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The Americans itching for war
Escalation and the broader conflict
America’s return to “normalcy.”
The foreign policy experts promised us that President Biden would restore our standing in the world and “stand up to tyranny.” Retired Admiral William McRaven said Biden would make America lead again. They were wrong, of course. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster. The reliance on intelligence and security from the Taliban got Americans killed.
If they were right about anything, it was about the return to American “normalcy.” This was one of our biggest concerns with Biden. Normalcy in the U.S. is incompetence. It got us the war in Iraq and a ~20 year war in Afghanistan. It gave us Libya and the emergency of ISIS.
This same class of experts – the ones who were wrong on Biden, wrong on Iraq and Afghanistan – are now salivating at the prospects of war with Russia. And they’re doing so by misrepresenting the purpose and risk of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the mental health of Vladimir Putin.
Liz Cheney goes so far as to make this a moral issue, stating “Isolationism has always and will always be wrong.” If isolationism is “always” wrong, then is intervention always right? Follow her twisted worldview to its logical conclusions and you find the answer.
There is no doubt that America would be better off not taking moral lessons from a Cheney. While she doesn’t tell us the standard of this moral judgment, it is no doubt based on the flawed assumption that America’s use of force to advance its own interests is morally right. To that I say: bullshit. Rightness isn’t judged by the identity of the actor.
Our criticisms of the West must be addressed before we continue. We are principled anti-war, although we acknowledge the limited necessity of war. In short, we believe in the principles of Just War (but not the secular revisions of that theory). This means we acknowledge the necessity of wars of defense and reject wars conducted for ambiguous notions of “national interest” or “pre-emption” or conflicts to “reorder the international system.”
This puts us in the position of condemning both Russia’s war of national interest in Ukraine and America’s war of national interest in Iraq. In contrast, while neo-conservatives like Liz Cheney condemn Russia’s war Ukraine, they agree with the principles underlying Russia’s use of force.
Crazy Putin, Nuclear Weapons, and the Calls for Escalation.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls Putin’s behavior “erratic,” his views “delusional.” James Clapper says Putin is “unhinged.” Clapper suggests the possibility that Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Fiona Hill, the Regime’s favorite “Russia expert,” believes “Putin is increasingly operating emotionally and likely to use all the weapons at his disposal, including nuclear ones.”
There’s a couple goals in questioning Putin’s state of mind. First, it serves to defend America from criticisms that potential NATO expansion and continued American meddling in Ukraine helped spark this conflict. (“Blame the crazy man, not us.”)
Second, it justifies the escalation of the West’s involvement in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Talks about the potential for the use of nuclear weapons - “the crazy man in has nukes!” - only make intervention more compelling (though that doesn’t guarantee Biden would take the bait). Already U.S. Senators are calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Escalation leads to dangerous questions and unknown answers, such as what happens when the U.S. and Russia are in direct conflict.
Absent from the media’s coverage is push-back on these statements about Putin’s state of mind or the potential use of nuclear weapons. Skepticism is dead. Putin the Madman is the new talking point, the elite opinion that is approved for the masses. There’s little basis for this – certainly not in Putin’s February 24, 2022 speech where he calmly outlines Russia’s grievances and concerns, and their plans for Ukraine.
In fact, while Fiona Hill questions Putin’s mental state, she admits they assessed years ago that there was “a real, genuine risk of preemptive Russian military action” against Ukraine in response to NATO’s Open Door promise to welcome any European democracy (including Ukraine). Such predictions don’t square with craziness.
Hill and Clapper’s inflammatory statements about the potential for Russia to use nuclear weapons makes zero sense in context of the conflict in Ukraine and Putin’s demands. Putin is winning the war. At the time I’m writing this, Russia is surrounding major Ukrainian cities and the Russian convoy headed to Kyiv is estimated to be 40 miles long.
The great length of the convoy reflects the fact that Russia owns the air. While there is some brave Ukrainian resistance, it won’t stop the encirclement of Kyiv or other major cities. The New York Times further explains:
Analysts say they expect Russian forces to work to expand their hold on the pro-Russia, separatist enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and to capture a land bridge to Crimea in the south, while pushing troops down from the north to try to encircle the main Ukrainian Army east of the Dnieper River. They are trying to surround Mariupol and take Kharkiv.
That encirclement would cut off the bulk of Ukraine’s forces from Kyiv and from easy resupply, the experts say, limiting the sustainability of organized resistance. Russian troops are also moving steadily toward Kyiv from three axes to try to surround it.
Then we get to the foolishness of escalation in light of Putin’s stated goals of the invasion. Assuming the latest reports are accurate, the purpose of this war isn’t to seize and occupy the whole of Ukraine into perpetuity. Putin isn’t demanding Ukraine be brought into Russia. Instead, Putin’s demands include:
The disarmament of Ukraine.
The neutrality of Ukraine (no NATO membership).
The formal recognition of Crimea as Russian.
If those are the terms, then how much escalation is necessary? How much is justified?
Dare I got out on a ledge and say the U.S. does not have Ukraine’s best interests in mind. (The U.S. initially opposed the settlement talks.) More Ukrainians die as the war drags on.
But cynics and realists in the U.S. government must be considering that a longer war puts economic and thus political pressure on Putin. How many other peoples’ lives would the U.S. government be willing to sacrifice if Putin could be unseated? Not that sanctions will do the trick. For the Russian oligarchs, sanctions are the cost of doing business.
On that point of Ukrainian interests, we already know that the goal of some – including Adam Schiff – is to “fight Russia over there.”
Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, they’re the ones doing the fighting. Proxy battles never end well for the proxy.