Political Observer on two possible strategies of analysis.
There are two possible approaces to Mr. Stephens’ propaganda: one is to engage in a reductivism, that uses the Topic Sentences as the beginning of a critique: Stephens is enamored short sentences, that frame verbose paragraphs. The other choice is the treat this essay as what it is, propaganda, that manipulates the emotions of the reader. In sum the people Mr. Stephens comments upon are ether good or bad, this is Political Melodrama. It qualifies in the cinematic language of the beginning of Movies: when now viewed the movement of the actors is visually distorted.
The fist two comments are set pieces, to establish the moral/political superiority of Stephens. It is an Olympian View as interpreted by a Neo-Conservative, framed as giving ‘advice’ to Macron and Scholz.
To President Emmanuel Macron of France, a suggestion:
If, as a report in The Wall Street Journal suggests, you are convinced the war in Ukraine is destined for a bloody stalemate, and would like to encourage Kyiv to enter “peace talks” with Moscow that would leave Russia in possession of large tracts of conquered territory, why not lead by example? Publicly suggest the return of Alsace to Germany as evidence that you, too, believe that territorial sovereignty should be negotiable.
To Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, another suggestion:
If you’re going to dangle the prospect of closer ties between Ukraine and NATO (but not full membership) as a way of pushing Kyiv into a diplomatic settlement with Moscow, why not invite several battalions of Russian armor to the vicinity of Berlin? That would demonstrate that you, too, are willing to adjust the verdict of 1991 to mollify the Kremlin’s resentment, greed and paranoia.
If The Reader has paid attention to these set pieces, which are then the subject of a self-critique by Stephens:
These are preposterous suggestions. That’s the point. Those who now argue that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine needs to be “realistic” or “pragmatic” — that is, that he should stop short of pursuing a complete Russian withdrawal from all occupied Ukrainian territories — are proposing a solution they would never countenance for their own countries under ordinary circumstances, let alone during a struggle for national survival.
In the next paragraph The Reader confronts Stephens’ profession of faith the leadership of Joe Biden:
That’s why, as the war in Ukraine enters its second year, I feel grateful for Joe Biden. Fault him all you want on many issues, particularly his gradualist approach to arming Ukraine, but on the most consequential question of our time he has the big thing right. “Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased,” he said last week in Warsaw. “They must be opposed.”
That’s not a voice of fusty morality. It’s one of experience, foresight, military realism and political prudence.
The political advisors of Biden are Neo-Cons and Liberal Hawks: Victoria Nuland, Samantha Power, Wendy Sherman, Jon Finer etc. As reported in The New York Times.
Headline: Biden to Tap More Former Obama Officials for Top National Security Jobs
Sub-headline: The president-elect is turning to trusted former colleagues to manage complex negotiations with Iran and Russia.
With the Neo-Cons and Liberal Hawks as ‘advisors’ to Biden, Stephens is comfortable with his ‘leadership’. Now seems to be the moment when those once discarded, by me, Topic Sentences become a usable analytic tool ?
Experience, because the world has come to know Vladimir Putin very well over his 23 years in power. We know he does not honor the terms of any agreements to which Russia is bound, from the Cold War-era I.N.F. Treaty to the more recent Minsk agreements.
Foresight, because a negotiated settlement would create more problems than it would solve.
Military realism, because the lesson of the first year of war is that Moscow can be defeated.
As for prudence, musing openly about the need for eventual negotiations harms Ukraine’s solidarity and morale, both key factors for its survival and success.
Calls for negotiation also undermine public support for Ukraine in the United States.
President Biden likes to say that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
The final two paragraphs of Stephens’ fevered enthusiasm for war, a fixation on combat, not born of any experience of its stark realities. At least the unapologetic hawk Joe Alsop, had an idea of what actual war was like, in WWII and Korea. Mr. Stephens is not just careless of the lives of strangers, but an un-thinking, unfeeling acolyte of Henry Kissinger, in his glory days with Nixon!
That’s why it makes no sense for the administration to slow-roll arms deliveries to Ukraine or drop heavy hints that Ukraine is unlikely ever to retake Crimea. Biden’s goal for 2023 should be clear and direct: victory for Ukraine. He can accomplish it through the rapid delivery of game-changing military equipment combined with a diplomatic offensive in which we propose Ukrainian membership in NATO if Russia doesn’t withdraw. Maybe that could even give Putin his off-ramp for surrender.
After a year of war, I’m more confident than ever that Biden will make the right choice. That’s more than can be said for Macron, Scholz and the other pale shadows of what passes for statesmanship in the free world.