February 17, 2022

The Strong Should Not Harm The Weak 

By Glenn

Around 1755 BCE, the Babylonian King Hammurabi proclaimed a law code.  For thousands of years it lay hidden in the ruins of Susa in modern Iran.  It revealed the ancient origins of government.

The text on the granite stele began with a preamble.  Hammurabi claimed the gods called him by name to rule. They expected the king “to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak.”

The code then listed 282 requirements for anyone living in Hammurabi’s realm.  

Some of these are famous, “If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.”  Others are not so famous, “If a builder build a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.”

The promulgation of laws was meant as a deterrent. Everyone could see the law and its corresponding punishment.  Hammurabi’s subjects knew he was charged by the gods to enforce the laws.

When it came to international affairs, however, there was no government.  No one country was strong enough to act as the world’s policeman.  More importantly, no one country could write a binding code for the world.

The strong often trampled on the weak. The wicked invaded their neighbors and exploited their people and resources.

After the Second War, the United States actively tried to break this cycle of violence and conquest.  The United States created systems of collective security to protect both large and small states alike.  Organizations like the United Nations and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) offered help against territorial aggression. 

NATO was the more successful of the two organizations.  NATO provided a credible deterrent in Europe during the Cold War, while the US and the Soviet Union bickered at the UN. That bickering often deteriorated into Proxy Wars like Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

For Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, the Cold War represented the good old days.  His country was one of two superpowers and could trample on the weak.  There was no Hammurabi to prevent his country from exploiting its neighbors.  

Since 2014, Putin has been bullying its neighbor Ukraine because its voters rejected subjugation to Moscow.  Putin took direct control over the Crimea and sponsored a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine.

The United States and NATO are trying to restrain Putin.  He will pull back if he sees a united NATO in Europe, and Americans standing behind President Joe Biden.  Ukraine is in a weak position.  It needs a strong United States to maintain the peace.

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