The Outstater

March 3, 2022

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS covering politicians it is hard to admit they still terrify me. 

This week it was particularly so, beginning with Joe Biden’s blunt assertion that we shouldn’t worry about nuclear war. Is there something he isn’t sharing? Do we have a secret weapon that will render all of the mad men in the world harmless? 

He didn’t say. But if Biden, who has misjudged so much, says we shouldn’t worry about nuclear war, we should be very worried about nuclear war. 

And former Vice President Mike Pence, who hurried to the Ukrainian border for photo ops, promised to drum out of the Republican Party any “apologist for Putin.” Would that be anyone in the next presidential primary who might disagree with his position?

Then there was Pence’s man Eric Holcomb’s declaration that Indiana was in effect going to war with Russia. Governor Holcomb’s executive orders (issued in the middle of the fire and brimstone of full-scale shooting and bombing 5,000 miles away) are worth repeating here for their vapidity alone:

How exactly Vladimir Putin will get the message was unclear. Indiana does not have a Russian consulate.

Also, there is the matter of consistency. Holcomb is unconcerned that students sworn to the Chinese Communist Party now make up an income stream (tuition) at Indiana universities comparable to that provided by the state of Indiana itself. Nor did he pause to think that the random Afghans he so warmly welcomed earlier this year might involve security risks.

What is worrisome, however, is not necessarily limited to Holcomb’s decisions. It is his thought process. Holcomb sees no problem with trying to set foreign policy from a governor’s seat, or at least aping the recommendations of friends in Washington. We are to believe he was able to untangle in days, perhaps hours, an event that has turned global politics upside down and will be studied in war colleges for generations.

It is as if these people think foreign policy — indeed, going to war — is merely a matter of determining who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. 

It is of course more complicated than that. There is the question, “Compared to what?” Assessing the moral standing of insular regimes operating in foreign cultures executing multiple strategies along shifting fronts is a tricky business. It is often an irrelevant one. Adolph Hitler and Osama bin Laden aside, it is rarely obvious who is the greatest threat to U.S. interest at any given time.

And that — our national interest — is what a serious discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war should be about. It is so far outside Holcomb’s job description his comments can best be understood as delusions of grandeur. — tcl


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