Archive - September 2014

The Daesh Caliphake and Why They Resemble Marxist-Leninists
Let’s Not Forget About Nuclear Disarmament
Jacques Berlinerblau on “Pomofoco” and religious freedom
Meanwhile in Hindu India . . .
100 Muslims Scholars and Leaders to Issue Open Letter Denouncing ISIS
Gloomy Prediction for Iraqi Christians in WaPo
Do Human Rights Mix With Religion?
Just War Against ISIL?
Sacred vs. Naked
In Solidarity with Ukraine

The Daesh Caliphake and Why They Resemble Marxist-Leninists

In order to understand the thugs trying to control northern Syria and Iraq today we need to recognize that they themselves consider what they are doing Islamic. Yet trying to make sense of their self-understanding does not mean one has to grant them the recognition, especially religious credibility, they crave. The ongoing name-jumble in the media for trying to find a way to refer to this group indicates that these thugs are failing to establish the prestige they crave in their claim to speak for Islam and in their claim to be a new player in the international realm of states. Muslims and non-Muslims alike scoff at the claims that they represent either the religion of Islam or a state, to say nothing of a budding empire.

Here is a guide to this name-jumble.

ISIS: Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (often mistakenly called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). “Sham” refers to the Levant, a region larger than just the modern state of Syria. I admit to schadenfreude with the name ISIS, enjoying the irony that radical Islamists would found a “state” named after a pagan goddess from a polytheistic era.

ISIL: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Same as above, with Levant being the English translation of the Arabic term Sham.

IS: Islamic State. This is the name these thugs prefer, but mainstream Muslims reject the claim that this is “Islamic” and not a soul in the international community recognizes this as a “state”. I think National Public Radio has been wise to establish a policy of referring to this as “the so-called Islamic State”. Also the Associated Press has chosen well in calling them “the Islamic State group”; calling them a group cuts them down to size – they are just a group, no more. I await the day  we can put “IS” in the past tense and call them “WAS”.

DAESH: This is the Roman script adaptation of the acronym from the Arabic name of ISIS. AP reports the fighters hate being reduced to an acronym and even have threatened those in the territory they control who use this acronym. In this we see a reminder of the totalitarian nature of their enterprise: they are obsessed with trying to control language in order to control thought. They feel they need to control language because they cannot win over hearts. This reminds me of my experience as an undergraduate at the Karl-Marx-University in Leipzig, in the former East Germany, where I studied in 1986-1987 during my sophomore year abroad from Stanford. I chose to enroll in the core Marxism-Leninism curriculum, a six-semester core required of degree-seeking students. Some of the students, the habitually rebellious Polish students and me among them, referred to these classes as “M-L,” since after all the German phrase “Marxismus-Leninismus” is a bit of a mouthful. Yet some of the students who were loyalists to this ideology took offense at this and considered our use of the acronym “M-L” an insult. They wanted to drill into our heads that this was about Marx and Lenin by constant repetition of these names. But when living in a dictatorship one savors every moment of rebellion possible, no matter how small it might seem. We stuck with M-L. I tip my hat to those reducing these thugs to the acronym Daesh.

Caliphate: Those controlling this territory across Syria and Iraq have declared that they have created an, or perhaps the, Islamic Caliphate, or what Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, in her informative interview about the significance of this has dubbed “Caliphate Fantasy.”

Caliphake: A clever friend of mine suggested the best name I have seen yet, namely a riff on the term caliphate combining it with fake: call them a Caliphake. Or for a double-jab call them the Daesh Caliphake.

Let’s Not Forget About Nuclear Disarmament

On September 22, in a little-noted address to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, the Holy See’s foreign minister, reiterated the Holy See’s long-standing call for “a world free of weapons of mass destruction.”

This call for nuclear disarmament is motivated by concerns about the increased risk of the use of nuclear weapons due to nuclear proliferation, accidental launch, and terrorists obtaining nuclear capabilities.  It is also motivated by the “appalling” humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, as well as “a sobering assessment of the immense resources required to maintain and modernize nuclear arsenals.”  In language uncharacteristically blunt for a Vatican diplomat, he concludes that “the mere existence of these weapons is absurd and that arguments in support of their use are an affront against the dignity of all human life.”

It is easy to dismiss this and similar statements by Vatican diplomats and popes as little more than hortatory or utopian appeals by religious leaders who do not bear the burden of making the hard choices faced by political and military leaders.  And that was the fate of many such statements in decades past.

But today, religious leaders are, in some ways, behind their political and military counterparts.  The policy debate on nuclear disarmament has moved ahead of the ethical debate.

The U.S. nuclear debate is a case in point.  The Catholic Church in the United States played a significant role in the nuclear policy debate of the 1980s.  In their pastoral letter of 1983, The Challenge of Peace, the U.S. bishops declared that nuclear deterrence is ethically permissible only as a step toward progressive disarmament. Some of those who dismissed that call for progressive disarmament as utterly utopian in 1983 have since taken it up as their own.  Three decades later, in a radically transformed world, the moral imperative for disarmament identified by the bishops is now endorsed as a policy goal by prominent military and political figures, as well as by the U.S., Russian and other governments.

Although U.S. bishops and the Vatican continue to question the legitimacy of nuclear deterrence and have called for greater progress toward a world without nuclear weapons, the role of the Catholic community in this debate has diminished in recent decades.  Many of the Catholic bishops who spoke on these issues have passed on or retired. More important, scholars have devoted little attention to the new ethical challenges that arise as the world moves toward global zero. Catholic scholars, even those deeply committed to Catholic social teaching, are generally uninformed about and unengaged in the nuclear debate at the very time when the Church’s long-standing calls for disarmament are gaining traction among policymakers.

There is a gap in the ethical analysis needed to sustain calls for nuclear disarmament by religious leaders and policy experts.  Questions that need fuller examination include:

  • What is the relationship between nuclear deterrence and disarmament as the world moves toward a nuclear ban?  Since global zero would likely make nuclear weapons even more valuable, more usable and more destabilizing given the risk of nuclear break out, what forms of deterrence would be morally acceptable then?
  • Would new forms of deterrence and defense have to be complemented by a new doctrine of disarmament intervention?
  • Does an ethics of disarmament require further development of a political ethic of peacebuilding?
  • What are the implications for an ethics of sovereignty and the role of international insitutions if a global ban on nuclear disarmament is to be effective?

With the support of former Senator Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative, the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies has teamed up with the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; and Boston College on a new Project on Revitalizing Catholic Engagement on Nuclear Disarmament.

This project was launched in April of this year with a colloquium for bishops, scholars and students at Stanford’s Hoover Institution that was hosted by former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. A symposium on the ethics of nuclear disarmament is taking place this week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  That will be followed by public events at Catholic universities around the country, as well as a concerted effort to publish scholarly articles.  At the same time, we will work with Global Zero groups on college campuses to catalyze greater engagement in this issue by young people.

Strengthening the Church’s capacity to support and engage in the policy debate on nuclear disarmament will require expanding the number of bishops and Catholic ethicists and teachers who are well-versed on the moral and policy issues at stake. It will require the development of a sophisticated body of scholarly reflection on the ethics of non-proliferation and disarmament that is comparable to what was produced during the Cold War. It will also mean encouraging greater public engagement on these issues, particularly among young people.  This multi-faceted approach will help empower a core group of Catholic bishops, ethicists, opinion makers, and youth leaders who will be well placed to make a distinctive contribution to the ethical and policy debate on nuclear disarmament.

For further information:

Archbishop Antoine Camilleri address to IAEA, September 22, 2014:

Press release on Stanford colloquium, April 28, 2014:

Press release on statement by Rev. John Jenkins, CSC. President, University of Notre Dame, April 28, 2014

Essays on Catholics, Universities and the Nuclear Threat in Peace Policy, May 2014:


Jacques Berlinerblau on “Pomofoco” and religious freedom

My Georgetown colleague Jacques Berlinerblau recently published a delicious — and gutsy —  piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It is delicious and gutsy at the same time because it is so refreshingly and humorously candid in its criticisms of a school of thought that has become very fashionable (if not hegemonic) in contemporary academic discourse on secularism, religious freedom, and human rights. Much of what appears about religious freedom and secularism on the “Immanent Frame” website of the Social Science Research Council, for example, reflects this school of thought.

Among Berlinerblau’s most memorable — and funny — achievements is to give this school of thought a name. He calls it “Pomofoco.” That might sound like a petroleum company, but it’s short for “Post-modernist, post-Foucauldian, and post-colonial.” Very apt, as the Pomofoco school represents a remarkable confluence of all three of those now very fashionable, and of course partially overlapping, streams of academic thought.

But Berlinerblau comes not just to christen Caesar, but to bury him. And Berlinerblau’s courageous christening-cum-critique identifies gaping flaws with Pomofoco thinking. For anyone concerned about developing a proper liberal humanism foundational to the theory and practice of human rights, Berlinerblau’s tour de force is of enormous value. (Not to mention entertaining. Jacques Berlinerblau is blessed with a sharp mind, wicked sense of humor, and fearless indifference to political correctness. And he is not afraid to put them on display —even in the normally decorous pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

The first flaw in Pomofoco thinking Berlinerblau deliciously describes thus:

[One] hallmark of [the Pomofoco] school [is] its conspicuous aversion to secularism. And liberalism. And democracy. And the Enlightenment. And American foreign policy. And Israel. And Western civilization. And those who criticize political Islam or Islamic extremism via invidious comparison with any of these. It appears to be Pomofoco’s objective to everywhere draw the following conclusion: As troubling as radical Islamism might be, secular liberal democracies are just as bad—no, worse!

For the “Pomofoco” school, it appears, the emergence of modern liberal and secular political thought and practice has been an unmitigated moral calamity — a moral calamity, indeed, than which nothing worse can be imagined. Secularism comes in many forms, of course, some humane and some not, as Berlinerblau emphasizes.  But for the sake of argument let’s call a secular political project one that seeks to create a social and political space in which no single religious community or institution enjoys unchallenged dominance and all people regardless of their religious beliefs enjoy equal human rights, including a right to religious freedom. Of course, not all avowedly “secular” regimes have come close to promoting such an objective. But it is no stretch to suggest that, generally speaking, confessional non-dominance combined with some kind of religious freedom is a characteristic goal and feature of secular political orders. (Think of the Republic of India, whose democratic constitution avowedly declares a “secular” republic in large part for the purpose of protecting “the right freely to profess, practice [sic] and propagate religion.”) Seldom achieved, of course. But worthy objective, right?

Not according to the Pomofoco school. As Berlinerblau notes, the proponents of this way of thinking — a wide interdisciplinary range of scholars, from anthropologists Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood to political scientist Elizabeth Hurd — deplore the very objective of secularism. It is not just that all modern secular orders miss the mark, or fall short of a worthy goal. It is that the very goal is a hidden exercise in coercion and domination — even when the goal is as innocent-sounding as “religious freedom.” Indeed, Elizabeth Hurd, for example, has castigated religious freedom per se as “this modern attempt at mind control,” comparing it — get ready for this — with the Inquisition. (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” goes that old Monty Python skit. And I for one certainly did not expect it in the middle of Hurd’s critical account of “religious freedom.”)

The sweeping Pomofoco critique of “secularism” and “religious freedom” is noteworthy on numerous counts. One is that it clearly and necessarily presupposes a passionate appeal to a concept of, well, freedom — the idea that “mind control” is wrong, and specifically the idea that there is something seriously wrong with coercively imposing one person’s version of “religion” on another person (even if the coercion is soft and subtle). Presumably by calling “religious freedom” a form of “mind control” and comparing it to the Inquisition, Hurd is not trying to be nice. As Hurd herself seems to suggest, so-called “religious freedom” is actually an assault on “human dignity and diversity.”

But the moment one takes  the trouble to develop and elaborate such an inchoate commitment to non-domination in religious matters, one would quickly have on one’s hands a normative political and moral doctrine that would have some elements of something like the ideas of liberalism, democracy, religious freedom, and perhaps even secularism, depending on how one defines those terms. Presumably it would have to include some kind of idea that arbitrary domination of some people by other people on religious issues is just plain wrong, as a matter of principle.

If so, wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable, if not unavoidable, to call such an idea “liberal” or perhaps even “secular,” and to name the principle underlying it “religious freedom”? In other words, the Pomofoco school seems to be heavily invested in critiquing what it calls “religious freedom” and “secularism” with its increasingly heated, Inquisition-laden rhetoric — each time with “its finger pointed higher in the air,” as Berlinerblau says. But it must do so in the name of an underlying commitment to a principle of religious freedom or liberalism or secularism (or….?) that it is not willing or able to announce, articulate, or defend.

A hidden bunker may be a convenient place from which to shell the enemy, but it makes it hard to have a constructive or even intelligible conversation. It is one of the virtues of Berlinerblau’s piece that he zeroes in on this feature — and failure — of “Pomofoco.” According to the Pomofoco position, as Berlinerblau describes it, “[secular] states are incorrigible, illegitimate, and must be replaced.” But as Berlinerblau rightly asks: “replaced by what?” Alas, the work of staking out a clear normative position — or even an inchoate moral principle — does not seem to interest the Pomofoco school at this point in time. As someone who has profited from the work of some members of the Pomofoco school, particularly Elizabeth Hurd’s invaluable The Politics of Secularism in International Relations, I hope this is not where things remain.


Meanwhile in Hindu India . . .

All too little attention in the West is paid to the world’s second most populous state and most populous democracy, India.  Just over three months ago, Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister.  Former Chief Minister of Gujarat State, Modi was demonstrated to have turned a blind eye towards and condoned massacres of Muslims in riots of 2002.  More generally, he is associated with an aggressive Hindu nationalism that runs roughshod over religious minorities like Muslims and Christians.  Now the Ghadar Alliance, a U.S.-based watchdog group, has published “Fast Track to Troubling Times: 100 Days of Narendra Modi – A Counter Report.”  The conclusion is that little has changed about Modi now that he is in India’s highest office.



100 Muslims Scholars and Leaders to Issue Open Letter Denouncing ISIS

Tomorrow look for the announcement of a letter signed by 100 Muslim scholars and leaders denouncing the injustices of ISIS.  Significantly, the letter is to be issued in Arabic as well as publicized in English.  Though it will be important to see who the signers are and where they are from, the letter will likely create a strong Muslim voice for shared norms of justice.  If religious beliefs matter in forming ISIS, then public theological arguments are needed to counter ISIS — and discourage would-be joiners across the Middle East and the West.

Gloomy Prediction for Iraqi Christians in WaPo

Christianity is finished in northern Iraq, argues Daniel Williams in an op-ed in the Washington Post today.  Williams is not writing for a church or a Christian advocacy outfit; rather he is a correspondent for the Post and a former research at Human Rights Watch.  The decimation of the Christian community that began when Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 has now accelerated.  The iciest part of his analysis: They are not going back.

He writes:

Indeed, the exodus of Christians is ongoing. Has anyone noticed that the Christian population of Iraq has shrunk from more than 1 million in 2003 to maybe 300,000 today? Now, there are virtually no Christians left in either Mosul or on the plain.

So when I ask refugees their plans, it is unanimously to leave Iraq altogether. Enough is enough. This runs counter to the desire, expressed mostly outside Iraq, that a Christian presence be preserved in a land that has known Christianity for 2,000 years. It’s sad but true: Christianity in Iraq is finished. As one refugee told me, “We wanted Iraq. Iraq doesn’t want us.”


Western countries ought to come together and offer refuge to the tens of thousands who want to leave Iraq.  Yes, this would mean the end of Christianity in this part of the world, where its presence has often served as a bulwark against fanaticism. But it’s over anyway, whatever happens to the Islamic State. It’s time to face that fact and save the Christians themselves.




Do Human Rights Mix With Religion?

Resonant with the themes of Arc of the Universe is a conversation worth reading over at Open Global Rights on religion and human rights.  Today’s human rights advocates — activists, academics — commonly believe that religion is an impediment to human rights.  They  believe that human rights were a modern, Enlightenment-era invention that replaced religion, which was hierarchical, feudal, and irrational.

The series, edited by James Ron, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, challenges this view — and does not.  It begins with a post by Larry Cox, who makes the case that religion, though some times in tension with human rights, also bolsters human rights.  Others come back and defend the conventional contemporary view — that religion is in tension with human rights, leading to exclusion and even persecution.

My own post argues that it is difficult to make a strong defense of human rights without God.  Human rights activists may be perfectly committed to their cause even without believing in God.  If you want to know why there are human rights, though, you can’t get far without God.

It is true, though, that secular and religious people often offer different accounts for why there are human rights, which human rights are valid or deserve priority, and who is entitled to human rights.  Rather than religion vs. human rights, I think it would be better to speak of “clashing visions of human rights” or “competing orthodoxies.”  A more accurate and honest debate would ensue.


Just War Against ISIL?

Congress approved President Obama’s plan to expand military and counter terrorism actions to degrade and defeat ISIL. ISIL has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to United Nations investigators, deliberately targeting and killing thousands of civilians.  Many in Congress and the public call for the U.S. to further bomb ISIL, in order to stop their killing campaigns, to kill them so that they will not kill others, particularly civilians.  The Pope and other Catholic leaders have been criticized for their statements on the need to protect civilians and build a lasting peace for all in Syria and Iraq, especially persecuted minorities and Christians. Yet the Holy Father and the Holy See, as well as career military officers, are the voices of reason in these debates, repeatedly pointing out that bombing ISIL is not the same as building a lasting peace in the region; the U.S. cannot bomb its way to peace.  Only politics, dialogue, inclusion, and nonmilitary options can build sustainable peace.

ISIL and Syria’s deliberate targeting of noncombatants violates international law, as well as ancient moral codes about the use of force, known as Just War tradition (JWT).  But would expanded U.S. military strikes constitute a just response?

St. Thomas Aquinas never imagined a world of robot drones dropping hellfire missiles, or the use of chemical weapons that kill thousands of people in a breath, but these old moral codes can still provide guidance in modern warfare.  JWT is a centuries-old guide to thinking about when and how it can ever by morally justifiable to violate the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” JWT holds that even during warfare we are still capable of moral behavior, and still obligated to protect human life and dignity. JWT stakes out the middle ground between realpolitik, which always allows war, and pacifism, which never allows war.

            Before entering combat there must be a just cause such as self defense and the protection of human life. Certainly the Iraqis and Syrians have the right to use force to defend themselves against the attacks of ISIL and of the Assad regime.  But do external actors such as the U.S., Britain, and others, have a just cause to militarily intervene to protect civilians in Iraq and Syria from ISIL as well as from their own brutal government?

Beyond just cause, a whole package of JWT moral criteria must also be met.  Only a right, public authority can enter into war, guided by the right intention of protecting peace and the common good. Force can only be used as a last resort, when success is possible, and the harms of war will not outweigh the reasons for going to war. During war, force must be discriminate and proportional.  Civilians must be protected, not targeted.  In discussing potential limited military targets, the Obama Administration shows attention to proportionality and discrimination.

The ISIL and Syrian cases are hard because they hit JWT on its growing edge, humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (or “R2P”).  Some just war thinkers propose that expanding just cause to include protection of civilians in humanitarian interventions should correspond with restricting right authority to only a right, public, international authority such as the United Nations, not a decision made unilaterally by a single state alone.  The Responsibility to Protect takes this approach.  R2P is a new international security and human rights norm, adopted in 2005, to address the international community’s failures to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  R2P notes that the state has the primary responsibility for protecting its own civilians from atrocities.  But if a state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, as when the Assad regime perpetrates war crimes and crimes against humanity against its own citizens, then the international community has a responsibility to protect endangered civilians.  R2P and JWT both  prescribe non-military means be used first.  But if peaceful humanitarian and diplomatic means fail, the international community must be prepared to use collective force authorized by the UN Security Council.  Stipulating an international right authority is good in theory, to restrict states from defining military interventions as “humanitarian” that were more self-serving in nature.  But restricting right authority to the UN Security Council raises the bar for intervention in a way that is difficult to reach.  In practice it means usually only civilians in diplomatically isolated or pariah states could effectively claim a UN right to protection. For Syrians it has made international authorization near impossible over the past year, as the permanent members of the UN security council, such as Russia, promise to veto any UN Security Council motion for intervening in its ally, Syria.  Ironically, ISIL’s own brutality is today driving greater international consensus.  President Obama is asking the UN Security Council to act, but is conducting an expanded campaign regardless of the UN response.

Probability of success and comparative justice (the idea that more good than harm will come of intervention) are the hardest Just War criteria to meet in the ISIL and Syrian cases.  According to Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker as well as General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, any military intervention may fail.  Dropping bombs will not build a lasting peace.  U.S. military intervention could make matters worse, according to General Dempsey.  “We could inadvertently empower extremists.”  Arming the locals can backfire.  ISIL wields US weapons–humvees, tanks, machine guns, and artillery– which they seized from the Iraqi military.  ISIL may be attempting to lure the U.S. into greater military interventions in Iraq and Syria, thus painting themselves as legitimately responding to foreign aggressors and occupiers of Muslim lands.

Just War Tradition attempts to limit war, but here lies the problem. Limiting war, however laudable and needed in containing ISIL, is not the same as building peace.  The U.S. has made this mistake before.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration invaded with little attention beforehand to the most basic aspects of how they would build peace after invading.  Military interventions can backfire, make things worse, and have unintended consequences.  There was no al Qaeda or ISIL in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion; the U.S. invasion created both.  Today, those who simplistically applaud military interventions against ISIL focus on the tactics of war, but not the strategies of peace. They weigh tactical, operational questions of military logistics, basing, and targeting, the how-to of military destruction.  But what sort of peace do we seek in Iraq and Syria and the Levant region? If a U.S. military intervention helped contain ISIL, who would govern these countries and how? Too often the U.S. engages in military magical thinking.  Yet the overwhelming predominance of the U.S. military power to destroy does not carry with it some magical power to easily create new political orders and institutions.  When 160,000 U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq, they were not able to create a stable, political order.  How will much smaller military operations achieve this now?  Peace must be built, with time, trust, and societal participation, as described in emerging Just Peace moral criteria.  JWT must be married to these just peace criteria.  Iraq and Syria show how much we need an expanded toolbox for building just peace.

Sacred vs. Naked

As choices go, the sacred versus the naked is one of the more arresting. But – says David Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs – that’s just the false choice facing many political cultures around the globe today.

On the one extreme, he says, governments grant and enforce exclusive status to one religion. That’s the sacred choice. On the other hand, governments try to stamp out religion and its expression from public life. They go, it’s said, naked.

Both of these are flawed in a way that Charles Taylor explains in Secularism and Freedom of Conscience. They both rely on strong civil religion, a comingling of political-theological enforcement that often produces, according to God’s Century, pathological and destructive politics. This see-saw default, argues Taylor, is endemic to many political cultures partly because the alternative can be seen as a dangerous gamble, especially in times of fear and anxiety.

Religious freedom, says David Anderson, can’t be a balancing of some kinds of belief with others, but the right of persons to choose to believe, or not to believe (and change those beliefs) as they see fit. The objective is not sameness, he says, but freedom.

That’s a gamble. And it’s probably the critical gamble of our time that enables democracy. Chris Seiple, from the Institute for Global Engagement, says the big question of our moment in history is: “how to live together well, in the midst of our deepest diversity?” The anxious, religious and non-religious alike, will be alarmed by that diversity – and sometimes they’ll have good cause to be. The temptation, says Taylor, is always very strong to reintroduce a stronger civil religion, to foreclose on the possibility of deviant diversity, to control and manage pluralism. That, he’s said in a recent interview with James K.A. Smith, is the story of the Charter of Quebec Values.

Limits to pluralism exist. But in the false choice between going sacred or going naked, the gamble of secular societies truly deserving of that name will be on their own citizens funding the virtues and values that laws cannot make, and markets cannot sell. Therein the clothes of democracy.

In Solidarity with Ukraine

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, an event which took place – in collusion with Hitler – just 16 days after the German invasion of the western border that marked the outbreak of World War II. Executed on the basis of the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact, the invasion of 700,000 members of Stalin’s Red Army represents one of the most tragic moments of Polish history. The Soviet advance, like the German advance, was characterised by war crimes and crimes against humanity, arguably also acts of genocide. Yet Poland was left to fight alone against totalitarian agressors on both fronts.

75 years on, war in Europe is a painful reality once again. Poles feel a particular solidarity toward their Ukrainian neighbours who have struggled to defend their territorial integrity after months of Russian-backed agression. Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, stressed during his recent fact-finding mission to Ukraine that the situation in the country must be recognized as “a direct invasion by Russia”.

While we long for peace, there is much evidence to suggest that the most recent ceasefire implemented by Ukrainian forces was engineered by Putin to further advance his own strategic interests. Linda Kinstler suggests that bills passed yesterday in the Ukrainian parliament that grant three years of self-rule to rebel-held territory in Donetsk and Luhansk, represent “huge concessions” to Putin and pro-Russian separatists. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the bills in part as a symbolic olive branch, in part as recognition of the fait accompli: Ukraine does not and will not control these parts of Donbas as Russia will not allow it to do so. Whichever way we look at it, such “concessions” on the part of President Poroshenko are understandable in light of the West’s own concessions towards Moscow, including the decision last Friday by EU leaders to withhold full implementation of a long awaited EU-Ukraine Association Agreement until 2016.

So what should we expect will happen next?

Several weeks ago, Anne Applebaum warned us about attempts by Russia to carve out a new state under the name of Novorossiya (“New Russia”):

In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here — Novorossiya can grow larger over time.

Yesterday, Linda Kinstler noted the „New Russian” aspirations of the pro-Russian separatists who have maintained control of Donetsk and Luhansk, reporting that,

the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics announced they are merging their militias into a single force, the United Army of Novorossiya, which will liberate Ukraine from “Nazi scum.” These are the people who will be ruling the populations of Donegal and Luhansk for the next three years.

In other words, New Russia is there to stay: the only question is whether it will stay within its present borders or grow. Judging by current developments, the latter option seems more than plausible.

While Western states have been reluctant to provide direct assistance to the Ukrainian military, Polish citizens have found their own way to express solidarity with those who have spent weeks trying to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Last week Poles sent their own humanitarian convoy to areas worst affected by ongoing conflict. The convoy delivered desperately needed supplies – winter clothing, socks and underwear for the military, toys for displaced children, medication and even off-road vehicles. But the situation of both Ukrainian combatants and civilians near the front line looks bleak. Many have been without energy or water for weeks; the Russians have effective control of the gas supply, and a harsh winter lies ahead. There are tens of thousands of IDPs across the country and tens of thousands of Russian troops just across the border.

President Poroshenko’s visit to DC this week is very timely. While many Ukrainians feel betrayed by the West, some look to the USA as its last hope. At this time of great uncertainty, we should pray that the USA will find a way to walk in solidarity with Ukraine on the precarious road toward a just and sustainable peace – at least within what is left of its borders.

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.