This week the editors discuss the Ukraine-Russia crisis, an article by Mark Royce comparing the Soviet threat during the Cold War and the current China challenge, and a book review of Tracy McKenzie’s We the Fallen People.
Mark Tooley: Hello, this is Mark Tooley, editor of Providence, a Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy, with another episode of Marksism with fellow Mark’s and fellow editors Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton.
We’re touching on three topics today, firstly Topic A: Ukraine and Russia, secondly, a piece touching on this subject by Mark Royce this week on the differences between our Cold War with the old Soviet Union versus China; thirdly, a new book by Tracy McKenzie of Wheaton College on changing views on the goodness and virtues of the American people.
But firstly, the Ukraine. My own thoughts: I’ve written a piece not yet published, surmising that, whatever happens, Ukraine will outlast Putin and that Russia has the habit of gobbling up more than it can chew and often choking. Afghanistan was an example of recent decades, and America has a moral and strategic obligation to offer it solidarity to Ukraine short of a direct military confrontation with the Russians.
But that moral solidarity, contrary to what is still a realist disdain, is, in fact, significant and it was important when the Soviets invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia or imposed through their proxies martial law in Poland in the 1980s that our moral solidarity can help keep alive these national spirits of resistance. And, in fact, in Poland that spirit of resistance ultimately led to the overthrow of the Warsaw Pact, the Iron Curtain, and even the Soviet Union itself.
So even if Putin does invade Ukraine, it likely will be his own undoing. But we hope and pray that does not happen, and certainly we in the West should give what material we can to the Ukrainians and punish the Russians as much as we can, if they do, in fact, invade. But I know Marc LiVecche will have his own profound insights so, what say you, Marc?
Marc LiVecche: Yeah, I don’t know how profound any of this is going to be, but you know, it pays to – I mean, now’s a good time as any to look back and ask why we’re in such a conundrum.
And there’s multiple reasons for it. It’s not Biden’s fault, contrary to what some commentators have said, but Biden hasn’t helped.
And so, I think some of the rhetoric that he’s been putting forward where he seems essentially to be telling Putin precisely what we will or will not do isn’t helpful.
His insistence that we will not commit military forces directly probably isn’t a surprise, probably nobody thinks we would, but that’s one of those things that maybe you don’t say out loud. Maybe you keep those options on the table.
His pointing out that if there is just a minor incursion that, you know, maybe the NATO allies will be disparate in their particular responses – that’s not helpful. You know his comment – I think even his urging US families to leave Kiev is not helpful.
Surprisingly, but, I think, prudently, most European allies did make the suggestion that families of diplomats leave.
I’m not sure that most observers think Kiev is in any real danger if Putin does invade. I strongly suspect that it’s only going to be a small incursion to create a land bridge down to the Crimea – something minor like that – but it’s just unfortunate, it’s frustrating how this has been handled.
Germany being dependent on Russia for natural gas seems ultimately unnecessary. Different policies could have been made to prevent those sorts of things. And so, we just – it’s frustrating to see our hand side by various decisions that have been unfortunately made. So that’s the frustrating piece, for me. I think you’re right about moral solidarity, I think that goes some distance.
But it’s sobering to realize that it would be really frustrating to be Ukrainian right now, I think that the ultimate takeaway from this is it’s certainly not going to be a help for anti-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
If I was Ukraine – Ukrainian – I’d really be wishing we’d kept our nuclear arsenal, after the Cold War. We gave them certain guarantees that they would be protected and those guarantees realistically and prudently are probably not going to be able to be met to the degree that they might hope.
But I take it, I’m a little heartened that the Ukrainian scene is at least publicly less convinced of imminent danger than many of us do in the States. So, hopefully, as you said, from our lips to God’s ears, Putin’s just saber rattling and looking for certain concessions and this whole thing will blow over without blowing apart.
Mark Tooley: Well, moving on to a related topic: Mark Melton, tell us a little bit about your friend Mark Royce’s piece on confrontation with the Soviets versus confrontation with the Chinese.
Mark Melton: Yeah, and I’ll have to make these comments brief, I have someone who showed up to do work on the house twenty minutes early, so I may have to hop off here in a second, but to talk about Royce’s piece, very briefly, so I can let them in.
So, he’s comparing the looming confrontation with China with the confrontation with the Soviet Union starting in 1945. The Soviet Union had a proven military capability, where it was able to defeat the Nazi machine that’s – you know, the worst fighting happened along their borders. And so, at that time Russia had that capability and America had to deal with that threat.
And so, whereas now China does not have that capability – they have a much more, I think,economic capability than the Soviet Union did – but they do not have presently a proven military capability. They’ve only asserted it.
And he says there are certain – well, we shouldn’t overreact to China, that’s his main point, but it’s also time to see, like, maybe China does develop that. But I know that one of the reasons why, for instance, the United States is really good with aircraft carriers is because we train a lot.It’s very difficult to use aircraft carriers efficiently, so we can’t just look at China having aircraft carriers, for example, and assume they’re going to have the same capabilities that we have with them.
Because they’re actually very difficult to use and as Russia discovered, you can actually end updamaging a lot of your aircraft trying to use the aircraft carriers. And so, that’s just one example of how you can’t just assume that China is going to have the same military capabilities.
But personally, I don’t want to try it, but that’s something to consider when we’re talking about deterring China from invading Taiwan, say. And on that note, I probably need to get going. Sorry about having to hop off to the viewers!
Mark Tooley: Thank you for dropping in on this episode of Marksism, Mark Melton!
Mark Melton: Alright, have a good day!
Marc LiVecche: And then there were two.
Mark Tooley: Marc LiVecche, you and I will have to wrap it up looking at this book review we posted by Tom Wilson on Tracy McKenzie’s new book on an evolving perspective on the virtues of the American people contrasting what the Founding Fathers thought versus early America circa 1830.
The Founding Fathers had a more traditional Christian, even Calvinist, perspective on human nature and constructed the early republic with that perspective in mind.
Early America, post the Second Great Awakening had a much more optimistic and robustly confident perspective on the wisdom of “the people.” And it’s rather odd that the Second Great Awakening would lead them to that place and that revivalism tended to stress the sinfulness of people that even Reinhold Niebuhr noted that America’s perfectionism in some regards originated in the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening. What are your thoughts?
Marc LiVecche: Yeah, interesting idea. It’s a great book review, because it does the work of making me want to get the book and read the book myself. One of the things I would be on the lookout for is how all-encompassing McKenzie’s view is of this sort of American, you know, maybe seduction into a kind of populist politics, so Tom Wilson suggests that there’s a lot of connections that McKenzie makes with the Trump era.
Which is reasonable, but I would like to see if that critique is extended into progressives. Some of the mechanisms, of course, that the Founding Fathers have employed to fence in this human tendency toward self-interest, such as the electoral college and mechanisms like that, are continually under threat, at least rhetorically, by the progressive left.
They want something much more like a direct democracy, you know, enfranchising illegal immigrants, dumping the Electoral College, going to a straight one-person, one-vote sort of mentality, which I think would push toward populism and undo some of those proven mechanisms that were put in place, because human beings are selfish.
So, with that caveat stated, I’m very interested to read the book.
Mark Tooley: We The Fallen People, I should note.
Marc LiVecche: Right, right, precisely. And if that goes, all the way down, then great, I think he’s onto something. I think, you know, it raises complicated questions. I’m reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt right now.
And some of Teddy’s own comments on the enfranchisement of women, and you know his sort of vacillating and seeming to be opposed to that – and even that would be an interesting course of study, why did the Founding Fathers enfranchise certain people over others, why property holders, what was the thinking beyond that?
Is it some kind of, you know, white patriarchy, or is there something philosophical and even philosophically sound behind it, however distasteful we might find it? You know, self-interest is one thing, enlightened self-interest is another. You could probably work with enlightened self-interest, but it seems – a cursory look at today – there’s not a lot of enlightened self-interest,there’s just a lot of self-interest. And so how in a representative democracy you account for that is a fascinating question, so the book sounds intriguing.
Mark Tooley: Well, on that note, Marc LiVecche, thank you for another episode of Marksism. Until next week, bye bye!