Neocons Blame America First

The blame game has commenced; America’s Ukraine hawks have met the enemy, and it is us.

Informed observers here and abroad acknowledge that the war of attrition between Russia and US- and NATO- funded Ukraine has taken roughly half a million Ukrainian lives, and that, given Russian superiority in manpower and materiel, Kiev would be well advised (as it was by then-chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff as early as the fall of 2022) to pursue a negotiated settlement.

And for a time there was a dawning recognition of reality on the part of the American foreign policy establishment that was spawned by Kiev’s failed 2023 counteroffensive. Yet over the past week, it seems the pendulum has swung back in the other direction. The memo has gone out: ‘American aid can still propel Ukraine to victory.’  The revised narrative is being dutifully recycled by the administration’s stenographers across legacy and corporate media outlets.

Consider the following all within the space of the last week:

  • On January 10th, The Wall Street Journal informed readers that while the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed, “The biggest problem may be that Ukraine is insufficiently armed to penetrate Russian defenses. The U.S. and allies were willing to provide armored vehicles for the counteroffensive—but not modern fighter jets that are central to the way Western militaries attack.” The Journal story goes on to quote “Ukraine’s top military officer” who  says Ukraine “needs better technology to defeat an enemy with a population more than three times larger” but, as Journal notes with obvious dismay “support from the U.S., Ukraine’s most critical ally, is wobbling amid domestic political squabbles.” In other words, how dare we be so selfish as to prioritize issues such as the open southern border or the fentanyl crisis?
  • On January 8th, Foreign Policy magazine featured two former high ranking officials from the State and Defense departments who assured readers that there remains a pathway to victory for Ukraine. While acknowledging that the “current conventional wisdom in large parts of the West is that Ukraine is losing the ground war,” the authors counsel that “more and better weapons” along with “S. and European assistance to work with them on how to better manage operational complexity and combine technology, information, and tactics in more dynamic ways…would return movement to the now-static battlefield and give Ukraine a fighting chance.”
  • On the same day, January 8th, The New Yorker published a piece titled ‘What Could Tip The Balance In The War In Ukraine?” The report claimed that “If Western backers provide necessary arms, training, and financing to Ukraine, its military may emerge, by next year, with the upper hand.”
  • On January 3rd, Foreign Affairs published a piece titled ’The War in Ukraine is Not a Stalemate,’ in which the author argues that victory hinges on the willingness of the West to continue to fund the war effort. The choice is thus: “Support Ukraine so that its leaders can defend their territory and prepare for a 2025 offensive or cede an irrecoverable advantage to Russia.” “The West,” we are further told, “is on a trajectory to end up losing this war through sheer complacency.”
  • On January 9th, Moscow native Max Boot took to his perch at the Washington Post to inform readers that “It is imperative that Congress reach an agreement on a foreign aid bill that, in addition to funding for Israel and Taiwan, includes roughly $64 billionin vital military, economic and humanitarian support for Ukraine. U.S. funds for Ukraine have run out. If Congress fails to act, the implications for Ukraine and the world are terrifying.” In Boot’s view a failure to continue the tsunami of American dollars to Kiev would be “the greatest self-inflicted U.S. foreign policy error at least since the 2003 invasion of Iraq” – an invasion, he fails to mention, he vociferously supported. Boot goes on to write that, “The choice of whether Ukraine survives as a free nation is now up to Congress and specifically up to congressional Republicans. (While Democrats are united in supporting Kyiv, Republicans are holding Ukrainian aid hostage to their anti-immigration demands.) It is likely to be the most momentous decision lawmakers will make in their whole careers.” And should the GOP not follow Boot’s recommended course? Then, says Boot, “Members of Congress will have a lot of Ukrainian blood on their hands.”
  • And a day later, January 10, Boot’s colleague on the Post oped pages, Lee Hockstader, tried to do the hysterical Boot one better (no easy feat) by claiming that, “…it is indisputable that the West could and should have done more, faster, to prepare Kyiv for its months-long counteroffensive that began last June. Instead the West dithered, and Ukraine’s push petered out as fall turned to winter.” Hockstader, echoing his sanguinary colleagues at the Post ends his indictment by proclaiming that, “By its hesitations and vacillations, the West has signaled weakness to the Russian tyrant. That, more than sending any missile to Ukraine, is the surest provocation, and the real danger.”

This very public effort at recasting the story of what has occurred in Ukraine (and why) is at its core an effort to blame the American people and their representatives for the failure of the administration to honestly, courageously and imaginatively deal with the Ukraine crisis beginning in 2014. Ten years later, thanks to the doctrinaire and ultimately reckless policies of the American establishment, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are dead and their country lies in ruins.

The aforementioned examples are thinly veiled attempts to place the blame where it does not belong: On us. Let’s not let them get away with it.

James W. Carden is a columnist and former adviser to the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the U.S. Department of State. His articles and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Nation, The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, The Spectator, UnHerd, The National Interest, Quartz, The Los Angeles Times, and American Affairs.