The Weirdness of the Ukraine Discourse
I've been trying to formulate this post for a while now, so I'm not sure if I'm going to quite stick the landing on this one, but bear with me. There's a weirdness in the Ukraine discourse that we need to talk about-- and it might only be weird from my personal point of view-- it might actually be totally normal and illustrative of the online hive mind in general and I might not see it or not care enough about it to see it, but it's something that I want to put into words.
In general: the DC Foreign Policy Blob (cross-partisan, Establishment, deep state types, mainstream media types, etc.) has been in lockstep about supporting Ukraine as they struggle to deal with Russia's invasion of their country now heading into the seventh or eighth month. Their position goes like this: "We love Ukraine, Putin bad, here's another aid package worth billions of dollars."
Against the DC Foreign Policy Blob, we find discourse like this:
Don't worry. A nuclear war over who rules Donbas is absolutely worth it. Keep arming Ukraine until the chances of nuclear war rises to 50% or higher.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 14, 2022
Whatever you do, don't propose any diplomatic solutions. Only Kremlin assets and traitors to the American Homeland do that. https://t.co/XPuAC826oD
Greenwald isn't alone in this position. Breaking Points flirts with this position too- a lot of anti-Establishment/independent media types seem to be landing on this position more and more which is namely: "These people are fucking nuts and are forcing marching us into a NUCLEAR WAR."
Here's why it's weird: the more I think about it, the more I'm increasingly convinced that both positions are simultaneously right and wrong at the same time. (Which is a weird intersection to find yourself in.)
Do I think critics of the DC Foreign Policy Blob are correct? Yes. After Iraq and Afghanistan, I think it's perfectly understandable to be skeptical of the Establishment/Deep State/Neo-Con types and their agenda here. I (and I'm sure this is a pretty popular position with a lot of people) don't want a nuclear war. No problem with saying that, Greenwald and Company (let's call them the Anti-Blob Forces) are entirely correct to raise questions and say so.
However: the DC Foreign Policy Blob isn't entirely pushing a sinister agenda here. US Intelligence got this one right at the outset. They were prepared to get Zelensky out at the start of the invasion. And (perhaps more importantly from America's point of view) this entire conflict has less to do with Russia and more to do with China and Taiwan than I think the current discourse allows for. Do you think China isn't taking notes? Do you think Taiwan isn't taking notes? I assure you-- they very much are.*
The Anti-Blob Forces also seem to be suffering from historical amnesia in their position. Yes, flirting with a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is bad. Not a fan of it. People should absolutely point this out. No problem with that. However: if we had been brutally realistic about this and said: "Hey man, we'll defend NATO, but Ukraine ain't in NATO so sorry 'bout it, bud" at the outset of the invasion, what would have happened?
At best, Ukraine would have been cut in two. At worst, Ukraine would have fallen entirely and a pro-Russian puppet regime would have been at the borders of Poland with an emboldened Russia at its back. Putin's dream of Soviet revanchism would have been very much alive and he would have had no reason to stop at Ukraine.
So in general, given a choice between flirting with a confrontation between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and having an actual confrontation between Russia and NATO over say, the Baltics or Moldova or any Eastern European country, I'd prefer the former to the latter. It's not the greatest option in the world, but it's better than kicking the can down the road to where there are, to be frank, no good options available to us at all.
(In short: I'd prefer we give the Ukrainians whatever they want to defend their country now because if we don't, I'm pretty sure the option is going to be sending American blood and money into yet another European War later.)
This is not to say that Anti-Blob Forces don't raise some good points: at some point, the blank check is going to have to end. I have no problem with that. I have no problem with Congressional scrutiny over foreign adventures because there's been fucking little scrutiny over it for about twenty years now if not longer.**
Also: how's this going to end? That's an excellent question for the Anti-Blob forces to raise because backing Putin into a corner raises the potential for WMDs to be used. I don't know if they actually will be, because I think dictators like Putin are concerned with their own survival above everything else, and using a nuke would be a massive escalation- his palace may be nice, but it will be less nice if he dumps us into a nuclear war.
The problem is that right now, there's no military reason (that we know of- Ukraine has been pretty tight-lipped about their own casualty rates) for Ukraine to accept anything less than getting everything back. Some people online are pushing the idea of putting everything back to the February 23rd lines, but again: Zelensky's gotta sell that, and right now, there's no reason to agree to it.
Right now, it appears we're stuck on this freeway with no off-ramps in sight.*** I can understand why Anti-Blob Forces are nervous about this.
But the problem is that so much of the discourse has been turned into pure poison on both sides. I can be skeptical about supporting Ukraine and worry about the potential for a real and serious confrontation with Russia without being a slobbering Putin apologist. Likewise, I can also think that we should give Ukraine whatever it needs to defend itself without being an Establishment boot licker either. There are elements of the Anti-Blob position that are legitimate critiques of what we're doing in Ukraine right now- the problem is that they can't help themselves from screaming: "THESE PEOPLE ARE DERANGED" over and over again. Likewise, the DC Foreign Policy Blob should acknowledge that the lack of an off-ramp for either side in this conflict isn't a good thing and that people pointing that out are not, in fact, "TOOLS OF RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA".
If both sides could stop shouting quite so much, you might be able to formulate a stronger position and maybe get to work on figuring out how to end this conflict or at the very least, avoid escalating it too dangerous territory.
*Defending Ukraine is not in our national interest, but the real dangerous one is going to be if and when China makes a move on Taiwan. Right now, that's hard to gauge because I don't think we've got a good idea of the internal politics, and state of China at the moment. (I get the feeling it's less good than we realize.) But defending Taiwan is very much in our national interest and we very much will get directly involved in that should it happen.
**Hey, maybe Congress should amend the War Powers Act and take some of its authority back? Just a mild suggestion. Bills have been introduced to do that you know? Hashtag just saying.
***Right now, if I'm Ukraine I might settle for the return of all my citizens, withdrawal of annexation notices of my territory, and return of Crimea in exchange for DMZ between Russia and Ukraine. Maybe. If I were Russia, I might bluster and scream and shout a bit, but I'd probably settle for keeping Crimea at this point- at minimum, keeping a naval base at Sebastapol. Also if I were Russia, I would quit fucking around and just pull back to Crimea and the Donbas and hunker down. This wouldn't be what you wanted out of this situation, but it'd be close enough to the status quo ante that the West might be able to live with it, even if Ukraine can't.