The Antiwar Conservatives Rise

Great piece by Isaac Grafstein at The Free Press on the antiwar Right. He starts by recalling that as a member of the House back in the day, Ron DeSantis supported US involvement with Ukraine. No more:

Appearing on Fox News to attack President Biden for last week’s surprise stop in Kyiv, DeSantis said: “He’s very concerned about those borders halfway around the world. He’s not done anything to secure our own border here at home. We’ve had millions and millions of people pour in, tens of thousands of Americans dead because of fentanyl, and then, of course, we just suffered a national humiliation of having China fly a spy balloon clear across the continental United States.” 

It was a 180-degree turn for a politician hoping to become the next commander in chief. It was also a window into the paradigm shift that has engulfed the American right—turning the old assumptions on their head and reimagining the United States’ role in the world.

The shift has its roots in September 11, 2001.

That day, Rod Dreher was on the Brooklyn Bridge when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. 

“I was overwhelmed by rage,” Dreher, a conservative writer, told me. 

One month later, he eagerly backed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and, a year and a half after that, the invasion of Iraq.

By early 2005—by the time it became clear the U.S. wasn’t about to turn Hamid Karzai’s regime into a Jeffersonian republic and Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction—Dreher, now a senior editor at The American Conservative, was rethinking both wars. 

This led him to a broader skepticism about nation-building, a skepticism that eventually hardened into opposition to American militarism. “I realized that my own side was led by a bunch of fucking incompetents and ideologues who had taken our country down a path of destruction,” Dreher said. “And for what?”

Oof. I really did use the f-word. But it was le mot juste.

Another excerpt:

“The thing that I immediately noticed when I got to Iraq was the futility of it,” said Dan Hollaway, who served in the army in Baghdad and now hosts the podcast Citizen from his home in Austin, Texas. “White faces from the West are not going to go into the Middle East and solve their problems for them. The only time that sort of thing has been effective is in Japan at the end of World War II, when we just dropped two fucking atomic bombs on those people.”

Yep. My brother-in-law, a blue-collar, Rush-Limbaugh listener, served in a construction unit of the Louisiana National Guard, in Baghdad. You know that scene in American Sniper when the soldiers are building a wall in Sadr City, and had to be afraid that snipers were going to blow their heads off when they raised up to put another concrete block up? That was my brother-in-law and his men. He came home with a medal on his chest for valor. When I asked him what he thought of the war, he said simply, “A waste.”

I missed this, but damn:

You go, Sen. Hawley!

Y’all know I’m sitting here in Budapest, agreeing with Viktor Orban and the Hungarian government that we need to be pushing hard — very hard — for peace. The Hungarians don’t have any love for the Russians, and have consistently and correctly condemned the Russian aggression. But they also don’t think the Ukrainians are God’s gift to humanity (ask them about how Kyiv treated the ethnic Hungarians of far western Ukraine before the war), and they do not want Ukraine to drag all of Europe into a catastrophic war. As with so much else, American conservatives are now trying to catch up with the wisdom of PM Orban. I hope they catch up before it’s too late.

Things must be changing, because now it’s starting to be possible to express skepticism, even criticism, of the US open-ended commitment to Ukraine, without being called Putin’s butt-boy. The NYT — the Times! — even ran an op-ed today by Thomas Meaney, warning that it’s time for the US to get serious about what can and cannot be accomplished by Ukraine in this war. Excerpt:

The trouble is that Ukraine has only one surefire way of accomplishing this feat in the near term: direct NATO involvement in the war. Only the full, Desert Storm style of deployment of NATO and U.S. troops and weaponry could bring about a comprehensive Ukrainian victory in a short period of time. (Never mind that such a deployment would most likely shorten the odds of one of the grimmer prospects of the war: The more Russia loses, the more it is likely to resort to nuclear weapons.)

Absent NATO involvement, the Ukrainian Army can hold the line and regain ground, as it has done in Kharkiv and Kherson, but complete victory is very nearly impossible. If Russia can hardly advance a few hundred yards a day in Bakhmut at a cost of 50 to 70 men, since the Ukrainians are so well entrenched, would Ukrainians be able to advance any better against equally well-entrenched Russians in the whole area between Russia and the eastern side of the Dnipro delta, including the Azov Sea coastline and the isthmus leading to Crimea? What has been a meat grinder in one direction is likely to be a meat grinder in the other.

It is in nobody’s interest — not Russia’s, not Ukraine’s, not America’s, and not Europe’s — for this conflict to continue. Only China, which benefits from a weakened Russia and a distracted America that has used up a lot of its weapons fighting Russia by proxy. Time to cede Crimea and the Donbas to Russia, Finlandize Ukraine and give it strong security guarantees without allowing it to join NATO, and start rebuilding.

I do not understand where the antiwar Left is on this. Do we even have one? Have they been bought off by the idea that America is fighting for Pride parades in Poltava, and Drag Queen Story Hours in Dnipropetrovsk?

(Readers: here’s your regular reminder that this blog has only six weekdays left on its tenure here at TAC. Please subscribe — a paid subscription — to my daily Substack, Rod Dreher’s Diary. It’s only five dollars per month, or fifty dollars per year. I will try my best not to drop the f-bomb, though I might say “Primitive Root Wiener” from time to time.)

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