William DiMascio is a former Associated Press Bureau chief for the state of Ohio, executive editor of the Cleveland Press and communications consultant. Now retired, he lives in Upper Arlington.
I feel a deep and unshakable moral commitment to the values expressed in America's foundational documents: first, to the Declaration of Independence; second, to the Bill of Rights; and third, to the Constitution.
The principles asserted in these treatises define a compelling humanitarian philosophy, one that is the preference of men and women the world over. They constitute a manifesto for life in a growing and evolving world.
Our U.S. democracy has been tested in numerous challenges over the last two-plus centuries and succeeded while monarchies crumbled, fascists faded, and communists fell flat.
The merit in our governance was planted in my early years in school learning the Pledge of Allegiance, as a Boy Scout studying the Oath, as an altar boy memorizing Latin prayers, during the swearing-in in the Army.
These learning incidents were reinforced by what I saw in neighbors returning from wars in foreign lands. I clung to them later when questions were raised about our involvement in Vietnam.
I envisioned these tenets as logs on the raging fire in my mind as I wondered about becoming a man: Could they be seen as convictions that would give me strength to be a good person?
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That all sounded fine and easy, but life, I learned, was confounding. In the great river of time, human convictions are less than bit players; the currents take us in unimaginable directions.
Currently, we have a maniacal Russian leader whose less than impressive military has been a world-class embarrassment.
So now Vladimir Putin turns his desperation toward committing war crimes against civilians in a reign of terror, shelling apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, and churches. He is looking for a way out but cannot admit it.
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The stakes are very high in this war in Ukraine, and not just for the Ukrainian people. Should a bigger country be permitted to take over all or part of a neighboring nation? Who is to stop this sort of illegal action?
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We have done yeoman's work in supporting the Ukrainians with arms and munitions, and they have performed admirably. Yet, all things considered, I wonder if we have done enough. Our overriding concern so far has been to be a bloodless ally and avoid touching off a nuclear confrontation. Putin has used the nuclear threat to keep us at bay.
My view, clearly a minority one, is that we, the U.S., should get nose-to-nose with Putin and tell him to get his troops out of Ukraine, including Crimea. There should be no ambiguity. This would not be a request. This would be a clear declaration that we would not stand by and watch a terroristic takeover of a sovereign nation (as the world did when Hitler began).
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Putin would have 24 hours to begin to withdraw, or we would, with conventional forces only, destroy his navy and eliminate the remains of his ragtag army and air forces.
Okay, I said this was a minority point of view, but I have felt it for months now. There is no other way for this conflict to end. Of course, there is the popular option of doing nothing, of waiting until we are forced into a far more dangerous confrontation.
Right now, I am glad we have an old man with a fully functioning moral compass as president. We used to think wisdom came with age; we forgot about that, however, as we became infatuated with youth. But it takes time and experience to balance the pros and cons of complex situations, to think strategically instead of transactionally.
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Joe Biden has shown his desire to avoid provoking a nuclear provocation. But the senseless murders of civilians and destruction of a sovereign nation cannot be permitted. We have the tools and the strength to force this conflict to an end. The question is whether we have the will to do it, and whether the Russian people have the will to continue losing their soldiers and their souls.
Frankly, I do not believe the Russians are eager to engage in a nuclear confrontation or so desperate for whatever there might be to gain by taking over Ukraine.
So, this is what it's like for an aging idealist. The years may have diminished my eyesight, yet strangely sharpened my vision. We have reached a point where it is time to act - with conviction!
For the sake of humanity, let's end this.
William DiMascio is a former AP Bureau chief for the state of Ohio, executive editor of the Cleveland Press and communications consultant. Now retired, he lives in Upper Arlington.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: William DiMascio: US must force Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine