By Brad Wolf
A recent New York Times article stated that President Biden tells his staff, when discussing weapons shipments to Ukraine, that he’s trying to avoid World War III. His strategy is to slowly and incrementally ship to Ukraine ever more dangerous and powerful weapons believing if the U.S. shipped all these weapons at once, the Russians would react precipitously. Instead, the U.S. is slowly “boiling the frog” by gradually turning up the heat on Russia.
“Boiling the frog” refers to a person or thing in a gradually worsening situation without any realization of the peril until it is too late. While that may be an interesting (and cruel) biology experiment, when the frog is the world’s largest nuclear power the consequences are a bit more severe. The frog has options. Nuclear options. Do President Biden and the Pentagon truly think Putin hasn’t realized the ever-increasing caliber of weapons sent to Ukraine?
António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, said in reference to their annual meeting:
“The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great peril. Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate, and shamed by poverty, hunger, and inequality.
Tensions are expected to be high between Russia, the United States and European countries over Ukraine; between China and the United States over Taiwan and trade; and between developing nations and the West over the allocation of development funding and other aid.”
“This is the first General Assembly of a fundamentally divided world,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director at International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research group. “The gloves are off.”
Adding to that grim news comes a report that a powerful Russian missile exploded less than 900 feet from the reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, narrowly avoiding a nuclear catastrophe.
One must ask, is this the best the leaders of the world can do? Are we all to be the frog slowly boiled to death?
The citizens of a democracy or an authoritarian regime hold something akin to a Power of Attorney over their rulers if those rulers become incapacitated, either physically or mentally, and can no longer rationally carry out their duties. This Power of Attorney comes in the form of compliance given by us to them. We cede to them the power to rule us. The degree of power they have is the degree of power we give. It is time to withdraw that compliance and invoke our Power of Attorney. The men and women in charge have lost their ability to reason.
Massive general strikes, refusal to fund governments by not paying taxes, closures of weapons plants through work stoppages, interrupting rail and shipping of weapons through nonviolent blockades, preventing key government officials from leaving their homes through blockades, social media messaging and coordination, essentially all the tools of nonviolent resistance should be considered if we are to save ourselves.
We have, quite simply, run out of time. Like the nuclear-armed Russians, we are not a powerless frog. We too have options. At least one hundred and ninety-eight of them, according to Gene Sharp way back in 1973 (updated now to more than 350 such tactics). These are powerful, proven, effective nonviolent tools. It’s time to use them.
This invoking of our inherent Power of Attorney would have to be implemented not just in the U.S. but by citizens in all countries. Changing war governments and war economies to peace governments and peace economies cannot happen in only one country. It must happen in all to be effective. We all must feel equally safe and secure.
This is no pipe dream.
The real pipe dream is turning up the heat on the world’s largest nuclear power hoping it doesn’t realize it is being boiled alive. Doing nothing about climate change in the hope it will take care of itself is a pipe dream. Allowing half the world to starve and hoping it will not turn into a cross-continent war is a pipe dream. Thinking we can continue to survive in a “fundamentally divided world” of nuclear powers who have ripped “the gloves off” is a pipe dream.
Every government lives in terror that its people will one day realize the collective power it has and use it. That’s why they create armies, domestic militias, sedition laws, and prisons to insulate and protect them. They then employ a corporatized political system to divert the populace with culture wars, consumerism, economic insecurity, racism, and xenophobia. But these are ineffective against a united people informed of their real power.
We have it within our means to not only “avoid World War III,” but to fundamentally change the world and create an enhanced quality of life for all. We have “weapons” of our own, nonviolent and effective. Hopefully, we will unite and realize the power we have before we all are boiled alive. There is literally no time like the present.
Brad Wolf is Executive Director and co-founder of Peace Action Network of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A former lawyer, prosecutor, professor, and community college dean, he writes for various publications.