It is pretty clear that the Conservative Movement is splintering over the policies currently espoused over the support of Ukraine. The most recent Republican Presidential Primary Debate made this even more clear and the differences starker.
Mainstream Conservatives like the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal love Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, while the more populist wing of Trump and Ramaswamy seems opposed to further and continued intervention in Ukraine. The American Conservative takes a different point of view than that of the WSJ.
More “conservative-populist” publications question what we are doing in Ukraine and complain there seems no coherent policy that could lead to victory and really no help from Europe. Instead, we seem bogged down in almost World War I trench warfare, while the US pays almost all the expense and Ukrainians are dying at a rate clearly that is unsustainable. The US is running down vital military stocks without the industrial capacity to replace them, leaving us even more vulnerable to China and its aggressive expansion in Asia.
Many suggest China is the greater threat and that Russia, which has a GDP smaller than Texas, is not. Further, it is felt our very policy is pushing China and Russia together. Russia has massive resources; China has the advanced technology and wealth to make a formidable adversary that we really don’t want to fight.
Cynics fear our ineffective efforts will hand the US another staggering defeat and Putin and Xi a major victory. Biden and the Democrats want to resist but really don’t want to wage a war for victory. As Barry Goldwater once wrote, “Why Not Victory?” Or, “Why Get Involved” if you have no plan for victory? But then again, what would victory look like? Occupy Russia or remake the Russian government?
Our current policy seems to be: exhaust Russia and they will stop. But how exhausted are the Ukrainians? Will Russia be a better player on the international stage if Putin can be overthrown? It is certainly true they are paying a high price, but so are the Ukrainians. If it comes down to a war of attrition, Russia has the advantage.
Exhausting Russia has always proven problematic. Both Hitler and Napoleon can tell us. Her unfortunate citizens have often borne burdens that would never be tolerated in the West. Simply the logistical lines for conflict in Russia are monumental. Yet endless arms support seems to be the essence of the current policy with no plan to really disrupt the Russian effort. Instead, it is to attempt to grind them down once their forces are in the Ukraine itself.
In that regard, we recommend the recent article Have We Forgotten he Russian Way of War by the military historian Victor Davis Hanson.
Regime change, as we have learned in the past, can be hazardous. We might regret what we wish for. There are significant limitations to what we can do in Russia.
Just in terms of the correlation of forces, how can Ukraine prevail against such a much larger country, despite their admirable bravery? They have no capacity to really go into Russia and disrupt both the production and transportation of war material. Token drone strikes on Moscow suburbs grab headlines but the vaunted “spring offensive” has not gone anywhere let alone deep into Russia. Reports are the Ukrainians have suffered terrible losses. With China supporting Russia, it would appear they can grind Ukraine down in an extended war of attrition.
Russia is a dying power, demographically speaking but dying empires like toothless bears become quite dangerous. We are dealing with a nuclear power. Are we willing to risk nuclear war? Conservatives fear that we don’t have the money, and are too dependent on China for our basic production to fight a massive conventional war, and Progressives will not let us mine the minerals or extract the energy necessary to fight a major conventional war. Does that make a nuclear war more likely as both sides are limited in their stamina?
NATO is proving as feckless as ever. NATO members fail even to meet their percentage of GDP commitments to defense, the US has poured in about $130 billion or so with maybe another $40 billion on the way. The NATO member other than the US that has contributed the most is the UK at $4 billion. The rich Germans have decided on $3 billion of additional aid, but complaints are they have been very slow in delivery. Still, these amounts are a tiny fraction of what US aid has been.
This war was supposed to stop the threat of Russian expansion into Europe. If that is truly the threat, why are the Germans spending most of their money at sidewalk cafes and spa visits? And if that were truly the case, why did the Germans make themselves so dependent on Russian gas and adopt such unrealistic energy policies?
In addition, the aid is not always integrated. It is hard to cross-train crews and mechanics on US Abrams tanks, and German Leopard Tanks. We have seen a steady escalation (perhaps too slow and hesitant) of updated US 155mm artillery, the rocket artillery MARS, Stryker and Bradley fighting vehicles, cluster bombs, drones, and now the supposed delivery of F-16. If this conflict is a threat to all of Europe, why the slow ramp-up? Because we don’t really want to fight the Russians in a massive land war. If so, what do we think is the end game?
Conservatives should support the territorial integrity of other nations that have been invaded by an aggressor. Aggression that is allowed to stand usually leads to additional aggression. That is even more problematic when we have Putin attempting to reconstitute the old Soviet Empire.
Russia does have strategic interests in Ukraine, and so does Poland, which used to rule much of western Ukraine.
However, the nature of the support is always the issue. Clearly, the nation is weary of wars of intervention that lead nowhere and it is not in our national interests to go abroad seeking monsters to destroy, to paraphrase John Quincy Adams. Intervention has to be in the vital national interests of this country and there has to be a high probability of victory.
Are we the international policeman to protect all those that are invaded by others? Is military intervention the next step beyond military aid?
Conservatives have understood this limitation and thus have pursued “peace through strength”. That means a strong military, and a strong military ethic, are the best deterrent to aggressors because they should know we have both the will and the means to stop them.
Progressives on the other hand, generally despise the military and its unique warrior ethic and would prefer to put domestic social welfare policies and sex role experimentation in front of the nation’s defense. They want a smaller military, a military devoted to promoting social experiments rather than maximum combat effectiveness, yet they want constant intervention, especially if it is not in our interest but rather that of the beloved “international community.”
They seem to want a weak military that nevertheless is always at war somewhere, with someone over some international cause that may or may not be in the nation’s strategic interests.
Wilsonian foreign policy has gotten the nation into a lot of wars, some of which made matters worse, some did some good, and many ended in stalemates with fundamental issues unresolved to this day. That plus wild social spending has got the nation dangerously deep in debt. Their policies of managed trade and regulation, have also hollowed out the industrial capacity of the nation to pursue war.
Often recent wars do not call for national sacrifice. Poor boys from rural areas do the fighting, our “allies” largely sit on the sidelines, and the wars do not pursue the policy of victory. Taxes are not raised to pay for the war but financed through debt issuance and currency debasement. Consumers are not to be disturbed by national sacrifice. The nation has been at war of some kind, or administering occupation, since Gulf War I.
That’s almost 30 years of intermittent war, with no national mobilization that disturbs our materialistic tranquility. This seems to have reduced the negative impact of war on the greater polity. We have learned to tolerate almost a constant state of war.
Usually, recent wars are fought to force negotiations, which result in agreements that are not honored, and the US is forced eventually to pull out after great sacrifice of blood and treasure without a victory that will stand. Victory is not the goal; international conferences are the goal. Likely our adversaries have taken note.
A great example was the war in Vietnam. Most recent scholarship now agrees that militarily, even with all the restrictions, the US was winning. The war was lost at home, largely due to the efforts of Liberals and Progressives. The bombing was turned on and off as a carrot and stick to encourage negotiations, only to have those treaties violated and the Democrat Congress walking away from the commitments we had made to bring about the peace.
In Afghanistan, we didn’t even bother with a treaty, we just pulled out, leaving billions of equipment and thousands of allies behind.
We have also engaged in “nation-building”, largely in the Middle East, under the false assumption that all cultures can and should support our notions of liberty. In recent cases, this was encouraged by our military and intelligence agencies based on bogus data about “weapons of mass destruction.”
You can certainly understand why Conservatives are wary of another war, especially a land war in Eastern Europe, pitting the US against Russia and China. Not only could it be a massive war, we are talking about war with two nuclear powers. Yet our involvement seems to be getting deeper and deeper.
However, we should not oppose the policies of Democrats simply because we disagree with them on so many other matters.
The argument that we should put troops on the Southern Border before further commitment to Ukraine is a bogus argument. We can secure the border by enforcing existing laws and still oppose foreign aggressors. President Eisenhower kept a secure border while ramping up the military to fight the Cold War. We can too, but it requires the Democrats to cease their open-border policies, which they refuse to do.
The question really is, are we willing to go to war, maybe nuclear war, over the eastern part of Ukraine? If the answer is yes, we better get on a war footing pronto. If not, what the heck are we doing there?
Making the commitment to Ukraine is made even more difficult because of two further issues. Ukraine has long been corrupt and undemocratic, not really worthy of support on those terms. Better than Putin to be sure, but not exactly like helping the Czech Republic or Denmark either. The corrupt ties between their government and our own President don’t help.
The Biden’s are deeply involved in shaking down the Ukrainians, the Romanians, Russian oligarchs, and the Chinese. The corruption and depravity of this Administration make supporting Ukraine even more difficult. Their corruption is beyond a scale ever seen before, even beyond the Clinton Foundation.
With our own government so corrupt, why should a young man risk his life in the military today, especially since as an organization it has been turned into an experiment in transgenderism? It is almost as if retiring generals should now have their second career going to Disney rather than General Dynamics.
The other problem is from what legal structure did our commitment to Ukraine spring? It is supposedly from the Budapest Memorandum, wherein Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal for the commitment of the West to protect Ukrainian territorial interests. Below is the memorandum:
Ukraine: The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 – The following is the text of the Memorandum on Security Assurances, known as the Budapest Memorandum, in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed Dec. 5, 1994. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a nonnuclear-weapon State, Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time, Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the Cold War, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces. Confirm the following: 1. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE [Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine. 2. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. 3. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind. 4. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used. 5. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reaffirm, in the case of the Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state. 6. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments. This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature. Signed in four copies having equal validity in the English, Russian, and Ukrainian languages.
Note that the UK, Northern Ireland (glad to have them aboard), the US, and Russia were the signatories. Special attention should be given the subsection 4, which states what happens if the territorial integrity of Ukraine is violated.
The memorandum as such binds parties to seek UN help if there is a violation. It was not a treaty ratified by the Senate. But the hammer in this document is to take the problem to the UN, which is dominated by Russia and China, and their Third World supporters.
This is a pretty thin reed to support our intervention in the dispute. That appears to be our legal commitment. What about our moral commitment? Can we right every foreign injustice with arms?
The only real justification is it must be in the vital national security interests of the US and backed up by a strategy that has a high probability of success.
In the movie Jerry Maguire, the punch line was “Show Me The Money!” We need someone to clearly “show us the national interest” here. After all, it was Biden himself who said publicly he would not oppose Russia if they did not take more than a bit off the Eastern part of Ukraine.
“Russia will be held accountable if it invades – and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera. But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing … it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine.”
Do you get the feeling there is not a very strong legal or strategic case being made here?
What did the President mean about a “minor incursion? If he was drawing a line where was it? It sounded at the time more like an invitation.
Likely Biden does not know where “the line” is, nor did Putin.
Biden did not make a strong case for our initial intervention. Now we seem to keep intervening because we intervened.
Indeed, there may be a strong and consistent case to be made but we are not hearing it. Not only does the case have to be made for our intervention, but we need a clear strategy with achievable goals. And we should not continue to bear this cost so the Europeans can maintain their welfare state and energy fantasies.
Fighting a war with our last dollar with the last lives of Ukrainians with no end in sight just to “wear down the Russians” does not seem like like a viable strategy.
If you can’t define victory, then it will be hard to achieve.
By all means, let us continue the debate.
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