For the media and for members of the public more generally, the eruption of war creates an urgent need to affix blame and identify villains. Rendering such judgments helps make sense of an otherwise inexplicable event. It offers assurance that the moral universe remains intact, with a bright line separating good and evil.
That rule certainly applies to the case of the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is the aggressor and President Vladimir Putin a bad guy straight out of central casting: On that point, opinion in the United States and Europe is nearly unanimous. Even in a secular age, we know whose side God is on.
Yet such snap judgments rarely stand the test of history. With the passage of time, moral clarity gives way to ambiguity. Clear-cut narratives take on hitherto unrecognized complexity. Bright lines blur.
World War I illustrates the point. The conflict began with the German Army invading France. When the war finally ended, the victorious Allies charged Germany with “war guilt,” a judgment that accomplished little apart from setting the stage for an even more disastrous conflict two decades later. It turned out that in 1914 there had been plenty of guilt to go around. Among the several nations that participated in that war, none could claim innocence.
Read the full article in The Boston Globe.