Tolstoy’s masterpiece, War and Peace, was set during the ‘big picture’ — the invasion of Russia; but he focused on the role of family, of spirituality, of common links among humans. 

Far from reflection on those larger topics, oblivious to the need for unity in the search for peace, South Texas Republicans tediously repeat the mantra: “Ha, ha; we will capture South Texas.” Even some of the media concur.

Some in the media, realizing damage done by Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression, despair. Sadly, some of my Democratic friends—aware of the party’s all-too-frequent tendency to “take Mexican Americans for granted” — reluctantly concur. Even the war in Ukraine, they say, will not dissuade Republicans from their pettiness. Republicans attack our nation’s leadership, as President Biden opposes the war, as he tries to avoid nuclear war.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, known in English as Leo Tolstoy. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Most voters don’t want war; they want war in Ukraine ended. They look askance at the craziest Republican candidates, “war hawks” who are pro-Putin. That includes pro-war Trump (that is, Trump, until a few weeks back). At least one Republican candidate in south Texas, during her recent primary bid, refused to admit President Biden is president; fortunately, she was defeated. Some sense left among those voters? 

Before voting in November, more voters should insist on, first, asking where a candidate stands–”pro-Russia? Or pro-USA”? Pro-Marjorie Taylor Greene? Or pro-patriotic Americans?” Then, secondly, they should vote for the more common-sense candidate, faithful to the Constitution and to Democracy. There is really no dilemma at all. Nor should we accept “War is Good Business—Invest your Son!” Yet…

Yet, this war will increasingly affect us in mostly negative ways. Perhaps only Texas’ oil companies will benefit, to the delight of Republicans they support. The Valley’s Latino population? Except for a few possible promotions, not so much help of a positive nature. Latinos, (numbering 16% of the US population, 39.8% of the Texas population, 90% of the South Texas population) constitute 43% of men and women in the US military. (Adrianna Rodriquez, “Latinos in the Military,” USA Today, 23 March 22). They, and their families, feel the war.

They may not go to Eastern Europe to fight—just yet—but they are concerned. We are inextricably linked to the world and to this war. The longer it continues, the greater the damage. It is devastating to both Ukraine and Russia. Among others opponents, who plead for peace is Pope Frances. Putin’s actions, he says, are “inhumane and sacrilegious” (Colin Campbell, Vatican News, 20 March 22).

Even at the present time—just four weeks into the invasion of Ukraine—the “economic impact of the war is significant” (Bruce Bullock, Director of Cox Maguire Energy Institute, Southern Methodist University, 3 March 22). For the US, there are immediate effects (price-gouging?)  But, matters are so much worse for Ukraine. It previously sent to the US 60% of its base metals and 12% of its agricultural exports (Camila Montoya-Gallez, “Three Million in Exodus,” CBS, 18 Mar 22).  The war has interrupted many of those economic exchanges.

Other countries may absorb those cuts, but that takes time. Meanwhile, the war against civilians—children and hospitals being bombed—continues. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy (whom Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorne has called a “thug”) addressed the US Congress. Zelenskyy begged our representatives to do more, stressing it is now “time to talk.” Indeed, so it is. How? We need a major US-instigated, dramatic break-through. My proposals? 

The US must call for a cease-fire and the beginning of major talks among all three major parties. It must, many observers believe, announce unilateral, major steps. President Biden should take a page from President Kennedy’s policies dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962-64), when he halted US stealth (U2) flights over Soviet soil and withdrew US missiles from Turkish bases. The US must be realistic and accept the current status of Crimea.

At an international conference, monitored by the United Nations, Ukraine, the US and Russia must sit down and hammer out major agreements—such as guarantees of Ukraine sovereignty; its integrity (no division); its ability to become more Europeanized. (An additional dilemma: a majority of Ukrainians want closer ties with the European Union; many more, since the invasion.) 

There should be agreement stipulating: “No attempt to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).” In other words—major concessions on both sides. The US must recognize Russia’s legitimate, long-time geo-political interests in the region—a new look at an old concept— “Real-Politique.” I taught that concept, relying on the master, Hans Morgenthau, as propounded in his famous book, The Balance of Power.

The case was presented powerfully by Dr. John J. Mearsheimeier, University of Chicago (Uncommon Cause Conference, R. Wendell Harrison Lecture Series, 4 June 15). He noted the badly divided Ukraine: eastern Ukraine, tending toward the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), western Ukraine, favoring the European Union—but neither wanting the country to split into two parts.

For now, Professor Mearsheimeier believes the US should encourage a neutral Ukraine. It should recognize the US and other Western countries have, for too long, had a heavy hand in provoking Russia. Since the Clinton administration, the US has threatened to take NATO to the very borders of Russia. Each nation must try to see an opponent’s vital interests and points of view. The good professor argues that Ukraine is not vital to our national interests. I repeat, in addition, that President Biden is correct in his attempt to keep us out of direct war, to protect us from nuclear threat.

Meanwhile, what we must NOT do is re-elect war-mongers, nor those who cozy up to dictators. Donald Trump once described Putin as “savvy” and as a “genius”  (Warren Rojas,, Business Insider, 19 Mar 22). Should he, who withheld aid from Ukraine, be allowed back in office? Should he, who openly admires Putin and other dictators, become a major party’s candidate? It seems, for MAGA fanatics, to criticize Putin is verboten. Do they represent the party now? 

Thankfully, only a few Republican leaders are those rabid, pro-Putin types. Surely, not all Republicans can be? I feel for my Republican friends, in their dilemma. They are, mostly, good Americans, and, like most of us, suspicious of Russia. But, lest we forget, their “mainline” Congresspersons were culpable, very quiet during Trump’s first impeachment trial. They ignored the fact he withheld aid to Ukraine, attempted military and economic blackmail, in a vain attempt to obtain damaging information against his opponent, now, President Biden. So, no, we don’t need more disinformation, more hero worship, more jingoistic rhetoric, no more candidates who fail to recognize the rightful outcome of a democratic election.

So, when voting, remember “elections have consequences.” Those consequences could be war, even possible nuclear war. Think historically, logically, spiritually—as Tolstoy did, on behalf of Russia. This time, on behalf of the United States—of the world—vote carefully, as if your life depended upon it. Then, one of your current dilemmas may be resolved. Then, once a majority so decides, democracy governs, and the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas remains safe.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by UT-Rio Grande Valley Professor Emeritus Dr. Gary Joe Mounce. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Mounce can be reached by email via [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows the Iwo Jima monument in Harlingen, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). An explanation as to why it is being used here. Dr. Mounce suggested a photo of the war from Ukraine. However, almost all such photos are copyright. Even photos of Presidents Biden and Zelensky together are copyright. As of this year, we have a policy of only using original photos or those we are granted access to, such as those on Wikipedia. When Dr. Mounce was told we cannot use Ukraine war photos he suggested the Iwo Jima image. Why? Because, he said, the monument says, “Lest we forget.” We agreed.

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