In April 1941 Germany had conquered all of Europe except England, while its Axis partner Japan had conquered most of Southeast Asia. At this historical moment, the Gallup Company took a poll of Americans on this question: Should America – until then a non-combatant – get involved in the war. 81% of Americans said no. But all that changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 in that same year. If the United States had not entered World War II, we would have faced a world united under Nazi rule ready to attack us.
It’s important to remember this history because ever since George Washington’s farewell warning to “avoid foreign entanglements,” isolationism has been deeply embedded in the American soul. This is a tribute to America’s prosperity, bounteous freedoms, and endless diversions. America is a happy country and the last thing its people want to do is go to war.
So it’s not surprising that there is a movement among conservatives that takes the position that America’s effort to support the resistance to Russian savagery and imperialism in Ukraine is a dangerous distraction and a threat to American security. The leading voice of this movement is not some fringe right-winger but rather Tucker Carlson, arguably the most articulate and courageous defender of the American values, institutions and freedoms which are under attack by the Biden administration, which has belatedly come to the aid of Ukraine – most recently with a $40 billion package of military and humanitarian support.
Tucker and the conservative patriots who have joined him are wrong – wrong in their analyses, wrong in their priorities, and wrong in their opposition to a war that the West, led by the United States, must win.
Tucker has argued that Ukraine is a remote European country, and the United States has no security interest there that is worth the cost or the risks involved in defending it. But in today’s world there are no remote countries. According to the U.S. Air Force, Russia’s new hypersonic missile can travel 1,000 miles in 12 minutes, which means it can deliver a nuclear payload to American cities from Russia in little over an hour, and from a conquered Ukraine in even less time.
The question the isolationists should be asking – but don’t – is this: What would happen if Putin got away with committing his genocide of Ukrainians, and was rewarded for his war crimes and aggression? This is a question the isolationists never seem to address. Is Poland next? Would Europe fold under Putin’s threats if his Ukrainian genocide succeeded? If a madman can get away with crimes like this, what could he not get away with? International aggressions and genocides would no longer be unthinkable. What impact would a Putin victory have on China’s determination to swallow Taiwan, and who knows what other countries the Communists covet?
Xi Jinping has already killed a million Americans and many millions more around the globe, and gotten away with it. What would be unthinkable for a dictator like this if his Kremlin ally walks away from the Ukrainian atrocity intact?
It’s obvious that Obama’s feckless surrender of Crimea, and Biden’s disastrous desertion of Afghanistan and hands-off policy while Putin massed his troops on Ukraine’s border emboldened the psychopath to attempt the unthinkable. If he gets away with it, what then?
Equally important: How would a Putin victory and American acquiescence in the face of this atrocity affect America’s sense of itself, its national pride as a beacon of freedom, a keeper of the peace and a defender of the defenseless in an increasingly dangerous world? What is happening in Ukraine is like forty Guernicas or Coventrys rolled into one; it is also a spectacle of inspiring human heroism and courage with few parallels in our time or any other. What would we feel like if we turned our backs on the ordinary people who have risen so nobly to defend their homes? How would it affect our ability to defend ourselves?
Revulsion against the shame Americans felt at Biden’s cowardly debacle in Afghanistan undoubtedly lies at the root of Americans’ widespread support for the aid packages to Ukraine.
The weakness of the isolationist argument – the way it misses the forest for the trees – is evident in the way its proponents decry the $40 billion package “to defend Ukraine’s borders,” while America’s remain undefended. This economic argument is spurious. The defense of America’s borders first and foremost requires the stroke of a pen restoring the border security measures that Trump put in place and that his successor who has contempt for his country destroyed. It’s not an economic problem jeopardized by the aid to Ukraine. It’s a political problem caused by a damaged man who should never have been president in the first place.
Here is the reality the isolationists miss. Last year, – Biden’s year in office – there were more Russian aircraft incursions in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. The upsurge in Russian incursions led to a “strain” on Alaska Command air crews who were repeatedly forced to respond by intercepting and escorting Russian bombers, intelligence aircraft, and other planes. A year earlier, the Russian navy staged major war games near Alaska, launching cruise missiles at practice targets and surfacing at least one sub near its border.
While Putin has complained that the American presence in Eastern Europe is a threat to Russian national security, he hasn’t been shy about aggressive moves near American territory, testing our defense capabilities and looking for any vulnerabilities. Democrats ridiculed Sarah Palin for telling an interviewer, “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska”. But you can. The incursions and threats are a reminder that Russia is not just a problem for the Europeans.
Russia’s leaders believe that they have the right to reclaim Ukraine, Poland, and every territory once ruled by the Czarist and Soviet empires. They believe that Alaska belongs to Russia.
“Nicholas II played democracy, in the end we lost Alaska, we lost our empire, complained Sergey Aksyonov, Putin’s appointed head of the conquered territory of Crimea. If Russia had Alaska today, it would change the geopolitical situation around the world.” Aksyonov is not alone. During the current conflict in Ukraine, a Russian parliamentarian went so far as to demand the return of Alaska as “reparations.”
Russia is not just a problem for Ukraine, or for Poland, which was recently invaded by a mob of Iraqi Muslim migrants flown in through Belarus. Georgia has already been invaded and partially occupied. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are now concerned about Russian invasions. Finland and Sweden, are abandoning their longstanding neutrality to join NATO to defend themselves.
An aggressive Russia is also a problem for us. There are plenty of good reasons to criticize NATO and European nations. And to be skeptical of the culture of corruption in Ukraine, along with much of the region and the world. President Trump rightly pointed out that the United States has wrongly been doing most of the work and paying most of the bill for an organization that defends wealthy European countries like Germany. Those are also some of the points that Tucker makes, but President Trump also understood that Americans could not just ignore Russia or Ukraine. That’s why he was the first to provide real military aid to Ukraine.
Why do I care what’s going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” Tucker has asked. The answer is that it’s not really about Ukraine. Much as China threatening Taiwan isn’t just about an island, and the last world war wasn’t just about Czechoslovakia and Poland. Russia is aggressively expanding. That’s a problem and one way or the other we’re going to have to deal with it.
We’re part of a world market in food and energy. Even if we did achieve energy and food independence (which we urgently need to do) the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on world markets would still hurt us financially. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait dragged us into two wars in Iraq. But that’s nothing compared to being dragged into two world wars in Europe.
Tucker has expressed concern that America and Russia will go to war over Ukraine. “What we’re watching is the beginning of a war between the United States and Russia,” he argued. “If that sounds jarring, what else would you call it?”
But the United States and Russia didn’t go to war over Vietnam, where Russia supported its Vietnamese proxy in Hanoi with military equipment. That’s the whole point of a proxy war. Russia’s proxy wars weakened America in Asia and the Middle East. Now this proxy war is weakening Russia in Eastern Europe. And the weaker Russia becomes, the less likely it is to drag us into a war. Let alone to directly go to war against us.
There are compelling moral reasons to supply people who are fighting for their freedom with the weapons they need to do the job. But there are even more compelling realpolitik reasons. China is closely watching the outcome of this conflict. And if Russia loses, that makes it much less likely that the Communist dictatorship will go through with its plans to invade Taiwan. And that would keep Americans out of a truly devastating military and economic conflict.
This is not just a proxy war between Russia and America, but also China. If America can demonstrate that supplying weapons is enough to hold off an invasion by a major power without our military involvement, China will have to consider that it could invade Taiwan and lose.
Tucker is right to be suspicious of the woke and feeble Pentagon brass, multinational institutions and the political establishment. Under President Trump, this crisis would not have occurred. There’s a reason that both of Putin’s invasions of Ukraine took place under White House Democrats. That’s also why Russia’s Alaska incursions flared up under Obama and Biden. Weakness is much more likely to bring on a war. Abandoning the Ukrainians would be a sign of crippling weakness.
Biden badly mishandled the Ukraine crisis. But we should not let the corruption in the White House or other political institutions, here and abroad, blind us to the human suffering or the bigger issues at stake for our national security. If Russia’s efforts in Ukraine fall apart, it will not be due to Biden or the European Union, but the resilience of ordinary people in the face of war.
Ordinary Ukrainians may end up saving Biden from the consequences of his incompetence. But if they do, they will have averted wars in Europe and Asia at a fraction of the cost of a world war. Even the Iraq War cost over $2 trillion. Preventing a war for a few billion and not a single American soldier wounded or killed in action would be a bargain. And maybe Alaska Command will be seeing fewer Tu-95 Bears in the skies. That is as real as realpolitik gets.
David Horowitz is the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the bestselling author of I Can’t Breathe: How a Racial Hoax is Killing America.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.