Sometimes an idea is so obviously good that one need only echo it, without any pretense of originality. Witness a proposal in the March 14 Wall Street Journal for a humanitarian airlift to save Ukrainian civilians.
Penned by Douglas Feith and John Hannah, both national security officials in the George W. Bush administration, the column made a distinction between a military no-fly zone and a purely peaceful air delivery of food, medicine, and other sustenance to innocents in areas bombarded by Russian artillery and effectively shut off from other outside aid. The Wall Street Journal editorial board endorsed the idea, too, and for good reason.
Feith and Hannah explained: “Countries viewed as not hostile to Russia — perhaps Brazil, Egypt, India, and the United Arab Emirates — could take the lead in flying planes into Ukraine.”
While the United States and Europe “could provide the logistical infrastructure to gather global donations,” the effort would be international so that “countries around the world can contribute humanitarian supplies.” The airlift, they wrote, “would counter Russia’s strategy to besiege the Ukrainian people [and] boost Ukrainian morale,” while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s generals might be loath to block the airlift due to concerns about “their vulnerability to war-crimes trials.”
There is, of course, a famous precedent for such an airlift, again against Russian provocation. When Russia tried to blockade Berlin in 1948, then-President Harry Truman organized a 14-month airlift to the people of West Berlin. Successfully using parachutes to drop up to 13,000 tons of supplies per day. The Russians dared not stop such relief then, and they dare not stop it now.
As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, “The humanitarian need [in Ukraine] is desperate and growing. … The suffering is almost certainly more widespread than social media and Western reporters can capture.” Food, water, home-heating fuel, and medicine, such as insulin, are running extremely low. That’s why “the airlift is a chance to lead in a way that could save countless lives.”
Some of us also may prefer bolder and more creative action to pressure Putin to withdraw his troops, but the geostrategic considerations for other options are quite complicated. A humanitarian airlift is straightforward and uncontroversial, even though it will require a massive logistical effort.
Time’s a-wasting — let’s go save some lives.