By W. James Antle III, The Week
“If the U.S. and NATO aren’t willing to put troops on the line to defend Ukraine, and American allies can’t agree on a sanctions package, hasn’t the U.S. and the West lost nearly all of its leverage over [Russian President] Vladimir Putin?” asked a reporter of President Biden at his press conference Wednesday before lamenting the ineffectiveness of sanctions.
Translation: The United States has no power to influence events except through military intervention, and if we truly care about something, we’ll put our troops on the line. Biden’s response didn’t much challenge that thinking; he mainly equivocated on how big of a Russian incursion it could take to merit a unified allied reaction.
The question and answer alike illustrate how much of our thinking remains mired in World War II and the Cold War. Every tinpot dictator is compared to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, every op-ed analogy involves Neville Chamberlain or unchecked Soviet expansionism. The fights against Nazism and communism were as close as one gets in the real world to black-and-white, good vs. evil conflicts, and we still tend to shove our foreign policy debates into their frameworks decades later.