Yet it seems hard to consider Russian President Vladimir Putin as anything other than a force for evil. He is personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine through an act of unprovoked aggression, designed to fulfill a vision of national and personal greatness that has no foundation in law or morality.
His “vision” is narcissistic and his only self-justification is force. Moreover, he seems to believe that nothing matters in this world but force. Other virtues have no intrinsic value unless they empower the virtuous actor.
Gandhi’s non-resistance – ridiculous as it seemed at first – eventually worked in a big way. Leo Tolstoy is still a huge man to be reckoned with in the world of letters. And Jesus, well, Jesus could do as he pleased anyway because his power was unlimited. Therefore, Putin respects them all.
Principled martyrdom, however, doesn’t cut it on Putin’s one-dimensional value scale.
In All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-45, Max Hastings quoted from the memoirs of Sir David Fraser, the British general:
The people of democracies need to believe that good is opposed to evil – hence the spirit of crusade. All this, with its attempted arousal of vigorous moral and ideological passions, tends to work against that cool concept of war as [an] extension of policy defined by Clausewitz, an exercise with finite, attainable objectives.
There have been too many unnecessary crusades in this century, one could argue, such as the second Iraqi war. But this one is necessary and probably unavoidable anyway.