Hawks and doves are butting heads over the best way to deal with the Ukraine Crisis. Ranging from direct Western intervention to complete inaction, there is a wide breadth of ideas that are actively being debated. However, if Russia is to invade Ukraine, it could logically and morally justify, if not demand, Western intervention.
To understand why Ukraine requires this sort of action, consider a few analogies. Say Smith is just walking down the street, minding his own business, when out of nowhere Jones begins opening fire. Jones is doing so for entirely selfish reasons, and Smith has done nothing to provoke him. Of course, Smith is justified in defending himself. If he has the means to do so, he is morally permitted to self-defense.
However, say Jones is attacking with full military equipment, and Smith has nothing in which to defend himself. Suppose there are several bystanders with the same equipment as Jones standing nearby. These bystanders are entirely justified in defending Smith, who is entirely innocent, from Jones. In fact, a case could be made that if these bystanders did nothing, they would be completely and morally wrong in their inaction.
In the same sense, Smith is like Ukraine, Jones is like Russia, and the bystanders are NATO and EU nations. According to all State Department and Western government positions, Ukraine is entirely innocent and Russia, if it decides to invade, is entirely guilty in this conflict. As well, the West is more than capable of defending Ukraine if it were to choose to do so.
On top of which, the Budapest Memorandum justifies a standard in international law that Ukraine deserves defending. The memorandum was an exchange of Ukraine’s military arsenal for a promise that countries would not invade, and, in fact, would provide security assurances, Ukraine and its sovereignty. So, not is there only a moral and logical basis for NATO to defend Ukraine, there is a standard in international agreements. Perhaps the Ukraine Crisis would not oblige Western intervention if Russia is to invade. However, it could clearly justify it given the above scenario.
Some objections from more dovish observers include that the US and its allies have no reason to be involved in a conflict on the other side of the world. However, that is remarkably erroneous to assume. After all, many of these allies are right beside Russia geographically.
Also, proximity does not represent a logical moral imperative. If an individual is to murder someone via anthrax letter from across the world, distance does not make the action more justifiable. In the same sense, whether Ukraine was hypothetically the United State’s neighbor or whether it was on the other side of the world, distance is no logical moral reason to avoid involvement.
Furthermore, many observers are rightfully worried about the potential for another Iraq or another drawn out conflict that endangers soldiers and prolongs war. After all, war is in no one’s interests in terms of finances and peace in the world.
Although, past inefficiencies in conflicts should be no reason to be timid. Presumably, NATO has grown in terms of learning effective and ineffective tactics. As well, when arguing for the moral permissibility of intervention, moral permissibility hardly relies on the potential difficulties that would arise from such a conflict.
Putin’s logic seems to assume that the West is weak in its responses. And, in fact, the West has been remarkably reluctant in its support for Ukraine. Demonstrating that Russia cannot act with impunity should not lead to a World War III scenario, but instead it should give more time for economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts to run their course. Supporting Ukraine military, in fact, would lead to a greater chance of a peaceful solution.
Despite fears and concerns, there is reason to believe that a Russian invasion in the Ukraine Crisis could justify Western military intervention in the region. Morally and logically, given the analogy outlined, the West is justified in acting, if not obligated, to step in and prevent Ukraine from being the victim of a hopelessly lopsided invasion.
Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane
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