Democracy vs. Nihlism

Speaking of Timothy Snyder, his recent essay in Foreign Affairs is an excellent read — especially in light of Russia’s massive attack today on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. It’s a wake-up call that this war is not a regional conflict that America shouldn’t be involved in, but ground zero for the future of democracy. (Nuclear allusion entirely mine and intentional.)

The current Russian regime is one consequence of the mistaken belief that democracy happens naturally and that all opinions are equally valid. If this were true, then Russia would indeed be a democracy, as Putin claims. The war in Ukraine is a test of whether a tyranny that claims to be a democracy can triumph and thereby spread its logical and ethical vacuum. Those who took democracy for granted were sleepwalking toward tyranny. The Ukrainian resistance is the wake-up call.

From “Ukraine Holds the Future”, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2022

As a member of Gen X, I came of political age in the early 90s and I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent much of that time generally ambivalent about world affairs. Though I’d majored in political science and economics, the fall of the Soviet Union, the subsequent end of history, and the vogue of third way politics sapped a lot of my interest. After all, if democracy and capitalism are the logical and inevitable endpoint of things, why bother paying attention?

Snyder’s piece is an important reminder that democracy is not the default setting of civilization. It must constantly be fought for and protected.

*If you can’t get past the paywall, you can read it at Ukraine Today.