So after writing a blog about the dangers of abusing Godwin’s Law, I’m about to Godwin myself in the worst way.  I can’t help it–as much as I hate making this comparison, the current situation with Russia reminds me of the eve of World War II.

There’s the Eastern European country which nobody in the West knows much or cares about.  Back then it was Czechoslovakia, now it’s the Ukraine.  There’s the invading country making up exaggerated stories of persecuted ethnic minorities, and naturally, the way to save those minorities is an armed takeover.  There are the economic rewards which the invaders stand to gain.  Eastern Ukraine is rich in industry and energy resources, and this means much more to Vladimir Putin than the Russian-speaking population in the region ever will. And then there is the rest of the world, looking on and making vague gestures of condemnation, but unwilling to invest blood and treasure in a fight they don’t feel a connection with.

But of course, the modern-day Russians are not Nazis.  This is where a Godwin comparison always collapses.  Yes, Russian society is guilty of a few human rights abuses.  But the last time someone in Russia killed millions of people was far back in the last century.  So are we witnessing the historical chain of events leading to another global war?  It’s possible.  But it’s also possible that Putin will be satisfied with grabbing the riches of eastern Ukraine and leaving the impoverished western part of Ukraine for Europe to deal with.  And Russia’s military threats may be empty posturing, a la North Korea doing its nuclear dance without ever lobbing any missiles at anybody.  Maybe what we’re watching is the universal process of a powerful country trying to get more territory.  Jumping into a wider conflict would be foolish and draw too much attention, so instead the invader nibbles away, bite after bite.  So how should we react?  It’s difficult to decide when we don’t know what Putin’s intentions are.  If we’re too soft and diplomatic, are we walking down the road of appeasement again and could we be emboldening Putin to commit further aggression?  But if we choose the kind of tough response which John McCain seems to favor for every situation in the world, would we be rushing into an overseas quagmire, the way we have too many times in our history? 

The only thing I can say is that I hope this isn’t the prelude to another world war.  It’s too overwhelming to even think about.  I’m not ready for something that big–I’m not good at dealing with a delay to my Facebook connection, much less WWIII.  I have to wonder if today’s generation is up to a challenge like this.

I can kind of sympathize with passionate conservatives at the moment.  Since the Democrats hold both the Presidency and the majority in the Senate, conservatives find themselves in the same position progressives like me have been in many times, valiantly struggling for the things they believe in without having the power to really make them happen, until that struggle turns into something a bit quixotic and silly.

There is no better example of this than the current conservative hero, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Conservatives sing his praises for sticking to his right-wing principles, but…what has he actually been able to get done?  So far, he is 0-to-11 in his Senate votes.  He has introduced a bill to repeal healthcare reform (snort).  He has voted against John Kerry’s confirmation for Secretary of State while attempting to smear him as anti-military, and lost that fight.  He has participated in the Chuck Hagel hearings and tried to make the Secretary of Defense nominee look anti-Semitic by quoting out of context from an interview in which Hagel in fact criticized Iran and emphasized the importance of a strong relationship with Israel.  When all else failed, Cruz threatened to filibuster Hagel’s nomination.  But this turned out to be an idea which other, more sane, Republicans are backing away from.  (And I’m using the word sane to refer to John McCain here, which feels like quite a stretch.)

I realize that when he does all this, Cruz is appealing to his conservative base.  But he is also not accomplishing much of anything.  His dramatic gestures may get attention, but that is all they are, gestures–like his letter to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel opposing gun control measures.  I’m sure Emanuel cares deeply about that one. Again, as a liberal I feel some sympathy for Cruz here.  He’s like one of those tree sitting anti-logging protesters.  You know that tree will get cut down anyway, but good old Ted is gonna keep sitting up there.

But I guess I shouldn’t completely dismiss Ted–he proudly represents the red-blooded American values of a state like Texas.  At least, until the demographics shift and Texas turns blue.  Tee hee.