The Dawn of Uncivilization

(Common SenseIt’s true that the so-called neoliberals, those who spent their formative years, two or three or four decades ago, in seminar rooms at New England colleges, got many things wrong. They were arrogant; they had their blind spots; and now everyone on the left and the right hates them. It’s easy to. What we forget is that they got one thing very, very right, which is that there are things that are far worse than American hegemony. The new right, the identitarian left—they never say what comes after the old order, because they can’t think that far ahead, or they don’t care to. They’re just happy to watch it all burn.

Vladimir Putin knows how much daylight there is between hard geopolitical reality and American rhetoric. But we prefer to hew to the old platitudes. They make us think that we can rewind or undo or make things better if we just say the right things. It is time to imagine what our president seems incapable of: a new order, jungle-like, shot through with the fevers and hatreds of the world as it had always been before. Uncivilization.


An Unjust War in Ukraine

Whatever might be Russia’s complaint, the invasion of Ukraine is a serious sin. While the weight of this sin falls on Putin and Russia’s military leaders, the average Russian soldier cannot comply with those orders that prosecute what is simply an unjust war.

Those who seek to excuse Putin’s aggression make themselves complicit in his sin. This applies not only to government officials in Russia and other governments around the world but also to pundits and ordinary men and women.

While I wish it needn’t be said, it also applies to those Orthodox bishops and clergy who support the war whether publicly or secretly in their hearts.

In their public statements, some bishops and clergy have rightly condemned Putin’s war as an act of unjust aggression.

Others, however, while calling for peace have stopped short of this. In not condemning the war they have suggested that there might be a moral equivalence between Putin’s unjust aggression and Ukrainian’s defensive response. To be clear, there is no moral parity in this matter. Putin and his accomplices are guilty of a grave offense against God and the people of Ukraine by attacking the innocent.

Another reason war is a sin is precisely because it requires those targeted by an aggressor to take up arms to defend innocent lives.

This means that now Putin and his allies bear the weight not only for the lives that their soldiers kill but the moral damage that is done to these individuals.

Added to this, they are now also responsible for those who Ukrainian soldiers kill in defense of their neighbors and for the moral wounds inflicted on them by their defensive actions.

So once again, to defend this war, even secretly in one’s heart, is to collude with a terrible sin.
While less serious, it is still morally wrong to call for peace without also condemning the invasion. Even if done with the noblest of intentions doing so, or rather NOT DOING SO, offers support to an unjust aggressor and leaves those harmed by his actions without the moral support due them.

In Christ,

Fr Gregory

The Battle Isn’t the Whole War

What happens in Ukraine is a matter of freedom, life and death for the courageous resisters to Vladimir Putin’s invasion (“Ukraine Leads the World,” Review & Outlook, Feb. 28). It also matters to the fate of political freedom in the world. Ukraine is the Gettysburg of our time. Read Lincoln’s immortal words: Gettysburg was not only about us, but also about our obligation to promote freedom in the world in a thoughtful yet committed manner. Gettysburg is also a symbol of the sacrifice this can require. I have read about the “rapture” that Ukraine resisters share in risking their lives together to protect their freedom. The flame is alive in them. Is it with us?
Em. Prof. Donald A. Downs
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Source: On the Sidelines as Ukraine Fights for Its Survival – WSJ

Unexpectedly Telling the Truth

On social media, I’ve noticed people posting that “Ukraine isn’t worth any American cities.” Besides the fact that no one is suggesting the US get involved in a hot war with Russia over Ukraine, comments like this make an interesting admission, if backhanded admission, about Putin.
Far from being the defender of “traditional western values,” or of the “faith of the Orthodox Church” the leader of Russia is in fact a vindictive madman who is willing to kill millions of civilians and cause untold environmental and economic damage that will devastate the whole world to get his way.

Such a man will not stop in Ukraine. He represents a threat not only to Ukraine and Europe but Russia and the Russian people as well.

Far from defending traditional morality, he is in fact a threat to the moral foundations of political and economic liberties.
As for being a defender of Orthodoxy, this is on its face is, an absurd statement to make of a man who not only invades a sovereign nation but orders Orthodox Christians to kill other Orthodox Christians. And not only soldiers defending their nation but civilians including children, the sick, and the elderly.

On Monday night I told the people who’d come to pray for peace in Ukraine, that while Ukraine is the battlefield, the war is against the West and Western civilization itself. I stand by this. The war in Ukraine is a war for the future of the West and the preservation of all that makes our civilization possible.

Finally, if you have been posted comments about the value of American cities vs Ukraine, please understand your calculus is based on a fantasy. Specifically, the spiritual delusion (prelast) that the president of Russia can be placated. He cannot and your own rhetoric about “American cities” makes this abundantly clear.

In Christ,

Fr Gregory

Why Would Putin Would Risk War?

He has never won a fair election, and he has never campaigned in a contest that he could lose. He knows that the political system he helped create is profoundly unfair, that his regime not only runs the country but owns it, making economic and foreign-policy decisions that are designed to benefit the companies from which he and his inner circle personally profit


He wants Ukrainian democracy to fail. He wants the Ukrainian economy to collapse. He wants foreign investors to flee. He wants his neighbors—in Belarus, Kazakhstan, even Poland and Hungary—to doubt whether democracy will ever be viable, in the longer term, in their countries too. Farther abroad, he wants to put so much strain on Western and democratic institutions, especially the European Union and NATO, that they break up. He wants to keep dictators in power wherever he can, in Syria, Venezuela, and Iran. He wants to undermine America, to shrink American influence, to remove the power of the democracy rhetoric that so many people in his part of the world still associate with America. He wants America itself to fail. These are big goals, and they might not be achievable. But Putin’s beloved Soviet Union also had big, unachievable goals. Lenin, Stalin, and their successors… failed—but they did a lot of damage while trying.

Anne Applebaum, The Reason Putin Would Risk War – The Atlantic

The American Left and Right: Together on the Margins about Putin

Whether on the right or on the left, these voices also tend to share a certain style of argumentation – one relies on fearmongering and dichotomous thinking. In that respect, they’re quite similar to the isolationists of old. In 1941, for instance, Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (D-MT) expressed his opposition President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program of aid to Great Britain in lurid terms, asserting the legislation amounted to a “New Deal AAA foreign policy – plow under every fourth American boy.” Today, those opposed to a firm American stand against the Kremlin on Ukraine and in favor of generous concessions to Moscow frame the policy choice confronting the United States as between war with Russia on one hand and acceding to Moscow’s demands on the other.

Hence Tucker Carlson’s open promotion of the Kremlin’s line. Claims that any opposition to Russian aggression will lead to a global conflagration are nothing new; indeed, they tend to crop up any time the United States and its allies take a firm stand against Moscow’s geopolitical prerogatives and priorities. It’s a flawed line of reasoning about foreign policy that’s not confined to discussions about the current crisis with Russia. During the initial debate over the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015, for instance, President Obama presented the choice facing the country as “ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war.”

Peter Juul and Brian Katulis, Putin’s American echo chambers

Putin’s (Fifth) Ace in the Hole

…the engine common to Pre, Post, and Soviet Russia is an innate sense of singular greatness that obliges it to global preeminence. Aspiration, however, has exceeded ability, and in each period, the project has been thwarted. Kotkin thus traces the consequent pattern of conflating a leader, seen as able to realize this destiny, with the State itself. Polis-as-Person. Enter Lenin, Stalin, and Putin.

What’s often called, exceptionalism, is hardly unique to Russia, but its lineage to the Byzantine Empire, and self-designation as Third Rome, give Russian exceptionalism a hefty boost. A deck of cards has four aces. Here, a fifth has been slipped in. It’s the distorted claim to that Byzantine genealogy, and it’s the ace up Putin’s sleeve.

Some may be incredulous to learn this claim has a critical religious component. As to whether Putin himself believes in it, skepticism is due. About staking it, there should be no doubt. He’s deadly serious.

The political arrangement Mr. Putin has chosen to advance Russia’s ordained global role is rooted squarely in the Byzantine notion of symphony. In it, Crown and Cathedra support each other in Providential harmony. With it, the Russian project is powered by something infinitely greater than the earth-bound delusions of Karl Marx.


Culture war is entering the dumb cycle

Is it good that Minnie Mouse put on a a pantsuit? What does it say that Mars is making more “inclusive” M&Ms and how much exactly are you going to care if the sexy green one now wears practical shoes? What does it mean for practical-shoe-wearing lesbians? Am I personally an unsexy M&M? God bless America, where we have the bounty and comfort, the health and peace to spend our days on these debates. May our worries always be this dumb, and may your M&Ms be whoever you need them to be.

Nellie Bowles, TGIF: Backlashes, Disappointments and Double Standards

Russia really doesn’t know what it’s doing

(The Liberal Patriot) It remains to be seen what Putin will decide to do now – most bets are on Russia moving into Ukraine in some fashion, but it’s not clear that Moscow even knows what it wants or what it is doing.  Putin seems to have painted himself into a diplomatic corner with the absurd demands he’s made toward the United States and its NATO allies – “Give us back Eastern Europe or we’ll invade Ukraine!” isn’t exactly a logical or compelling ultimatum, much less one that opens the door to serious diplomacy.

It’s more like the bullying tactics of troll power that have become increasingly prevalent in geopolitics and in some corners of America’s internal politics.  Under Putin, Russia has acted as a termite in global affairs, chipping away at the international system without any bigger picture or wider scheme in mind. Though Putin and his regime have made political plays for religious and social conservatives in the United States and around the world, his particular brand of Russian chauvinism and corrupt authoritarianism has little real purchase elsewhere.

As Eliot Cohen reminds us, Putin isn’t a strategic grandmaster and that he most likely hasn’t really thought things through when it comes to this self-caused crisis. America can manage this if it continues to seek a balanced approach and maintain unity with a global band of partners that’s tired of bullies like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea trying to get their way through threats and intimidation.

If Russia invades Ukraine again, it could end up being very costly for Russia – especially if America and its allies follow through on the game plan they’ve mapped out.  Should Moscow make this mistake, it will probably result in bloodshed in Ukraine and a new phase of the ongoing cyberwar, as David Ignatius notes.  That would be an unfortunate result, but it would be one that the United States can manage with its allies and partners.

One key to dealing with this crisis successfully and coming out in a stronger position is also to look at other arenas where Russia might seek to cause problems through political warfare, military moves, energy and economic policies that would seek to knock America and its partners off balance.  Because Putin looks like he’s making things up without a master plan, it’s important to anticipate moves he might make in other arenas and make preparations to deal with them.  An ounce of diplomatic prevention backed by a strong proactive defense worked out with allies and partners will be worth a pound of impromptu reactive measures.

Brian Katulis and Peter Juul, Looking ahead of the curve on Russia

Choose Hope Not Despair

…between Liberals and Conservatives today there is broad agreement: that America is fundamentally good. Imperfect, obviously. Currently imperiled, for certain. But full, coast-to-coast, with optimistic, generous, and industrious people. Our Constitution represents an astonishing achievement, the key to helping us out of whatever mess we’re in. We are all still Americans, after all.

Believer doesn’t mean milquetoast, although Believers are too often overmatched by the venom of the Cynics. As James Baldwin once observed, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

But Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson were all Believers—they played to win and won. Amy Klobuchar and Tom Cotton, Elena Kagan and Sam Alito proceed this way too: the politicians among them may attack the other side relentlessly (this is part of the job, after all). But listen to their arguments: they believe in the First Amendment, Due Process, and Equal Protection. They understand that American ideals require defense; they represent not only the best hope for America—but the best hope for humanity. They think the American people are something special. They hold the righteousness of the Declaration’s promise deep in their bones.

It’s no secret to anyone that America has seen better days or that the national mood is low. The question is whether to kick her while she’s down, to give up on her entirely—and then, to replace her with what, exactly?

As for the Cynics, The Believers must fend them off with everything we’ve got.  “Do not succumb to the disease of cynicism for it will justify all of your worst instincts,” Dr. King once warned. Believe him.


Abigail ShrierWho Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?