Has a rational person the right to declare that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an act of unprovoked aggression?
Yes and no. It all depends on how you look at it. The systematics of free speech, which was until recently considered a fundamental, unquestionable, and nearly definitive value in the West, theoretically allows for the proclamation of any wisdom or nonsense as long as it does not contradict the law or cultural norms in specific circumstances. On the other hand, the right to engage in mindless chatter deserves to be challenged with a conception of freedom that transcends its most primitive form.
However, as humans, we have both freedom and responsibilities. Not just reproductive ones, but also intellectual ones. These are responsibilities to one’s family, community, society, or self; they are the hygiene of one’s humanistic dignity.
This was perhaps best described aphoristically and memorably by the famous Königsberg philosopher Immanuel Kant. He developed, as early as 1784, the well-known thesis that every human being has a responsibility to use their reason for common and public good.
Well, it’s more than obvious that not many people have been willing to submit to the Enlightenment’s rationalist mental discipline. Unfortunately, that’s not all – the situation is far worse.
Today, ideological crusades are being waged against the remnants of logical thinking and rational treatment of reality, with the Western Left and its inept copies in Eastern Europe leading the way in what is already a veritable macabre.
It is worth placing the Ukrainian war in this context. Since the winds of war were set into motion on February 24 of this year, and since the war has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people with no end in sight, that day will always be remembered as a dark day in human history. For the most part because that’s when the societies of what the Russians call the “collective West” decided to finally break with Enlightenment.
Racism and xenophobia erupted like volcanoes; mass sobbing fueled by manufactured fear and panic quickly escalated into mindless and gleeful aggression, while the overcooked atmosphere of lynching and blue-yellow diarrhea was exacerbated by cabotinic calls not to drink Beluga or use Revolut. In Poland, where I live, the few people who did not go insane on that memorable day will remember it for the great national unity across all divides, when the entire society roared together: let gasoline cost even 10 zlotys ($2.5) per liter, as long as it is not Russian!
There have been dozens of philosophical treatises written about why reason should be respected. However, one argument stands out today: ignorance can be extremely costly. This is something we will all learn about this winter. Mindless “intoxicating oneself with empathy,” as Dr. Katarzyna Szumlewicz, a well-known Polish intellectual and defender of reason, frequently says, prompts societies to take actions that they will simply not get away with. Especially when it all happens on such a grand scale.
In this context, a recent article by left-wing Australian columnist and poet Caitlin Johnstone deserves special attention. Her September 7 piece was titled as follows: It’s not OK when grown people claim that the attack on Ukraine was “unprovoked by anything.” Of course, Johnstone understands, among other things, the ability to think rationally and critically by adulthood.
She is undeniably correct, but our societies simply seem to refuse, en masse, acceptance of those responsibilities. Consider the insanely frothy reaction to the Pope’s remarks about “NATO barking” at Russia. It was unfathomable how the oh-so-Catholic Poles of all nations could be so mad at the head of their Mother Church. This is clearly a sign of lasting decadence. “It’s not OK,” Johnstone writes, but will anyone listen in this ocean of lunacy? Certainly nobody in Poland.
Surprisingly, things appear to be different in the United States. The strong and healthy heart of true journalism and rational reflection beats right there, in the heart of darkness. If only on the Internet, there are numerous sites that combine the two; the most prominent of these, in my opinion, is The Grayzone portal, which is run by the most prominent journalistic duo of our time, Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate. Along with the outstanding New York-based journalist Katie Halper, the latter has most recently co-hosted the Useful Idiots podcast.
Last week, Halper and Mate conducted an interview with the well-known American leftist dissident Noam Chomsky. Naturally, they asked him about the conflict in Ukraine. Chomsky, despite the fact that he was already very old and obviously somewhat infirm, maintained a level of sobriety of mind that the Polish public may have envied him for if they were even the least bit aware of their own inadequacy.
Chomsky claimed, among other things, that the use of the phrase “unprovoked aggression” is truly bizarre, even from a PR standpoint. Simply put, repeating this phrase millions of times in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine undermines the message’s credibility.
“It’s difficult not to get the impression, listening to these diatribes about unprovoked aggression, that not only was it obviously provoked, but those who publicly and vehemently deny it know it well,” Chomsky and others said in this conversation.
“To be a recognized journalist in the mainstream media today, you must describe Russia’s attack on Ukraine as unprovoked. This is a unique phrase that has never been used before, at least on this scale. Not to mention that no one described the American invasion of Iraq in this manner. And now, almost every news item about the Ukraine war includes this phrase. Why? I’ll say it again: they’re well aware that this war is the result of massive provocation. This, of course, does not justify the war, but it cannot be ignored,” Chomsky went on.
In this context, one more example of a reasonable approach to the issue is definitely worth mentioning. I’m referring to a Twitter thread that gained unprecedented popularity a few weeks ago. It was created by Arnaud Bertrand, whom I had never heard of before. The author simply laid out the opinions of various American diplomats, intelligence officers, and others who have consistently spoken out against Russia’s provocation with Ukraine over years and decades.
It all starts with John Mearsheimer, whose 2015 university lecture became perhaps the greatest ‘academic blockbuster’ of all time. “With a prima ballerina’s step, the West is leading Ukraine down the path of war with Russia, which can only end in Ukraine’s total destruction.” This is just one of many apt quotes. Pat Buchanan, for example, warned as early as 1999 that “by installing NATO at Russia’s gates, we are preparing the world for the greatest conflict of the twenty-first century,” among other quotes. There’s also Henry Kissinger and a slew of others.
By no means are these people sympathetic to Russia or the Left, to which I still feel I belong (albeit with increasing difficulty). They’re a swarm of reactionaries, but they’re not shackled heads; they’re real strategists.
What about the fact that the U.S. maintained the possibility of Ukraine’s impending NATO membership until the very last moment? And the fact that a coup was carried out in 2014, one that had been planned for a long time, destroying the hard-won balance of political and cultural sentiment between eastern and western Ukraine?
However, even after 2014, the West could (probably) have prevented this war. Instead, the West chose the exact opposite path. Not only was NATO’s full openness to Ukraine’s membership demonstrated, but a new army was built there, equipped and trained in accordance with NATO standards. The West has also ordered (or simply tolerated) massacres of civilians in rebellious republics. The Wall Street Journal acknowledges all of this.
Last but not least, I’ll bring up the famous words of U.S. Democratic Senator Adam Shiff, who, when asked why the US chose the path of confrontation over peace, fumed that the point was “to fight to Russia over there [in Ukraine – ed.] so that we don’t have to fight Russia here.”
Even in its vestiges, reason demands that an adult reject the childish fairy tale that the US is supporting Ukraine because it loves that nation and its people so much and wants to bring them democracy, human rights, prosperity, and ultimately, heaven. If, on the other hand, this nonsense is excluded, what remains is the naked truth, namely, that this war is nothing more than the result of a massive provocation in international relations controlled by the US empire. That is not to say that this war should be supported. But, as Kant correctly stated, we have a duty to use reason. In public.
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