Ukraine: Two Wars, One Traditional, One Geopolitical

I have been struggling to rationalize my realist reading of the war with my sense of the brutality and utter irrationality of Russia’s assault on the nationals, the nation and the very nationhood of Ukraine. I even stopped posting my views on this crisis due to the imcommensurability of these two responses within myself. I understood the dichotomy but had not found the language or image by which to articulate the schism., and then I found an article by Richard Falk titled Why Ukraine?

According to Richard Falk, who is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there are two wars going on – the first is what he describes as the “traditional war between the invading forces of Russia and the resisting forces of Ukraine” and the second – a “geopolitical war between the U.S. and Russia.” In this scenario there are two aggressors, two villans if you like. Just as as Russia is the aggressor in the traditional war, it is the U.S. that is the aggressor in the geopolitical war. He explains that “it is the prosecution of this latter war that presents the more profound danger to world peace” and that this danger has been obscured by its being treated as “a mere dimension” of the prior, ‘traditional’ confrontation.”

Ukraine: What is actually goin down?

Watch Freddy Sayers of Unherd and Konstantin Kisin, a well-known Russian-British comedian, podcaster, writer and social commentator, break down the coverage in the Western media, both mainstream and alternate, and
offer some soundbites of their own. Kisin outlines Putin’s imperial aims as set out in his signal claim that large swathes of Ukraine are, historically and ethnically speaking, Russian territories. He goes on to criticize the Western
media’s failure to understand what was being announced.. He discounts the theory that it is NATO’s sustained expansionism (ala Mearsheimer whose analysis is left unreferenced) that has provoked the Russian aggression and calls for an assertion of Western power in the face of a new Cold War II. This is of course very much a NATO perspective (There is nothing cold about the invasion from a Ukrainian perspective). Kisin does acknowledge the West’s broken promise to the former Soviet Union (Russia) not to expand NATO, and points to a reciprocal promise to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression, made in return for giving up nuclear weapons. 

I must say that, while I am generally enamoured of Freddy’s objectivity and interlocutive rigour, and while there is much food for thought in this discussion, it is at this point that the conversation reveals a striking lack of depth. I feel that Freddy might have pushed Kisin to elaborate on the dialectic of NATO expansionism and Putinesque imperialism, and or on the symetry of Western duplicity. Indeed, what follows their heavyweight opening is much less substantial. Kisin’s declares that his wife is Ukrainian and displays some a domestic repurcussions of the geopolitical crisis. He touches on the potential refugee crisis and its consequences for Britain, not very generously at that., one might  He then  deigns to speculate on the decline of Western leadership and declares that Freddie and he are ‘metropolitian liberals’ … Hear Hear!!

Ultimately, this conversation is a  striking example of a new genre of podcast intertainment (yes I think I have just coined that one!) – a kind of hyperbolic (despite Freddie’s signature restraint) intellectual soundbite … comedy? The irony of our times is that comedians are becoming better sources of facts, analysis and objectivity than the mainstream talking heads … it seems the make better natioinal leaders too!

On Being Malaysian Tamil 5

12 Indian detainees wait for trial in Malaysian prisons on LTTE related charges under the ambit of SOSMA with draconian restrictions of their rights to a fair and open trial. Terrorism is a matter of legal definition and that the LTTE was not designated as a terrorist organization in Malaysia until 2014. Until this time, most Tamils in Malaysia as in the wider diaspora would have seen the LTTE as a violent separatist movement born of the exhaustion of peaceful and democratic negotiations with the majority Sinhalese. Velupillai Prabhakaran was doubtless identified as a ruthless leader but admired for his incomparable courage, determination and military prowess.

This admiration is a very different matter from believing that he and his Tigers were right in their methods and even their goals. I for one have always been against a violent struggle for Elam. I have feared that the goal of a Tamil nation on the island of Lanka, while being historically justified, may just be a vanity project for the diasporic community. An edifice that can only be built out of the blood and tears of those left behind. Even if the men and women of the armed movement of liberation may have been cognisant and willing, it is the civilians would have been unwittingly and unknowingly been made to pay. Further, the middle classes were the best equipped to exit the situation as expatriates and refugees, while the working classes and the poor did not have that choice. Offering material support form the safety of the international diaspora would, in my view, have meant foisting blood and sorrow upon those who had no agency. Ultimately, I could not see Elam a sustainable geopolitical entity. Even with all of Prabhakaran’s prowess, he could only deliver Elam as a temporary domain, as a stage in a South Asian game of thrones in which the real players were bigger than the Tamils and the Sinhalese – India, the US and China!

Although I have never supported the LTTE , I do see them as having taken up a valid stance among the options available to the Tamils in their time. Towards the end of the Elam war in 2009, with Tigers and civilians trapped on the beach at Mullivaikkal, I stood with a small crowd of Tamils outside the CBC offices in Vancouver trying to impress upon that estemend news agency, that they were obliged to report on the plight of Tamil civilians caught between the ruthless Tigers who were using them as a shield and the merciless SLA who seemed about to attack with genocidal abandon. News of his situation was, it seemed, being systematically suppressed. Amongst those with whom I stood in solidarity that day, as a member of the Tamil diaspora, were flag waving supporters of the LTTE. It was at that moment impossible for me to extricate the furtherment of the cause of Tamils from that of the Tigers.

For all intents and purposes the LTTE ceased to exist with the Mullivaikkal massacre by the victorious SLA. It can not be denied that to Tamils across the world, even to those who find the their methods despicable and their project erroneous, the Tigers and their leader are champions of the Tamil race. They are the latest signifiers in an ancient stream of heroes and conquerors that flows through the heart of the Tamil identity. While they will not be forgotten as myth they are gone as an organization, and so, even though I make no assumption about the guilt or innocence of the 12 Malaysian Indians, I must note that in charging them with possessing printed literature and propagating the LTTE on social media, the onus is on the state to show that these men were furthering the organizational agenda of the LTTE rather than celebrating the myth . Further the state is obliged to prove that the organization still exists and/or that these men were involved in actually trying to revive an entity that is contiguous with the LTTE that was extinguished in 2009. … More in On Being a Malaysian Tamil 6