I heard multiple experts this weekend proclaiming that a “tactical nuclear weapon” was a likely outcome for Putin, especially if he believes he is losing the war in Ukraine. There was a fire at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe after Putin’s forces attacked it. More than 1.5 million people have fled the war zone and are now refugees in need of care and protection. These are the terrifying realities of a global war that will impact us whether we like it or not. But, wars are not merely made up of worst case scenarios and doomsday proclamations.
Rather, the war in Ukraine has fundamentally reorganized power structures that were long entrenched, causing thousands to protest against injustice and the lack of a voice in the political machinations of their homeland. It has presented models of modern leadership to the world that have inspired both support and solidarity. It has spurred multiple nations to apply for inclusion in the European Union, building a stronger international coalition for combatting economic and political upheaval. These are all reminders that any conflict is a mixed bag of fear-inducing realities and hope-inspiring reactions.
But, what if modern war took a different middle path? What if instead of leaning heavily into fear of nuclear fallout, we came together and saw the way modern society, accelerated by democratizing technology, has re-engineered what was possible to build during a time of war? What if the best case scenario were on the table, if we only could articulate it and start to pursue it together?
So, I wanted to take a stab at laying out the Case, the Best Case for how this war might progress. I don’t know that we will get everything on this list, but if others are laying out the case for Nuclear war, perhaps there is room for a counter argument, an anti-totalitarian future with both shared wins and shared sacrifice.
The tenets of The Best Case Scenario resulting from the War in Ukraine:
- We learn from our whole, unvarnished, history.
- We don’t try to ban books or teaching certain subjects that make some uncomfortable. We don’t try to whitewash wars or use whataboutism to justify our own actions. We embrace the messy negotiations of progress and help to build a more equitable world.
- Our strength comes from sustained collective action, not isolation and handwringing.
- The collective action of supporting Ukrainian civilians has been inspiring. We must have the resolve to sustain that action. We must build upon temporary humanitarian action with systems to support democracies and fledgling movements toward freedom. It is not enough to simply stop a war. We are in a global community. Isolation is impossible.
- Telling the truth to one another is the hallmark of both our personal and political discourse.
- We all make decisions based upon the information at our disposal. And yet, some information is demonstrably false. We must be open to being wrong, to changing our minds, and to correcting the record when we find ourselves lacking. We must be honest about who we are and what we want. It is the only way forward.
- We protect the vulnerable, using Empathy without the need for Affinity.
- The stories of non-white refugees from Ukraine being turned away (or having extremely long wait times) from the borders of neighboring countries are heartbreaking and totally expected. And yet, Empathy is available for all. For Roma, for Africans, and for all foreign born Ukrainians. We don’t need to see ourselves in those seeking refuge. We must simply see humanity and know that we must act.
- Our agility of decision-making is not hampered by infighting. We pull in the same direction because our broad interests and values have the power to unify.
- War is wrong. Killing, especially for such a terrible reason as annexing a sovereign country, is never justified. Surely, that can bind us together. And while we are together, we must agree on the other values of freedom and democracy for all. Our disagreements about how to support should not stop us from supporting at all.
- Coalition building is not weakness and Tyranny is not strength.
- The world has come together in opposition to Russia and in support of a caring leader who will not leave his people. We can no longer hold “strong men” up as the model to emulate. It is an outdated and immoral way to govern. Let’s move away from it with every step we take.
- Our policies meet the moment, for both the urgent and the globally important.
- Higher gas prices are one of the hallmarks of high demand and low supply. We cannot solve the problem of lack of access to cheap energy by leaning into the system that has gotten us here. We must solve for global war and for global warming. It is not either/or, it is both/and.
- Mutually-assured prosperity is our daily practice.
- Nuclear war is not inevitable. Neither is kindness. If both are a choice, why would we choose destruction? Why would we go out of our way to create these artificial barriers between us? Why would we allow ourselves to hate when we have better options available?
I know this is an extremely tall order, and I don’t think this Best Case Scenario is the obvious result of the war. And yet, when I see the world rally together in a matter of weeks to dismantle a dictator and aid an ally, I see what is possible. It must also be possible to come together for more than just stopping a war, though. It must be possible to come together for the sake of one another.
The world order that existed on February 23, 2022 no longer exists.
There is a new one being created right now. Let’s make it better. Let’s try for The Best Case Scenario.