Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, was an accidental leader due to the sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt during the closing months of World War II.
Known for being feisty, hard-nosed and extremely frank in his comments, Truman is now remembered as the leader who spurred us on to victory by dropping the atomic bomb twice to save American lives and is regarded as one of the nation’s best presidents.
After the war, Germany was divvied up by the Allied Powers into zones with the Soviet Union occupying the eastern part of the country while the U.S., the United Kingdom and France split up the western part. Berlin was divided among the four nations but ensconced inside the Soviet zone.
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, a brutal tyrant as ruthless as Adolf Hitler, decided that he wanted Germany to remain a weak buffer state despite attempts by the western allies wanting that nation to rebuild and become a beacon of hope in Europe. On June 24, 1948, Stalin had his troops blockaded rail, road, water, and food access to the Allied parts of Berlin in order to push them out and take complete control of Berlin and all of eastern Germany.
Truman, not wanting to start World War III, had to make a historic decision of whether to capitulate or to find another way to keep Berlin alive and out of complete Soviet control. His solution was to begin a daily airlift of food, medicine, staples, water and other supplies so that West Berlin could remain free. It was a brilliant stroke, a compromise effort that demonstrated the tenacity and determination of Truman against the ill-fated decision of Stalin. The airlift lasted 11 months and, in the end, Truman won. West Berlin was saved and ultimately it gave rise to a unified Germany decades later.
If this sounds familiar, it is because we are experiencing terribly similar circumstances now less than 1,000 miles from Berlin. A month ago, another tyrant, a successor to Stalin, invaded an independent sovereign nation – Ukraine - after amassing troops on its northern, eastern, and southern borders. Vladimir Putin is determined to topple the democratically-elected government, suppress all human rights and rule Ukraine through a puppet leader who will march to Russia’s drumbeat.
President Joe Biden, a weak, feeble and insecure leader has vacillated throughout the Russian buildup and has been consumed by the fear of starting World War III. His inactions and daily public pronouncements have given Putin the advantage of knowing exactly what Biden and what our allies will and will not do, a classic mistake that Truman didn’t commit.
Biden’s efforts, while coordinated with our allies, have not been made to lead. Instead, he follows public pressure with bipartisan members of Congress begging for him to take more decisive action. Biden’s fear of being labeled a “war president” is undercutting America’s national security.
So, what can or should we do?
First, America and our allies need to ensure that all available offensive and defensive weapons should be shipped to Ukraine. That doesn’t mean a billion here or a billion there. This requires a concerted effort to resupply Ukraine with every possible military equipment that would help that nation be victorious,. This includes Polish MiG jets. NATO and allied convoys will need to ship this equipment into western Ukraine.
Second, the allies need to declare a “No-Fly Zone” over western Ukraine by announcing that this region, including Kyiv, will be recognized as a “protected zone” that the allies will help defend. That doesn’t mean that American or NATO troops need to fight the Russians, just that we will fully support the Ukrainians so they can fight to defend their country. This way military equipment, food and water, medicine and other needs can be shipped without fear of destruction since Putin is not stupid enough to pick a fight with NATO. He now knows he cannot win such a fight. Instead he will count on Western facilitation. Simultaneously the Ukrainians will have a safe opportunity to move to a part of the country that will be protected by S-300, Patriot anti-missile systems, Switchblade and Turkish drones.
Third, America and our NATO allies must refer formal war crimes charges against Putin and his generals to the International Criminal Court for their massive human rights abuses and horrific violations of the Geneva Convention. It doesn’t matter whether Putin and his ilk recognize or capitulate to the International Court. But it is the free world’s obligation to try them, even in absentia, and write the history of this murderous and illegal invasion.
All of this is outside of the safe boundaries of Biden who clearly is not up to this task but must be pulled hollering and screaming to do what America was founded on – that all people are entitled to freedom and self-determination. Ukrainian President Harry Truman, in his address to Congress, was more eloquent and more dedicated to America’s ideals than our own president has been.
Of course, Biden’s actions were learned under the tutelage of former President Barack Obama who declared a red line in the sand in Syria if that regime used chemical weapons and then refused to back up his big talk after they used chemical weapons. Obama’s failure to act only confirmed that post-modern Democrats are not good in fighting tyranny and despots. To make matters worse, Obama gave $4 billion, in the dead of night, in cash, to Iran to get them to negotiate a nuclear deal which that nation violated that very day. Iran had continued to violate that deal every day since. Those dollars and the sanction relief on oil allowed Iran to finance terrorism around the Middle East and beyond. Now Biden is crawling back to the negotiation table to beg Iran to play nice, as if anyone believes that will be the case. The Obama aides who negotiated the first rotten deal are the same team willing to do it now. A new deal with Iran will mean about $100 billion and the lifting of sanctions on Iranian oil. We can’t afford an Obama-like deal again because it means that we are financing our enemies’ actions against our own best interest.
Putin smells weakness just like a shark smells blood in the water, Putin has completely set the parameters for this invasion, and he is in charge. Biden, like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the late 1930s, is willing to do anything to forestall World War III–but that can’t be accomplished through negotiations. Hitler negotiated and even signed papers but he still did what he wanted and months later he arbitrarily invaded Poland. Putin has the same inclinations.
Our European allies, anti-war pacifists for the last seven decades while they enjoyed economic prosperity because of American security guarantees, are only now beginning to wake up and heed former President Donald Trump’s demand that they spend a minimum of 2 percent of their national budgets on their military defense. But the time has come for us and them to realize that exhibiting weakness and broadcasting our own military parameters is not going to bring Putin to the table. That can only be accomplished if we demonstrate resolve, a commitment to securing the peace by fighting depots at every turn and ratcheting down all economic sanctions and ostracizing Russia.
If the free world is successful, we then have the chance to send a unified message to China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, among others, that we will not tolerate the invasion of sovereign nations or belligerency. Short of that, the free world will always be under the threat of tyranny and that breeds defeatism.
Barney Bishop III is a former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party and a former CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, known as “The Voice of Florida Business.” He is currently the CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting, LLC, a strategic public affairs firm in Tallahassee, and can be reached at Barney@BarneyBishop.com
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