#Ukraine: The Isolationist Tradition: Professor H.J. Mackinder, International Relations. #FriendsofHistoryDebatingSociety - Transcripts

March 19, 2023

  • Favorite
  • Share
Photo: No known restrictions on publication.

#Ukraine:  The Isolationist Tradition:  Professor H.J. Mackinder, International Relations. #FriendsofHistoryDebatingSociety



This is the Friends of History Debating Society. I'm John Batson with Professor H.J. MacKinder, International Relations. Professor, the Republican Party in 2023 is recognizable as a troubled entity, troubled because of the election in 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022. Donald Trump is making it very clear in his many appearances that he does not support Ukraine, that he supports immediate secession of the hostilities. More than that, I don't need to say, because that itself is the isolationist opinion that echoes 1940. Now we learn that Kevin McCarthy, the new Speaker of the House, has deferred or refused an invitation to keep visit with the troubled Ukrainian government. That is a significant turn from the way Nancy Pelosi led the House of Representatives in the first two years of Mr. Biden's administration. And we also learn that Governor DeSantis of Florida, no long foreign policy hand, but in any event, making remarks does not uniformly support the Ukrainian war. There are details here, I don't need to explore them. Just the fact that these three men have indicated a hesitation is enough to say the Republican Party is going in the direction of isolationism. And I expect over the next months, up to the first debate in August of 2023 in Milwaukee, we'll see more voices saying, why are we fighting?

What do we get out of it? And now we add the banking crisis and the inflation and the challenge of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and the imminence of the recession. It's already underway in many silos, but it looks like it's spreading quickly. All of that leads me to say, Professor, Ukraine is on a clock. It's a countdown. The Republican Party is against it. I don't care about the results of the election in 24 and the new administration in 25. What's going to happen between now and then, the election itself, is the half the American people who follow the Republican Party are going to avert their eyes. Is Europe listening? Is the White House listening? Is Keith listening? Is Moscow listening?

How do you say, Professor?

Well, I think that Moscow is certainly listening and that psychological warfare is a major component if and when China joins them. China has a very, very formidable influence apparatus in this country, and that will be brought to bear. We also have, of course, a lot of Americans who are not compromised by foreign connections who can't understand the war or who think that domestic concerns are more important. And that's really quite standard. That's the way this country has been for a very long time. All you have to do is look at Mr. Jefferson handling a part of the War of 1812 and his military procurement policy. And you can see that he was most concerned with spreading the money around to voting districts rather than putting together a halfway decent navy, and that's pretty much the way this country works. But as I said earlier in our discussion, this war is going to have tremendous consequences. I mentioned Vietnam because I fear that we may have political division in this country that is in some way comparable to what we had in Vietnam, although I don't think it will get so violent. But there will be a very strong anti-war movement, and it will not be resisted. I mean, of course, Lyndon Johnson and his followers did not...it was really too late to make the case for the war. In retrospect, two things are clear.

One is that South Vietnam deserves to be saved, and the second is that our diagnosis of the war, which was that it was a domestic insurgent, Mr. Bundy made that decision based on it. I'm not sure what. That has been absolutely, totally refuted by Professor Nguyen at Columbia, who spent five years in the party archives, and only wrote a very, very important book. So the question is whether the truth about what's going on, about how high the stakes are, whether that's going to penetrate the American consciousness. And also, whether the Republicans are going to be the anti-war party, which actually is what they have been. They weren't in the Civil War, but usually the party that says, no, we should stay out of that. We should mind our own business, has been the Republicans, whereas if you think back to John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, what did he say will bear any burden, pay any price to support liberty in the world? That was a blank check that he didn't intend to write, but which in the end bounced. And I was particularly disappointed. I'm not a great admirer of any of the people, but I've always thought that Governor DeSantis was rather intelligent by comparison with some of the others. But his statement that this is a territorial dispute is simply false, and he should know that.

This is a case of one sovereign country invading another sovereign country, and that sovereign country that's being invaded is one that is recognized politically by the one invading it, and whose security was actually, in effect, guaranteed by the invaders, the Russians, and also by the United States, Britain, and I'm not sure who else in the Budapest Memorandum. So it's not advanced political theory to say that under the UN, for one sovereign country to invade another sovereign country is out of bounds. So I think Mr. DeSantis is behaving, I think, in the others. They're behaving opportunistically. They're following the polling, which Ambassador Bolton referred to. This fact that the unwillingness of the administration to admit what we're doing and to explain why actually it's a good idea, even though we're doing it rather badly, that a vacuum has been created where the most important thing going on in the Biden administration is the war in Ukraine. It doesn't have the most consequences for the future piece of the whole world. Therefore, it should be the number one object of attention, and it should be the thing that the administration puts the most effort into explaining to the American people, so as to guarantee that we have support for it.

And they have fallen very, very short of that. Professor H.J. MacKinder, International Relations, commenting on five capitals and the Republican Party. This is the Friends of History Debating Society. I'm John MacKinder.