Notes on Glenn Greenwald’s Take on the War in Ukraine

I like Greenwald’s analysis here (see reference section below), especially at the beginning when he talks about how the outbreak of war can easily flood our minds with fear, anger, and binary thinking.

The latter can be described as the view that the world is divided into two, and only two camps: the good guys and the bad guys. Further, if you’re not on our side you are a traitor because you are obviously on their side.

In his analysis of how binary thinking can take over in times of war (obviously on both sides of the conflict – i.e in Russia and the US in the case of the Ukraine crisis), Greenwald discusses a tweet by Tulsi Gabbard on Feb 23, 2022:

This war and suffering could have been avoided if Biden Admin/NATO had simply acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine’s becoming a member of NATO, which would mean US/NATO forces right on Russia’s border.

IMO, her statement is not unreasonable. However, as Greenwald points out, she’s been attacked for making this statement (and not just by random internet trolls). Greenwald says that these attacks are very similar to the binary-style of thinking that took over the US right after the 9/11 strike against the World Trade Center.

In addition to the Tulsi Gabbard case, he presents a number of other cases to support his thesis that binary-style thinking is taking over in the US as a result of the Ukraine invasion.

In my view, binary-style thinking is the antithesis of Critical Thinking. The latter is epitomized by the Blind Men and the Elephant parable (which I’ve blogged about before, and may do so again with a reference to the Greenwald video). For the time being, I’ve added the link to his discussion of the war in Ukraine to one of my blog posts on that subject (see comment below).


Beshears, Fred

Applying the Blind Men and the Elephant Parable to Critical Thinking
by Fred M. Beshears

The Putin Doctrine: his version of the Monroe Doctrine
by Fred M. Beshears

References on Political Realism and the Belief that Might Makes Right

Greenwald, Glenn

The War in Ukraine
by Glenn Greenwald
25 February 2022


Blind Men and an Elephant

It [the blind men and the elephant story] has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies; broadly, the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth. At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behavior of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.



Many of Mr. Greenwald‘s points resonate, I do try as best as I fallibly humanly can to to avoid thinking binarily.

I must say when he speaks of a foreign power, be it Russia, USA, NATO or otherwise, assuming the right to impose a certain status on a given country such as Ukraine, be it neutrality, subjugation or something else, he is touting imperialism.

At length he expounds on Russia’s fears of encirclement, but does not say a word about Ukraine’s legitimate fears of once again being brutally subjugated by Russia.

Russia forcibly swallowed Ukraine after World War II, and subjected the country to dictatorial domination for 45 years.

Is it not understandable that Ukraine, knowing as we are currently witnessing that it cannot defend itself against Russia, would seek outside protection, such as that which NATO could provide?

Last night the Russians bombed Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia [Запоріжжя in Ukranian, Запорожье in Russian, Saporischschja in German], risking an unprecedented nuclear disaster, before taking control of it.

The distance between Munich, where I live, and Zaporizhzhia is 1087 miles [1749 kilometers] as the crow flies.

Had the reactors blown, radiation would have killed or genetically maimed millions, and may have even reached me here, caused cancerous mutations in my family, friends and myself..

Sorry, in this case I can’t avoid binary thinking.


WarrenK, I’ll get to your very thoughtful comment in a bit. Right now, I’m working on a homework assignment that has a due date coming up.

When I’m finished with my homework (in a week?), then I’ll address your comment (which I’ve placed under my blog post: Notes on Glenn Greenwald’s Take on the War in Ukraine).

I like to place thoughtful comments in an anonymized form on my blog so I can find them in the future.

For now, here something I recently wrote and have now posted to my blog. I think it helps get at why you disagree (apparently) with Mearsheimer, at least. (See References on Political Realism in the reference section.

As I see it, you come at these issues from the perspective of Liberalism, while Mearsheimer is a political realist.

The latter are generally concerned with International Relations (and not domestic politics), and as political realists they hold that might makes right.

Those who hold that Liberalism should apply to both domestic politics and international relations often reject the moral philosophy that right makes right.


Thank you Fred. At present I am struggling against succumbing to the belief that Russia and the Russians are nothing more than hordes of brutal uncivilized barbarians who not only must be stopped but also crushed at any cost.



Well, I just don’t see how two countries with nuclear weapons (especially countries such as the US and Russia, which both have massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons) could ever “win” a nuclear war.

In my view, anyone who wants an all out nuclear war is really someone who wants to be dead. Further, they know that with nuclear war millions and millions of other people will die, too.

If someone has a death wish, they can choose that path for themselves. They don’t have to advocate for a “solution” that takes everyone else with them.


Fred, where I live Russia is practically on my doorstep. Nuclear war means the end of life as we know it, maybe the end of all life. When I say “crushed” I certainly am not suggesting doing so with nuclear means, and again, I am fighting against this kind of knee-jerk emotional response here.

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