“You will see, they will close the sky, but we will lose millions of people.”
— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, March 9, 2022
“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”
— Winston Churchill
That having been said, I am extremely apprehensive about the events unfolding in Ukraine and the measures Western Nations are taking to protect innocent civilians.
A robust debate is underway over what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calls “Closing the sky,” what US press observers are calling a “No-fly-zone.” A second point of contention is the potential for providing fighter aircraft to Ukraine to aid in their defense.
I should say that I am beginning to favor a more robust defense of Ukraine. There are many reasons given the complexity of the situation but the most compelling reason is that I believe we are reaching a point where the risk to humanity posed by inaction may becoming greater than the risk of action. I think we are reaching the other side of the fulcrum.
It is important to remember that the U.S. military, its planers and civilian directors are unaccustomed to humanitarian missions. Using American forces or resources to mitigate human suffering would require significant rethinking and would establish a precedent that could be used by future U.S. presidents in a verity of ways both good and bad.
Nonetheless the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Ukraine is proceeding along a genocidal path. It has not yet reached that destination. But if genocide is to be prevented, it can only be prevented before it gets that far, after will be too late. The United States can prevent a genocide in Ukraine. In fact it actually appears the American people probably would support it.
President Biden and press representatives for the Defense Department and State Department are asserting that they are taking powerful and effective measures to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and punish the Russian invaders. In fact those arguments are not completely without merit.
The economic sanctions Western nations are levying on Russia are the strongest and most comprehensive ever implemented. Yes they do appear to having a significant impact on the Russian economy and on Vladimir Putin’s decision making process. The weapons the US and NATO are supplying to the AFU have been critical components of their efforts to repel Russian forces. Western aid has been impactful.
That having been said, the problem that Western efforts are not addressing is the scope of the war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population being committed by Russian forces and the trajectory of the threat posed by Russian aggression to neighboring nations.
It may sound cliché or overly simplistic but mitigating civilian casualties, particularly those resulting from war crimes would change every aspect of this conflict, for the better. Absent the war crimes this conflict burns itself out in fairly short order. There can be no more urgent, justified or productive role for NATO than mitigating human suffering resulting from war crimes in this conflict. Addressing civilian security would have a huge positive impact on security not just for Ukraine and Russia but it would also go a long way towards addressing Europe’s broader security concerns.
U.S. President Biden defined establishing a no-fly-zone over Ukraine or providing more advanced fighter aircraft to the embattled nation as being tantamount to World War III. That assumes we in America do not think it is a world war yet. But just two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine the war is effecting every aspect of everyday life everywhere in the world and every day that passes those effects become more palpable. Again the trajectory is moving at an alarming pace towards what appears to be the inevitable.
On that basis it is imperative for the US and NATO to become more engaged. We can as Winston Churchill put it, “exhaust all the other possibilities,” or we can chose not to repeat the mistakes of the Twentieth Century. Time is of the essence. The standard is to effectively deter the commission of war crimes against innocent civilians.
We must act.
Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.