Saturday March 12, 2022
Know Your Enemy” is a standard invocation in wartime. But, if clear-eyed appreciation of an opponent and his intentions is obviously necessary, shouldn’t “Know Your Ally” be equally imperative?
Even when war has become a spectator sport for Westerners, rejoicing in killing Putin with their mouths in cyberspace and joyously kicking Russian cripples out of the paralympics, there is a real conflict going on which is horrendous for Ukrainians, which also has serious implications even for us off-shore islanders, as well as Europe as a whole.
Romanticising our chosen side and vilifying their foes are natural reactions, but fairy-tale versions of conflict often disguise the flaws of the allies even if they pale by comparison with the vices of the invader.
Think how in 1914 “Plucky Little Belgium” was portrayed as a damsel in distress about to be raped by a literally monstrous Hun. But until August, 1914, Belgium’s place on the scale of victimhood was decidedly at the perpetrator end. The horrific exploitation of the Belgian Congo’s population as slaves to King Leopold’s greed — fictionalised by Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” — had been exposed by Sir Roger Casement and E.D. Morel, who both rejected the defence of Belgium.