The Other War

The war in Ukraine is brutal and destructive with a Russia determined to prevail at whatever the cost. The U.S. is not involved except on the periphery by sending military aid to Ukraine, yet evidence is mounting that it was more engaged than assumed in the build-up to the war. The CIA and special operations were giving advice and training to the Ukrainians. A number of biological research labs with leftover Soviet weapons were under U.S. supervision. If as seems likely, Russia finally overcomes the stalwart Ukrainian defense, Hilary Clinton, among others, predicts an insurgency to follow, modeled on the one that defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan some thirty years ago.

If so, it doesn’t seem likely that U.S. attention will turn any time soon to the other war on its border which from almost any point of view is far more threatening to the country. The ambitious, heavily armed, well organized drug cartels make no secret of their aim to fleece the U.S. and ultimately cripple it. That would be revenge, some say, for the U.S. grab of half of Mexico in the 1840’s war. Their tools are the endless drugs and unknown people they pour across the broken U.S. border without let-up. They’re also expanding their illegal and highly profitable marijuana farms in California and Oregon, again with no serious resistance. Their operatives can be found throughout the U.S. directing drug distribution and billions of dollars in payments to helpful hands.

In the past they have tried to avoid harming Americans while ruthlessly murdering Mexicans who get in their way or, frankly, just for the fun of it. But that seems to be changing. Recently, some cartel gunmen opened fire on the U.S. consulate in the border city Nuevo Laredo, apparently in revenge for the arrest of one of their chiefs. No one was hit, but the U.S. took people and families out of the consulate with the ambassador to Mexico expressing “grave concern” to its government.

Cartel Map by Region of Influence, Stratfor Global Intelligence

That followed the usual script that Mexico is a sovereign country with an inviolate border – at least on its side – when in fact it’s a narco state run by the drug cartels who will no doubt dismiss the ambassador’s plea. It might be asked why the U.S is willing to have Russians killed while sparing the cartels. Are they any less threatening or evil? Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is alarmed at the size of the threat. In a recent TV interview he recalled a Mexican attempt to arrest a cartel boss that was thwarted by 700 cartel para military troops with machine guns mounted on trucks. He sees a “president down there who believes in hugs, not bullets and has lost control of the country. And we have no control over that territory and no control of the border.”

The U.S. may not believe in hugs but its reaction has not been a great deal more strenuous. The obvious solution is to put U.S. troops, now scattered in dubious activities around the world, on the embattled border where they can confront the cartels and if necessary cross the border to pursue them in what is a lawless land. Are Americans, increasingly poisoned by Mexican fentanyl disguised as drugs of common usage, not as deserving as Ukrainians? In a year’s time 100 thousand Americans have died in this manner.

Then there are the Mexicans who live in a slaughterhouse almost totally ignored by the U.S. media. For example, the cartels are in the habit of raiding funerals of rivals or other offenders where their targets are sure to show up. After a recent attack in the town of San Jose de Gracia, the number of victims couldn’t be determined since the gunmen cleaned up afterwards and removed the bodies. Maybe seventeen, and had they been dismembered or skinned alive?

A war for the liberation of Mexico is not in the offing, but a resolute U.S. stand on the border would be a start.

Ending the War in Ukraine

Day after day Ukraine is pounded by Russian artillery, giving the world a graphic picture of modern war. The U.S. continues to send military aid to the heroic Ukrainians resisting the Russian attack, but prolonging the war only leads to more death and destruction whatever the eventual outcome. The solution is negotiations now that will resolve the issue in dispute – whether Ukraine joins NATO.

The anomaly is that the Biden Administration and the NATO chief don’t seem to be all that committed to the matter. They say, well, Ukraine may or may not join NATO. We aren’t sure right now. Let’s wait and see. By contrast Russian leader Putin wants an iron-clad agreement right now in writing that Ukraine will not join.

It sounds pedantic, but he has his reasons. On the verge of collapse, the Soviet Union agreed to the reunification of Berlin in return for a U.S. pledge that NATO would not advance eastward toward Moscow. But ten years later that pledge was violated when President Clinton, under pressure from the war-inclined neocons in his administration, brought in three nations to NATO from the former Soviet bloc. Over the protest of Putin, others later followed until reaching today’s total of thirty, four of them on the Russian border – a resolute defense.

At that point Putin drew his red line on Ukraine. He could also cite another intrusion as he sees it. In 2014, neocons in the Obama Administration got involved in an uprising in Ukraine and gave crucial support to the overthrow of the pro-Russian government and its replacement by one friendly to the U.S. Some say they have similar plans for Putin.

Yet so far Putin has not been unreasonable in his demands. Along with a neutral Ukraine, he wants independence for two parts of eastern Ukraine largely populated by Russians and the removal of some weapons directed at Russia from NATO nations. He says he does not want to remove the current government of Ukraine. President Zelensky can continue to stand.

But this is now. Opinions can change along with circumstances as the war progresses. Not too surprisingly, Putin has become a figure of hate. He started the war and, as they say, he has blood on his hands. TV host Sean Hannity asked ex-President Trump if he would declare Putin “evil.” The Don demurred, but there would be a chorus of “yes” in Washington, where support for Ukraine is near total. Hannity and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham have even called for the assassination of Putin.

There remains the possibility of a larger war. The Biden Administration says it doesn’t want any U.S. military involvement, but a growing number of members of the U.S. Congress call for the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine which would lead to shooting down Russian planes and therefore war. That suits the indignant writer of an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. He urges putting NATO troops in western Ukraine to show Putin we mean business, and he may be too intimidated to react.

Looking further afield, the Biden Administration has disclosed that Russia has asked China for military help. The Asian nation will be duly punished with U.S. sanctions if it obliges. This opens the question of a two-front conflict with these increasingly allied nuclear powers. Don’t worry, we’re told, we can handle it and also try to avoid Armageddon.

Let’s instead try negotiations and make sure they succeed.

A Third World War?

It was only twenty-one years after the First World War that the Second World War began. Perhaps it was not time enough for the horrors of total war to sink in. So, it was tried for a second time in 1939 with even more devastating results. The world has not been the same and not necessarily for the better.

Now it has been seventy-six years since World War Two, plenty of time for serious reflection. There’s the added incentive of the danger of ever advancing nuclear weapons whose impact was demonstrated by the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two – its only use but sufficiently instructive.

But has this intervening time been put to thoughtful use? Today’s national leaders appear to have a weak grasp on history, even of recent years. In the internet age knowledge is quick to come by but perhaps too much too soon. We are nothing if not present-minded. Spare us the complicating past.

So, the Ukraine war is the fixation of the moment. A pressing event it is but not seen in context. Like all wars it’s brutal and should be ended as soon as possible, but emotions unrelated to history keep that from happening. Weapons pour in along with rousing rhetoric to keep Ukrainians fighting and also dying with little chance of defeating larger Russia.

There’s understandable agony over civilian deaths which occur in every war, especially from bombing, as the U.S demonstrated in its recent wars. In World War Two – often called the “good war” – Germany, Russia, Britain and the U.S. deliberately targeted civilians in order to break the morale of the enemy population. It didn’t work but the slaughter was prodigious.

Firestorm cloud over Hiroshima, U.S. Army, Aug. 6, 1945

Much-demonized Putin must be judged in the context of Russian history. No easy going, sociable democrat could have pulled Russia out of the chaos he faced on assuming office in 2000 with the legacy of oppressively brutal communism and financiers from abroad looting the country. It took a seasoned operative. Yet he is more vilified by the historically ignorant than the mass-killing Stalin who in his pursuit of world conquest crushed one people after another, including his own. By contrast Putin is a cautious autocrat

The media must read some history so that it doesn’t rediscover Russia time and again. The New York Times, which failed to report the massive starvation caused by Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s, is breezily egging on Ukrainian troops today. A recent piece in the Sunday Times declared that the cold war with Russia today is worse than the one occasioned by Stalin, who imposed his tyrannical regime on all of Eastern Europe and half of Germany after World War Two and later ordered North Korea to attack the south, leading the U.S. into another war. In fact, Stalin and communism are not even mentioned in the piece. It all begins with Putin.

The two world wars at least had the excuse of entangled alliances and clash of ideologies. Today’s Ukrainian war is simplicity itself for which there’s a simple solution: keep Ukraine out of NATO and let serious negotiations bring an end to the war with as little outside interference as possible. The only losers will be those who want to elevate the conflict into a world-shaking event to the detriment of the world.