Woke War 3
David Sacks published an excellent column at Newsweek decrying the ideologues who are preventing us from discussing a way out of the Russia-Ukraine war. Excerpts:
David Frum set the neocon standard for this tactic when he branded the small number of pundits on the Right who opposed the Iraq War as "Unpatriotic Conservatives" at the outset of that strategic disaster. Fast forward to today and anyone who suggests that NATO expansion could have been a contributing factor to the current Ukraine crisis, or that the sanctions imposed on Russia are not working and have backfired on a soon-to-be-shivering Europe, or even that the U.S. must prioritize avoiding a world war with a nuclear-armed Russia, is denounced as a Putin stooge.
Warping the debate in this way allows delusional and contradictory thinking to go unchallenged. Thus, we get the argument that Putin is a madman who will kill indiscriminately to achieve his aims—but he is also somehow definitely bluffing about using nuclear weapons. And he's only using that bluff because he's losing the war—but if he's not stopped in Ukraine, he will go on to conquer the rest of Europe. Putin's regime must fall because he has killed or jailed all the liberal reformers and yoked himself to a hardline Far Right, but somehow he will be replaced by a liberal reformer when his regime collapses.
It's nonsensical, and a real debate would expose some of the delusions in this thinking. But we aren't allowed to have one.
As long as this woke-neocon alliance is allowed to set the terms of the debate, we will continue to see a one-way ratchet toward greater and more dangerous escalation of this conflict.
There will be no peaceful resolution to this conflict that America doesn't at least have a hand in negotiating, and we should be leading the effort. Instead, we've been deferring to the Ukrainians and their maximalist demands, upping the sanctions on Russia as Putin ups his rhetoric against the West. Someone blew up the Nord Stream pipeline just in case another key nation such as Germany had any thoughts about coming to the bargaining table. And now we are playing a game of nuclear "chicken" with a Russian leader who, if his unhinged "War against the West" speech last Friday is any indication, has thrown away his steering wheel.
A regional war turned into the First World War because all parties made maximalist demands and assumed others were bluffing. It can happen again, especially if the media, social media, and foreign policy elite join forces and use woke cancellation tactics to preclude discussion of any alternatives. Right now, we are locked on an escalatory path, and the destination ahead is Woke War III.
Read the whole thing -- and share it widely.
Just yesterday I was telling some new friends that the most formative political event in my adult life was the Iraq War. As I've said here countless times, I marvel at how gullible I was regarding the pro-war propaganda of our government, and how in my minor role as a journalist, participated in that unaware of what I was doing. It is impossible to overstate how sure of myself and my side I was. I did not want to hear people who were against the war. I never believed they were "unpatriotic conservatives" (or unpatriotic liberals, for that matter), but I also didn't want them to confuse matters when the coming war was so obviously for Truth And Democracy. What a crock. The bitter postwar regret taught me that especially in matters of war and peace, we are fools if we silence dissent, or fail to take it seriously.
And here we are again, having learned not a damn thing. Some of the same characters who pushed us into the Iraq War are now pushing us further and further towards direct war with Russia. And some of the liberals who were rightly skeptical of the Iraq War have no such qualms now, because they have come to believe they are fighting Slavic Hitler.
The US Embassy in Budapest got in on the fun, posting this to Twitter to troll the Orban government:
Well. Some of what the Embassy tweet quotes Hungarians as saying is silly or outrageous, and I really do question the US Embassy blaming the Hungarian government for things written in government-funded media. Is Joe Biden personally responsible for everything said by commenters on NPR? Of course not. But some of what the quoted Hungarians say is true, or at least worth considering. For example, it is important for Americans to know that more than a few Europeans really do regard our country's actions as imperialistic. They wonder, with increasing bitterness, why European countries have to impoverish themselves so Washington can achieve its anti-Russia foreign policy goals. You will have to search hard to find any Hungarians who are pro-Russian, but it's not hard at all to find Hungarians who are very skeptical of America's goals here, especially because it is they, not the American people, who are paying, and will continue to pay, an extremely heavy price for this war.
A Hungarian friend of mine, a wife and mother, told me that wartime inflation has wiped out what modest gains she and her husband were able to make in establishing financial stability. This story, and worse, is going on everywhere. Last night I spoke to a Hungarian who told me that earlier in the day, he had spoken to the owner of a venerable pastry shop, one that has been baking cakes and sweets for over 150 years, and that survived two world wars and Communism. Now, though, they are teetering on the brink of collapse because of energy prices.
Again: imagine this story playing out millions of times, and you get an idea of the mindset of many European people. Not just Hungarians, but people all over Europe. And many of them are taking to the streets. Get used to it: as winter sets in, and people get sick and tired of being cold and hungry, there's going to be a lot more of this. A Polish friend texted me recently to say that he and his friends in Warsaw are already making plans for helping each other through the civil unrest they believe is coming this winter. In Poland, where people are burning garbage to try to stay warm.
If this was your family -- if your elderly parents or grandparents were reduced to burning trash to keep warm -- how would you feel about the war continuing indefinitely?
To be clear, there are many who are perfectly willing to continue sacrificing to help Ukraine. But how can any American, sitting in their safe American home, remain indifferent or even critical of Europeans who are seeing the national economies facing ruin, and their personal finances collapse? You want to generate anti-American hate? Do things like the US Embassy is doing.
Viktor Orban has been talking for a long time about the need for a ceasefire, and a negotiated peace. He has also been denounced as a Putin stooge. But he has actually been statesmanlike, looking out for the best interests of his own people, and of Europe. It is certainly possible that Orban's judgment is wrong! The problem I have is that slinging epithets like "Putin's lapdog" and implying that criticizing American policy is disloyal only serve to prolong a war that is having a truly catastrophic effect on European economies.
When we were marching up to the Iraq War in 2002 and early 2003, none of us pro-war Americans wanted to hear anything about what would likely happen to Christian minority communities in Iraq once Saddam was gone. We didn't want to hear anything negative about any of it. We just wanted to believe, and if maintaining belief meant minimizing the sacrifices that other people -- foreign people -- would have to make for the US to achieve its goals, well, then fine. If maintaining belief meant sneering at war critics and calling them unpatriotic and disloyal, hey, we were all down with that.
How did that work out for us? For Iraq? For the Middle East? For the world?
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It's happening again. You do not have to believe any good thing about Vladimir Putin and his totally unjustified, monstrous war on Ukraine in order to see what a scam this thing is, and how prolonging the war is in Washington's interest (and in the interests of US defense contractors, who are going to make fortunes manufacturing replacements for all the equipment the US has sent to Ukraine).
As I type this, I'm sitting on a train going through far northern Hungary, not too far from the Ukraine border. The train just stopped at a rural village. A bunch of teenagers got off. They are poor people, with beaten faces. Some of them are Gypsies, who have hard lives anyway. What kind of future do those kids have? It was difficult enough before this war, but if the fuel crisis destroys their country's economy, what then? What about the 71 million people around the world that the UN says are slipping into poverty because of the war's effects? They are not combatants, but this war is indirectly affecting their lives in a dramatic way. Who is advocating for their interests? Not the US Embassy, that's for damn sure. And not the American pundit class.