As a child who grew up watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news and fearing it would still be raging when I turned 18, I have always opposed the military adventurism of Republican leaders, whether it was Richard Nixon in Vietnam and Cambodia; Ronald Reagan in Central America or George W. Bush in Iraq.
We all knew our roles back then. Republican leaders saw the world as a threat to be neutralized and an economic opportunity to be exploited. American exceptionalism meant remaking ancient cultures by means of force in nations like Iraq and Afghanistan.
My role was to shake my fist in anger and frustration and do my best to vote the bastards out when given the opportunity.
Now, I find myself to the right of both of the two leading Republican contenders for president on the war in Ukraine.
Donald Trump, who called Vladimir Putin a “genius” at the start of the invasion, is now advocating for a peace plan that would reward Russia for its aggression. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his top challenger if the polls are to be believed, called the war a “territorial dispute” that is not in our national interest.
The Republican Party is divided on the issue, but trending toward isolationism. A recent Pew poll found that 40 percent of Republicans think we’re doing too much to help Ukraine, while only 17 percent said we weren’t doing enough.
Do Republicans only support wars when it’s our soldiers getting killed? Have we been an occupying force for so long that our sympathies lie with the invaders?
I’ve seen news clips of European peaceniks protesting against their country’s support for the war, and my heart wants to be with them. But when asked what they think would happen if Putin conquered Ukraine, their answers seemed incredibly naive.
There are valid questions being asked by those who fear escalation of this war. I wrote a column a year ago at the start of the war that was nothing but questions. Most remain unanswered. None of us can predict what the last play of a defeated Putin might be.
President Joe Biden has attempted a “Three Little Bears” approach, trying not to be so hot as to invite World War III, nor so cold as to endanger Ukrainian defeat. It’s not making anybody happy, but it seems to sort of be working. So far.
Republicans may be divided on the issue, but they all agree that Biden is messing things up. It makes me wonder if their opposition to the war in Ukraine represents a sincere shift on foreign policy or just reflexive opposition to a Democratic president. We’ll find out soon.
The Senate is advancing a bill that would repeal the authorization granted during the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq. It will be interesting to see how many members vote against that bill while at the same time opposing support for Ukraine.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com.
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