“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…”- Martin Luther King (Editors’ note: Martin Luther King Day is an American holiday on January 20th, 2014.)
As the events in Ukraine continue to unfold, many Ukrainians on the ground are asking ‘where are the Europeans and the Americans?’
It is both a legitimate question and a rhetorical one.
On December 2nd, 1823, Virginian James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, announced to the world in what was later to become known as the Monroe Doctrine, ‘… that any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by Europe would be considered an act of war.’ Though the US was mostly toothless at the time and unable to do much enforcing of the document, it laid the groundwork for the idea that any important decisions involving the Western Hemisphere would involve the US.
It was mostly formulated by John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, who was also the son of Bostonian John Adams (the second president of the US). The leaders of both the northern and southern states were in agreement.
This doctrine changed the US and its role in the world. Previously, George Washington had recommended that the US remain out of foreign conflicts and affairs. ‘It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,’ he said in his farewell address. But times had changed.
And they are changing once again.
A century later, as Europe was engulfed in the first half of the world wars, many Americans pleaded with the US government to remain on the sidelines. The Isolationists included some of the biggest names in business and politics. ‘Why should we involve ourselves in Europe?’
Woodrow Wilson, quite possibly the last intellectual president before Clinton or Obama, saw the danger of this thinking and continued to assert American influence on a global scale. His peace plan begged France and Great Britain to go easy on Germany. They did not. No better fertilizer was ever spread across a country for the rise of fascism a few decades later.
The United States of America supported the Allies in both world wars, covertly at first, and more overtly as the results became clearer. It had become increasingly impractical to remain neutral.
This lesson has changed little since.
World War II was fought in Ukraine
The deaths that occurred in other theaters during World War II should not be lessened in any way, yet, the total amount of death and destruction incurred by Ukraine towers over every other participating country of that war in both raw numbers and percentage. Some have estimated that nearly 10,000,000 Ukrainians and Jews have lost their lives on Ukrainian soil. The number is probably closer to 7,000,000.
Ukraine was the anvil as the two ideologues, Stalin and Hitler, pounded away at each other creating more than a ‘Lost Generation’ for Ukraine, but a ‘Lost Century’. The remnants of this conflict can still be seen today. The Soviet Union won the ‘Great Patriotic War’, but lost the bigger cold war. Capitalism and democracy were the bigger winners, Germany rebuilt. Ukraine never recovered from their losses, never rebuilt, and their turning towards ‘Mother Russia’ is in many ways still explicable.
Germany, leaders of Europe, it is time to atone for your failings with Ukraine. The people who have braved the cold to demonstrate against totalitarianism (it is alive and well in Europe) are asking for Germany’s help. Germany should influence now and create their own ‘Merkel Doctrine’. This is Europe and not some faraway land. Any decisions in Europe should involve Germany, and it is time to put the considerable weight of your country to work to dissuade those who would try and create oppressive regimes in your own back yard.
Germany’s pacifism (now) is legendary. It has mostly forsaken military involvement around the world to focus on its economy.There is an old saying in Germany that goes something like this: “The person who pays gets to point the car in the direction he wants.” Germany should get this. But Germany must point the car towards the light and not look the other way as others dangle cheap things to help your economy.
Germany, do what you do best. Your European brothers in Ukraine beg of you, please drive the car.
Michael V Owens, married to a Ukrainian, lived in Ukraine for a year, and is the son of a Ukrainian. He was a professor of American Literature and History, and gave numerous lectures on world economics, law, and government, at Kyiv International University. He has regular contact with Kyivians and Ukrainians, and travels once or twice a year to Ukraine.