The Economist (North America)

Dealing with tyrants

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Yuval Noah Harari’s essay explored how the vast majority of humanity today has chosen not to make war but follow a peaceful co-existence with their fellow beings (By invitation, February 9th). The big problem, highlighte­d by Ukraine, is how do these peaceful people get rid of the minority who choose violence to further their ends? How do you control someone who is pointing a gun in your face?

Protests don’t work. Tyrants just send in the security forces, such as in Belarus, or tanks, as in Tiananmen Square. Speaking the truth about the regime gets you branded a terrorist and thrown in prison, which silences you and deters others. Feminism can go only so far in exerting soft power over dominant and determined men. The internet, once seen as an enabler of resistance for the oppressed that would help co-ordinate their fight, is now monitored and blocked by those in power. Sanctions are a long game and could hurt the peaceful majority of people. Vladimir Putin will continue to live in isolation, luxury and delusion; I doubt he cares that Russia will be worse off economical­ly for invading Ukraine. As long as his army obeys him, nothing can stop him.

The uncomforta­ble truth is that we can stop dictators only through an internal coup, which may just replace one despot with another, or by meeting violence with violence: war. Modern democracy was born from the English civil war, American war of independen­ce and French revolution.

No, if the free world really wants to stop Mr Putin it will have to treat Ukraine as if it is already a member of nato. The destiny of humanity is in all our hands. The question is how to act? trevor prew


As your briefing made clear, Mr Putin is riding a very dangerous tiger by threatenin­g Ukraine (“A grim look out”,

February 19th). John F. Kennedy once wrote: “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Attacking his smaller neighbour might keep Mr Putin on the outside of the tiger for a time, but what he must fear most, and ultimately cannot avoid, is the dismount. martin birt

Uxbridge, Canada

Following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslov­akia W.H. Auden published this poem, “August 1968”. If nothing else, it reminds us that very little has changed in Russia’s attitude towards its neighbours.

The ogre does what ogres can, Deeds quite impossible for man, But one prize is beyond his reach: The ogre cannot master speech. Across a subjugated plain, Among its desperate and slain, The ogre strolls with hands on hips, While drivel gushes from his lips.

paul d'eath Toronto

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