“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Thus spoke Winston Churchill on June 4, 1940, immediately following the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk, an ignominious evacuation surpassing even the Biden administration’s recent evacuation from Afghanistan.
In an epic movie about these events, Darkest Hour, one of the peaceniks in Parliament who wants to appease Hitler by negotiating a peace on whatever terms England can get turns to another member of the House of Commons sitting next to him after the speech and says, “What just happened?” “He just weaponized the English language and sent it into battle,” is the response.
Words matter. To say Churchill rallied the British people, although true, overlooks the more important point that his words helped to deter Hitler from an invasion of England that stood a good chance of success and might have ended World War II early in Germany’s favor. In poker, what Churchill did is called bluffing and people do it because sometimes it works.
Contrast that with the Biden administration’s recent announcement that it expects the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to fall in only three days if Russia invades. One might excuse that as an unintended leak, but it comes on the heels of assurances by the Secretary of Defense and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Ukrainian defenders stand no chance against Russia. And the public statements by Biden himself that the U.S. will not send troops to help the Ukrainians and Biden’s statement that a “minor incursion” into Ukraine will not necessarily lead to a strong response from NATO.
Plus the Biden administration is telling Putin exactly what our economic sanctions will be so they can plan their work-arounds in advance, while simultaneously trying to convince the American public that the economic sanctions, such as cutting off Russia’s access to the SWIFT network for monetary transfers among banks, will be “tough.” Think about it: if you were a Russian autocrat with millions or billions of assets still in Russia, and someone told you that the access to the international network for monetary transfers was about to be cut off, wouldn’t you move your assets to London or Switzerland while you still could?
Contrast this advance notice with Eisenhower’s response when China threatened to invade Taiwan in 1955. He got a resolution passed virtually unanimously by both houses of Congress “authorizing” the use of military force if necessary to defend Taiwan, thereby creating uncertainty about what we might do. China backed down.
Mind you, I am NOT advocating that the U.S. and NATO go to war over Ukraine, and I am well aware that China did not have nuclear weapons in 1955. My point is simply that telling the Russians in advance exactly how tepid the U.S. response will be if they invade — and telling the Ukrainian freedom fighters that they don’t stand a chance — is a strange way to try to deter an invasion. Add to that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley’s prediction that 15,000 Ukrainian troops will die in an invasion versus only 4,000 Russian troops. Not exactly we will fight on the beaches, etc. One such statement might be a mistake; half a dozen are a policy.
I can only come up with three explanations: (1) Joe Biden is a fool who knows nothing about the role of appeasement in world history; (2) he accepts that Ukraine is part of Russia’s natural sphere of influence; or (3) that he was embarrassed by how quickly Afghanistan fell and wants to protect himself politically by telling the American people in advance that we expect Ukraine to fall in a few days if Russia invades despite the consequences of his defeatist attitude for the Ukrainians.
This short article is not the place to debate how much of a fool Biden is. After all, Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” according to Robert Gates, former defense secretary in the Obama administration. However, I am quite confident that his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is no fool. The administration must know it is virtually inviting Russia to take over Ukraine by assuring Putin in advance that the price for doing so will be one he considers acceptable to restore imperial Russia to what he sees as its rightful greatness.
Why would they do that? Perhaps it is just personal politics. Joe Biden is a politician above all else. He has a long history of saying or doing anything that will serve his short-term political interests.
I can’t get inside Biden’s head, but I can tell you that many in the woke political establishment subscribe to the theory that the United States and its allies are no longer the world’s “hegemon” (as they like to put it), and that it is a natural and inevitable evolution for the United States to gradually become a regional power in parity with others like Russia, China, and Iran, all of which are entitled to their respective spheres of influence. Kind of the Monroe Doctrine in reverse: Russia should keep its missiles out of Cuba and we will keep Ukraine out of NATO.
That was one of the major themes of Henry Kissinger’s 2015 book World Order and was specifically endorsed by then-President Barack Obama. For example, in a 2014 speech in Australia about the future of international relations, Obama affirmed that
By virtue of its size and its remarkable growth, China will inevitably play a critical role in the future of this region.… I just came from Beijing, and I said there, the United States welcomes the continuing rise of a China that is peaceful and prosperous and stable and that plays a responsible role in world affairs.”
Welcome to the New World Order.