Biden’s Empty Quiver

Image Source: Wenceslaus Hollar – Public Domain

The world continues to watch in horror and dismay as Russian forces have decimated the military architecture and established special “peacekeeping” operations in the Ukraine and beyond. As we predictably look to the American president for answers, it is important to take a moment to explore how we arrived here, the role Joe Biden and his allies have played, and how we are left with few good options that can resolve this crisis.

Despite our noble values, for decades American foreign policy has viewed the rest of the world as pawns on a chessboard–overthrown governments, manipulated elections to gain political allies, conducted “peacekeeping” operations, and occupied foreign territory. Our role in arranging the chess pieces in Eastern Europe is a tragic example.

In 2014, the Obama-Biden administration, especially Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria “Screw the EU” Nuland, helped overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government and installed an anti-Russian government feeding into Ukraine’s situation today.  Despite the Obama-Biden administration’s reckless desire to pour gasoline on the flames by directly arming Ukraine – an idea which was quickly rebuffed by European allies – cooler heads prevailed.

Now-President Joe Biden and Victoria Nuland are back, with a rapidly escalating conflict, an even emptier toolbox, and the same limited imagination. Hastening peace in Ukraine would be a challenge for anyone, but the challenge becomes that much harder when one’s primary goal is to thwart an adversary rather than promote justice, peace, or stability in the region.

As the US media bombards the public with images guaranteed to provoke outrage and generate support for an escalatory, “we must do something” approach, here are some facts Americans ought to remember about our failed US policy in the region:

+ US policy on Ukraine has been largely unchanged since the heyday of the late Senator John McCain, which prioritizes expansion of NATO all the way to the Russian border. The Trump era was a speedbump, as Trump personally viewed NATO expansion as unnecessary and unaffordable. Now we understand why DC whistleblowers and Obama-Biden foot soldiers like Eric Ciarmella and Lt Col Vindman were frustrated with Trump’s disinterest in expanding NATO to Ukraine.

+ Biden cannot and will not deploy US forces to Ukraine. Let’s be clear, this is not because he and his chickenhawk advisors don’t want to, nor because it would be costly, irrational and domestically unpopular. The Pentagon, Europeans and everyone else who pays attention knows that Ukraine will not be the start of World War III. Instead, the Biden administration offers tired unilateral sanctions, political pressure on others to sanction, and the pumping of even more arms and cash into NATO, all, while he publicly complains about Russia. Some may notice that this is exactly what the US has been doing for over a decade. It’s a policy of economic division and demonization that Russia’s relatively small economy has adapted to by reaching towards non-US trading partners and utilizing non-US controlled financial institutions.

+ Biden’s predictable sanctions hurt the US and our allies more. They drive up energy costs and create economic pain wherever US dollars are spent. Sanctions do little to pressure Moscow to change course. Instead, they crush Ukrainians and put the economic squeeze on billions around the globe.You need look no further than the gas pump or your grocery receipt.

+ War is the most wasteful and environmentally unfriendly of all human endeavors. As the conflict escalates and more resources are funneled into the war machines – the biggest fossil fuel consumers and worst polluters in the world – Biden’s dreams of “going green” are dashed. And that is before one even considers the long-term consequences of increased tensions, as governments around the globe have already begun to increase their military budgets.

+ But all of that pales in comparison to the human costs of war. We see the civilian casualties, the lives disrupted, the families separated, and the infrastructure destroyed. We see allegations of war crimes. We see a country descending into ruin.

+ This should serve as a reminder to us that war is hell. War is a criminally negligent failure for leaders to find peaceful solutions. And while we may rightly dole out more blame to some parties for their aggression, global peace is a global problem – not a game of chess.

Leaders in all three countries pay little attention to the foreign policy preferences of their people, and often pay even less attention to what is best for long-term peace and stability. We should recognize why it is that Biden has no good moves to make, no cards to play, and no solutions. What comes next may be far closer to home.

Ltc. (ret.) Karen U. Kwiatkowski is an author and retired U.S. Air Force officer whose assignments included duties as a Pentagon desk officer and various roles for the National Security Agency. After retiring, she became a noted critic of the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Kwiatkowski is known for her insider essays denouncing a corrupting political influence on military intelligence, especially leading up to the 2003 Iraq war.