The United States is now overwhelmed with propaganda pushing for Americans to “stand with Ukraine” in its war with Russia. It is not enough to wish the people of Ukraine well. The media, Big Tech, and both political parties have made being a partisan of Ukraine some kind of moral duty. Those refusing to get swept up in anti-Russian hysteria can expect to be condemned as traitors and agents of Vladimir Putin.
Contrary to the claims of self-righteous talking heads and keyboard warriors, it isn’t “treason” to question how supporting a foreign nation at war with a nuclear state serves America’s interests. Without robust debate, sound policymaking on such a vital matter is impossible.
What is Washington hoping to accomplish in Ukraine? Whatever it is, the Biden Administration is prepared to do everything short of inciting World War III to make it happen.
In addition to waging scorched-earth economic war, Washington is sending billions of dollars’ worth of heavy armaments into Ukraine. While this policy is being called moderate and restrained, or even “weak” by many chickenhawk Republicans, these are escalatory steps that promise to draw out and inflame the conflict, not resolve it.
The usual suspects reassure us that victory is just around the corner. But if Western pressure fails to subdue or, as neoconservatives covet, overthrow Putin (neither scenario seems likely), we could be looking at years and years of bloody insurgency. Indeed, Washington is already treating a long-term insurrection with U.S. backing as unavoidable. (Ironically, the United States is arming future neo-Nazi insurrectionists.) According to the Washington Post, officials see “no off-ramps” in Ukraine.
Is that supposed to be reassuring?
The overtly pro-Ukrainian bias in Western media has made honest, serious coverage difficult to find. Instead, we are left with a spurious narrative of inevitable Ukrainian victory that has blinded many in the West to the risks of continued escalation. The trajectory we are on is not sustainable. Russia has nuclear weapons. The conflict, and Biden’s misguided sanctions, are threatening global food and energy supplies.
To avoid getting locked in a dangerous cycle, our leaders will have to grow up and expand their thinking beyond “Putin is Hitler” platitudes. Diplomacy will require, yes, “appeasing” Putin a little and recognizing that he has rational strategic interests. The West is quick to dismiss Russian grievances with NATO expansion as nothing but a pretext for imperial ambition, but the West has made no serious effort—despite repeated warnings—to restrain its own imperial ambitions in Putin’s backyard. It doesn’t take a “Putin apologist” to understand that Western meddling in Ukraine has been needlessly provocative, and that it poses an obvious, logical threat to Russian security.
But narcissistic and unserious Western leaders have retreated into delusional self-flattery. Unable to believe or respect that Russia has its own interests, they have told themselves a story that Putin is “crazy” and, having attacked Ukraine for no apparent reason and without assessing the risks of an invasion beforehand, he is now facing imminent demise. But as newly emboldened neoconservatives trumpet Putin’s downfall, sanctions appear to be strengthening his support at home, not sapping it.
Meanwhile, the United States is staking its financial dominance over a country that has no vital U.S. interest and, in the process, pushing its two greatest competitors, Russia and China, closer together. Biden has been left begging foreign dictators for oil. Saudi Arabia won’t even pick up the phone. Who’s the crazy one, again?
The “Putin is crazy” narrative is a childish excuse to hold Putin entirely responsible for a war the West had a significant role in provoking, and must play a role in bringing to an end. Diplomacy is impossible if simplistic, absolutist moral narratives dictate policy. Ukraine is not a vital interest of the United States, but policy is being driven by emotion rather than what is rational and in the national interest.
While warmongers in Washington distract our attention, America continues to fall apart. The immigration problem that has plagued our nation for decades has never been worse. As the United States devolves into something resembling a Third World country, Americans have been asked—or, really, told—to stomach the highest gasoline prices of their lives for the sake of Ukraine. How long can we expect to pay this price? Would it kill us to worry about our own country for once?
Biden has done an awful lot of bragging about how poor and miserable he is making the Russian people, but it isn’t clear what his policy is accomplishing for the United States. It is also unclear how it will help the Ukrainians. It seems Washington is content to let Ukraine be razed if it means wearing down Russia in a nasty and protracted guerilla war. For “democracy,” of course.
The Ukrainians will have to decide what terms they find reasonable, but they have at least gestured at compromise with Moscow on its security concerns. To hear it from Biden, the West has exhausted its options for diplomacy. Yet, he calls Putin a “war criminal” and pledges to keep sending millions of dollars in arms to the Ukrainians. Washington has no interest in peace, only escalation and war.
After 9/11, Americans were the most united they had been in years. That goodwill was exploited in two catastrophic wars that deeply damaged the country, shredded civil liberties, and damaged U.S. credibility around the world. The very same neoconservatives who engineered those conflicts are now thumping their chests in vindication over the war in Ukraine. If history is any guide, we will look back at this moment with regret once the passion of the hour has passed.