Destroying Ukraine to save it

Phil Anderson

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” In 1968 this was a statement made by a U.S. Army major to a news reporter about the attack on the South Vietnamese town Ben Tre. The city of 35,000 was attacked with bombs, rockets and napalm.  

“We cannot and will not endorse the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.” Eisenhower Media Network.  

Ukraine is fast becoming another money draining, unwinnable quagmire like the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent events suggest the war is a stalemate. Like prior wars there is no military solution. Resolving  the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine will require a negotiated settlement. Continuing military support to Ukraine will only prolong the war and increase the damage.  

We are not defending freedom or democracy in Ukraine. We are engaged in a proxy war in which the Ukrainian people, and their soldiers, are the cannon fodder in a struggle for world hegemony. We are engaged in destroying Ukraine to save it from Russian aggression. Win, lose, or draw the Ukrainian people will pay a huge price.  

The immediate cause of the war in Ukraine is, of course, the  Russian invasion. But the United States is not an innocent bystander to this event. For decades the expansion of NATO to the east has been widely recognized as provocative and a threat to peace and stability in the region. Neither has Ukraine been without fault, specifically in its treatment of ethnic Russians in the Donbas areas of Eastern Ukraine.

Wars always result from the failure of people and nations to find, or accept, peaceful solutions to conflicts.   The bi-partisan U.S. foreign policy establishment largely regards this war as an opportunity to weaken Russia. This war is part of the decades old efforts to “contain communism” and ensure American military and economic dominance of the world.

Despite the huge costs (human and financial) and many failures of these past military fiascoes, war is – and continues to be – the primary instrument of U.S. foreign policy.  

This is not just my opinion. Many knowledgeable commentators and experts agree that we are making mistakes in Ukraine that endanger not only the Ukrainians but many other people across the world.   Foreign policy commentators Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne recently wrote, “...the United States is fighting a proxy war with Russia. Thanks to Washington’s efforts to arm and train the Ukrainian military and to integrate it into NATO systems, we are now witnessing the most intense and sustained military entanglement in the near-80-year history of global competition between the United States and Russia....Save for the Cuban Missile Crisis, the risks of a swift and catastrophic escalation to the nuclear face-off between these superpowers is greater than at any point in history.” (Why Are We in Ukraine? On the dangers of American hubris, Harpers Magazine, June 2023).  

Andrew Bacevich of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft writes, “Western support, especially the more than $75 billion in assistance the U.S. has so far committed, has certainly kept Ukraine in the fight. The West’s implicit game plan is one of mutual attrition – bleeding Ukraine as a way to bleed Russia – with the apparent expectation that the Kremlin will eventually say uncle...Prospects of success depend on either of two factors: a change in leadership in the Kremlin or a change of heart on the part of President Putin. Neither of those, however, appears imminent” (“The Compulsion to Intervene, Why Washington Underwrites Violence in Ukraine,” Tom Dispatch, June 1, 2023).  

“The Russia-Ukraine War has been an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or wounded. Millions have been displaced. Environmental and economic destruction have been incalculable...We consider President Biden’s promise to back Ukraine 'as long as it takes' to be a license to pursue ill-defined and ultimately unachievable goals”. This is from a full page ad in the New York Times on May 16, 2023 by the Eisenhower Media Network, an organization of former military, intelligence, and civilian national security officials.

They go on to say, “NATO expansion, in sum, is a key feature of a militarized U.S. foreign policy characterized by unilateralism featuring regime change and preemptive wars. Failed wars, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced slaughter and further confrontation, a harsh reality of America’s own making. The Russia-Ukraine War has opened a new arena of confrontation and slaughter. This reality is not entirely of our own making, yet it may well be our undoing, unless we dedicate ourselves to forging a diplomatic settlement that stops the killing and defuses tensions.”  

Journalists Katrina van den Heuvel and James W. Carden say the risks of the war escalating are “perilous and unacceptable.” But also the war is ultimately “contrary to true US national security interests.”  Europe and the U.S. need to have stable, predictable relations with Russia for many reasons. The war in Ukraine make this impossible (“Now is not the time for Ukraine to join NATO,” The Guardian, July, 2023). They wisely suggest, “What is needed now more than ever is a conception of statesmanship that goes beyond the narrow parameters of the battlefield... [and] seeks to overcome the old cold war east-west divide...”  

Stephen B. Heintz is the president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (a charitable foundation). He writes that the U.S. “must recognize that efforts to maintain U.S. global primacy are neither possible nor in our national interest....At the end of the Cold War we should have adopted a vision of collaborative global leadership in which the U.S. plays an essential, but not dominant, leadership role. It is imperative that we do so now...Achieving our national goals will require doing so in concert with others and forging common ground to generate collective benefits. Humility and honesty are essential: we must engage with “strategic empathy.” (“Transforming US leadership in an age of turbulence,” online magazine “Responsible Statecraft,” July 18, 2023).  

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Killing one person is murder – killing thousands is foreign policy.”

U.S. foreign policy has killed millions over decades with military interventions and the supply of arms to various conflicts.   The U.S. must stop facilitating the killing in Ukraine. We must begin negotiations to end this war before it does any more damage to Ukraine or escalates into a major war between NATO and Russia