#Ukraine: Not telling the American people "Why we fight?" Professor H.J. Mackinder, International Relations. #FriendsofHistoryDebatingSociety - Transcripts

March 19, 2023

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#Ukraine: Not telling the American people "Why we fight?"  Professor H.J. Mackinder, International Relations. #FriendsofHistoryDebatingSociety



With the Friends of History Debating Society, I'm John Bolson with Professor H.J. McIner, who is generously commenting on five capitals and five points of view. We go to Washington, D.C. Professor, I contribute this, and in conversation with John Bolton, former National Security Advisor, former Ambassador to the United Nations, his measure of Washington is that there is no plan to win the war in Ukraine, none. That there is lots of thinking about how do we sustain Ukraine through this or that offensive. Through this or that season, through this or that shortfall, but to win the war. So the puzzle, and we'll move to the politics of this in a moment, but the puzzle is winning this war means that the American people have to be with you. We can agree on that. Blood and treasure is part of the conversation between the White House and the American people. Do the American people, at this point, need to be told, we want to win the war? Do they need to hear it from the President? that useful or is it all implicit in the last, what is it now, we're in the 13th

month? My opinion is that in a war it is essential that the president take the lead in regularly explaining clearly and intelligibly to the American people why this war matters and how we are planning to win it. And I think the administration has, effectively they've done nothing. Mr. Biden has not made a speech focusing on the war and addressing the American people. There's been no address to Congress. The poor old Constitution says that you've got to have an address by the president of the United States to both houses of Congress and then get a vote and then we can get involved in a war. Now the President administration is sort of playing let's pretend and trying to have a war in which all kinds of American weapons pour in their American advisers but we are one step removed. We sort of hand over the stuff to the Ukrainians with some experts to train them and then and then say well good luck to you. And I think that what Ambassador Bolton says is exactly right. You're not going to win a war to have even if you even if you explicitly say that it is your intention to stretch every nerve and to mobilize every resource to win the war, that doesn't mean that you're going to win it. But if you treat the war as of lower priorities and eliminating gas stoves or seeing who's going to win in American politics and never communicate with the American people about the war, then we

run the risk of getting into the kind of situation we got in in Vietnam where in

Vietnam for a long time there was no intention to win. Then Nixon and Kissinger came in with a... Nixon essentially had a desire to win and with Operation Linebacker II he came very close, very very close. But meanwhile the Kissinger was negotiating at this sort of gated village, San Nolo Britesh, at the home of a very prominent American business man who's lived and is dead now and he lives in Paris since the end of World War II. And Kissinger was negotiating a peace which was reached in 1970. He was negotiating with Le Ducto. It's not clear to me that he understood exactly who Le Ducto was, but Le Ducto is the... was with... he was the ally of Le Ducto who was the dictator of North Vietnam at that time and they were the ones who by 1959 had already drawn up the plan to conquer South Vietnam by sending troops down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight because they understood Le Ducto had made a trip incognito to South Vietnam. He understood the South Vietnamese had no desire to be run from Hanoi, although they had some gripes about their government. But the United States misunderstood that. It's not clear to me that Kissinger even understood who he was talking to.

In any case, peace was proclaimed in 1973 and then two years later South Vietnam was conquered and that was really... it was the most shameful defeat in American history above all because of something of between five and nine million Vietnamese died of that. That's like World War One scale casualties and there was no reason whatsoever that with with some competent generalship that we could not have completely avoided that, but that's not what we're talking about today. The point I want to make is that the United States cannot abandon Ukraine as easily as she did South Vietnam and the reason is that Ukraine has other allies that will not agree to a peace which doesn't deal with the fundamental issues and doesn't put Russia back in the box. Now what this says to me is that if things move in that direction and we start encouraging, i.e. berating the Ukrainians about the need to negotiate and then standing on their oxygen hose and not... because they of course depend on the West and on us for weapons, I think that the countries around Ukraine will understand what's going on. At least one of them is probably a threshold nuclear power right now and that's Sweden. I dare say the Poles who are just the most tenacious fighters and of course Madame Curie was a Pole and she discovered radioactivity and so forth. I think that what we're going to see then is nuclear. There'll be more nukes in Central Europe and the outcome of this is going to be exactly what neither NATO nor Russia wants which is that Central Europe will become an ulcer in which a group of countries that is to some extent a subset of NATO refuses to get with the program and join in say an American-led imposed peace which will last, will not last, will not recreate order in Europe. So if we attempt to move to a peace process as it will be called we have to understand that if we get it wrong the consequences are going to be far worse than they were in Vietnam which had very serious Vietnam consequences.

Now as I mentioned the I mentioned Vietnam but I think you have something to say about it but let me say that the Poles show a majority of Americans still favorable to the war but this is it's not a kind of full-throated endorsement and it reflects the fact that the administration is not and they have not from the beginning they have not treated this war which is indubitably is they haven't treated it as a war they have really treated it as a kind of economic slash negotiating exercise although they have put a lot of weapons in and it reminds me of World War two and of course World War two hadn't even begun yet when the Republican Party which was the party of isolationism and had did not or not really isolationism they just didn't see why American troops should go and fight in Europe when there were really plenty of Europeans and it wasn't even fair to us but the whole thing was about and back to 1940 and the nomination by 1940 sentiment in America was very much trending in the direction of opposition to Roosevelt's attempt whether Roosevelt thought he was actually going to be able to win simply by lending money or whether he was planning to go in as soon as he could I find hard to say but had had governor Dewey or had senator Taft who were both solid kind of America first no reason for us to get involved in European problem candidates they might have hurt Roosevelt very much and by his fourth electoral campaign Roosevelt's majorities had shrunk extraordinarily from what he had at the beginning of the New Deal but the Republicans for reasons that are quite difficult to fathom nominated in 1940 at the old convention center in Philadelphia the barefoot boy from Wall Street as he was known Wendell Wilkie who was a personable I guess and had his strengths and his weaknesses but he was he was pro-war unlike the Republican Party so the American people did not get the chance to vote on the war and of course the next chance they got to vote was 1941 when for a variety of reasons Japan had made a preemptive attack on us one of them and one of the reasons for that was simply that Dean Atchison did not understand Roosevelt's instructions about reducing oil supply to Japan and Mr. Atchison decided well if the president wants to reduce oil why don't we cut it off altogether well cutting it off altogether made the Japanese made the Japanese crazy whereas if we'd simply been reducing it a bit then we probably would not have had a war the fact that Roosevelt put the fleet at Pearl Harbor indicates that he did not expect to war because you can't support a fleet from Pearl Harbor if you're really gonna have a war you keep the fleet on the west coast where it's connected to the industrial the former

industrial heartland let's go to the Republican Party then professor you've you've you've danced around it let's go to the thing itself in the 21st century because that Republican Party has echoes of the isolationism of 1940 professor A.J. Mac and her international relations friends of history debating society I'm

John Bachelor