Lessons Learned from a Tyrant’s Unspeakable War on Ukraine
This Week on Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon
Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowadays.
Big lessons out of the war in Ukraine about “how the world really works” are showing up on the ground, not in theory class. They’re what you can learn just by watching. Example: it’s almost a rule now that invasions don’t work—not Putin’s in next-door Ukraine any more than Americans landing on faraway Afghanistan or Iraq. Second, that economic sanctions can work like poison when they take Russia’s central bank out of play and tie up trillions in Russian assets overseas. Third, specially for Americans, it appears that a great power can strengthen its hand by declaring it does not have a vital strategic interest in the fight and will not be sending its troops into battle. In the Ukraine catastrophe, with no winners, countries may end up boasting what they didn’t do in an awful war.
Lessons learned this hour, from a tyrant’s unspeakable war on Ukraine, and it’s not over yet. It’s a war about everything, it turns out: barbarity on the ground and from the air over Ukraine. Nuclear confrontation looks all too possible. It’s a test of democracy facing a dictator; it’s a spectacle of sickening inhumanity, out of control. So what are we absorbing?
We’re in collaboration here with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, in a radio/podcast series we’re calling In Search of Monsters. We’ve got three guests this hour from the rising generation of scholars of international politics. Emma Ashford is a Russia-watcher, Scottish-born, senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. She wrote the book forthcoming Oil, the State, and War. Stephen Wertheim is a historian at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. His big book Tomorrow, the World is about universal military supremacy for the US: that was an idea born in the panic after Hitler rolled over France in the spring of 1940, and it’s been a fact ever since. David Kang travels all of Asia and seems to study it inch by inch, and teaches it at the University of Southern California.
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