Does Ukraine have a chance?
“What will you do without your freedom? Will you fight?”
The Ukrainian Freedom Fighters are winning global praise for their determined resistance to the Russian invaders. But the Ukrainians face overwhelming odds. Putin’s war machine has a seemingly invincible superiority in both manpower and firepower. Will the Russian Goliath inevitably crush the Ukrainian David?
Sebastian Junger is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. In a recent essay, Junger points out that history contains many examples of underdog people who successfully defied the odds by defeating seemingly superior foes. For example, the Scottish rebels held back the English monarchs and the American colonists defeated the British Redcoats.
Junger argues that successful underdogs possess three key characteristics. First and foremost, they have a “clear moral purpose” anchored in a desire to defend their freedom against outside tyrants. In the movie “Braveheart,” William Wallace delivers a stirring speech in which he asks the outnumbered Scottish rebels, “What will you do without your freedom? Will you fight?” Like other Freedom Fighters throughout history, the Scots do defend their freedom. Junger points out that the Ukrainian resistance “makes sacrificing one’s life a heroic thing to do – a sentiment probably not shared by most Russian troops.”
Successful underdogs also require fearless leaders like William Wallace and George Washington. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s courage and conviction have made him the face of Ukrainian resistance. His refusal to flee his embattled capital has earned the respect of Ukrainians and people throughout the world. In contrast, Putin is a tyrant who remains isolated inside the Kremlin.
Women are the surprising and vital final component of underdog groups. Junger argues that “Women impart a kind of moral legitimacy to protests.” For example, America’s revolutionary “patriots in petticoats” led successful boycotts of British goods, raised desperately needed funds, and distributed clothing to Washington’s Continental Army. In Ukraine, young women are helping to fortify Kyiv while older women in other cities are boldly haranguing Russian troops.
Putin has underestimated the Ukrainian forces arrayed against him. History shows that moral purpose, inspired leaders, and the active involvement of women can enable outnumbered Davids to defeat tyrannical Goliaths.
Author · Instructor