You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

US help for Ukrainians is extremely cheap, considering what they're accomplishing

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 2/4/2023 David Freddoso
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. © (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Every now and then, I hear a piece of commentary about the Ukraine war that makes it sound like we are repeating all the same mistakes we made in Iraq. I absolutely do not believe this is the case.

The Iraq War was an ideological war that we chose to fight. It was also a war that we fought with our own military. These two facts make it fundamentally different from our current indirect intervention in Ukraine.


Here's another difference: the proponents of the Iraq War wanted to see the U.S. spread freedom and democracy to parts of the world where they had never existed. They said so at the time. They also demonized anyone who disagreed with them.

This week, on my friend Derek Hunter's radio show, I had the opportunity to make the case in favor of the support we are currently providing to Ukraine against the Russian invaders. I'd like to restate that case here without going into too much detail, simply because I think it is a mistake for realist or non-interventionist thinkers to reflexively draw such an equivalence between Iraq and Ukraine.

Iraq was a disaster, of course. The cliche at that time was that you could not spread freedom and democracy at gunpoint. The more accurate criticism was probably that you cannot impose a democratic order and the rule of law overnight in a country that has never had either, and whose residents don't necessarily seem interested.

As a consequence, the Iraq invasion was not only costly in terms of American blood and treasure, and in Iraqi lives taken as collateral damage, but also in the dramatic destabilization of the region. The rise of Iran is our fault. We may have caused millions of Arab Christians to be driven from their homeland. The Iraq War was a calamity, a textbook case for a non-interventionist foreign policy, or at least for rejection of idealistic notions of spreading freedom and democracy by waging war.

What is happening in Ukraine now is completely different — for us, anyway. We did not invade, nor did we start the war, nor are we siding with those who did. Nor, in fact, are we trying to spread any idealistic vision. Rather, Russia is pursuing an interventionist foreign policy, advancing the other of the two competing visions for the world's future. The Russian and Chinese authoritarian model for the future is a world where there is no rule of law, no human rights, no privacy, and certainly no democracy. If their model succeeds, your social credit score will determine what you are allowed to do and where you are allowed to go. The American vision is the one we are used to for ourselves. We cannot and should not impose it, but what if others try to adopt it for themselves? Should we let them be destroyed without a fight?

In Ukraine, Russia is trying to spread its anti-democratic model of the world order at the barrel of a gun. If anything, this is their Iraq, and it's going for them even worse than ours did for us. We have not had to answer the Russians' aggression ourselves. No one is being forced to go overseas to defend Ukraine; no American is being forced to die for Ukraine.

For a very long time now, Russia has been a looming threat at the periphery of American and Western influence. Suddenly, thanks to Vladimir Putin's greedy ambition, it has run up against an enemy that is willing to do all the work in fighting and defending itself. The Ukrainians are staring down the second-greatest anti-freedom force in the world, which happens to be our own chief geopolitical foe, as Mitt Romney put it in a presidential debate more than a decade ago.

The Ukrainians are willing to do all the work and shed all the blood. All we have to do is give them the weapons — often just hand-me-downs that our own servicemen won't be using anyway.

Obviously, anti-corruption measures are perfectly appropriate. Nobody deserves a blank check for anything when taxpayer money is involved. But the investment we are making in Ukraine right now is giving back one of the best returns we could possibly hope for. We are helping a friend drown the Russian army in the bathtub of its own hyper-ambition, incompetence, and corruption. And we are able to do it for pennies on the dollar.

As far as conservative arguments that Russia is somehow a defender of traditional values, nothing could be further from the truth. This is the old Soviet Empire using old Soviet tactics. Russia is an even more corrupt country than Ukraine, and it also happens to be the abortion capital of the world. The Putin regime's campaigns of international assassinations and blackmail of its political opponents is anything but supportive of Western or traditional or Christian values. The phrase invoked by certain pundits (even people I respect) to disparage the Ukrainians' struggle — "World War Trans" — is just sophistry, designed to obscure, confuse, and conflate issues that have nothing to do with one another.

The bottom line is that Ukraine is proving to be a much better and more capable friend than anyone could have reasonably expected. We're lucky to have found someone so willing to defend their own freedoms, because it means that in the future we won't have to keep policing Europe every time a conflict breaks out. And when the Russians effectively cry "uncle" by begging to start negotiations before they find themselves in a significantly less favorable bargaining position, we should not try to rescue them from drowning by forcing anyone to the table.


I appreciate that this is not a non-interventionist position. But it seems to me a very practical realist position. We don't want a war with Russia, and now, we probably won't have to fight one.

And again, we are not trying to spread some kind of American ideology of freedom, but rather helping an aspiring free people defend their own freedoms — and evidently, they value such freedoms a lot more than Iraqis ever did. If we can defang the Russian Bear at a fraction of the cost of going to war ourselves, through the agency of someone with a genuinely justified and righteous defensive war, I just don't see the downside.


Washington Examiner Videos

Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential

Original Author: David Freddoso

Original Location: US help for Ukrainians is extremely cheap, considering what they're accomplishing


More from Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner
Washington Examiner
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon