Patterico's Pontifications

4/22/2024

Two Opposing Conservative Views on Ukraine

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:57 pm



[guest post by JVW]

In last Friday’s Weekend Open Thread, Dana reported on the GOP House leadership taking up the Ukraine/Israel/Taiwan military aid bill. The Ukraine issue has thus far divided conservatives, and today National Review published two diverse opinions on the matter. First off was the magazine’s house editorial congratulating Speaker Mike Johnson and expressing approval that the U.S. would continue to fund those who were bravely doing battle with rogue states and miserable tyrants:

Johnson deserves credit for changing his mind on Ukraine funding once he acquired real responsibility as speaker and also for trying every alternative to keep his conference together before moving to pass the aid with Democratic votes as a last resort.

Had the Ukraine measure stayed bottled up in the House, Johnson would have borne an outsized measure of blame if an artillery-starved Ukrainian military collapsed.

[. . .]

The best argument against Ukraine aid is that it is costly and depleting U.S. stocks of weapons. But it would be just as costly to bolster front-line states — as we almost certainly would feel compelled to do — if Russia were to sweep to victory in Ukraine. The legislation makes the aid, in theory, a loan, and it attempts to offset the costs with seized Russian assets.

As for U.S. weapons stocks, about $23 billion of the roughly $60 billion in the Ukraine portion of the bill is devoted to replenishing them, although much more needs to be done to revitalize the U.S. military–industrial base.

The overall package includes more than $26 billion in aid for Israel, with crucial funding to replenish its missile defenses, and more than $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security. In a nice additional win, the TikTok divestiture bill was added to the package. It now will be passed along with the rest of the overall bill by a Senate that had seemed reluctant to take it up.

The rest of the editorial lays out the peril that this compromise poses to Mr. Johnson’s Speakership, and chides the bloc of Republican members who seem willing to abandon Ukraine to the devices of Russia.

In today’s pages (er, on today’s screen) Michael Brendan Dougherty dissents from his colleagues. Believing that this is the classic trap of good intentions but zero accountability or strategic thinking, Mr. Dougherty questions whether this is a war that ought to continue, especially since its proponents now openly admit that the support of the United States is vital to Ukraine’s aims:

These bills are a monument to our decadence and political cynicism. Nobody has put forward a cogent argument for how Ukraine will do better with less aid than we gave it last year in preparation for its major counteroffensive. Look to the press, and it’s a repeat of Mitch McConnell’s disgraceful performance in the Senate a few weeks ago. There is hardly even a pretense that Putin will be defeated, but there’s lots of backslapping that the native populists and other skeptics have been defeated.

He rejects the notion that forcing Ukraine into a peace deal as a disarmed, non-aligned “buffer” state between Russia and NATO is a huge capitulation for the West, and points to the history of such states as important neutral zones between competing European nations:

We would never take that deal, indeed, because we have two giant oceans and two friendly countries around us. But it’s traditional in European politics for smaller nations next to major military powers to have “neutrality” as the outer limit of their foreign-policy independence. Switzerland’s neutrality was never intended as a statement of confidence in the promises of Hitler. It worked because Switzerland was reliable and the two major military powers next to it could depend on the fact that Switzerland would not be used by a hostile foreign power as a launch pad. Maybe you prefer a world in which Switzerland perpetually risks its existence to be a more morally compelling figure in the geopolitical drama. But the Swiss, looking at the Germans, the French, the Italians, and before them the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thought differently.

Mr. Dougherty goes on to rhetorically ask why the U.S. and NATO are not more involved in the crisis in Armenia, where last September Azerbaijan forces raided Armenian villages and forced the evacuation of around 100,000 ethnic Armenians, in what Mr. Dougherty believes qualifies as “ethnic cleansing” every bit as much as what Russia is doing in the Donbas. And ultimately he concludes that Ukraine, like Armenia, is just not that much of a strategic interest to the United States:

[NRO writer Jim] Geraghty says that if we want peace, we should prepare for war. But that’s the whole problem for his position. The American people do not want to sign up to fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty themselves. They do not see it as in their national interest because our security and prosperity has never depended on Ukraine. We cannot be crippled by someone else controlling some of its resources. We hardly do any trade with Ukraine. And so there are hard democratic limits on America’s power to affect the outcome that Geraghty and National Review at large would like to see. [. . .] Polls at the very start of this war showed that a supermajority of Americans did not want the U.S. to play a major role in it. Now, Geraghty admits in his dispatch today that without our lethal military aid, Ukraine would choose a different course. In other words, we do have that major role. Choosing your own course in the face of the constraints real life places on you is the only definition of freedom that we have for most peoples. The job of the American military is to defend and advance American interests, not to make the world fair for Russia’s neighbors or teach Putin a lesson.

Finally, according to Mr. Dougherty, not only does the compromise bill not do anything to solve our border crisis, it actively makes things worse and undermine GOP candidates this fall:

Now, we get a good look at the Ukraine-aid bill and the bill to aid Israel. Combine them both, and you will find $4 billion dispersed between the State Department and the Office of Refugee Settlement to be given to left-wing NGOs who help border crossers evade our immigration laws.

Congratulations Mike Johnson and Mitch McConnell! You managed to throw away all leverage Republicans had, pass something that Republican voters don’t want, and that every single Democratic lawmaker did want, and to make the border situation much worse in the meantime, while filling up the treasuries of your ideological enemies. The gift to the NGOs will be used by whatever populist challengers are left in GOP congressional primaries to challenge incumbents, putting more wild-eyed and untested people in winnable races. Biden may be senile, but his administration just played McConnell and Johnson like a Stradivarius.

Mr. Dougherty’s broadside seems to elide the fact that the compromise also enrages left-wing activists due to the support that will go to Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas, right at the moment when so much of the American left has decided to go all-in on supporting the rancid Palestinian cause. I would imagine that there is a left-wing version of Michael Brendan Dougherty out there who is eviscerating the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats for enabling this betrayal of their sacred cause. But I don’t really want to waste any time searching for it.

If nothing else, this should serve as a stark reminder to all of us at how difficult the choices are for our elected officials, especially when we are dealing with irrational actors who are untethered to reality and instead spend 100% of their time living within their own imaginary worlds. But enough about the two major party Presidential candidates. Instead, the contrasting viewpoints between the NRO editors and Michael Brendan Dougherty present a pretty vivid contrast to the legitimate strains of conservative thought here in 2024. All of us had better understand the arguments on both sides of the conservative divide and be ready to deal with them, at least as much as we should understand the spectrum of foreign policy thought on the left.

– JVW

55 Responses to “Two Opposing Conservative Views on Ukraine”

  1. I hadn’t really planned it, but this post is apparently the 22,000th post published on Patterico’s Pontifications.

    JVW (b02843)

  2. ……..doing battle with rouge states………..

    They’re wearing makeup?

    Rip Murdock (af68bc)

  3. Should be “rogue states.”

    Fixed. Thanks. – JVW

    Rip Murdock (af68bc)

  4. Before I even got to it, I guessed the dissent would be from Michael Brendan Dougherty.

    norcal (137133)

  5. Before I even got to it, I guessed the dissent would be from Michael Brendan Dougherty.

    Naturally, but he’s been consistent in his belief that this isn’t really our fight, so I can give him credit for that.

    JVW (b02843)

  6. Support for Ukraine is the traditional modern times (after pearl harbor) conservative position. Before that they were Isolationists and populists were FDR democrats. The populists were invited into the republican party with nixon’s southern strategy and then reagan’s open appeal to ignorant southern white trash populist democrats at philadelphia mississippi in 1980. And the evil genius lee atwater’s willie horton ad. Republican populists see putin as a white nationalist like themselves. As the song say you knew I was a snake before yoou let me in!

    asset (469dad)

  7. Italy annexed the Matterhorn and parachuted commandos into Zurich? Nobody tells me anything.

    nk (d02848)

  8. JVW,

    thank you for the insight and balanced approach.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  9. It’s always good that asset reminds us from time to time what utter cockswallop nonsense the left pervades. He still believes every lie he’s heard, even decades after it was abandoned by thinking folks.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  10. *pervades the left.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  11. Italy annexed the Matterhorn and parachuted commandos into Zurich? Nobody tells me anything.

    You got it wrong. The paratroopers hit Anaheim.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  12. Thanks, Kevin!

    There’s not anything in that disingenuous word salad to get right, but the comparison to Switzerland was a cockroach crawling across the plate.

    nk (d02848)

  13. Michael Brendan Dougherty never saw a policy favorable to Russia that he didn’t like. I have no idea why anyone takes anything he says seriously.

    Patterico (fa739f)

  14. Before I even got to it, I guessed the dissent would be from Michael Brendan Dougherty.

    Exactly.

    Patterico (fa739f)

  15. I have no idea why anyone takes anything he says seriously.

    Because the alternative is remaining in our own conservative echo chamber. I’ve dinged the left countless times for that very habit; I would hate to see my side fall into it too.

    If I were voting in Congress I would have voted to pass the compromise bill. If I were voting in Congress I would probably have voted to pass a Ukraine-only bill too. But I think it is well past time to really start to question what the endgame is here. Do we keep supplying Ukraine up until they have recaptured all of their land and driven the last Russian soldier back across the border, or until the last Ukrainian male of military age is dead, maimed, or has escaped elsewhere, far away from his homeland?

    We’re once again hearing all of this buzz about a Ukrainian spring counteroffensive, just as we did last spring, but what reason do we have to believe it will be any more effective this time around? Meanwhile, we are drawing down our own defensive stockpiles at a rate far greater than we are replenishing them, and all of this is taking place in a nation with nearly $35 trillion in debt and set to add an additional $2 trillion in this fiscal year.

    I supported the Iraq War, though I had qualms that our commitment there was insufficient and that instead of trying to “win the hearts and minds” of Iraqis we needed to deal swiftly and severely to insurgents inside and outside of its borders. We did neither, and as much as I believe our hearts were in the right place, I think our mistakes in Iraq frankly outweighed the good that we tried to do. And we’re still paying for that today.

    Ukraine is pretty much the same situation. I have complained from the very beginning that the Biden Administration was dithering, trying to micromanage the conflict and appearing befuddled and tentative at the very moments when we should have appeared resolute. It might not have made much of a difference in the end, but at least we wouldn’t be putting ourselves in the same no-win situation in Ukraine that we found ourselves in Iraq, where our mistakes at the beginning and our reluctance to quickly rectify them ensure that no matter how this ends the United States will be blamed both for meddling and at the same time for not being engaged enough to win.

    There are no good answers here, and once again Washington has blundered into a distant conflict far from our own borders, half-assed our way through it, and now can’t figure out how to extricate ourselves without stabbing in the back our nominal allies. Sure, no American soldiers have been killed (thank God for that), but we’ve once again pissed away American prestige without securing any clear long-term advantage for our efforts. MBD is right to question whether this is how we want to proceed, even if the answer is that we agree to see this to the bitter end.

    JVW (b02843)

  16. Italy annexed the Matterhorn and parachuted commandos into Zurich? Nobody tells me anything.
    You got it wrong. The paratroopers hit Anaheim.
    Kevin M (a9545f) — 4/22/2024 @ 5:58 pm

    This would explain why I always have to stop and show my papers passing through Garden Grove… 😛

    qdpsteve again (711764)

  17. …we are dealing with irrational actors who are untethered to reality and instead spend 100% of their time living within their own imaginary worlds. But enough about the two major parties

    FIFY

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  18. BTW, given the chance, either Hitler or Stalin would have mopped up Switzerland in the end.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  19. BTW, given the chance, either Hitler or Stalin would have mopped up Switzerland in the end.

    Being a small state is forever understanding that you are at the mercy of the big boys. But I think MBD is on to something when he points out that it would have been tough for Switzerland to choose among France, Germany, Italy, and all of the other surrounding powers from 1815 onwards.

    JVW (b02843)

  20. @9 You forgot to show what nonsense and lies I believe. You only say what some on the left believe. People on the right believe in jewish space lasers I don’t think you do?

    asset (1118e3)

  21. The gift to the NGOs will be used by whatever populist challengers are left in GOP congressional primaries to challenge incumbents, putting more wild-eyed and untested people in winnable races.

    So…just wanting to making sure I read this right…one of MBD’s arguments against this bill is that it will ensure more extreme populist MAGA nominees, thus costing Republicans seats in the general election.

    That’s a very powerful bill. Usually only voters can do something like that.

    Demosthenes (984012)

  22. This war isn’t just about Ukraine. It’s about Taiwan, Moldova, Estonia, and Finland. It’s about the next 20 years of Russia’s and China’s intentions. It’s about being a reliable NATO ally and supporting a rules-based order for the world.

    We shouldn’t be pinching pennies for Putin. As long as Ukraine is in the fight, Putin’s war machine is degraded. Every Russian casualty eats at Putin’s legitimacy. If Ukraine battles to a stalemate so be it. With no Americans in the fight, it may be our best use of defense spending to not just deter an adversary, but to kill him off. It’s false to label this either or.

    Putin’s strategy is to wait out the west’s resolve. Why should we help him win?

    AJ_Liberty (9c0437)

  23. You forgot to show what nonsense and lies I believe.

    You do that yourself.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  24. one of MBD’s arguments against this bill is that it will ensure more extreme populist MAGA nominees, thus costing Republicans seats in the general election.

    “Look at what you made us do!”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  25. Putin’s strategy is to wait out the west’s resolve. Why should we help him win?

    Cynically, it’s not necessary for Ukraine to win outright. It just has to cost Russia enough that they don’t see it as a victory. After a while, it didn’t matter what the outcome in Afghanistan (or Vietnam) was — the cost was unacceptable. Same thing here.

    Putin may be trying to wait out the West, but it’s his country bleeding, and — like the Soviets in the Cold War — his hard money expense fighting against our credit line.

    The real danger is that he’ll succeed in waiting out Ukraine.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  26. I’m more aligned with NRO’s editorial than with MBD…

    But MBD askes serious questions that ought to be addressed head-on, rather than immediately discounted as a “Putin stooge”. Addressing them in good faith is the only way to convince the objectionists.

    For me, I came to this realization a long time ago talking to a team who works with companies establish and maintain supply chains for their industry.

    Think of the supply chain as a living vine… a vine that must be nurtured and fed in order for deliverables to be ready in a “Just In Time™” (JIT) expectation. The supply chain is a collective group of companies offering “widgets” that are needed by a different company to complete their deliverables. These supply chain companies need to be “nurtured and fed”, meaning they have to have continual work in order to make money… so that they can retain not only the skilled workers and knowledge, but to keep the company afloat.

    If that vine is allowed to atrophy, or die off… when you need something from supply chain… it’s disruptive. Depending on the industry, disruption can be dangerous.

    I work in Healthcare industry, and we’re constantly involved in industry surveillance to ensure that our hospitals has the supplies we need. The lockdown few years ago as highlighted that our industry must do a better job to mitigate possible disruptions. To the point that healthcare organizations are exploring to build parallel companies, in a vertical integration sense:
    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/v/verticalintegration.asp

    Back to the topic though, as to my epiphany: Why do you think the Pentagon, Military and Congress want to spend so much money, like these latest bills.

    Is it patriotisms?

    Is it anti-communism?

    Is it greed? Because lots of politicians needs greasing…

    Or, and I think this is mostly the case…is it possible that there are pragmatic reasons to have a strong military industry, to “feed & nurture” the complex Military Industrial Complex™ supply chains, so that the industry can be nimble in addressing the crazy, chaotic world?

    A perfect example of this are the industries that builds our super-carriers and submarines. There are reports that Congress wants to push out the delivery dates of some of these ships/boats to save some money. But, it does come at a cost, in that there may not be enough work to keep existing skilled workers (ie, fabricator, steel workers, welders, etc…). The danger here is that skilled workers may move on, and in the future these builders can’t find enough people to deliver the ships/boats on the new schedule.

    That’s a pragmatic rationale, that you really can advocate for because how do you say “we need to keep these companies busy so that they’re there for us when we go to war… so giving assistance to Ukraine/Taiwan/Israel gives our Military Industry Complex enough work to sustain a `high availability` distribution model that military-civilian planner desires”.

    How do you articulate late to objectionists to the likes of MBD?

    whembly (86df54)

  27. @26 *How do you articulate this to objectionists to the likes of MBD?

    whembly (86df54)

  28. The question I have for Dougherty is why he’s giving Putin special treatment, the kind of treatment given to no other. Is there any other nation that demands and gets a neutered “buffer” state? And doesn’t Ukraine get a say about this? They’re a sovereign nation, not Putin’s rump state.

    Also, Putin doesn’t want Ukraine as a buffer. He already said that Ukraine is Russia.

    Paul Montagu (77bc71)

  29. We also hear about how “corrupt” Ukraine is, as if that excuses or rationalizes an invasion and horrible war crimes. I agree with Kevin Williamson, how much more corrupt will Ukraine become with a Putin puppet regime in place? Ukraine wants to Westernize…join the EU…and NATO. It inspires to be more than a kleptocracy and authoritarian foot stool. The analogies to Iraq or Afghanistan or Viet Nam all seemed strained given we’re not losing our people to a meat grinder. Maybe Ukraine stays a stalemate and a deal must be struck. Let Ukraine at least get to that point.

    AJ_Liberty (1295e6)

  30. Also, Dougherty’s rhetorical question about Armenia is disingenuous. Armenia is literally a Russian ally, under their version of NATO, the CSTO. We have no ability to protect a Russian ally from Azerbaijan, a nation that is tied to Turkey, an American NATO ally.

    Dougherty also seems to not realize that we’re helping Ukraine defend itself not for their trade or other issues, because the real issue is about Russia, a hostile foreign power with nukes and a genuine American national security interest, and it’s in our interest to see Putin stuck and losing territory in this country he intends to conquer and absorb, thereby committing a cultural genocide scarcely different from Xi’s cultural genocide of Uighers. The morality of this situation couldn’t be clearer, and we’re on the right side of it.

    Lastly, if our word is to mean anything as a country and to our allies, then we’re in the right to help Ukraine defend itself from an unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful invasion. We signed a Budapest Memorandum that persuaded Ukraine to give up its nukes in return for guaranteed recognition of their sovereignty by the Russian Federation, and for the US, UK and Russia to give the country security assurances, and we’re fulfilling that “security assurances” obligation by giving their military the means to kill the Russian war machine that welshed on that deal.

    Paul Montagu (895dc0)

  31. I’m not clear as to why those House Republicans that oppose assisting Ukraine are all that upset with the most recent aid package. Mike Johnson deliberately dithered long enough to weaken Ukraine and let Russia make substantial battlefield gains, so that in the long term Russia will win.

    Rip Murdock (af68bc)

  32. @31

    I’m not clear as to why those House Republicans that oppose assisting Ukraine are all that upset with the most recent aid package. Mike Johnson deliberately dithered long enough to weaken Ukraine and let Russia make substantial battlefield gains, so that in the long term Russia will win.

    Rip Murdock (af68bc) — 4/23/2024 @ 9:57 am

    They’re upset that Johnson couldn’t get any concession on border security.

    whembly (86df54)

  33. whembly (86df54) — 4/23/2024 @ 10:04 am

    Since the Republicans voted 101-112 against Ukraine funding, which was separate from the border security bill, it seems more to be an anti-Ukraine vote than anything else.

    Rip Murdock (af68bc)

  34. #33

    The Democrats used the Ukraine call as a political tool and I think that put Ukraine in the middle between Democrats and Republicans.
    It seems a little incongruent to find Democrats suddenly loving war, war spending, flag waving vs. Russia and Republicans opposing it
    I’ll put a call into MTG’s office and try to explain that the Ukrainians were simply caught in the middle during the impeachment and see how it goes

    steveg (6f970e)

  35. Thoughts:

    1. I’ve always been a little dithery on whether we should support Ukraine to the extent we do. Ultimately, as long as US troops stay out of there, strengthening global norms against countries that just invade is a good thing. Weakening Putin is a better thing. Giving Xi pause is an even better thing. All of these combine to make this a US interest.

    2. Republicans who complain about the lack of a border bill are not serious people. They had their opportunity. We know why they rejected it. (Hint — he’s on trial right now)

    3. Whembly’s argument that we simply need to keep the military industrial complex humming is not one any politician will ever admit. We do need to make sure we can defend ourselves and defend a world order that has been awfully good for America for many years.

    4. Dougherty likes to use that talk radio rhetoric which is truly hard to engage. He seems mad about the border bill. He seems mad about spending money, (Sorry, in this congress, money not spent on Ukraine would be put to some other purpose, which would probably make Dougherty very mad.) If you believe the US should play less of a role in the world, then be honest that there would be costs (such as the US being a global reserve currency, such as our benevolence being replaced by other more self-interested regimes taking over around the world, such as living with Hamas/Palestine from the River to the Sea).

    Appalled (2d93be)

  36. @35

    Thoughts:

    1. I’ve always been a little dithery on whether we should support Ukraine to the extent we do. Ultimately, as long as US troops stay out of there, strengthening global norms against countries that just invade is a good thing. Weakening Putin is a better thing. Giving Xi pause is an even better thing. All of these combine to make this a US interest.

    Agreed. I tire of the whole “if you’re against aid to Ukraine then you must be a Putin stooge” though….

    Just stick to the gist of what you wrote, imo. That’s all need to be said.

    2. Republicans who complain about the lack of a border bill are not serious people. They had their opportunity. We know why they rejected it. (Hint — he’s on trial right now)

    I disagree.

    The Senate’s attempt to border security was anything but “border security”.

    The Republican’s complaint stems from the fact that Schumer refuses to floor an already passed border security bill in HR2.

    3. Whembly’s argument that we simply need to keep the military industrial complex humming is not one any politician will ever admit. We do need to make sure we can defend ourselves and defend a world order that has been awfully good for America for many years.

    Nailed it.

    4. Dougherty likes to use that talk radio rhetoric which is truly hard to engage. He seems mad about the border bill. He seems mad about spending money, (Sorry, in this congress, money not spent on Ukraine would be put to some other purpose, which would probably make Dougherty very mad.) If you believe the US should play less of a role in the world, then be honest that there would be costs (such as the US being a global reserve currency, such as our benevolence being replaced by other more self-interested regimes taking over around the world, such as living with Hamas/Palestine from the River to the Sea).

    Appalled (2d93be) — 4/23/2024 @ 12:31 pm

    I think MBD’s main gripe, is that Republicans couldn’t get any concessions on things like border security (and other GOP agendas).

    whembly (86df54)

  37. We also hear about how “corrupt” Ukraine is, as if that excuses or rationalizes an invasion and horrible war crimes. I agree with Kevin Williamson, how much more corrupt will Ukraine become with a Putin puppet regime in place?… The analogies to Iraq or Afghanistan or Viet Nam all seemed strained given we’re not losing our people to a meat grinder. Maybe Ukraine stays a stalemate and a deal must be struck. Let Ukraine at least get to that point.
    AJ_Liberty (1295e6) — 4/23/2024 @ 8:38 am

    This is pretty much my position. I’m pro-Ukraine but anti-Zelensky, who is Thomas Jefferson *only* in comparison to Putin. Against many other western world leaders, he’s pretty corrupt and dismal.

    It helps to hold my hunch on how all this ends: Putin gets taken out or weakened one way or the other; Russia looks for a deal; NATO carves up whatever’s left of Ukraine; Zelensky ends up pushed aside and exiled somewhere with no voice whatsoever.

    qdpsteve again (711764)

  38. . . . it’s in our interest to see Putin stuck and losing territory in this country he intends to conquer and absorb, thereby committing a cultural genocide scarcely different from Xi’s cultural genocide of Uighers.

    So it’s oppose Putin by arming his opponents, but continue to foster closer trading ties with Xi and China? Can you maybe see why so many on both the right and the left now find themselves befuddled about “American values”?

    JVW (1a4add)

  39. There’s also something very unseemly about being “pro-Ukraine” when that just entails voting to put another $100 billion or so on the national credit card for somebody way down in the future to pay. Once upon a time, maybe 90 years ago, we would have gone door to door with baskets and buckets asking the American people to kick in a few bucks so we could send guns and bullets to the brave people of Ukraine. Of course these days it’s hard to go door to door to find the money for a stinger missile, let alone a F-15 fighter jet. But I am uneasy that a nation which — I remind everyone yet again — is now $35 trillion in debt and this year is in the process of adding an additional $2 trillion to that sum isn’t sacrificing anything for “the war effort,” even though we are only involved militarily as a sort of quartermaster. How many people would support $100 billion to Ukraine if they were delivered a bill for $300 payable on behalf of every man, woman, and child in their household?

    JVW (1a4add)

  40. Co-sign AJ @22 and Paul @30.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  41. Except for the invested arguments that we aren’t putting troops there, why would putting troops (or air support) there be wrong? We’ve defended countries we had no defense agreements with — Kuwait most recently. We intervened in Kosovo, along with NATO, where we had no duty to act.

    I’m not arguing we should … this is yet another place that Biden has foreclosed action … but as a general policy matter I don’t see the red line.

    We have a vested interest in Ukraine surviving. We have a vested interest in Putin failing to recreate Greater Russia. And we have a profound interest in defending Western-looking democracies against fascist thugs.

    All of which were missing in Kuwait, and yet we acted.

    The result is that we have left Putin a path to consuming Ukraine, something we could have avoided by resolute action a few years back. Now we can do noting active because we have agreed to do nothing active.

    Why?

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  42. Intervening in Kuwait didn’t involve a direct military confrontation with a nuclear power and major geopolitical rival. The Kuwaiti intervention was in part to defend Saudi Arabia and access to the Persian Gulf.

    Rip Murdock (fcfd18)

  43. One thing that Russia hasn’t done is intercept weapon shipments from the United States to Ukraine, probably because that would justify US intervention.

    Rip Murdock (fcfd18)

  44. > is it possible that there are pragmatic reasons to have a strong military industry, to “feed & nurture” the complex Military Industrial Complex™ supply chains, so that the industry can be nimble in addressing the crazy, chaotic world?

    speaking as someone who thirty years ago was a pacifist, yes, absolutely there are pragmatic reasons to keep a strong military industry alive and kicking. the existince of an industry that can build the tools we need to defend ourselves if attacked is essential to our ability to do the same, and it can only exist if it’s making enough money to pay its bills.

    that said, like with *any* monopoly (or small oligopoly) supplier whose product is one for which demand is inelastic, there’s a *real* problem: the only people with the knowledge to know what things cost to produce are the people producing it, and they have personal incentives to misrepresent the actual cost. this is a specialized version of the principal-agent problem, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real problem; it absolutely is, and it’s one that we haven’t really figured out how to overcome.

    aphrael (1797ab)

  45. So it’s oppose Putin by arming his opponents, but continue to foster closer trading ties with Xi and China? Can you maybe see why so many on both the right and the left now find themselves befuddled about “American values”?

    I don’t support “closer trading ties with Xi and China”, more the opposite. I think we should encourage American companies to do business with all Asian countries but for China, and divest from the Xi regime (in phased fashion) until they start respecting civil liberties and political rights.

    Far as I’m concerned, our experiment with China failed, that if we open up their markets and economy, that an opening of human rights and democracy would follow, but didn’t happen. Rather, Xi took the regime in the opposite direction.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)


  46. Intervening in Kuwait didn’t involve a direct military confrontation with a nuclear power and major geopolitical rival

    This isn’t an answer. We are willing (or at least we say we are willing) to directly confront China over Taiwan. How does not confronting Putin make the Taiwan posture more believable?

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  47. @44: It’s more than that. During WW2, we created several generations of warplanes in a hurry — for us the war was 3 1/2 years long and we built an entire air force and navy pretty much from scratch. We were turning out aircraft carriers once a month.

    We cannot do that now — things are too complex (and actual big-boy wars are shorter). So whatever we have going in is what we’ll have to use. We can make some ordnance, sure, but building a new fleet combatant is unlikely.

    As for the oligopoly, it also tends to freeze out disruptive technologies. It’s not so much “not invented here” as “not for sale here.” One of the reasons why we have such problems developing novel systems like scramjets. We got missile defense only because a president or two pounded the table and overrode all the naysayers.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  48. Intervening in Kuwait didn’t involve a direct military confrontation with a nuclear power and major geopolitical rival

    This isn’t an answer. We are willing (or at least we say we are willing) to directly confront China over Taiwan. How does not confronting Putin make the Taiwan posture more believable?

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 4/23/2024 @ 9:46 pm

    You asked “why” the US chose to intervene in Kuwait and Ukraine, so my response is an answer, just one you don’t like.

    What the US says about confronting China over Taiwan and what the US ultimately does are two different things. Right now the US doesn’t have the military capability to defend Taiwan; and by the time the US assembled enough military assets in the area the Chinese could have seized Taiwan and presented the world with a fait accompli.

    Rip Murdock (fcfd18)

  49. We launched Desert Storm because (1) we could, with the help of the UN, NATO and our allies, (2) Saddam’s invasion would’ve altered the balance of power and economics in the Middle East, (3) his invasion threatened Saudi Arabia, because it’s unlikely his invasion would’ve ended in Kuwait had we done nothing.

    Paul Montagu (895dc0)

  50. Without Desert Storm there’d be no Three Kings, which would be a shame.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  51. I’ve said before that Krugman is a first-rate economist but third-rate pundit but, in his latest, he elevated himself to second-rate pundit, comparing present-day aid to Ukraine to our lend-lease program in 1941.

    Another pundit who’s been around too long, George Will, took the GOP to task but he also concisely nailed Biden.

    President Biden has been blameworthy for what is rightly disparaged as the “drip feed” of weapons to Ukraine. It is fair to say of him what Theodore Roosevelt said of President William Howard Taft: He “means well feebly.”

    Paul Montagu (d40e94)

  52. You asked “why” the US chose to intervene in Kuwait and Ukraine, so my response is an answer, just one you don’t like.

    No, I did not. I asked why we don’t intervene in Ukraine, given that we DID intervene those other places where we had less at stake (in Kosovo, nothing but diverting attention from Monica).

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  53. Right now the US doesn’t have the military capability to defend Taiwan

    Sure we do. In the 1950’s we actually threatened to use nuclear weapons over a tiny island you could swim to from China. We have not backed away from that, and currently have US Special Forces ON that tiny little island.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  54. Paul (@49):

    Fine, but then why did we not take action when Putin annexed Crimea? Or when he started sending “volunteers” into Donetsk? Pretty sure the answer is not “Trump.”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  55. Kevin, I’ll take your questions as rhetorical, because you’re asking about basic verified history.

    I’ve blogged about Obama’s pathetic reaction to Putin’s invasions of both regions. Obama and his intelligence community were surprised by Putin’s surprise attack of Crimea, which was an intelligence failure on Obama’s part, and Obama’s reactions to both invasions were way too little and way too late, especially after Flight MH17 was shot down.

    But I get it, you don’t like it that I continue to criticize a court-adjudicated fraudster, liar and sexual abuser, but you’ll just have to buck it up, because you won’t shut me up.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)


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