Vladimir Putin as Robert E. Lee
Paul Craig Roberts
As readers know, I often make reference to Putin’s forbearance, that is, to his tolerance, patience, and self-control. I admire Putin’s forbearance which persists despite Putin never receiving any recognition or credit for it. My concern is that Putin’s forbearance does not serve him or Russia well. The reason is that the Western world no longer recognizes or values the moral code that once defined Western civilization. Today in the Western world there are only two values–money and power.
It has been a long time since any American or European military leader said anything resembling what Robert E. Lee told the soldiers who comprised the Army of Northern Virginia:
“We make war only upon armed men, and we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all those whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against God to whom vengeance belongs.”
Many of the Union soldiers, especially those under command of the generals, Sherman and Sheridan, who hated Southerners, subjected civilian populations in the South to rape and looting. They would burn down the homes and slaughter the livestock, leaving the women and children unprotected from winter and starvation. The entire purpose of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was to create a slave rebellion in the Confederacy that would cause the Confederate troops to leave the war to return home to protect their women and children. As Lincoln’s own Secretary of State said, the President has “freed” the slaves only in those areas where we have no presence and left them in slavery where we are in command. As no slaves rebelled, Lincoln’s effort to inflict rape and murder on Southern women and children failed.
In those past years when the US still had historians, instead of today’s 1619 Project propagandists, Lee’s forbearance was the basis of his high reputation among US military officers. During Eisenhower’s presidency, Lee’s portrait hung on the walls of the Oval Office. The collapse of American morals has been so total that today Robert E. Lee’s statue has been removed from Richmond, Virginia, the city he protected from rapine and destruction.
World War II as conducted by Roosevelt and Churchill was a war against civilians. The British air force was constructed and used for bombing German residential areas. Once Washington entered the war, the US air force followed the same practice. The British/US bombing of Dresden is one of the worst war crimes in history, as were the atomic bombs dropped on the civilian populations of two Japanese cities while the Japanese were trying to surrender. In the early months of WW II, Hitler prohibited the German air force from bombing civilian areas in Britain. It was the relentless bombing of German civilians that forced Hitler to reverse his policy.
When one considers the massive war crimes the US committed against German and Japanese civilians, it is amazing that these people are so firmly committed to Washington’s will.
Recall Vietnam, the napalm and Agent Orange dropped on villagers, the picture of the naked little girl fleeing the flames, the relentless bombing of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, weddings, funerals, children’s soccer games, the shelling by Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, with support from the American liberal press, of civilians in Donbass. The West conducts war by terror.
Putin told the Russian soldiers before sending them into Donbass that Russia does not fight this way. He prohibited them from using heavy weapons in civilian areas. It was the cowardly Ukrainian military and the Neo-Nazi Azov thugs who took refuge among civilians where they could fire heavy weapons and not be targeted by Russian heavy weapons.
Like Lee, for Putin forbearance is a virtue, a moral principle that you don’t sacrifice for war. Like Lee, Putin told the troops that “we make war only upon armed men.”
Putin has stuck to this policy despite the narrative’s portrayal of him as a war criminal murdering women and children. In other words, Putin is not restraining the use of violence against civilians because he expects credit for his forbearance, but because it is a virtue to which he holds.
When one looks honestly, one sees clearly that the virtue the West claims does not exist.
My problem with Putin’s forbearance is that it is not only no longer an admired virtue in the West but also so foreign to the modern Western mind that it is interpreted as indecision and weakness. Consequently, the provocations of Russia multiply and worsen. In brief, Putin’s forbearance is resulting in red lines being crossed that will end in nuclear war.
Putin’s problem is unique in the modern world. His virtue of forbearance is what is driving the world to nuclear war. His virtue is seen as weakness against which more threatening pushes can be made. The question is real whether Putin’s forbearance will bring on Armageddon.
This is the reason, not bloody-mindedness, that I have said that the Kremlin’s use of military force in Ukraine needed to be awesome and quickly concluded in total success in order to establish in Washington and the capitals of Europe that the policy of poking the bear is a fools game that brings certain death and destruction.
If Russia had delivered blitzkrieg to Ukraine, the governments of Europe would be disengaging from NATO, not trying to join it. Washington would gain recognition that the neoconservatives’ policy of American hegemony was extremely costly. It would be possible for voices to speak in favor of a more restrained policy.
Instead, what we have is a narrative of Russian loss and defeat, and not a single country the least bit scared of offending Russia. Weapons, money, diplomatic support for the Ukrainian Nazis is flowing in from the Western World. Yesterday the national newspaper in the capital of the Western World, the Washington Post, editorialized: “The world must not forget Mariupol’s defenders. They are heroes.”
The “heroes” are the Neo-Nazi Azov thugs, a collection of war criminals, many of whom are likely to be tried in Russian courts for war crimes. This editorial should tell us all we should know about the depraved West. Does it tell Putin anything?