Ukraine: Biden’s* no-win public negotiation
During the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Americans had good reasons to be optimistic. Our military and our home-front war production played the decisive role in winning World War II. The North Korean/Chicom invasion of South Korea was blunted and the status quo ante-bellum was restored. The Russians, the Red Chinese, and President Eisenhower all knew there was no "missile gap." But was there a way to prevent another world war?
The answer for some young Americans was found in the Latin phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. Instead of becoming The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit or becoming lawyers, physicians, or stock traders, our military academies and the various ROTC programs provided a career path for young people to make a difference in the life of their nation.
The pay was poor. The hardships were many. But, by golly, it was a way to serve your nation and even look down on those who used their college educations to pursue filthy lucre. In his The Right Stuff, author Tom Wolfe explains the thinking of those who chose Service over Reward.
Preparing for war and, thereby, preventing war became the credo for many young Americans. But for some other Americans, the proper role of the United States was to right every wrong worldwide. Such sentiments found expression in the motto of the U.S. Special Forces: De Oppresso Liber: To liberate the oppressed.
While this writer is a strong supporter of U.S. Special Forces, Delta Force, and Navy’s SEALs, it should be noted that "if you want peace, prepare for war," and "to liberate the oppressed," make for conflicting geo-politics.
President Kennedy and Defense Secretary McNamara’s Harvard-bred whiz kids were in the camp of "liberating the oppressed." Kennedy’s secret war in Laos and the ramping up of the U.S advisory effort in Vietnam led to a ten-year war our troops won on the battlefield but was lost on Capitol Hill.
Now, we find ourselves being led by a superannuated political hack who foolishly got himself into a public (rather than a secret) negotiation with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, a Russian neighbor that is far outside the American Sphere of Influence.
At Harvard’s JFK School, we were taught that by agreeing to a public negotiation, both parties signal they will each give a little in return for getting a little. For example, when the CEOs of the automakers lock themselves up in a hotel room with the heads of the United Autoworkers, their staffs have already done a deal in which each party gave a little and got a little. Meanwhile, in the hotel room, the bigwigs negotiate whether to play five-card draw or seven-card stud.
Backed only by his Obama-weakened military, Biden* has himself in the position of being able to betray both "to liberate the oppressed," and "if you want peace, prepare for war," during the same public negotiation.
Pray, in the hope of winning the next election, that Biden* does not start a shooting war-too-far we cannot win. You can bet China’s President Xi, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un are watching.
* Election disputed.
Suggested reading, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, by Sloan Wilson, 1955. The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe, 1979. War During Peace: A Strategy for Defeat, Pegasus Imprimis Press, 2021.
©2022. William Hamilton.