The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

No Happy Ending

In an extremely thorough substack post (read the whole thing) on the history of the region that is now Ukraine (going back to the 9th century) and geopolitical influences that led to the current Russian invasion and the war that has resulted, Leighton Woodhouse avoids a black and white discussion of the conflict and comes to the conclusion that continuing the war will be worse than settling it now. He writes:

There is no happy ending to this conflict. A combination of Russian aggression and Western recklessness [which he discusses in the post] has destroyed Ukraine’s brief experiment in independence. If the current [Ukrainian] counteroffensive fails, as it seems likely to, there will be no good options for the country. Either Ukraine will be partitioned now under one peace treaty, or it will be partitioned in the future under another, and only after many more people have died and a great deal more destruction has been wrought on Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy. In either case, the country will revert back to its centuries-long struggle for national unification, with Russia playing its old historical role as the enemy of that project. This is the price Ukrainians will pay for peace, a price that both Russia and the United States have imposed on them. But the cost of further war will be much greater.

No fair-minded person is happy about these grim prospects for Ukraine. But as one of the two countries capable of ending the conflict, it’s time for the United States to take stock of reality and accept that there is no winning this war. Our generals, our diplomats, and the American elite will be the last to accept this. Left to their own devices, they will allow the fighting to go on forever. It’s time we force them to make a different choice.

An alliance of the neocon Right and the Biden-focused Left dismisses any suggestion of suing for a peace settlement as "pro-Putin." But the alternative is anti-human. Ukraine's infrastructure has already been decimated, its economy is in shambles, its population has been reduced (through war related deaths) and dispersed (through outward migration), and its young military-age men killed and maimed. If victory were possible, I suppose one could argue that the horrible price was worth it. But Ukrainian victory is no more likely today, than U.S. victory was in Viet Nam in the 1970s.

It's time for the conflict to end. 


Conrad Black states what every person who has not succumbed to fantasy thinking (i.e., Ukraine can "win" the conflict) already knows, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia must begin—now. And that requires U.S. and NATO pressure on Ukrainian leadership. He writes:

An American president with greater stature in the world could broker the agreement that awaits: retention by Russia of most of what it has occupied, with the right of all Ukrainians to relocate to Ukraine or to Russia, and with absolute guarantees from Russia, Belarus, and all of NATO of Ukraine’s independence within its new borders.

It would be necessary to assure that these were real guarantees and not the false assurances of no value that were given to Ukraine as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan when they voluntarily gave up their post-Soviet and nuclear arsenals. With NATO’s ironclad guarantee, Ukraine could remain outside NATO.

Military assistance should then be transformed into economic assistance to rebuild from the war damage and prepare Ukraine for membership in the European Union. Everyone knows this is the outline of a reasonable compromise but there’s no evidence that anyone is at this point trying to negotiate it. President Biden still has a year to try to produce a success for his administration. 

This suggestion does not lead to a "happy ending to the conflict," but it would lead to an end that is palatable, if, in fact, you believe that it's better to save Ukrainian lives and the country's economy and infrastructure than it is to listen to war-mongering demogogues on both the left and right.