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The Dogs of War

Thomas LeeJul 10, 2022 (0)

Please allow me to generalize about Americans and other foreigners serving in Ukraine. Fighting for your own country is to be expected, but it takes a special person to take up arms when it involves paying one's way and devoting time to learn the customs, the language and the scene on the ground.

Often, that person has military experience in his or her own country. There may be a connection to whatever country is “hosting” the war, in this case Ukraine. Intellectual justifications are generally insufficient; people who came to “help the Ukrainians” are often naifs, people who haven't the faintest idea of what it really means. One thing that many Westerners discover is that the Ukrainians are far more well-prepared than they themselves could ever be. Years of interacting with the Russians have given Ukrainians perspective impossible to achieve without the shared proximity and time. Russia and Ukraine are, after all, related by language, culture and customs, and other intersections that make the war appear deceptively internecine.

Like the 800-year struggle of the Irish to free themselves from British imperialism, the reasons behind the split are unfathomable to outsiders. A friend from Divis Flats, a now-destroyed Republican stronghold in Belfast, once told me that up until the beginning of “marching season” in Ulster, a typical morning interaction between Protestant and Catholic neighbors in Ulster might go like this:

“Good morning, Mrs. O'Rourke. How are you?”

“Good morning, Mr. Ahearn. I hope I see you well.”

Then July 12 would arrive, and once studiously polite Mr. Ahearn, now clad in Orange Lodge regalia and thumping his lembeg drum, would march past Mrs. O'Rourke's shop and scream “F(&* You, Mrs. O'Rourke!”

And so it would go until calm was restored at the end of the Marching Season and the storied politeness of the British Isles reasserted itself.

Why the bout of madness, and why was it bookended so neatly? Well, madness if left unchecked threatens to ruin us all, while a little predictable contained lunacy is precisely what those of us with a wild streak in our souls need.

Thus let the Marching Season, which is nearly upon us, act as an excellent analogue for what is taking place in Ukraine. The Orcs are on the march, and they are hated by Ukrainians who are Russian speaking…sometimes exclusively so, as is much of the East, around Kharkiv, and even as far west as Kyiv. Why an army would invade the country of a related people who speak their language can be unfathomable to outsiders. And yet it goes on, and will continue to, until it is over, a date that is equally unfathomable, even to the invaders.  The Russian conscripts are having a hard time, the generals are dying – an unusual event, as generals are generally behind the firing line, not anywhere near it – and second and third lines are being called up. Conscripts are not reporting, and it seems as if the entire edifice is beginning to creak.

Let us just hope it creaks loudly enough to hear ‘round the world.

The writer is a former military man, now researching and writing about the Ukrainian Conflict. Questions can be sent directly to


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