Surely I’d be wiser to give up having any opinion about “world affairs.” It is one of my bad habits, acquired, as I remember, about the age of five; but becoming seriously debilitating later, about age eleven, when I acquired my first paper route. You see, by this time, I was actually reading the newspaper; my nose was inserted, straight in. It was, I suspect, an infection carried on the newsprint (rather like the addictive substances the capitalists put in junk food), and that is also transmissible through electronic hyperspace. The cure, as for everything, is genuine religion. But I’ve seldom seen a cure effected all at once, though I see hints of it in William James (see, The Varieties of Religious Experience).

And so, pending my cure, I will present my views on international political provocation. Professor John Mearsheimer holds the floor at the moment, with a theory I shall oversimplify by saying that he thinks the United States is responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for having provoked not only Vladimir Putin but all Russia by persistent interference in Ukrainian affairs.

My own view is a variant of this. I hold that Mr Putin must be an agent of the CIA (perhaps recruited by Donald Trump), because everything he does seems to advance American interests. Mr Putin’s invasiveness also assures Ukraine of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and probably Georgia, too; as well as Finland, Sweden, &c.

Compare, if you will, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, which was a plausible cause of the Second World War, in the Pacific. Prof Meersheimer hasn’t actually argued that the Americans were responsible for that, but I’m willing to present Japanese friends who could list the many previous American provocations. The American (and British, and Dutch) oil embargoes on Japan were an obvious cause, though technically these were a response to previous Japanese provocations (in Manchuria, &c).

We all remember (at least us aged folk) the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, against the United States. It led inevitably to World War Three, and the American conquest of the entire Middle East. Or rather, it didn’t.

Provocations of this sort are generally accepted as casus belli, and in a fine intellectual debate, we can stay up all night suggesting provocations that were earlier, and earlier.

But again, genuine religion is the only cure. Given choice between “turning the other cheek,” and murdering someone who has annoyed you, the preferential option is usually the former.