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Americans for War
Is the Ukraine/Russia conflict a US foreign policy goal?
Dare I say a dangerous truth, but there are politicians and analysts and journalists who want Russia to invade Ukraine.
Not because these folks are “Putin apologists,” to quote a popular insult they use against the anti-war crowd. But because they see Russian actions as a pretext for U.S. intervention and perpetual U.S. presence in Ukraine, if not elsewhere. (Poke the bear and you’re the antagonist. Get attacked by the bear and you’re the victim.)
How can Russian aggression best be used? For some, it is the justification for more troops and more weapons in Eastern Europe. NATO sees the opportunity to “reinforce its troop presence in the Black Sea and the Baltics.”
Here in the States, former Obama Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas advocates “U.S. leaders should be marshalling an international coalition of the willing, readying military forces to deter Putin and, if necessary, prepare for war.” Others argue for an aggressive military response or suggest the option of “U.S. boots on the ground.” Max Boot, a delusional journalist with a large platform, a silly fedora, and an appetite for war, promotes an urgent airlift of U.S. weapons systems to Ukraine. Boot goes so far as to issue a silly warning that Putin is attempting to resurrect the “evil empire.” If Boot believes these words, then he will eventually advocate the most extreme measures to counter Russia. Dangerous rhetoric indeed.
If recent history is any indication, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy certainly sees the current crisis, if you can call it that, as an opportunity. Last June, he tweeted “NATO leaders confirmed that Ukraine” will become a member of the Alliance.” This announcement came days before Biden’s scheduled meeting with President Vladimir Putin. In other words, it was planned. And while Biden’s response last summer was ambivalent on Ukraine joining NATO, more recently he assured Zelenskiy that “Kyiv’s bid to join the NATO military alliance was in its own hands.” This comment came after Putin’s warning that Ukraine’s admission to NATO is a “red line” for Moscow.
Maybe the questions should have been how this crisis, the conclusion of which is unknown, could have been prevented. According to professor Stephen Walt, if the West had not “succumbed to hubris” and kept the promise to not include Ukraine in NATO, “Russia would probably never have seized Crimea.” Maybe it was hubris. Or maybe the U.S. anticipated Russia’s response and saw it as an opportunity to expand American influence?
On that question of influence, and as to Russian concerns about NATO, watch this essential explanation by the late Stephen Cohen:
While those supporting NATO expansion argue it is a defensive alliance, how is Moscow to react if those defensive weapons – with devastating offensive capabilities – are at its border and can strike targets within Russia in a matter of minutes?
Is there any doubt that the U.S. would not tolerate Russian missiles at its border?
These are issues that nations are entitled to answer, no matter if they are democratic or otherwise. (By no means does this ever condone wrongful conduct.) But you can’t observe such things in current America, dare you be accused of moral equivalence – or worse. Tucker Carlson makes these arguments and is branded a traitor by the media. Democrat operatives (with Ukrainian interests) demand he be prosecuted for treason for the crime of questioning our leaders. Even at National Review, a “conservative” publication, we see disgusting charges that “many of America’s most famous ‘nationalists’ don’t seem to be bothered by imperialism, so long as the imperialists speak Russian.” The standard attacks against those who dare challenge U.S. foreign policy orthodoxy.
Let us assume that Russia believes Ukraine will eventually join NATO, or at minimum assesses there is a likelihood it occurs. From the Russian point of view, their response – the seizure of Crimea, the current build-up of forces at the Russia-Ukraine border – is defensive in nature. (Not that it justifies conduct.) There is some irony that Russia is now applying neo-conservative principles of preemptive warfare and use of force to maintain its own national security interests.1 The further irony is that the neo-conservatives now decry such actions.
Allegations of False Flags
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby alleges “Russia is already working actively to create a pretext for a potential invasion, for a move on Ukraine.” He claims they are planning “a false flag operation — an operation designed to look like an attack on … Russian speaking people in Ukraine, again, as an excuse to go in.”
Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. The United States knows something about false flag operations, does it not?
War hawks within the Trump Administration took advantage of a likely false flag operation in Syria to justify intervention. As reported by Aaron Mate, “A series of leaked documents from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) raise the possibility that the Trump administration bombed Syria on false grounds and pressured officials at the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog to cover it up.”
And how are we to assess the Pentagon’s claims about Russia, considering its recent blunders and history of outright lies to Americans?
The events of this past summer do not inspire confidence. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified there was no intelligence suggesting the quick collapse of the Afghan government to the Taliban. Reporting from the New York Times disputed that testimony, citing classified intelligence assessments predicting a “Taliban takeover of Afghanistan” and warning of “the rapid collapse of the Afghan military.”
Ask yourself who is telling the truth, and you end up making a decision on which liar is to be believed. I’m not sure which is worse – General Milley lying, or the American intelligence community making such a catastrophic mistake. It’s a choice between personal failure and institutional failure.
Or consider the American drone strike killed 10 innocent civilians in Kabul. Deaths to be blamed on intelligence reliance on bad sources (which might have been the Taliban) and bad information resulted in no punishment.
Undoubtedly, the worst of it was the thousands of American lives lost in the war in Afghanistan. Young men and women volunteered to fight what our officials promised was a just and necessary war, a war we were allegedly winning. In reality, these U.S. officials were “making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”
To quote three-star Army General Douglas Lute:
“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”
The consequences of the lies and incompetence are still felt today. As the Russia-Ukraine crisis heats up, we have no idea whether American leadership is telling the truth.
“Neoconservatives argued that the United States should use its military power to reorder the international system to suit America’s own national interests, and as Halper and Clarke have argued, ‘from its early beginnings, a proclivity toward the use of force has been an identifying badge of the neo-conservative ideology.’” The Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War at 199.