The Dam Breaks
It was clear that something big was going to happen when the Ukraine offensive started. The fear was that it might be ‘nuclear enough’ to precipitate a violent response. It seems the bursting of the Kakhovka dam over the Dnipro river is the event. According to the Financial Times, one commentator, Maksym Soroka, an environmental safety expert at the Dovkola Network NGO, has already compared it with the Chernobyl disaster for its long term effects. ‘Nuclear’ is the word we all fear in this conflict. In certain parts of the political world – for example, the right wing of the Republican Party in the USA – it can precipitate over-hasty replies with consequences none of us dares to articulate.
If a sigh goes up that it wasn’t nuclear we should restrain our relief for two reasons. The impact of the dam destruction is far reaching and long-term. And the attack may have been to assess how far belligerence can go without precipitating a nuclear response. If that is true the world’s (so far) moderate reaction may be grist to the mill of Russian escalation.
Nobody wants a nuclear war. The problem with “chicken” is that sooner or later someone always gets killed. A few people supported my suggestion of ‘kicking the can down the road’ by putting Crimea into escrow for a later solution but the response was generally lukewarm. Nobody suggested a better alternative and I have not seen any proposal that looks like it might work. Surely we cannot contemplate a conflict that continues indefinitely to distract us from the more pressing problems of climate and an AI takeover of life?
Setting priorities may not be one of humanity’s greatest successes but it is hard to think these issues don’t merit urgent attention.
It is encouraging that the US Secretary of State is going to China. Agreement between the two countries is the only practical way to stop the war but both will have to change their positions radically if they are to achieve that. I do not think President Xi is as committed to Russia’s success as has been suggested. Diplomatic consistency may be a prerequisite for credibility in normal times. Actually, I think it is less critical today – and I believe President Xi thinks that, too. What we don’t know is how hawkish his younger supporters are. His need for tighter and tighter control suggests that they may be posing the beginnings of a problem.
NATO is rattling its sabre in a way that some will think is provocative. Its timing may not be perfect but it has to make itself clear if it is to remain a believable defence force. We must only hope that the rattles and prattles do not countermand each other and that both sides see resolution as different from aggression.
Increased cooperation over climate and AI could readjust the world’s priorities. At present it looks as though the urgency to exploit the resources of a less frozen polar system may not only delay climate cooperation but may actually exacerbate the problem. If that happens we can expect sea levels to rise so high that migration becomes a much bigger issue than it now is. Cramming nearly 10bn people into less landscape than at present may not be the best way to enhance peace and foster cooperation.
The dam breaks and a whole lot of other sores appear alongside the cancer of conflict. Humankind has challenges that individually we have never faced before and collectively seem overwhelming. We could be fatalistic and resign ourselves to what will be – que sera, sera. That is not what brought us out of the cave into civilization. It is not what we owe future generations. It is not the stuff of which we are made.
Abdicating personal responsibility on the grounds that we have little to contribute to these massive challenges is an unacceptably poor reaction, in my opinion. Seeking a faith to replace our own actions is to expect something for nothing. Faith is proven by what we do rather than by what we say. Our thoughtful views are the basis on which all leadership is empowered.
Without them the West becomes more Wild and the East more Estranged.
Your views matter more than ever before in human history.
That’s quite a thought, isn’t it?
We always welcome your views but that is not what I am asking here.
We would, however, especially like to know if you think your views really matter.
A line to email@example.com would help tremendously.
Too important an issue for an AD-endum today.
09 June 2023