The West’s shame: Biden will somehow escape punishment for playing us with a ‘simple morality tale’ about his proxy war with Putin

When the dust settles on the war in Ukraine, we will realise the neo-conservatives have again betrayed us with a "good versus evil" narrative designed to infantilise us, writes Professor Joseph M. Siracusa.

Joe Biden, who has been famously wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue in his lifetime, is all in on his mate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The President has gone to the well, one last time, asking Congress to approve $24 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, the first such request since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.

Congress last approved military aid for Kyiv – $48 billion – in December; six months later, 70 House members supported an unsuccessful proposal to cut funding altogether, a harbinger of burgeoning criticism of US support for Ukraine in the war.

For his part, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made it plain in June that supplemental requests for Kyiv are “not going anywhere.”

At least not soon.

“A Republican-led House,” according to a spokesperson for McCarthy, “will not rubber-stamp any blank-check funding requests; rather the Administration’s emergency funding requests must be reviewed and scrutinized on their merits consistent with the practice and principles of our majority.”

This is political shorthand for get lost.

But Biden has nowhere to go, as he has bet his (and his party’s) re-election bid on Zelensky breaking a stalemate with Russia, perhaps even driving the country backwards.

When this doesn’t happen – and it’s not going to happen – Biden’s America will instinctively turn to the blame game.

Where are the realists?

Perceptions of who “won” or “lost” Ukraine will be at least as significant as the “who lost China?” debate in the 1950s that aroused a storm of anti-Communism sentiments in the nation, while exacerbating political tensions.

This was the oxygen that gave birth to the partisan politics of Senator Joe McCarthy’s infamous decade.

“Happy days” weren’t really all that happy.

While the liberal and neo-con war hawks, the standard bearers of the Biden administration’s self-anointed heirs of Cold War triumphalism, claim to be “realists”, they do not appear to have grasped the lessons of the Cold War or for that matter the very fundamentals of realism found in the American diplomatic experience.

The realist philosophy that successfully guided US foreign policy for nearly 250 years was grounded on a forthright calculation of the necessities, possibilities and parameters of foreign policy action related to war and peace, since the cost of miscalculation could quickly become exorbitant.

The modern realist critique – a reaction to the knee-jerk anti-communism ideology of the early Cold War – and in the words of Arthur M. Schlesinger’s Jr, “the brave and essential response of free men to Communist aggression”, posits several important questions before embarking on a course to war:

Are objectives clearly defined, and do they include precise, generally recognised national interests or danger?

Do the ambitions and abilities of the enemy endanger vital national economic or global security interests?

Would victory enhance the equilibrium of the region?

Is victory assured at a cost proportionate to the interests at stake, and, most importantly, will the costs be sustained by public and government support?

Biden harnessed the historical legacy of America’s “war on communism”, which featured the USSR and Red China as the greatest threat to the West, with a new “war on autocracy”, which features the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, again, as the greatest threats to the West.

This is the worst kind of lazy thinking in the long, sorry history of lazy thinking.

The military-industrial-research complex could not believe its luck.

What happens next?

On the first Tuesday in November 2024, the American public will get the final say on Biden’s proxy war in Ukraine.

They will have an opportunity to deliver their verdict on Biden and his administration, “who for years”, observes former Russian affairs State Department adviser James W. Carden, “have not only given Ukrainian leaders wondrously bad and reckless advice, but serially misled the American people about the extent of the dangers involved.”

The architects of the war, together with a docile press, peddled the story that the future of the democratic world would be determined on the battlefields of Ukraine, and that “the Ukrainians,” according to New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof, “are sacrificing for us . . . doing us a favour, by degrading the Russian military and reducing the risk of war in Europe.”


When did we have that discussion?

Or the discussion of the encroachment of NATO on Russia’s borders?

Or the shifting nuclear balance of terror?

Biden and the establishment will, no doubt, escape without penalty, while scapegoating critics of the war as anti-American and pro-Russian.

The blame game begins

The coming campaign of recrimination and finger-pointing, according to Carden, “will no doubt consist of a litany of accusations of unpatriotic disloyalty levelled against American opponents of the war by a parade of Eastern Europeans and their vocal and powerful lobby in Washington.”

Furthermore, concludes Carden, “the corporate media and their many progressive and liberal allies in Congress will, with great enthusiasm, link arms with their neocon friends in order to blame and further shrink the bounds of the sayable and thinkable.”

A new political wokeness will descend on America.

They will pass off the war in Ukraine as a simple morality tale, of “good versus evil”, pruned of complexity and history, designed to obfuscate and infantilise Americans’ understanding of the enormity of what has transpired.

There will be books and memoirs, hearings and interviews, documenting the betrayal.

It makes fantastic television.

It always is.

We’ve seen this movie before: Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, to name a few.

The American public will again have been played, reminding me of Gore Vidal’s famous quip, about another time, “There is little respite for a people so routinely – so fiercely – disinformed.”

Professor Joseph Siracusa is Dean of Global Futures at Curtin University.