Keeping the wolves at bay


When the Russians began their invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian composer Adrian Mocanu heard the wailing warning of the air-raid sirens and said, “I thought the sirens sounded like giant wolves howling.” Well, metaphorically as it turns out, he wasn’t too far off in painting a picture of what was to come.

This heroic battle in the defense of freedom by Ukrainian soldiers and families is the epitome of what we Americans used to identify with as a part of our historic and passionate calling, to be at the forefront of the battlegrounds in defense of freedom and democracy. Now our congressional standard bearers are in heroic fights over women’s rights to in vitro fertilization. The ghosts of presidents Washington, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan must be shedding tears on the sacred soil of our nation.

If we are incapable of nothing else, how about following the example of Germany by using the investment returns of Russia’s frozen banking assets to buy more weapons for Ukraine?

History is the ultimate judge of the decisions we make as a nation. Think about history’s take on our nation’s dreadful journey through slavery, civil rights, our heroic struggle for nationhood and our ultimate decision to defend the cultural antecedents of our European ancestors in World War I and World War II. History’s jury is omniscient, uninterested in the political passions of a moment’s decision. And the same assessments will be made of the decisions we will make and the actions we take with respect to today’s generational challenges like Ukraine, immigration, climate change, emergent technologies and authoritarianism. At stake, and before the court of history, is whether we decide to lead the world into the 21st century and beyond or if we decide by default to yield to more proactive nations and alliances around the world.

Immigration is a global problem, not just a U.S. problem. If we think we have border problems with migrants, don’t look for sympathy in Europe. Shifting global demographics are a downstream consequence of not only climate change but food insecurity and creeping authoritarianism too. We tend to have this parodied view with respect to our border that the migrant invasion is coming from Mexico and Central America. In fact, the tributaries that feed this stream of migrants are much broader. Reporting from our border, PBS described migrants that were seeking asylum as coming from China, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Mali, Senegal, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Guinea, Mali, Haiti and Mauritania, in addition to Mexico, Columbia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras. The roots of these migration problems run deep and wide.

If we are incapable of nothing else, how about just passing the comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill sitting on the floor of the House of Representatives to begin the herculean task of updating our immigration policies and infrastructure.

The economic race of our times that will determine what nation is in the command position for economic supremacy is the contest to develop and produce the next generation of semiconductor chips. Chris Miller, associate professor of technology and geopolitics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, characterizes this global contest best in his book “Chip War.” This is an extremely expensive undertaking and demands investment and engineering cooperation between our government, U.S. multinational companies like IBM, Intel and AMD, and our best research universities.

If we are incapable of nothing else, let us not equivocate on this aspect of our future as a contending superpower. Let’s don’t nickel and dime ourselves into becoming a second-rate world power. Let’s get into this contest to win.

Climate change has consequences. To deny this reality is to believe in the romantic fantasy and fiction that everything will turn out just fine, no worries, Peter Pan lives. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the average temperatures for the past decade have been the highest on record. Separate from the heat, this data-based trend has meant more wildfires, shrinking water supplies, coastal flooding, skyrocketing insurance rates and as we in Ohio can attest to, the increase in tornadic activity.

If we are incapable of nothing else, let’s all agree that we have a climate change problem. Does this mean we have to push all our gas powered cars off a cliff? No, but we do have to be serious about ways in which we transition to non-carbon-based energy and reduce our methane emissions. This is not a political problem, it’s a planetary survival problem.

Which brings me to the mounting scourge of skulking authoritarianism. Communist leaders and despotic con men like to lure their idealistic revolutionaries with the promises of equanimity, equality, food and materialistic blessings for everyone. Like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” first everybody is equal, but soon some animals are more equal than others, oligarchs are nascent and those who complain disappear, are either censured or as was the case with Alexi Navalny, poisoned to demonstrate that those with aspirations for free speech are simply put to rest, literally, RIP.

History is replete with examples of dictators who rise and then are hoisted on their own demonic petards. But the damage they do on the way to their demise can be catastrophic. Look no further than North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, Russia’s Putin, China’s Mao Zedong, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s Ali Khamenei, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, just to name a few. Appeasement is no way to deal with these people. Indifference is no way to deal with them either. Isolationism has never worked for globally leading nations. Standing up to their brutal behaviors and drawing definitive lines to which “thou shall not pass,” are the absolute ways for nations with our sensibilities and values to respond to these despots.

At the end of the day, you keep wolves at bay by lighting fires, by making noise through intentional action and agency. Let’s make a promise to ourselves, the world and our allies to be the leaders we like to think ourselves to be. Let’s light some fires, make some noise and send the wolves away.

Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.

No posts to display