By Pauline Kerr
War is hell.
When Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman spoke those words to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy on June 19, 1879, the war to which he was referring was the American Civil War. Sherman helped lead the Union Army to victory.
He was all too familiar with that war’s devastation, and in truth, was responsible for causing some of the worst of it, firm in his belief that the route to lasting peace was through brutally and decisively defeating the enemy. He is credited as saying, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it.”
Fast forward to the present. A hellish war is being fought in Ukraine as Russian troops advance on major cities.
Perhaps taking a lesson from Sherman, the attackers are not differentiating between civilian and military targets. The goal is to obliterate all opposition now and for years to come.
Theories abound on the reasons for the war but it seems that memories of the USSR in all its glory are strong in Russian president Vladimir Putin. Ukraine’s western-leaning president Volodymyr Zelenskyy clearly triggered something in the former KGB officer.
Now the rest of the world watches in horror as Russian bombs find their targets.
It would be very easy for us on this side of the world to focus on our own issues – and we have plenty of them.
As we climb out of two years of COVID-19, we are facing a crisis in health care. Nurses and other health professionals are exhausted by staff shortages, rigorous infection control measures and, increasingly, threats to their personal safety from a small but nasty minority of people who inexplicably blame them for the pandemic and measures to control it.
The housing crisis caused by out-of-control prices has spread from cities into rural areas. People living in homeless shelters or “couch-surfing” with friends and relatives now include individuals who have decent jobs but cannot find affordable accommodations.
While all this is happening, we have members of our community with the vision and heart to be out collecting donations for Ukraine and participating in demonstrations calling for an end to this war.
Bravo to them. Sometimes we need a reminder to get our collective heads out of the sand and look at the rest of the world.
Should Putin’s war in Ukraine continue unchecked, what happens next? Only a fool would think he will stop at the border. The people of Poland, the Balkans, and, in truth, any country that was in the Soviet sphere, have cause for concern.
So do we. Putin has issued several reminders he has nuclear weapons. At one time, USSR and the United States were the world’s nuclear powers; that small, select club has grown a lot larger in recent years and includes countries with leaders that make Putin look benign.
As much as we would sometimes like to behave as if distances and oceans insulate North America from the rest of the world, that is a fantasy best left to players of the game Battleship.
Images and news of what is happening in Ukraine reach us in a split second. The aid money we collect to assist the people there can be in their hands almost as fast. Medical, military and humanitarian supplies can arrive in a matter of hours. The time it takes a missile to hit its target falls somewhere in the middle.
The technology of warfare has reached the point where a button pressed in Moscow – or Washington, or any number of other locations – can result in the destruction of a target large or small anywhere in the world, with pinpoint accuracy.
There is no question of our involvement in this war. The very nature of modern communications and travel makes it inevitable. If we are fortunate, that involvement will consist of helping its victims, especially those who end up in this country as refugees. However, we must accept the possibility that Canada may send military personnel. We pray it will not come to that.