My experience as Dean of a Business and Computer Technology Division in a community college led me to rehearse administrative decisions I might make in other managerial scenarios.
For example what would I do if I was Commander-In-Chief of the United States after a Ukrainian rebel military unit downed commercial Malaysian Air Flight 17 killing 298 innocent civilians, including one American?
Admittedly that’s beyond my experience, but I was curious about what I’d decide, and disappointed with the conclusion I made.
I dwelled on the decision after I read the article Why Putin Turned Against the US in The Atlantic’s July edition profiling the recently retired U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, a long time analyst of Russian politics. He believes President Putin has evolved from a collaborative world leader during his first term to a Russian empire builder as a Machiavellian ruler in his current term.
Putin wants to recover resources and Russian talent in satellite states lost after the break-up of the Soviet Union. His first move re-annexed Crimea.
The White House has information that he has been destabilizing Ukraine with corruption and supported Eastern Ukraine rebels with military equipment, training and oversight from a top Russian official.
One of those rebel units fired the deadly missile that downed the Malaysian flight. The missile launcher was Russian and operators were trained by Russian military under the leadership of retired Russian military officers.
That forced Obama into considering decisions regarding that attack. What would I do?
What were the circumstances? Was it a rogue group acting on its own? Was it an accident? Was there an apology coming?
What are the options for a response from the U.S. beyond diplomatic protests? Join with NATO to enforce sanctions on Russian people and avoid military intervention? Increase military weapons for NATO and Ukraine’s military? Delay any kind of military response until more was known?
The more considered an appropriate response the more I concluded the attack was the primary responsibility of Putin.
If he authorized it, he should experience a forceful counter-attack from NATO and the U.S. Even if he hadn’t authorized it, he should experience a counter-attack because he lost control of forces he’s maintained, supplied and trained.
Putin is ultimately, unavoidably accountable for their actions and the punishment for their actions.
The local rebel force became an international terrorist group by downing the plane. That deadly terrorist group should be destroyed. Not just the weapon, but the trained personnel who operated the weapon and the military unit that deployed it.
I also concluded that more than the single Ukrainian unit should be targeted. Ukrainian rebels with similar land-to-air Russian weapons that are operating under the same Russian control may need to be destroyed in the field before delivering a similar attack.
Putin and his military rebels must expect Russian supported terrorist groups will be targeted for annihilation.
Annihilation would be a tragic loss of life that disturbs me and my Christian faith with my abhorrence of military intervention in other nations. I can only beg forgiveness for failing to find a pacifist response.
Once I reached that conclusion I wrestled with setting in motion the agencies responsible for assisting NATO forces or unilaterally delivering and justifying the attack. Could NATO forces with special assistance deliver the attack? How quickly could the U.S. military identify each terrorist unit’s movements and be prepared to attack? Could the Secretary of State point to security and treaty obligations that would support it? Could the Justice Department provide legal justification for a unilateral attack?
Once those issues were resolved I would authorize military forces to destroy the targeted weapons and personnel in the terrorist units once they were re-deployed on Ukrainian soil, preferably before missiles were fired at any target.
Of course I’m obviously incapable of truly understanding the complexities of the decision and disturbed by the violence of the consequences.
I’m comfortable with sharing my conclusion as one of the responsibilities I have as a citizen in our democracy.