Gotta say I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't see a pro-ukraine consensus. I see lots of folks on both left and right taking Putin's side for all sorts of reasons, with a bewildered middle going "obviously there's a good side and a bad side here, right?

I gotta call a spade a spade here though and say this is actually a war of Goodies vs Baddies. Yes obviously that's reductive. But it's a war of a country aspiring to enter the ranks of prosperous, liberal democracies, that has spent the last several centuries being oppressed and literally starved, fighting for survival against a vastly mightier imperial power. It would be challenging to come up with a less morally complicated war if I tried to.

What I see is cope on the other side - "oh, it's really about NATO expansion" or "ah actually the US are the imperialists" or "this one random militia group is really racist actually." No, it's not about those things. Or, those things are secondary to the raw attempt by Russia to establish dominion over a fiercely independent neighbor.

I guess to you this comment will feel like part of the cathedral or whatever coming to make sure the pro-ukraine consensus is enforced in all spaces. I don't really have a counter to that other than I'm just a guy who feels strongly about it and is subscribed to your blog. I promise I'm not here to thought-crime you or whatever. I just wanted to come here and make the basic, obvious case as I see it. Sometimes everyone agrees on something because it happens to be right.

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With all due respect, it sounds like you're writing about the Iraq war, not the situation in Ukraine.

You've never before in your life seen widespread ideological consensus like this? In 2001, there were protests against the war, but every "serious" person dismissed them as dumb college kids or idiot hippies. The NYT not only published Judith Miller but their op-ed section and virtually ALL prestige publications and pundits were frothing with blood lust and snidely hippie punching anyone who wasn't.

In their news coverage of Ukraine, the NYT goes a little purple with the prose, but the op-ed pages are balanced between people who warn about larger repercussions and the threat of nuclear escalation, alongside people advocating for more aid to Ukraine. As far as I'm aware, no one, including the gov't of Ukraine, is lobbying for US involvement beyond money and weapons, or even weapons that could potentially cause serious damage beyond the Russian border.

If you want to air an opinion that'll get you laughed out of the room, it's to suggest the US destroy a whole new generation of poor young people by sending them abroad to fight someone else's war.

What's this "you get sidelined if you dare raise a peep of opposition? Tucker Carlson and all the Marjorie Taylor Greenes are flirting with a pro-Russia stance. Many, many prominent writers and pundits associated with the Left, from Matt Taibbi to GG to Katie Halper, are asking questions you say no one dares to ask. Taibbi asks these questions on the Bill Maher show. Do you think anyone would read Grayzone if they were still babbling conspiracy theories about Douma?

If anything, the perspective I most encounter in progressive spaces is yours: What Putin did is wrong, but — NATO, nuclear war, etc. As for

"There are Nazis, but ... " I've never heard anyone sane say that, unless it's followed by "but there are Nazis in every western Democracy and at least the ones in Ukraine don't hold legitimized political power."

It seems like left pundits all agree with each other that "EVERYONE'S SOLD OUT AND BETRAYED THEIR ANTI-WAR STANCE!" and that they're the silenced minority, because what, the Atlantic keeps publishing Anne Applebaum or people get mad at Jeremy Scahill on Twitter?

You ask some important what ifs. What if Putin is deposed? Would we get something worse? Maybe!

But there's a more pertinent what if. What if Russia's military campaign weren't a disaster and they had taken over Kiev and large swaths easily? How many lives would you save longterm in a brutal occupation that would inevitably spawn decades of guerilla warfare?

What if Putin had taken Kiev and Zelensky had fled? Would Putin has said, "OK, that's enough of that!" What I don't get is that the same people who blame NATO for Russia's invasion seem to think that the reason Putin is NOT trying to grab back all of the former Soviet satellites is because ... he doesn't want more power or more access to natural resources?

I think people should ask questions! And I also think that they can, with none of the professional and social blowback we saw in 2001.

But I also think that it's OK to be happy that a strong and successful Ukrainian resistance might force Putin into a corner where he can spin defeat as victory ("we killed this many Nazis so now we don't need to be there anymore") and end the conflict in a way that maintains Ukrainian sovereignty.

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So on the one hand, I agree with your take on the PR aftermath of the Gulf War - it absolutely was emotional redemption for the Baby Boomers after Vietnam, the good and heroic war that they won just like their parents won World War II (I'm about 15 years older than you, and for those of us old enough to realize it, this was painfully obvious even at the time). I think, though, that you're inaccurately conflating Gulf War I with Gulf War II when you suggest that the former, like the latter, was a 100% US venture, and in particular your dismissive air quotes around "international community" aren't quite right--there really was an international consensus around expelling Iraq from Kuwait in Gulf War I, that wasn't something stage managed by the US like the "coalition of the willing" in Gulf War II. For what it's worth, no one really knew before Gulf War I that it was going to be so one-sided, either; there was a fair amount of apprehension about the size and apparent sophistication of the Iraqi armed forces, and real concern about casualties that never materialized. But in any event, your core point that the resounding victory in the "good" Gulf War gave rise to a strain of American military triumphalism that has served everyone, inside and out of the US, very poorly is correct.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure how relevant that is the coverage of the war in Ukraine, for the simple reason that I haven't met anyone who regards this as an American war. Why should they? It's clearly not. It's a Russian war of aggression, period (and no, for the love of God, no one--not the US, not NATO, not the Ukrainians--"forced" the Russians to do it, any more than the Sudeten Czechs forced the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in 1938). And I really don't think there's much mystery why the American public consensus has swung so hard behind the Ukrainians. Once the Russians invaded, American public opinion basically had three choices:

1) A cynical indifference; who cares, those people are always killing one another, etc.;

2) Agree with Russia's war aims: yes, the dismantling of the Soviet Union really WAS a great tragedy, I hope Putin succeeds in putting it back together;

3) Oppose Russia's war aims: it would be nice to see the Ukrainians give them a black eye, and also to prevent a revanchist Russia from growing in strength and territory.

Given Russia's past and present hostility towards America, I don't think we need to resort to theories of American emotional immaturity to explain why option 3 has been the runaway favorite.

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Yes, many Americans are making the whole thing into a Netflix fantasy, and that's weird and gross, but set that aside for a moment. What outcome should we be hoping for in Ukraine?

True, it would be bad if Russia suffered some sort of humiliating defeat that obliquely led to the collapse of the state and left a dangerous power vacuum. But that's not gonna happen. On the other hand, a decisive Russian victory would also be very very bad, both for Ukrainians and for many other people and nations living in Russia's neighborhood. And a grinding stalemate that imposed years of war on Ukrainian territory would be very bad as well.

So what's the least bad outcome, from a human perspective? Seems to me it'd be for Russia's invasion to continue to stall and Ukr. counteroffensives to continue to gain ground, because that's the most likely path to a brokered peace in the near future. That doesn't mean total defeat for Russia. It means some sort of neutrality agreement, perhaps territorial concessions from Kiev, etc. But it would also mean, hopefully, a decreased appetite for military adventurism within Russia's political establishment going forward, just as occurred in the US after the idiotic catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan. That would be a good thing, or at least better than any alternative outcome I can imagine.

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I believe most ordinary Americans see the conflict more simply: “Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation, causing a lot of destruction, death, and displacement. I feel so bad for Ukrainians. I hope they get Russia out of their country.”

The moderately informed Democrats who bought Ukraine flags on Amazon don’t think Ukraine=America in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, Ukraine=Iraq, a nation that got invaded.

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I live in Finland, we don't have any Afghanistan or Iraq wars to cope about. Yet we very enthusiastically support Ukraine. I've seen pro-Ukraine demonstrations in my town, on the Ukrainian independence day there were many Ukrainian flags around. My local university flew Ukrainian colors that day. News and social media cover the conflict daily and with significant attention to detail, so I can with confidence say that there is the kind of emotional investment that you talk about. But it's not cope. And what I would suggest is that, if it's not cope here, it's probably (mostly) not driven by cope over there in America either.

Russia has the kind of problem where they believe they are "supposed to" dominate Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with military subjugation if necessary. The leadership of the country are drawn from the network of psychopaths built by the KGB during the Soviet times, so they are not really likely to suddenly gain an appreciation of human life, even were Putin to be deposed. However, it sets a precedent. If the EU and NA countries support Ukraine and (hypothetically) the war ends with an undeniable defeat and Putin getting executed by an angry mob in Moscow, then perhaps the next couple of Russian leaders will think twice before they start murdering thousands of innocents.

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Ukraine is of no interest or use to the United States except as a threat to Russia.

Take away Russia, and Ukraine would be a pariah state.

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Sep 12, 2022·edited Sep 12, 2022

To answer your question in the subheading, rather more than you might think! But I live in Sweden, not the USA. I have friends who work for the government and military; directly after the invasion they were brought into meetings where the extensive continuity of government plans were dusted off and grimly examined for the first time in decades. My friends were then surprised to learn that, as government employees, they were not permitted to leave Sweden in the event of a national emergency and I, with my foreign passports, am now tasked with taking their children out of the country if such a need ever arrises. The Swedish Parliament immediately began sending tens of thousands of AT-4s to Ukraine, the defence budget skyrocketed, and the military garrison on Gotland was re-established.

The Swedes are far more eager to see the Russians lose than the Americans. It would be rather difficult to accuse the Swedes of itching for a just war to make up for past losses: the last time they went to war was with Napoleon, and they won.

To be perfectly frank, I think the isolationists/anti-imperialists are coping far harder than the interventionists. After all, they are suddenly confronted with a situation where the United States gets to intervene in a conflict without any moral doubts and the Russians, the righteous enemies of the Great Satan/the manly anti-woke exemplars of lost virtue (pick your favourite), did something widely condemned and worse yet keep bungling it spectacularly. NATO is suddenly rejuvenated and retroactively justified, American power abroad is solidified for another generation, the defence budget is secured from cuts, and all this while looking good.

Anti-imperlism was already shaky after the collapse of socialism and now they can't even point to the USA as the bad guy. The isolationists can't point to the Europeans not doing their bit anymore. Zelensky already offered the Russians neutrality and it wasn't enough, so the war will continue until someone has won. The anti-imperialists and isolationists have little to offer as a rationale, moral or otherwise, for their ideologies whilst events conspire to erode the basis. It is little wonder I recognize them as the frothing at the mouth people you describe in the article.

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I do not know anybody who is not supportive of Ukraine. But all the people I know who are obsessed with it, the ones who have the Ukrainian flag on their porch, are all people obsessed with Trump. As far as I can figure out, supporting Ukraine is just another way of signaling that they are not in the "basket of deplorables."

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"what role does Ukraine play in your life?"

None whatsoever.

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A perspective from Britain here: the war's backed, there are flags flying, there are refugees homed, we've provided so many weapons that Boris Johnson is a hero over there but then everyone loves Boris until it's their turn for him to fuck them over. But we're more realpolitik than gung-ho about it: Brexit aside, we recognise that Russia warring on Europe is our problem. There's no avoiding it; we have to get that shit done.

Without that Vietnam baggage, though, why wouldn't we support it? This isn't Iraq, which was vociferously protested here and arguably responsible for the slow demise of Blair's Britain and the governments since. We're not invading to prop up a dictator or depose one with mixed results. Ukraine's a European democracy, it's been invaded, we're backing the removal of those invaders. Where's the moral grey area?

NATO? Wouldn't you want NATO, if the alternative was being a Soviet or Russian satellite state? Most of Eastern Europe already made that decision. Nazi battalions? This is an argument against ethnocentric Russia? The fall of Putin? We're supposed to have second thoughts about arming Ukraine because what could happen to their invaders if the invasion fails? Imagine the Vietnamese saying 'Like, I just worry about what this will do to the US if they don't win, man. As a country. I think we're gonna see some pretty fucked-up 80s action films.'

The last time Freddie wrote about this, back when the invasion began, it felt like the rational arguments presented were a screen against an irrational instinct. It doesn't feel any less so now. Britain is directly affected by the Ukraine's invasion, it isn't of one perspective or mindlessly gung-ho, it's still backing Ukraine. What solid reason is there that it shouldn't be?

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I agree the ghosts of Vietnam and Afghanistan have a large role to play with this, but I certainly don't think that's the only thing at work here. The entrenched military industrial complex, perceived Western (American) hegemony, favorable trade deals, even religion plays a part.

We used to be able to rely on our superior standard of living and unstained liberty as a shining beacon to the world, but those have both taken drastic hits in the last few decades. The way America is currently built and managed, it kinda needs to go warring every now and then in order to retain that 'alpha-male' status around the globe.

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I think it's pretty clear that a) Ukraine is lying and that b) it's completely understandable that they would lie. Of course they would exaggerate the enemy's losses while downplaying their own.

The real question is why the mainstream media in the United States would close ranks around a narrative that uncritically parrots Ukrainian propaganda. Does that really serve the US public in terms of setting the stage for partition, which almost everyone understands is the only realistic course to a ceasefire?

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I strongly disagree and believe that the alleged unwillingness to answer the hard questions is more projection than reality. It appears to me that you've fallen into a trap you nimbly avoid in most other circumstances, that is the ignoring material reality in favor of making something about the psychology of Americans.

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Sep 12, 2022·edited Sep 12, 2022

I am fucking sick of war. I was jingo as hell as a young man signing up for a gig in combat arms back in the day, got my small glimpse of the elephant, came home alive and with a conscience that was perhaps 85% clean.

The gung ho “killing is awesome” mindset is burned out of me. Sometimes circumstances demand a fight- humans are strategically shaved and socially conditioned murderous apes, it’s inevitable that fights break out- but that means that circumstances often suck, not that killing is cool.

War is a series of escalations til somebody’s will breaks, with each fresh tidal wave of blood bringing uncountable miseries and griefs and losses and scars into its wake.

Having said that-

The Ukrainian army can’t ditch the battlefield and go home, because the battlefield IS their home- the British army acronym for urban warfare, “FISH and CHIPS” (Fighting In Someone’s House and Causing Havoc In People’s Streets), is particularly relevant here. They have only two off ramps from the horror show of mutual escalation, winning and losing, and of the two losing is gonna induce even more suffering than trying to win will.

In contrast, the Russian army could at any time declare the war stupid and go home having neither won nor lost. They (or rather, the state that sent them) have selected the horror show deliberately and continuously for the last year if you count build up time.

The details are complex, because people are complex. But morally, it actually is pretty simple: the guys playing defense against their will hold the moral high ground, the guys trying to conquer their neighbors hold the moral valley.

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There's a very simple reason that Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen don't warrant the same level of interest as Russia in Ukraine. 1) Neither Saudi Arabia nor Yemen possess nuclear weapons. 2) Neither country is right on the border of a set of countries that we are bound by treaty to defend. You can ask any question that you want to, but you better have an answer for why your preferred conclusion, Russia being allowed to take yet another bite out of Ukraine is a superior option. Because that does seem to open the door to yet more bites out of Ukraine and eventually an attack on the Baltics. And then we really are in danger of nuclear holocaust. If you think that's unlikely, well Russia splintering into a bunch of competing fiefdoms seems pretty unlikely too.

There are no good options here. Personally, I'm terrified of what Russia will do if it loses. But, for now at least, I'm even more terrified of what it would do if it wins.

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