Ukraine War Hawks’ Policy Proposals Don’t Match Their Rhetoric - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Ukraine War Hawks’ Policy Proposals Don’t Match Their Rhetoric
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Joe Biden in news conference at White House, Dec. 21, 2022 (CBS News/YouTube)

“The war in Ukraine is … about right and wrong, freedom and justice, humanity and barbarism, and above all whose leadership will define the economic and political structure of the 21st century: democratic America and her allies in Europe and East Asia, or autocratic Russia and her Chinese patron,” writes Matthew Continetti in National Review. Writing in the Daily Independent, Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson opined that the outcome of the war in Ukraine will determine whether “an international rules-based order that has protected much of the world since World War II” will survive. The Eurasia Center’s Melinda Haring declared that “Zelenskyy and Biden are the undisputed leaders of the free world.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried writes that Ukraine is “fighting for their freedom and ours.” Last month, former President George W. Bush told CNN that “Ukraine is the frontline in the struggle for freedom and democracy.” And David Frum writes in the Atlantic that Zelensky in his speech to Congress “recall[ed] Americans to themselves,” is helping to reverse 20 years of “democratic recession,” and is fighting for “all the rest of us — all the intended victims of Putin’s aggression.”

The rhetoric is soaring. The stakes are said to be great. The outcome of the Ukraine war is said to determine the struggle between freedom and autocracy. Ukraine, they say, is fighting not just for its own freedom but for ours, too. With so much at stake, what should America do?

And here is where the policies proposed fall short of the rhetoric. Not one of the war hawks noted above suggests that U.S. troops should fight on Ukraine’s side in this war that will supposedly determine whether the rules-based order that protects us survives. Not one of the war hawks suggests that NATO armed forces should join the war on Ukraine’s side, even though our freedom is on the line. In this war between “right and wrong, freedom and justice, humanity and barbarism,” Continetti proposes sending Ukraine more weaponry. To ensure the survival of the “rules-based international order” that protects our freedom, Heather Cox Richardson proposes more aid to Ukraine. Melinda Haring proposes more U.S. assistance to one of the “leaders of the free world.” Daniel Fried proposes to defend our freedom by sending more military aid to Ukraine. Bush 43, the architect of the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, does not propose sending U.S. troops to what he calls “the frontline of freedom and democracy,” just more aid. And Frum, one of the great cheerleaders for the disastrous Afghan and Iraqi wars, is not proposing to send American forces to the conflict, instead claiming that Trump supporters hate Zelensky and oppose more aid to Ukraine because Zelensky defied Trump.

Meanwhile, and more concerning, is the rhetoric used by the Biden administration to gain support for more aid to Ukraine. Biden and staffers have depicted the war as democracy versus autocracy and have pledged to support Ukraine until it achieves victory, even though privately doubting Ukraine’s ability to achieve outright victory. In effect, the Biden administration may be urging Ukraine to fight on in a war that it believes it cannot win.

Proposing more aid to Ukraine is reasonable, but irresponsible rhetoric, as we have learned, can have dangerous consequences. Bush 43 justified the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of his reckless policy to spread democracy in that region and throughout the world. Thousands of U.S. soldiers died and tens of thousands were wounded in that futile effort. Meanwhile David Frum and other neoconservatives portrayed the Global War on Terror as World War IV.

The many comparisons of Zelensky to Winston Churchill and Putin to Hitler are designed to revive the “lessons of Munich” and the “domino theory,” where Putin’s success in Ukraine would presumably mean the Baltic States, Moldova, and perhaps Poland would be next, and then Russian tanks would surge to the English Channel. Some might recall that it was the “lessons of Munich” and the “domino theory” that led to the disaster in Vietnam, which the “best and the brightest” war hawks (McNamara, Bundy, Rostow, Rusk, and others) assured us was a struggle between freedom and tyranny that required Americans to sacrifice. McNamara later admitted that the “best and the brightest” recognized early on that the war was unwinnable. Fifty-eight thousand dead American soldiers didn’t stop some of the “dominoes” from falling, but America survived and eventually won the Cold War without firing a shot under a president (Reagan) who used American power prudently and effectively to secure and advance the nation’s interests.

We are sometimes lectured that it is important for the United States to be on “the right side of history.” But there is no right side of history; there is just history. Someday the “history” of the Ukraine war may mark its origins in a decision by the United States and its allies in Europe to expand NATO eastward, thereby, in George Kennan’s prophetic words, “inflam[ing] the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion.” “Expanding NATO,” Kennan said, “would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” Nothing justifies Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but ignoring uncomfortable aspects of its origins will not make it any easier to resolve this terrible war.

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