The War At the Moment
It is fairly obvious now that President Biden’s administration (not Biden himself, who of course has no idea what is happening or why) wishes to help Ukraine stave off Vladimir Putin’s unjustified invasion just well enough to inflict severe damage to Putin’s military, but not well enough to defeat him outright or restore all of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. In other words, the goal is in effect to leave Russia in the position of being incentivized to attack again, and attack elsewhere, but materially depleted in its ability to do so. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian people, and any others Putin or his successor might decide to victimize in the future, are to be sacrificed to this moderate and restrained strategy of “helping Ukraine in every way possible, but not too much.” I wonder when the Zelensky government fully realized that it had been set up as useful fodder in a war that it was ultimately meant to lose. I wonder how that government continues to maintain the public face of a grateful ally, as it must in order to continue receiving the support it so desperately needs to continue its fight, while knowing at the same time that the intention of their chief benefactor is never to give them enough to win, but only enough not to lose — yet.
The alt-right populists of the Republican Party and the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. populists of the Democratic Party are making the case against supporting Ukraine in the most morally tenuous fashion, namely by claiming, (a) that the U.S. government is “sending billions of dollars to Ukraine while ordinary Americans are struggling economically,” and (b) that the U.S. should not be involved in foreign wars.
As to argument (a), the answer is simply that military spending is part of the constitutionally legitimate function of the U.S. government, while transfer payments to “hurting” citizens are not. Furthermore, the governmental part of the answer to economic hardships at home is to reduce economy-stifling regulations and taxes, while drastically cutting federal spending on socialistic entitlements, bureaucratic black holes, and progressive social engineering projects, and not to embolden an expansionist tyranny to begin cutting its way west into Europe with impunity, in the process simultaneously emboldening another tyranny to accelerate its own expansions throughout the eastern part of the world map.
Regarding argument (b), a foreign war, in modern terms, cannot simply be defined as a war taking place on foreign soil. Whatever one makes of the current situation, and whatever case one wishes to make against war in general, or war funding in particular, it is neither realistic nor responsible to take the position that Europe is Europe’s problem, when so much American national interest — economic and strategic — relies on the maintenance of global buffers and alliances to avoid reaching the increasingly isolated position of being the lone representative government and individual-respecting society capable of projecting power in a world otherwise swallowed up by oligarchs and communists willing to sacrifice their own citizens’ lives without blinking, in the name of their own perceived systemic gains, and with America itself as their ultimate obstacle and prize. In short, you are free to despise some of the practical byproducts and geopolitical implications of modern technology (I certainly do), but you are not free to pretend those byproducts and implications do not exist.
Interestingly, a top NATO bureaucrat, Stian Jenssen, has become perhaps the most highly placed European official to directly suggest in public that Ukraine ought to cede territory to Russia in exchange for NATO membership — which, since Russia has no role in determining NATO membership, would literally amount to NATO itself holding out membership as a carrot to entice Ukraine to surrender to Putin.
“I shouldn’t have said it that way. It was a mistake,” said Jenssen the next day. And what way should one have said it, then?