"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Biden's Folly - Piety And Ignorance In Ukraine And Israel

Henry Kissinger was the modern era's foremost interpreter of Machiavelli and insisted on a foreign policy which was governed only by self interest.  As such, morality, exceptionalism, and higher purpose have no place in devising international strategy. 


The American policy establishment has paid him no mind since his ascendency in the Nixon years. Reluctantly, Kissinger later explained, he was 'drawn into the vortex' of an unwinnable war and one about which he had serious reservations.  Not only was the justification for war based on shaky grounds - the baseless domino theory of the successive fall of Southeast Asian nations to the Communists - but America had seriously underestimated the resolve of Vietnamese leaders and the military acumen of their generals. 


Not only was the pretext for war questionable but military victory against such a well-led, determined, and patriotic army fighting on their own ground was doubtful.  It further misread the Vietnam-China axis.  For centuries the Vietnamese had fought the Chinese invader, oppressor, and enemy.  The saber-rattling about China and its regional influence was badly misplaced.

America was laboring under an outmoded moral code.  Although the term 'exceptionalism' had nots come into currency until decades later and the Neo-Con adventurism in Iraq, it applied to Vietnam.  America had a moral obligation to assure democracy throughout the world.  

Like his historical mentor Kissinger understood that wars are for winning.  Once a nation reasonably and logically determines that war is a necessary tool for preserving national integrity and self-interest, it should fight all out for victory.  Kissinger doubted the reasons for the war, and thought that total victory was unlikely.  Machiavelli would have turned over in his grave if he had heard about 'hearts and minds' - winning over the civilian population with care, kindness, and generosity would win the day and the war.

The lessons of Vietnam were not learned and the United States went on to institutionalize a military policy of protecting civilians.  No matter how important the political ends of a conflict might be, there was no such thing as winning at any cost.  George Bush pulled out of Iraq once he wrongly assumed that the hearts and minds of the people had been one, rejected military occupation to assure that dissident militias would not reemerge, and pulled out. 

In Afghanistan after decades of desultory fighting, President Biden pulled out all American troops, and the Taliban returned to power.  American had no will for total victory, and assumed that a war of attrition even with a corrupt ally, would eventually prevail. 

The misguided war in Iraq was based on American exceptionalism.  We had a moral obligation to remove the dictator, Saddam Hussein, and to restore democracy. 

America still picks its wars with no clear Machiavellian victory in mind.  They are to teach a lesson, 'this will not stand' moral imperatives at the fore.  A scorched earth, win at all cost strategy went out the window with Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. 

Why are we in Ukraine?  The question is asked now even more insistently as the billions of military assistance funds have gone for naught.  Ukraine is in no position to win the war against Russia and Putin, unlike Biden is willing to wait years if not decades for total victory.   America is there because once again, 'This will not stand', but without a serious commitment to win -without air cover, American pilots, and on-the-ground logistical and combat support the war is unwinnable. 

Is the survival of Ukraine necessary to America's vital interests? Or is the war simply about 'doing the right thing', standing loudly against aggression and a breach of international law?  A half-Russian Ukraine with a quasi-independent Kyiv - the foreordained outcome of the conflict since the beginning - would not be curtains for America. What does Ukraine have other than wheat which can be purchased on the open market. And will compromise and accommodation with Russia give them license to invade the Baltics and Poland?  Domino Theory all over again. 

So while American billions are poured down the rathole in Ukraine, the US hesitates on its commitment to Israel - its only true ally in the Middle East if not the world.  The nation unafraid to use military force to protect the integrity of the state.  To assure the survival of the Jewish homeland?  To be sure, but also to assure democracy, a vibrant market economy, and artistic and technological innovation. 

Biden pleads for peace, Israeli compromise, and compassion for civilians.  Wisely and expectedly, the Israelis refuse to listen.  Theirs is an existential struggle.  The civilians in Gaza are just as complicit as 'ordinary Germans' during the Nazi era or the Japanese people.  Our Union General Sherman knew this well, and his brutal marches through Georgia and South Carolina were to assure that the South would never rise again. 

America, if it really and truly is Israel's ally would send American warplanes piloted by American fighter pilots to destroy Hezbollah if they were to open fronts in Lebanon and the West Bank; and it would fly together with Israeli planes against Iran if that country were to attack. 

Yet, Biden postures and prevaricates.  Israel's victory is absolutely, unequivocally in America's geopolitical interest and what do we get?  Nothing but homilies about peace and brotherhood.  Israel knows that there is no such thing in a region of such hostility, anti-Jewish hatred, and implacably aggressive intent. 

Biden's Folly - a shame, a disgrace, and unconscionable ignorance.

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