Defeat the "greatest tyrant of this century"

Published: 03/09/2022 15:00:43 Modified: 09/03/2022 15:00:10 I’ve been in many fights in my life, but only two involved coming to b...



Published: 03/09/2022 15:00:43

Modified: 09/03/2022 15:00:10

I’ve been in many fights in my life, but only two involved coming to blows with punches. Both happened in my youth, both were on the playground and both involved me standing up to a bully who was picking on someone.

If we were counting the points, I would say that the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, is the greatest tyrant of this century.

Like the neighborhood bully, Putin went after the weakest kid next door. Putin’s iron fist continues to shake, indiscriminately and with a blind disregard for human life. He miscalculated Ukraine’s determination, but he will not back down.

Ukraine, the underdog fighting heavyweight, heroically defended but are clearly on the ropes. No referee intervenes to stop the fight.

As happens with almost all wars and human disasters in this digital age of 24/7 media reporting, we all tend to revert to our personal lives and day-to-day issues. My fear is that this war too, like the ones we fought ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, is beginning to fade and become a mere abstraction for the Americans.

Then there is the even greater existential fear of nuclear retaliation if we step further into the ring. With Putin, the nuclear option will always be the “yield to me or else” tactic. That’s how bullies act. But Ukraine, which at one time was the third-largest nuclear power, gave up its nuclear weapons under a 1994 deal brokered by the US, UK and Russia. What use are future assurances of non-proliferation if Ukraine now faces total destruction?

I agree with Alexander Vindman, a retired army lieutenant colonel and former director of European affairs at the National Security Council, who says we need to support Ukraine now with a lend-lease program. scale of what we delivered to Europe in World War II. .

The appropriate response to this war is to increase our military and economic support for Ukraine to include fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, and whatever Ukrainian defenders need.

If we don’t save Ukraine, who will be next? Moldova? Are we really letting a bully bludgeon their victim because the victim wasn’t allowed to join our exclusive NATO club? The Kremlin also has its eyes on NATO countries in the Baltics.

The Ukrainian people challenge us, plead for our intervention. A people aspiring to remain free is massacred. Their indomitable courage in the face of Putin’s insatiable selfishness and sadism needs more than our admiration or the waving of the Ukrainian flag or our thoughts and prayers.

This week, my wife, Denise, and I recently reread “The Moon is Down,” John Steinbeck’s little-known but beautiful book about a military invasion and occupation of a city in Europe.

The theme of simple courage and resisting bullies is strong with Steinbeck, as anyone who has read “The Grapes of Wrath,” his best-known masterpiece, will tell you. In “Grapes of Wrath,” he takes on the banks who drove Dust Bowl farmers off their land, the people who exploited them, and the fearful locals who denigrated them as “Okies.”

Steinbeck was masterful in using fiction as a platform to fight for the underdog and as a catalyst for empathy. My wife and I loved all of his books, but “The Moon is Down” is our favorite.

It is a simple tale but a deeply human description of the reactions of a freedom-loving people under the domination of a conquering force. It is a timeless story of people crushed by war and then resisting their captors. Sound familiar?

The location is left unnamed. The setting is just a village—any village—first surprised, then upset and which, over the weeks, adapts to resistance and quiet heroism. Mayor Orden of the book is the courageous symbol of his people’s will, standing up to the occupiers of his village, just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is today the courageous symbol of his nation.

In Steinbeck’s generation, the free world came to the rescue of villages like the one he talked about in “The Moon is Down.” But today, we have grown too accustomed to extremism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism in too many places on our planet as world leaders and well-to-do people look the other way.

History tells us that bullying does not stop on its own. The moon may have been down when Russian forces invaded their neighbor. It is now up to the free world to ensure that the sun rises on a free Ukraine.

John Paradis, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, lives in Florence and writes a monthly column for the Gazette. He can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.



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