From the Left



Ostrich Days: Democracy on the Line, Americans Decide Whether to Fight or Fold

Jeff Robbins on

"Sometimes the more absurd the lie, the more effective it is," observed a former United Nations official in "Kiss the Future," the new documentary produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck about the resilience of Sarajevo's residents under fire from Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's killers during the 1990s. The documentary recounts the successful effort of a young and intrepid humanitarian aid worker named Bill Carter to persuade the rock band U2 to shine a spotlight on Milosevic's barbarism, at a time when effective lies, fatigue and apathy combined to keep the world's focus away from Serbian war crimes.

The film ends with images of Vladimir Putin, and not inadvertently. Its release in movie theaters coincides with the marking of two years since Putin invaded Ukraine, an invasion propelled by confidence that the world would dither, look the other way and permit Ukraine to go under. Putin had ample reason to be confident. After all, the world has dithered, looked the other way and permitted wretched regimes to prevail plenty of times before. And he had reasonable basis to believe that the United States would do little more than wag its finger and pronounce itself "deeply concerned" and "greatly troubled" by Russia's invasion.

In the last Democratic administration, for example, President Barack Obama had pooh-poohed the very notion that Russia was a global threat, gone passive when Russia invaded Crimea, first announced that Syria's use of chemical weapons to murder its citizens would cross a "red line" and then mumbled "Never mind" when the red line was crossed, and derided those who warned that funneling tens of billions of dollars to Iran would fund Hamas, Hezbollah and other entities that we have long stipulated are terrorist organizations.

But led by President Joe Biden, an international coalition mobilized to arm Ukraine so that it could defend itself. Ukrainians are in essence fighting not merely to prevent Russia from subjugating them but to prevent Russia from turning its armed forces thereafter on Eastern European nations that it formerly controlled, and which it wishes to control again. Our NATO allies have done what NATO was formed to do. And Biden, with strong bipartisan support from those in Congress not entirely subservient to Donald Trump and Trump's instruction that Putin be coddled, has ensured that Ukraine has had the aid necessary to keep Russia at bay. In the process of inflicting staggering losses in Russia, Ukraine has also sustained staggering losses, and has seen its economy shattered by Russia's onslaught.

But now, on orders from the best friend Vladimir Putin has ever had, a group of MAGA Republicans, perfectly content to see Putin win and Ukraine lose, and perfectly content to see our allies endangered by a bona fide axis of aggressors that includes Russia, Iran and North Korea, is blocking the support Ukraine desperately needs to avoid being plowed under. "It is the tortured people of Ukraine that beg you, but it is also the credibility of your country that is at stake," Poland's Foreign Minister told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday.


It's not just the far right whose head is deep in the sand, or elsewhere that heads don't belong, when it comes to the real threats posed to democracies by barbaric state and non-state actors. On the far left, the usual feckless wonders see no evil, hear no evil and acknowledge no evil when evil is directly in front of their noses. Self-professed progressives have eviscerated their credibility on human rights by whitewashing Hamas' mass slaughter on Oct.7, a slaughter not merely bestial but patently genocidal. Naturally, they accuse Israel, the victim of the genocidal attack, of genocide, illustrating the point that "sometimes the more absurd the lie, the more effective it is."

America and its democratic allies find themselves at a hinge point. Whether Putin succeeds in overrunning Ukraine, and whether Iran and its proxies succeed in imposing a state of savagery on the Mideast, is up in the air. How it comes out depends on whether we fight for the survival of democracies or simply fold.


Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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