Check out this excellent essay by Tom McTague, a London-based staff writer at The Atlantic. Among other things, McTague compares and contrasts the bravery of Ukraine with the shameful and calculating cowardice of her pusillanimous NATO allies. Below is an extended excerpt from McTague’s essay — links in the original; hat tip: Eugene Volokh.
A famous British newspaper cartoon [pictured below] called All Behind You, Winston from May 1940 shows Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime leader, sleeves rolled up, face set to defiance, marching forward. Behind him swell the ranks of Britain’s leading political figures from all sides, including former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. All are marching with Churchill, rolling their sleeves, readying for battle. This is how the world feels about Volodymyr Zelensky: All Behind You, Volodymyr.
Except not really. Today, the free world might be spiritually marching behind Ukraine’s leader, but the most powerful nations in the world are not fighting with him. They have calculated—reasonably—that they cannot risk a world war with nuclear-armed Russia. Ukraine’s position today is far weaker than that faced by Churchill in 1940, when Britain was still a world power with an empire, an advanced economy, and formidable naval defenses. Ukraine has nothing like that and still fights on alone.
**** Perhaps this is why Zelensky is so inspiring. Western countries don’t have this type of leadership anymore: unembarrassed, defiant belief in a cause. So many people in the West have given up on the fairy tale of their own superiority because they understand how badly the West has behaved over the decades, from wars for colonial control to the War on Terror.
Yet perhaps the other reason Zelensky is so inspiring is that suddenly we can see that he is right. Vladimir Putin is a monster whose cause is unjust and immoral. In standing up to him, Ukraine is articulating a certain idea of itself that is righteous and dignified and heroic: virtues we long ago dismissed as old-fashioned. How tragic it is that Zelensky’s idea has to be attacked for us to be reminded of ours.