Example essay

Sight Magazine – Essay: While Focusing on Ukraine, Don’t Forget the Rest of the World

United States
Going through RNS

The American public is incapable of multi-tasking when it comes to international relations. We can only focus on one crisis at a time. Today we are rightly focusing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but it would be a mistake to ignore the problems of the rest of the world.

After World War II, we focused on stopping the spread of communism, first in Europe, then in Korea, Vietnam, and Latin America. After 9/11, we became obsessed with crushing Islamic radicalism. Some of this was justified, but looking at the world through one lens, we made terrible mistakes in Latin America, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan supporting corrupt governments that were out of touch with their people.

A daughter looks at her mother while holding a candle during the Good Friday service at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral April 22 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. PHOTO: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E.

The world is much more complicated than we thought. We in the West thought that if we just killed or rooted out all the communists and Islamic terrorists, we would solve the problem. In fact, we often made the situation worse because the collateral damage of our response turned more people against us.

We have also ignored the social, economic and political problems that spawned communists and Islamic radicals. And when we recognized these problems, we naively responded with programs that were ineffective and insensitive to local cultures.

“[T]Although most Americans support the West’s efforts to help Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s unjust aggression, we must look at them with a critical eye and recognize now that some of our actions will have negative consequences. Sanctions that cut off food and medicine are inhumane and immoral. They are the economic equivalent of indiscriminate bombing of cities. We must find ways to limit the impact of sanctions on innocent civilians.”

Economic sanctions, for example, can be a blunt instrument that hurts ordinary people far more than the leaders of a regime. The sanctions did not overthrow the Cuban and Iranian regimes, but they hurt their people. The Vatican has always opposed sanctions for this reason. Saint John Paul II even opposed the economic sanctions imposed on the Polish government by President Ronald Reagan.

Likewise, although most Americans support the West’s efforts to help Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s unjust aggression, we must look at them with a critical eye and recognize now that some of our actions will have consequences. negative.

Sanctions that cut off food and medicine are inhumane and immoral. They are the economic equivalent of indiscriminate bombing of cities. We must find ways to limit the impact of sanctions on innocent civilians.

We must also consider the impact of sanctions on third parties. Preventing Russia from selling its grain and fertilizers to other countries will lead to higher prices and even starvation around the world. The war has also made farming impossible in Ukraine, which, along with Russia, is one of the world’s leading grain exporters. This may be good for Western countries’ agribusiness, but it could lead to political chaos and increased refugee numbers in the Middle East and Africa.

If it is normal for Europe to continue to buy oil and gas from Russia, why is it wrong for countries with starving populations to buy grain? If we do not mitigate the side effects of the sanctions, we will cause serious problems around the world.



There are already too many problems in the world. China is losing its war against COVID-19. Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen are still in the throes of war. Palestinians and Jews fight on the Temple Mount. Violence between Christians and Muslims is escalating in Nigeria. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, is challenging the Taliban regime in Afghanistan as it faces economic collapse. Hindu nationalists use violence with impunity in India.

In the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua has systematically suppressed any opposition to the government. Brazil and Hungary are ruled by populist presidents who used democracy to gain power but are now undermining democratic institutions to stay in power. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has documented ongoing violations of religious freedom around the world. And then there is global warming.

Solving these problems becomes more difficult as people have lost faith in their political, economic and religious leaders. They are tired of corruption and an economic system that enriches the rich and shrinks the middle class rather than expanding it. They struggle to distinguish between fake news and legitimate media.

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With so many problems in the world, Americans might be tempted to retreat into isolationism. On the contrary, we need a comprehensive foreign policy implemented by an intelligent but humble diplomatic corps. We have made too many mistakes in the past to think we have the answer to the world’s problems. Each policy should be reviewed for possible negative consequences. Programs must be backed not by ideological theories, but by evidence that they work.

A good starting point would be to put the full force of the US government behind the defeat of corruption. Corruption has prevented us from winning wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Corruption makes the war on drugs a joke. Corruption enables human trafficking. Corruption has kept Putin in power. Corruption undermines our attempts to improve the lives of people around the world. Corruption undermines good government and alienates people around the world.

The Panama and Pandora documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists detailed how corrupt politicians and businessmen hide their money with the help of lawyers, real estate agents and weak government regulations. Congress has the power to curb this, and it should, by working to eliminate shell companies and other practices that allow criminals to hide their money.

Ukraine deserves our attention, but it is one of many connected crises around the world. We won’t stop it until we stop ignoring the rest.

The Reverend Thomas J Reese, a Jesuit priest, is a senior analyst at the RNS.


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