said than done. Ambiguity exists these days even on what constitutes fact. We are too deeply divided a nation, forgetful of the lessons of our and world history, and distracted by a web of misinformation and blind beliefs.

Still, we were not a perfectly united nation at the time of WW II either, and we did come together powerfully, when called upon. Today’s challenge is different only because we must unite around values and policies, without (at least for now) the sense of urgency derived from the direct involvement of our soldiers in active war.

However different our political views (and even our views of reality and facts) may be, we all ought to realize that we face a distinctively serious threat to global peace, and to the freedoms and prosperity of our nation. With that threat in mind, citizens and politicians alike would do well to:

  • Support our government, including the President & Commander-in-Chief, as they make difficult decisions and take (often painful) actions. We elected them to govern, it is time to let them do just that. No blank check, but certainly no unprincipled, blind opposition.
  • Give a break to misinformation, misleading interpretation, partisan bickering and electoral calculation. This would serve us well as a nation, no matter what. But, just as “loose lips sink ships” was a critical message in WW II, our times call for urgent acceptance that “every lie weakens us all”.

Is this too much to ask?

— Antonio Baptista

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