THE TRAGIC CONUNDRUM OF UKRAINE
What the US should and should not do
As President Biden reaffirmed his support for Ukraine during his visit to the country this week, opinions vary on whether such support is a good idea.
For those of us who have spent years opposing the influence of the military industrial complex on U.S. foreign policy, the situation poses a peculiar challenge. It’s possible to believe that the undue influence of the U.S. war machine - aided in Washington by “the Blob” of foreign policy experts - is very real, and at the same time believe the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a criminal venture that cannot be tolerated by the world.
The United States has perpetrated its own egregious imperialistic ventures, a fact which shouldn’t be ignored by anyone. It’s not an overstatement to say that millions of people around the world – including thousands of U.S. military - have died as a result of our own misadventures. But that does not, and should not, give Vladimir Putin a pass on perpetrating an imperialistic war of his own.
Clearly, not all wars are the same. Just as some point out that the war in Ukraine is not a replay of World War II, it’s important to remember that it’s also not a replay of Iraq or Afghanistan. Did American foreign policy mistakes contribute to the war in Ukraine? Yes. But that does not mean we are ultimately responsible for Putin’s invasion, nor does it mean that our larger interests, the interests of the people of Ukraine or the interests of the rest of the world, are best served by our staying out of the conflict now.
The war in Vietnam should never have been fought. The war in Iraq should never have been fought. The war in Afghanistan - with the exception of its beginning phases - should never have been fought. All of them were examples of American military malfeasance. The war in Ukraine, however, is a very different situation. I believe there is legitimate justification for military support for Ukraine from Western allies, including the United States.
Some have mentioned what they perceive to be a contradiction between my support for the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace and my support for military aid to Ukraine. In my mind there is no contradiction at all. Ever since World War II, America’s military industrial complex has increasingly dominated American foreign policy, while diplomacy and genuine peace building has been pushed to the side. I have written books and articles about this and spoken publicly about it for decades. I have even run for president espousing that view. It was the core of my presidential run in 2020, and would be core to my run in 2024.
Our defense department receives $858 billion a year while our state department receives $60.4 billion a year. USAID, our Agency for International Development, receives $1.9 billion a year. And of all those, the work of USAID does by far the most to create the conditions for the emergence of world peace. Wherever there are greater economic opportunities for women, greater educational opportunities for children, the diminishment of violence against women and the general reduction of human despair, there is statistically a greater incidence of peace and less incidence of violence. Those are the primary factors involved in peace building, which would be at the core of the U.S. Department of Peace as well as the thrust of my administration both domestically and internationally.
I view the U.S. military much like a surgeon. If we need a surgeon then America must have the best, but any reasonable person tries to avoid surgery if possible. The best way to solve conflicts is to prevent them from occurring to begin with. If I had had the choice, I would have made very different foreign policy decisions related to Russia over the last 40 years. That does not change the fact, however, that Vladimir Putin’s actions today are a threat to which the Western world must now respond.
As president I would always seek to avoid the use of military force, yet I would not shy away from it if I felt it necessary.
Some have also expressed concern about the amount of money going to Ukraine at a time when so too little money is being spent on needed expenditures here at home. Yet that is a false choice, for the money going to Ukraine, if not used toward that war, would not be spent on the humanitarian and economic needs of our citizens here at home. The battle for America’s economic soul exists separately, though tangentially, to our foreign policy demands. Franklin Roosevelt passed the New Deal and he led us through World War II.
The United States should support diplomatic solutions to any dispute, in Ukraine as well as anywhere else. On that point we should never waver. But in the case of the war in Ukraine, Russia would meet any such overture with nothing but further aggression until such time as military conditions made it difficult for him to refuse the offer. Why would he do otherwise, when in his mind he is winning the war? His brutal, autocratic rule in Russia and the atrocities committed by his troops in Ukraine give us a vivid picture of what his conquest of Ukraine would mean. Any withdrawal of U.S. support for Ukraine at this point means only one thing: the end of Ukraine.
Should Ukraine be given a blank check by the United States? No, it should not. But should it be given further support to push back an aggressor who would end its sovereign right to exist? I believe it should.
Perfectly said. Thank you, Marianne.
MW is misreading the entire geopolitical context. The US/NATO provoked this war, and can end this war through negotiation. Russia will not give up the Donbass and Crimea. Nor should they. Zelensky could have countered the neo-Nazi pressure to not negotiate a resolution, but he required US backing, which was not provided. The US is responsible for what ensued. This is a conflict that was wholly preventable if only the US could abdicate the lust for empire.