How to lose big in Ukraine

One risk of making your rivals’ wars more costly is that you just might make their eventual victory even larger. If the Ukrainian army fails to make a crucial strategic retreat, and is broken in the cauldrons of the Donbas, the United States will have made Russia’s victory much costlier, but also much more significant than it otherwise would have been. Putin will be able to claim he defeated not just the nationalists in Ukraine, but the Western powers that funded and trained their army from 6,000 to nearly half a million men. After the humiliation in Afghanistan, it would be the second massive U.S.-funded and trained Army to be defeated in the space of two years. That is the real risk we are taking. And it’s not one that is going to leave NATO “reinvigorated” in the end. More like panicked and on the run. That is what I meant by becoming “pot-committed” in Ukraine. By so proudly and loudly raising the stakes, Western policy influencers such as Ivo Daalder now face impossible choices that “no one is prepared” to make. Is it a good thing for NATO to have two American-funded, NATO-supported armies destroyed in two years?

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In the end, the policy-makers will try to blame the American people for the policy failures they authored because they were incapable of thinking more than two steps ahead. They’ve already started. Skeptics like me were slimed as people who ultimately sympathized with Putin and who saw strongmen as vigorous and democracies as weak. This was a lie. I believe nothing is so fearful as a democracy that has truly gone to war. But our people have not gone to war. Only a policy elite has done that, using money they borrowed from us.

In fact it is worse than a lie, but projection. It is the foolish hawks who have said that this “is a contest not just of armies but of societal wills” between democracies and authoritarianism. And now they are retreating into decadent fantasy.

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