Biden, Common Sense, deterrence, geography, national interests, NATO, North Atlantic treaty Organization, nuclear weapons, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Russia, Soviet Union, Thomas Paine, Ukraine, Ukraine War, vital interests, Vladimir Putin
Not that any more evidence was needed, but President Biden’s speech last week in Warsaw, Poland illustrated perfectly why his Ukraine war policy has been so reckless. Unless you think the United States should court nuclear war risk for a song.
Speaking just ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s, to an audience that he knew would include his own countrymen as well as the large local crowd that assembled to hear him, the President could have said something on the order of:
“If Putin takes any part of Ukraine, he’ll go after our NATO allies and the rest of Europe next, placing his military just an ocean away from U.S. shores”; or
“If Putin takes any part or all of Ukraine, his dominance of the Black Sea region will be a giant step toward inevitable global conquest”; or
“If Putin takes any part or all of Ukraine, he’ll control minerals and other natural resources vital to the U.S. economy, and hold America hostage.
Or the President could have mentioned all these points to make the case that Ukraine’s independence per se is a vital U.S. interest for all sorts of specific reasons. He wouldn’t even have had to explain why, if that’s the case, it wasn’t admitted to the NATO alliance years ago, which would arguably have deterred the Russian attack in the first place by extending it the protection of America’s full nuclear arsenal – as befits a genuinely vital interest.
After all, who was going to call out this whopping inconsistency in his policy? A Regime Media deeply convinced of the globalist claim that the security of literally every country on earth is a vital U.S. interest, whether it’s an official American ally or not?
But Mr. Biden’s speech included none of these arguments. In fact, he’s never made these arguments. Instead, in Warsaw, he continued bloviating about Russia’s foes facing “fundamental questions about the commitment to the most basic of principles. Would we stand up for the sovereignty of nations? Would we stand up for the right of people to live free from naked aggression? Would we stand up for democracy?”
And about the “eternal” stakes being “A choice between chaos and stability. Between building and destroying. Between hope and fear. Between democracy that lifts up the human spirit and the brutal hand of the dictator who crushes it. Between nothing less than limitation and possibilities, the kind of possibilities that come when people who live not in captivity but in freedom. Freedom.”
There’s a good reason of course that Mr. Biden has never made specific, interest-based arguments for deep involvement in the Ukraine war – because when it comes to the United States, they’re just so much hokum. In fact, they’re even hokum-y for much of Europe even though it’s in Russia’s neighborhood. Because surely those in its Western half know that for decades during the Cold War, they were nearly as unaffected as Americans by the Soviet Union’s domination not just of Ukraine, but of all of Eastern Europe. And if they don’t, they should.
In the 1777 pamphlet The Crisis that so systematically and eloquently advocated for American independence, Thomas Paine faulted Britain for a “natural temper to fight for a feather” – that is, for vainglory rather than necessity or even significant tangible advantage. Consequently, that country “for centuries past, [had] been nearly fifty years out of every hundred at war with some power or other” and consequently had become a full partner in “the dismal commerce of death” and “the war and desolation [that] have become the trade of the old world.”
The thirteen colonies, by contrast, enjoyed advantages, resulting from geographic distance and consequent remoteness from European power politics and diplomacy, that afforded them “a retreat from their cabals.”
Clearly, this isn’t 1777, but the Atlantic is still a formidable geopolitical barrier; Ukraine is very far away; the United States today, unlike the Thirteen Colonies, is no military pygmy; and the power whose designs Mr. Biden would have the nation resist “as long as it takes” can create an ample nuclear “commerce of death.”
Opponents of the President’s Ukraine policy aren’t arguing that the oceans (or other circumstances) mean that the United States has no vital interests abroad. Instead, they’re insisting that, especially in a nuclear age, these interests be defined with precision and with a tight focus on considerations where the cost/benefit ratio is overwhelming weighted to the latter, not on gauzy appeals grounded in simple emotion. Mr. Biden’s failure to justify his approach to Ukraine in anything close to these terms is compelling evidence that this interest-base case simply doesn’t exist, and that the farther he proceeds down this road, the greater the needless peril to which he’s exposing America.