June 22, 2024

Why Does American Folly March on in Ukraine?

In his memoir, A Life in Our Times, the venerable economist John Kenneth Galbraith famous that he got here to view politics not because the “art of the possible” however slightly as a selection “between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” 

As issues stand right this moment, an analogous selection—between a disastrous escalation or an unpalatable settlement—seems to be the one one on supply for Ukraine. And due to numerous developments over the course of the previous two weeks, it’s turning into clear that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his sponsors in Washington are more and more intent on selecting the previous over the latter—even because it has come to mild, courtesy of a May 24 report from Reuters, that Putin himself “is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines.”

As the tide of the warfare has turned, maybe completely, in Russia’s favor (itself an completely foreseeable growth regardless of the wishful thinking that has characterized an excessive amount of of what passes for informed analysis right here in Washington), Ukraine’s Western sponsors discover themselves scrambling to discover a solution to halt Russia’s momentum. For their half, Biden, Blinken and Sullivan have determined to reverse course—regardless of public assurances on the contrary—by secretly sending lengthy vary ATACMS to Kiev and lifting the (wise) prohibition in opposition to using American weapons to strike inside Russian territory—a prohibition Germany has likewise lifted

Additionally, it was reported on May thirtieth that Washington will quickly supply Kiev a bilateral safety pact, said to be “the most significant in a series of deals Ukraine has struck with Nato countries” with Washington agreeing to offer long run army and monetary help to Kiev, together with, in line with the Financial Times, army coaching, intelligence sharing and financial help.

Still extra, it’s anticipated that France will quickly put “boots on the ground” in Ukraine in the type of army trainers. This information comes as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Charles Q. Brown Jr., has begun publicly laying the groundwork for what he has mentioned would be the eventual deployment of American military trainers to Ukraine. Biden and his high advisers appear to have internalized the needs of these—just like the disgraced former common and CIA director David Petraeus—who’ve called for the administration to “to stop temporizing” and to “get on with it.” Meanwhile, departing NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg last Friday called on NATO members to pony up $43 billion a yr to arm Ukraine.   

Amidst this flurry of exercise, nobody, from Sullivan to Stoltenberg on right down to their stenographers on the Washington Post and Foreign Affairs can clarify in clear, unambiguous language why the matter of who governs Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, Donetsk (and even Odessa and Kharkiv) is price a direct, presumably even catastrophic confrontation with Russia. How and when did it change into a paramount nationwide safety goal of the United States and NATO to assist Galician ethno-nationalists regain management over a folks they neither desired nor valued?

As it occurs, the (non)causes for our decade-long involvement  in Ukraine usually are not a lot completely different from the (non)causes behind the American misadventure in Vietnam. In The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuchman relays the response of a White House official who, when requested how American pursuits in Southeast Asia was outlined in 1961, answered that “it was simply a given, assumed and unquestioned.” 

Likewise the (alleged) American curiosity in Ukraine: given, assumed, and unquestioned.

Indeed, lacking—and crucially—from the dialogue of the current spate of initiatives designed to prop up  Ukraine is that of US nationwide curiosity. In her historical past of political folly, Tuchman requested, “Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why do intelligent mental processes so often not function?”

Part of the reply, Tuchman discovered, lies in a phenomenon she labels “wooden-headedness,” or self-deception, which, in her telling,

consists in assessing a state of affairs in phrases of preconceived fastened notions whereas ignoring or rejecting any opposite indicators. It is appearing in line with want whereas not permitting oneself to be deflected by the info. It is epitomized in a historian’s assertion about Philip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: “No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.”

Yet in the face of repeated and public warnings from the Russians, we persist in our folly—in essence, taking part in rooster with a nuclear armed energy over a rustic of completely zero strategic significance to the United States. 

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