Thinking Ahead To 2024
Is Support for Ukraine Non-Negotiable?
As the U.S. political world begins (regrettably) to be obsessed with the quadrennial shitshow that is our modern Presidential election process (the picking of candidates, not the actual election of them. I’m a big fan of Article II and “the college”), I have begun to think more deeply about how I will vote.
Known, knowns in this pursuit are at this point, only one. I will not vote for Donald Trump. If he is the GOP nominee, I may—like 2016—vote third party, and I may—like 2020—vote Democrat.
But if he is NOT the GOP nominee (and I desperately hope he is not), then I am very much open to voting for the person the party picks, as I continue to hold most of the central, political positions of the Democratic party in bad odor. To the extent that either of the parties represents conservatism, it would be the GOP, although in its modern guise, it does so very poorly (see this Jack Butler National Review piece on “National Conservatism” for a solid understanding of my concerns. Also, I do not use “National Conservatism, as there is nothing conservative about these clowns. I call them “Nationalist/Populists” or NatPops).
All of that said, a new “known/known” is beginning to raise its head for me, and that is whether I could vote for a candidate who is not committed to doing what is required to help Ukraine defeat Russia. Obviously, “what is required” has to be unpacked a little, but those of you who went there immediately ought pipe down a bit, as I have a solid answer for that. At our current level of support, Russia is certainly not winning, and Ukraine can certainly be considered to not be losing. This is to me—the absolute BASELINE of support. Moving on, one of my greatest disappointments in what I HEAR from Joe Biden is that he has not committed to Ukraine’s VICTORY. Does victory mean American boots on the ground? No, it does not appear so. Does victory mean conventional escalation that increases the risk of potential nuclear weapons use? Maybe. But I bristle at the continuing use of that argument as a rationale for glacial caution. This excuse has accompanied each decision to employ a new weapon system in Ukraine, and while it MUST be considered, it should not be determinative.
The problem right now is that there is a component of the GOP electorate that is not the least bit interested in Ukraine winning, and it appears that this group is a component of what is generally considered the GOP primary voting “base”. Without further pussy-footing around, this is the MAGA GOP, and their animosity to Ukraine is born of several sources, including their Orange Duce’s high regard for Russian President (or whatever he is) Putin (who is a hero to their NatPop culture warring, along with several other authoritarians), the centrality of Ukraine in Trump’s first impeachment trial, and the ongoing saga of Hunter Biden and HIS dealings in Ukraine. Congressional creatures of the MAGA stripe have led the way here, wrapping themselves in the patois of “good governance” and “auditing” and “but muh border with Mexico”, and it seems clear that this same approach will be featured in the GOP Primary. That we are—for a FRACTION of our wealth—utterly destroying Russia’s ability to threaten US and NATO interests conventionally without a single US or NATO combat death seems beyond their ability to comprehend. Or—it seems beyond their ability to desire—as the pantsing of Putin clearly is not something they bargained for.
There is another view on why we should modulate our support for Ukraine, one that at least has the veneer of strategy to it, and that is the fact that the resources we are providing to Ukraine are dissipating our national “essence” in being able to stand up to Threat Number One, The People’s Republic of China. Otherwise known as the “We’re Taking Our Eye Off The Ball” theory, folks in this camp say 1) we have limited resources 2) China is the main game 3) we’re making ourselves less ready for a China fight by supporting a sideshow in Ukraine that the Euros ought to be handling on their own.
I know smart people who think this. There are also not so smart people who think this. I think all of them are wrong (as does George Will), and here’s why.
First of all, while resources ARE limited, they are to a large extent, limited by political choices we make. Our President believes that he has the right to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to pay off people’s student loans. I disagree, and ultimately the Supreme Court will decide. But don’t tell ME we can’t afford to win in Ukraine and prepare for China when the executive is trying to piss away—again—hundreds of billions of dollars. Secondly, winning in Ukraine alongside allies from across the world, shows Chairman Xi that the world CAN in fact muster a strong reaction to aggression and better yet, that it WILL do so. Put another way, the United States is helping to BLEED Russia out by expending a fraction of its defense budget, let alone its annual operating budget. We are seeing one of our strategic challenges wasting away for chump change. Can you imagine what mayhem we could unleash if we put our back into it? Xi can. Bottom line is that abandoning Ukraine would embolden Xi. Winning in Ukraine would give him a lot to think about.
I’m going to need to watch the GOP candidates closely to see how they come down on this question. Choosing the wrong side of the argument to win the nomination so that you can tack in the other direction during the general election AS A POLITICAL move may ultimately get me over the finish line with a candidate, but it won’t open my checkbook, my word processor, or my voice. It certainly isn’t going to inspire me.