Many conservatives these days are channeling Neville Chamberlain, the U.K. 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 Russian President Vladimir Putin help himself to Ukraine is gaining ground, shattering the national security consensus that has dominated the right for seventy years.
At the same time, the modern “useful idiots” who 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 TV screens across 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 takes another step to subjugate tens of millions of people, taking away their freedom, it 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 50 million people whose freedoms are in peril in Ukraine and the 23 million at risk in Taiwan do not want to fall under the sway of Moscow or Beijing, and the U.S. must stand with them.
2. “We don’t want another war.”
No sane person can possibly advocate for the U.S. to battle Russian troops on their own border 6,000 miles away. But those who cower before that specter are knowingly misleading us. Nobody is proposing anything of the sort.
Economic sanctions and a U.S. embargo on Russian petroleum and gas would be a significant blow to its economy. Russia sells the U.S. about 25,000 barrels per month, making it our third-largest source of foreign oil after Canada and Mexico. Canceling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a position embraced by the German foreign ministry and the EU (but not by President Joe Biden), would be the most effective step we could take.
3. “Putin is right.”
Some apologists for Putin even say he is right to fear Ukrainian membership in NATO and ask what the U.S. 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 invaded the Rhineland, shattering the Treaty of Versailles, Lord Lothian, the appeasement-minded British ambassador to the U.S., said the German chancellor had merely marched into “his own backyard.” Soon he was marching into France.
4. “Russia just wants to expand its sphere of influence.”
To the diplomat, Russian aggression toward Ukraine is a move on the global chessboard. But to 50 million freedom-loving Christians, it is the very personal threat that their rights and liberties will be extinguished.
5. “Why worry about the Ukrainian 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 border are hardly mutually exclusive.
6. “We must not be the policeman of the world.”
No, but we do have to defend our vital national security interests, and stopping Russian and Chinese aggression is paramount.
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