I’m scared. Ordinarily, I would say “frightened,” a more dignified word. This time, go for the gut.
The all-too-real videos of children, mothers, old folks, animals hiding out in basements for days, weeks without adequate food, water or medicine drive me away from the TV. Think of the unsanitary conditions, the mental health implications, the separation anxieties. Even worse, reported in hushed disbelief, the rape of children in view of parents.
But, until recently, all that was Over There. We sympathized, not empathized. We clicked off the TV and sent humanitarian aid with somebody else. Then, reports that Russia was testing long-range “Satan II” missiles with the capability of reaching the U.S.
In other words, Over Here.
Almost as an afterthought, we learned these intercontinental missiles were capable of carrying nuclear payloads. This was branded Putin’s “saber-rattling.”
Sabers? How quaint.
“60 Minutes” did a segment on the consequences of cyber-warfare, of which the Russians are eminently capable. By shutting down power grids, communications, health care systems and transportation, Americans would, like the Ukrainians, soon be without adequate food, water, medicine and sanitation not in just one city but entire states and regions. Panic would ensue, leading to violent confrontations, pale in comparison to a certain World War III.
Several dozen apocalyptic films have proposed similar scenarios. They rarely end well.
I thought the world had become reasonably civilized. The “Soviet Union” was again “Russia.” And while Putin did some dastardly things inside and outside his domain, his behavior didn’t affect us immediately or directly. After all, Moscow is an ocean and 5,000 miles from Washington.
Other scary things include chemical warfare, with results beyond horrible. Even those who never watched the CIA in action on “Homeland” must know that our enemies have operatives embedded in the U.S. capable of who knows what. “The Americans” dealt with just such a KGB couple passing for next-door neighbors.
We bona fide Americans are accustomed to reading about wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, not watching them through windows shattered by shelling. So yes, I’m scared, reinforced by the fact that except for a few references to Sept. 11, newscasters hardly mention the possibility of attacks on American civilians. That’s rather naïve, given who and what the Russians are bombing and gunning down point-blank in Ukraine: apartment complexes, women, children, the elderly, hospitals, schools and churches, resulting in thousands buried in mass graves.
War crimes? Who cares, they seem to say. But surely Putin, characterized as a madman, won’t go after a small golf-resort town in North Carolina.
Doesn’t matter. We would suffer consequences, one way or another, especially being adjacent to the largest military base in the U.S., with 270,811 personnel occupying 500 square miles — a veritable bulls eye.
Everybody hopes that sanctions plus diplomacy will resolve or at least de-escalate the situation. So might be the case when dealing with a semi-rational adversary, which Putin (a la Genghis Khan, known for slaughtering civilians and destroying cities) obviously is not.
The alternative — fighting fire with fire — means everybody gets burned. Like I said, scary.
Contact Deb Salomon at email@example.com.