Alex and I spent our college years in Austin running a co-op together. We continued in DC, thick as thieves, where both of us finished our post-grad at Georgetown. Over many a sodden 3 am talk, he—soft-spoken and brilliant—provided a hard-nosed corrective to the endlessly critical takes on ‘the West’ that I was soaking up in that humanities department where, research tells us, ideologically liberal professors outnumber their conservative counterparts at a rate of 30 to 1.
Though many elements of the critique I was awash in continue to inform my thought, when skepticism prevails, it comes in the voice of that wise young man who’d grown up in the utopia I was being sold and found it wanting. That night I texted Alex back that, although I didn’t remember, I’d defer to Otto von Bismarck when he said: “The statesman's task is to hear God's footsteps marching through history and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past.”
This was not to suggest that Putin was any statesman Bismarck would have conjured but that the causality held. The same idea has lately been put more simply with the phrase: “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” To try and understand why this terrible war is happening and why it has rallied our sentiment more than any conflict in recent memory, we must dissect both the hour and the man.