One of Rome’s fiercest enemies said of the Romans in A.D. 83, “They make a desert and call it peace.” Looking back on 2021, it can be said of the Biden administration that they are also making a desert, at home and abroad, but calling it progressive.
At home, the Biden administration began cultivating the desert by demonstrating conclusively that the administration strongly supports the concentration of federal power as long as it lies in the right hands—the left’s hands. Democrats not only excused, but many applauded criminal acts when they were directed against American society—particularly its European or Christian foundations, facts of American history that are morally repugnant to the left.
Inciting unrest is an old and trusted tactic of the political left to shake the average citizen’s confidence in his government. At home, the use of this tactic is ubiquitous. Lawless, open borders and the widespread tolerance for the looting of stores, ransacking of federal property, violent assault, defacement of public monuments, as well as the defunding and defaming of police, are the hallmarks of the administration’s domestic desertification program.
Abroad, the Democratic Party’s globalists, who passionately supported military intervention attacking Serbia during the 1990s along with Syria and Libya during the Obama years, are now urging the Biden administration to extend their romantic vision of a worldwide liberal democratic revolution to Russia. Instead of recognizing that Ukraine has repeatedly offered Russia’s enemies the opportunity to outflank her to the south, Wendy Sherman and her delegation flew to Geneva to demand that Russia subordinate its national interests to the collective interests of Washington and its NATO Allies—interests that are allegedly morally superior to Moscow’s interests in Ukraine.
Even the Republicans, the “Placebo Party,” borrow the globalist Democrats’ bellicose rhetoric. Remember, the Placebo Party is the party that pours hundreds of billions of federal dollars into national defense without regard to combat reliability or effectiveness of the armed forces, let alone the monstrous overhead of three- and four-star generals and admirals that would shame any respectable banana republic. The Placebo Party’s participation in Biden’s relentless campaign against Russia truly makes Biden’s foreign policy a bipartisan affair that proclaims the triumph of emotion and wishful thinking over the art of diplomacy and accommodation.
The sad truth is that the Republicans are no less disconnected from the achievement of concrete goals of strategic importance to the United States than are the Democrats. As a result, the left has encountered almost no opposition from the faux right.
The point is, thanks to bipartisan support from the Washington community, Sherman’s mission to Geneva was always doomed to failure. The delusion of moral supremacy that characterizes thinking inside the beltway does not cope well with reality. Closed minds inevitably fight the introduction of anything new. In Peter Drucker’s words, “People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete.” Washington’s view of the world is definitely obsolete.
Washington’s unwillingness to discriminate among states on the grounds of power, interest, and circumstance now confronts a serious challenge to its leadership of NATO, together with its military dominance, from Russia, a great power in its own right. But Russia is not the Soviet Union.
Moscow governs a Russian national state that rests on a foundation of Orthodox Christianity and culture. This suggests that President Putin will likely seize Eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper River, an area that is predominantly Russian-speaking, and he will never treat Ukraine’s ahistorical claim to Crimea as legitimate.
This does not mean that Putin is not sensitive to his country’s limitations. On the contrary, he knows that the economic foundations of Russia’s military power will not support a larger war, something the Russian people do not want. More important, Putin must consider the interests and wishes of Beijing, which wants to trade with Europe. Anything more than the seizure of Eastern Ukraine would potentially jeopardize the Belt and Road Initiative to link the commerce of Asia with Europe.
President Biden would do well to consider America’s limitations. It is morally reprehensible to treat Ukraine’s status as a means, instead of an end embodied in Ukraine’s own national purpose. Clinging to a policy of unrelenting hostility to Russia is foolish given the absence of plausible U.S. military options. In their current condition and disposition around the globe, U.S. Ground Forces are unlikely to prevail in Eastern Ukraine regardless of what U.S. Air and Naval Forces undertake. “To promise to defend Europe without troops,” Eisenhower warned, “would be in the nature of a bluff.”
A long, arduous, and exhausting conflict, rather than a decisive victory, would then ensue—the worst possible outcome for an American society intolerant of heavy casualties and the reduced living standards that such a war would entail. This is the sort of “progressive desert” no American wants.
Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.