At The American Conservative, Daniel Larison outlines the perils of arming Ukraine. Sending arms to the country would only invite a negative Russian response. America’s options for counter-moves would be limited to a small number of bad choices. Larison explains:
The explicit purpose of sending arms to Ukraine is to give their government the means to kill more Russians and Russian proxies. This may be dressed up in euphemisms by advocates (e.g., “raising costs,” “making them pay a price”), but that is what they expressly hope to achieve with this policy. If our positions were reversed, our government would not respond to the deaths of our soldiers and proxies by yielding to the preferences of the government that provided the weapons that killed them. On the contrary, our government would intensify its support for whatever policy that government was trying to thwart. It would be foolish to assume that the Russian government would respond differently. We should assume that they would respond both directly in Ukraine by increasing their support for separatists and indirectly by aiding our enemies in other wars.
The temptation to intervene is strong for American neocons. Cato Institute scholar Chris Preble said back in November that any nation with vast power would be tempted to use it. He went on:
Any nation with vast power will be tempted to use it. In this respect, the United States is exceptional because its power is so immense. Small, weak countries avoid fighting in distant disputes; the risk that troops, ships, or planes sent elsewhere will be unavailable for defense of the homeland generally keeps these nations focused on more proximate dangers. The U.S. government, by contrast, doesn’t have to worry that deploying U.S. forces abroad might leave America vulnerable to attack by powerful adversaries.
There is another factor that explains the United States’ propensity to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy: Americans are a generous people, and we like helping others. We have often responded favorably when others appeal to us for assistance. Many Americans look back proudly on the moments in the middle and latter half of the 20th century when the U.S. military provided the crucial margin of victory over Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.
But, in recent years, Americans have grown more reluctant to send U.S. troops hither and yon. There is a growing appreciation of the fact that Washington’s willingness to intervene abroad – from Somalia and the Balkans in the 1990s, to Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, to Libya and Yemen in the present decades – has often undermined U.S. security. We have become embroiled in disputes that we don’t understand and rarely can control. Thus, public anxiety about becoming sucked into another Middle Eastern civil war effectively blocked overt U.S. intervention in Syria in 2013, notwithstanding President Obama’s ill-considered red line warning to Bashar al Assad.
For more on how America’s vast might can cause problems for its citizens, read Chris’s book, The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free. For more about Chris and his work, read my series The Most Important Person You May Have Never Heard Of, parts I, II, III, and a bonus post here.