Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

US War Hawks Frustrated That Nukes Deter: But Washington’s Most Important Duty Is To Protect America

Posted by M. C. on April 18, 2022

Keeping the American people safe is their highest duty, even if that means not doing other things members of Washington’s indefatigable War Party desire to do, such as fight Moscow on Ukraine’s behalf.

by Doug Bandow

Even before Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine some members of the Washington War Party wanted to attack Moscow. As the two-month anniversary of the conflict’s start approaches, an increasing number of US policy warriors appear frustrated that fear of nuclear war is holding back the administration from formally initiating hostilities. They have updated David Farragut’s famous injunction to “Damn the nukes, full speed ahead!”

Putin is a ruthless dictator whose brutal aggression against Ukraine is unjustified. Yet the US and European pretense of pious innocence and virginal sanctimony has grown tiresome. The allies knowingly pressed their geopolitical advantage over Moscow and ignored numerous Russian complaints and warnings. Although US recklessness didn’t justify Putin’s response, the cries of outrage emanating from Washington and Brussels are wearing thin. But for persistent allied arrogance and irresponsibility, the current conflict would not likely have happened.

Indeed, the US, other NATO members, and alliance officials ruthlessly played Ukraine false. For 14 years they told Kyiv that they looked forward to it meeting NATO’s criteria and joining the alliance. Last fall Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Ukraine to deliver that message yet again. Reported the Pentagon: “Austin will stress in both Georgia and Ukraine that there is an open door to NATO and encourage the nations to make the changes necessary for them to qualify for membership in the defensive alliance.”

In fact, this was untrue. The George W. Bush administration was essentially alone in 2008 when it pushed NATO to promise eventual membership; since then, no government, at least one that possessed a serious military and would be called upon to battle Russia in war, backed Kyiv’s entry. No one believed Ukraine was defensible. And no one was prepared to go to war for Ukraine, irrespective of whatever promises had been made.

Of course, allied stupidity and perfidy are in the past. Today Russia and Ukraine are at war. Washington should support Ukrainians as they defend themselves. However, the US also should back the Ukrainians in ending hostilities, and a settlement likely to provide a stable peace. Unfortunately, some Americans and allies appear reluctant to accept a compromise. Rather, they are willing to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian, providing Kyiv with the tools of war while assiduously avoiding combat themselves. In this way policy toward Ukraine remains consistent.

Still, Washington is right to avoid involvement in a conflict in which it has no important let alone vital security interests. The Biden administration’s top priority is to protect Americans – their lives, liberties, territory, and prosperity. War is not a charitable enterprise, especially against a nuclear-armed power.

Yet some activists and, of greater concern, officials support going to or at least risking war for Kyiv. Not a fan favorite for most Americans, this strategy has high-level backing. For instance, before the Russian invasion, Representatives Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Mike Rodgers (R-Al) advocated deploying “a U.S. military presence in the Black Sea to deter a Russian invasion.” Presumably this “military presence” would actively engage the Russian fleet to prevent its support for operations against Ukrainian territory. However, that would not dissuade an attack utilizing ground forces. It also would be an act of war on behalf of a country Washington spent years refusing to treat as an ally.

Far more irresponsible was Sen. Roger Wicker, who in January urged giving “Vladimir Putin a bloody nose.” Wicker’s mad proposal for “military action” would have meant full-scale war. His plan, he stated, “could mean that we stand off with our ships in the Black Sea, and we rain destruction on Russian military capability.” His alternative, if it deserved to be called that, “could mean that we participate, and I would not rule that out, I would not rule out American troops on the ground. We don’t rule out first use nuclear action.” He did not explain how strategic nuclear war could be avoided, grandly declaring that the Biden administration should leave “all options on the table and [grant] no concessions.” Even if the result would have been millions or tens of millions of dead.

Wicker may be the most irresponsible GOP warmonger, but he is only one of many. The late John McCain pushed war against a long list of countries, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea, and advocated confrontation with Russia over Georgia in 2008. McCain’s cohort-in-aggression, Lindsey Graham, shared McCain’s lust for war for here, there, and everywhere. Graham even joined with President Donald Trump in suggesting an attack on the North, dismissing the importance of nuclear war “over there,” apparently believing the potential death of millions of Koreans to be of minimal concern.

Yet Democrats, too, would risk millions of lives in deranged hawkish schemes. In January, when there was still hope of keeping the peace in Europe, a former Obama official, Evelyn N. Farkas, proposed war on a grand scale: invading Russia to recover Crimea and the Donbass for Ukraine and Abkhazia and South Ossetia for Georgia. (Presumably phase two of military operations would have retaken territory previously seized from Finland, Poland, Japan, and China.)

She imagined herself as a reincarnated Dwight D. Eisenhower at the head of a new United Nations, as the World War II allies grandly called themselves, or revived Duke of Wellington leading a modern Seventh Coalition, reordering the world: “US leaders should be marshaling an international coalition of the willing, readying military forces to deter Putin and, if necessary, prepare for war.”

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