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NATO ‘No-Fly Zone’ Nuttery

Idealism run amok: senior figures de facto calling for war with Russia, a nuclear-armed power.
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You want to know why I keep banging on about approaching the Ukraine crisis from a foreign-policy realist perspective? Because of things like this:

In case you don’t know, Josh Marshall is a prominent liberal writer and editor. He’s talking plain common sense here, but a number of his Twitter followers call it appeasement, and say we better do something like this, or Putin is going to take over the world. More important than Twitter, though, is for a retired senior general — former NATO supreme Allied commander! — going on TV talking such dangerous idiocy. People are losing their minds. Here is a retired general who used to command all the NATO forces in Europe, actually suggesting that NATO should insert itself into a war on behalf of a non-NATO member, and tell a nuclear-armed great power that NATO will shoot down its planes and helicopters. What do these lunatics think would happen then?!

I heard one prominent analyst say the other day that NATO should establish a “trip wire” in Ukraine to deter Putin. Well, what if Putin kicks over the trip wire? Are we prepared for war with Russia over it? On what planet would that be anything but a suicidal idea?

Eli Lake, who is a Russia hawk, tweets:

To which one of his followers responds:

That line made it click with me why I am so outdone with idealists in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. If the world were rightly ordered, all women would be able to walk anywhere they want at night, wearing anything they wanted to wear, and nobody would harm them. But all women with a lick of common sense know that if avoiding rape is important to them, that they will not be able to fully exercise their rights as free women. It should not be that way, but that’s the way of the world. You have to be realistic.

In a perfect world, Ukraine, like every sovereign nation, would have the right and the ability to set its own course. But that is not the way the world works. Russia has a say. You might hate that, but that’s a fact of life. “It’s not faaaaaaaair!” is not a policy, or a serious response.

A New Yorker friend last week told me that since crime has gotten so bad there, and since subway shovers have taken the initiative, she has changed her behavior when she takes the subway. She stands as far away from the edge of the platform as she can. It is awful that she has to do this — that there are evil people in the world, and that the authorities have failed to deter them from doing evil things — but if she wants to reduce the risk that criminals will push her in front of an oncoming train, she can’t afford to stand on principle, but rather stand in the center of the platform.

It’s like the Hungarian told me earlier this week after hearing former Australian PM Tony Abbott’s hawkish speech about Russia and Ukraine, saying the West must stand on “the moral high ground.” She said something like maybe for him, the moral high ground is his Pacific island nation, but the people of Central Europe have to live here in what could easily become a war zone.

Here is a key part of President George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address:

We have seen our vulnerability – and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Ending tyranny in our world. As if that were possible. Hell, we couldn’t even end tyranny in Afghanistan! And though Saddam Hussein may be gone, Iraq is now a dear friend of neighbor Iran, courtesy of the US military and George W. Bush. Michael Gerson, now a Washington Post columnist, authored that speech. He hasn’t written a column since February 10, but it will be interesting to see what he has to say about this war.

The people saying that Biden has promised no military involvement here are technically correct, but with so many people — including military elites like Gen. Joulwan — agitating for engagement, one has to hope he can hold the line.

Speaking of line-holding, did you know that as of today, you are allowed to praise actual Nazis on Facebook, as long as they are fighting Putin? No kidding:

So, according to Facebook, some evil people are fine as long as they are anti-Putin. Got it.

Like I said, people are losing their minds, substituting emoting for rational analysis. My line all along has been:

  1. Russia is wrong to have invaded Ukraine. It should not be making war on its brothers.
  2. Russia’s demand that Ukraine never enter NATO was a legitimate one from a national security perspective.
  3. The West foolishly provoked this war by constantly goading Russia, and by leading Ukraine to think NATO membership was possible.
  4. Now that Russia has done the wicked deed, the West needs to figure out how to make Russia pay a price, but under no circumstances should we risk shooting war with Russians.
  5. After making a hash of all this with idealistic triumphalism, it is time for the West to return to realism.

This is true too:


Nobody much likes realism. It seems like an accommodation to evil, because, well, it kind of is. But it’s an accommodation to some evils to avoid greater ones, like rape (in the case of the woman who dresses more modestly than she otherwise would, and avoids certain parts of town, so as not to risk an encounter with an evil man) and, in this case, a wider war, even a world war. The West thought it could dictate terms to Russia. But the West also thought it could make Afghanistan and Iraq into liberal democracies. When will we learn that our way of seeing the world is not universally accepted — and that we live in a world with people, not all of them saints, who see things differently, and who are prepared to defend their interests?

I repeat: the retired Supreme Allied Commander for NATO went on CNN today and said that NATO should establish a no-fly zone over Kiev. Don’t tell me that there aren’t Western people eager to start a war with Russia over all this. The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK called on NATO today to establish a no-fly zone over all of Ukraine, and some senior Tory MPs agreed. Thankfully, the British defense minister said that’s not going to happen, because it would mean declaring war on Russia, which would mean war across Europe. But this is the kind of crazy talk we’re hearing now. Time to get a grip.