The Rhetoric Roars￼
You probably don’t want war and I sure as hell don’t want war. I have eleven grandchildren making their way successfully in life and seven great grandchildren opening their eyes to the possibilities they will have when they are educated. I want them all to live in a peaceful, cooperative world. But I also want them to stick to the principles of helping neighbours in need, of the rule of law, of moral behaviour and of rescuing the planet from destruction by climate change. We all seek paradise. It is here for us if we will accept the responsibilities of looking after it. “Oh Island in the sun…”
Liz Truss, Britain’s Foreign Minister and possibly the next British Prime Minister, spoke toughly in Australia recently of the mounting aggression of both Russia and China. She was right to do so. The time for soft words is coming to an end. Politicians can do so much. They cannot hold back uncompromising threat, so there comes a point where they must make clear the result of aggressive behaviour and threat of war. If you were in such a position would you speak up? I’m sure you would. A war of words is preferable to a physical war but it, too, must come to an end.
Russia is prepared for an attack on Ukraine. She has amassed troops and armaments on the Ukrainian border. The West, on the other hand, is not prepared for war there. We do not have the military might in place to defend Ukraine. It may be argued that our long range missiles and our air forces can deliver deadly blows. Quite possibly, but the military strength appears to be with Russia at the moment. A war of words is meaningless until it is visibly supported by guns. Threats are always pointless unless you can show that you can and will assert them.
The present situation is especially tricky because China is seen as an aggressor, too. Troops are not be amassed in the same way as Russia has done with Ukraine. However, the repeated low level flights across Taiwan territory are menacing, the claims of ownership of South China Sea small islands, many now converted into launching pads, are preposterous and the postures of leadership elsewhere in the world add up to danger totally unsuited to a planet heading for extinction. If China wants to lead the world – and she certainly has much right to make such a claim – she should demonstrate that cooperation is the key to survival. Antagonistic behaviour is not.
The problem for President Biden and the West is that if Russia invades Ukraine and the West does nothing about it, China must reasonably assume that the same would happen with Taiwan. The West has demonstrably done little to enforce the ‘Handover’ treaty about Hong Kong. So there is already evidence that rhetoric is where it ends. Every unenforced threat is evidence of weakness. At present it is all rhetoric – but escalating rhetoric, reaching to the point of action. We cannot afford to lose a war that transofrms – while it is being fought – from territorial to ideological. And that is surely how it will change. Observe how China has dealt with Covid. Some say ‘effectively’. I say ‘brutally’. Even a pandemic is not a reason to abandon humanist behaviour.
These are dark days for the world. We have found our way through many threats before, some by diplomacy, some by physical engagement. War has taken many lives when the price of peace has been too high. Freedom is what we would be fighting for if we engaged again.
Freedom and survival.