The price of appeasement and how to stop it
April 22, 2022
(JNS) — The year so far finds the Western alliance at a crossroads. Unable to comprehend the Axis assembled against the American-led world order, the Biden administration is actively empowering our adversaries and rendering a new world war vastly more likely. It is just as Winston Churchill said long ago — an appeaser is someone who feeds his friends to the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
For a moment after the shocking Russian assault on Ukraine, we almost forgot the Biden administration’s reckless abandonment of the 20-year commitment to an Afghanistan that was not a terrorist haven or an oppressor of women and minorities. Leading from behind occasionally works out when, as here, our European allies woke up from decades of hazy somnolence and recognized that their nations will assuredly be targeted next if violent aggression is not countered.
Yet the administration’s response, initially strong in the face of European pressure, has faltered and is now veering toward the pathetic. It has publicly prevented our allies from sending new airplanes to the valiant Ukrainian Air Force still contesting the skies over Kyiv and resisted sending the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that could protect Ukraine’s exposed Black Sea Coast. Unable to understand the sudden uptick in the polls that accompanied his accidental appearance of strength, U.S. President Joe Biden is now trying desperately to avoid any pro-Ukraine resupply deemed too “provocative” to Moscow. In so doing, he vastly increases the chances of a Russian invasion of Europe — only Russia, not NATO, would deliberately start World War III, and only if Russian President Vladimir Putin is convinced of America’s moral cowardice. China, for its part, has been far less cautious and is purportedly in talks to further supply the Russian army.
Similarly shocking has been the administration’s reluctance to plug the biggest hole in its economic sanctions on Russia — the West’s purchase of billions of dollars of Russian oil per day. Only after being embarrassed by a newly hawkish House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and facing defeat in Congress did Biden agree to cut America off of Russian oil, even as our Europeans allies have been allowed to continue their investment. It is in this context that we must understand the administration’s insistence that it has, after all, sent $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine; the European Union alone purchases $1 billion in Russian oil per day. That is to say, we and our allies are not funding the Ukrainian victims and the Russian aggressors equally; we are contributing far more to Russia’s genocidal efforts than to Ukraine’s heroic resistance.
More disturbing still is the Biden administration’s real response to the ban on Russian oil so begrudgingly enacted. Even before placing the ban and stopping Americans’ gas money going to the Russian war machine, the administration doubled down on trying to reintroduce Venezuelan and Iranian oil to the world market to offset the missing Russian oil.
So why not good old American and Canadian oil? The administration cannot square the circle of its Day One cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as its moratoria on offshore and Alaskan drilling. It is even trying to sell the American people on the fallacy that U.S. companies are “price gouging” their consumers, as if oil and gas were not a fixed-price commodity whose fluctuations are well known to even casual market watchers.
The most alarming aspect of this approach has been the Biden administration’s rush to re-enable Russia’s ally Iran by entering into a broad agreement that would remove sanctions and pave the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Predictably, the Iranians know that they are in the catbird seed and have responded with violence — namely, missile strikes landing near the U.S. consulate in Erbil, the chief city of Iraqi Kurdistan.
On Fox News Sunday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman declared that the Iranians were not targeting the U.S. government and that the violence would not be allowed to derail America’s negotiations to remove Iranian sanctions. Initially, Iran watchers could only assume that she was channeling the spirit of Russian propaganda: She knows she’s lying, she knows we know she’s lying, but she lies anyway. But it turns out it may be worse. Unconfirmed reports have emerged that Iran was targeting some kind of clandestine Israeli presence and that the United States has made a decision to throw its allies under the bus (again).
Let’s recall how this era of authoritarian aggression started — with the Obama administration abandoning its “dotted red line” against chemical weapons use in Syria as its leader, Bashar Assad, gassed his people to cling to power. Now, Russia is raising “false flag” allegations that the Ukrainians are developing nuclear or biological weapons, apparently as a preemptive justification for using weapons of mass destruction in Europe for the first time since 1918. Biden’s response has been to pledge that no matter what, America won’t go to war over Ukraine or any non-NATO country.
Would we go to war over an invasion of Taiwan? South Korea? Japan? Finland? Biden’s weaselly legalism gives one cause for doubt.
So the American superman stands hobbled, the spirit of 1989 replaced by the spirit of 1939 as nation after nation falls to fascist aggression while a weak-kneed West mistakes cowardice for wisdom. Even Obama had the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine; Biden proves time and again why Obama once claimed that Biden was “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Now Congress must lead. Certainly, it should keep engaging with the Biden administration, but it should not expect that many better angels will be found in the president’s nature. Instead, he has become the new Neville Chamberlain and should be treated as a willing Russian-Iranian stooge, and Congress must anticipate and overcome his resistance to supporting our allies.
Because we must be perfectly clear: Feeding Ukraine to Russia, Taiwan to China, and giving nuclear weapons to Iran will not prevent World War III but assure it. The surviving democracies will simply be starting in a much worse position.
Smith is an Iraq War veteran and political analyst who is a frequent commentator on “Fox News” and a contributor for Turning Point USA, an advocacy group for young conservatives. He is also the author of the new book, Always a Soldier: Service, Sacrifice and Coming Out as America’s Favorite Black, Gay Republican.