Perhaps the Ukrainian government should have surrendered outright at the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s (not “Russia’s,” but Vladimir Putin’s) all-out invasion in 2022. For everyone knew that even the most rhetorically forceful Western alliance would have neither the resources nor the willpower to offer Ukraine enough assistance to truly defeat Putin in a war of attrition — the one kind of war a megalomaniacal tyrant is most able to fight, since he feels neither any pangs of conscience about wasting hundreds of thousands of his own soldiers’ lives for the sake of a chunk of land that he has set his sights on, nor any pressure from domestic opponents who might challenge his authority in the face of such waste — without the steady and committed support of the United States. And yet if there is one thing everyone who is honest with himself knew about the United States in 2022, it was that she is a loser, a master of cowardly surrender, a country that has lost its soul, its sense of purpose, its faith in itself and its principles, and above all its will to win.
America only loses. She may join a fight, and even do so with gung ho enthusiasm and patriotic fervor — that is, she will join as long as it seems an easy and amusing television entertainment capable of bringing only enjoyment and second-hand pride, never hardship or uneasiness. But she will lose it in the end, and in the most ignominious way: by simply losing interest, forgetting the goal, neglecting the priorities that made the effort seem worthwhile at the outset, and — as is usually necessary — by falling into total disregard for the allies she has filled with hope and promises, but whom she suddenly abandons to the worst of all fates without so much as a twinge of discomfort.
That is the key word — discomfort. Her own, that is, and how she may avoid it. For America has died the way all great nations die, perhaps, but also in the particularly formulaic and, if I may say so, totalitarian way that a great and free nation is most likely to die, the way so elegantly predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy In America. She has died due to multi-generational, increasingly severe seizures of pain-aversion. Anything with a real price is too unpleasant. Anything that entails uncertainty, anxiety, and the risk of short-term hardship, is unacceptable. Anything that stands up before her and says, “I am not going to make this easy for you,” is immediately intimidating and deflating. For America today is a country that wishes only for — that feels absolutely entitled to — easy answers, immediate gratification, and the uninterrupted continuance of a state of semi-somnambulant comfort. She would sacrifice anything for those infantile goals. She would follow any doctrine or demagogue promising to protect her passive pursuit of this infantilism. Is it any wonder that America’s domestic political life has been reduced to the sub-human tribalism of competing strongmen, each declaring his ability to take care of the helpless lambs if only they will promise to submit and comply, which of course they do eagerly promise?
Perhaps a sense of national, historical desperation led Ukraine to put its faith in the bold promises of the American government. This is understandable enough. What is not understandable is that anyone outside of Ukraine should have harbored any illusions about America’s willingness to help Ukraine win this war, no matter how vital victory might seem, or how gravely dangerous empowering a well-armed dictator in his moment of last-chance aggression might be. How many times have we seen America declare a commitment to helping someone win a very winnable war, only to become herself the very agent of defeat by actively pulling the plug just when victory seemed to be within reach? Is that not indeed the very essence of post-WWII American military policy, as demonstrated almost without interruption for the past seventy-five years?
Russia is a failed nation with a massive military force and a crazed dictator at the helm. America is a failed nation with a massive military force and competing tribes of pampering babysitters at the helm, each obsessed with not disturbing the cozy gurgling and spoiled groping of national nap time. It is not difficult to predict who will win, when one side has no interest in winning. America’s shame will be nothing, however, compared to the profound discomfort her habituated pain-aversion is about to cause her.
If you think that I am espousing a neoconservative view of American foreign policy, i.e., defending globetrotting “democracy projects” and humanitarian adventures at the expense of any consideration of the proper concerns of national interest, think again. To deny that America has any legitimate national interest at stake in this war is to obliterate any meaningful sense of that term, as I have explained previously. The problem in this situation is not that America has no vital interest at stake in stopping Putin’s emboldened aggression, but that she has ceased to care about freedom and survival in any way beyond the most trivially physical. Americans today: Fat, pleasure-sated, ignorant, listless, riled to anger only by childish indignation about not getting everything their way at every moment, and therefore easily susceptible to their own tyranny-friendly sirens of the “left” and “right,” who promise to protect them from ever having to care too much about anything beyond their own amusements, as long as they go along with granting ever-more unlimited power to the protectors. Tocqueville’s soft despotism played out in practical reality, and now taking its dismal tragedy on a world tour, unmoved by, and perhaps oblivious to, the slowly descending final curtain.