24 May Other than That, Mr. Putin, How’s the War?
The headline of this article is a modified version of a rude question nobody ever really asked Abraham Lincoln’s widow after their ill-fated attendance at Ford’s Theatre production of Our American Cousin the night he was fatally shot during the play. Asking, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” now typically is said to shift the focus from a prolonged “downer” story to happier lines of conversation.
Today, however, Principle Based Politics and many others are angry at Vladimir Putin and the evil he has perpetrated in the first three months of his war. We are going to use our version of the question to make a point about Putin’s senselessness and failure.*
*Yes, we know that Christ taught kindness, turning the other cheek, and so forth, but we were heartened recently to hear a sermon about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” himself, getting angry at evil. The way we understood the sermon, anger can be appropriately expressed at evildoers.
Losing Like at Russian Roulette
The truth is that the Ukraine invasion has hurt almost everyone, including President Putin and his loyalists, his financial enablers, and their political collaborators in the Kremlin and its satellites. As we will discuss in the concluding section of this post, Putin’s failure stems from a complete lack of leadership principles—or at the very least definitely not following the correct leadership principles—and his government’s utter disdain for the helpful governmental principles espoused historically by America and in this blog.
Here are nine ways the war is a disaster for Mr. Putin and Russia:
- His self-indulgent invasion did not prevail swiftly, as he planned, so instead he killed many thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians, defaced the country by destroying buildings, fields, ports, and cities, and forced millions to flee their homes amidst the duress of starvation, thirst, shelling, and heartbreak.
- Putin and his generals have required young people from throughout Russia to go kill others and then die themselves in vain.
- Perhaps the Kremlin leaders would say they took strong action to preserve Russian traditions and restore control over Ukraine, making the Czars (who ruled Russia for three centuries until 1917) and maybe even Joseph Stalin rest more proudly in their graves. In reality, though, the only Russian tradition Putin continued was catastrophic death totals and military debacles in foreign wars (see Japan 1904-05 and then World War I, not to mention the 27 million Russians killed in World War II and the many millions murdered under Stalin’s Soviet, Communist rule).
- Russia made even China and other hardline antidemocratic countries leery of aligning with it.
- Putin has many rational, nice people hoping and praying that rumors of his impending personal demise are not greatly exaggerated.
- Putin annoyed his own financiers, family, and oligarch friends by getting them sanctioned, which reportedly cut their combined net worth at least in half.
- Any admirers Putin previously had in America seem to have withdrawn their admiration.
- Russian businesses lost sales and profits that will not come back.
- By posturing the onslaught as a personal one against Volodymyr Zelensky, the modern, West-leaning Ukrainian President, Putin turned Zelensky into an international hero. Zelensky today maintains a much stronger reputation in America, Russia, and, most importantly, Ukraine, than before the attack. In the personal battle, President Zelensky clearly won and President Putin clearly lost.
Other than abject failure, that is the answer a candid Mr. Putin would have to give as to how the war has gone.
Putin’s Absent Principles
A second question evaluates how President Putin went wrong. By not believing in and following the right leadership and governmental principles, we will answer. Spoiler alert: this brief analysis is not going to go any better for Putin than the war has.
As you may recall, the top seven Leadership Principles we advocate are honesty (not demonstrated by Putin), respect (no), integrity (no), peace (no), service (no), dignity (no), and understanding (no). Frankly, Mr. Putin, you appear to possess none of these vital principles.
The Kremlin’s adherence to our Government Principles is equally nonexistent. Those principles remain transparency (not Putin), freedom and free enterprise (no), equality (no), protecting the vulnerable (no), freedom of religion and separation of church and state (no), limited government (no), and law and justice (no). Another empty scorecard for Mr. Putin’s evil autocracy.
It may not seem so to many, but Americans are fortunate to live in a place where principles are better ensconced in our national traditions. For that, we are thankful.
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.