Congress Is Grappling With the Wrong Questions on Ukraine

Last week, Members of Congress took two votes on U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine, and the outcomes were radically different. These votes illustrated something peculiar about the politics of war: while there is considerable room to challenge how humanely war is conducted, it remains politically fraught to work towards ending war itself.

The first vote was a quite tepid proposal led by Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH) that would have required the Biden administration to submit a strategy to Congress that included potential diplomatic pathways to facilitate a negotiated settlement to the war. As a mild enforcement mechanism, this proposal conditioned a relatively small percentage of Ukraine aid in the NDAA (amounting to about $300 million) on the administration’s production of such a report. This proposal was soundly rejected, with only 129 Members — all of them Republicans — voting in support.

By contrast, a separate proposal to restrict the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine secured a surprisingly solid bipartisan vote count. This outcome was particularly notable given last-minute maneuvering from House leadership late Wednesday night that appeared as a blatant attempt to sabotage the proposal’s success. A broad bipartisan proposal to ban cluster munitions anywhere was replaced by a Republican-only measure that banned only transfers to Ukraine and was led by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Despite the eleventh hour switcheroo, which almost certainly diminished some support, 49 Democrats and 98 Republicans still joined to support, although the measure fell short of passage.

Opposition to transferring cluster munitions is not a radical position. Those weapons, which are banned in a treaty ratified by over a hundred nations, are notoriously inhumane, not just in the immediate damage they inflict by spewing grenades in a large blast radius. They also leave some percentage of unexploded ordnance for years, for civilians to trip over unawares. The Defense Department initially offered assurances that America’s are new and improved, before its own statements proved how frequently the very grenades we are sending fail to explode immediately.

Read the full piece in Time.