As American public support for the war in Ukraine begins to plummet, there is an organized effort rising to head off that opposition. The bipartisan insiders who support sending further aid and weaponry to Ukraine know they do not have any full-fledged opponents to their efforts, even as we ignore both the depletion of our current stocks and the enormous cost that is being passed on to American citizens—all without a real endgame.
Nevertheless, as Americans are distracted from fighting in the Donbas by security breaches at home, environmental accidents, and economic malaise, the war hawks are doing all they can to prevent any obstruction to the flow of war aid. One such example comes via Daniel Fata, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO under President George W. Bush and was published (naturally) at the marginal NeverTrump site funded by leftist billionaires, the Bulwark.
Fata’s article focuses on “Five Ways to Help Ukraine Win,” and couches those ideas as needing action before Joe Biden outlines “clear goals” for U.S. support to Ukraine. What he does not address are some pesky questions like “how many lives will this cost?” “can the United States and NATO continue to bear the economic burden of arming them?” and “at what point will Russia consider the United States to be a full belligerent to the conflict?” Fata’s suggestions represent a sales pitch for a risky investment with a hefty deposit. Let’s consider each of them alongside the practical objections and costs:
- “Commit to a robust troop presence on the Eastern Flank [of NATO] for an indefinite period once the fighting ends.”
Fata later calls Russia’s western border with Europe the “Eastern Front,” signifying that he sees a permanent state of war developing. One problem with this is that our ability to maintain even the current troop presence is jeopardized by a widely reported recruitment crisis. This also neglects to account for another potential warzone for U.S. troops if China decides to invade Taiwan as many are predicting in the near future. Also, to many readers the proposition that the United States is duty-bound to secure the “eastern flank” of any foreign country before its own southern border is sure to lead to more groans of derision.
- “Provide even more heavy weapons to Ukraine.”
Of course this takes for granted that a) such weapons are in stock and disposed for shipment and b) that the Ukrainians would be capable of training to use sophisticated technologies like the Army Tactical Missle System (ATACMS®) that Fata includes on his wish list.
- “Put U.S. trainers in Ukraine.”
The natural questions are how could their safety be guaranteed when the country is under constant Russian missile bombardment? And, would this be deemed a U.S. escalation of tensions? Fata’s answer is that Russia would not dare target U.S. trainers and risk a NATO intervention, but this is an unnecessary chicken-and-egg argument. As the United States is already gifting billions upon billions in military and financial aid to Ukraine and providing targeting guidance to the Ukrainian High Mobility Artillerty Rocket System (HIMARS®) artillery crews, the addition of training personnel would merely be one more overt intervention in the conflict without any explanation of how it would lead to a faster and more favorable resolution.
- “Spend every dollar of appropriated security assistance to backfill allies.”
This is a solution to a problem we would not even have had we not, in the first place, over-committed U.S. resources to supplying Ukraine. Here Fata lets the mask slip for a moment: “We would also strengthen our own defense industrial base, which the war in Ukraine has shown to be in serious need of recapitalization and expansion not only to support Ukraine, but to deter other potential adversaries.” The best way to conceal shameless war profiteering is to label it a necessity.
- “Commit $100 billion of reconstruction assistance to Ukraine.”
This is a rather conservative figure, as in April 2022, when the war was only two months old, former National Security Council “whistleblower” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key figure in the first impeachment effort, predicted that it would take roughly $750 billion to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction. While that sum was not being floated as an exclusively American obligation, the implication was clear: America would shoulder the largest portion of that burden.
Now, after 10 additional months of warfare, is it not more likely that the bill will exceed $1 trillion? According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the United States already allocated $113 billion to Ukraine in 2022, and the number goes up with dizzying regularity as Biden keeps topping off Ukraine with new aid packages, such as the $2 billion announced on February 24.
Completing the metamorphosis
For the uninitiated reader, these types of “five suggestions” articles are the bread and butter of Bulwark writers, who are nothing more than faux professional political consultant cast-offs. They left the Republican Party beginning in 2016, because they objected to the ascendency in the party of people who do not believe that conservatism should be defined by how many federal contracts can be rounded up to keep Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman in business. The Bulwark‘s editorial staff as a whole only has one veteran in its ranks, former Navy officer Theodore Johnson, and his public resumé only lists appointments to the Naval War College, as a speechwriter for the joint chiefs of staff, and a White House fellowship.
What is all the more astounding is how these articles can even be perceived as persuasive as they go unanswered by the Left. These are the types of characters that then-humourist Al Franken caricatured in 1996 when he imagined Republican politicians of that era engaged in combat rather than guilting President Clinton for dodging the draft. He wrote a chapter in his book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot called “Operation Chicken Hawk (video)” in which he satirically imagines Newt Gingrich, Dan Quayle, George Will, and Pat Buchanan serving under Lt. Col. Oliver North in Vietnam.
A modern day version of this could be perfectly recast with modern warmonger neo-conservatives with Alexander Vindman playing the role of North and any of the writers at the Bulwark replacing Gingrich, Quayle, and Buchanan. But this wouldn’t happen because the adventurist pro-war stance once seen as bullheaded and jingoistic when it was marketed as “conservatism” is now presented as “defending democracy” because populist Republicans have moved away from it and Democrats, once again, have found a use for it.
Aggravating the situation is the fact that although the traditional establishment pro-war wing of the GOP has seen some major setbacks since the 2016 humiliation of standard-bearers like Jeb Bush, many of them remain in key positions which are not easily vacated, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who are both next due for reelection in 2026 or Representatives Michael McCaul and Dan Crenshaw of Texas. They remain vocal cheerleaders for continuing to ramp up the war in Ukraine, with Crenshaw even accusing colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of angling for the role of Russian propagandist after voting against more military aid in May 2022.
McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee even went so far as to lament that Biden was not dispatching F-16s to Ukraine. The result is that there is a new partisan divide over Ukraine aid: “no” (the rare Republican in touch with the base), “yes” (Democrats) and “may I have some more, please” (most Republicans).
This is Not the Kent State Era
Antiwar sentiment is alive and well in the United States, but it is largely dormant and leaderless. It’s a mood, not a movement. In public opinion polls support is steadily fading for the war, with a plurality (40 percent) of Republican voters saying the United States is helping Ukraine “too much” and a growing minority of Democrats (15 percent) agreeing according to Pew Research. On February 19 antiwar protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial before the reflecting pool and attempted to show that a broad swathe of the American public across political divisions was opposed to continued or increasing involvement in Ukraine. The rally attendance, however, was underwhelming, with only former U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Dennis Kucinich (R-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Ky.) speaking before the crowd.
Sitting members of Congress who are or formerly were consistently antiwar voices like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) or Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) did not make the short walk over to the rally, perhaps reluctant to be pictured with the small cohort among the demonstrators waving Russian and Soviet flags, sporting the pro-Russian “Z” prominently on their clothing, or belonging to eccentric political groups like the LaRouche movement. The presence of these few oddball supporters does undermine the credibility of the demonstration, of course, since every correct political opinion is bound to have people agree with it for the wrong reasons.
Most war opponents are inclined to remain quiet, in my opinion, because of two factors: first, they have become disillusioned with politicians who decline to be responsive to this kind of pressure, and second, because of what I term the “Fruitcake Theory.” This is when a negative reaction from normies to radical heterodox groups scares them away for fear of being associated with them. The result is that the rally only attracts people with very pronounced political and activistic tendencies, and since they come from a hodgepodge of misfit beliefs and ideologies, they don’t present a cohesive message but instead constitute together a confused, mismatched, monstrosity—like an odd-tasting fruitcake. As an addendum to this, we can also throw a fear of getting mislabeled as a Kremlin propagandist.
Another major obstacle for a true anti-war movement is the waning in social acceptability of the theme in popular American culture since Vietnam. There are several reasons for this. As GIs were first being shipped to Vietnam in 1965 there was still a draft and college enrollment had mushroomed to 5.9 million compared to 2.6 million only a decade before. Many young people, even if they had an exemption, at least knew someone who had been drafted. Others who did not have an exemption burned their draft cards, fled to Canada or overseas, or attempted to evade the draft by other means. The major musicians and filmmakers of the era turned against the war. But in 2023 the cultural element of the peace movement is just not there in the same way. The entertainment industry has been co-opted in order to support financing and supplying Ukraine by such overt tactics as inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak via video link at Hollywood awards shows. Moreover, casualty figures on the Ukrainian side are never disclosed, concealing the human cost of the war, while also seldom mentioning the American volunteer fighters in Ukraine who have died, like U.S. Army veteran Andrew Peters, who was killed on February 16 in combat.
A deficient peace movement is better than none at all, however, and rally organizers like Jimmy Dore didn’t have the luxury of approving who could attend based on ideological purity. Nevertheless, given the political realities, a different approach may be necessary going forward as today’s antiwar movement considers the detached and passive attitude of the American public. It may be disheartening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.