America and Her Allies Will Stand United and Fight Russia to the Last Ukrainian
Let me begin by stating that if the United States were ever invaded, I would do everything in my power to defend it. I still believe in the values upon which America was founded, and I marvel at the brilliance behind the Constitution. I love my country.
Yet with that being said, it is an incontrovertible fact that the United States of America has done some very stupid things in the past and continues to do some very stupid things in the present—and frequently those stupid things wind up getting a lot of people, including Americans, killed.
The latest stupid thing is Ukraine.
How is that possible, you ask? After all, wasn’t it Russia that invaded Ukraine? Isn’t it Russian troops that are doing the killing? How could the US—clear on the other side of the globe and minding its own business—bear any responsibility whatsoever?
Well, in the view of one of America’s most esteemed political scientists, John Mearsheimer, the blame for the current crisis rests squarely on America’s shoulders. Obviously, Mearsheimer has been taking quite a bit of flack for this position, and—much like the Ukrainians—he has been valiantly defending himself ever since.
So, what is Mearsheimer’s theory? In a nutshell, he believes the US and Europe have led Ukraine “down the primrose path”—meaning that both of them have provided the country with false hope, despite knowing that that hope might result in Ukraine’s destruction. In an interview with The New Yorker on March 1st, Mearsheimer stated,
“I think all the trouble in this case really started in April, 2008, at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, where afterward NATO issued a statement that said Ukraine and Georgia would become part of NATO. The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand. Nevertheless, what has happened with the passage of time is that we have moved forward to include Ukraine in the West to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border.”
Now at this point, some people might argue, “Well, what right does Russia have to say what Ukraine can or cannot do? If Ukraine wants to join NATO, then that is its right!”
That’s a fair point, and I genuinely envy everyone who makes it, because clearly they also still believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. (They also, apparently, haven’t heard of the “Monroe Doctrine.”)
Yet for those of us stuck in reality, and with some semblance of an idea on how realpolitik works, the world is still an imperfect place where countries—especially smaller, weaker countries—do not have the leeway to always do exactly what they want whenever they want to do it. So, as Mearsheimer recently put it,
“If you’re a reasonably small power in the international system, and you live next door to a gorilla, then you have to go to great lengths to accommodate that gorilla. And the last thing you want to do is poke that gorilla in the eye because the gorilla will do great damage to you and it will probably never forget.”
Now in the interest of brevity, I can’t go into all the details of Mearsheimer’s theory, but if you’re interested, you can find them here, in his essay entitled, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.”
However, what I can do is provide a pop culture reference to further the man’s point.
Recall this scene in Season 2 of HBO’s The Wire:
This is the scene where the little guy, “Ziggy,” is encouraged by his fellow stevedores—who are playing a prank on him—to sucker punch his hated and giant-sized rival, “Maui.” The result is that Ziggy gets his ass kicked, while his “friends,” the stevedores, do nothing to help him. The analogy here is pretty clear. Ziggy is Ukraine. Maui is Russia. The stevedores are the United States and Europe.
The only real difference here is that while Ziggy’s misfortunes didn’t extend beyond getting thrown on top of a shipping container, Ukraine’s misfortunes will extend beyond the gates of Hell. Thousands will die. Millions will be displaced. Cities will be leveled. In other words, the country is on the precipice of the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen in decades.
And for what? Why was it so important—from NATO’s perspective—that Ukraine join NATO? Why did the US push so hard for it? Why did the EU push so hard to integrate Ukraine’s economy? Russia warned numerous times that it considered these things an existential threat. So why did everyone keep poking the bear/gorilla, when the bear/gorilla made it abundantly clear that it was running out of patience? Was this war—which any diplomat worth his salt could’ve seen coming from a mile away—worth it? Really?
In Mearsheimer’s view, the whole thing amounts to an epic strategic blunder. In a tri-polar world (militarily-speaking) consisting of the US, Russia and China, all we’ve managed to do is push Russia into the arms of China. So… well done!
And speaking of China, here is another analogy. If Beijing began forming a vast military alliance aimed directly at countering the United States, and then began to make serious headway in convincing both Mexico and Canada to join said alliance—and to sweeten the deal, China began sending billions of dollars of advanced weaponry as well as military training to Mexico and Canada—how exactly do you think the United States would respond? I bring your attention back to the Monroe Doctrine, which has been US policy since 1823. This doctrine says that no foreign power is allowed to get involved with the internal politics of any country within the entire Western Hemisphere. If a foreign power violates this doctrine, then the United States will regard this as a hostile act and do whatever it deems necessary to counter it. (And yes, apparently John Kerry said in 2013 that the Monroe Doctrine was over, but then Trump revived it a few years later, so basically, it’s still alive and well.)
I suppose the point of writing all this is to say that the US and Europe have done Ukraine a great disservice. Together, they not only lured Ukraine toward the West with promises of freedom and prosperity, but they actively pushed Ukraine in this direction as well. It is common knowledge that the US and Europe were heavily involved in Ukraine’s “Orange” and then “Maidan” revolutions. (For more details on that, read Mearsheimer’s essay.) And make no mistake, the US and Europe did not do this to be nice—they did it because they apparently felt it necessary to have an even larger “buffer zone” between themselves and Russia, and they were willing to risk Ukraine’s sovereignty, as well as World War III, to get it. So now, lured by false hope and pushed by a pair of economic powerhouses, Ukraine stands alone against the ten-ton gorilla that it just antagonized.
John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist put it best when he wrote in a recent article,
“Here is the hard truth: If the West is not going to send warplanes and troops, if we are not going to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by force of arms, and by our inaction allow the bombardment of Ukrainian cities to proceed, then we need to be honest with the Ukrainians about that. We owe it to them to give them a realistic picture of what they can expect from us, and what they cannot expect. Indeed, we owe them a great deal more, but we at least owe them that.”
It is also comical that the Biden administration is hellbent on framing its current dispute with Russia as a righteous battle between “democracy” and “autocracy.” Yet US actions over the past two decades alone, which include—but are not limited to—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Guantanamo, rendition, waterboarding, domestic surveillance and Big Tech censorship, have significantly diminished America’s ability to claim the moral high ground in the international arena. And with respect to “democracy,” even most establishment liberals will now admit that something approximating a “deep state” lies at the core of our political system. This reality severely undercuts our ability to wag the finger at a country like Russia. The best we can say is that on a spectrum—where “democracy” is at one end, and “autocracy” is at the other—the US is slightly closer to the democracy end than Russia is. Hardly a rallying cry for the troops!
Perhaps it is no wonder then that a bewildered American public is now regressing to the halcyon days of “Freedom Fries,” as they scramble to pour out their Russian vodka, ban Russian-bred cats from feline beauty competitions, and switch their Twitter profiles from a black “BLM” rectangle to a blue and yellow “Ukrainian flag” rectangle. (Also, only 1% of that vodka getting wasted is actually Russian.) But in times like these, it is hardly the truth that matters—what matters is the version of the story that allows you to sleep at night. The only option for many Americans—especially those who depend financially upon continued acceptance in polite society—is to increasingly deny reality. The only acceptable narrative regarding Ukraine is that Putin is Hitler, Zelensky is Churchill, and if we don’t send more Javelins and establish a “no fly zone”—which would wisely put us into a shooting war with a nuclear-armed power—then Russia will take over the world. Or, if you want to keep it simple, then defending Ukraine is just “the right thing to do.”
Never mind that the “right thing to do” was to never lure Ukraine into this position in the first place. The right thing to do was to tell Ukraine the truth and not offer false hope. The right thing to do was to take Russia seriously when it said, unequivocally, that it viewed this situation as an existential threat. The right thing to do was to not try and “call Russia’s bluff” by casually tossing Ukraine into the middle of the poker table. In short, the right thing to do was to accept reality, make the most of it, and not gamble with so many millions of other peoples’ lives—especially for such a paltry purpose.
But then again, this wouldn’t be the first time that the United States of America has done something stupid. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that another country has paid for it.
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If we are citing "realpolitik", it is natural (but short-sighted) for the US to support a proxy war between Ukraine and Russia. As Mearsheimer wrote, pushing Russia towards China is unwise from that perspective.
Who is driving Western policy? The last two years fit the pattern of throwing wrenches into the gears of commerce to reduce fossil fuel use, while maintaining plausible deniability.