Membership Has Privileges — But Without It Possibly Misfortune
Is membership a tool for exclusion? With what consequences?
Are you a member?
Or are you less important?
I’m not talking about being a member of a food co-op, learning platform, or a Facebook Group.
I’m talking about the kind of membership that distinguishes members from non-members, sometimes in ways that have significant consequences. Sometimes life or death consequences.
That kind of membership creates an “us” and “them” even if it’s not intentional.
Membership That Might Save Your Life or Your Country
I’ve recently heard on podcasts or read published comments from those who think the United States should stage a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect its civilians and allow them to flee the country safely.
Enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine is a serious commitment. It would mean that the U.S. would shoot down enemy aircraft trying to bomb the country. Many believe that would mean that we were officially at war with Russia. Not a status any of us want.
Hearing talk from those who think we have an obligation to protect the people of Ukraine has me wondering “What if this was happening in the United States?
What if we were being attacked the way Russia is attacking Ukraine and we had little ability to protect ourselves or protect our civilians who were trying to leave the country? What would happen?
NATO countries would come to our rescue. NATO would stage a no-fly zone. NATO forces would shoot down enemy aircraft to keep them from bombing our cities and killing civilians.
Why would NATO save us?
Because we are a member of NATO and that’s the agreement. NATO members have agreed to protect other NATO members.
Ukraine is Not a Member of NATO So We Send Thoughts & Prayers
Yes, we do send prayers, but that was sarcasm.
In reality, we support Ukraine by applying financial sanctions and sending military fighting gear.
Our people post images of the Ukrainian flag and sunflowers on our Facebook profiles and buildings light up in blue and yellow.
But our military, the one that is funded with a bazillion taxpayer dollars, offers no air protection to the people of Ukraine.
I am opposed to war but I am forced now to admit that I’m not clear how I feel about our country doing so little as we sit in our safe warm homes and watch videos of residential neighborhoods being bombed, Ukrainian families fleeing with not much more than the clothes on their back. A holocaust memorial being bombed.
I can’t conceive of watching this play out, knowing it could be leading to genocide.
“No, it won’t be genocide! Don’t be so dramatic!” I can hear the replies.
We wouldn’t let that happen, would we? When would we step in? Would it be soon enough? Or only after many deaths? Is it not genocide already? I don’t care about the “official” definition of genocide, it’s close enough.
Not Membership — But an Equivalent Agreement
The United States Agreed to Protect Ukraine if They Gave Up Their Nukes — What Aren’t We?
The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was a 1994 agreement made by the United States with Ukraine. We agreed to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.
I don’t know the details of that agreement but any country giving up its nuclear weapons is a big deal. It had to have been a big concession, but one offered in trade something of great value — protection from the United States.
How could we fail the Ukrainian people in this way? Why are we not honoring that written agreement?
I only know about this from Bill Browder’s March 2, 2002 Tweet that reminded the world of our 1994 commitment to protect Ukraine. His Tweet ended with, “we have a moral imperative to at least set up a no-fly zone.”
I can’t say if I think we should impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. There are compelling arguments for and against. I’m on the fence but I absolutely think we should give President Zelensky what he requested:
If West won’t impose a no-fly zone, “give me the planes!”
Let’s send those planes to Zelensky, like yesterday!
As I was about to publish this piece, I heard a report that the largest nuclear power plant in Europe that happens to be in Ukraine is being attacked by Russian troops and the plant is on fire. There is the risk of a meltdown or some type of nuclear accident. The report says that if that happens it could be ten times worse than the Chernobyl disaster.
Zelensky released a statement saying, “Europe needs to wake up!”
Is this enough of a reason to step up our engagement? I still don’t know.
I’m glad it’s not my decision to make.
Back to the Issue of Membership
If Ukraine had only paid their dues on time and not let their membership expire. If only Ukraine had not had that one questionable response on their application they would have been accepted for membership.
The statements in the paragraph above are of course not true. I’m making a point about how some people or some countries who are not “members” are treated differently or are even out of luck.
Ukraine would be a member of NATO if that were possible.
Why is Ukraine not in NATO and is it too late to join? Here's what experts, NATO say
The world watched as Russia launched an attack on Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 24, bombing cities and bases as civilians…
“There’s a lot of criteria for NATO membership. Ukraine didn’t really meet any of those, although it was on a path to meeting those,” Monaghan said.
“And NATO was helping them meet those targets. There was a path then, but now that seems much, much less likely.” — Why is Ukraine not in NATO and is it too late to join? Here’s what experts, NATO say 2/25/22
NATO has always said they have an open-door policy. They were helping Ukraine, but now there’s a catch.
NATO is essentially saying: “We’d welcome Ukraine, as a NATO member and you would, of course, be protected by other NATO countries if a bully started killing your people and tried to take over your country IF you have your shit together and are no longer corrupt (they had a string of brutal dictators in their past). You had not yet proven yourselves and now that the evil bully has attacked you, we can’t take that on. You’re on your own. Oh, and by the way, your leader is a superhero and your people are the most committed and courageous we’ve ever seen. You’ve proven yourselves worthy of membership, but sorry, you missed the deadline so you’re on your own.”
If they were NATO members we would go protect Ukraine no matter what the cost. We would call for air support and whatever else even if it meant getting into World War III.
But Ukraine is not a member of NATO so we’re off the hook. We do a few things that may or may not have much impact but won’t help the people any time soon.
In the worst-case scenario, we watch Ukrainian people get slaughtered and their country leveled. In the best-case scenario, we watch many Ukrainians escape. But then what? They will likely never return to their homes because in these situations it’s rarely possible. While we won’t see all of it in real-time, their lives are in shambles. Families are traumatized.
Membership Has its Privileges
That has never been so true, American Express.
Membership is for the privileged — whatever that means to those in the power position to grant or withhold membership. In any form, membership excludes people. It separates and divides us.
Membership has its place — like for those who pay for membership for an online course. Or those waiting for their free pizza after their 10th purchase.
But the kind of membership that sorts people into “members” and “everyone else” is obsolete. It’s no longer justifiable and should be abolished.