Many conservatives these days are channeling Neville Chamberlain, the former UK Prime Minister whose failure to stand up to Hitler helped bring on World War II, often recycling the arguments for appeasement that he used to undermine British preparedness and hasten Nazi aggression.
Particularly among conservative cable commentators, the legacy of Ronald Reagan is being trashed by a new kind of isolationism. Largely spearheaded by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, the case for letting Putin help himself to Ukraine is growing, shattering the national security consensus that has dominated the right for seventy years. At the same time, the modern “useful idiots” that have always enabled authoritarian regimes to sap the will and resolve of defenders of freedom are hard at work.
Here’s what they are saying:
1. “It’s not our fight.” This chyron, recently displayed on the TV screens of America, even on conservative news channels, is as misleading as it is dangerous. Did not Pearl Harbor and 9/11 teach us anything? Can any true conservative maintain that when Russia or China take another step to subjugate tens of millions of people, taking away their freedom, that this is somehow “not our fight?” Whether the challenge comes in Ukraine or in Taiwan, the battle is the same and the imperative for free nations to unite and stand up to repression is the same. The fifty million people whose human freedoms are in peril in Ukraine and the twenty-three million at risk in Taiwan do not want to fall under the sway of Moscow or Beijing and the US must stand with them.
2. “We don’t want another war.” No sane person can possibly advocate that the US battle Russian troops on their own border six thousand miles away. But those who cower before that specter are knowingly misleading us. Nobody is proposing anything of the sort. Economic sanctions and a US oil embargo against Russian petroleum and gas would be a significant blow to their economy. Russia sells the US about 25,000 barrels per month, making it the third largest source of foreign oil after Canada and Mexico. Cancelling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a position embraced by the Germany foreign ministry and the EU (but not by Biden) would be the most effective thing we can do.
3. “Putin is right.” Some apologists for Putin even say that he is right to fear Ukrainian membership in NATO and liken it to what we would say if Mexico allied with Russia. But the comparison is specious. NATO is a purely defensive alliance, obliging its members to fight only if one of their number is invaded. We are not planning to invade Mexico, so a parallel treaty would never come into play. Remember that when Hitler marched into the Rhineland, shattering the Treaty of Versailles, Lord Lothian, the appeasement-minded UK ambassador to the US said that he had merely walked into “his own backyard.” Soon he was marching into France.
4. “Russia just wants to extend its sphere of influence.” To the diplomat, the Russian threat to Ukraine is a move on a global chessboard. But to fifty million freedom-loving Christians, it is a very personal threat: That their rights and liberties will be extinguished.
5. “Why worry about the Ukraine border when our own is being violated?” The argument that domestic priorities can blind us to a major erosion of American power is an old one, usually parroted by the left. But now conservatives have taken up the chorus. Defending global freedom and securing our own borders are hardly mutually exclusive.
6. “We must not be the policeman of the world”. Yes, but we do have to defend our vital national security interests and stopping Russian and Chinese aggression is paramount.
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