Soft Power – Biden’s international tactics at odds with much of GOP – Royal Examiner

In our courses on conflict resolution, we refer to the extremes of conflict. We call this “the continuum of conflict”. We illustrate a linear continuum (on a whiteboard or through slides). On one side of the continuum is ‘non-engagement’ and on the other is ‘war’. The latter is the total engagement in the conflict – often without rules. The Russian government apparently has no problem committing to war (full commitment to conflict). Moreover, they don’t even seem to adhere to the so-called rules of war. In my opinion, this term is itself an oxymoron – war by definition is the complete disregard of the rules – in favor of victory.

The question for us in the United States and Canada – and for others in other democracies concerned about the alleged battle between democracy and autocracy, is: what can we do now? Our governments are grappling with this dilemma right now. The sanctions imposed by the United States and other allied or friendly governments pale in comparison to the new images of the valiant people of all ages in Ukraine dying and wounded by the most horrific military campaign seen in Europe since the rampage of Hitler.

As for sanctions, there should be no exceptions to what the United States and the free world might impose. The good works, in some cases, of the oligarchs (like Roman Abramovich with Israel’s Yad Vashem Memorial) should not allow them to escape punishment. If they repudiated the Russian/Putin conduct, maybe that could be a factor. On March 10, 2022, according to news reports, the UK sanctioned Mr. Abramovich and other oligarchs. The British press quickly picked up on Abramovich’s sanctions because he (or his organization) owns Britain’s famous Chelsea Premier League football (soccer) team.

Added to my own frustration at not being able to do more to save Ukraine is my own experience in the military and emergency services (years ago). Like so many people, I wish we could do more. I wish we weren’t so afraid of Russia (or China, Iran or North Korea), but I rationally understand that we have many “deciding factors” at play in this crisis.

In America, when it comes to our own national policing problem, we constantly see in the news how dangerous it is for the police in this country to deal with someone who is both unstable AND armed. The result of this situation is too often the death of one or more people.

In the case of Russia, many people have questioned the very sanity of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The conduct of Russian soldiers in Ukraine (now – and in the past in Georgia, Crimea, Donbass, Chechnya) warns us that we are dealing with an unpredictable (and well-armed) enemy. In the United States, our government has taken the “position” (a term we in conflict resolution don’t like because the “p” word implies an inability to change) that Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and we have no “legal right” to engage US forces in combat.

So far, the premise of what is right or moral has not been enough to get the United States to fight. What is very relevant in the calculation of war with Russia is the nuclear question. Is this just Putin’s bomb, or does he mean he would risk everything, including nuclear retaliation, if he thought the entry of US or NATO combat forces into the situation could tip the Russian objectives towards a loss – and lead to one or more irrational nuclear attacks? strikes in Europe – and even in our North American homeland.

This is not a hawkish rubric, as some might see. But – there is such a thing, in my opinion, as doing what is right. Years ago I wrote one of the least popular books ever written:
Ethics for Government Employees (Crisp Publications, 1993). I asked for standards of conduct for public sector employees. My wife, Bryane, and I have a book called: Principled Choices: A Public and Private Sector Ethics Practice Guide (to be published by Lalo Publishing in late 2022). In these books and according to many other commentators, the “public good” and the “right choice” among several alternatives are both a challenge, but also the moral path to follow.

After the ethical/moral test, it is difficult to accept what is being done by the Russians in Ukraine as acceptable conduct by what has been considered a rational and thinking nation. It needs to be dealt with – and as soon as possible. The United States has had no problem intervening head-on in the past: the “domino theory” that launched Vietnam, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the attack on the Iraqi Kurds, the war in Bosnia and attempts to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. – even Korea barely five years in the shadow of World War II. Why are we now suddenly sticking to the “legal precept” that Ukraine is not a member of NATO?

According to a recent opinion, including both Democrats and Republicans, 74% of Americans favor a NATO “no-fly zone” over Ukraine (as reported on CBS-TV “ Sunday Morning” March 6, 2022).

Isn’t there an ethical and moral principle of “public good” here: To defend democracy against tyranny?

Many Americans (and perhaps others) might say that if we don’t fight them there, we’ll have to fight them much closer to home, even in our own collective backyards. Poland certainly believes in this statement. They offered MIG-29 planes and at no cost to Ukraine, but the United States, as of press time, rescinded that offer.


Charles P. Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia

(Charles Lickson is former general counsel, turned mediator, writer, editor; above from the March 2022 issue of IRONING IT OUT NEWSLETTER)

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