308 Comments
founding

I agree with your point about Ukraine. We are talking tough and puffing our chests while gambling with Ukrainian lives, one way or the other. Further, I believe any Russian leader would share Putin's attitude toward Ukraine joining NATO. It has nothing to do with Putin's other sins in other areas.

The US is becoming the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of foreign powers: breaking things and leaving others to deal with the mess.

Below is a good piece by George Kennan from 1997 arguing that NATO expansion would doom the possibility of really, finally, ending the Cold War.

https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/05/opinion/a-fateful-error.html?searchResultPosition=1

Expand full comment

Not any kind of expert, but how exactly is it "we" who are gambling with Ukrainian lives? The US is not the aggressor here.

Expand full comment
founding

The way i see it, we're encouraging Ukraine to keep its goal of joining NATO, something Russia will not allow. From Russia's POV, the further expansion of NATO east is an unacceptable threat to their security. So, Russia will fight to prevent it. WE can't always get what we want. And Ukraine in NATO is something we do not need. It was a successful gamble to include the Central European and Baltic states in NATO. Particularly when Russia was a lot weaker. This is a step too far.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment
founding

I simply do not believe that our stance with regard to Ukraine since 2008 has been in our national interest. Nor in Ukraine's. You can deal with the world and men like Putin as you find them or you can deal with the world and men like Putin as you'd like them to be.

Expand full comment

Every word.

Expand full comment

My Transylvanian-born late husband was a labor prisoner in the Donbas as a teenager right after WWII. He wrote a book titled DONBAS, a word I lived with intimately for almost 40 years that almost nobody else had ever heard. Around the turn of the century we went back to visit the place of his imprisonment. All I can tell you is, when he was a prisoner and still half a century later, everybody in that eastern part of Ukraine, along the border with Russia, was Russian (with the exception of university students and entrepreneurs in the capital of the region, Donetsk, which was more cosmopolitan, if you can say that about a city with working coal mines inside its boundaries and a university focused on mining engineering). They spoke Russian, they thought of themselves as Russians.

Now, Ukrainian nationalists will tell you that that's where the Ukrainian people originated and that it was Stalin who depopulated it of Ukrainians and filled it with Russians. Whose truth is the true truth? I don't know.

Expand full comment

All of the independent nations now bordering Russia that were once part of the Russian and Soviet empires were "Russified" before and during the Soviet Union, which involved two things: shipping the "natives" out en masse (this was part of Stalin's "nationalities" specialty that Lenin assigned to him) and moving Russians *in*.

Russia's current policy is to use the presence of Russians in places like Georgia, the Baltics, and yes, Ukraine, as a justification for their bellicose foreign policy and military adventures, including (and especially) fomenting the creation of "breakaway states" (Transdniestria, South Ossetia, and so on).

With the Crimea, they simply annexed it outright from an independent Ukraine.

I am not in favor of a NATO war with Russia - which is good, since they aren't going to do anything realistically anyway - but you can see why the Baltic states jumped at the chance to join NATO the millisecond the option was available to them.

Finland has also weighed joining NATO, but is confident that their current military response would be adequate to deter (another) invasion from the east, and is unlikely to do so in the near to mid future.

Expand full comment
RemovedFeb 21, 2022·edited Feb 21, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment

"Most of eastern Ukraine has basically always been part of Greater Russia"—that really strikes at the heart of my question: Was the Donbas region always Russian, or Russified by Stalin? The Ukrainian nationalist claim seems to be that a distinct Ukrainian people (narcissism of small differences?) originated just there and their descendants were removed by Stalin. I know Stalin did plenty of that, but was the Donbas one of the places where he did it? I don't know the answer.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

It invites a whole history of the Cossacks and Tatars.

Expand full comment

Putin has now said he's going to recognize the breakaway republics in Eastern Ukraine. https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-60454795 My sense of the Donbas, and granted this was 20 years ago, is that the old-timers and the young toughs will be exultant and the transplants from the Western part of the country, the beneficiaries of the "Ukrainization" of the region will flee.

Expand full comment
Feb 21, 2022·edited Feb 21, 2022

Yes, I realize - my family came here from Finland. What did happen in Ukraine under Stalin, however, is that an enormous number of Ukrainians were shipped out under Stalin during the manmade collectivization famine, and in their place, an enormous number of Russians were also brought in to replace them. Someone had to work on those collective farms.

There have always been Russians in Ukraine, but Russification happened anyway under Stalin - just in a different (and much bloodier) fashion than Russification took place under Peter the Great, Catherine, etc.

The other thing they all have in common is that Russia's military and political leaders seem to act as if their national sovereignty is essentially a joke, and that the only reason any of them are still independent at all is because Russia is graciously allowing them to be ... for now.

Expand full comment

The Donbas region I don't think was ever a rich agricultural region like the "breadbasket" wheatlands of western and central Ukraine. The Donbas is flinty and severe, and the wealth is underground—coal. But the mines are wet in the best of times, and now many of them are flooded and idle, a reporter there told me.

Expand full comment

So 1990 and the "fall of the Soviet Empire" were just temporary?

Expand full comment

Educating conversation. Question to both of you. Even if the people in a given area culturally Russian, that doesn't mean the support Putin or that they don't want a true democracy, does it? Maybe the Ukraine government isn't innocent, but they are more legit and elected than Putin, right? Didn't these "Russian" citizens at least have a chance to vote for or against the current Ukrainian leadership? Isn't the current Ukrainian administration at least somewhat more legitimate than Putin's, who's elections are almost as fake as China's and North Korea's?

I'm really asking this shit honestly. I don't think real democracies are defacto less evil than non-democratic ones. But I do think, if the elections were legit, that they're more representative of their citizens than strong-man regimes. No?

Expand full comment

Correct - there is no default position on Putin, for example, for ethnic Russians outside Russia. Russians are every bit as likely to have differing opinions as anyone else. However, it is also correct to note that many Russians in the former Central Asian states and even the Baltics still look to Russia as a guarantor of things like language rights and so on.

The only legitimacy Ukraine's rotten governments have is that they are, at least, Ukrainian. It's the Ukranian people's problem, and is not a pretext for Russian aggression.

Expand full comment

A huge number prefer ex-commie fairly socialist economic and cultural security, especially anti-gay, anti-trans "woke" junk, over a capitalism that hugely rewards the rich with most of whatever increase there is in GDP. Language and religion are the two biggest cultural issues, with relative economic status for many more important than absolute economic growth.

Real democracies always have far more important disagreements among groups of people about the best policies. "Unity" is anti-democratic.

Expand full comment

Russification was definitely a real thing--not always as a nefarious Stalinist plot, mind you--but Ukraine is a different case than, say, Kazakhstan or Latvia. Ukraine was divided into Russophone cities and Ukrainian villages for centuries. They're still de-Russifying old signs and streets in Kyiv. Bulgakov, Malevich, Babel, Gogol, Vasily Grossmann, Akhmatova, and plenty more were born in present-day Ukraine but not remotely Ukrainian in any social, political, or linguistic sense.

Expand full comment

Thank you for this.

Moldova is another example. It used to be part of greater Romania. https://apnews.com/article/europe-russia-international-news-language-political-issues-d081874e81aa4d41b9914b478b965293

Expand full comment

At least Moldova was a Soviet Republic in its own right (Romania, of course, was a separate state), but Russia created the bizarre *Moldovan* breakaway republic of Transnistria, joining other breakaway states recognized by Russia alone like Abkhazia, Artsakh and South Ossetia. It's basically been the go-to playbook of post-Soviet Russian and military policy.

Expand full comment

I've actually heard a global strategist use the "replacing the ship's planks / does the original boat arrive at port" metaphor for the people residing in Ukraine. It's a useful thought exercise but, like you point out, it doesn't really provide a useful answer.

Expand full comment

I watched that Ken Burns series on Vietnam a while back. At every step of the escalation, there was one guy in the room saying it wasn't going to work. Duly ignored, of course.

The support of the Shah, Samoza, Batista, was like the official US mission was Operation Generate Blowback.

Expand full comment

Your last para pointed to the most important reason to avoid war. It is deeply immoral and destructive to your country over the long term to engage in wars from which your family, your friends, and your class are excused.

Expand full comment

In reality, the entire political class suffers from Trump's bone spurs.

Expand full comment

there's always Blumenthal..o wait.

Expand full comment

Bravo Robin G

Expand full comment

I don't agree with everything you say here, but you bring up some great points and this post inspired me to dig deeper into a conflict I don't know too much about. But one question.

Is America really about to go to war as you say? Are we placing thousands of troops at the border? Are we mobilizing? Are we even increasing arms to Ukraine? These aren't rhetorical questions. I really don't know. I barely read headlines these days. (Turned off most news after 2020 summer riots and Jan 6. Those stupid events depress me more than Covid).

All the tidbits I do see seem to imply that the worst we'll do if Russia invades is some real sanctions. (Which will fuck up our inflating economy and send gas prices sky high, right?)

I'm against war now too. I'm rarely for war. Iraq was a huge mistake. (Afghanistan was more complicated. I supported capturing or killing Bin Laden, which Bush fucked up. I didn't support us leaving troops there for 20 years).

Maybe there's no good answers. Like Covid, maybe what we do doesn't matter. I do think Putin is evil. I think his psyops is why we have MAGA vs WOKE. I did actually read the Mueller report. Trump wasn't his puppet but Putin was clearly involved is helping elect that retard. And he helped fan the flames of QAnon, Proud Boys, AntiFa and all the other stupid fucking things many of us believe in.

I don't think there's any good answers. I think we just have to hope nukes don't get involved. I gotta finish my coffee. I'm rambling. Someone shut me up.

Expand full comment
author

Look at the history of this country in the past half century and you might understand why I'd like to get a jump on opposing the next war

Expand full comment

Fair enough. But isn't that history always a proxy war as opposed to an actual conflict with Russia directly? I can't see a Biden administration being stupid enough directly engaging with Putin in a hot war of our soldiers on the ground. I doubt even the Bush/Clinton hawks would do that. (Nor Trump of course).

Are you saying you're against any involvement? Weapons? Sanctions? Do you at least see that a Putin invasion is a bad thing no matter what we do?

Expand full comment

I can’t help seeing this situation as eerily reminiscent of Hitler/Sudetenland/Poland/boom. Maybe this is the opening gambit for Russia to gobble up its ex-satellites and create the cold war redux. No one in their right mind wants a European shooting war. (We’d lose it anyway). But after Russia adds Ukraine to its empire, having already gathered in Belarus, are we really willing to countenance a captive Poland? We had better hope that winken Blinken and nod over there in the White House have something in mind in their dealings with Putin beyond begging the Germans to keep the pipeline closed.

Expand full comment

Didn't Putin himself admit that the US plus NATO have a way larger force then Russia? If Putin was literally Hitler I think we would indeed win a shooting war, God forbid that ever happens. But Putin is at least implying that he'd use nukes. Much like Trump use to imply he could use nukes. The problem is that Putin is much smarter & crazier than Trump and might actually use them. Hopefully Biden is surrounded by people smart enough to keep that from happening.

But I don't think there's any good solutions here. We have to hope Putin dies. He's almost 70.

Expand full comment

How would we lose? All Russia does is export natural resources. They don’t have the manufacturing and transport infrastructure to win a war with the west. China sure as hell could - but not Russia.

Expand full comment

Is that supposed to be sarcastic? Dude, we just lost a war in freakin' Afghanistan!

Expand full comment

And we left and now 95% or Afghans are starving. They wanted us out and we are out. Now they can deal with the consequences.

Expand full comment

I have the same question. There actually seems to be a big disconnect between the media pro-war types and actual politicians. It’s unusual. I could definitely be wrong, but it doesn’t look to me like Biden or either party in Congress is pushing for war. Don’t see any enthusiasm among citizens of any stripe either.

Expand full comment

I see the politicians doing a Barney Fife routine. Don't make me do it! I'll reach in my shirt pocket and load my gun if you keep that up. We have constructed a media landscape that has confused these people into believing their opinion matters. Biden doesn't need their approval to do something stupid.

Expand full comment

Are we putting troops in Ukraine? Does Ukraine agency not matter? Or are you saying Ukraine has already been hijacked? I was strongly against the Iraq war. Our military blob learned little from Viet Nam. But I don’t see Ukraine (so far) as Iraq 2.0

Expand full comment
author

Did I not directly address the question of Ukrainian self-determination?

Expand full comment

You did at the top of your essay, before pivoting back to the idea that this conflict is really “our” war — US vs. Russia.

Expand full comment

Fourteen months on, we have troops in Ukraine and Ukraine has no agency: it is completely dependent on US funding to carry out the basic functions of government.

Expand full comment
Feb 21, 2022·edited Feb 21, 2022

I couldn't agree more. With respect to Ukraine, John Mearsheimer has been forcefully arguing for years that NATO expansion is a big mistake. I've heard him speak about Ukraine in this regard since 2014, and most recently on Andrew Sullivan's podcast. But I'm afraid Anne Applebaum's more interventionist point of view (also expressed on Sullivan's podcast, the following week) is what resonates with the US foreign policy establishment.

Expand full comment

My partner, who is a bit more hawkish than me on foreign policy, would answer your big question as follows: the undoing of the US's role as global cop would leave in its place a dangerous power vacuum that a hostile power like China or Russia would be only too glad to fill. Obviously my counterargument to that is that the US's insistence on acting as the final arbiter of justice & purveyor of force *in itself* creates the very conditions that it claims it is trying to police. Even he, however, agrees with me that Ukraine cannot join NATO.

But his answer also illustrates the real difficulty of convincing the people in charge that restraint (or, in their derisive view, a lack of action) is the answer - it just feels counterintuitive. In an impossibly thorny situation like this, people always want to feel like they have choice and control to effect a scenario in which we get everything we want. And choosing to ignore that urge and understanding it for what it is - an illusion - requires sincere intellectual and emotional humility.

I'm hoping fear of a huge public backlash from voters (and, maybe, Putin self-interestedly deciding the risk/reward makes this effort not worth it?) will help us muddle through this mess.

Expand full comment

The "huge public backlash from the voters" would take the form of re-electing Donald Trump.

Expand full comment

Personally I am hoping "really bad polling numbers" would do the job.

Expand full comment
Feb 21, 2022·edited Feb 21, 2022

I don't think I could take another four years of Trump. Not just because of, you know, Trump (though absolutely because of Trump), but also because I don't think I can take four more years of hysterical end-of-days panic and smug owning-the-MAGA-hats rhetoric from the entire lib-left end of things.

Expand full comment

Any Republican will do. Hopefully Trump will be dead by 2024 and the GOP can find someone sunny and optimistic who can actually win a majority of votes.

Expand full comment
founding

Great post. Many years ago, I heard Chomsky make a similar point, and it blew my mind. Why are we allowed to do things that other countries are not? Why are we special?

Putin must be stopped…but it’s okay for us to invade and occupy countries? Why? The only difference is that we claim we’re the good guys, bombing people to help them. And because our “security” is at stake. (Russia’s security does not matter, just ours.)

When Russia “meddles” in our election (on social media), we melt down for months. But we can take out leaders we don’t like and replace them with our guy. That’s different.

The idea that we’re a force of good in the world is simply not compatible with our body count. We might do some good things on occasion, but after Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s legitimate to see us as bad guys.

Expand full comment
Removed (Banned)Feb 21, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Give it a try.

Expand full comment
Feb 21, 2022·edited Feb 21, 2022

> Why are we allowed to do things that other countries are not? Why are we special?

Each country pursues its interests or the interests of its elites. International relations are shaped by power and not by ethics. Fairness has nothing to do with it. It's not that America is "allowed" to do these things; it's that no other nation is powerful enough to stop it.

America is, in contrast, powerful enough to at least make Russia or anyone else think twice before acting against its interests (or whatever those in power concieve those interests to be). Other nations can make it too expensive for America to do what it wants (witness Iraq and Afghanistan), but, for the moment, the U.S. is top dog.

Expand full comment
founding

I agree. I meant it rhetorically, because this is the myth we tell US citizens—that our behavior is ethical because we’re good.

Expand full comment

This reminds me of the one the COVID posts. Yeah, it would be nice if we could "do something" to stop COVID and war, but the thing we actually can come packaged with tons of consequences and questionable efficacy.

Expand full comment

We can't stop every war. I was despondent last year as friends, students, and family members in Armenia fought in Karabakh. I desperately wanted the US, France, and Russia to fully honor their treaty obligations and initiate an immediate ceasefire. I wanted, deep down, to at least see American drones shooting down Azerbaijani drones, if nothing else. That was the first, and hopefully last time I came close to cherishing the massive taxes I pay to the US war machine. But I also knew, deep down, that Karabakh isn't America's war any more than Yemen or Tigray are, or than Ukraine would be.

I hate, hate, hate the Russian government and military for the pain it's caused my friends in Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine (and within Russia, for that matter). I have little patience for what-aboutism or arguments about Russia's "sphere of influence," as if proximity or historical precedent is a justification for war crimes in Chechnya and bloody adventures in Ossetia. Putin's wars are terrible, and should be opposed with every legal, non-violent method we have. But we can't fight every war.

Expand full comment

All it takes is people merely agreeing that Russia's military adventurism is just as bad as America's, but there's still a huge segment of the American body politic that only seems to believe it's bad when America does it instead of, you know, the thing itself simply being horrible.

Expand full comment

I agree that both American and Russian military interventionism is bad.

I am still waiting for you to agree with me here.

Expand full comment

Yeah except that Russian "interventionism" tends to have that unique aspect about them such that it only applies on its own borders and in its own former territories with direct consequences to its own regional stability. Same can't be said of Uncle Scam, in fact quite the opposite. Ask him about the Cuban Missile Crisis and who he thinks was the "winner" in that particular scenario. I'm sure the answer would be enlightening.

Expand full comment

"When America does it" lol. I'm an American and I played no part in any of it. Did you mean the American 0.1% with MIC holdings in their portfolios who are the real puppet masters behind "America's" (undeniably dreadful, illegal and evil - and FAR more so than anything which we could plausibly lay at Putin's feet) actions FAR from our own shores or borders?

Expand full comment

Could you please elucidate the pain that the Russian federation has caused your friends in Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine? I'm asking for concrete, real-world examples and direct links to Russian policies and actions, and just as importantly detailed explanations of the context in which they occured, both before, during and after. I'm not saying none exist, I just want them articulated especially since you've got such obvious strong convictions about them. What exact war crimes did Russia commit in Chechnya and what were they in response to?

You've got no patience for "whattaboutism" yet you're tacitly and perhaps unknowingly applying "whattaboutist" logic by ignoring the vast, vast scale of American war crimes and adventurism - FAR from our own shores or borders - just to jump on the easy-to-board anti-Putin train here. So how many millions of people has Putin killed or displaced and what were the exact circumstances leading up to these alleged actions? Heck, I'd be happy with a few links since it would obviously necessitate quite a long response if in your own words.

Expand full comment

If you want to have a brain aneurysm, I suggest you listen to this interview with Democratic Rep Jeffrey Meeks, where he quotes Martin Luther King's "an injustice anywhere" as a justification for continuous US troop and weapons buildup in eastern Europe: https://www.npr.org/2022/01/28/1076514284/a-congressional-delegation-visits-kyiv-to-pledge-solidarity-with-ukraine

This has been the farthest left position allowed on NPR since this crisis began

Expand full comment
Feb 21, 2022Liked by Freddie deBoer

"Authoritarian" and "government" are both a but generous with regards to Ukraine. It's a comically dysfunctional state ruled loosely by competing oligarchic interests.

Expand full comment

Agreed is that what Russia will become on Putin's passing?

Expand full comment

Nothing has happened in Russia in a thousand years that might give cause for optimism.

Expand full comment

There's a *lot* that I despise in the Hanania take that Freddie linked to above, but I think he's essentially correct when he says that the average Ukrainian is about as likely to fight and die for the honor of the Ukrainian government than I am for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Expand full comment

It isn't the Ukrainian government they would be fighting for. The attitudes toward free speech, women's rights, gay rights, self-determination are far different today in downtown Kiev than they would be under the control of Moscow. Russia has changed a lot in the last 20 years, as has Eastern Europe--and they've gone in different directions.

Expand full comment

This would have been true before 2014.

Expand full comment

Ask the ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the LNR and DNR whether they'd call the government in Kyiv "authoritarians" (or Nazis).

Expand full comment

Maybe some of them would, but they're morlocks with their faces glued to the Moscow zombie-tube.

Expand full comment

There's 2 perspectives I'm reading. The notion of a war with Russia over Ukraine dismissed as an inconceivable but hyped up media/dem dog wag and this more serious cautionary take against any possibility whatsoever. Regardless of the likelihood, I'm becoming more convinced by the latter than the former. Even posturing this way seems reckless.

Coincidentally, I obtained all the Adam Curtis films over the weekend. Started re-watching all his stuff from Pandora's Box again.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on one of his newer films/series.

Expand full comment

First of all, I'm a right winger

(pause while I duck to avoid the impending barrage of rotten fruit)

... ok, with that out of the way ...

I'm a right winger, and nobody's dove. I do not believe wars should be avoided at *any* and *all* costs. War is, occasionally, necessary.

What does, bafflingly, seem to currently separate me from hawks on the left *and* right is my now apparently archaic belief that we should only go to war as a *last* resort, when all other options have been exhausted, and only in the most remarkable circumstances (like actual wars of aggression - not "we need oil").

I am apparently even more outdated by believing that they only we should actually ever declare war is by doing it the way the constitution tells us we must - something we have not done as a nation since we declared war on Japan in 1941.

Furthermore, I still cling to the outdated notion that if we do make the horrible decision to go to war, the only option is an American victory, with the terms of ending the conflict crystal clear. We spent twenty years in Afghanistan because there was no "end goal" once the Taliban was gone - just a completely useless attempt at "nation building". Afghanistan did not want to be a country like Belgium, and was never going to be one. The war was a fiasco precisely because it had no goals, and indeed, not even an enemy who had the power to surrender to us if we "won".

America is not threatened in the Ukraine. I do not want Russia to invade Ukraine, and I want them to stop their military adventurism in the Caucuses and elsewhere. But let's be clear - I would never support America intervening militarily because as awful as it is, it is simply not worth America going to war over.

Expand full comment

Absolutely *not* a RWer, and I totally agree with you. It's a brute cost and benefit analysis on this one. Russia simply does not seem a threat remotely commensurate with the Dem-led sabre-rattling. I don't think there's any need to try to put oneself in the shoes of a regime like Putin's to see that.

There are, however, other powers American policymakers and ordinary people should be much more wary of, re: the point in the post about "would we tolerate the Chinese expanding their footprint to this degree." The answer to that is, the U.S. basically already does, and has since 1989. COVID's fallout is exemplary of how dramatic the implications of that "footprint" have become in an age where it's not necessarily nuclear arms that are the weapons most capable of explosive, nearly instant damage across entire continents, with years if not decades of painfully lingering effects.

Expand full comment

Dem-led sabre rattling. LOL. Perhaps you haven't been paying attention to the statements of numerous Republicans in Congress and in the media (save for Tucker Carlson and his guests), or maybe you don't remember when it was Obama telling Mitt Romney to chill the fuck out with his (and the GOP's) hawkish stance against Russia back during the early 2010s. It makes no difference who's in power between the Ds and the Rs - the sabre rattling will always continue apace.

Expand full comment

As someone who is pretty far left by most standards (though not Freddie's!), I totally agree with all this. If we must have troops abroad (I'm in favor of recalling all of them to US soil), they should be empowered to act only in limited self-defense if fired upon. Other than that, ANY military engagement should happen ONLY with specific Congressional declaration of war.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

At this juncture in our history it's nearly a universal viewpoint that Congress SHOULD be the arbiters of whether we go to war with anyone. That will never happen again in the way the framers intended, so it's a borderline useless antiquated opinion masquerading as an informed and principled one one. Duh, yeah - we should have some checks and balances where waging war is concerned. Too bad that's not how it works when the capitalist class (in this case the FIRE sector and MIC) controls "democracy."

Besides, no direct US "military engagement" (meaning war for all intents and purposes) is necessary to sell trillions of arms to our "allies" (and non-allies) with the intent to foment and prolong wars far from our shores, so MarkS is just posturing there. He isn't a dummy and he knows that there is no way in hell that any political party besides the Greens would ever deign to impose those strict conditions on our MIC, so then why bother even saying it? Same goes for our self-professed right wing "anti-war" commenter. Every war is a banker's (and arms dealer's) war and war is a racket. Congress knows this, the deep state knows this and capitalists know this. Hence, there will always be more unnecessary wars. Absolutely no formal Congressional declaration needed and none should EVER be expected, except by the naive among us.

Expand full comment

Aw, you guys -- I'm all over the goddamn map politically, and I agree, too. DeBoer commentariat unity on clear and unambiguous congressional declarations of war! (Hopefully not too frequent.)

Expand full comment

The capitalist arms exporters who hold undue sway over the U.S. government (and military and "allies") would beg to disagree with your last sentence. "Police actions" bypass the pesky congressional declarations and open up a direct pipeline of weapons sales (including the WMDs we gave Saddam) which, nearly inevitably, and by design lead to future "police actions." If you don't see how democracy is in direct conflict with capitalism in this light, I'm not sure what to tell you, but you can - LOL - forget about any future congressional declarations of war - so what DO we do, then?

Expand full comment

In a sort of follow-up to FdB's piece over the weekend in which he decried the de-definitionalization (or whatever) of everything from "left" to "right" to whatever, what do you mean, personally, when you call yourself a "right winger"? I'm just genuinely curious.

Expand full comment

I am on the American political right, and have been since I was old enough to vote in the late 80's. If you remember William F. Buckley's definition of conservative politics, it was standing athwart from history, shouting "halt!" - my politics are essentially that.

However, modern conservatives stand in a very strange position where the left has spent decades trying to out do one another in their avant-garde progressivism, that we now look downright rebellious and new by trying to re-orient the political conversation back even 10-15 years ago.

Keep in mind that what passes for right wing in Rhode Island may pass for a communist west of the Mississippi. Your mileage may vary.

Certainly by the standards of most of Freddie Deboer's readership, I would be indistinguishable from Augusto Pinochet, but that's the nature of political discourse online.

Expand full comment

Hmm...Well, part of the reason I asked is based on a reply to a comment I made asking why FdB didn't allow comments on the aforementioned article about the destruction or constant re-writing of definitions like "left" and "right" in modern times. I guess as an engineer, I prefer to tackle (or discuss) specific problems rather than to label myself or other people according to some convenient generalized political spectrum.

The way I see it is that people in any civilization will progress in unpredictable ways, but they will progress unless they are ruthlessly kept under the proverbial bootheel in some form or another. Hence, this gender stuff, LGBTQ rights, and prior to that minority rights and the abolition of slavery were - while fought against very hard by the 'conservatives' of the time - inevitable progressions in the span of human history. If one was a 'conservative' (regardless of political party affiliation) in 1830 in the American south, one was most assuredly pro-slavery and willing to ride that system out until the very last $ and last bit of socio-political capital could be wrung from it or it was just no longer necessary to make money. As you know, many of the provisions of our Constitution and the way we elect people to national offices are grounded in 'conserving' the rights of former slave states despite there being plenty of evidence and reason to change it now. But I ramble...

I see the American right of today as a dead end faction whose main successes lie in 1) crushing and then rebranding the actual 'left' to suit their political and economic interests and 2) carrying water for the 0.1% among the capitalist class. Beyond that I need concrete, specific issues or events to discuss if there is to be anything productive to be gained from a dialogue (not re: you in particular necessarily) - like WHICH textbook are you wanting to ban/burn and why? Can we have a reasonable discussion about it? WHICH examples of actual CRT can we point to in which exact school district and so on, up to and including the perceived place of the United States on the world stage as a positive, negative or mixed influence from a military and economic policy perspective. Again, I ramble.

Thanks for at least trying to engage and answer my question and perhaps we can go deeper in future discussions where the terms "left" and "right" can be avoided and debate is focused on specific happenings, proposals and geopolitical strategy/tactics, etc.

In closing and in response to your penultimate sentence, the DNC - the Democrats in positions of power within the party - for the past 20 years, but especially Barack Obama, have governed like neoliberal/neoconservative Nixonian Republicans. There's nothing "left" about any recent Democratic President, House or Senate leaders. Those who could reasonably be described as on "the left" are relegated to the fringes of the party - Omar, AOC - where actual big decisions are made and others are used as sheepdogs and bulwarks for the Republicans against the actual working class (which should be the natural constituency of the left, minus the culture wars waged by the center and right to divide us) - such as Bernard Sanders. We don't have a leftist political party in the United States and that's by long, carefully executed design with its roots in the slave states, union and strike busting, the Red Scares/McCarthyism and Hoover's FBI not to mention the overseas anti-communist campaigns that almost always, as intended, came home to roost in domestic policy and mainstream 'approved' narratives.'

Good night and apologies for the rambling response.

Expand full comment

You don't seem like Augusto Pinochet at all to me and we disagree on lots of things. You seem like a principled moderate to me.

Expand full comment

Great points about the hubris of America, as well as the reality of unintended consequences (so seldom seriously considered domestically since LBJ's War on Poverty), despite "good intentions."

"That's why a liberal international order, like a liberal domestic one, restrains the use of force"

Yes, the gov't action question - when should force be used. You say:

"Of course, I think Ukrainian citizens should determine the future of Ukraine. " But then you note that many Ukrainians support Russia, and others support America. As was true of Iraq, and Afghanistan (which you fail to much note).

"People thought we were going to war to free Iraqis, depose a dictator, and stop future terrorist attacks on the United States. Instead, we invaded Iraq to reestablish imperial dominance, ensure access to cheap oil, and to punish some vaguely Middle Eastern-looking people after we were humiliated."

Iraqis were "free" to vote - and showed they do not agree on what "they" want. The Kurd-murdering Hussein (30,000+ in one city - there's a museum there now in remembrance) was a bad guy, was deposed, and had violated 16 UNSC resolutions after his 1992 loss to US / UN forces liberating Kuwait from his invasion.

To claim the USA has reestablished imperial dominance there is silly; access to cheap Iraq oil is desirable but US action was always opposed more by Saddam 3rd type friends (enemy's enemy) than promoted by war hawks, and the "punishment" goal was against Bin Laden and Afghanistan.

"Real law" is what is enforced - so it's really a cultural law that a white guy can't use the n-word as an insult, and almost can't even say that word, at all.

"International law" fails because there is no agreed upon enforcement mechanism that can be used against the 3 Great Powers of the post-WW II world: USA, Russia (USSR), China (excl. Taiwan). The USA doesn't want to be the world's policeman, yet also refuses to be subject to any other police force.

Whatever the USA does, the realistic world should expect a lot from:

"The potential for score-settling, the likelihood of martial law, the consolidation of power by reactionary forces in Ukraine?"

How many of the pro-USA folk in Afghanistan are being rounded up and killed - how many are still able to communicate?

You make a great argument that war is hell - but non-war to allow a dictator to win is also hell, but a different hell.

"You may want us to go to war for international norms and the rule of law - but every aggressive action we take makes a mockery of both. "

IF there's a "war", it is Putin's aggressive initiation which starts the war, not the NATO expansion. Tho Putin could also sanction gas & oil going thru Ukraine towards EU NATO countries - but he hasn't yet done that economic non-dealing. Putin could also shut down other oil exports to Germany, for example, to get Germany to veto NATO expansion into Ukraine.

If one leader uses its own troops to invade a country, without "sufficient" reason, that's violation of current international law, as agreed to in various treaties. Such invasion should bring forth universal condemnation from all who want a peaceful world where national disagreements are solved without using troops. Whether the invasion is "sufficient" reason, or whether Ukraine applying to join NATO is "sufficient" reason, seems arguable. And we should all mock those claim to support one country's self-determination to join NATO while supporting semi-dictator Putin's veto of such a desire.

The USA should be giving far more weapons, and training, and non-USA personnel support those in Ukraine preparing to fight - so as to increase the cost to Putin of an invasion, and thus make it less likely for him to order an invasion.

And why is Ukraine so much more afraid of Russia invasion? Because of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the Eastern Donbass areas with possibly a majority who support Russia, or a least a large number. Surprised by this reasonable news link, among others:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/28/ukraine-and-russia-explained-in-maps-and-charts-interactive

This claim is important:

"there will be terrible reprisals against the many, many people in Ukraine who are loyal to the Russian state. "

What are the reprisals under Putin-supported local Ukrainian leaders against those who oppose the Russian state? The almost certainly false implication is that losing pro-Russians will face worse reprisals than losing pro-Ukrainian/pro-NATO minorities.

It's arguable that the USA lost in Afghanistan because it was unwilling to inflict, or support the infliction of, reprisals against Taliban supporters which were as bad as the reprisals the Taliban was willing to impose on USA supporters. I'm sure it's at least on the significant reasons - and part of why war is hell. And often better to not be involved so as to avoid being "evil enough to win".

There's lots of Slovaks in neighboring Slovakia who oppose the US, and NATO, and support Russia, and even are nostalgic for the solidarity of socialism before 1989.

Expand full comment