Those members of the DC war party who are pushing for the United States to enter the fight between Russia and Ukraine have done a great job of obfuscating the most important part of any decision to go to war: If we fight, what constitutes victory?
There was a time when the Ulysses S. Grant formulation of “unconditional surrender” was the only definition of victory that was acceptable to Americans, and that held true from the American Civil War right through World War II.
(Although one could argue allowing the defeated Japanese to keep their Emperor was a “condition” it was a mere fig leaf to ease the occupation of the defeated country and was of no military or political significance to the post-war order.)
All of that changed when America entered the Korean War and the reality of defeating a country as vast as Communist China was thrust upon us.
Suddenly, the idea of using all the levers of American military power became unacceptably risky due to the potential of the Soviet Union, and its unquantified nuclear capabilities, entering the war on the Communist side.
The result was that American politicians decided that a 69-year long stalemate was a form of victory, because it allowed the US to build South Korea into a bulwark against Communism and an economic powerhouse based on free markets and at least a nominal embrace of Western political values.
Since the Korean stalemate was established in 1953, American politicians’ ideas of “victory” have eroded to the point that no war in which we have engaged defined winning as anything beyond quite limited military and political objectives – if victory was defined at all.
Indeed, from Vietnam to Iraq and Syria, and on to Afghanistan the heroic feats of arms performed by American troops on the frontlines have been squandered by politicians’ failure to identify the enemy and define victory.
Ronald Reagan, whose idea of victory over Communism was “We win, they lose” was unwilling to engage in a land war in the Middle East after the 1983 Iranian-inspired Beirut barracks bombings took the lives of 241 Americans. It was not because he didn’t know who was responsible for the bombing, but because defining victory as fighting and winning a conventional war with Islamist Iran involved an unacceptable level of political risk.
Far better, decided Reagan, to concentrate on defeating the Soviet Union through economic and ideological warfare than expend the vast number of lives and treasure necessary to defeat Iran on the conventional battlefield.
Which brings us back to our present conundrum in Ukraine.
Are Americans and Ukrainians going to fight a pitched tank battle with the Russians along the Donbas and Byelorussian border if Putin so much as sneezes in the direction of Kiev?
Are we and our erstwhile Ukrainian allies going house-to-house to push the Russians out of Crimea and the Donbas to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine as we did in the first Gulf War, when Operation Desert Storm expelled Saddam Hussein from Kuwait?
What do we do if Putin threatens the Baltic countries, which have Russian minority populations like Ukraine?
Do we have to do any or all these things to achieve “victory” in Ukraine, and is it in our national interest to do so?
What about the political cost of alienating millions of Americans who think we should just stay the hell out and let the Ukrainians figure out their own problems with Russia?
Or if thwarting Putin is in our national interest, is it possible that a status quo stalemate, much like the one in Korea, is the best we can do militarily and politically, and building up a democratic and economically viable Ukraine is the “victory” that is most achievable and most in our national interest?
From our perspective the DC war hawks, and their hapless tool Joe Biden, haven’t answered any of the most important questions necessary to justify American military involvement in Ukraine, and most importantly, they haven’t defined for the American people what “victory” in Ukraine looks like.
The toll-free Capitol Switchboard is (1-866-220-0044), call your Senators and Representative today to tell them you oppose sending American troops to Ukraine. Instead of defending Ukraine’s border you want American troops to defend OUR border.
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