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Malcolm Nance And The Makings Of An International Disaster

Nance joins an estimated 4,000 Americans fighting in the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Author Malcolm Nance attends the Build Series to discuss his new book "The Plot To Betray America" at Build Studio on November 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Meet the Ukrainian foreign legion’s newest member.

Malcolm Nance, a former navy officer turned MSNBC defense analyst, has parted ways with the network to go fight the Russians. Nance announced he had joined the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine (ILDU) via Twitter. “I’m DONE talking,” the tweet read with a picture of the 60-year-old Nance in full combat gear attached. The smart thing, Nance would have his audience believe, is to tweet out from a smartphone that you have joined an armed conflict against the Russian military.

But Nance, fit to form, was not done talking. On Monday, MSNBC Host Joy Reid interviewed Nance on her show “The ReidOut.” Nance, wielding a Kalashnikov assault rifle in full combat gear, told Reid, “We are here for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to protect the innocent people of Ukraine from this Russian aggression.”

Nance also told Reid that he had spent “quite a bit of time here in the pre-war period,” and was in contact with individuals fighting the Russians in the Donbas. “The more I saw of the war going on, the more I thought, I’m done talking, It’s time to take action,” Nance said.

Here, Nance may well deserve some credit. Other warmongers in the media and congress—David Frum, Adam Kinzinger, and Max Boot, just to name a few—have repeatedly refused free one-way tickets to Ukraine to fight alongside the Ukrainians in their noble war against the Red Menace.

“This is an existential war, and Russia has brought it to these people and is mass-murdering civilians. And there are people here like me who are going to do something about it.”

Some may find it proper that Nance’s actions rise to his rhetoric, and as funny as it may be to see Nance relive his glory days, Nance has real capabilities to cause an international incident if he is killed or captured.

During his twenty-year career in the U.S. Navy, Nance rose to the rank of Senior chief petty officer and developed an expertise in intelligence and counter-terrorism, which eventually helped him land his gig with MSNBC starting in 2007. He was involved in combat operations after the Beirut barracks bombings in 1983 and the bombing of Libya in 1986. Two years later, Nance was stationed on the USS Wainwright, a Belknap-class destroyer leader, during Operation Praying Mantis that crippled the Iranian Navy. He was also aboard an amphibious assault ship, the USS Tripoli, during the Gulf War.

If the Russians managed to capture Nance, his knowledge of U.S. military strategy and operations in the late and post-Cold War era, while likely outdated, could prove useful to the Russian military.

Even more worrisome, Nance served as an instructor to Navy and Marine Corps pilots for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) trainings, which teaches service members how to survive if they were ever to fall into enemy hands and become a prisoner of war. Certainly, I hope Nance does not have to put the skills he taught others to use in the coming weeks or months. But this does not change the fact that such crucial information—how we make our soldiers resistant to imprisonment and torture—could be devastating in the wrong hands. 

The worst scenario, for Nance and America, would be if Nance was killed in combat. Just last month, members of the media started stumping for further U.S. intervention in Ukraine after documentary filmmaker and New York Times journalist Brent Renaud was killed in Irpin on March 13. The calls only grew louder when Fox News’ Pierre “Zak” Zakrzewski, a photojournalist, was killed and journalist Benjamin Hall injured the following day in Horenka. Certainly, Renaud and Zakrzewski’s deaths were tragic, but the answer is not to send America’s sons and daughters into another foreign country to fight an unwinnable war. If someone of Nance’s prominence were to fall, calls for U.S. intervention in the media would reach a fever-pitch.

If the shoe was on the other foot and, say, a former Russian intel agent turned TV personality took up arms to fight the United States in which Russia was not directly involved, the U.S. intelligence community and the media would reasonably suggest there’s more than meets the eye.

As could very well be the case with Nance and others who have joined the ILDU, which boasts 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries. An official with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington told the Washington Post in a March 20 report that an estimated 4,000 of the ILDU’s members were American nationals that had signed contracts promising they’d fight until the end of the war. To put that in perspective, that’s more American boots on the ground than the U.S. military had in either Afghanistan or Iraq after the Trump administration’s troop drawdown in 2021. Its more than the amount the U.S. had in Syria before Trump ordered the drawdown of U.S. forces there as well in 2018. 

If Russia’s tactics become more desperate as the conflict lingers on, what Nance and his comrades in the ILDU are doing in Ukraine has the potential to become an overt war between the U.S. and Russia.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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