Thursday, May 5, 2022

Are We Going to War?

As Noam Chomsky has said, there is only one diplomat of stature who is pressing for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine. His name is-- Donald Trump.

You can imagine how much abuse Chomsky, whose credentials as a radical leftist are impeccable, has received for this, but, pity is, he is right.

Apparently, the American administration has not merely been intemperate in its rhetoric. It has been pushing and promoting war with Russia.

Of course, for those who know how to read, it is precisely Russian brutality that forms the basis for the Chomsky position. Every time an administration official ramps up the rhetoric against Putin, the Russian military levels another city. One should not play rhetorical bully without recognizing the impact your words are having.

Now, in his Monday monologue, Tucker Carlson made the same point, reported in The American Thinker (via Maggie’s Farm):

Tucker Carlson's opening monologue on Monday night was a wake-up call to Americans: the Democrat political class, with help from (or no opposition from) Republicans, seems determined to bring America into a direct conflict with Russia.  He points out that the Democrats' warmongering is so extreme that even Noam Chomsky longs for Trump to be back in the White House.  He recognizes that Trump, whom he dislikes, would keep us off the path of a hot war with Russia.

And then there is distinguished Columbia University economist, Adam Tooze, subject of a recent highly laudatory piece in New York Magazine, who makes the same point, in the Guardian. Again, Tooze might not be quite as radical as Chomsky, but he is far more liberal than he is conservative. The same, incidentally, applies to Tom Friedman, about whose views we expounded yesterday.

Tooze analyzes the situation by evoking an analogy, the Roosevelt administration’s Lend-Lease policy, the one that armed our allies while presumably keeping us out of war:

In the spring of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Washington DC seems haunted by the ghosts of history. The US Congress has passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 to expedite aid to Ukraine – just as Franklin D Roosevelt did, under the Lend-Lease Act, to the British empire, China and Greece in March 1941.

The sums of money being contemplated in Washington are enormous – a total of $47bn, the equivalent of one third of Ukraine’s prewar GDP. If it is approved by Congress, on top of other western aid, it will mean that we are financing nothing less than a total war.

It is worth the emphasis. Whatever you think of Tucker Carlson and Chomsky and Trump, we are, with precious little objection from our political class, financing a war against Russia.

And yet, are we naively assuming that we can keep doing this without being drawn into a shooting war. Tooze is skeptical:

Presumably, the narrative is sustained by the promise that a good war fought against an evil regime will be won through the generous sponsorship of the United States. But to complete that narrative arc you have to keep winding the clock forward from Lend-Lease in March to the Atlantic charter in August 1941 and, by December, to Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war.

Providing aid to both China and the British empire, Lend-Lease was a crucial step in turning what was originally a separate Japanese war on China and a German war in Europe into a world war.

If the US Congress is now launching a new Lend-Lease programme, the question of whether escalation is part of the plan must come into consideration.

And yet, no one is considering this possibility:

After the announcement of central bank sanctions on 28 February, Putin rattled his nuclear sabre. If Biden signs a giant Lend-Lease-style aid package into law, who can tell how the Russian president will react? Further questions arise: will Ukraine be given weapons only to expel Putin’s army? Or will we equip Kyiv to strike at Russia itself?

In 1941 America was not ready for war, for a war that had been ongoing for more than a year. Did Roosevelt set up the conditions where we would be forced to go to war:

Roosevelt knew that the American public was not ready for war. And he hoped that the Lend-Lease Act would allow him to avoid calling for it. This was the sentiment that Churchill played into when he appealed to the US in February 1941 not to enter the war, but to give Britain and its empire the tools “and we will finish the job”. But the very generosity and scale of Lend-Lease, and the commitment that implied, brought into stark relief the fact that the US was paying for others to fight the battle on its behalf.

So, Tooze concludes that things look rosy enough today. It seems that we can avoid armed conflict with Russia. But, are we simply being naive about international politics and about the nature of our enemies? And of course, we cannot exclude the possibility that the idiots running the Biden administration will get us drawn into war because they simply do not have a clue:

That is precisely its position today. The US and its allies are for very good reasons choosing to back one side in a fight in which they will not directly engage. We do so like FDR, with one eye to the heroic resistance of those holding out against attack and with another eye to the geopolitical balance. If Russia has chosen to smash itself on the rock of Ukraine, if Ukraine is willing to fight, so be it.

If that is the plan and Putin allows us to stick to it, it certainly has logic on its side. It is a calculation so cold-blooded that it is little wonder that we want to dress it up in half-remembered histories of the second world war, in which the happy ending is assumed without the necessary sacrifices ever being spelled out.

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