The Learned-Helpless Grandiosity of the Ukraine War

I hesitate to turn this blog into a running catalog of the absurdities of the Ukraine war, but at this rate, I probably could. From an article in The New York Times about Europe’s confused, ambivalent response to the Ukraine war:

“The consequences of Ukraine in the E.U. will be complicated, even explosive,” said Thomas Gomart, director of IFRI, the French Institute of International Relations. “But it will be politically impossible to reject it.”

The war hasn’t yet been won–there’s no end is in sight–but already the contours of the post-war world are an inevitability, indeed, out of the control of the people tasked with deciding it. They lack the power to resist Ukraine’s entry into the EU, but somehow have the power to defeat Russia by proxy.

Next paragraph:

After all, Ukraine is fighting on Europe’s behalf, not just its own. It is Ukraine that is now defending NATO’s borders, let alone Western values, analysts pointed out.

Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO, but by a miracle of political geography, its borders have become NATO’s borders. The same Europe that invokes its borders to leave migrants to drown in the Mediterranean has now decided that borders are whatever you want them to be. Poland = Czechia = Hungary = Turkey = Ukraine: it’s all the same. Of course, if borders are that flexible, why bother with the border that divides Russia from its neighbors?

There is learned helplessness, and there is grandiosity. The defenders of the war in Ukraine have so far not mounted a successful defense of our intervention there. What they’ve managed to do is combine helplessness with grandiosity. It’s an achievement of sorts, but not the one they need.

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