In May 1942 LTG Johnathan Wainwright was the Commanding General at Corregidor. After five months of fighting the Japanese his 12,000 troops were surrounded, running out of food, ammo and medical supplies.  When he surrendered to the Japanese he felt he would later be court marshaled.  Instead in 1945 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Corregidor – “his presence provided the example and incentive that helped make the gallant efforts of these men possible. The final stand on beleaguered Corregidor, for which he was in an important measure personally responsible, commanded the admiration of the nation’s allies.”.

Today Ukraine, after fighting a civil war in the Donbas Region since May 2014 with 14,000 Ukrainians already killed and with atrocities on both sides, is fighting a war against an invading Russia.  Zelensky, elected President in 2019 to combat corruption and improve relations with Russia, was not successful in ending the civil war in Donbas, nor in getting elections for that region.  Today he calls out from his bunker in Kyiv for Ukrainians to continue the fight – “Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes”.  It has been inspiring to Ukrainians and brought admiration from around the world.  However, I wonder how long it will be seen as heroic if the Russian Army continues to destroy Kyiv, Kharkiv, et al, resulting in the deaths of 100,000 or more Ukrainians. Russians have a history of destroying the cities of its enemies, civilians included: Berlin 1945, Budapest 1956, Grozny 1999, Aleppo 2016.

Perhaps its time for Zelensky to consider what is essential to the future of Ukraine.  Are Crimea and the Donbas Region essential for a new Ukraine?  Is it essential that Ukraine be a member of NATO or the EU? Is it essential to Ukraine, NATO and the US to risk a nuclear exchange so Ukraine can continue its fight against Russia?  As it stands tonight likely 20,000 Ukrainians – civilian and military have died – and 5,000 Russian military. If this war continues until the end of March, those numbers will likely double or quadruple. How necessary is it to Ukrainian democracy that it “defeat” the Russians and throw them out of all of Ukraine?  How many cheers will fill the air at the cemeteries for the fallen?

As a former U.S. Army Assistance Officer during the Viet Nam war I delivered the American Flag to an 18 year old widow of a 19 year old husband of six weeks. There was no glory in it, no heart warming cheers.

In 1956, President and former General of the Armies Dwight D Eisenhower made the hard choice to let the Hungarian Revolution fail.  Over 30,000 Hungarians died.  There was no glory in that decision.  There were no cheers as we listened to the last message from Radio Free Hungary.  Millions of Hungarians and Americans are alive today who likely wouldn’t have been had the U.S. attacked Russia to save Hungary.  Ike’s choice was “difficult.”  As is life. 

John Medlin, Santa Monica