The march to war with Russia is a retreat from decency and a rush to destruction. The march, all drums and no fifes, is no ordinary call-and-response, because no response is possible in a march to the death; because no president has the right to speed up the march to a war that cannot be won and must never be fought. But Joe Biden speaks like no other president regarding Russia, personalizing the political and insulting the president of Russia: isolating Vladimir Putin, or insisting that we can and should isolate him, as we decimate Russia’s economy for the sake of Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s honor.
Unless Biden halts the march and silences himself, signaling an end to acts of affectation and affection, unless he no longer wraps himself in sanctimony or wears the blue and yellow, unless he urges his supporters to do likewise and leave their Ukrainian ribbons and pins at home, such flag-waving will remain a rite of the red carpet and ceremony—including the ceremonial moment of silence among the rich and famous. It will continue, unbroken even by Will Smith’s violence and heckling.
Unless Biden starts speaking to himself in private, not because he hears voices but because he voices opinions best spoken in private, unless he stops treating his stammer by speaking in public, his words serve no purpose except to antagonize Putin and accelerate the path to war; for what Biden says about Putin is what a president says about an enemy he knows he can defeat, or what a prime minister says about an enemy he knows he must defeat if the life of the world is to survive. Putin is not that enemy.
Putin’s record of violence is as vast as his monopoly on violence, with the latter numbering 5,977 nuclear warheads, of which 1,500 are on missile and bomber bases or on submarines at sea. None of which seems to deter Biden from practicing rhetorical brinkmanship, as he speaks loudly and unintelligently about a crisis; as he speaks without the coolness of John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis on October 22, 1962; as he speaks without the candor to threaten war to end war, like Richard Nixon during the Yom Kippur War, on October 14, 1973; as he speaks without the credibility to demand peace, like Ronald Reagan during the Cold War, on October 12, 1986.
As for the president of “marches,” whose country is a borderland in the bloodlands of old and a land alive with memories of the dead, stretching from the mass graves of the Holodomor to the killing fields of the Holocaust to the battlefields of Horlivka, the less Zelenskyy says about the past, the less he detracts from the present danger.
The less Zelenskyy says and the less his allies say about him, for they say he is the Winston Churchill of our time, the better we can understand how hard it is to believe what he says.
To be clear, Zelenskyy’s contempt for Putin is just. But contempt is not a license to contaminate history, to minimize and revise the worst crimes in history, and say Putin must face justice similar to the greatest trial of the last century: that Putin deserves the judgment of Nuremberg; that the meaning between then and now is the same; that Putin’s blockade of Mariupol is the same as the blockade—the siege—of Leningrad; that Putin’s solution to the “Ukrainian issue” is the same as the Final Solution.
Zelenskyy is right to rage against the cruelty of geography and the caprice of fate, for he lives in the shadow of Moscow’s influence and the darkness of Russia’s sphere of interest. He is wrong, however, to mislead the world and have Joe Biden lead America into a third world war.
Though we have the might to meet force with force, Zelenskyy’s fight is not our own.
We have no land to conquer and no victory to attain.