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Washington Prepares to Fight for Donetsk (and Ignore Baltimore)

The Times joined the debate over whether or not there has been spike in crime in the wake of nine months of anti-cop protests with this heartbreaking video [1]: a mother talks to the camera about the deterioration in Baltimore’s streets following the Freddie Gray riots, which have transformed her once “crazy” neighborhood into a very dangerous one. She fears, understandably, for the safety of her children. Cops speak off-camera about their reluctance to be “proactive” in fighting crime. As yet, no one has accused The Times of “fiction” and “sophistry” for making the connection [2] that Heather Mac Donald made after analyzing recent statistics: the propaganda and riot war waged against the cops by liberals and radicals has been devastating for the law-abiding people who live in inner-city neighborhoods.

You don’t have to have lived through 1968 to feel the resonances and dramatic political possibilities, but it might help.

Jacob Heilbrunn has an extremely suggestive article [3] in the latest National Interest which reminds readers that neoconservatives essentially began as critics of Great Society liberalism and elite reluctance to defend bourgeois standards and law and order in the 1960s. Heilbrunn has written one of the finest books [4] about neoconservatism, and is generally a nuanced critic of the group. But one need not go full bore with Norman Podhoretz-type linkages between homosexuality, cultural decay, and Munich to recognize that the neocons were right about many things, and law and order in American cities was one of them. In any case, Heilbrunn reminds us that Bill Kristol (son of Irving, founder of The Public Interest, a magazine devoted to domestic policy) tweeted out in the aftermath of the Ferguson riots (the second set, not the first) that it felt like 1968 all over again and some politician would do well to speak, a la Richard Nixon, for the silent American majority which was not anti-cop. In this case, Kristol was probably right.

It is also is apparent that no major politician right, center, or left has yet risen to take the bait. Of course they all want to be “tough”—but always somewhere else in the world. Neoconservatism has prevailed, but only in foreign policy. Today the target is Vladimir Putin and Russia, and everyone in Washington agrees he needs to be taught a lesson. Congress voted last week voted to compel the administration to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, including offensive weapons—against the administration’s judgement. The Times story [5] noted that the arms shipments would open a rift between the Washington and France and Germany, which are hesitant about any measure which would escalate the fighting. It would seem that Congress has bought whole hog into the Wolfowitz doctrine, widely derided as extremist when it was leaked in 1992, according to which the United States should maintain dominance in every region of the world, and that no other nation should aspire to a greater role, even in its own geographic area.

Major European governments are now doing their best to circumvent anti-Russian sanctions which they themselves instituted. European publics make it clear that they are not willing to fight Russia over the disposition of the territories of the former Soviet Union. The cease-fire between Ukraine and its rebellious Russian-backed eastern provinces that was negotiated last February has been violated repeatedly, and Putin has called openly for the West to persuade Ukraine’s central government to follow its provisions. It’s not clear how many American congressmen voting for giving Ukraine offensive weapons understand the implications of their weapons policy, which were spelled out by [6] the Kennan Institute’s Matthew Rojansky:

There are valid arguments on both sides but you don’t get to walk this back. Once we have done this we become a belligerent party in a proxy war with Russia, the only country on earth that can destroy the United States. That’s why this is a big deal.

A proxy war with Russia, over Russian borderlands not one American in a hundred could locate on a map—it’s really the full triumph of Wolfowitz. Not to be outdone by Congress, the Obama administration is now floating plans to deliver tanks and other heavy weapons, along with token numbers of American troops, to several of our new NATO “allies,” the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Those governments will inevitably conclude that Washington has their back in any conflict with Russia and act accordingly. See Georgia, 2008, for an example of how this might play out.

There is something about Ukraine and the other Russian border regions which Europeans seem to understand and Americans don’t. Much of the “Maidan Revolution” was driven by ethnic Ukrainian nationalists with deep hatred for Russia; while it’s not a universal sentiment, many Ukrainians despise all things Russian, including their own compatriots who identify with Russia. They want nothing more than to draw the West into a war against their ancestral enemy. The newly minted anti-Russian regime in Kiev is the fruit of American “pro-democracy” meddling involving billions of dollars of payouts to private groups and individuals, the kind of thing the CIA used to do during the Cold War. Of course because of its proximity to an unsettled region, the new Ukrainian government can find endless ways to keep the pot boiling–shelling their own civilians in Donetsk, or instituting a blockade against Transnistria [7] , a pro-Russian breakaway province of Moldova. The average American may not know much about Transnistria—or indeed likely has never heard of it at all—but you can be assured that Putin does care about keeping  the small Russian garrison stationed there supplied.


This is neoconservatism’s triumph: the creation of an entire Beltway industry, honeycombed through Congress and largely bipartisan, which finds political life not worth living without the prospect of confrontation with a distant enemy. The notion of treating Russia as a great power, acknowledging that Russia has serious security interests on its borders and treating those interests respectfully, does not occur to its members. Detente for them is a dirty word, akin to appeasement.

In the meantime, we are on the verge of losing Baltimore, a major American eastern seaboard city, to lawlessness. From the get tough conservatives, and the liberal interventionists allied to them, not a peep about that. From neither group does one hear either defense of the police or meaningful proposals to salvage a city on the brink.

It’s as if they recognize that restoring the rule of law to Baltimore would be difficult, requiring a thoughtful balance between economic investment, community organizing, and law enforcement—and would engage many layers of complicated politics. Foreign policy by contrast is easy: just send weapons to the good guys. If that doesn’t work, escalate. What could conceivably go wrong?

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "Washington Prepares to Fight for Donetsk (and Ignore Baltimore)"

#1 Comment By Daniel On June 17, 2015 @ 1:12 am

Its nice that you connect Donetsk and Baltimore, although its taking somewhat of a leap.

How about connecting something that Conservatives are not doing?
Connect Police UNIONS who keep bad apples as cops by defending ALL cops good and bad as their unbending approach to maintain power, and that these bad cops do bad things that creates news fodder for liberals and riots.
Its a Marxist dialectic that only Democrats and liberals win.
If bad cops are quickly taken out (really hard with union lawyers defending them at every step, creating an impression that bad cops can NEVER be fired unless you got a video of shoot-in-the-back murder), then there are much less riots, and less justifications and less news fodder for liberal revolutionists.
And there is nothing then to compare to a bad Donetsk policy.

You should really separate both issues and see the Marxist dialectics at stake. Leftwing liberals really have no problems with how warlike and revolution-like are things now…..

#2 Comment By Michael N Moore On June 17, 2015 @ 7:51 am

In my opinion the primary directive of the NeoCons is to sell arms. Israel and the militarizing of US politics within both Parties is just one key element. Janine Wedel reports on page 8 of her book “Shadow Elite” on the archetypical, but low profile, NeoCon, Bruce P. Jackson. He left the Department of Defense for a position at Lockheed as VP for strategy and planning. While there he helped found the US Committee to Expand NATO with Perle and Wolfowitz. Jackson was also a director of the Project for a New American Century. In 1997 his job at Lockheed was to secure new international markets for that military contractor. He served on the Republican national security platform committee. He was important to winning Senate approval to expand NATO into Eastern Europe. Jackson was also a founder of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

The new cold war is not about idealogy. It is about competing for market share between the US and Russian arms industries.

#3 Comment By philadephialawyer On June 17, 2015 @ 8:15 am

Far from being in conflict, the mentality and politics of being “tough on crime” and “tough on [fill in the blank] foreign enemy” go hand in hand. Being “tough,” per se, is the selling point. And whether that means being tough on poor, primarily Black people in the cities or tough on Putin, Iran, ISIS, etc. overseas, what appeals to a lot of the conservative public is the macho attitude, and the us against them mentality. The same thoughtless folks who worship the military worship the police, and for the same reasons.

I for one am grateful that many conservatives, particularly TAC conservatives, are as skeptical of the one strand as they are of the other. That, as one poster put it on the last thread, the same folks who don’t believe every Third World dictator who the FP Establishment does not like equals Hitler in Munich in 1938 also don’t believe that every “spike” in crime detected through the use of dubious statistics equal the riots in Detroit in 1968.

On the video, the woman says, “We need the cops, we don’t need the cop violence, but we need their presence….” Again, as other posters pointed out in the last thread, if the police simply write off doing their duty in whole neighborhoods because their “violence,” in this case in the form of the unexplained, seemingly negligent (at least) death of a man in their custody, leads to scrutiny of their practices, that is on them, not on their critics, and, perhaps we need new cops. A renewed politics of “law and order,” giving the cops license to do whatever they want, essentially legitimizing the “cop violence” as a price we have to pay for the “cop presence,” would be almost as harmful as the neo con (and, yes neo lib too) politics of endless war.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 17, 2015 @ 8:21 am

One might almost draw the conclusion that whether at home or abroad, by the consequences, the desired ends must be conflict and chaos.

So unnecessary. If the object is peace and stability, you certainly don’t get it by aggressively arming to the teeth and considering populations as dangers to be occupied and dominated. The whole mindset is that of aggressive militarization and overwhelming violence.

Neither communities nor foreign nations could possibly feel this is either friendly or benign, but destabilizing.

Just what answers do our leaders have to anything, but ever more surveillance, punishments and militarized shows of force?

I guess there is a strong belief, that given enough threats, populations and countries will simply capitulate. But what then? No consensus or accommodation will have been achieved, just a permanent tension that requires permanent application of force.

Democracy and accountability to people, it’s not.

You will forgive me, but it does look like a profound betrayal of the high ideals in the Declaration and Bill of Rights. Having a “non-white” President or the supposed “equality” of gay marriage doesn’t at all make any of this in the overall scheme of things progressive.

#5 Comment By Uncle Billy On June 17, 2015 @ 8:34 am

The Neocons are against the US Government intervening in US cities, but are enthusiastic about the US Government intervening in foreign cities. Amazing. Perhaps we should airlift the 82nd Airborne Division to the Eastern Ukraine to face off vs. the Ruskies? Why do we think that we can intimidate the Russians with some show of force? The Russians lost millions of people during World War II and kept fighting. Why do these Neocon fools want to poke the Russian Bear?

#6 Comment By Rich On June 17, 2015 @ 9:53 am

That’s the tragedy of our foriegn policy right now. We dismiss Russia as a great power that has it’s own national interests. Would America tolerate a similar action on its borders? A elected government (which includes many ethnic Russians) overthrown and replaced by a government that’s friendly to our enemies and hostile to us? How many times have to tried to overthrow Castro’s Cuba. Are we really willing to escalate to point where we may go to war over Ukraine? Over Lithuania or a number of these Eastern European countries?

#7 Comment By Tom On June 17, 2015 @ 10:37 am

It’s as if they recognize that restoring the rule of law to Baltimore would be difficult, requiring a thoughtful balance between economic investment, community organizing, and law enforcement—and would engage many layers of complicated politics. Foreign policy by contrast is easy: just send weapons to the good guys. If that doesn’t work, escalate. What could conceivably go wrong?

Actually, we seem to be inflicting the same “strategy” on our inner cities, as well.

The police have become more and more militarized. We’ve outfitted our police with enough weaponry to invade Ukraine.

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. If we brought jobs back to the inner cities, then there would be fewer riots, fewer drugs, less despair, fewer single mothers.

But that’s hard. It’s a lot easier to intimidate the population with militarized cops. So that’s what we do.

#8 Comment By seans On June 17, 2015 @ 11:48 am

“the propaganda and riot war waged against the cops by liberals and radicals has been devastating for the law-abiding people who live in inner-city neighborhoods.”

I would like to hope that author definition of “liberals” would mean those libertarians i.e. classical liberals who just as much object to police brutality and misconduct and municipalities who finance themselves by fines and forfeitures while “radical” would mean anyone to their Left. If not, I suggest he needs to read more articles from Connor Friesdorf.

Perhaps what West Baltimore needs is more armored personnel carriers and officers armed with grenade launchers but it’s sad to see we’ve come to a point where public servants, which are people who make their living off other people’s taxes, feel they can only serve the public if they are allowed to violate the very laws they took an oath to uphold and abuse the population they swore to serve and protect. “Conservatives” have complained for years teacher’s unions thwart education reform and protect bad apples in the classroom but I don’t any complaint for police unions who are basically saying we’ll only do our jobs if we get to crack skulls and we can get away with it and thus encourage insubordinate behavior towards elected civilian leaders.

All this goes back to a theory I developed during the whole Act 10 fight in Wisconsin. Conservatives don’t mind unions so long as they are the perceived “manly” unions (police, fire, prison guards, Teamsters, et. al) as compared to the perceived “girly” unions (teachers, government employees, social workers, et al.) reinforcing all sorts of feminist blather about “gender roles” as basically being true given the circumstances. Any teacher who would say were only to do so much of our jobs in response to a contract or personnel dispute would rightly be condemned for such attitudes yet no one or very few on the Right seem willingly to the same with police union for similar behavior. Is this what people, even poor people, pay taxes for?

The real tragedy for the poor living in high-crime areas of city (which by definition they’ve been segregated into) is being forced to make a choice between abusive behavior and giving up one’s responsibilities to make a point. What point are they making? You are trained and paid to followed the law, do so then! Yes mistakes happens and tragedy sometimes results but arrests and custody should not result in death and or disability and localities should not living off the backs of persons ill-able to afford to pay for their dubious services.

One thing I can agree with police on, and perhaps would make the situation for them and for residents they serve improve greatly and that is to get rid of laws they cannot enforce or lead to the kinds of situations that controversy arises from. End the drug war.

#9 Comment By Jim On June 17, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

Neoconfederates spewing pro-russian war mongering propaganda? Shocking !

In light of the fact that the Russian paid mercenaries have been violating the Minsk treaty since it started, capturing dozens of villages even after the cease fire was started, is a testiment to their love of peace.

In regards to US- meddling? How about Russia’s 60 year policy of meddling in Latin America? Funny how Russia gets to maintain an alliance with Cuba, Venezuala and Nicarauga… not to mention fund FARC against American interests in Colombia. But I guess only certain countries are allowed a near-abroad.

“or instituting a blockade against Transnistria , a pro-Russian breakaway province of Moldova”

How dare they not allow Russian soilders to pass through their terrritory in order to reach a miliary base in a contested region of Moldova. Shame! Sounds similar to the cooridor issue Hitler had with Poland. But we all should remember that accordding to the neoconfederates, only “certain ” nations have the right to invade others in order to secure their interests.

‘The notion of treating Russia as a great power, acknowledging that Russia has serious security interests on its borders and treating those interests respectfully, does not occur to its members.”

Better to return to 19th century big power politics… We all know the world was a safer place back then 🙂

Anyway, please explain to me how Russia is a great power? Economically, medically, tecnologically it is a backwater compared to most western countries and eastern Asia.

#10 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 17, 2015 @ 1:02 pm


“Leftwing liberals really have no problems with how warlike and revolution-like are things now…..”

I’m a left wing liberal and I have big problems with how warlike things are now. I don’t really think things are “revolution-like” now, but I don’t want them to be, either.

As for police unions, I agree they are part of the problem, but the issues of police misconduct in terms of violence and harassment and militarization go much deeper than that, and include LE agencies that are not unionized.

It is the culture of the police, their “omerta” with regard to their “brothers'” misconduct, great and small, their bunker mentality, and their shoot first and ask questions later practices, often enshrined in their “procedures,” as well as, in many cases, their racism, that is the heart of the problem at the first level.

At the next level, there is the political, social, cultural and legal structures in place that make the cops pretty much autonomous, and insulate them from effective oversight. Right now, we have no one to “guard us from the guards,” and any attempt to even point that out is met with, as we see here, crude, politicized, statistically bogus claims of a “spike” in crime, and refusals of the police to do their jobs.

#11 Comment By William Dalton On June 17, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

I have read that candidates for President, Republican and Democratic, even Rand Paul, are united in their desire to “get tough with Putin”. Most of them should know better, particularly Mrs. Clinton, whose protoge, Victoria Nuland, is primarily responsible for turmoil in Ukraine today, not the revanchists in Moscow. Ukraine is a state whose national borders were drawn by Joseph Stalin, and encompasses people whose heritage was to fight one another – from the conquest by the Grand Duchy Lithuania (later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) of the lands of Muscovy in the 13th Century to the partitions of Poland in the 18th Century, returning Kiev to Russian rule, to the conquests and reconquests of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the 20th Century. The far west of Ukraine, including the City of Lviv (Lvov or Lemberg) was never under Russia’s control until demanded as reparations by Stalin at the end of World War II. The far east, today’s Donetsk, in which “Russian separatists” are now fighting for autonomy from the Western government in Kiev, was never other than Russian territory, even when the Poles had extended their commonwealth to its greatest extent. These are divisions the United States is no more equipped to resolve than we are the enmities of the Middle East. We should stay out, except to offer our good offices to conciliate the disputants without taking sides between them.

Scott McConnell is right. If American politicians want to resolve ethnic unrest before it develops into outright civil war, they should attend to the situation in Baltimore before crossing into Eastern Europe.

#12 Comment By Simon Fay On June 17, 2015 @ 9:08 pm

The USSR’s programme of overseas subversion was quite clunky by comparison, and required oven-ready indoctrinated types high up in the target states to do its worst. By contrast the contemporary US has at its disposal millions of the most shining-eyed retweeters ready to put in the hours on creating a climate conducive to seeing that whatever it is be pushed through.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 17, 2015 @ 10:32 pm

For me in short, I don’t think we need tanks in the Ukraine anymore than we need tanks and abuse in Baltimore, Chicago, Clevland, Dallas, or Tupelo.

It’s easy to forget that the reasons for th3 series of riots in the late 1960’s was the direct result of releiving the pressure from the law and order tactics particularly focussed agaibst one set of the population.

Though I think there is some salience in the contend that conservatives are very afraid to tackle issue of color dymnamics that continues to plague us.

I don’t think there’s much objection to being tough on crime. If that means maintaining a polie posture and behavior of the 1930’s —

well, I could hardly agree with that.

#14 Comment By Michael N Moore On June 18, 2015 @ 9:02 am

Are these 2 reports related?

“151 Congressmen Derive Financial Profit From War”


“U.S. Defense Industry Outperforms S&P by 100 Percent”


#15 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 18, 2015 @ 3:13 pm


“Better to return to 19th century big power politics… We all know the world was a safer place back then…”

It was safer, as those politics helped prevent a general war for a hundred years.

“Neoconfederates spewing pro-russian war mongering propaganda? Shocking !”

Get it straight, Jim. Neo confederates tend to favor “Tough Guy” solutions, both to issues of crime and FP issues. They tend to be war mongers, yes, but not pro Russian ones. Indeed, neo confederates, ironically enough, tend to trumpet their “100 % Americanism” more than most folks. They want to bomb Russia (and China, Cuba, Iran, etc), not make apologies for it, AND unleash the militarized cops in Baltimore as well.

#16 Comment By siberian On June 18, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

For a country ruled by the Wall Street there is no need to fight for the victory, produce and sell weapons etc.
Some fellows can earn money with only declarations of possible military support. Others predictably destabilize and stabilize regions.
Thats how the Wall Street uses neocons to play with the global market.

#17 Comment By cecelia On June 18, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

The protests against police killing of citizens with impunity is not about being “anti cop” – it is about being anti police brutality.

Even a cursory look at the statistics makes it clear we have a problem and getting “tough” on crime is not the solution. Getting “tough” on poverty, corrupt/ineffective police, as well as ineffective politicans might be a better approach.

#18 Comment By humpty On June 19, 2015 @ 3:44 pm

Does the author of this piece think that subjecting suspects to “rough rides” in the back of police wagons (rides which often end in the suspect’s death) is standard police procedure? Does he really think that such police brutality makes cities safer and that it does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment? Or are suspects presumed guilty until proven innocent?

#19 Comment By RMThoughts On June 23, 2015 @ 10:52 am

The war in Ukrraine will end sooner or later – most likely sooner rather than later, simply because the Ukraine’s economic capacity will not allow it to wage war for long, and its neighbors are not interested in having an endless “Somalia” going on in the Ukraine. Russia’s actions over the past year show that it’s not fighting for Crimea or the Donbass; it’s fighting for all of the Ukraine. Ukraine – once the expanded North Stream and the new South Stream pipelines are built and Ukraine cease to be a gas transit state, will not last as an independent state.

It will have to be rebuilt, starting from zero. It would be nonsensical for Russia to create a continually hostile,historically Russian, State on its borders. The problem is not whether it is necessary to integrate the Ukraine into the territory of the Russian Federation, but how to do so from the standpoint of international law.

It all comes back to the confrontation between the Russian Federation and the United States, because if Russia loses, it will be Russia that is divided. But since the U.S. will lose, or even that it has already lost, it’s just a matter of time and formalities; the
framework of international law will change. And within this new framework will
be decided the matter of what should be done with the Ukrainian territories and
what their legal status will be. The one that rebuilds them will decide their
fate and questions of governance, and that will be Russia.