Last time, I wrote of my feelings about Russia and Ukraine and described pieces of the two nations’ history together. It was both a disclosure and a starting point for discussing the present war and its implications. Today’s two perspectives focus more directly on the war. The first, er, third, involves our attitudes about the current Russian autocrat — specifically, Vladimir Putin’s sanity. The fourth is a consideration which ought to inform our responses.
3. Don’t Dismiss Vladimir Putin as Insane
It’s tempting to say Vladimir Putin is insane, end of story. After all, he is a dictator. He invaded another nation to build his empire. He and his proxies have occasionally mentioned nuclear weapons. And his forces have deliberately targeted civilians, including refugees and hospitals. In our enlightened twenty-first-century hauteur, we’d like that list of offenses to be diagnostic.
Some have a further motive, conscious or otherwise, for questioning Putin’s sanity. They’re not comfortable with the basic moral categories, good and evil. If they can dismiss him as insane, they don’t have to face the fact that he is evil. Yes, evil, not merely misunderstood.
But there’s more at stake than morality. If we ascribe Putin’s offenses to insanity, we risk missing things we need to see and learn. Then we end up doing the wrong things or not doing the right things. Either way, people die who didn’t have to die.