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That lesson was also available in the 1930s, but apparently it didn't stick.
I have a theory that is one of the fundamental weaknesses of liberal democracies, similar to how a lack of quality intelligence and honest discussion is a fundamental weakness of autocracy.
We get so comfortable and there is so much beureaucratic bloat and worry that we are slow to react and learn, hell look at the US covid response as an example.
In the end they've always come out on top (so far) but only after it's too late to have prevented a lot of damage from occurring. It's a very proactive vs reactive approach.
That said, it's more of a feature than a bug I believe. The alternatives presented this far have been unpalatable. For example, I like to point out how John McCain called this out in 2008 during the Russian invasion of Georgia.
The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors.
With hindsight, he was of course correct. Does that mean 2008 was the time to act rather than 2014 or 2022? What about after the assassination of Litvinenko in 2006? The apartment bombings?
Any of these could have been considered egregious actions that caused liberal democracies to draw a line but ultimately, although in some cases minor actions were taken, it was neither soon enough or firm enough.
A decade from now we may be looking back to say "if only NATO had acted sooner when Russia invaded Ukraine in the winter of 2022" we just don't know. That's one of the weaknesses to the approach of living in a liberal democracy.
Again, I'll still take it over the known alternatives. In the meantime yes.. it blows.
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