When we think of war we often think of combat and shots being fired. But there are other actions governments use to aggressive against other countries. And even though they aren’t violent, they are still acts of war.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: We’ve had a lot of episodes about war lately, and you know, it’s not the happiest topic, but it is important to understand why things happen the way they do. Obviously with an episode, excuse me, with a podcast titled like Ours, the Way the World Works, war is unfortunately a part of how the world works, for better or for worse, you know, pretty much a peace is extremely rare in world history. There’s nearly always conflict happening. And so as long as their government’s fighting to stay in power, there will be war. And, you know, as a kid, for those listening, it might be confusing when you hear about what’s going on in the world today. Obviously, Brittany and Emma and I, we wanna help you understand, we wanna explain some of these things. So today in particular, we want to talk about these things called sanctions. As we talk about it, I want you to ask yourself if a sanction as we’ll describe it, is an act of war. Okay? So that’s kinda the question is a sanction and act of war. That’s something for you guys to evaluate as you learn more about it. Well, a sanction is, a punishment, but it’s not like someone hitting you or, you know, causing you physical harm. It’s an economic punishment, okay? It’s an economic punishment. I’ll explain that. And it’s one country does it to another, or sometimes they’ll do it to specific people, as well as was happening with some of these Russian oligarchs. They were trying to like freeze their bank accounts and take their yachts and all these types of things. And, so because the United States wanted Russia to stop its attacks on Ukraine, they cut Russia off from using, a banking system that processes all these credit card payments. It’s called Swift. So that means that Russia’s cut off from doing business with the rest of the world, at least using that payment system. Of course, then non-government, companies like Visa and MasterCard and others have followed suit and, you know, oh, we’re not allowing you to use our networks anymore. That’s kind of different from sanctions. Sanctions are when governments are doing, companies are free to offer their services to, you know, whoever they want, rightly or wrongly. But, sanctions apply when it’s the government. And so why would the United States do this? Again, this is an economic punishment. It’s like, Hey, we’re gonna make your life harder. We’re going to freeze your bank account, Vladimir Putin, or we’re going to stop Russia’s banks from being able to, work with other banks. So we’re gonna kind of shut your economy down, in that way. Or we’re not going to allow, we’re not gonna trade with you anymore, or we’re not gonna allow you to import, you know, medicine, right? That your country needs what you get from other countries like these are economic punishments. It’s making people economically, meaning their money and their resources. So that’s what sanctions are. And why does it happen? Well, people who support sanctions, they do it to try and teach the other country a lesson. In reality, the theory behind sanctions is let’s make life so miserable for the people who live there that they get really upset and they pressure their government to stop so that their lives can go back to normal. In reality, I think what happens a lot of times is the reverse thing happens. So the, the leaders in power say, oh, look, it’s, you know, in this case it’s the united, it’s the Americans. They’re making your lives, you know, difficult. Let’s go to war, let’s, you know, fight. And people get rallied to go fight the oppressor rather than thinking that their own, government is the oppressor. Part of that is the propaganda that we’ve talked about in a previous episode. And so the idea is, oh, let’s, you know, have Russia stop their invasion of Ukraine, and prevent a large-scale war. And so, you know, but the thing is that the government pretends that sanctions are a way to avoid going to war. But again, the question is whether a sanction itself is an act of war. So, Brittany, I want to kick it over to you, but I want you to talk to us about sanctions, in the context or in the approach of the non-aggression principle. So how, obviously we talk about that in our golden rule book, which deals a little bit about foreign policy or war. And so what does the non-aggression principle have to do with sanctions?
Brittany: Yeah, so the non-aggression principle, obviously, you know, if somebody, I always, in simplest terms, if somebody hits you, you have the right to hit them back. But if they don’t hit you if they’re just using words that you know, you, you don’t, cuz you have not been aggressed against. Now let’s talk about this. So when we talk about sanctions, nobody has physically fired a gun at you, right? However, if you’re cutting off somebody’s financial livelihood, that to me is very, I mean, and Connor, maybe you have a different view. I think that is an aggressive act. I think you’re aggressing against someone because you are threatening their livelihood, their ability to feed their children, their ability to do, you know, just about everything. We need credit cards and or debit cards. You know, we need access to banking to do pretty much everything we do. Sure. And one thing, and I was gonna dive into this later, but I’ll do this now, is that we’re not at war with the US government is not at war with the people of Russia, right? This is a very important thing, I think distinction for us to all make, you know, to understand. So the other countries, you know, Ukraine, United States, we might be mad at the president of Russia, but the Russian people have done nothing to us. But when we talk about sanctions, that’s who they’re hurting, right? It’s, they’re aggressing against the people of Russia. And I always think of it this way. So President Putin is living a pretty lavish life, right? Even if they’re cut off from stuff, President Putin is going to have what he wants, he’s gonna have what he needs unless this goes on for years and years and years. I don’t think that President Putin is personally going to be dramatically impacted by this. But the people of Russia are going to suffer. And with so many people there, they’re actually against the war. There’s a lot of people in Russia, especially young kids, they don’t want this. They know how bad their government is, right? They don’t want to see this war break out. So it’s really unjust and unfair to punish innocent people who live in a country with a dictator. I mean, imagine if someone did that to us here, we would be angry. We would go to war against them very quickly. And that kind of brings me to another point, which, and this gets into the non-aggression principle. Imagine you are living in Russia and you’re someone who’s pretty anti-war, but then places like the US have put sanctions on you and you can’t get what you need for your family. Do you think that’s creating an ally? Cuz I don’t think so. I think you’re creating enemies and you know, one thing I always think about, and I think this is technically more of a blockade, but it’s still kind of, it’s still in that family of an economic sanction. When we were worried about one of the many things we were about with Iran, the US cut off, the supply of medicine and medical equipment to them, and we acted like, okay, that’s gonna make them do what we want. But, you know, the people of Iran are very pro-western civilization like we have, or Western culture, excuse me, as we have in America. But if you keep doing these terrible things to other countries that don’t really impact the leaders as much, they’re impacting the people. We’re creating enemies, right? This is kind of the non-aggression principle in action because you’re aggressing against these people who are now gonna become enemies. We saw this in the Middle East happen, you know, you kill somebody’s father, what do you think the son does, they grow up to have a grudge against you? So, you know, when we’re talking about is an economic sanction an act of war, is it a violation of the non-aggression principle? I think that is absolutely what it is.
Connor: Well, I wanna touch earlier, I mentioned that difference, or at least kind of talked about, that there is a difference between, government sanctions and what we might, I guess call private sanctions. where I mentioned the example of Visa and MasterCard that said, Hey, we’re not gonna do business there anymore. And then you have, you know, different companies shutting off access to Netflix saying, Hey, we’re not gonna, you know, stream content to Russia anymore and Apple shutting off, you know, their Apple pay, service in Russia. And so, you know, okay, that’s fine. I mean, you know, those companies can decide to do that. But when you come, when you start weaponizing this, right? Like, well, what about when the United States, you know, invaded Yemen or Syria? Like, are we gonna do this to ourselves too? Do we have a bit of a double standard if we don’t do it to every other country that’s doing evil things, are you gonna do it to Saudi Arabia? Right? I mean, are you kidding me? Like, look at China. We’ve talked about China on past episodes, Brittany, about the human rights abuses with the Uyghurs and, and just communism in general, forced abortions on people. Cuz of the old one-child policy, they had all these horrible regimes, and I mean North Korea, like all these countries, but China in particular not only do American companies want to punish China, they’ve bent over backwards to appease China. And so now we’ve got companies like doing these double standards about punishing some countries and not others. It’s like when Twitter kicked off, you know, the president of the United States, Donald Trump at the time for violating the terms of, you know, customer service when like, you know, Russia’s government and Chinese, the Taliban, yeah, the Taliban has a Twitter account. Like, are you kidding me? Like if you’re going to, if as a private company, if you’re gonna step into being this kind of arbiter or this decider of you know, who’s right and who’s wrong, like then you’re quickly gonna become inconsistent if you don’t apply the same standard to everyone. If you’re gonna kick off the president for having mean tweets, like you may wanna reconsider whether the Taliban and Vladimir Putin’s, you know, government and China and communists and everyone are on there too. It, to me that’s a bit of a problem. But Right. As much of a problem as it is, those private companies can do that. And it’s not sanctioned, right? That’s just kind of a private business decision. We wouldn’t consider those sanctions per sec, but what I think is very important to think about is that actions have consequences. So let’s use the example I shared about Visa and MasterCard shutting off their services in Russia. Okay, that’s fine. I mean, you can do that. Two things that I find interesting about that. One is I think a lot of people are being pushed into cryptocurrency, which I think is ultimately a good thing where these companies are basically supporting their, or maybe not supporting, they are accelerating their competition because crypto is really gonna, you know, take over in the future I think in a lot of ways in the financial system. And so Visa and MasterCard are kind of accelerating the adoption of these new alternatives, which I think ultimately might harm them in the future. So that’s one, consequence I think of Visa and MasterCard deciding to just shut things off in Russia. The second is, and this was announced very soon almost as if it was like in the works, you know, for when this happened, but it was announced very quickly after the fact that Russia would be integrating with China’s financial services. Shocking. Yeah. Like one communist country turning to another, I don’t remember the name of it, but basically their equivalent of like a credit card system and so China rolled that out for Russia and said, oh, hey, you know, you got booted from Visa, MasterCard, we’ll take care of you. And so now you’ve got Russia aligning itself even more with another communist country and becoming dependent upon that other country. I think that’s extremely problematic and so sure Visa and MasterCard have every right to do what they decided to do, but because they’re getting involved in these political issues, they’re basically helping produce these political consequences, that I think are bigger than just them and create more problems. So, it’s not really sanctioned per se, where I think the answer to our question, Brittany, ultimately comes isn’t the example that you shared about preventing the medicine from getting to people. And so the theory is right, let’s make the people suffer, and then they’ll get mad and then, you know, we can put pressure on the dictators or the existing government to step down or to negotiate. And that’s a nice theory. I mean, in theory, but in practice, you are the cause of harming innocent people, right? When you apply sanctions to people may maybe it’s different. I, think it’s different if you’re putting sanctions on a specific person, like when they’re freezing the bank accounts of Vladimir Putin, that’s a sanction. maybe you can, I don’t even know that you can call that an active war. Maybe Brittany you’ll disagree with me on that. If they’re applying sanctions to the Russian oligarchs these rich crony capitalist corrupt individuals who have made a bunch of money just because they’re connected to the government, right? if the government is, you know, seizing this, you know, tycoons yacht in France, like I think happened the other day, or they’re freezing their bank accounts or whatever, I, don’t know that you can call that an active war per se. However, when you apply broad sanctions, when you punish a whole country, when you shut down the banks basically and cause everyone to go to the banks, on a bank run, meaning like, oh, my account’s gonna close, or my money’s gonna be worthless, I better go, you know, pull all my money out. You know, what happened, you remember like the weekend that they did that, Brittany, before the banks reopened the ruble, which is their dollar, their currency plummeted in value because people were freaked out that these sanctions would cause the ruble to become devalued. And so people started exchanging their rubles for other money and getting rid of their rubles. Suddenly there was less demand, but there was more supply. So, the price, the value went down and that harms everyone. It harms the Russian grandmothers who, you know, scraped by to save up their meager savings, and now the savings that they have is worth much less than it was a week ago, right? Like, so I think in that sense it’s harming innocent people when you have these broad sanctions. And so how I would answer the question, Brittany, and then I’ll give you the final vote here is I think when they’re targeted to a specific individual or these crony people at the top of the government, I have less sympathy there just because these people became wealthy by you know, stealing from other people. Yeah. And because it’s, I don’t think an active war against a country, I don’t think that applies when you’re just kind of freezing the bank accounts of these corrupt politicians. So I, think maybe there’s room for those very targeted sanctions and not having it be an active war, but when you go to the broad public, when you harm all these innocent people, many of whom hate what their government is doing, yeah, I think that can be considered an active war. I think that is problematic. And, and I think it just empowers that government, even more, to then go, you know, back and hurt even more innocent people. So I think sanctions are always the wrong, answer and a bad problem. Brittany, what do you say?
Brittany: Yeah, I, agree with you. I do. I would worry that like if we just froze, you know, Putin, I keep saying we, the government froze, you know, Putin’s account that he would take that out on his people and that makes me sad for them. So I think that would be the only thing that would not be great. But I agree with you. I think the targeted are the better way to go if they’re gonna go that route. But I absolutely think, you know, doing these widespread, sanctions are terrible. You know, I live in DC where there’s a lot of people from everywhere, and so I know a fair amount of people whose families are in Russia and they’re Russian and they’re really stressed now they’re really sad because they know that this is hurting their families and there’s nothing they can really do about it except sit and watch from afar and they can’t go home right now. So, and the scariest thing, if anybody here who is like, who’s Russian, you know, has said anything negative about Putin and then has to go back cuz of a visa, or even if, let’s say the United States went really severe and said nobody from Russia can be over here anymore. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that. I mean, if you send these people home, a lot of them would be sent to prison. Yeah. So it’s, really scary. I think yes, I think sanctions are an act of war and I think we should not, they should be used again, maybe targeted, but that’s the only situation I think would even be, justifiable.
Connor: Well, important as always to understand these things. Cuz if we wanna know how the world works, we need to understand some of these unfortunate things that are happening in our world today so that we can recognize what’s going on, that we can start to develop opinions about them so that we can talk to other people about them. We can express those opinions to, you know, elected officials and the media and whatever. And we can change the debate. We gotta try and get more people to understand some of these problems. So you guys are doing the first part. We can congratulate you for being subscribed for listening and learning and talk about this as a family. Talk about what you guys think. Read the news a little bit and or the propaganda I should say you know, try and understand what they’re saying and what you guys think about it. It’s important to have our eyes wide open when all this stuff is happening. And appreciate you guys for listening, and for being subscribed. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.