Being an American is a wonderful thing. It means inhabiting a vast nation whose habits, inventions, and tastes shape the world. But that creates an illusion that everything in the world is about us.
And it’s not.
Especially these days when we often resemble a declining power.
The battle between Russia and Ukraine is not about us.
Yes, if Trump were in office, the current invasion might not be taking place, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t happen, just that it wouldn’t happen now.
A stronger America might deter a current invasion, but we are dealing with nationalist grudges and a history that goes back centuries. Much as the Shiites and Sunnis will fight their battles, and various other peoples will engage in longstanding territorial disputes, something like this would have happened anyway.
It would have happened if NATO didn’t exist. (If you doubt that ask yourself whether Russia’s conviction that all or part of Ukraine belongs to it would have magically vanished along with NATO.)
Likewise, a much stronger America did not prevent the Soviet Union from swallowing up much of the region.
Our energy policies, like our military policies, have an impact, but realpolitik means not kidding ourselves with the notion that we control the world. Just because we are the leading world power doesn’t mean that we can actually change the sense of destiny and historical grudges of peoples around the world.
Nor does it mean that we should.
Whatever position we take, it should be grounded in the realistic, non-leftist understanding, that we are not the cause of most of the world’s conflicts.
The Russia – Ukraine war is ultimately not about anything to do with us. It’s about Russia and Ukraine, and the nationalistic imperatives of two peoples.
The sooner we understand that, the sooner our foreign policy can inhabit the real world, instead of the world of social media hot takes.