The sin of “hubris”

Mar 10, 2024
Flying over the earth's surface, 3D rendering. Elements Of This Video Furnished By Nasa.

The sin of “hubris” is to shame and humiliate others for pleasure or gratification. Such narcissistic pleasures were considered offensive to the gods of ancient Greece; a case of breaching the boundaries between the human and divine realms.

In the grand theatre of international politics, hubris and tragedy often share the stage. The saga of Western involvement in Ukraine stands as a testament to the maxim that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

In what can only be described as a hot mess of narcissism and delusion, the West’s entanglement in Ukraine has morphed into a geopolitical reversal reminiscent of the last reflexive blunders of empires. The self-deception and wishful thinking implicit in the latest revelations of Western machinations in Ukraine and the disastrous misestimation of Russian resolve are now laid bare with the fall of Avdiivka.

At the heart of this tragedy lies a Black Sea geopolitical romance scam of epic proportions, a convoluted dance of deception where the GRU, the Intelligence Agency of the erstwhile U.S. client state of Ukraine, played the pied piper, leading the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the collective West into believing in a phantom of Russian interference. This convenient narrative served as the perfect distraction from hard questions about the wisdom of the DNC’s choice of candidate and laid the groundwork for a confrontation that was as inevitable as it was ill-advised.

Enter Donald Trump, a figure as chaotic as the geopolitical strategies he birthed. Trump’s administration, under the watchful eyes of hawks like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, never reversed the rising tide in overt U.S. military support to Ukraine.

Disastrously, this potent brew of American largess and the intoxicating illusion of being taken seriously on the world stage led Ukraine’s leaders to convince themselves—and soon after, a credulous Biden administration—that they could defy the laws of geography and history and defeat Russia.

The ultimate raison d’etre of the conflict, a strange hybrid of Ukrainian nationalism and American exceptionalism, was less a strategic manoeuvre than magical thinking — a collective leap into the abyss that has brought the world to the precipice of nuclear annihilation. The West, imagining it could depose Putin as a first tilt against the “real” peer competitor, China, failed to see the forest for the trees. The result? A calamitous miscalculation that has cost more Ukrainian lives than American fatalities in World War II and left the planet teetering at the edge of nuclear conflict, with the Doomsday Clock now set at a mere 90 seconds to midnight.

The West may have rallied to Ukraine’s side, but the “Rest” did not, and without them, the West lacks the necessary logistical, organisational, and economic capacities to prevail. Worse, American foreign policy follows an unbroken pattern: our leaders systematically lie to us about their decisions and actions, and by the time the truth is widely known, it is too late to change course.

The grim reality is that we are well past that geopolitical turning point where the mirage of quick political and military success has been replaced with the grim realities of a strategic crisis, relative economic decline, and a significant reordering of the geopolitical landscape. In this tale of disaster, the lessons are as clear as they were ignored. The arrogance of attempting to reshape the world according to ideological whims, without heed to the complexities of regional dynamics and the resilience of national sovereignties, has led us to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

The only path forward is to fold, to sue for peace, to acknowledge the limits of power and the vanity of imperial ambition. For in the end, the tale of Ukraine is not just a story of conflict and ambition, but a cautionary tale of hubris—a lesson in the dangers of underestimating the resolve of others and the unthinkable consequences of nuclear war.

Clinging to paradigms of exceptionalism and unilateralism is no longer compatible with survival in the nuclear age. Only by principled opposition to all war can we honour the values of peace, justice, and human dignity and demonstrate a primary commitment to the welfare of humanity and the principles upon which democratic societies are built.

At ninety seconds to midnight, Carl Sagan’s question still goes unanswered: Who speaks for Earth? In the face of potential nuclear annihilation, it is imperative that we all do, before it’s too late.

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