We’ve all been guilty of incursions into other lands and let’s not deny it.
But nice behaviour in 2022 means not deciding to grab a sovereign country as your own whilst using deadly firepower to get your way.
How do nations which uphold respect for sovereignty entice others to adopt that attitude too?
I am thinking about schools, and the psychological approach that may best be described as ‘the triumph of hope over experience’ - the strategy sometimes used by teachers encountering disruptive pupils in the liberal West.
Instead of punishing little Jonny who keeps beating the hell out of his classmates, starting fires and setting off fire alarms, it is thought that the agitator will become a model of good behaviour if they are not punished for punishment’s sake. Instead, they should be ‘given some responsibility’ in the hope that the demonic child will see the light.
Thus, instead of ‘stop beating up your pals, setting off fire alarms in school and causing disruption to everyone’ the idealised behaviour training becomes ‘IF you stop beating up your classmates and setting off the fire alarms you could become the fire alarm monitor. And when the fire alarm goes off, you can be the one to check the register too!’.
Liberally inclined teachers will view this as a humane way to encourage Jonny to become a better citizen, the thinking being that it is better to hope that the child will improve, not by punishing him, but by improving his sense of self-worth.
Those in the staff room with a more realistic view (likely to be a Conservative male of mature years with well-polished shoes) may shout out in exasperation ‘That’s all very well! But I think Jonny will continue to beat his classmates up and set off the fire alarms anyway. Being promoted to fire alarm monitor and calling the register too is just a bloody bonus to him.’
And so it is with Putin.
He will keep creating real fires, never mind setting off fire alarms. He will keep (through his military) beating people up, and as all bullies know, it’s easier to beat up nice people. Like the Ukrainians, who were just going about their lives and not actually threatening Putin.
But somehow, we believe that if we don’t actually fight him, and instead gift him with the curious non-punishment of ‘sanctions’ (which masquerades as ‘learning to take responsibility’) all will be well.
I am sorry to be a party-pooping pussy - but it’s the Russian people who will suffer from sanctions.
Not Putin himself.
Unless someone punishes him.
The oft repeated line is ‘Putin Must Fail’ - but how do we think he will fail if we don’t fight him?
Our fears of ‘escalation’ (Jonny eventually threatening to firebomb the whole school if the teachers don’t back down) are a way of saying ‘Because we fear you are the world’s greatest sh*t at the moment, we’re not going to be too hard on you.’
Nobody wants World War Three.
But if our strategy is to kow tow to an out-of-control child who doesn’t care if the whole school burns down, that child will continue to feel better, not worse, about their behaviour.
The Old Conservative in the staff room, well versed in stories from his parents about World War Two, will have shouted out ‘What that boy needs is a bloody good thrashing.’
But for now - as the other teachers gnaw their fingernails and try to come up with new strategies about how to deal with Jonny - nobody’s listening.