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Broken Souls Long for Ukraine
How Sad Men Were Manipulated into Failed Military Adventurism
“There are hordes of mercenaries who are ready to dig their heels in and die fighting, most of whom, apart from a very small minority, are reckless and insolent rogues, and just about the most witless people you could find.”
- Plato [The Laws, 630]
“Among eighty million people, there are always to be found, not hundreds, like now, but tens of thousands of people who have lost their social position, reckless people, who are always ready - to join Pugachev’s band, go to Kiva, to Serbia…”
- Leo Tolstoy [Anna Karenina]
As you’ve surely noticed, we are in a massive wave of moral panic regarding the situation in Ukraine. Forget the 19th anniversary of NATO’s brutal attack on Iraq, aggressive war is never allowed and accusations of possessing chemical weapons are no excuse! Russia man bad, America man good!
It should be no surprise that most people can be made to forget these horrific images given the incredible reach and sophistication of the American Empire’s propaganda operations. Of course, they are sure it is not propaganda when they do it. Take the case of the so-called “Kyiv Independent”, a US funded media outlet whose name is literally a lie. Or not, depending on how far you’re willing to go. This individual who works for a State Department funded outlet which attacks Russian economic interests claims otherwise:
We’re absolutely living in a propaganda matrix, and for the time being that propaganda is aimed at getting people to hate Russians and support the insane policy of expanding this war, something which is sure to make us incredibly miserable. But, the war mania is on, and as ever, a certain kind of man is making an appearance: the military adventurer. Such men have been with us for all of history, the most famous early example being Xenophon’s “Ten Thousand.” [In their defense, they allegedly didn’t know the adventure they were being taken on, though they were also professional mercenaries.] At least in antiquity there was some chance of getting rich from loot.
Humphrey Bogart was this sort of person in Casablanca, having fought for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and ran guns to the Ethiopians and now living a disaffected life- being a military adventurer was the main background of the character. You can’t find anything about it now for some reason, but 10 years ago we were hearing about British Muslims spending their summer break volunteering for the Free Syrian Army. Or alternately the Europeans who joined ISIS, a more obviously evil cause, but the emotional need it fulfilled in the man was the same. Unsurprisingly, wars simply draw lonely, damaged, and bad people seeking cause and camaraderie, especially when they have been propagandized to believe they are doing something heroic.
Many thinkers throughout history have shown what tends to be wrong with this group of people. For example, Machiavelli:
“Those who are not your subjects and who are in the military voluntarily are not the best; rather, they are among the most wicked of a province. For if any are scandalous, idle, without restraint, without religion, fugitives from their father’s rule, blasphemers, gamblers, in every part badly raised, they are those who want to be in the military.” - Art of War [1.129]
Despite the extremely well-established risks of inviting foreign fighters [see: Al-Qaeda] it was the first idea which came to the wildly irresponsible Zelensky. Putin responded by saying that foreign fighters would not be treated as prisoners of war. Before going farther we need to discuss what this actually means for the legal status of foreign fighters. In short, though the Foreign Legion is technically “official” [an ad hoc invention for legal cover], if Russia classifies the fighters as mercenaries it means Russia will not consider their treatment when captured to be governed by the Geneva Convention. This means if captured they can be tried as common criminals in Russian courts for murdering Russian soldiers. In and of itself, the risk of Western citizens spending 20 years in actual Siberian labor camps should be enough to make Western governments do more to prevent their citizens from going to Ukraine. The West could spend the next 20 years with Russia holding its citizens as actual hostages.
[It also needs to be noted that Putin too is letting foreign “volunteers” fight in Donbass, which is irresponsible for the same reasons…though one suspects Syrians might be more effective than random British people.]
Instead, of discouraging going to Ukraine, the powers that be are all but encouraging it, even if the media is kind of portraying these people as idiots.
Look at how incredibly propagandized this man is, who somehow believes Putin is intentionally targeting children, as if for fun or something. It seems that he legitimately doesn’t know about his own government.
Note that he is still positive about the situation but also mentions that is is wildly disorganized. It’s true that being disorganized is inherent to this endeavor, which is one of the reasons it is irresponsible.
Near me, a man from a town humorously named Odessa went to Ukraine. He is leaving a fiance behind because he apparently cannot stand peace despite his lack of experience at war; I hope she finds someone more responsible to marry when he’s gone. Or for another example take this Southern man who is not a Ukrainian speaker or an Orthodox Christian but who hoped to somehow help out as a chaplain. This next one perhaps takes the cake, leaving two children behind but ready to fight indefinitely:
Alternately, look as this humorous profile of a so-called “boogaloo boi” who tried to join the Foreign Legion. Take from it what you will, but here is his testimony:
This guy is more or less what you would expect. Some misfit with personal problems seeing a chance to do something he perceives as a moral good. What they don’t seem to have realized is that Russia is actually a modern army, and this is nothing like the brush wars the West has been losing against cavemen and terrorists. Essentially no NATO veteran of combat age has ever been on the other side of a real air strike.
I keep thinking of the episode of Family Guy where they burn down the bar and are in jail with a murdered who wants to kill them; when he gets to their cell and doesn’t see them, he stabs himself our of curiosity, and says something like “Wow this is what I’ve been doing to people, I belong in here.”
Check out this ridiculous story from the Washington Post about men who have trained fighters all over the world and never considered symmetrical war. It’s quite incredible watching people admit the wars they’ve been having so much trouble winning were unfair to their advantage.
We also got this amusing video from a Brazilian, who looks similar to the American above. He somehow decided that going to Ukraine was a good idea:
At least in his defense his country doesn’t go around airstriking others. Still, he very obviously didn’t conceptualize what a war would be like. All of the ridiculous propaganda about how poorly Russia’s war is going surely adds to them thinking it will be easy. It’s sad in it’s own way but in another way absolutely what they deserve for getting involved in a foreign conflict that has nothing to do with them.
Here is my favorite though, the story of a 19 year old British boy who cares about “putting a smile on people’s faces”:
Society has completely detached these people from reality. This behavior is drastically irresponsible and not at all acceptable. Huge numbers of random irresponsible men are there making a foreign war- one which could lead to nuclear war- even hotter. When they get there they’re finding that Ukraine wants them to sign indefinite contracts. Even humanitarian volunteers are said to be prevented from leaving. All of the over-privileged Western war tourists are learning that Ukraine needs them for little but cannon fodder.
War isn’t actually fun. And they can try to tell you these men are all “noble volunteers” all they want, but there is substantial evidence that mercenaries are being used in Ukraine. Further, they claim they are vetting them for extremism, but that’s unlikely when the West is openly arming neo-nazis. CNN is even openly playing neo-nazi propaganda:
So the Azov page is sharing CNN interviewing an Azov commander, and it shamelessly shows the unit name on the screen. Surreal. Say what you will about it being a “small part” of Ukraine’s military, but that being the case they just as easily could have interviewed someone else.
Anyway, so all these forces converge on Ukraine, in what Tolstoy would have called a “great movement of men from West to East,” and suddenly they have all of these irresponsible and disaffected men to deal with. They converge in one spot, and Russia unsurprisingly strikes them, as described by some of the men above. They’re of course terrified because no one wants to be the target of an airstrike. Now it is said the reason this happened is because British foreign fighters were using their phones. That is to say, it was a signals intelligence [SIGINT] attack, like the famous “Signature Strikes” of the Obama administration. [This brings up another crucial point: Zelensky keeps claiming Russia is trying to assassinate him but keeps posting videos on the internet where him and his friends are using phones, as if Russia couldn’t launch a signature strike if they chose to.]
Nazis notwithstanding, and despite concerns that Ukraine will turn into a far-right training ground, they still somehow want us to believe this is all for freedom. The propaganda is thick. Check out this hilariously bad take from the awful David Frum:
The opposition leader was already in prison before this began. They were already massively cracking down on minority languages. As I said before, the Cato Institute barely ranks Ukraine as more free than Russia. The principal of self-determination is worth plenty [for Crimea, Donetsk, and Lugansk, as well as the rest of Ukraine] but this is not some sort of ideological battle between tyranny and liberty. What is actually going on is the Western media only applies war crime laws to people they don’t like. As anyone who follows such things knows, the West has killed massive numbers of people in their air wars as they pursue their ridiculous foreign policy objectives [or just unipolarism in general.] The liberals will scream “Whataboutism” [their disingenuous way of deflecting all criticisms of the empire] but the fact is you should care more about your own government’s malfeasance than what other governments do. If killing children with airstrikes is bad- as it obviously is- perhaps try to stop your tax dollars from funding it, instead of leaving your family to fight in a war that has nothing to do with you.
There are, of course, some things worth fighting for, such as your family and freedom. For the Ukrainians, it is a question of what is the responsible decision, but they obviously have the right to defend their homeland from invasion if they choose to- though the reality is that Zelensky also gave them the obligation to, and in doing so made all able-bodied men combatants under international law unless they are injured or marked as non-combatants. For damaged Westerners who need something to give them meaning, there is no such excuse for becoming involved in Ukraine. They are simply irresponsible people escaping their own obligations and making everyone less safe.
The risks of foreign volunteers being involved in any conflict are well known. In a scenario where they are militarily useful they still have little respect for the rules of war and small concern for what they destroy, while leaving those with families near the conflict zones to bear the cost of violent reprisal.
Everyone encouraging foreign volunteers is irresponsible. These people need help, not praise. Ukraine should not have invited them, their own nations should have prevented them from going, and the media should not have invented an epic battle between good and evil. In their own way, the volunteers are themselves victims- marginalized by society, misled by the media, and then sacrificed by Ukraine. The people who will do such things exist in every society, and their willingness to do so signals little about the justness or lack-thereof of a conflict. They are simply men who cannot handle peace, and as we’ve seen are often still cowardly when it comes to war.
I will leave you with a quote from Xenophon’s obituary of the Spartan general Klearchos, once the brutal tyrant of Byzantium:
“These seem to me to be the actions of a man who is a lover of war. When it is possible to live in peace without suffering shame or damage, nevertheless such a man chooses to be at war. When it is possible to live at ease, he wants to work hard, so long as it involves waging war. When it is possible to retain his money without danger, he chooses to diminish his wealth by going to war.” - Anabasis [2.6.6]
The only difference between Klearchos and these modern Ukraine volunteers is that Klearchos possessed both skill and courage and didn’t run away before his military adventurism got him killed.
Update: Task and Purpose published this story about a US Veteran leaving Ukraine. It very much demonstrates some of the themes I discussed.
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