Joe Biden and the Back-Door War

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President Biden has pursued the Ukraine Conflict with single-minded ferocity, spending hundreds of billions of US Dollars and costing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian lives. Here is my perspective.

The American Political System aims to strike a delicate “balance of power” between the electorate, “we the people,” and those who govern us. The US Constitution seeks to give “we the people” a measure of control over our representatives by providing for periodic elections.

However, on occasion, that balance of power slips. Our elected officials assume powers not given in the Constitution. This has led to what Arthur Schlesinger has called “The Imperial Presidency.”

Of all the powers the Constitution gives our Government, the most awesome is the power to take us to War. Only five times in our country’s history have we declared War: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

Since World War II, the United States has been entangled in a series of conflicts, but none has been a Congressional declared War. From the “Police Action” in Korea to the Conflict in Afghanistan, the nation has committed its fortunes and often its soldiers to skirmishes around the globe. Each time, with the tacit acknowledgment that we can, at any time, bring our nuclear arsenal into play if the American homeland were to become directly threatened.

Thankfully, this has all been a bluff, as we have not had to provide these ultimate weapons in a total war environment. Consequently, American presidents have been playing this “bluff” for half a century. From Vietnam to Ukraine, Presidents have committed arms and equipment in a series of brush-fire wars with the explicit understanding that while we can hit you, you can’t hit back. The battlefield has always been on the other country’s homeland, not our own. Because to do so might bring about the ultimate American nuclear response.

From Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, US Presidents have exercised a delicate balance between projecting America’s power and influence while risking as few military personnel as possible. These Presidents understood, especially following the Vietnam Conflict, that the one thing the public would not countenance was the loss of American lives.

The Dawn of the New Century began with the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the subsequent declaration by George W. Bush of the “War” on Terror. Of course, like all the other modern American incursions, this was no “War” in the Constitutional sense but a series of discrete military actions as directed by the President.

The War on Terror included kinetic actions in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Although an American military presence remained in all of these countries, only Afghanistan remained by the time Joe Biden became President on January 20, 2021. Just seven months after he was inaugurated, on August 31, 2021, Biden ordered all troops to leave Afghanistan. The twenty-year “War” on Terror was over.

Many of us hoped that these endless American “Wars” might finally end. Unfortunately, that was not to be. There was a brewing conflict in a faraway country named Ukraine. A place that Joe Biden had been intimately involved with for more than a decade. As Vice President during the Obama Administration, he had been designated as the “Point Man” in charge of US-Ukraine relations.

He had seen, up close and personal, the Euro Maidan Coup of 2014, when he advised the old President, Yanukovych, to leave and welcomed the new President, Poroshenko, on board. (see my article). Not only did Biden know the players, but history has shown that he helped shape the current Ukrainian Government.

So, when Biden became President, this self-styled foreign policy maven saw Ukraine as part of an overall strategy to blunt any future ambitions of its neighbor, Russia. With a growing animosity toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Biden has called a “dictator” and an “SOB,” Biden hardened the American position, encouraging Ukraine to join NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Putin was on record saying that if Ukraine joined NATO, it would be considered an existential threat to Russia. Russia would have no defense from nuclear weapons launched in Ukrainian territory. The Ukraine/Russia border is more than a thousand kilometers long, and atomic weapons placed along that border could be within Russian territory in mere seconds.

An additional flash point for Russia emerged in the Donbas region of Ukraine (located in the southeast part of the country). This region was predominantly ethnic Russians—people amalgamated into Ukraine by the old Soviet Union but identified as Russian in language, culture, and religion.

A particularly sketchy military group within the Ukraine Army had been targeting the Donbas for years. Amnesty International estimated that 14,000 Donbas residents had been killed by the Azov Battalion over the decade leading up to the Russian invasion.

The Russians saw both the existential threat (potential nuclear weapons in Ukraine) plus the oppression of ethnic Russians living in the Donbas as the tipping point to war. On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the War was on.

Interestingly, on February 22, two days before the Russian incursion, Biden declared that the Russian troop build-up was a sure sign that Russia would indeed invade. At this point, Biden announced the beginning of a series of economic sanctions designed to bring down the Russian Economy.

Was Biden’s speech on February 22 a final provocation or simply an acknowledgment of what was already happening? It’s a fascinating question, especially in light of Biden’s prior history in Ukraine (as “point man” under Obama).

Be that as it may, America was again embroiled in War. Only this time, it was a Proxy War. A War fought principally by Ukrainian soldiers using American and European arms and equipment. And now, we see, under the skilled advisement of NATO technicians, advisors, and surveillance.

From Biden’s perspective, this new Proxy War would solve the old American bugaboo of avoiding American casualties. No Americans would be killed. Instead, it would be the Ukrainian boys and girls who would endure the Russian onslaught.

At the same time, Biden could pursue his anti-Russian strategy, depleting its military with combat, decimating its Economy with sanctions, and isolating the Russian state by uniting NATO, the United Nations, and other multi-national organizations against Russia.

It has all of the essential elements that Biden learned during his half-century in Washington that Americans wanted. As a US Senator, Biden saw the devastation that American battle losses in Vietnam had on the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

On the other hand, Biden saw the ease with which Bill Clinton could bomb Yugoslavia—bombing the Kosovo Albanians until they were forced to leave their homes in Kosovo. Flying the NATO planes above antiaircraft altitudes, making sure there would be no American casualties. From the Biden perspective, this was a perfect model for American foreign policy.

The Kosovo conflict was short, lasting only two and a half months, inflicted maximum harm on the enemy, with nearly 15,000 dead and over three-quarters of a million displaced, and it achieved its objective: remove the Albanians from Kosovo. Like the similar bombings of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it had drawn few headlines and little dissent back home.

However, the current situation in Ukraine has met none of these objectives. The fact that the Ukraine War lingers over two years after it began proves that Biden’s initial aim of a short, decisive conflict is impossible. Escalation after escalation has not deterred the Russians. As America placed better, more advanced weapons on the battlefield, they were matched by the Russians.

Today, American supplies are dwindling, the Russians continue to out-produce and, more importantly out-shoot NATO and the Americans in necessary artillery, drone, and missile attacks.

Even the ultimate American “bluff,” the use of nuclear weapons, is more than matched by Russia. I think that most Americans will find it hard to believe, but Russia has a superior nuclear capability to America, with more warheads and likely better missiles than America’s arsenal.

President Biden must face a bitter truth: His strategy is failing. The War in Ukraine has continued far beyond his Administration’s projections. The battles against Russia have not been quick and victorious. The Russian Economy was not reduced to “tatters,” as Ursula von der Leyen, the European President, envisioned.

It’s time for NATO and the American President to negotiate for peace. President Putin has said that he’s willing to talk. Why not take him up on his offer? Why not begin to settle this conflict diplomatically?

Perhaps a “Peace Time” President would be just what the American electorate would like to see.


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