December 23, 2022 9:00 AM
This week’s Courier Herald column:
The Christmas story, as told in the Gospel of Luke, contains the following phrase as part of one verse: “And on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Ten months ago tanks rolled across the Russian border with Ukraine and quickly captured much of Ukraine’s eastern territories. Suddenly, the almost unthinkable relic of a land war in Europe was a very real thing.
To state the obvious, wars are very destabilizing events. There’s the human toll that is always first of mind. Casualties are not limited to the soldiers fighting. Atrocities have been systemically committed against civilians living in occupied towns.
There’s a succinct saying that illustrates the opposite of the message in Luke 2:14. War is hell.
Beyond the human toll, there have been clear and immediate economic impacts. We’re all well aware of the spike in oil and natural gas prices as Europe scrambled to replace Russian energy. Too many of us have confused the price spike and subsequent decline in gasoline prices as a sign that the issue has passed. It has not.
Markets are subject to “rational expectations”. When the invasion began, no one knew what would happen to Russia’s oil and natural gas supplies. They are among the world’s largest producers of each commodity. Fear of the unknown was quickly added to the price.
What actually happened was that Russia has produced more, not less. Meanwhile, China as one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, has still not managed to re-open their economy from one of the world’s most strict examples of Covid induced lock downs.
When supplies are up and demand goes down, prices drop. Gasoline could be purchased on many exits of I-75 this week for $2.59/gallon, with at least one station offering $2.39. Consequently, Governor Kemp has noted there will not be another extension of the suspension of gas tax collections.
The war continues on, but Americans are already tuning out. The fear of how it would affect us was – as was the case at the beginning of the last World Wars – really boiled down to our own pocket books.
A country united in our initial response and “resolve” has begun to divide among our usual partisan differences. The focal point of most objections is the dollar amount of the aid being given to Ukraine’s defense forces. War is hell, but it isn’t cheap.
Some have gone so far as to take exception to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy being an actor and comedian. There is a strong Venn Diagram of these people that want a former reality TV star to return to the White House.
It was another actor of the same party, however, that told Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. It was dismissed at the time as an out of touch actor’s scripted performance, but it was one that resonated with Europeans on both sides of that wall.
More importantly, that actor goaded the Soviet Union into an arms race they couldn’t afford. Ronald Reagan began the end of the Cold War both with his words and his deeds. Not bad for an “actor”.
Now we have another actor that has been able to unite his own people and inspire the world, all the while holding back one of the most powerful militaries on the planet. The Russians are running out of troops and weapons. One of the greatest adversaries of western democracies is being countered by a relatively small nation.
We’re not offering our sons and daughters for the fight. Our draft ended fifty years ago this month. We have a couple of generations who have never known the very real threat that a conflict could mean conscription into the armed forces.
Instead, we’re picking up a large part of the check in order to check a growing threat of a power mad dictator. It’s not a small price, but we’re able to sleep relatively comfortable in our own beds while another country is doing the heavy lifting here.
The Biden Administration and supporters in Congress would do well to better explain what we’re doing, what we’re not doing, and how Ukraine’s success or failure impacts us. Republicans who want to lead should do a better job of amplifying this to portions of their own base.
We as Americans have known relative peace on our shores long enough that we take it for granted. We need to remain united in our good will toward those who do not have that luxury this holiday season.