Every vice president in this century has been terrible on foreign policy. In the race to be the least terrible, Mike Pence did himself no favors the other day.
Pence was bragging to Fox News about how tough he and Donald Trump were with regards to Russia. He proudly announced that they killed over 100 Russians in Syria. You know, the Russians that were there to fight ISIS — the Islamic State which was formed as a direct result of U.S. intervention in the Middle East in the first place.
Pence then goes on to say that another reason we have to keep sending Ukrainians to their deaths is because … China. That’s right! If the U.S. didn’t send cluster bombs to Ukraine, then China may think we’re also not willing to fight over Taiwan to the last Taiwanese soldier, and that maybe the U.S. wouldn’t provide cluster bombs to Taiwan either.
Every vice president, along with every other bi-partisan war hawk, loves to talk about dead Russians, but you’ll notice they never, ever talk about the staggering death toll for Ukrainians. As long as it could potentially weaken Russia, they’ll keep sending arms and bombs and ammunition and planes and tanks and provide intelligence for operations “as long as it takes.” What courageous resolve they have!
I wonder the response you would get asking one of the brutally conscripted soldiers, some of whom have never held a weapon before in their lives, how they feel about it. Personally, I wouldn’t willingly give my life for any of the corrupt governments involved, although if this escalates into a full-scale war, we might not get a choice.
Corporate media pundits may never fully admit the human cost of these policies, and assuredly there is mountains of propaganda on both sides. Of course, it’s Russian artillery and air power blowing Ukrainians to bits, and the Russian government has plenty of blood on its hands, but being willing to sacrifice Ukrainian lives by the tens of thousands hardly makes you a tough and courageous leader. It may make you “appear strong” to the political pundits on TV, but really it just makes you pathetic. It takes zero courage — zero — to take other people’s money by force and use it to send other people to their death. Like so many other proxy wars, foreign bodies are expendable for Washington’s “strategic initiatives.” It reminds me of how Madeline Albright so bluntly put it, that hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi children was “worth the price.”
Back to Pence. After claiming that Putin would have never invaded Ukraine if he had been in office, the former vice president went on to say that if the West doesn’t stop Russia in Ukraine, then Poland or Latvia could be next, because Putin is trying to restore “greater Russia.” No serious foreign policy analyst anywhere in the world believes this, no matter how anti-Russian they are. This cartoonish level of analysis is reserved for politicians, crony think-tankers, and the masses who obediently listen to it and cheer it on. For anyone who understands that history started before February 2022, Russia was extremely clear, numerous times and consistently through the years, about their frustration with the West arming a corrupt and unstable Ukraine in a deliberate attempt to provoke them.
Before 2022, claiming that Ukraine was the most corrupt government in Europe wasn’t even the slightest bit controversial, nor was discussing its brutal civil war or its very real neo-Nazi problem. But overnight they became the pinnacle of democracy and freedom according to Western politicians and their obedient journalists, just ignore banning political opponents, conscription, canceling elections, and consolidating the media. Also ignore the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic geopolitical realities.
This war had a peaceful solution drawn up: Minsk II (Two words you’ll never hear on mainstream news.) That option is seemingly gone, as it would require many politicians to shed some pride and their fear of “appearing weak.”
You don’t have to agree that the invasion was justified, but you should at least have the intellectual honestly to recognize the clear motives of your adversary, as well as the condition of the state of your proxy war. Nothing signals being more clueless on foreign policy than constantly using the phrase “We have to appear strong” or saying that your political opponent makes us “appear weak.”
Unfortunately for us taxpayers and the people of Ukraine, it appears that this gorilla-level analysis is par for the course in Washington. So, the saying evidently is true for vice presidents as well: “No matter whom you vote for, you always wind up getting John McCain.”
Jonathan Grotefendt was a 1st Class Petty Officer, Nuclear-Trained Electrician’s Mate on the USS Nevada, an Ohio-Class Submarine. After his six years in the Navy, he moved his family to Central Texas where they built a house and homeschool their four beautiful children. You can read his other pieces here.