Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Horseshoe theory and Ukraine

 Today, the world will be marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Ukraine War, but in reality, the war didn’t begin on February 24, 2022. The war began back in 2014 with the Russian invasions of Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk. The war has now continued through three American presidential administrations and was marked by Russia’s major escalation one year ago. Aside from Ukraine’s surprisingly strong showing against the invading “Orcs” one of the most interesting results of the invasion was to pull aside the political curtain to reveal an example of the horseshoe theory in action.

For those who don’t know, the horseshoe theory is the proposition that the farther to the extreme left and right of the political spectrum one moves, the more the two opposite sides resemble each other. In other words, conservatives and liberals seem to be different on the near parts of the political spectrum, but as they become more radical, they once again become similar.

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The classic example is the difference between Hitler’s Nazis and Stalin’s communists. The two groups were at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but in practice they weren’t that different. Both were heavily militarized and nationalized police states. Both had a tendency to prey on weaker neighbors and victimize minorities. Both were autocratically controlled by single leaders who left little room for individual freedom. I’m not sure that there was much difference in the life of someone living under either regime, dreading the midnight pounding on the door by the secret police. It made little difference to the person being dragged off to torture and execution whether the officers were Gestapo or NKVD.

I don’t think that horseshoe theory is evident or present on every issue, but it is apparent in some areas. Russia’s war on Ukraine is one of them.

It’s common knowledge by now that a large share of MAGA world is pro-Putin and pro-Russia. Tucker Carlson is one of the most vocal friends of Russia and Vladimir Putin in the US, but he’s far from the only one. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) recently led a group of the usual MAGA suspects in sponsoring a “Ukraine Fatigue” bill that would halt military and financial aid to the beleaguered defenders of Ukraine.

Radicals like Gaetz aren’t the ones on the right who are talking about restricting aid to Ukraine. New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is beholden to Gaetz’s faction of holdouts that held the key to his speakership. At this point, no one really knows what concessions McCarthy made to the holdouts, but it’s likely that some of them involved placing strings on aid to Ukraine. 

"I have never said that I'm not for supporting Ukraine. In fact, I've said the opposite," said Rep. Chip Roy, one of the McCarthy holdouts. "But what I'm not for is just continuing to write a check, after check, after check without me understanding what's going to be the actual end result of this."

The end result should be kicking Russia out of the territory that it occupies and preserving Ukraine as a free and independent state. Roy’s protests notwithstanding, micromanaging aid to Ukraine imperils that goal, especially with a sizable GOP faction looking for excuses to block the funds.

Roy’s statement sounds a lot like those made by libertarians like Elon Musk. In the early days of the war, Musk’s Starlink internet service was a literal lifesaver to Ukraine. More recently, however, Musk has moved towards Russia, tweeting about a land-for-peace deal last October and taking steps to prevent Ukraine’s military from using Starlink to control its drones earlier this month. 

On February 22, in a very Tuckeresque tweet, Musk wrote, “Nobody is pushing this war more than [US Undersecretary of State Victoria] Nuland,” to which one Twitter user responded, “Putin, for example. No?”

The increasingly right wing Musk sounds a lot like the Libertarian Party, whose @LPNational Twitter account is couched in pro-Russia rhetoric cloaked as anti-war sentiment. Some tweets and retweets are openly anti-Ukraine or pro-Russia or seeking to make a moral equivalence, such as this example, but many claim to be purely anti-war. 

The rub is that most of the Western anti-war efforts, the Libertarian Party’s included, focus on cutting off western aid to Ukraine. That benefits only one party: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Back during Cold War I, the Soviet KGB infiltrated Western peace groups and used them to pressure Democratic governments. It was weird back then that the peace demonstrators always protested the US and NATO militaries that were in their own countries to defend against a possible Soviet onslaught in the mold of “Red Storm Rising,” but they had little to say about the Russian missiles and tanks pointed toward their borders. Now we know that it was because Russians were funding and pulling the strings of these leftist groups.

I think the same thing is happening today. The FSB, Vladimir Putin’s successor to the KGB, almost certainly uses the same tactics and likely many of the same people that the Soviets used in the Cold War. There’s probably no coincidence that today’s “antiwar”crowd seems to focus solely on Ukrainian flaws and NATO assistance while minimizing Moscow’s role in choosing to launch a brutal and aggressive war of choice. The term “useful idiots” is bandied about quite a bit, but it is very applicable here.

But wait! There’s more! We have to close the loop or at least get to the heels of the horseshoe. (The heels are the tips next to the open part. I had to look that up.)

It isn’t only the right that wants to shut off aid to Ukraine. Last summer, American socialists held a rally in Chicago in which they flew Russian and Chinese flags. Again, the attendees put the blame on US imperialism rather than Russian aggression.

Further, 30 progressive Democrats signed a letter to President Biden last summer that was ultimately released in October. The liberals urged Biden to pursue a diplomatic solution to the war, but then beat a hasty retreat. The following day, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D- Wash.), chair of the House Progressive Caucus, withdrew the letter only a day after it became public. 

One of the latest talking points among the anti-Ukraine elements is the claim that the US and NATO are preparing to directly engage Russia. That theme comes up frequently among Libertarians such as Todd Hagopian, as well as Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democrat who is now a darling of the Fox News right. 

Gabbard recently took aim at both Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell on Tucker Carlson’s show, saying, “You look at the lies that the American people are being told by President Biden, by Mitch McConnell, bthese warmongers in both parties selling this lie, that this is about defending freedom and democracy. And as he said, there's no greater threat to that democracy than this fight against this war against Russia. They are the ones who are undermining our democracy. They are the ones who are denying the American people our constitutional right to have a say whether or not we go to war.”

Although there are differences in the intensity from the various sides, anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia sentiment is present on all sides of the political spectrum. The difference seems to be that it is more acceptable among Republicans and almost ubiquitous among Libertarians while it is present but not as socially or politically acceptable among Democrats. 

While opinions may vary, there is truth to be found about Russia’s war on Ukraine. The war, both the original limited war that began in 2014 and last year’s general invasion, is an aggressive war of choice. Vladimir Putin bears sole responsibility for beginning the war and it is up to Vladimir Putin to end it. 

There’s an old saying in the Arab-Israeli conflict that if the Arabs laid down their weapons there would be peace, but if the Israelis laid down their weapons there would be a massacre. The situation is exactly the same in Ukraine, but the “antiwar” crowd won’t tell you that or ever admit it. In their telling, the Ukrainians defending their families and homes are just as guilty as the invading Russians. 

The Russo-Ukraine war is going to end in one of two ways. Either Russia is going to conquer Ukraine or Ukraine is going to be free. Right now, under President Biden and good Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, the US is on the right side of that equation. We need to stay that way and not let the pro-Putin “antiwar” crowd shut off Ukraine’s access to the weapons they need to defend themselves and take their country back.

This is going to be a long war, but I do believe that Ukraine can win its freedom with Western help. American troops aren’t needed, but the American tradition of being the arsenal of democracy certainly is. 

God bless America and Glory to Ukraine.

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UKRAINE WAR REMEMBRANCES: On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, here are some of our articles dealing with the opening days of the wider war.

David’s look at the social media war in the first days of the invasion: 

The Racket News
The Ukraine war in living color
One of the things that Russia apparently has not thought about this week is using its prowess at cyber warfare to shut off the Ukrainian internet. Whether the omission was intentional or not, the videos and pictures streaming out from the combat zones provide a window into a modern conventional war that is hopefully something that will be rarely glimps…
Read more

Steve’s look at the nuclear threat: 

The Racket News
Putin thinks he can win a nuclear war. Trump agreed.
“I think of the future, but I refuse to paint it. Anything can happen. But I often think of nuclear war.” — Donald Trump, in 1990. “[I]f someone decides to annihilate Russia, we have the legal right to retaliate. Yes, it will be a catastrophe for humanity and for the world…but we will ascend to heaven as martyrs, while they will just croak before they kn…
Read more

Jay’s coverage a stirring Zelensky speech: 

The Racket News
I don't want to be a sunshine patriot
Tomorrow morning Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will remotely address Congress concerning the state of Ukraine. No doubt he will make an inspirational plea to the American people and the free world to help his people fight to take back Ukraine from Putin’s army. It will spark our ‘Spirit of ‘76’ that has been dormant as we quarrel among our selves…
Read more

Steve points out that NATO training made the difference for Ukraine between 2014 and 2022: 

The Racket News
Not Putin's failure, NATO's triumph
When Russia’s “little green men” took over Crimea in 2014 with little more than a demonstration by Ukrainian forces, serious people took notice. In the eight following years, Ukraine’s armed forces have remade themselves into a NATO-style military. I’m increasingly convinced what we’re seeing now is not only the failure of Putin’s plan, but the unfoldin…
Read more

David’s look at how Russian losses could deepen the country’s population crisis: 

The Racket News
Putin's war is killing Russia's future
For years, one of my daily routines involved Chuck Colson’s daily Breakpoint commentaries. I started listening to Colson’s short spots on Christian radio and then realized that I could get an email version delivered to my inbox. For those who don’t know or might not remember, Chuck Colson was a special counsel to Richard Nixon. He was known as Nixon’s …
Read more

Steve’s asks just how many cruise missiles Russia has left:

The Racket News
Did Russia shoot its last cruise missiles? It's murky.
As all the news is covering, Vladimir Putin ordered at least 75 missiles fired on Ukrainian cities, targeting civilian centers, energy production and utilities as vengeance for damage to the Kursk Bridge which links Crimea to Russia…
Read more

David’s idea for a Ukrainian drone force that has somewhat fulfilled: 

The Racket News
An idea for Ukraine
Steve and I have both been busy today, so this edition is late in coming out. It’s also going to be short, but I did have an idea that I wanted to discuss. The no-fly zone idea is still being debated. Right now, I don’t think it’s a good idea. When I wrote about no-fly zones last week…
Read more

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SURGERY UPDATE: I wrote a few days ago about my upcoming surgery for prostate cancer. That surgery is now in the books and I thank all of you for your prayers and support. 

I’m now at home. I’m sore but getting around, and the doctors are optimistic that they got the entire cancer. We’re still awaiting the official word on that, but I’m hoping that this will be the end of this chapter of my life. I’m ready to move forward.

I do believe that prayer works. I don’t know how well I would have handled this crisis with God’s Grace and the prayers and support of my family and online and offline friends. Again, you have my deepest thanks.

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Speaking for me personally, I have created a number of new social media accounts as I brace for Twitter’s implosion. I’m not extremely active on any of them yet, but you can find me on Post (@captainkudzu), Mastodon (@captainkudz@mastodon.world), and Counter Social (@captainkudzu@counter.social) at the click of each link.

TWEET OF THE DAY: In today’s tweet of the day, activists turn the street in front of the Russian embassy in London into a giant Ukrainian flag. Enjoy.

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