One of the many things I’ve garnered from a lifetime studying history -- especially political movements and wars -- is how long it takes for something of consequence to happen.
The Bible was written over the course of millennia. The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” -- is true -- though it didn’t take nearly as long for the Empire to fall. The Crusades took place primarily within the span of about 200 years (1095 and 1291), but the struggle between the warring factions took much longer… and some would argue they’re still going on today, though the conflict between the religions isn’t as easily recognizable.
Even our own American Revolution, or the War for American Independence as it’s known on the old continent, took over six years to fight and resolve. The dispute between the American colonists and British monarchy began much earlier than that, even, so in totality the “war” was decades in the making. Ditto for the American Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression to the southerners), which basically got its inception when Eli Whitney’s late eighteenth century Cotton Gin turned growing the fluffy white stuff into a lucrative enterprise -- which then made slavery profitable instead of a decaying and slowly dying institution.
The examples go on and on, the point being that what we’re seeing these days on the evening news regarding Russia and Ukraine didn’t just start last month because Vlad Putin decided to take advantage of senile president Joe Biden’s weaknesses and gave the okay to send tanks and soldiers into his sovereign southern neighbor.
Almost simultaneously, comparisons between the contemporary mismatch in Eastern Europe and World War II began. On the surface, the similarities are many. There’s a central figure in the aggression (Putin); there’s an invaded territory that didn’t appear to be all that prepared or able to resist; there was (some) appeasement from the major players; there are many signs that the fighting could spread beyond the current Ukrainian borders, and American politicians are speech-making and pontificating about red lines, war crimes and all sorts of puffery intended to scare people into thinking this is a hastily concocted epic thriller sequel to “Adolph Hitler and the Brown Shirts rip up Europe.”
There’s also a special kind of hero worship saved for the Ukrainian resistance. Today’s warmongers are turning Ukraine’s cause into the struggle to save humanity. And it’s all happening so fast.
As a shining example of all of this, neoconservative anti-America First #NeverTrumper Bill Kristol wrote this week at The Bulwark:
“[I]f President Zelensky had fled, and the government of Ukraine had collapsed or quickly sued for peace, we would now be accommodating the new reality, as we did after 2008 and 2014. Putin would have succeeded. We’d be continuing our drift downward, trusting in ‘procrastination, half-measures, soothing and baffling expedients, delays.’
“There would be no real prospect of an awakening in the United States and Europe were it not for the stand the Ukrainians have made. We would still be denying the threats we face. We would still be turning away from the urgency of the task we face. We would even, I daresay, still fail to appreciate the preciousness of the freedom and decency we have the obligation—and the honor—to defend.
“It is the Ukrainians who have shown us what free men and women can do, and what they are sometimes required to do, in defense of that freedom. It is the Ukrainians who have shown the world that we are in a new period of consequences. It is the Ukrainians who have given us the example of what it means today to fight back against brutality, and to fight for freedom.”
If we were to actually listen to Kristol’s over-the-top praise of Ukraine, the U.S. treasury would immediately stop the printing of paper currency and substitute the face of President Volodymyr Zelensky in place of presidents Washington, Lincoln and Andrew Jackson on the bills. It’s always hard to tell how today’s events will be viewed by posterity, but it’s doubtful that historians will see the Ukrainians as the most ardent defenders of freedom and liberty in our age.
Here's thinking the Russia/Ukraine war won’t even receive a paragraph in some future textbook. The leftist educational establishment is too busy focusing on racism and transgenders to truly care about eastern Europeans caught living in too close proximity to Vladimir Putin.
For Bill Kristol to put Zelensky in the same league as Winston Churchill and America’s founders is a tad hyperbolic, isn’t it? But what else would you expect from a man who’s seen all his political credibility evaporate within the span of a few years? The Weekly Standard couldn’t hack it. And who reads The Bulwark but embittered Trump haters and liberals hopeful that conservative resolve is weakening?
As would be expected, Kristol couldn’t escape without getting a blast in at the America First philosophy and world outlook of former president Donald Trump. Those who prioritize national concerns over foreign interests would not be welcome at a neoconservative shindig held in Georgetown or some other swampy elitist stronghold, where the partygoers probably feel great about their contribution to the effort to defeat Putin by refusing to pour Russian vodka in their Martinis.
This group by and large ignores the threat to our own southern border where the undeclared war on America’s sovereignty rages every day, but they puff up and thump their chests because Putin wanted to annex part of the old Soviet Union. Where’s John McCain when you need him? Oh yes, he’s already present at the great war party in the sky!
Kristol’s entitled to his opinion, but why do he and his ilk have to insinuate that conservatives who support the military but don’t feel it should be used to spare every tribe on the planet from oppression are being less than patriotic?
Those of Bill Kristol’s mindset have got it all wrong. We don’t build a large and powerful military to send it to all corners of the world to fight wars for other countries without much, if any, connection to America’s vital interests. No, we build that military and train it to be the best fighting force in the world so we won’t have to use it.
In the abstract, to claim such a thing doesn’t make sense. How many times have liberals decried the beefing up of the defense budget, saying things like, “We already have enough bombs to destroy the entire world a hundred times over, why do we need another missile system?” Well, we don’t build that missile system to use it. We make it so we don’t have to use it, to deter the world’s bad guys from challenging the United States in hopes of weakening its resolve.
Or how about, “Shouldn’t we be transferring the money we’d use to buy guns and aircraft carriers to welfare programs to feed the homeless? If we’re really out to help out our own, why not start with the destitute on the local street corner?” But sponsoring midnight basketball programs or dumping another hundred million into help for drug addicted vagrants won’t deter enemies overseas, will it?
Peace through strength works. In fact, it’s the only way. History proves it. Study it.
Besides, 2022 is not 1936, no matter how many times Kristol and his neocon cohorts insist that it is. Vladimir Putin is a conniving little dictator and modern day KGB director, but he’s no Adolph Hitler. Putin’s oil dependent economy couldn’t sustain a lengthy war with NATO in western Europe, so how would he be able to threaten the world unless we allow him to do it by being paranoid and overestimating his capabilities and intentions?
The Russians couldn’t even subdue Ukraine quickly and with little cost to their forces. How would they take on NATO and hope to win in the end? Hitler took a month to conquer all of Poland and it didn’t take a whole lot longer to chew up large swaths of western European territory in the ensuing months. Today, the Russians can’t even find Zelensky. Some power they possess.
Americans should rightly fear Putin’s nuclear weapons, but he’d be crazy to use them over a strategically insignificant (in terms of U.S. interests) place like Ukraine. We should assist the Ukrainians -- or any nation opposing Russia -- to fight, but this doesn’t mean we should be willing to risk American lives or tanking the economy to do it. And we sure as heck shouldn’t equate today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine with the helpless situation of the western Europeans at the outset of World War II. We aren’t caught unaware and we’re not unprepared. If Putin gave the go-ahead to fight NATO, the Russian army wouldn’t get very far.
The tendency of the establishment media to sensationalize and blow events out of proportion doesn’t match the teachings of history. Episodes just don’t happen that fast. Vladimir Putin isn’t going to take over the world in a short time. The Bill Kristols of the journalism field can’t make Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian resistance into today’s version of principled freedom fighters. It just doesn’t work.
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