Boots on the Ground in Ukraine?

Sending NATO forces to Ukraine is like walking into a biker bar with an acquaintance who has a real grudge against bikers.

The United States government has a dangerous penchant for military intervention, so after Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, it was a relief that no one talked about sending troops or deploying bombers. Sen. John McCain scotched any such notion by acknowledging glumly that "there is not a military option."

Silly him. For the most bellicose hawks, there is always a military option. After a brief lull, some of the people who beat the drums for war in Iraq—and have done likewise for Iran—now propose that we put American lives at risk on behalf of Ukraine.

This comes as a bit of a surprise because we have never made a commitment to fight for Ukraine. We have made such commitments to the 27 other countries that belong to NATO. The alliance charter obligates every member to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.

But Ukraine has not been included in the club, and judging from polls, Ukrainians actually didn't want to be included. To some commentators, it doesn't matter: We should use our military might to protect Ukraine anyway.

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a veteran of Jimmy Carter's administration, urges President Barack Obama to send F-22 fighters to Poland and make it clear he will use them if Putin advances farther into Ukraine.

Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, views the failure of American politicians to endorse "boots on the ground" in Ukraine as "a crippling weakness." Writing in The Weekly Standard, he says, "Preserving the peace on the Eurasian landmass demands land forces."

Fox News' Charles Krauthammer, who exhibited calm indifference to the Russian invasion of Georgia under President George W. Bush, now wants NATO to dispatch military trainers and advisers. He favors a "tripwire" strategy that would "establish a ring of protection at least around the core of western Ukraine."

This notion brings to mind the response when a French defense official was asked the smallest British force that would be of use to France in case of war with Germany. The answer: "One single private soldier—and we would take good care that he was killed."

What these proposals have in common is that they would interpose our soldiers as hostages, virtually forcing the U.S. to go to war should Putin advance. The assumption of the advocates is that by shackling ourselves to Ukraine, we will stop him in his tracks. The risks of fighting NATO, they argue, deterred the Soviet Union and would undoubtedly deter Putin.

But how can they be so sure? These critics accuse Obama of inviting aggression by failing to make good on his threats regarding Syria. Yet they somehow assume Putin would take this sort of gesture by the president as an unbreakable commitment.

What they omit is what happens if they are wrong. In that case, Americans would find ourselves fighting a war against Russia over a place that matters a great deal to Russia's security and none at all to ours. That, or Obama would have to slink away and admit he was bluffing, inviting doubts about every other U.S. defense commitment.

Contrary to myth, our 1994 deal getting Ukraine to surrender its nuclear weapons doesn't obligate us to use force to protect it. In case of trouble, the agreement promises nothing but consultations.

The idea that a few advisers or planes would check the Russians is based on hope, not history. During the Cold War, the U.S. deterred Moscow by drawing bright red lines and backing them up with massive forces and willing allies.

It also relied on our nuclear weapons in Europe. The ultimate guarantee against invasion was the possibility that we would turn Russia into a charred wasteland of radioactive debris. That threat is far less credible than it was then.

Committing ourselves to the defense of Ukraine is risky enough by itself. But it also means putting our fate in the hands of Ukrainian politicians who have longstanding grudges against Russia and may be emboldened by our presence. Once we put forces in Ukraine, we have no assurance our allies will act in our interest.

Sending NATO forces to Ukraine is like walking into a biker bar with an acquaintance who has a real grudge against bikers. Maybe things will go fine, and maybe not. If not, we'll wonder why we didn't stay out when we had the chance.

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    Fox News' Charles Krauthammer, who exhibited calm indifference to the Russian invasion of Georgia under President George W. Bush, now wants NATO to dispatch military trainers and advisers. He favors a "tripwire" strategy that would "establish a ring of protection at least around the core of western Ukraine."

    But remember, he's NOT A NEOCON, don't call him that.

  • JWatts||

    I would agree that Krauthammer is a warhawk, though he's clearly not a NeoCon. (the word NeoCon has an actual specific meaning).

    That being said, this comment "who exhibited calm indifference to the Russian invasion of Georgia under President George W. Bush" is just a Left wing meme that cropped up in the last few days. It's revisionist history. Even a casual Google search will show that Krauthammer didn't exhibit a calm indifference at the time.

    "NATO Meows

    By Charles Krauthammer
    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Read the first five paragraphs of the NATO statement on the Russian invasion of Georgia and you will find not a hint of who invaded whom. The statement is almost comically evenhanded.
    ...
    "
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....03109.html

    "How to Stop Putin
    By Charles Krauthammer - August 14, 2008

    The road to the capital, Tbilisi, is open, but apparently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has temporarily chosen to seek his objectives through military pressure and Western acquiescence rather than by naked occupation.

    His objectives are clear. ... The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet. "

    http://www.realclearpolitics.c.....hands.html

  • Drake||

    Hey, you are wrecking the narrative!

    I had my doubts too.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I thought "progressives" just liked to attach the prefix "neo" to everything they don't care for.

  • Drake||

    The Neo-Tea-Partiers are the scariest group of nuts you could ever meet.

  • Zeb||

    Neo-cons are progressives.

  • Sevo||

    Suggest those who think it's a really good idea get fitted for unis; I'll be happy to see them off.
    And be sure to keep us informed of your progress.

  • jmomls||

    *Suggest those who think it's a really good idea get fitted for unis; I'll be happy to see them off.*

    What's funny is, see, they already have a bunch of guys & gals with fitted unis who go wherever the Pentagon tells them to go, seeing as how that's what they VOLUNTEERED TO DO.

    Knee-jerk anti-war & anti-militarism is so boring.

  • Sudden||

    Admittedly, I've always hated the chickenhawk critique. Simply because someone is unable to do the actual fighting business that war requires doesn't negate the strength of their arguments concerning whether war is something in which we should engage. It's division of labor. Doth the financier or business man who funds and operates a mine somehow not have any credibility on the operation of said mine since he himself doesn't do the actual mining?

  • creech||

    Yes, if he's afraid to go down in his own mine even when he says it is perfectly safe. Or refuses to drink a beaker of treated waste water that he claims is safe to release into a town's drinking supply.

  • wareagle||

    at least in McCain's case, no one can say he won't go into the mine. That fewer members of Congress actually spent time in the armed forces is also true.

  • creech||

    I agree - McCain and Kerry, for instance, have seen the elephant. And Krauthammer gets a pass because he is physically incapable. I can't give a pass to the Bush daughters - when they graduated they should have joined Daddy's war on terror, even if their career consisted of busing the tables at Andrews AFB or counting coffins at
    Dover.

  • Drake||

    Inherited obligations? No thanks.

  • creech||

    "Inherited obligations? No thanks."

    Of course not. It's just indicative of how others in the Bush family may have thought about the crucial importance of Dubya's crusade.

  • Zeb||

    Inherited obligations is a bad idea. But I sort of like the idea of making supporters of wars fight them if they are able bodied enough. Seems to me that if you are honestly entirely convinced that a war is necessary you would be willing to fight it.

  • Drake||

    Sparta had it right - 2 Kings. Whenever the phalanx fought, 1 king was in the front row, 1 was back in Sparta for continuity.

  • Drake||

    Sparta had it right - 2 Kings. Whenever the phalanx fought, 1 king was in the front row, 1 was back in Sparta for continuity.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Freshly treated wastewater can be safe to release and still not be safe to immediately consume. It tends to contain the same microbes- an important part of the treatment process- as in natural surfacewater, which would be treated by the town with a dose of chlorine anyway before it enters the distribution system.

  • creech||

    You know what I was getting at. Like all those who trumpet public schools but wouldn't let their kid be caught dead in one.

  • RannedPall||

    Yeah, well except when Bush went to to war, he lied! Obama is transparent and never lies, usually. Therefore: just war.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    "Push"? Some belching and squeaking by some TEAM RED talking heads = "push"?

    Bah, I fart in their general direction.

  • wingnutx||

    I would love one more deployment, this time to a non-shithole country.

    Poland sounds nice.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    Somehow I missed out on the Bilateral Embedded Support Team deployments we made with the Poles - features a two month train up with the Polish BDE you went with...the guys who did that had nothing but good things to say about Krakow, Polish beer and women.

    On the other hand, I did get to eat haggis with the 1 Scots and 4 Scots, so there is that.

  • Drake||

    I always wondered what it would be like to be deployed somewhere with:
    - vegetation
    - Adult beverages
    - Women who don't wear sacks over their heads

  • Steve G||

    Mmmm, speaking of Clark AB...

  • hotsy totsy||

    Venezuela? I don't think they'd even need two weeks though. Right now young people are fighting gun-toting motorcycle gangs and armored tanks with barricades and slingshots.

  • hotsy totsy||

    [removed](function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs[removed].insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));[removed]
    Post by Daniel Alexander.

    Young Venezuelan women fighting with slingshots.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Any "troop" that actually goes to Ukraine without putting up any static about it whatsoever should instead stuff cocks in to his or her mouth.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    ?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I'm starting the shunning early.

  • Drake||

    Spoken like somebody who has never even spoken with a First Sergeant.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    www.GotzAnon.tk

  • Mainer2||

    Sometimes I daydream about the Joint Chief of Staff saying, "I'm sorry Mr. President, but I can't deploy troops to a foreign country without a declaration of war. My oath to uphold the constitution means I cannot obey what is, in fact, an illegal order."

    just a dream

  • Drake||

    So we could never train in Canada or the UK with declaring war on them?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I like it.

  • Almanian!||

    Close enough for government work - I approve

  • Rich||

    Sending NATO forces to Ukraine is like walking into a biker bar with an acquaintance who has a real grudge against bikers.

    Beautiful.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Fox News' Charles Krauthammer, who exhibited calm indifference to the Russian invasion of Georgia under President George W. Bush, now wants NATO to dispatch military trainers and advisers. He favors a "tripwire" strategy


    "Tripwire strategy" huh? I guess "meat shield for foreign interests" doesn't quite roll off the tongue.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Military "intervention" in Ukraine would pretty much be the cinch to make this like the Vietnam era, only with politics that are much more petty and absurd. So for anyone in the military I can imagine being sent anywhere near there would be shameful and not really "worth it".

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "1994 deal getting Ukraine to surrender its nuclear weapons"

    Who the fuck would take that kind of "deal"?

  • Pro Libertate||

    You fucked up. You trusted us.

  • Tim||

    You know who else sent troops into the Ukraine?

  • Almanian!||

    Napolean?

  • Restoras||

    KHAAAAANNNN!!!!

  • JWatts||

    Hitler?

  • PapayaSF||

    Can we just send Code Pink?

  • Almanian!||

    And bitch and whine them to death?

    BRILLIANT.

    Evil.

    But BRILLIANT.

  • kinnath||

    Even Putin doesn't deserve that.

  • Almanian!||

    I forgot what I was going to say, but my fingers wanted to type, so I'm typing.

  • Zeb||

    You know, I really don't give a fuck whether the corrupt Russian government or the corrupt Ukrainian government collects taxes and pushes people around in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. It really doesn't matter in my life one bit.

  • Steve G||

    What, no Bolton in this article? I haz a sad.

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