Flirting with Armageddon: the US and Ukraine

US engagement in the Ukraine war has been driven by the Democratic Party.. That has made criticism of the war difficult.

It is now almost six months since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and with each passing month the Biden administration has ratcheted up US participation in the conflict. That ratchet process has the US flirting ever closer with nuclear Armageddon, a momentous development that has gone almost uncommented and uncontested. It is as if the US is sleepwalking, eyes wide shut.

The political background

US engagement in the Ukraine war has been driven by the Democratic Party, enthusiastically supported by its traditional allies in the mainstream media and establishment intellectual class – also known as the liberal blob. That has made criticism of the war difficult for two reasons.

First, the liberal blob has promulgated an edict of silence against those who challenge its explanation of the war and the case for US participation. The edict applies to conservatives who argue “it’s not our war”, and to independent critics who argue the war has been “made in the USA” via a thirty-year slow-motion attack on Russia conducted through eastward expansion of NATO and regime change subversion in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Second, the US is engaged in a life and death struggle for its own democracy, with the Republican Party having gone off the rails through its embrace of Donald Trump’s protofascism. That struggle poses an awful dilemma, as criticizing the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy risks opening the door for the protofascists.

With nuclear Armageddon a possibility on the horizon, the stakes are too high for silence. The truth about the war, the Democratic Party, and the liberal blob must be spoken. There is still time to reverse course, and public opinion is capable of mastering two issues. It can both reject Republican protofascism and demand reversal of the policy of Ukraine escalation.

Toxic takeover: the Neocon capture of the Democratic Party

The starting point is blunt admission that President Biden and his national security team have put the US within spitting distance of nuclear armageddon. That has been done for a war with no bearing on US vital national security interests.

Worse yet, it is not an accidental misjudgement. Instead, it reflects the comprehensive capture of the Democratic Party by the most extreme Neocon foreign policy thinking. That thinking calls for the US to seek global military hegemony, which Democrats have wrapped in a cloak weaved of the lie of democracy promotion and the delusion of US moral exceptionalism.  

The Neocon takeover of the Democratic Party occurred in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, as Democrats sought to repair their reputation for being weak on national security. Since then, the brew has only strengthened. It was visibly present in the figure of Hillary Clinton, and it was equally present (though better concealed) in the figure of Barrack Obama.

The misunderstanding of MAD

The embrace of Neoconservatism is dangerous on its own, but it has become existentially threatening because of misunderstanding of the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD is a construct that was developed in the Cold War. The argument is it prevented war between the US and the Soviet Union because each side possessed nuclear weapons that would anihilate the other. Ergo, nuclear war could not happen except by reason of irrationality or accident, such as a rogue launch or miscommunication.

That understanding of MAD’s logic is fundamentally flawed. The reason nuclear conflict never happened is nuclear weapons were paired with US – Soviet Union conventional weapons parity in the theater of operations in which they were in direct confrontation (i.e., Central Europe). That parity served as a roadblock to nuclear confrontation.

Today, the US has overwhelming conventional weapons superiority. And because MAD is misunderstood, there is real danger the US will inadvertently create conditions that lead to nuclear conflict.

The logic is simple. Russia could face an unacceptable conventional war defeat, at which stage it would turn to use of tactical nuclear weapons to head off that outcome.

We are in spitting distance of nuclear armageddon

The Ukraine war should never have happened. Russia offered the option of a neutral demilitarized Ukraine, but that was rejected by the US as it would have violated Neocon doctrine. It would have implied the US had stepped back and recognized the Ukraine as a Russian sphere of influence. And the US stepping back and others having spheres of influence are both inconsistent with the Neocon doctrine of US hegemony.

Likewise, the war should have been over by now, with Russia annexing the Donbas and coastal region. But here too the US has stepped in to prevent a Russian victory as that would also be inconsistent with Neocon doctrine. Consequently, the US has supplied precision guided weaponry, satellite information, and personnel to do everything except push the button (and maybe that too).

I do not know the true situation on the battlefield. Throughout the war, Western media has been tendentious to the point of dishonesty. But if it is as bad for Russia as claimed, it is easy to visualize a path to nuclear conflict.

President Putin and Russia cannot afford to lose the war as that would existentially threaten both. Side-by-side, US Neocons are intent on blocking all ways out except for Russian defeat. That combination is a recipe for nuclear war.

The next pre-nuclear step is Russia raising the ante by directly attacking US assets in Ukraine, perhaps incoming military cargo flights or the US embassy in Kiev. Russia has little to lose as the US is committed to the maximum hardline position. If that does not induce a US backdown, the following step could be Russia using a neutron bomb against Ukrainian forces. Thereafter, US Neocons (i.e., the Biden administration) might push for direct US engagement via NATO, and from there the spiral to Armageddon is short.

Ukraine now, China next

Make no mistake, the Republican Party is a menace to liberty in the US. That said, under the toxic influence of Neoconservatism, the elite Democratic Party has become a menace to existence. Even if nuclear conflict is avoided in Ukraine, Democratic Party Neocons are already paving the way for the next conflict with China.

Psychologists recommend focusing on changing oneself, and not on changing others which is an impossible task. The urgent task is for progressive Democrats and sensible people to roll back the influence of Neoconservatism on US policy, and that begins with the Biden administration’s existentially dangerous Ukraine expedition.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 13th, 2022 at 9:21 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Thomas Palley

Thomas Palley is Schwartz economic growth fellow at the New America Foundation; Senior Economic Policy Adviser, AFL-CIO. His most recent book “From Financial Crisis to Stagnation” has just been released in paperback by Cambridge University Press (February 2013).

Member of Insight Editorial board.