I am clearly missing something.
The United States has a huge military and a huge military budget. That’s the American people’s tax dollars being spent on troops and equipment aimed at only two things—defending the nation or advancing American interests when the weapons of war are needed. Are those weapons needed now and if so, why haven’t they been deployed?
Because we have used these weapons unwisely in recent years—in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam—American presidents have insisted that military action is a last resort to extend the interests of the nation. Why? Just because you did something stupidly before doesn’t mean that that action is always stupid. Smacking someone in the face for no good reason is unwise. That’s what we did in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. Our intelligence was inadequate so using the military in all three instances was premature. We were never going to uproot the Taliban, Viet Cong or Iraqi nationals even if we had initial success. We weren’t playing long ball in any of these instances and our enemies were.
Smacking someone in the face because you simply do not like him is also unwise. Just ask Michigan basketball coach Jawan Howard. But that does not mean it is always unwise to smack someone in the face. Sometimes you need to smack a bully in the face to get his attention.
As the attached editorials from The Wall Street Journal on February 24 indicate, the unwillingness of the last three Presidents to use military force may have been a mistake in dealing with Vladimir Putin over the past twenty years.
The first obvious question is should we go to war with Russia in the Ukraine? Probably not, BUT what is evident is that nothing President Biden can do, has done or has threatened to do has deterred Putin’s invasion and now that the Russians are shelling the Ukraine, we are in no position to do anything to stop him. Had we insisted on the Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO 14 years ago when it was initially promised, perhaps Putin wouldn’t have been so bold. As former Senator Joe Lieberman writes of what Ukrainian President Zelensky said in Munich:
“Has our world completely forgotten the mistakes of the 20th century?”
“Where does appeasement policy usually lead to?”
“What are you waiting for?”
We were lured into Iraq by the idea that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence let us down there as much as it did in the weeks before 9/11. And much like the WMD nonsense, we were lured into Vietnam by the Gulf of Tonkin incident which probably never happened. As for Afghanistan, 9/11 was not an act of war. It was a massive crime that should have been handled by police action, not an invading army. W. made lots of bad decisions.
What has also clearly happened is that Iran is inching closer to having nuclear weapons, a state of affairs Israel considers an existential threat. And Israel is not shy about the pre-emptive use of military force. Israel has learned the lesson of the 20th century.
That being said, Putin’s threatening the peaceful order in Europe has been on-going since he took power and longed for the re-establishment of the Soviet Empire. It took no great intelligence of either kind to know that. America and NATO did not wage the Cold War to have a relapse. Once Putin assembled the troops around the Ukraine, all of NATO should have assembled an equally large army on the NATO side of the Ukraine to make it clear to the aggressor in Moscow that there would be a price to pay for an invasion and it would be far steeper than the price of economic sanctions. It would be young Russians coming home in body bags. That’s deterrence. Having Europe dependent on Russian gas instead of that from the West is an equally silly error. This idea was led by Germany who thought intertwining its economy with that of Russia would be a deterrent. Ha!
The United States has to take a much larger role in the security of Europe and for that matter of Asia as what Putin did in the Ukraine, China will do in Taiwan, another free country. Get over yourself, Joe. This is reality and Putin is today what Hitler was in 1938. No appeasement. Extract a price or threaten to do so with the same force that Putin threatens his neighbors. He’s a bully. We need to be ready to smack him in the face.