The Learned-Helpless Grandiosity of the Ukraine War

I hesitate to turn this blog into a running catalog of the absurdities of the Ukraine war, but at this rate, I probably could. From an article in The New York Times about Europe’s confused, ambivalent response to the Ukraine war:

“The consequences of Ukraine in the E.U. will be complicated, even explosive,” said Thomas Gomart, director of IFRI, the French Institute of International Relations. “But it will be politically impossible to reject it.”

The war hasn’t yet been won–there’s no end is in sight–but already the contours of the post-war world are an inevitability, indeed, out of the control of the people tasked with deciding it. They lack the power to resist Ukraine’s entry into the EU, but somehow have the power to defeat Russia by proxy. Continue reading

The Past Is a Foreign Country

Why, according to Bret Stephens, must we remain involved in the Ukraine war? Because if we don’t…

China would draw the lesson that, if there are limits to what America and our allies are prepared to do for Ukraine (which fights for itself and shares a land border with NATO), there will be much sharper limits to what we are prepared to do for Taiwan.

Apparently, we get no belligerency credits for having fought and defeated Imperial Japan, for dropping atom bombs on it, or for having militarily occupied it. We get no credit for having defended South Korea against a North Korean invasion, for having fought the Chinese themselves in North Korea, or for having stationed troops in the DMZ since 1953. And we get none for spending a decade-plus defending South Vietnam against the North at the cost to us of some 58,000 deaths. Continue reading

David French on Ukraine: A Demolition

It hasn’t yet been a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or the beginning of the US-led proxy war against Russia, and already American support for the war is slipping. Last year’s promises about never-ending aid have quietly been toned down, as have last year’s predictions about Russian defeat and collapse. Predictably, the more stalwart supporters of the war have popped back up to accuse us, yes, of a “failure of will,” a brand of moral weakness to be contrasted with the Stoic hardiness required to sit in front of a computer and demand that the war continue.  Continue reading

Love Afar, Spite at Home

Thy love afar is spite at home.

–Emerson, “Self-Reliance

The United States is currently sending billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, prolonging the war there, and increasing the probability of escalation or even nuclear war, for a country that has zero bearing on our own national security. Our security was not threatened when Ukraine was a part of either the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, and was not appreciably enhanced by Ukraine’s exit from the latter. None of this seems to figure in the calculations of those in favor of US intervention: intervention is for them an imperative, however inscrutable the reasons for it. Continue reading

Germany, Ukraine, and Habermas: An American Perspective

A decade ago, on one of his visits to the United States, I urged Jürgen Habermas to support the idea of a global democratic alliance that could replace the discredited United Nations Security Council and form a sufficient counterweight to rising threats from Russia and China. This idea, which is developed in my book, A League of Democracies, is based on the hopes of many reformers in the “Atlanticist” movement before the deep compromises of the UN Charter. But it also follows from the logic of Habermas’s own work on democratic theory, together with the central findings of game theory, which imply the need for reliable solidarity and cost-sharing among able nations for paramount goals such as securing the most basic human rights from the manifold threats of absolute tyranny. Continue reading

Gaslighting the Nuclear Fuse

This article, “Fear Mounts that Ukraine War Will Spill Beyond Ukraine Borders,” appeared in The New York Times a few days ago. I single it out as an instance of the collective gaslighting that now seems to prevail in “the West” regarding the war in Ukraine. The article starts out like this:

For nine weeks, President Biden and the Western allies have emphasized the need to keep the war for Ukraine inside Ukraine.

A better way of putting this might be to say that for nine weeks, President Biden and his allies have pretended to hope that the war for Ukraine stays within Ukraine, while hinting simultaneously at regime change for Russia, while dragging all of Europe into a proxy war with Russia, and while demanding that the rest of the world, Europe and beyond, join in an embargo of Russia. Having done this, the President and his advisers now express surprise and alarm that the war might be spreading beyond Ukraine.

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Chomsky on Ukraine

I’ve previously plugged John Mearsheimer’s views on Ukraine here, with generalized agreement but many misgivings. I have fewer misgivings about Chomsky’s views, which are in the same anti-interventionist ballpark as Mearsheimer’s, at least as regards Ukraine, but without the problematic realist baggage. This interview with Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs seems the best of the bunch that I’ve seen.

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Ukraine: After the Last Sky

In a post back on February 26, I recommended a pair of lectures and an article by John Mearsheimer, going on to make a series of inferences from them about the aims and character of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On reflection (and under some fair criticism), I’ve now come to think that Mearsheimer’s claims, though essentially right, were overstated and misleading, as were my inferences from them. Hence this follow up to that post, intended to clarify what I still think is right about Mearsheimer’s thesis, what I now regard as wrong, and what I take to be as-yet unclear.

I’ve also added links to material on the invasion that I found worth reading, mostly (though not entirely) in confirmation of my own views. I encourage others to post other readings, videos etc. in the comments, regardless of how those readings square with anything I say. I also encourage PoT authors to post anything they find worth posting, again, regardless of how their claims square with mine. Continue reading