The Invasion of Ukraine is an opportunity for Paradigm Shift | Daniel Evans
And it is wide open to anyone against the left/progressives/globalisation/whatever.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is almost the greatest, clearest, shiniest, proof that the “anywhere” worldview has no clothes.
This is war in Europe. Hey, europhile, you know where that is! This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan, wherever those are, and where you’ll never, ever go. Europe is where you go on holiday and get your fancier foods and alcohols. It’s where your beaches and ski slopes are. It’s where you go to feel smart and exotic and superior to the countrymen you’d rather not bother with. It’s where you go for a couple of weeks every year to garble phrases in another language, play make-believe, and feel less like the plain old boring Englishman that you really are. You are not European because you know what focaccia is and where to find it in Waitrose. Good grief.
Anyway, there’s war in Europe. Is this starting to feel real to you? You can see it. It’s on TV, Twitter, Tik Tok, Tinder, and those are just the alliterative outlets.
What more do people need, 20 years after 9/11 to understand that history isn’t over, and that friendly cooperation and innocent, disinterested international trade are not a thing? Will they notice China’s mad scrambles to conceal the pandemic and preemptively buy up medical supplies? Will they need China to actually make moves on Taiwan to understand? Would that be enough?
The conditions are good enough already. This isn’t just an opportunity to think differently about energy supply (Russia) and the means of production (China) for the UK. The economy will follow after worldview. The opportunity is here, right now, to totally change the UK’s worldview.
For Russia, the invasion of Ukraine is civilisational. Every action it takes as a country is civilisational. The UK doesn’t do that. Yet.
Find and read or listen to or watch Putin’s speech about the invasion of Ukraine.
Even if you disagree with it, it’s a condensed but comprehensive history lecture. Is there a single Western leader intellectually capable of this? Even if you disagree with it, it’s a call to defend the greatness of Russia. Is there a single Western leader culturally capable of defending the greatness of their own country? Even if you disagree with it, Putin is capable of doing so to the point of doing something which actually matters, with real-world results.
What does the West do?
Taking Crimea in 2014 was about increasing Russia’s power, resources, and pride. More people, more land, projection, protecting naval interests. What was the West’s response? Weak sanctions and kicking Russia out of the G8. Oh no, not the G8! Sanctions? You think this is about money? When did the West forget that man does not live by bread alone? There’s at least a little appetite for this in the UK. Project Fear screeched every last bulging eyed end of days screech that it could. Either the UK didn’t believe it or said that the cost was worth it. That could be encouraging.
This isn’t about money for Russia either. This goes back to WW2. From a Slavic perspective, Germany launched a genocidal war to ethnically cleanse the East for Lebensraum. The Slavic perspective isn’t wrong but it gets out of hand. Russia is comparable to the West. A good chunk of it sees all potential threats as Hitler. Everything is just like Nazi Germany. In this case, Putin is concerned about Western eastward creep, Russian encirclement and, as peculiar as this may be, the idea that ethnic Russians need to be protected against Ukrainian neo-nazis.
He is thinking in civilisational terms. He says it’s a matter of life and death.
In the face of that, what is the West prepared to do?
Russia invaded Ukraine because 1) it saw an opportunity and 2) it decided the price would be worth it. In other words, Russia thinks that the West won’t do anything meaningful to it. Is this just Brownian motion or Parkinson’s law? Power expands to fill a gap. Is there a name for this? If not, we’re calling it Evans’ law. Anyway, is Russia right? Will the West do anything? This isn’t a defence of any action, economic or military, only a way to test intuitions. Let’s ask some questions. Forget the West.
Is the UK willing to send its soldiers to die to defend Ukraine?
If “no”, it makes sense for Russia to keep pushing until it meets resistance. The next question gets more interesting.
Is the UK willing to send its soldiers to die to defend the Baltic countries?
If “no”, NATO is meaningless, and a major institution of Western government is not what we thought it was. The Baltic countries have significant Russian populations. Russia will apply the same thinking it has about Ukraine.
What’s next? Is the UK willing to send its soldiers to die to defend Poland? Germany? France? The UK itself?
Remember that any war might escalate and it’s Millenials and zoomers who would be conscripted to fight. On second thought, if you ask the same questions above you might actually want to send millennials and zoomers against Russian tanks.
Does the UK want peace? If “yes”, it can just back down or surrender. That does get you peace without the price of fighting for it.
Is that unacceptable?
If “yes”, the real question remains. What is the UK prepared to do? Russia says it is fighting for civilisational survival against enemies who want to genocide it. It says it is fighting for historical legacies of brotherhood with Ukraine, which has always really been a part of Russia, and that Ukraine isn’t a real country anyway. They think it’s cobbled-together bits of Poland, Hungary, and Russia, and it’s time to right civilisational wrongs.
Think about this and what the UK is like. What is the difference between the UK’s and Russia’s motivation and ability to take damage? The UK is comfortable and can reasonably expect to live well and die at an old age. Is that all that matters to it? Is that all the UK can see? Does it understand what it means to struggle and work and fight to have that? A lot of the rest of the world does.
There are some difficult questions you have to ask yourself when joining the military. Can you kill someone? Can you order others to kill someone? Can you order others to their deaths? Can you risk your own death? Not one of these is the most difficult question.
The most difficult question is this. If you were ordered to die, could you follow that order?
Perhaps Russians have a strong answer to this question. Maybe it helps to think about who is ordering you to die and what for. Take your pick of military leaders. Hannibal is a pretty good one. What kind of a man was he, what kind of cause and belief did the Carthaginians have, which led them thousands of miles from home for many years, over the Alps, to almost certain death? Does Russia have this? Does the UK have it?
What do the millennials and zoomers have? A home and family to defend? Everyone knows about house prices and childlessness. National pride? British values? The mere mention brings out Putin-levels of shrill paranoia about nazis. Only the shallow and twee patriotism just about gets a pass.
Let’s return to the point of this piece. There’s an opportunity to completely change this. The invasion of Ukraine is a chance for the UK to wake up to geopolitical realities. Other countries are totally driven by self-interest, power, land, resources etc. They think they should have these things. They think they are great. They think that more, not less, of their country is better. They know the answer to the question: if you were ordered to die, could you follow that order?
The invasion of Ukraine is an opportunity for governments to apply the Service Test: do your actions make the country stronger or weaker? Here’s an example. Germany shut down a bunch of its power plants and made itself reliant on Russia for gas. Weaker. The UK should learn from Germany’s mistakes. The invasion of Ukraine is an opportunity to junk any of the delusional ideological arguments (it can keep the sensible ones) around green energy and weakening national security. Now extend this thinking to every other policy area. Does it make the country stronger or weaker? If you thought about money first, slap yourself in the face. Think about Russia, Ukraine, what this is about, and try again. Yes, money is important, but it comes as a result of motivation and strength. It is not an end in and of itself.
In the face of global reality, the intuitive, natural, obvious conclusions are anti-globalist and anti-progressive. National self-interest is the only answer which guarantees a country’s safety and way of life. In these kinds of conditions, left and right-wing, socialism and capitalism, are completely irrelevant. National self-interest is not just true, it’s aligned with conditions that are perfect for people to actually want that truth. What credible opposition can they put up against what will be the most broadcast war ever and the explicit motivations of those who launched it? People will be predisposed, their feelings viscerally reinforced by what they can undeniably see, and looking for solutions. Just fix it, just make it go away!
This is only an opportunity. This paradigm shift won’t just happen by itself. At least now you’re aware of it. This is not a call to action. Just some homework. A lot of people are scared and confused. Their worldview, their predictive model, didn’t prepare them for this, and it isn’t helping them understand what is happening and why. It’s going to be OK.
Your first job is to give words to their feelings. It’s a shame that “take back control” is spent. Give words to their feelings. That’s all for now. That’s a good start.