March 6, 2022
Essentially, there are two basic dynamics to the exercise of power, involving a balance of reward and punishment. Knowing how to apply this balance leads to a critical difference in results.
You can try to lead primarily by physical force, through fear and threat of punishment, using police and military power to force a group to submit to your will. (We might call such a method “bullying.”) Or, you can try to lead primarily through example and consensus: by wise policies that treat a population with justice and equity, rewarding more than punishing. (Yes, sadly, there are individuals who fail to understand and live by the principle, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to your neighbor.”)
Judging the success of one method over the other, one might argue that while both will achieve results, the use of force may achieve the desired results more quickly in the short run, but the fact that such a method inevitably results in resentment and determined opposition eventually leads to its downfall. The latter method may take longer to achieve the desired results, but there is a far better chance of longevity, simply because it results in an aggregate desire on the part of the population to maintain the status quo.
It appears that the current premier of Russia, Vladimir Putin, favors the first method. Perhaps he feels that unless he acts as a “strong man,” in this particular way, his authority will be undermined. I’d like to suggest that his aim to recreate the Soviet Union might well be achieved using the second method. Consider, especially, the dynamics that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union! Assuming that Mr. Putin desires to recreate that Union, he might have considered a very different method. He could have considered ways to enter into an agreement that would have been of mutual benefit to both states. Each country possesses essential resources, and careful application of diplomacy might have led to greater prosperity for both populations, a result that could stand the test of time.
Tragically, Mr. Putin has gambled on the path of aggression. His attempt to justify Russia’s act of hostility by accusing the Ukraine of “Nazism” appears to have no substantiation. It bears resemblance to Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia at the onset of the Second World War. Even if such accusations bore any validity, in no way would they justify a wholesale invasion by one country (especially a super-power) in a nuclear age. Technology has shrunk the world. If there were a shred of truth to such accusations, it would have necessitated joint action. We are all aware that the current course that Russia is taking has the potential of escalation and imminent danger on a world level.
In his “History of World War II,” Sir Winston Churchill makes the point that war creates more problems than it solves. When he received the news from President Roosevelt that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Churchill knew for a fact that the war would be won by the Allies. Shortly after that, he started work with Roosevelt to create the United Nations, not only to administer the course of the War, but to start to take the necessary steps to undo all the damage that had been done in Europe. As the war drew to a conclusion, he is said to have stated, “We’ve won the war, now we have to win the peace!”
Our prayers go out to the citizens of Ukraine. The world has been issued a dire warning: when will Russia be satisfied? Is it just a matter of time before she commits another act of outright aggression?
Will we, at some point, be able to have leaders who understand and practice the kind of leadership that lasts past their own immediate sphere of influence?