[Point de vue] Ukraine: Nothing new in the West

A few steps away from a village in northern France, lost in the middle of the fields is a cemetery. In winter, fog hugs the cold plaques engraved with a name and a cross. Some have no name, just a laconic note: “Soldier of the great war. » At the end of July 1918, several hundred young people died here. Within a few days.

Since then, time has carried with it the rattle of weapons, the screams of men running forward, the fear of the enemy in their stomachs, the cries of the wounded lying in the mud. Now there is a great silence in the plains of Picardy. It was one battle among hundreds of others. Deaths in the millions.
The survivors of this First World War vowed to themselves that it would be “the last of the last,” as men in each generation vowed to remember the lessons of the tragedies that shattered them.

On November 11, Elizabeth Bourne went to Picardy to preside over the clearing of Rethondes in the forest of Compiègne, where the armistice that ended this terrible conflict was signed. He did not come to celebrate peace, but to justify war. “Memories of the First World War and the interwar period are more relevant than ever”, the Prime Minister announced. In his eyes, Russia that day, of course, as well as “so-called patriots”. Those who “Mix the love of France with the rejection of the other”who idealize retreat to themselves and who “We are ready to sell our values ​​for fake peace”.

So, not peace, but war. A just war where good triumphs over evil. A war that cannot be negotiated and that we leave to others to fight. Like Ursula von der Leyen and most European leaders, Elizabeth Born speaks the language of ideology. A language without nuances. A black-and-white language that ignores the gray areas, where the paths of diplomacy are hidden.

What would have happened if Kennedy had ruled out the diplomatic option in 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened the world with a nuclear apocalypse? Are we still going to be here to discuss this? However, Cold War ideology was also nuanced. However, unlike Elizabeth Bourne, Kennedy went to war. In 1943, he wrote in a letter to his then lover: “It’s easy to talk about war, to talk about victory over the Japanese, even if it takes years and a million lives, but anyone who talks like that should think seriously about what they’re saying. We are now so used to talking about billions of dollars and millions of soldiers that thousands of victims seem like a drop in the ocean. »

President Kennedy’s reading attracted a lot of attention August Arms, by Barbara Wa Tuchman. Published in 1962, the work described the stages leading up to the First World War. It differed from the usual Manichean stories by emphasizing the errors of analysis and often distorted perceptions of the main actors in the drama that would lead to the death of millions.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy had this idea: “I’m not going to go down a path that would allow someone to write a comparable book right now. October rockets. If anyone writes here after that, he will understand that we have made every effort to find peace and we have made every effort to breathe life into our enemy. » Kennedy did not trust the military and the hawks who called him to attack. He understood that he faced a political problem, not a military one. It was by positioning himself at this level that he was able to break out of the impasse that was driving the world towards what he called it.“final failure”.

To end the crisis and prevent it from escalating into all-out war, Kennedy agreed to withdraw American missiles based in Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. Sixty years later, the world is once again on the brink. Like Elizabeth Bourne, European leaders made military declarations and never doubted for a moment that victory over Russia was inevitable. Nothing is new in the West.

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