Everyone’s got a moral compass, though everyone may not realize it. From the Christian evangelical to Ron Reagan’s atheism everyone adheres to a moral code in some way or another. Even the prisoners I used to counsel at Walpole Prison in Massachusetts had such a compass, though the glass broke from time to time. One even took meticulous care of all the stray cats in nearby Norfolk Prison. And the suspected Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, whom I met, made jewelry which he sold in the prison store under the label Chokers by the Boston Stranger, revealing, I suppose, his own moral compass, tinged with a sense of humor (BTW, Albert was never convicted of being the Strangler, and to this day, to my knowledge, the case remains unsolved. He was murdered in prison in a drug deal gone wrong.).
Abraham Lincoln had a moral compass, and thank goodness he did, for it helped him win a Civil War that seemed hopeless at times. Lincoln got his bearings from the Declaration of Independence ironically written by Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father and slaveholder from Virginia, one of the states that seceded from the Union. “All men are created equal,’ wrote Jefferson, “entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It was a relatively new and revolutionary concept at the time and became the basis of a form of government, of, by, and for the people, called democracy. And to this day, until recently at least, it remains the basis of our country’s moral compass and the legacy of Jefferson and Lincoln.
Distressingly, this moral compass is now under serious attack by the likes of Donald Trump and his supporters. Thankfully, that attack is being resisted by those who uphold the sacrifices that Lincoln and millions of soldiers in many wars paid in defending democracy from authoritarian regimes over the decades. In our country the fight continues against the bloviated extremists on the far right who are intent to push their fascist and racist ideas onto the entire country and change our moral compass to an immoral one.
Now we are faced with yet another foreign leader also intent on attacking the basic values of democracy and the right of an independent country to choose its own way. Vladimir Putin of Russia is, as I write, waging an invasion of neighboring Ukraine for no valid reason except to protect Russia from unsubstantiated threats from this much smaller country. He knows he can act with relative impunity since Ukraine is not aligned to NATO and so has no treaty assurances that other democratic countries in Europe will come to their assistance militarily. And Putin continues to pummel innocent, peace-loving people with missiles, bombs, tanks, and about 190,000 soldiers in an effort to bring this country to its knees, “demilitarizing and denazificationing” it, as Putin puts it. But, like his ally Trump, it’s Putin who is displacing what is needed to himself onto others.
I propose the U.S., now under the leadership of Joe Biden, change its essentially non-interventionist policy, to one that is more in line with Lincoln’s moral compass, which was to protect the viability and sanctity of democracy wherever it may be. And precedents for this change are already in place. The U.S. is not sending troops into Ukraine because it is not a NATO nation. But the U.S. has and will defend other countries in the world not protected by treaty such as Taiwan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and perhaps Finland and Sweden who are not in NATO, but could be attacked by a Hitler-infused Putin.
It’s too late to defend Ukraine militarily (although air support could still be considered, as they have requested of the EU), but perhaps Biden should consider a Democracy Doctrine where the U.S. will defend militarily any democratic country from attack by another expansionist-minded country. This would give potential invaders cause to reconsider their intentions and pull back. The Doctrine would of course contain operational and conditional details and would make it clear that actions, such as the present unwarranted invasion of Ukraine would well be met with military intervention by the United States and other willing allies. If such a doctrine had been in effect in 1939, Hitler’s invasion of Poland which started WWII could have been averted, possibly saving millions of lives.
Of course, my proposal will be opposed as the decision to fight Germany was opposed by ultra-conservatives in the U.S. Congress at that time. These were similar to the America Firsters around today–isolationists who wanted to keep America out of any foreign fights. But in this highly complicated and dangerous world of today, such a doctrine would be a strong deterrent against any potential Hitler, as Putin now represents. Ours is a world seeing an alarming rise of authoritarian leaders who have solidified their power through fear, intimidation, violence, and apathy. This includes Putin, of course, but also Xi, Un, Erdigan, Orban, Lukashenko, Castro, Bolsonaro, Duarte, the military junta in Myanmar, Palestinian Hamas, and the ayatollahs of Iran, among others in Africa and South and Central America.
Such a Democracy Doctrine, backed by the world’s most powerful military, would establish the United States as the unquestioned champion of Democracy, which we have been until the Republican Party turned into a bunch of racist, insurrectionist sycophants. Bipartisanship has been tried by Biden and, once again, rejected by, ironically, the former party of Lincoln. It’s time for President Biden to take a significant tack against the winds of authoritarianism both here and abroad.
I’ve recently written and published three books (I’ve been productive during the pandemic’s sheltering in place!) which may be of interest to you. They are Into the Woods…and Beyond, The Valley Spirit: Living a Tao-inspired Life, and Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Considering the Game. You can read reviews of each at my website, stephenaltschuler.com. They are all available at online sources, including Amazon. Thanks.
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