Destroying a nation for the sins of Its rulers

The civilian population always pays a heavy price for the adventuristic endeavors of its rulers.  This is true for the bad economic and financial policies, bad political moves, and poor military choices that the government leaders and their staff may make in the course of furthering the "national" interest, which is often a nicer label for pursuing their own personal and political best interest.

Should the people, the means by which families earn their living, and the entire community be destroyed in such cases?  Our head says, absolutely not!  But what about our emotions?  Apparently, they shout an angry "yes"!  How can this happen?

The short answer is a mistaken conflation of people and government, whereby the two become indistinguishable and equally culpable, and should therefore bear the brunt of the consequences. 

We are witnessing this disturbing phenomenon now, as what seems like the entire world has rallied behind the just cause of Ukraine.  The "what" the world is doing — i.e., pushing back against and condemning a war of territorial conquest — is undoubtedly right.  The "how" the world is going about doing the pushing back and condemning is, in my opinion, profoundly wrong.

If we were able to distinguish between perpetrator and unwilling accomplice in a crime, who is drawn into the criminal enterprise out of the sheer inability to stay out, we would understand the predicament the Russian population is currently in.

The overwhelming majority of Russian families, their children, and their relatives have no say whatsoever in what Putin and the Russian military are currently up to.  A few dare to protest, only to be arrested.  Most feel  powerless and must bear the consequences of their rulers' actions.

It is well known that sanctions have never deterred any ruler from continuing along a certain path.  Some historians say they were actually emboldened or cornered into escalation by the impact of sanctions, much less forced into retreat while made to acknowledge "the error of their ways."

What will the destruction of the Russian economy do to the Russian people, and how will they react?  We do not know yet.  There is no historical precedent that could give us a precise indication other than common sense.

Common sense tells us that this will not end well for Russia.  Or for us.

Image: Bohdan Bobrowski.

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