Diogenes, one of the ancient world’s illustrious philosophers, believed that lies were the currency of politics, and those lies were the ones he sought to expose and debase. To make his point, Diogenes occasionally carried a lit lantern through the streets of Athens in the daylight. If asked why, Diogenes would say he was searching for an honest man.
Finding an honest man today in Washington, D.C., is equally challenging. Diogenes would need a Xenon Searchlight in each hand.
Still, there are brief moments of clarity inside the Washington establishment. Having lied prolifically for months to the American public about the origins and conduct of the war in Ukraine, the media are now preparing the American, British, and other Western publics for Ukraine’s military collapse. It is long overdue.
The Western media did everything in its power to give the Ukrainian defense the appearance of far greater strength than it really possessed. Careful observers noted that the same video clips of Russian tanks under attack were shown repeatedly. Local counterattacks were reported as though they were operational maneuvers.
Russian errors were exaggerated out of all proportion to their significance. Russian losses and the true extent of Ukraine’s own losses were distorted, fabricated, or simply ignored. But conditions on the battlefield changed little over time. Once Ukrainian forces immobilized themselves in static defensive positions inside urban areas and the central Donbas, the Ukrainian position was hopeless. But this development was portrayed as failure by the Russians to gain “their objectives.”
Ground-combat forces that immobilize soldiers in prepared defenses will be identified, targeted, and destroyed from a distance. When persistent overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, whether manned or unmanned, are linked to precision guided-strike weapons or modern artillery systems informed by accurate targeting data, “holding ground” is fatal to any ground force. This is all the more true in Ukraine, because it was apparent from the first action that Moscow focused on the destruction of Ukrainian forces, not on the occupation of cities or the capture of Ukrainian territory west of the Dnieper River.
The result has been the piecemeal annihilation of Ukrainian forces. Only the episodic infusion of U.S. and allied weapons kept Kiev’s battered legions in the field; legions that are now dying in great numbers thanks to Washington’s proxy war.
Kiev’s war with Moscow is lost. Ukrainian forces are being bled white. Trained replacements do not exist in sufficient numbers to influence the battle, and the situation grows more desperate by the hour. No amount of U.S. and allied military aid or assistance short of direct military intervention by U.S. and NATO ground forces can change this harsh reality.
The problem today is not ceding territory and population to Moscow in Eastern Ukraine that Moscow already controls. The future of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions along with the Donbas is decided. Moscow is also likely to secure Kharkov and Odessa, two cities that are historically Russian and Russian-speaking, as well as the territory that adjoins them. These operations will extend the conflict through the summer. The problem now is how to stop the fighting.
Whether the fighting stops in the early fall will depend on two key factors. The first involves the leadership in Kiev. Will the Zelensky government consent to the Biden program for perpetual conflict with Russia?
If the Biden administration has its way, Kiev will continue to operate as a base for the buildup of new forces poised to threaten Moscow. In practice, this means Kiev must commit national suicide by exposing the Ukrainian heartland west of the Dnieper River to massive, devastating strikes by Russia’s long-range missile and rocket forces.
Of course, these developments are not inevitable. Berlin, Paris, Rome, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Vilnius, Riga, Tallin, and, yes, even Warsaw, do not have to blindly follow Washington’s lead. Europeans, like most Americans, are already peering into the abyss of an all-encompassing economic downturn that Biden’s policies are creating at home. Unlike Americans who must cope with the consequences of Biden’s ill-conceived policies, European governments can opt out of Biden’s perpetual-war plan for Ukraine.
The second factor involves Washington itself. Having poured more than $60 billion or a little more than $18 billion a month in direct or indirect transfers into a Ukrainian state that is now crumbling, the important question is, what happens to millions of Ukrainians in the rest of the country that did not flee? And where will the funds come from to rebuild Ukraine’s shattered society in a developing global economic emergency?
When inflation costs the average American household an extra $460 per month to buy the same goods and services this year as they did last year, it is quite possible that Ukraine could sink quietly beneath the waves like the Titanic without evoking much concern in the American electorate. Experienced politicians know that the American span of attention to matters beyond America’s borders is so short that an admission of defeat in Ukraine would probably have little or no immediate consequences.
However, the effects of repeated strategic failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria are cumulative. In the 1980s, General Motors wanted to dictate the kind of automobiles Americans would buy, but American consumers had different ideas. That’s why G.M., which dominated the U.S. market for 77 years, lost its top spot to Toyota. Washington cannot dictate all outcomes, nor can Washington escape accountability for its profligate spending and having ruined American prosperity.
In November, Americans will go to the polls. The election itself will do more than test the integrity of the American electoral process. The election is also likely to ensure that Biden is remembered for his intransigence; his refusal to change course, like Herbert Hoover in 1932. Democrats will recall that their predecessors in the Democratic Party effectively ran against Hoover for more than a half century. Republicans may end up running against Joe Biden for the next 50 years.
Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.