fbpx

“Every Hour Counts:” Bernard-Henri Lévy Sounds the Alarm for “Total Victory” in Ukraine

The overriding message of his new film, “Slava Ukraini,” is that the civilized world cannot afford anything less than “total victory” for Ukraine, lest it puts us at risk of another world war.
[additional-authors]
April 27, 2023

It’s unusual to hear a philosopher utter sentiments that have no ambiguity. Philosophers live in the grey, not the black and white.

And yet, author, journalist, filmmaker and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wants the world to know that there is no grey in the War in Ukraine. There is a clear Russian aggressor and a clear Ukrainian victim and resistant, and the stakes are enormous. He believes in this enough that he has just released his second film on the war, “Slava Ukraini,” which premieres in L.A. Sat. night, May 6 at the Landmark in Westwood.

“When I made films in other war zones,” he told me over a Zoom interview conducted in French, “I would often hear opposing views. Not with this war.”

This hard-nosed mix of clarity and urgency informs his views on this conflict. The overriding message of his film is that the civilized world cannot afford anything less than “total victory” for Ukraine, lest it puts us at risk of another world war. He’s not concerned about helping Russian leader Vladimir Putin “save face” to help facilitate a resolution. The first priority for the West is to demonstrate to other dictators that such naked aggression against a sovereign state cannot stand.

He thinks the West was caught napping with nostalgic “pacifism,” as if the horrific days of the World Wars of the 20th century were behind us and we had entered a new era that has no place for such barbarism. In this sense, he sees Russia’s invasion as a stunning wake-up call to the Western world.

While he’s grateful for the concerted response of the United States and Europe in support of Ukraine, he’s also concerned that the aid is far from sufficient to achieve victory, and that a certain war fatigue may have creeped in, both in the United States and Europe.

He’s hoping that his latest film will counter this complacency, and, if necessary, he says “I’ll make a third one.” With the war at a critical stage amid talks of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, the key message he wanted to impress on me was that “every hour counts.”

A crucial statement of his film is that virtually every time the Ukrainian troops have entered a battle with sufficient weapons, they have prevailed. He is convinced that this will be true as well in the decisive next phase of the war. For that reason alone, he says, Western nations must urgently double down on their military aid.

He acknowledged in our conversation that major countries like China, India, Brazil, Iran and many Third World nations have not followed the lead of the United States and Europe in supporting Ukraine and opposing Russia. Among the reasons, he cites a predisposition among many non-Western countries to go against the West, which has blinded them to the global repercussions of the war.

Regarding recent reports that China might use its influence with Russia to help broker a resolution, he sees neither hope nor merit. The only solution to a total war, he says, is “total capitulation” of the aggressor.

Because I was in conversation with a philosopher, I took the opportunity to reflect on the whole notion of how one human being (Putin) could have such power to wreak such human devastation and despair.

“It’s not just one man,” he told me. “It’s an ideology, and ideology blinds.”

“It’s not just one man,” he told me. “It’s an ideology, and ideology blinds.”

Included in this ideology, he explained, is a dogmatic and ancient belief that Ukraine is part of Russia and has no business being a sovereign state. He drew my attention to a confidant of Putin’s, Aleksandr Dugin, whom Levy debated in 2019. In the debate, Dugin makes clear the sense of ownership Russia feels over Ukraine, calling Ukrainians “pure Russians” and saying that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in Southern Ukraine was not enough.

This kind of blinding ideology, he told me, does not lend itself to compromise. His film is his attempt to bring that hard realism to the world.

It struck me after our call that conversing with Bernard-Henri Lévy is like speaking with several people at once. I didn’t ask him this, but his life journey suggests a man who has little tolerance for the limits of singular career choices. He’s a philosopher who also enters war zones. He’s a scholar who’s also a filmmaker. He’s a journalist who’s also an activist.

It seems that even in Bernard-Henri Lévy’s life, every hour counts.

There will be a special screening of “Slava Ukraini” and Q&A with Bernard-Henri Lévy on Sat. May 6 at 7PM at the Landmark in Westwood. To purchase tickets, visit http://bit.ly/slava-ukraini-LA

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

A Walk to Tel Aviv

May we have the awareness to notice and give thanks for the blessings already here. May we have the resilience to trust that better days will come again.

The Real Danger of AI

If you can’t tell the difference between authentic, profound human expression and machine-produced writing, then the fault lies not in the machine but in us.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.