Lingamfelter: Strategic Clarity
In 1963, two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed with Russian support to stop people from leaving communist East Germany, then-President John F. Kennedy delivered his stirring “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech signaling America’s solidarity with Germans. Twenty years later, in 1983, then-President Ronald W. Reagan called out Russians by labeling them an “evil empire.” On June 12, 1987, Reagan captivated the world and challenged Russia in West Berlin by declaring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” When Iraq unjustly invaded Kuwait in 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush proclaimed, “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.” When terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11, then-President George W. Bush rallied America by calling over the chants of New Yorkers at the ruins of the World Trade Center “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
In all of these cases, American leaders were engaged in what should be termed strategic clarity, the clear and unadulterated articulation of right and wrong, not just from a Western perspective but from a civilized one. Sadly, President Biden seems incapable of summoning such clarity. He seems befuddled, waiting for others to show him the way forward.
Moreover, political leaders in Congress of both parties seem paralyzed when it comes to Ukraine, the Democrats infected by the blame-America-first rubbish of its woke members and the Republicans hobbled by head-in-the-sand isolationists. In the 1960s, neoconservatives were the pro-defense liberals disenchanted with the increasingly pacifist foreign policy of the Democratic Party. For those who seek to decisively confront national security issues today, the term neo-con is translated as war-monger. In 2022, bold national security imperatives are out. Hesitation has gripped us.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — an actor, comedian and politician — and his brave citizens are showing us what we once were: bold patriots who stood for freedom and justice. They are making a laughingstock of American leaders who grope for their moral voice while Mr. Zelenskyy and his people are prepared to die in the face of Russia’s naked aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war began on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, exactly 31 years after the U.S. Coalition began its ground invasion into Iraq to repel it for its invasion of free Kuwait. What a difference an invasion makes.
What is most disturbing about the American response is the lack of effective actions to halt and reverse Russia’s assault. Here are a few that should be implemented now.
• Confront Mr. Putin’s irresponsible nuclear brinkmanship. He’s a thug. He’s counting on Western fear. Deny him success for his bullying by embargoing his energy sector.
• Immediately deploy a full range of air, sea, and ground-based anti-missile units to NATO as a defensive measure.
• Extend economic sanctions to Belarus, a Russian stooge and supporter of Mr. Putin’s war.
• Immediately declare a humanitarian safe haven zone in western Ukraine to protect fleeing civilians and place a no-fly zone over it. Make clear that no military aircraft are permitted in this no-fly zone and that if they don’t comply, they’ll be engaged.
• Announce the formation of an American, British, and French combat force constituting a coalition of freedom to protect the humanitarian safe haven that will retain the option to take defensive and logistics action to support Ukraine.
• Begin a major psy-ops campaign directed at Russian forces in Ukraine. They are young and ill-informed about what they are being asked to do. Promote their mutiny.
• Begin discussions with Russian oligarchs to separate themselves from Mr. Putin. Plant the seeds to overthrow Mr. Putin.
This is the sort of action that the patriotic Ukrainians deserve. Unlike the Afghan Army, the Ukrainians are committed to fighting while western leaders engage in rhetorical platitudes.
In 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech, summoning us to stand for freedom and against tyranny. Churchill engaged in a strategic clarity rarely encountered in today’s America. Asking the audience for an opportunity to address a “kindred nation,” he said this:
“[W]e must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man, which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which, through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, the English Common Law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. … Here are the title deeds of freedom. … Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practice, let us practice what we preach. … Do not let us take the course of allowing events to drift along until it is too late.”
It is time for strategic clarity and decisive action, not befuddlement and fear.