The automatic response usually is, "Yes, he certainly had options other than
invasion and he should have chosen one of them first".
This assumption bespeaks the poverty of the discussion on Ukraine. The corporate
media is, of course, largely to blame. But others, too, have not taken a hard
look at whether the facts support that kind of facile answer. And so, not only
has it become holey - yes, holey - dogma; it may get us all killed.
The facile response sits atop a fallacious syllogism that bodes high danger,
particularly at this key juncture when misled citizens may acquiesce, yet again,
to further escalation in Ukraine. The syllogism:
The Russians had other options to invading Ukraine.
They attacked Ukraine in a 'war of choice'; also threaten NATO. Ergo, the West
must arm Ukraine to the teeth, risking wider war.
The unexamined major premise lurks in every corner, including in very timely and
instructive statements like the one the NY Times published on May
16. (https://eisenhowermedianetwork.org/russia-ukraine-war-peace/). It said:
Our attempt at understanding the Russian perspective on their war does not
endorse the invasion and occupation, nor does it imply the Russians had no other
option but this war. Yet, just as Russian had other options, so did the U.S. and
NATO leading up to this moment.
The attempt at balance - however transparent - is welcome. But are readers not
owed some attempt to spell out those "other options"? This is not a marginal
quibble; we are talking war. When one glibly asserts, glibly, that that a
country that launched hostilities had other options, well, what were they? A
statement as lengthy as that published in the NYT might have made room for an
attempt to cite one or two of those options (This lacuna was why I demurred when
asked to sign the ad.)
Please do not misunderstand. I think that, on balance, the NYT ad was pure gift
to those who will be educated by it (and something of a miracle that the Times
published it). Besides, I know the crafters and the signers of that statement
well enough to rule out any thought that the omission might be attributed to
fear of being seen to be in 'Putin's pocket'. Likewise, these are not the kind
of folks to massage words to ensure political correctness.
Rather, it seems to me likely a case of accepting the 'received wisdom' that
surely Putin had other options, without thinking that key question through
carefully - not fully realizing how important it is to be more fully
informative. Especially now.
A Harsher View
Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett is more harsh - too harsh, in my view - in his
criticism of the NYT full-page ad. He gives an approving nod to its call for an
adult-type recognition that opponents also have legitimate interests. But he
adds that the statement "immediately stumbles at the first gate, namely, by
blaming Russia for its Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine". He
attributes this to "an inability to dig behind cliché superficiality".
Boyd-Barrett: "Putin launched the SMO precisely because he was intelligent
enough to confront and defy the reality that the west was relentlessly working
towards just such a conflict and that, as Machiavelli once observed, the longer
he refrained from acting then the more disadvantageous his ultimate military
-- Cont'd at https://raymcgovern.com/2023/05/22/did-putin-have-other-options-on-ukraine/