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Hawks Always Want to Escalate a Conflict Somewhere

Even Max Boot realizes [1] that shooting down Russian jets over Syria is too reckless to be tried, so he goes looking for some other war that the U.S. can make worse:

Supplying arms to the Ukrainians will increase the pain of Putin’s Ukrainian offensive and divert his attention away from Syria.

It seems to have escaped the notice of hawks here in the U.S., but the cease-fire in Ukraine has largely been holding [2] for many weeks, so their demand that the U.S. send arms to Ukraine is even more irresponsible than it was when they first started making it. Arming Ukraine was a lousy idea when the fighting was still going on, but now that there is a better chance to secure peace it is even worse.

Supposing that the administration were stupid enough to do as Boot recommends, it would only be able to divert Russian attention away from Syria if it led to a new Ukrainian offensive to inflict more “pain” on Moscow (i.e., kill more Russians and their proxies). That would in turn ensure that the conflict in Ukraine worsens to the much greater detriment of Ukraine. To the extent that arming Ukraine “succeeds” in doing this, it would mean that many more Ukrainians would be killed for the sake of distracting Russia from its latest misadventure. It’s not clear how anyone would benefit from this, and it would force Ukraine to endure additional losses for no good reason. It’s also possible that arming Ukraine wouldn’t have the desired effect, and might instead encourage Russia to become more combative and intransigent across the board. Except for perversely wishing to prolong and stoke a conflict that has been dying down, it is hard to see why anyone would now support such a measure.

The impulse to counter every Russian move with an opposing move is a common one among Western hawks, but especially in Ukraine and Syria it makes no sense. There is no particular reason why the U.S. needs to counter Russia’s intervention in Syria, and none of the proposed counter-moves serves American interests. In fact, the automatic reflex to seek to counter Russia allows Moscow to have more influence over our policies than it otherwise would. Mark Galeotti made [3] this point very well recently when he said this:

The fundamental point is this: The more the West lets itself be shocked into responses by Putin, the more power it gives him, the more reason he has to continue to goad and needle.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Hawks Always Want to Escalate a Conflict Somewhere"

#1 Comment By philadelphialawyer On October 7, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

Yeah, but it isn’t really about either providing or not providing Putin with “reasons” to “goad and needle” the West. Putin is doing what he does because he believes those actions (in Syria, in the Ukraine, etc.) are in the best interests of Russia. NOT because he is looking for “reasons” to goad, etc. Nor is it the case that Putin’s “power” necessarily increases because these occasions to use Russian military force have been provided by the West. An alternate world in which the West did not stabilize either the elected, pro Russian government in Ukraine or the unelected, dictatorial, but not fanatical and at least stable regime in Syria would have been just fine with Putin, and the absence of these “reasons” to “goad and needle” the West would not have diminished his “power” either.

Nor is it really fully accurate to characterize the Max Boots of the world as being interested merely in “countering” the “moves” of Russia. These folks have no focused agenda of any kind. What they seek is endless US military engagements everywhere in the world.

Russia is fine as a potential enemy to “counter.” But so is China. As is North Korea. And Assad. And ISIS. And Iran. And Hamas. And Hezbollah. And “Islamic terrorism,” if not Islam in general. Cuba and Venezuela are also good candidates. Hell, if necessary, Mexican drug dealers can be puffed up to fit the bill, too.

And Saddam before them, as well as Gaddafi, and the regime in Sudan, and the Somali bad guys, and Serbia, etc, etc, stretching all the way back to the end of the Cold War, when these same folks, and their spiritual fathers, were constantly banging the war gong against the USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, etc.

I so much appreciate Mr. Larrison’s take down of these yo yos, but I reiterate that it simultaneously gives them too much credit and misses the big picture to focus on the “trees” of the faults with their individual “positions” instead of the “forest” of the global nature of their bellicosity and its disastrous effect on the USA, not to mention the recipients of our “shock and awe.”

#2 Comment By philadelphialawyer On October 7, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

In other word, hawks not only always want to escalate a conflict somewhere, but always want to escalate all conflicts everywhere.

#3 Comment By Brian M On October 7, 2015 @ 7:17 pm

Philadelphia lawyer nails it. And this desire to escalate is tied directly to the American State Religion, Mammonism. Smedley Butler nailed it back in the pre-World War II era, war earns money for the connected few.

#4 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 7, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

I think there is still a Russophobia in some of our pundits not warranted by the current fact. Mostly because of ethnic connections (Brzezinski–Poland; Boot, Kristol, et al.–think the Pale of Settlement is still a thing).

Aside from nukes, which are essentially unusable, Russia is at most a regional power, whose interests we should respect, if not smile upon. Ukraine has been and will remain a burden. If Russia is able to protect the Christians in Syria, more power to her; it her intervention proves to be a tar baby (25c into PC swear jar), let it be.

So far, Putin has proven to be aggressive, but only to a point. Could have taken Tblisi. He didn’t–just protected two non-Georgian enclaves. Could have tried to get all of Novorossiya, at least to Mariupol. He didn’t. He arrested an Estonian, and returned him.

Up to now, he has had a sense of relation between limited means and limited ends.

Bombing raises grave law-of-war concerns, but we in the West are hard put to mount a moral high horse about that.

#5 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 7, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

Sorry about the typos. I hate them. But y’all know what I mean.

#6 Comment By Uncle Billy On October 7, 2015 @ 9:18 pm

Boot like so many other neocons (other than Cotton) have never worn the uniform, never put their ass on the line, but love to play general. They want to escalate conflicts and meddle in the internal affairs of every nation on earth.

I remember going into Vietnam, as a young Marine. It was funny, but there was very little bravado, or trash talking with the men, we just got very quiet and thoughtful. We (at least I) thought, well, this could be it. I just hope to God that I don’t get killed, and I get to go home, drink beer and get frisky with my girlfriend. We could care less about politics, maintaining “credibility” and the other nonsense you hear from Boot & Co.

His talk and attitude indicates how very obvious it is that he never wore the uniform and put his ass on this line. Ditto for John Bolton.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 7, 2015 @ 9:43 pm


I understand it. And while, others may not appreciate it. But these are the responses of a wounded ego. We feel a bit humiiated so we make attempts to redeem ourselves. There’s no value to the US materially or strategically by sending heavy weapons to the Ukraine. Weapns systems that require training besides OJT.

But it serves as a “toehold” to advancing a possible all out war with the Russians when a US advisor or several get killed in the process.


But tere is something else that concerns me here and in the chatter about “no fly zones.”

It is reflected in this comment,

“Supplying arms to the Ukrainians will increase the pain of Putin’s Ukrainian offensive and divert his attention away from Syria.”

The Russians have never engaged offensive actios in the Ukraine. They have all beem supportive and defensive. Had the other been the case, I think the issue would be moot.

Even in Syria, it’s not a Russian offensive. It is Russian support in support of the Syrian government against offensives by other agents.

I so bemoan the decision to remove Pres. Hussein. I cannot for the life of me understand how we are here after so many missteps in the region.

I would be more confident, if they just advocated attacking the Russians and be done with it. But all this manuevering and hidden manipulation suggests that they don’t have much confidence in the aims either.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 7, 2015 @ 9:55 pm

“The fundamental point is this: The more the West lets itself be shocked into responses by Putin, the more power it gives him, the more reason he has to continue to goad and needle.”

But in all seriousness, does anything that Pres. Putin done seem all that shocking, not in my view. And I am unconvinced he is merely needling. The Ukraine is in his region of the world, Crimea has a major strategic naval base abd Syria and Iran have never cut toes with Russia.

Abd suppose this needling observation were correct, we have created or aided in providing these opportunities for him to do so.

And citizens should be steamed that it is our leadership that brought us here. They shoud be really steamed.

#9 Comment By bacon On October 7, 2015 @ 10:43 pm

We hear again from the chicken hawks. Sending the children of others to war seems pretty easy for them.

#10 Comment By jk On October 8, 2015 @ 7:09 am

“Nuclear smugglers sought extremist buyers”

Basically a pro-Russian smuggler in Moldova “with ties to Russia” was caught with canisters of Cesium seeking a ISIS type extremists or basically some Saudis: [4]

Putin is the new Saddam and every little pretext for dumb escalation will be dug out of the closet and until the inevitable happens.

I am willing to bet that once the neocons and NRO get this they will go 100+mph with it. [5]

Imagine if 15 Russians or Chinese terrorists were on the 9/11 flights and what a pretext for war that would have been. Yet 15/19 were Saudis and nothing happened…

#11 Comment By JovianStorm On October 8, 2015 @ 8:51 am

The irony is Max Boot is advocating for the same failed playbook that the gulf states are using in Syria and Yemen. Namely, throw money and weapons at a situation to solve it.

Apparently they still haven’t glommed on to the fact that it’s the will to fight that’s more important than fancy toys.

After getting the stuffing pounded out of them on numerous occasions the Kiev regime may still talk big but the will to fight in their troops is gone. Likewise the various mercs in Yemen and Syria are in a similar boat.

The jihadis always have the will to fight but will follow the afghan model of melting into the woodwork for awhile since Russia/Iran is actually serious about wiping them out.

So Max Boot can pass out weapons as freely as he wants. Not gonna matter.

#12 Comment By Sufferin’ Succotash On October 8, 2015 @ 11:25 am

Grumpy Old Man raises the point that ethnically-based Russophobia could be one major motive behind the constant neocon desire for a confrontation with Russia. Besides that, there’s the simple inability on their part to grasp the fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no longer exists, that the USSR went down the drain nearly a quarter-century ago. These superannuated Cold Warriors resemble that elderly British general in the Crimean War, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, who kept referring to the Russian enemy as “the French”.

#13 Comment By Andrew W On October 8, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

We also aren’t going to be able to hold Ukraine in our sphere of orbit. If you spend any time around Ukrainian and Russian expats you quickly learn they far prefer eachother’s company to that of anybody else (I am married to a Russian). Even the English and the French expats I know barely tolerate each other. I am pretty sure that within ten years the Ukrainians will have elected a pro-Russian government again and will be complaining about how those racist Germans kept them out of the EU.

#14 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On October 8, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

kill more Russians and their proxies

Russian proxies in Donbass are….Russians or, people who identify themselves with Russia, which, pretty much, is the same.

#15 Comment By Winston On October 11, 2015 @ 9:11 pm

That is because they are bankrupt. Can only think one way. They use the US military like a pimp uses a whore.