Handling War in Ukraine

We must mourn the death of leadership in America.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy cautiously but brilliantly managed the United States — nay, the world — through the Cuban Missile Crisis on the brink of a nuclear World War III.  Watching Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, I felt compelled to watch again the movie Thirteen Days bringing these moments to life.  I believe that every American and certainly every decision-maker should re-watch this excellent movie.

If your writer may offer my over-simplified distillation, it is this: JFK and his brain trust rejected the choice between Option A, surrender to a missile platform in Cuba that could strike most of the United States with nuclear warheads, and Option B, provoking a nuclear war.  They relentlessly demanded and sought an Option C (or several other options).  Pushing back against strident voices, they searched for a different path relentlessly.

If we watch videos rather than read books, documentaries about the Cuban Missile Crisis ought to remind us of the qualities of leadership — leadership sorely lacking in my beloved country's decaying society today.  If we believe the self-serving accounts — and here I do — every move was stepping cautiously through mine fields.  There was no false or stupid bluster, no reckless bull in a china shop roaring forward.  Every moment was painstakingly debated, analyzed, thought through, and gamed out. 

This author strongly leans toward the beliefs that this is not our war, we should not fight for Ukraine, Europe is pathetic, and it is time for Europe to stop expecting the USA to wipe its nose and clean up after it.  I started in politics fighting Soviet imperialism, politically expanding into Central America and at Gen. Daniel Graham's High Frontier and at the Center for Peace and Freedom launched by the Heritage Foundation.

But, on the other hand, reality is reality.  Western leaders helped create this mess.  Many books need to be written.  But no matter how much America First conservatives may hate it, the facts are that we are in a mess.  We should either cease and desist and let Russian invaders take over Ukraine quickly and easily with a minimum of loss of life...or take genuine action.

Here is what the USA should do:

1) The USA should demand a vote within NATO that Ukraine will never join.  Historically, Russia and Ukraine were the same country for 1,100 years.  NATO membership was always a deliberate, insane provocation motivated by hatred for Russia. 

2) Ukraine is a sovereign country despite being part of Russia since 917 A.D.  International ships have a right to dock, refuel, visit, and enjoy shore leave in the port of Odessa if allowed by the government of Ukraine.  The U.S. Navy should respond to an invitation to dock in the port of Odessa, refuel, resupply, and let sailors enjoy shore leave, of course armed for their own protection.  Every ship internationally has that right to dock at a port if invited by the country owning that port.  Putin cannot fire in the direction of U.S. naval vessels.  And the ships have an international maritime right to dock there.

But, you will say, this is a risk.  Yes.  Like JFK, it needs to be handled extremely carefully.  It must be done with transparent advance warning and open lines of communication.  (Can Slow Joe handle that?  No.)

Of course this is a risk — a risk that Putin too cannot ignore.  But either we stop the silliness of hashtag/meme warfare and shutting down Netflix to Russians or we actually do something real.  Your choice.  Real?  Or fake?

3)  For the same reason, nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines should be parked on the bottom of the Black Sea (which is not terribly deep), supplied to sit undetectable for months. 

4)  The President should warn Russia very publicly, such as in the United Nations, that if the conflict does not end within ten days, he will order a U.S. super-carrier battle group into the Black Sea.  The Black Sea is international waters, except close to the shores.  Any nation's ships have a right to navigate those waters.  Order the battle group on a slow cruise toward the Bosporous Straits at Istanbul with embedded news crews providing continuing camera views of its progress.

5) Like JFK's masterful handling, this must be approached as aimed toward a resolution.  If we had a president, he should say "This stops here.  Now.  We will work to de-escalate this situation.  But we are not going to allow the U.S. to be at risk.  This crisis ends now.  So let's talk."

6) I don't think anyone can imagine a resolution in which Russia gives back all of its conquered territory.  That is awful.  It means rewarding worse than criminal behavior.  It is unforgivable and inexcusable.  But Putin will escalate to nuclear war if the only option is the destruction of Russia.

The only thing that our bumbling, empty-suit president can offer today is to try to bully a bully by treating Putin, a veteran of the KGB, like Biden's mythical character "Corn Pop."  (In Biden's many self-delusions, Biden fancies himself a tough guy.  He tells a high school story of a bully "Corn Pop" whom Joe stared down.  The name is clearly invented.)  Putin is a thug.  Biden is a thug at heart.  Biden is a cowardly thug, however.  Putin is not.

The fact that we all have to state the obvious, including that Putin is a ruthless former KGB thug with a psychopathic personality and no regard for the rights or well-being of others, is sad.  Yes, Putin is responsible.  No, Putin is not solely responsible.  Whole libraries should fill the books that need to be written about how war-mongers continued to fight the Cold War long after Reagan won the war for us.  If you wave a red flag at a mad bull, it is the bull's fault for mauling you with his horns.  But perhaps you shouldn't have spent 30 years throwing rocks at the bull and waving a red flag.  The idea that events have only one cause or contributing factor is an ignorant and dumb symptom of the dark ages we have entered. 

Citizen Donald Trump has been loudly proclaiming since the 1990s, at least, that the United States is suffering from pathetic leadership (my wording).  Trump has used every occasion for decades to illustrate how the U.S. needs better leaders, needs to up our game, needs to stop pretending everything is okay, and get serious.  It should not confuse us today when Trump and his followers point out how other countries have effective (if evil and criminal) leadership while our U.S. leaders are skilled only at repeating avoidable failures.  As Dark Helmet proclaims in the delightful, goofy comedy Space Balls, "Evil will always win because Good is dumb."  Fortunately, the good guys do win there in the end.  Let's hope here also.

Image: mwitt1337 via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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