Earlier this week, 30 Democratic members of the House signed a letter urging us to balance military support for Ukraine with sensible diplomacy. They were pilloried for their sober advice, and many of them quickly disavowed their call. In less than 24 hours, the letter was withdrawn.
This is a shame.
A brutal war grinds on in Europe, the continent with the greatest hope of being whole, free and humanitarian. Arguments abound in this country about whether to negotiate an end to this war, while preserving our commitment to the causes of democracy, liberty, rule of law, and the preservation of human life and happiness. The issues at stake are profound and demand careful deliberation and strategic thinking.
Diplomacy must work hand-in-glove with military force if we are to avert tragedy in Ukraine. Historically, vanishingly few conflicts have ended without a political settlement, and we should be wary of the assertion that Ukraine can achieve complete victory over Russia if only the United States provides sufficient military assistance. The siren song of total victory has produced decades of unending destruction in such places as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. World War II, one of the few conflicts that produced unconditional surrender, required nearly 100 million deaths and the military occupation of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And unlike Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Russia has nuclear weapons. Finding a delicate balance between our yearning for justice in Ukraine and the imperative of averting a nuclear confrontation with Russia is essential.
Many believe that the time is not ripe for diplomacy. They argue that Ukraine and Russia now show little willingness to compromise, that Vladimir Putin will remain stubborn and unrelenting, and that Volodymyr Zelenskyy would put himself in political danger inside Ukraine if he were to pursue negotiations. But negotiated outcomes require careful preparation, including the creation of political space necessary to support compromises. Often, such preparation must begin long before the warring parties consider themselves ready for negotiations. Unless we prepare now, the United States may be unable to facilitate a settlement when the time comes for real bargaining, and we may discover that the constituencies for compromise in both Russia and Ukraine have disappeared altogether.
Read the full piece in Tribune News Service.