Niall Ferguson, a British historian, reveals his strategic perspective on the Biden administration’s true motivations about the path of the war in Ukraine in an essay for Bloomberg.
Officially, the US asserts that it is acting in the interest of Ukraine’s security to bolster democracy and reassert the idea of sovereignty, which allows any nation to join an archaic military alliance led by the US on the other side faraway ocean.
Leadership Joe Biden, less formally, has been highlighting the emotional aspect of the US purpose when he seeks to demonize Russia and brand its president as a “war criminal” and a “murderer.”
Biden’s statement demonstrates unequivocally that regardless of the perfectly legal and moral justifications for the US’s substantial financial involvement in the war, the US’ underlying objective displays a vigilante attitude intent on regime change.
The government maintains that it is not considering regime change. However, Ferguson quotes a senior administration source saying that Biden’s “ultimate objective today… is the demise of the Putin government.” Rather than seek a negotiated conclusion to the conflict, the historian concludes, the US “intends to prolong this war.”
As is customary in foreign policy topics, Ferguson observes a considerable convergence of viewpoints within his government.
He quotes an unidentified source stating that the United Kingdom’s “primary objective is to prolong the conflict and thereby bleed Putin.”
Ferguson characterizes the American goal to “let the slaughter in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the brave Ukrainians ‘bleed Russia dry'” as “archetypal Realpolitik” a bit later in the piece.
Ferguson dared to challenge the prevailing notion in the United States that bleeding Russia is a surefire prescription for victory.
“Prolonging the war risks killing tens of thousands of Ukrainians and displacing millions and providing Putin with something he can convincingly sell as success at home,” he writes.
When both bleeding and extending the conflict are prioritized, there is a substantial possibility that the bleeding will be shared. If a boxer notices a cut above his opponent’s eye, he may tactically concentrate all of his blows on the opponent’s face to score a technical knockout.
However, by focusing exclusively on blood loss, he risks being knocked unconscious or opening his bleeding wound.
“I see no indication in the current Western strategy of how poorly this conflict may turn out for Ukraine in the next weeks,” Ferguson says.
The explanation for this might be that the hyperreal moment in which the Western world is currently living is too delightful to criticize, at least for the media.
The more horrific stories of assaults on innocent citizens that hit the news, the more the media can play the ethically good game of providing another reason to despise Vladimir Putin.
Suppose the White House is focused, as it looks to be, on hurting Russia. In that case, all the allegations of Russian maltreatment of heroic people are meant to prolong the conflict, hoping that Russians, disgraced by Putin’s inability to break Ukraine’s resistance, will rebel and remove the wicked tyrant.
Meanwhile, those Ukrainians who remain are being asked to take on the role of spectators while their nation is reduced to rubble.
Ferguson speculates that US strategists have come to regard the fight as a simple subplot in Cold War II, one in which China is the true adversary. That would be a lofty goal, fraught with complications.
However, the Biden administration has proved its inability to address even simple challenges efficiently, from enacting the Build Back Better framework in the United States to handling a pandemic.
Ukraine’s position is entwined with geopolitics, the global economy, and, perhaps most significantly, the shifting perceptions of US influence held by the public and governments worldwide.
After his article, the historian describes this as an example of dangerous overreach, claiming that “the Biden administration is making a monumental error in believing it can prolong the Ukraine war, bleed Russia dry, destabilize Putin, and signal to China to keep its hands off Taiwan.”
Everyone should be aware of one critical reality concerning Americans’ perceptions of the Ukraine War. Today’s media outlets are very aware of the American public’s voracious thirst for the appropriate amount of deception.
Niall Ferguson argues that the US government may be incapable of supplying it. Over the last century, the history of deception in times of conflict should give some guidance.
Major General Smedley Butler published a book in 1935 explaining the reasons for his service on many continents. It was titled “War Is a Swindle.”
He characterized America’s view of war as a pursuit of corporate profit. He attempted to convince the nation of the inhumanity inherent in such an attitude to armed action.
He failed as a result of his delay in the game. In 1917, Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” manipulated the American people into believing that the nation’s invasions and wars were only to promote democracy. Bernays coined the slogan “make the globe safe for democracy” for Woodrow Wilson.
Bernays counseled on international policy for the remainder of his life, justifying regime change when it threatened a customer’s business.
In 1953, while working for United Fruit, he aided President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, in overthrowing Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Arbenz.
Arbenz had a proposal to allocate “unused land” monopolized by United Fruit to the country’s impoverished peasants.
In a 2007 Financial Times story, Peter Chapman revealed that both Dulles brothers served as “legal consultants” to United Fruit. Chapman recalls that the business was also involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion conducted by the CIA in 1961.
In other words, when it came to their influence on the American mind, Bernays, the public relations guy, vanquished Butler, who was hailed at the time as America’s greatest living war hero.
His renown was such that a group of influential fascist-leaning businessmen attempted to enroll him in the infamous 1933 “Business Plot” to topple President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Americans continue to flock around Bernays’ brilliance in distilling a questionable worldview into a memorable phrase.
American interventions in other countries are presented as valiant endeavors to advance democracy and American enterprise (Butler called them rackets). It is a populace voracious consumer of the media’s profusion of falsehoods.
There are, however, unusual instances when genuine knowledge penetrates, albeit it rarely makes a lasting impression. Last week, the Pentagon revealed information contradicting the narrative embraced and supported by the State Department, the intelligence community, and the US media.
According to the Defense Department, Russia’s invasion was not an unbridled vengeance against the Ukrainian people. “As damaging as the Ukraine war is,” Newsweek says, “Russia is inflicting less damage and killing fewer civilians than it might.”
The US military establishment refers to it as the “Russian President’s strategic balancing act,” noting Russia’s caution. It judges realistically that, far from attempting to control and conquer Ukraine, Putin’s “objective is to seize enough land on the ground to have something to bargain with, while placing the Ukrainian government in a position to negotiate.”
Ferguson has gathered his information about the US and UK policy, which “helps to explain, among other things, the US’s complete absence of diplomatic efforts to obtain a cease-fire.”
This also explains President Joe Biden’s willingness to label Putin a war criminal. ” Peace is not a goal. That is what punishment is. It is an example in which the Pentagon has heeded Smedley Butler’s message and has dared to defy a government led by Edward Bernays’ rationale.