Former British Prime Minister Benajmin Disraeli used to reflect that Great Britain had no perpetual allies or perpetual enemies, Britain’s interests alone are perpetual and eternal. Wise advice for statescraft in an era of geopolitical realities, and a mantra among those in the realist school contra the neoconservative left.
So it comes with no sense of humor that the wisdom of Disraeli has been traded in for the scribblings of deep political thinkers such as J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan whose wisdom seems to have rung a bell with the neoconservative left:
Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough!
To witness the neoconservative left cheerleading a policy that will engulf 40 million Ukrainian mothers, children, grandparents and militia into a Syrian-style insurgency is a moral bankruptcy of the highest order. Having imposed their will in 2014 through the Maidan uprising, the Russians want the Ukraine back — and in order to keep it from them, left-wing policy makers are more than happy to link arms with a neoconservative left discovering their taste for blood can be satiated in the trough of helicopter diplomacy as the Biden administration continues a policy of evacuation from Kabul to Kiev.
One remains perplexed at the reasoning — if that’s what it is — applied here that the United States somehow has a first order and direct interest in the survival of a corrupt if Western-leaning Ukrainian government (or else you are a racist and a homophobe, n’est ce pas?) in the face of Russian insistence that the pre-2014 pro-Russian government be restored and geopolitical realities respected.
Perhaps the author had Zelenskii in mind when he drew this parallel then?
Theoden: “I will not risk open war.”
Aragorn: “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”
More accurate is the old Irish joke:
Two men get into a fight at an Irish pub. An Irishman gets up and taps one of them on the shoulder and says, “Do you mind if I cut in?”
Americans have the ugly habit of always cutting in.
Alarmingly for Americans, the neoconservatives would rather have you believe that war is upon you rather than upon Ukraine. That the United States does indeed have a first order national interest in the maintenance of the Obama-era Maidan uprising against a democratically elected if pro-Russian government, not to mention the long series of democratic uprisings in Libya (for oil), Syria (for power), Yemen (for Saudi Arabia), Egypt (for balance), and so forth.
One will note that the neoconservative left doesn’t mind the charge of bloodthirsty, provided it is neither their livelihood or blood we are discussing. I have no idea what anti-anti-Putinism is unless the neoconservative leftists are welcoming the anti-anti-anti-Putinism charge, in which case the rest of us can sit back for the witty retort of anti-anti-anti-anti-Putinism (that’ll show ’em!) and we can just start stacking anti- to everything in order to shortcut an actual argument.
More interesting to the rest of us are the reminders that Ukraine is riddled with elements such as the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The response?
This isn’t to say Ukraine is perfect (Young herself describes its defects in detail); but it is, as she says, “a fledgling democratic government (facing issues that) have been compounded by Russia’s hybrid war.” More to the point, only one combatant here is reaching out to provide aid and comfort to White Supremacists around the world; it’s not Ukraine.
Except for the fact that actual Nazis are backing the Ukrainian government. Birds of a feather? Or any port in a storm?
Which mostly boils down the argument of the neoconservative left:
- Rather than punch Nazis, they will embrace them so long as they are useful to the goal of warfare over diplomacy.
- Rather than concretely deal with the national interest question, they cloak it in abstractions they themselves do not observe (i.e. resisting far right elements that they otherwise embrace when the going gets
- Did we mention that Communist China is backing the Madian government?
- When all of this ultimately fails? Roll out the bad behavior (sic) of others.
- When all of this ultimately fails? Start a new war somewhere else in the name of <insert abstract value here>.
Which is what makes the argument about who-is-supporting-whom so very odd in this instance. If one intends to make the argument that certain unsavory (sic) elements are supporting Putin’s fourth political theory (which is what the acolytes of Steve Bannon truly are — traditionalists and not conservatives) one cannot precisely run away from the same medicine being applied in turn.
Take all of the very worst elements and form the J.D. Vance Battalion and one will be hard pressed to aggregate that into an Azov Battalion. Take all of the perceived corruption around Trumpism and it is very difficult to crystalize that narrative into the Biden family’s actual relationship with Burisma. Take all of the perceived national interest in the Ukraine and ask why after eight long years is the Ukrainian military not better prepared to meet the threat? Certainly Edward Luttwak has the courage to raise this question openly; few other Western policy makers do.
Which leaves two reasons why the neoconservative left really wants US involvement in the Ukraine: profit and utility. One doubts that many critics of Putinism (sic) have ever read deeply of Ivan Illyn, Nikolai Berdayev, and Vladimir Solovyov much less the works of Alexsandr Dugin and his progenitors with the nouvelle droite such as Alain de Benoist. One suspects that Putin has, which makes the approach and ideology of the siloviki much more discernable than Trumpism.
Yet none of this really matters to the neoconservative left still trapped in the ideology of the Cold War. Moscow bad; Brussels good.
As for this nonsense:
Some of them are sure to respond with the old trope: “Politics flows downstream from culture” – without Kevin Williamson’s key corollary: culture flows downstream from biology. Meaning one’s real point of view on these matters settles on how settled one thinks biology is (to be fair, Williamson and I aren’t quite in alignment here). One can recognize shifting biology to humanity’s benefit is one of God’s great gifts to man – from the rise of agriculture through the industrial revolution and the Green Revolution to the present day … or one can retreat to distilled essence of “certainty” that inevitably leads to what I have heard from a close contact (not a BD author): “I just like Putin because he’s White.”
If you believe politics flows downstream from culture than you might also believe that politics flows downstream from biology, ergo while you may not be one of these sort of people, those who do not support my perspective are most likely motivated by racism, anti-LGBTO sentiment, traditionalism, a hatred for the New York Jets, a litany of horribles, etc.
So to be clear — where there is evidence of just one troglodyte, this undoes the argument against US involvement in the Ukraine… yet where there is evidence of an entire battalion of actual neo-Nazis in Mariupol training Ukrainian militia this magically becomes an acceptable and even permanent arrangement. They aren’t hiding the football either. The Azov Battalion’s symbol? The rune used by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich:
Hence the problem with neoconservatism in general.
Such a position presents strength without judgment whose only national interest is the demonstration of the willingness and ability to use high explosives as scalpels in the hopes in the name of counterinsurgency. Should the Russians actually push towards Kiev and Mariupol, half solutions will be presented by defense contractors in the hopes that more money will be pushed towards programs that allow the US to be involved with a degree of plausible deniability. Millions of Ukrainians — and the neoconservative left nearly always bypasses the human cost without much comment — will be caught in this living hell.
The beneficiaries? Much like al-Assad, Putin will have effective control of Ukraine and the new government will be pro-Russian, while billions of dollars will flow through the hands of US contractors. The losers? The Ukrainian people…
Someone will have to explain to the rest of us why putting 40 million Ukrainians through their own version of the Syrian Civil War is a net positive to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, unless they themselves are tapping out their missives from a foxhole in Donetsk or Kharkov? I’m certain the Azov Battalion will be more than happy to train them to catch Russian bullets in the name of
democracy freedom Burisma contracts ACTUAL FREAKIN’ NAZIS the European Union acronyms anti-Putinism.
Good luck telling Ukraine they are fighting for LGBTQ rights, too. Or for wokeisme in the face of traditionalists on points where even Europe believes Americans have lost our ever-loving minds. How banal has the neoconservative left actually become when “support us or you are racist!” is the new trope?
Rather, let’s ask harder questions:
- What is our first order national interest in the Ukraine? Grain supply to the Middle East? Weakening Russia? Improving the Visegrad Group?
- What obligations do we have under the 1994 Budapest Agreement to maintain the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine?
- What obligations do we have to our OSCE partners to maintain diplomacy and render war unthinkable?
- What logistical realities do we owe to Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Baltics first?
- How has US diplomacy failed US-Russia relations over the last 30 years? What concrete steps can both nations take to improve them?
- What role does the Franco-German relationship play in the EU vis-a-vis opposition to a strong Russia?
- Is a new Cold War which will drive the Russians further into the arms of the Communist Chinese worth the cost of a pro-Western government in Kiev?
- Is a pro-Russian government in Kiev realpolitik or is it an opening to dissolving NATO? Which seems more probable?
- Does the Maidan government in Kiev really have the support of the Ukrainian people? Or is it Western subsidies?
- What number of civilian casualties will be acceptable for the neoconservative left? Number of refugees? Who will absorb these refugees? Who will pay for their relocation? What if an EU or NATO member state refuses (i.e. Hungary)?
- How much blame do we put on the failed policy of democratic uprisings? How much responsibility should the United States shoulder for the Maidan uprising (which was neither democratic nor the free choice of the Ukrainian people — merely a foreign backed mob)?
- Can the European Union survive a direct challenge? An indirect challenge? Should EU membership be used as a stalking horse for NATO membership?
- Can NATO survive a direct challenge? Can NATO survive an indirect challenge?
- Is there some other framework beyond the OSCE where US-EU-RUS co-operation can continue (i.e. anti-terrorism, space program, energy co-operation) that also revives the old idea of a tripartite alliance of Western nations (i.e. Putinism)?
- How many Americans are we willing to sacrifice for this manufactured national interest in Kiev? How many Russians are they willing to sacrifice in restoring the pre-2014 geopolitical reality in Ukraine? Are we willing to meet this cost?
One will note that the neoconservatives will not have concrete answers for any of these questions. Abstractions aplenty, but nothing serious that demonstrates any real depth much less the history of the last 30 years. More damning is that the call for war in Ukraine are far weaker than the call in either Afghanistan or Iraq, and yet still the neoconservative left cannot get the taste of blood — other people’s blood — out of their mouths.
They will have one solution though. Force. And when that fails? More force.
Pity the 40 million Ukrainian mothers, children, grandparents and militia who will be the grist for the neoconservative mill. After all, the neocons really don’t care about war being thrust upon the Ukrainian people. They only care if they are the ones propagating it, regardless as to whether or not the United States actually does have a national interest at stake worth the sacrifice in American (or Ukrainian) blood.
In the meantime, we can present as many abstractions as to why the neoconservative left believes we have some moral imperative to throw 40 million Ukranians into the grist mill of war. Wishing for an overarching and existential national interest in Kiev, however, does not make it so.