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July 18, 2018

For Those Insistent That We Must Fight a Hypothetical Future War on Behalf of Montenegro, Because American Honor Demands It: You Know, It's Not Too Late to Declare War on Russia for the Ukraine

Background: Sorry for not including this. Last night, Tucker Carlson asked Trump why his (Carlson's) son should die to protect new NATO signatory Montengero. Trump expressed a lot of doubt about going to war for Montenegro.

The usual neocon suspects -- Noah Rothman, David French, etc., as well as the suddenly gung-ho-to-kill-Russkies socialist left -- are foaming about even asking serious questions about what America would actually do if Russia invaded Montenegro.

While they fulminate and salivate, I can't help noticing that Russia did in fact invade another country that the US made security guarantees to, and the US did nothing much about it, and they themselves did not advocate for War in the Ukraine. Almost as if their mouths are writing a lot of checks their asses (and political viability) can't cover.

So I do think it's fair to ask what, realistically, the US is willing to do when faced with the possibility of a war with Russia.

One big problem I have with Trump's answer is that he's talking about a country we've already made a part of NATO. Not a wise decision -- but that ship has sailed. We already made that guarantee.

However, I do think it's worth talking about this question so that we stop making guarantees to everyone in the world, and maybe get more realistic about what we'd actually do if Russia invaded a country that wasn't a part of the core original treaty group of Western Europe. Our lack of resolve in the Ukraine suggests that the American foreign policy establishment likes making guarantees it has virtually no intention of ever honoring.


If we're going to be serious about treaty commitments, then we have to be serious about all treaty commitments -- the commitments where there's an actual invasion going on that legally requires US action, now, and not just those more-fun-to-chat-about hypothetical future invasions.

Which are safer to discuss politically, of course, because no US troops are currently demanded for the cause.

In the meantime, the unchastened neocons choose to selectively forget that the United States made security guarantees to Ukraine, promising to protect it in case of Russian invasion, and we have chosen to ignore those obligations.

And I don't hear the neocons squawking much about that. Because, to honor those obligations would require immediate US entry into a war against Russia, which would be incredibly unpopular.

So instead they jerk themselves off about fantasy future hypotheticals about Montenegro.

How about talking about the obligations we're currently in default of honoring, neocons?

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances refers to three identical political agreements signed at the OSCE conference in Budapest, Hungary on 5 December 1994, providing security assurances by its signatories relating to the accession of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The memorandum was originally signed by three nuclear powers, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland, and the United States Of America. China and France gave somewhat weaker individual assurances in separate documents.

The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

As a result, between 1994 and 1996, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. Before that, Ukraine had the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile, of which Ukraine had physical if not operational control....

Following the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, the US, Canada, the UK, along with other countries, stated that Russian involvement was a breach of its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum, a Memorandum transmitted to the United Nations under the signature of Sergei Lavrov, amongst others, and in violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The US asked Ukraine to give up its huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons in exchange for guarantees that we would protect their independence and territorial integrity from Russian interference or invasion.

Russia has interfered and has, for all practical purposes, invaded.

So why aren't the neocons demanding a declaration of war against Russia?

Oh, for the usual reasons. They're not serious people. They like talking tough but they understand that their prescriptions are wildly unpopular, so they don't really push very hard for much action; they mostly just play the weakling's favorite game talking the toughest without actually trying to get into a fight.

One trick the necons are trying right now is arguing that by making guarantees that we will fight wars on behalf of people they know damn well we will not fight on behalf of, we will somehow actually avoid fighting on behalf of the people we're not going to fight on behalf of in any situation.

First of all, this more of Obama's Red Line strategy -- and the neocons are nothing at all like Obama, they'll assure you.

Claiming you have a "Red Line" which you will go to war to defend while knowing you will not go to war to defend that Red Line projects weakness, not strength.

Second, telling people to get on board with a treaty that requires them to go to war to defend another country actually reduces the chances of having to go to war at all fails, intentionally, to prepare the country for the idea that seriously, this treaty means you have to go to war if the other state invokes its rights under the treaty.

It's like getting someone to sign a contract and agree to a contract provision against their own interest by telling them that the contract provision will never actually be enforced, and is just required to be in the contract to "satisfy shareholders."

I've heard this bullshit personally. Pro-Tip: Any contract provision adverse to you should be read as really, really real, and you should only sign if you are very comfortable having that same adverse provision applied in full against you.

Merely hoping and praying it will never be used against you is a legally ruinous strategy.

That said: If the war salesmen are telling people the treaty guarantees will not be invoked, then how can you actually try to invoke them later?

The whole point of a contract -- or a treaty -- is to have a meeting of minds on key points, actual in-fact agreement as to the terms; the neocons' hucksterism in selling Americans on treaty obligations they claim Americans will never actually be obliged to honor is dishonest -- and the American people would rightly refuse to honor such an obligation if demanded later, noting, correctly, that the people pushing on this them told them that they'd never have to actually go to war if they signed this document saying they'd go to war.

Finally -- how does making such guarantees for Montenegro reduce the chances that Russia will actually invade Montenegro when Russia has actually invaded Ukraine and we're already currently dishonoring our obligations to come to Urkaine's defense?

If we're not serious about honoring our obligations in Ukraine -- which the tough-talking neocon Chairborne Rangers are quite happy to be unserious about -- why would Montenegro assume we're any more serious?

Why would Russia assume we're serious about Montenegro if not serious about Ukraine?

So get to agitating for full war, Neocons. Your Sacred Principles demand nothing less. The only way to insure peace for Montenegro in the future is to declare war in Ukraine in the now.

Finally, a little history lesson: the other thing the unchastened, never-learn-a-thing neocons are claiming is that the only defense against war is a series of defensive treaties in which we all guarantee to go to war on each other's behalf. This will prevent war, the theory goes, because the treaty system promises such incalculably dire consequences -- a whole world at war for invading Montenegro -- that no one would actually dare to set off the spark that sets the war on fire.

This is true -- sometimes. Sometimes, the threat of the whole world going to war over a small territorial dispute in a tiny Balkans state does in fact stay everyone's hand from taking the action that will plunge us into war.

On the other hand, sometimes a complex web of treaties and defensive alliances actually causes the entire world to go to war when Russia infringes upon the territorial integrity of a small Balkans region country.

It was called the Great War. World War One. People assumed that the web of treaties in which half of Europe pledged itself to defend the tiny Balkan region state of Serbia and the other half of Europe was pledged to assist the German Central Powers and Austro-Hungary in their attempt to punish Serbia for its role (whatever that might be) in the death of the Archduke Ferdinand.

So it's not quite true to say sprawling networks of alliances always prevent catastrophically large conflagrations. It's not even true of the Balkans region, or of countries sometimes known as Yugoslavia.

Sometimes you can forestall war by making war such an unimaginably large disaster that people refrain from war.

But sometimes this doesn't work, and instead the system of alliances and ententes delivers to you the same unimaginably large disaster you were using as a chit to scare people away from a much smaller war.

One last point: They say, correctly, that when you pass a law, you should accept the fact that this law is so critical that you are willing to empower agents of the state to straight-up shoot and kill people to enforce that law.

You should not have any illusions about this; a law is, unavoidably, Force and Coercion, and when you pass a law, you must make sure that it is important enough a thing to make the killing of citizens who may disagree with that law an acceptable casualty.

The same is obviously true of treaty obligations: One must ask, before entering a war alliance, if the interests to be advanced are actually worth killing a lot of people, and sacrificing a lot of our own countrymen.

And they should be sold to our countrymen as they actually are: as formal, legal, moral guarantees that we will sacrifice our own sons for the sake of the alliance.

And people need to be told that, and have it explained to them why this alliance really is that important, to require the sacrifice of our sons.

It is unserious to present war alliances as only proofs against war. A serious and honest commentator must also tell people that this obligation to go to war for another country may very well obligate us to go to war for another country.

Selling a war alliance as a clever method of avoiding all war is the work of a dishonest swindler selling unfavorable contract terms to someone by lying about what those terms actually are.

So sure: Let's have an honest discussion about which countries we are willing to go to war for, and which we are not.

We're apparently unwilling to go to war for Ukraine. Until Trump, we weren't even willing to provide Ukraine with lethal aid with which to defend themselves; but obviously, both before Trump and after Trump, we're not willing to go to actual war for them.

Which the self-righteous, we'll-fight-our-enemies-to-the-last-man-from-the-non-political-classes neocons are perfectly fine with (given that none of them utters a peep about honoring our Sacred Obligations in Ukraine).

Which other countries are we not willing to sacrifice the last non-DC-resident-life for? Any others? Or is it just Ukraine?

More: How About Turkey? Are We Willing to Really Go to War on Behalf of the Islamist Country and NATO Member Turkey?

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posted by Ace of Spades at 03:52 PM

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