Casus Belli or Vitandi Belli (The Cause of War or Avoiding War)
The world faces a crisis we all hoped would never again happen. Since the end of the Second World War, we have not faced realities of a potential conflict spreading across the globe. For more than seventy-five years—some of it spent saber rattling, some of spent building a more peaceful global society—we have avoided such a calamity.
While there have been localized conflicts with global repercussions, i.e. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (both by us and Russia), Sudan, Syria, none ever escalated to a global conflict.
Yet today we face the real possibility of war between NATO and Russia. We also face an entirely distinct reality about warfare. In 1941, after the Japanese attacked the American territories with the bombardment of Pearl Harbor, we were drawn into the war. While the tragic loss at Pearl Harbor became a rallying cry for our declaring war on the Axis powers for most Americans, it didn’t come with any serious threat of war at home.
We faced an entirely different prospect than most countries.
The Japanese and German military lacked any real ability to inflict damage, either militarily or psychologically, in the continental US. We never faced the realities of war endured by London, Paris, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki.
We never endured the large-scale loss of civilian life, which is the dominant characteristic of all wars. Seventy-five million people died during World War II and the overwhelming majority were civilians. This is the reality of warfare, always has been and always will be.
So we now face a dilemma. Do nothing other than send military and humanitarian aid in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine and stand by as perhaps millions of civilians die under the brutal assault or take military action and start World War 3.
Neither of these choices are good ones. But sometimes the only choices we have are as undesirable as they are necessary.
My cousin, Lieutenant General (Ret.) John Broadmeadow USMC, who spent over thirty years in the Marines stationed all over the world and had a front-row seat to much of the realities of combat, wrote this.
“History is important. It demonstrates the deep irony of Putin’s lies that he’s fighting Nazis in Ukraine. The September 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia resulted from an agreement between the Russians and the Nazis…..i.e. the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact.Lt. General (Ret) John Broadmeadow, USMC.
Also ironic is that part of Russia’s justification to team with the Nazis was to defend ethnic Ukrainians.
Russia’s co-aggression enabled Nazis and directly led to the worst conflict in the history of the world.
Evil will play any card, use any justification, make any lie to advance totalitarian aims. All elements of western power should be united and focused on defeating Putin’s aggression. If so, Putin will find himself on the wrong side of history.”
Putin plays the long game. For all intents and purposes, a sitting US President coddled and openly admired him as he imposed more of his will on the Russian people. He knew we stood idly by as Russia seized the Crimea. And he knew we faced limited choices in how to deal with his aggression.
The reality is in a conventional war against NATO, Russia cannot win. They expected to roll over the Ukraine and have failed to do that. They underestimated the Ukraine military and people. To do the same with NATO would be foolhardy. The overwhelming power of the US led NATO coalition will undoubtedly prevail. Even if China were to enter the war, the inevitable victory of NATO is assured.
But it would make World War 2 look like a minor skirmish.
There are no good solutions, only (human) cost/benefit analyzes which offer a solution. We make our best guess at what is the most effective course of action causing the fewest casualties and has the best chance of preventing such actions in the future. And when it is over, face the realities of overwhelming and inevitable casualties.
We face these difficult questions.
How many Ukrainians need to die before the world says enough?
How long do we tolerate Russian occupation of an independent country?
How much are we willing to lose in the blood and lives of Americans and allied countries to end this aggression?
And, most importantly, can we craft a solution to this dilemma which doesn’t trigger something we’ve avoided since August 6, 1945?
Armchair military geniuses will scream for us to take the most aggressive actions because they haven’t thought this through. If they find rising gas prices a heavy burden, they will never endure anything like the Ukrainians are.
It may come to where we no longer have a choice. But should that occur, and we experience the real possibility of Russian military ordinance striking at Boston, or Washington, or New York, or Podunk, perhaps then we will understand the actual cost of war.
Whatever happens, let’s hope when it ends we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say we did what had to be done.