Ron DeSantis came out against our current blank check n’ hack cliches Ukraine policy, stating the indisputable truth that Ukraine was not a vital US interest worthy of risking World War III with Russia. The next day he was proven right when a Russian SU-27 knocked a US Reaper drone into the Black Sea. Hey, feeding Russians (and Ukrainians) into a meat grinder is all fun and games until we get dragged into the abattoir too.
Of course, all the right people got really mad about it – when Bill Kristol, Adam Kinzinger, David French, Max Boot and Mitt Romney are all for something, you need to be against it. Hardest hit was the GOP establishment – it was very sad because the governor refuses to be dragged along into cheerleading yet another massive foreign policy failure.
And this Ukraine policy of feeding the fire in perpetuity will lead to yet another massive foreign policy failure. Massive failure is all our foreign policy elite knows. Name one of its successes since 1993. Don’t say the Abraham Accords – that was a huge success and had nothing to do with our foreign policy establishment. It was Trump outsiders who did it. The foreign policy establishment brought us Vietnam and Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It brought us debt, blood, and humiliation. Yet, astonishingly, perpetual nimrods like Mitch McConnell John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham still defer to these utter losers.
But not Ron DeSantis. And he will be vindicated by the time he wins the nomination. Same with Trump should he win the nomination, but everyone expected him to say what he is currently saying – they were hoping that the Great Not Orange Hope would side with Team Sap and he rejected them. Ron DeSantis – who served in Iraq and saw the failure firsthand – has rejected the Beltway consensus. He’s a bit ahead of most of America now, but after another year and a half of this madness he and the American people will be in synch. If he wins the nomination, he will be an anti-war Republican against a pro-war establishment Democrat.
Americans are not pacifists, but they are sick of failure, and that’s what Ukraine is looking to become. Most Americans feel that Ukraine is corrupt, which it totally is – I saw it personally. They feel sympathy for the Ukrainians, as do I (I trained Ukrainian soldiers in Ukraine for the Army). And they agree with DeSantis that this territorial dispute – which it is – is not a vital American interest that overcomes other priorities and that is worth endless treasure and maybe even blood. We generally hope Ukraine wins, but this is not our fight. Nor is the war likely to spread to NATO countries where we have treaty obligations – the idea that we need to retake Crimea so the Russians don’t show up in Berlin, much less London, is ridiculous. Americans are not prepared to put up with this conflict forever, but forever wars that culminate in embassy helicopter evacuations and people falling off C-17s are what the Beltway buffoons do.
Here's the ugly fact: This war needs to end in a negotiated peace, one that the Ukrainians are not going to like. The Ukrainians have held the Russians back because they are tough and because we give them enough ammo and gear to do so. But they also succeed because, so far, the Russians have sucked. Their equipment, leadership, and morale stinks. Now the front lines are relatively frozen. It’s nearly WWI-like in some areas. We are not looking at sweeping maneuver warfare but static trench fighting. This eats up men and equipment. We can feed Ukraine more ammo and gear. We cannot feed them more men, and the locals are not buying the propaganda and cheery dance Tik Toks from the front. The Ukrainians are running out of troops. Russia, however, is much bigger. It has more bodies (even though many have fled the country). And it has a history of coming back from setbacks. Napoleon got to Moscow. Then he got driven out. Hitler nearly got to Moscow. Then he got driven back to the Brandenburg Gate. The Russians will fire their ineffectual generals and replace them with solid killers. They will reconstitute their equipment and build new and better armaments. They will train up new forces. To break the stalemate, one side is going to have to generate massive combat power that can shatter the enemy lines. If you are betting that the Ukrainians will do that first, you probably double-down on a 16.
Barring a peace treaty or some bizarre black swan event like a meteor flattening the Kremlin, the best case in the fall of 2024 is that the stalemate continues. The second worst case is that a Russian offensive drives the Ukrainians back. The very worst case is that a Russian offensive drives the Ukrainians back and the geniuses who brought you Baghdad and Kabul pour in American forces to try to stop the Ukrainian collapse.
DeSantis has taken the smart strategic position and the smart political position. He has shown leadership, because the American people will soon come to be where he is now, and they will do so around the time when the election gets into high gear.
The Ukrainians have to do what the Ukrainians have to do – I do not blame them for trying to wring dough and bombs out of Uncle Sucker. Nor am I upset that they appear to prefer to fight and die rather than enter into negotiations that will leave Russians on their territory. I get it. They are patriots supporting their country. But we normal Americans are patriots too, and our country is the United States. We expect Ukraine to pursue its national interests, but we expect America’s leadership to pursue America’s national interests. And it is in our national interest to get this war ended, even if it means Putin holds ground his forces conquered.
The whiners will whine that this is a betrayal of Ukraine. It’s not. We cannot betray a country that it not our own. It is instead a rational and ruthless bit of realpolitik – we must pursue America’s interests, not Ukraine’s. Ending this war is in America’s interest.
Again, I support Ukraine in both the abstract and practice – I would give them some aid. Ron DeSantis would too, just not aid that could expand the war. But it is clear that now America’s national interest is in forcing peace down both belligerent’s throats.
We have lacked a coherent strategy throughout this whole debacle. All we have done is employ reactive tactics. This has led to a stalemate in Ukraine, Russia and China growing closer as allies (and uniting with other enemies like Iran), and the depletion of European war-making capacity. Time to identify our strategic objectives. Our main objective should be to degrade China and maintain American supremacy. A supporting strategy should be to integrate Russia into the West to counter China’s rise. That means we need to get this war ended and start working to bring Russia into the West. “Degrade Russia” is one thing we hear a lot. How about a strong, Western-looking Russia that can keep the Chi Coms from taking all those sweet, sweet resources just sitting there in Siberia? The greatest foreign policy failure of the last 30 years was not Iraq or Afghanistan; it was the failure to bring Russian into the fold after the USSR fell. But our foreign policy hacks are so concerned with personalities – PUTIN! PUTIN! PUTIN! – they cannot focus on the world as it is and how to get it to what it should be.
Ron DeSantis gets it, and that’s why the people who have failed again and again and again are outraged at him. They were hoping they could co-opt him.
Instead, when the election comes around the American people are going to be sick of this insanity and he will be right where they are – ready to move on from another endless war that only jerks like David Frum want.
Follow Kurt on Twitter @KurtSchlichter. Get Inferno, the seventh book in the Kelly Turnbull People's Republic series of conservative action novels set in America after a notional national divorce, as well as his non-fiction book We’ll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America.