The GOP Learns Nothing About War
MEET YOUR FUTURE HOUSE INTEL CHAIR — Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY named Rep. MIKE TURNER (R-Ohio) as new ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, a prominent national security post that ensures he’ll be the leading contender to replace Rep. ADAM SCHIFF as panel chair if the GOP flips the House. Turner replaces Rep. DEVIN NUNES, who’s leaving to become CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group.
Turner, elected in 2002 after serving as mayor of one of our hometowns (Dayton!), is considered more of a pragmatist than his predecessor. He’s tacked to the center for much of his career, even opposing the GOP’s 2017 Obamacare repeal effort and calling DONALD TRUMP’s attempt to build his border wall via emergency declaration a “dangerous precedent.”
Turner has close military ties: His district includes Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he’s been a fierce defender of the Pentagon’s budget. He’s a Russia hawk who regularly blasted Trump for being too cozy with Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN.
For a good sense of who Turner is, watch this recent clip of him going toe-to-toe with TUCKER CARLSON over whether the U.S. should supply Ukraine with intelligence and weapons to repel Russian aggression. When Carlson asked, “Why would we take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side? … Who’s got the energy reserves? … I’m totally confused,” Turner responded:
“Ukraine is a democracy. … Russia is an authoritarian regime seeking to impose its will on validly elected democracy. … We’re for democracy. We’re for liberty. We’re not for authoritarian regimes coming in and changing borders by tanks. … We need to make sure we’re on the side of democracy.”
This is so disheartening. The failed George W. Bush crusade for democracy should have discredited these people forever. For them, it is always 1991 or 2003, and America is still fighting to establish Freedom and Democracy as the world order. We don’t need to make sure “we’re on the side of democracy.” We need to make sure that we’re on the side of America’s vital national interests — and that doesn’t include starting a war with Russia over Ukraine, especially not when our own country is falling apart in so many ways.
Here’s the full transcript of Rep. Turner’s clash with Tucker Carlson:
TURNER: Tucker, thank you so much for bringing attention to this issue.
This is one that the mainstream media is not going to be reporting and it’s incredibly important for people to understand what Russia is doing and really the threat to the United States and the threat to the United States allies.
CARLSON: Well, that’s kind of the force of my question. My first one is, I mean, there a lot of military families that watch this show. You’ve called for sending American troops to Ukraine, to the region as you put it.
I wonder if you could explain to them why it is in America’s interest as their kids risk their lives in Ukraine?
TURNER: Sure. Yes, well there’s a couple things which I’m certain you’re aware of, Tucker, that the United States signed with Russia and Ukraine a treaty in Budapest guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for them during the dismantling of the Soviet Union of giving up nuclear weapons of not being a nuclear weapon state.
And in Bucharest NATO Summit, we also agreed with our NATO allies that Ukraine, which is an ally to NATO would receive a pathway to NATO.
Russia sees Ukraine as importantly strategic because it’s also the pipelines to give gas to Europe that they’re trying to bypass with respect to building Nord Stream 2. As you know, Russia has already invaded Ukraine once and taken Crimea, which they’ve militarized and there are likely very advanced nuclear weapons there.
We already have troops in Ukraine. The issue of our letter is to raise the importance so that people understand that we’re about ready to see debacle number two of the Biden administration. You know, we all think of Afghanistan and that’s really coming out of this. China and Russia are going to be more adventuresome as a result of the failures of the administration.
But when you think of Afghanistan, you think of those planes leaving and people running toward those planes, people falling to their death, and as you know, Tucker, if those planes were Russian, no one would — Russian — no one would be running toward them. This is the idea of America, of democracy, of freedom. We pride of our democracy.
CARLSON: But may I just ask really quick, so —
TURNER: And it is certainly one that is an ally of ours.
CARLSON: So the lesson of 20 years in Afghanistan and the tragic and cowardly and counterproductive exit from Afghanistan is that we need more troops in Ukraine? I don’t — so why should the average American care about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, sincerely? [Emphasis mine — RD]
TURNER: Okay, so Ukraine is of strategic import of the Black Sea. Most of the reports that you’ve been — we’re seeing of Russia being aggressive with our ships, aggressive with our planes, are in the area of the Black Sea which is an important area for us and our NATO allies.
Four countries, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey all border it, of which we have reciprocal defense agreements. Now, we’ve not asked anybody to go to war with Russia or to send troops to Russia for Ukraine for the purposes of going to war with Russia, but it is incredibly important that they be providing lethal weapons, that they be providing Intelligence so that Ukraine has an ability to defend itself.
CARLSON: But why is it incredibly important to Americans? I mean, I know from Ukrainian perspective, it’s incredibly important, but why is it important enough to risk American lives to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine, when by the way our own territorial integrity has been flagrantly violated by a million foreign nationals coming in over the past 10 months?
CARLSON: I wonder why the emphasis on Ukraine’s borders and not ours.
TURNER: Well, I think everyone has emphasis on our borders, Tucker, but certainly, I think you would understand —
CARLSON: Have you called for American troops to our borders?
TURNER: That the important — everyone has called for American troops.
TURNER: That is on our side, Tucker, but I think what you’re missing here is …
CARLSON: I haven’t heard anybody say that.
TURNER: … the fact that because the President has failed in Afghanistan, both Russia and China are looking at threatening their neighbors including Taiwan, including Ukraine, countries that are important to both our allies and to the strategic importance of the areas in which they are.
What we’ve asked for is don’t be Obama. You have to recall, Tucker that when Ukraine was invaded and Crimea fell, Obama sent blankets to President Poroshenko in Ukraine. He came to the House floor joint session of Congress and he begged for lethal weapons to be able to defend his own country against Russia.
He said, I can’t defend my country with blankets. That’s what we’ve said is, make certain that we give them what they need. Give them Intelligence, give them lethal weapons. Give them assistance. Give them guidance because it’s important.
CARLSON: But why would we — why but why would we take Ukraine — but hold on, why would we take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side? A sincere question. If you’re looking for the American perspective —
TURNER: We are already on Ukraine’s side.
CARLSON: No, but why? I mean, who’s got the energy reserves? Who is the major player in world affairs? Who is the potential counterbalance against China which is the actual threat? Why would we take Ukraine’s side? Why wouldn’t we have Russia’s side?
I don’t — I’m totally confused.
TURNER: Well, clearly, maybe if you get out a map and you look to see where the Black Sea is and Bulgaria and Romania — Romania where we have our missile defense system.
TURNER: Greece and Turkey, the entrance to the Black Sea and then from there, you look at what the conflicts have already been in Russia’s areas there. Ukraine is a democracy, Russia is an authoritarian regime that is seeking to impose its will upon a validly elected democracy in Ukraine and we’re on the side of democracy, that’s why people were chasing those planes in Afghanistan and wouldn’t be chasing Russian ones.
We are for democracy, we’re for liberty. We’re not for authoritarian regimes coming in and changing borders by tanks. [Emphasis mine — RD] Russia isn’t showing up on the border with ballot boxes. They are showing up on the border with tanks, and that’s why we need to make certain we’re on the side of democracy and give the aid that’s necessary so we don’t have another Obama sending blankets to a country that’s being invaded.
CARLSON: Yes, I mean, I — yes, I am for democracy in other countries, I guess, but I’m really for America.
TURNER: Sure you are.
CARLSON: And I just think that our interest is in counter-balancing the actual threat, which is China and the only other country with any throw weight that might help us do that is Russia and our continuation of the Cold War has pushed Russia toward China and that does not serve our interest in any way, does it? Or maybe it does in the way that I kind of see it.
TURNER: Okay, so you have to understand this is not a Cold War. This is a Hot War. Russia has already invaded Ukraine and has taken Crimea and annexed it and militarized it. It’s not like we have somehow resolved that.
CARLSON: But how did that affect — wait hold on. So, I’m glad you pointed that out.
TURNER: They have militarized it.
CARLSON: Like so how did that hurt America exactly? So, they came into Crimea. I guess, I’m against that.
TURNER: You are and they militarized it.
CARLSON: But I didn’t notice a detectable decline in American living standards.
TURNER: And brought in advanced weaponry systems.
CARLSON: Okay, but why do I care again?
TURNER: The issue — you care because what Russia is doing is they are rebuilding their area access of denial with Kaliningrad, Crimea, and Syria to fortify what they had when they had the Warsaw Pact countries which many of which now are in NATO and are headed towards NATO, so that we can make certain that liberty and democracy is strengthened.
You should be against, as I’m sure you are, Tucker, any country using tanks to invade another and putting their will on that country and changing that country’s border, that’s what they have done and that’s what they are doing.
CARLSON: Yes, academically I am, but I mean, you know there are a lot of priorities on the map here.
Last question, so you sent this letter to President Biden asking for the commitment of American troops to a foreign country.
TURNER: We did not. And you’ve misread the letter because what it says it actually tells specifically we’re not saying send troops into Ukraine. We said make certain that there is a military presence in the area so we can provide aid to Ukraine in two important areas, Intelligence. If we have troops in the air, we can watch, we know what happens, we know what Russia is doing.
The second is lethal weapons so that Ukraine can defend itself. No one is suggesting —
CARLSON: I got it. Send lawyers, guns and money. I totally got it.
TURNER: And none of the members of Congress suggest that anybody should go to war in Ukraine with Russia. No one, and the letter does not say that either.
CARLSON: Well, I’ll let our — our viewers can pull up the letter on the internet and reach their own conclusions. That’s not the conclusion I reached, but have you —
TURNER: They can go to my website. I’ll put it up. I’ll put it up, Tucker. They can read it there.
CARLSON: Absolutely, but final question, our democracy is undermined when people come from other countries and that devalues the vote of the people who already live here, so that’s an attack on our democracy. A democracy has to have defendable borders.
TURNER: Tucker, I am not —
CARLSON: So where is the American military presence?
TURNER: The Biden administration —
CARLSON: Where are — but where are the Republicans demanding that we send the 101st or whatever it takes to close the border? I’ve never heard anybody say that. They’re all whipped up about Crimea.
TURNER: Hey, Tucker unlike your anti-Trump friend, J.D. Vance, I supported Donald Trump in closing the border including defending him in his impeachment trial, which you yourself reported and that border was being closed on the policies that we had under Donald Trump, which I supported when I supported Donald Trump.
CARLSON: Actually, actually, you wrote a letter to Trump —
TURNER: So, I don’t know why you’re talking to me on the border —
CARLSON: No, no. Whoa, whoa.
TURNER: I’m with you on this, Tucker.
CARLSON: Now, we’re getting factual here, and I don’t want to be mean, but you wrote a letter to Trump in which you said yes, protect the border, but make certain that we don’t in any way take troops or materiel from our foreign commitments and bring them to the border. You said that in your letter and so, I just thought that’s just a different perspective.
TURNER: Donald Trump sent lethal weapons and Intelligence. I said, I’m a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee.
TURNER: What I’ve asked for in that letter, Donald Trump did.
CARLSON: Oh yes, No, I’m aware. I thought it was stupid then. I think it’s stupid now.
TURNER: The Obama administration did not and we believe that this administration is likely not to and what I love about the fact that you brought attention to this is because the mainstream media is going to let Russia invade Ukraine without anybody knowing. They’re not going to know —
TURNER: That the Biden administration had options on the table, things they could have done and they could have done right now which are not sending troops to Ukraine and fight for —
CARLSON: Right, but that’s not quite as pressing as Hondurans invading Texas.
TURNER: And the Biden administration, this is going to be another —
CARLSON: Which is maybe a little more imminent for most of us. That’s my only point. We have an invasion going on right now, a million people bigger than the population of Boston or Denver or Washington, D.C., and we’re all like, oh no, no big deal. That’s a big deal in my view.
TURNER: Tucker, I don’t know who you’re arguing with here because I’m on your side on all of those issues except apparently you need a little education on Ukraine. I’d be glad to send you some stuff on it.
CARLSON: Well, I appreciate it, Congressman. Thank you.
Here’s a link to the letter that Mike Turner and other GOP Congressmen sent to President Biden. Here’s how it starts:
Look, I don’t think Russia should invade Ukraine, and I hope it will not do so. But I cannot for the life of me understand these politicians who think that America ought to risk actual war with Russia over Ukraine. It would be foolish even if we had not depleted ourselves with these catastrophic democracy-promoting wars of choice launched by a Republican president, and supported by the permanent war party in Washington. There is relatively low support among the war-weary American people for US involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Here are the results from a recent YouGov poll. Excerpt:
Almost half of all Americans oppose war with Russia, and only 27 percent favor it to any degree. Yet the Washington war party rolls on, as if it doesn’t give a damn about the views and interests of the people they govern.
Here’s a great Ukraine piece from National Interest that first ran in 2019, but which the magazine republished earlier this week, because it is still highly relevant. The author is Mark Episkopos. Excerpts:
The impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives have demonstrated a near-unanimous consensus among Washington experts and politicians regarding Ukraine policy, best expressed in the closing remarks of Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.): “We should care about Ukraine. We should care about a country struggling to be free and a Democracy . . . but of course, it’s about more than Ukraine. It’s about us. It’s about our national security. Their fight is our fight. Their defense is our defense. When Russia remakes the map of Europe for the first time since World War II by dint of military force and Ukraine fights back, it is our fight too.”
Former Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor echoed a similar sentiment in a recent New York Times op-ed: “To support Ukraine,” wrote Taylor, “is to support a rules-based international order that enabled major powers in Europe to avoid war for seven decades. It is to support democracy over autocracy. It is to support freedom over unfreedom. Most Americans do.”
The Washington consensus offers what is admittedly a gripping narrative: not only the U.S. government but every American citizen is morally bound to support a fledgling Ukrainian nation locked in a mortal struggle to defend its democracy against foreign invasion.
However, this prevailing view is premised on a grossly misguided understanding of Ukrainian society and political culture—one that jettisons the historical complexity of Ukrainian political identities in favor of a shallow liberal-developmentalist model that forces millions of Ukrainians into a nation-building project that they want no part of.
So much as a cursory glance at Ukraine’s electoral map reveals that NATO and EU accession is not, and has never been, the unanimous goal of “the Ukrainian people.” It is rather a reflection of an exclusionary, western Ukrainian nationalist vision that is widely rejected across the country’s eastern half—that same vision was violently rejected by the people of Donetsk and Luhansk, whose decision to secede from the Ukrainian state in 2014 led to the ongoing war in Donbass. If nothing else, the winding and complex history of Ukrainian identity reveals the exact opposite of Ukraine so fervently portrayed by the media and policy establishment over the past year; far from a “a nation that has broken from its troubled past to embrace European and Western values and that seeks to join European and North Atlantic institutions,” Ukraine is a deeply divided post-Soviet state struggling to stitch together a coherent constitutive story from contradicting imperial legacies.
U.S. intervention in the ongoing Donbass conflict is not, despite appearances, an expression of solidarity with a beleaguered Ukrainian nation united against Russian aggression. Rather, it is an intervention on behalf of some Ukrainians against other Ukrainians; an act of picking winners and losers in Ukraine’s ongoing struggle to sift through the consequences of Euromaidan. Helping one segment of the Ukrainian population to forcefully impose their ethnonational identity on another will contribute neither to a Europe nor to a Ukraine, whole and free. It is a recipe for precisely the kind of escalating civil war and prolonged regional instability and that Washington, Brussels, and the Kremlin have been trying to avert.
We are playing with fire, and we are going to get burned badly. It is incredibly discouraging that four years of Trump did nothing to discourage the warmongering instinct among GOP elites. Did you notice that Politico characterized Rep. Turner as “a fierce defender of the Pentagon’s budget.” No doubt. Has he ever spoken out against the top-down wokeness the Pentagon brass are forcing on soldiers, sailors, and airmen? Or is he more interested in what the top generals and admirals have to say, as opposed to the troops?
What I don’t understand is Americans — not just Congressmen — who think that we are still a hyperpower with the means and the right to impose our views on everyone else in the world. Even if you really are a triumphalist who stans for US global hegemony, how can you not see that after twenty years of failing to bring liberal democracy to the Middle East and Afghanistan, at immense cost in blood and treasure, it is extremely ill-advised to throw ourselves into a war with Russia in its own backyard?
The prospect of America going this route brings to mine the Tsarist government losing the 1904 Russo-Japanese War. Nicholas II’s hubris, and false sense of Russia’s power, caused the catastrophe, which caused a widespread loss of faith in his government, and sparked the 1905 revolution — a precursor to the totalitarian Bolshevik event of 1917. If Washington — the Democrats and the Republicans — lead America into a stupid war with Russia over Ukraine, at a time of deep domestic discontent (e.g., inflation, drug overdoses), the Establishment will deserve what it gets.