THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UKRAINE CRISIS

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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Ukraine/Russia

My Attempt At a Balanced Perspective,
Part 4: An “Insane Experiment?”

Elliot Benjamin

It's a tricky fine line with supplying Ukraine with more powerful and accurate weapons for self defense, and avoiding a provocation for Russia to utilize nuclear weapons.

The raging Integral World debate on Russia/Ukraine continues. True to form, Joseph Dillard has given us yet another pro-Russian essay [1], which elicited another Frank Visser disagreement response essay [2], and additional comments from Brad Reynolds in strong support of Visser and adamant disagreement with Dillard [3]. So where does this leave me in my continued efforts to find a balanced perspective in this whole Russia/Ukraine escalated disaster? Well what comes to mind for me is to take another look at the perspective of well-known political philosopher Noam Chomsky, who has described the Russia/Ukraine war as an “insane experiment” [4].

Chomsky's Description of the Russia/Ukraine War as an “Insane Experiment”

In a May, 2022 interview, Noam Chomsky described the war in Russia and Ukraine as an insane experiment that was based upon betting that if Putin were backed into a corner, he would retreat and essentially “give up,” but that if the experiment didn't work then Putin would go all out and use the excessive military force that he was capable of using on Ukraine, in spite of the consequences, which could very well led to nuclear war and World War III [4]. And for Chomsky, this so-called experiment was deadly, made no sense, and should not be undertaken. From what I gathered from listening to Chomsky, his bets were that if Putin were pushed to the corner that he would unleash all the destructive force that he was capable of, no matter the consequences. And as I have made clear in a number of my Russia-Ukraine Integral World essays, my inclinations are in agreement with those of Chomsky [5].

The past week I have had some personal experiences that reinforce Chomsky's description of the “mass hysteria” that the United States and the West are operating under when it comes to the Russia/Ukraine war [4]. Chomsky believes that people are not thinking critically, and that both the United States Congress and the media are focusing completely on escalating the war rather than on focusing on a diplomatic peace settlement. And once again, I am in agreement with Chomsky in this regard, as can be seen from what I have portrayed in my previous Russia-Ukraine Integral World essays [5]. But it is one thing to write about things and have exchanges on the Comments sections of essays on Integral World, and it is another thing to experience firsthand what Chomsky is talking about in regard to his description of mass hysteria.

Chomsky: WAR in Ukraine is "AN INSANE EXPERIMENT" by the USA! (05/2022)

My Personal Experience with Russia/Ukraine “Mass Hysteria”

On two separate occasions the past week, I got together with Democratic friends of mine and broached the question of what they thought of United States President Biden's policies in Russia/Ukraine. What I was thinking of was the danger of supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons that had the potential of reaching targets inside of Russia, which could lead to the disastrous outcomes that Chomsky has warned about. But each of my Democratic friends were not in the least concerned about this possibility; rather they did not think that Biden was being aggressive enough in Ukraine. More specifically, they thought that we should be unleashing more powerful weapons against Russia in Ukraine, and as one of my friends conveyed, we should be teaming up with NATO and bombing Russia for all it is worth. When I countered how this could lead to nuclear war and World War III, the response I got was that we should not let ourselves or Ukraine get pushed around by Russia and that we should call Russia's bluff. Consequently I found myself actually appreciating and defending Biden's policies in Ukraine, in regard to not instituting a no-fly zone, in order to try to avoid a nuclear war, but my friends were not concerned about this and did not like how “careful” Biden was being.

So yes—I got a firsthand glimpse of the kind of mass hysteria Chomsky has been talking about. I value my friendships and it would not have been constructive to argue about this without any possible resolution, so I voiced my disagreement but did not say a whole lot more. According to my friends, Ukraine was completely innocent and Russia was completely at fault. Now I have voiced my disagreement with the primary Integral World proponent of the Russia side of things, Joseph Dillard, in my Integral World essays and in the comments to a number of our respective essays [5]. Essentially I conveyed that Dillard was not condemning Russia's bombing of civilians in Ukraine in anywhere near the degree that I believe was called for, and we have had extensive discussions about this in the comments sections to our essays [5], [6]. On the other hand, I have had my disagreements with Brad Reynolds, who holds a completely opposite perspective from that of Dillard, as Reynolds does not think that the expansion of NATO had anything to do with Russia's security concerns and I think this very well may have been a factor [7]. Reynolds is also much less concerned than I am about the nuclear war dangers that both Chomsky and myself are concerned about [4], [7]. However, Reynolds has not advocated that we should institute a no-fly zone and has conveyed his agreement with Biden's policies in Ukraine [7]. Thus I must say that compared to what I have experienced this past week with my Democratic friends, I can appreciate Reynolds' perspective as being a more reasonable one.

Evaluating Chomsky's Perspective

Chomsky is supportive of supplying Ukraine with weapons for self-defense, and I am as well. But the bottom line is that Chomsky wants to be doing this while working toward peace negotiations, and once again I am in agreement with Chomsky [4]. [5], [6]. There is no easy answer here—and the reality according to Chomsky is that sooner or later, Ukraine is going to have to be willing to give up land to end the war. Chomsky does not think that Russia had any legitimate reason to invade Ukraine, but what is most important to him is to end the war, no matter how or why it started.

Thus to continue to supply Ukraine with weapons makes sense to him, and to me, but not to risk escalating a war that cannot be won, and that can very easily end in complete devastation—i.e., end in nuclear war and World War III. This appears to me to be consistent with how Frank Visser has described the viewpoint of conservative philosopher-psychologist Jordan Peterson, who has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “unconscionable” but who has also conveyed that being “skeptical about the use of sanctions on Russia and sending weaponry to Ukraine not necessarily means endorsing Putin's view of the world, but might as well be a merely pragmatic conclusion that aims to contain he amount of suffering that is upon the world, now and in the future.” [2] It's a tricky fine line with supplying Ukraine with more powerful and accurate weapons for self defense, and avoiding a provocation for Russia to utilize nuclear weapons. It now appears that our supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons is starting to have successful results [8], but I affirm what Chomsky is saying that this should go along with a momentum for a peaceful diplomatic settlement of the war. And I say this in spite of the horrors that I believe Russia has committed in their bombings of civilians and even more atrocious war crimes, that is the crux of the problems that I have had with Dillard's Integral World Russia/Ukraine essays, as Dillard's praise of Putin and Russia is as repugnant to me as it is to Reynolds and Visser [5], [6], [7]. But on the other hand, I have also felt that seeking a balanced perspective means to look at what Dillard has been saying about “Russia winning the war militarily, economically, and information-wise,” fairly and open-mindedly [5], [6], [9]. And I have had to conclude that there is evidence to back up what Dillard has been saying, using my own sources, aside from Dillard's sources that one can construe to be biased in favor of his point of view [9].

Along these lines, I was struck by a report from the United Nations that found Ukraine to share the blame with Russia for the bombing of a nursing home that killed scores of residents [10]. I did not expect to see something like this from the United Nations, who has been tremendously critical of Russia and supportive of Ukraine, but their findings reported that Ukraine used the nursing home to store munitions and consequently the nursing home residents were used as human shields [10]. And I must admit that this smacks of the kind of arguments that Dillard has been making—and this is from the United Nations! The same report also went on to convey how Russia has been making steady headway militarily, that the economic sanctions have not been working to hurt Russia, and that some United States officials are now doubting if the war could end without Ukraine giving up some of their land [10]. Thus it appears to me that in spite of the serious concerns I have about Dillard's pro-Russian perspective, a number of his arguments may be legitimate, and as I have always said, in spite of Integral World criticism I have received for saying this, they should be taken seriously.

But in the interest of following Chomsky's own advice about engaging in critical thinking, there have been many criticisms of what Chomsky is proposing to end the war, and I think these also need to be taken seriously [11]. Perhaps the most concerning criticism, which has been echoed most especially by Brad Reynolds and Frank Visser [5], [12], is that Putin has very alarming imperialist aims, and that if he gets away with invading Ukraine without impunity this could lead to further invasions of other countries, and that no country in Europe may be safe. Comparisons in this regard have been made with Hitler and Nazi Germany [5], [12], and I believe this is much of the reason for what Chomsky refers to as the mass hysteria about Russia. And I have no easy answer to this concern. But my belief is that by making it very clear that if Russia were to extend their invasions to other countries then the West would respond in a way that would involve massive destruction to Russia, this may very well act as a deterrent to Putin. This is the kind of argument in support of NATO that I understand, although I also understand Dillard's argument that Russia may very well have felt security risks through the expansion of NATO, and this is a debate that has been ongoing [1], [5], [9], [11], [12].

Conclusion

So where do I stand in my continued attempt to find a balanced perspective on the Ukraine/Russia war? Frank Visser has conveyed some striking data illustrating how both Ukraine and Russia score alarmingly high on authoritarianism, but that Russia scores significantly higher than Ukraine in this regard [13]. As I have conveyed from my own research and my own sources, I have found some confirmation for some of the disturbing things that Dillard has reported about Ukraine, inclusive of their treatment of people speaking the Russian language and their purported murder of Russian civilians [9]. But as Chomsky has clearly conveyed, I believe there is absolutely no justification for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But as Chomsky has also clearly conveyed, what is most important now is to end the war, and I agree with Chomsky that the only way the war is going to end is through peaceful diplomatic negotiations. Equipping Ukraine with increased self-defense capacities makes sense to me if and only if, as Chomsky promotes, it goes along with a focus on this kind of peaceful diplomatic negotiations. As Chomsky's critics convey, it is up to Ukraine to decide whether or not they are willing to give up any land to end the war, in spite of what nearly half of Germany may think [14]. But as I have described, I believe we should make our continued and escalated military self-defense support of Ukraine contingent on a willingness to engage in peaceful diplomatic negotiations, and the unfortunate reality is that I think sooner or later, one way or the other, it is going to necessitate Ukraine being willing to give up some of their land. The alternative is what Chomsky calls the “insane experiment,” and I must agree with Chomsky that this insane experiment should not be happening.

Notes and References

  1. See Joseph Dillard (2022), Our 'Catch-22' and Ukraine. www.integralworld.net
  2. See Frank Visser (2022), The 'Catch-22' of Ukraine: A Response to Dillard. www.integralworld.net
  3. See Brad Reynolds' comments in the Comments sections of the essays in [1] and [2].
  4. See Chomsky's description of the Russia/Ukraine war as an insane experiment in his video interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCVN7iV5kVo
  5. See Frank Visser (2022), Thoughts About the Ukraine Crisis: An Overview of Essays. www.integralworld.net for a listing of all 30 Ukraine/Russia Integral World essays that have thus far been written, inclusive of my own.
  6. See Elliot Benjamin (2022), Russia/Ukraine: My Attempt at a Balanced Perspective, Part 3. www.integralworld.net for the most recent extended back-and-forth comments between Dillard and myself.
  7. See [5] for Brad Reynolds' Russia/Ukraine Integral World essays as well as for his extensive comments to the essays of Dillard, Visser, and myself. See in particular the Comments section to my essay in [6] for the back-and-forth comments between Reynolds and myself that describe our differences in being open to NATO as a possible security threat to Russia.
  8. See Latest Active News (2022), Death Toll Rises for Putin as ANOTHER General Taken Out by Zelensky's Men with US Rockets. lac2c.org
  9. See Joseph Dillard (2022), Why We Are Losing the War with Russia. www.integralworld.net; and Elliot Benjamin (2022), My Attempt at a Balanced Perspective: Part 2. www.integralworld.net
  10. See Associated Press (2022), UN Says Ukraine Bears Share of Blame for Nursing Home Attack. www.pbs.org
  11. See Frank Visser (2022), Subjugation or Sovereignty? That's the Question for Ukraine. www.integralworld.net; and Dick Nichols (2022), Noam Chomsky Has No Proposal for Ending Russia's War on Ukraine. www.greenleft.org.au
  12. See Frank Visser (2022), Putin's Dark Ideology of a Sacred Greater Russia. www.integralworld.net; and Brad Reynolds (2022), Putin's War: The Battle of Worldviews: Part 1. www.integralworld.net; Part 2: www.integralworld.net
  13. See Frank Visser (20220, Is Putin the New Tsar? Stephen Kotkin on the Ukraine Crisis. www.integralworld.net
  14. See the references in [1].







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