In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, the dying monarch famously counsels Prince Hal “to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels,” a practice certain to “waste the memory of the former days.” For American politicians and pundits given to giddiness—and to distracting attention from recent failures—the proxy war in Ukraine is the perfect foreign quarrel. It is rejuvenating Cold War–style militarized globalism as the cornerstone of U.S. national security policy.
For those on the antiwar left or the anti-interventionist right, this comes as a worrisome development. Within establishment circles, however, it is encouraging good news. Writing in National Review, the reliably bellicose Elliot Abrams looked forward with evident anticipation to “a dangerous and lengthy struggle” with Russia “that may last for generations.” In the pages of The Week, the typically dovish Damon Linker threw in with the likes of Abrams. “The Ukraine invasion marks a return to a world primarily dominated by competition and hostility among states,” he wrote. “Such a world resembles the Cold War, but also the world that preceded the Cold War.” It was back to the darkest days of the twentieth century.
The hawks’ position is winning out. In March, the Pentagon ordered roughly 12,000 troops to the continent, bringing the total U.S. presence in Central and Eastern Europe from 60,000 personnel to more than 100,000. Earlier this month, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised that the U.S. deploy yet more troops and develop additional bases in the region. Meanwhile, Congress and President Biden have already allocated $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, nearly half of which is termed “lethal”: $6.5 billion to fund arms for Ukraine and the aforementioned troop deployment. On Thursday, Biden asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in aid, $20 billion of which would “provide weapons to Ukraine, replenish U.S. arms stockpiles, and help other countries shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons,” NPR reported.
The consequences of this war—undeniably our war, too, given the number of Russian soldiers killed by U.S.-supplied weaponry—will not become fully apparent for some time. Yet we can already glimpse its probable impact on American politics and on U.S. national security priorities. That impact is likely to be profound and almost certainly destructive. Put simply, the war will divert attention and resources from more urgent priorities. In fact, given where negotiations stand on a hollowed-out version of Biden’s Build Back Better, it already is doing so.
Read the full article in The New Republic.