From the onset of the current Israeli-Hamas conflict, the statements from the Joe Biden administration and Congress were crystal clear: America is the indispensable nation, and we’re rich and powerful enough to be able to afford two wars to guarantee the safety of the world. Even with the displeasure over an unstoppable growth in debt and a declining economy, the message to both the domestic and international audiences is DC will get involved wherever it need be. We will remain in Ukraine and Israel and will go elsewhere to destroy anything that is perceived to be a threat to “democracy” lest the threat arrives at our doorstep.
But maintaining credibility abroad as paranoia runs rampant in DC comes at a price: people aren’t accepting lies about the “booming” Biden economy and the rapid increase in national debt over years of fiscal irresponsibility. While the Kremlin failed to overrun Kiev, the often-promoted narrative of a breakthrough has fallen apart. Whether Ukraine or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), many inside both institutions have conceded that the war has to conclude, even if it now appears to be the consensus that Ukraine has to lose the Southeastern territory.
Yet none were surprised, other than the experts and the strategists of DC who relentlessly held onto the idea of an eventual breakthrough. One at a time, skeptics like John Mearsheimer were vindicated. The billions of high-tech weaponry didn’t deliver for an outmanned and poorly trained military. Russia may have suffered immense damage, but the price to pay for continuing the proxy war has greater implications for the West than merely billions.
Goodbye, Albright. Hello, Nixon?
While support for Israel is unwavering in DC and the West, a serious consideration from Western heads of state for negotiating with Moscow indicates a potential policy change. While the situation in Gaza continues to mount serious challenges, alienating the Third World by continuing the war in Ukraine is noticed (or might be), which would be a blow to Western influence on the global stage. Russia now has a bloodied nose, so Ukraine no longer matters as Vladimir Putin would not demand more than securing access to the Black Sea.
In any case, Putin would likely accept the deal with sanctions removed and no security guarantee from NATO to Ukraine, then opt for a semi neutral posture to counter the influence on China from advancing into Central Asia while keeping a keen eye on the West. A pivot to Russia will not occur as Putin (and the broader Russian elite) won’t simply trade Chinese domination for Western domination. Russia will opt for a strategy similar to Third World countries while keeping Central Asia under close watch, keeping a check on Beijing’s influence. There won’t be an invasion of the Baltic states or even Finland, but Ukraine will be untouchable for NATO.
More importantly, ending the war in Ukraine would warm the relations between the Third World and the West. Since the mid to late 2010s, China’s growing assertiveness attracted attention from the West before being labeled as a threat today. While the Third World has been incredibly receptive to China, they also value balancing their relations with the great powers to maximize investments. For DC, the goal is to shrink China’s influence in the Third World, which means accepting authoritarianism and corruption in the Third World to a greater degree. However, the war in Ukraine disrupted grain shipments, and by continuing a war that many of them blamed on the West, DC will only make way for more Chinese influence.
Realpolitik Will Be the New Interventionism
Undoubtedly, many in the Beltway are unwilling to admit that there have been significant changes in substance, unlike some of the Republican candidates who vowed a return to Nixonian realism as an alternative to ineffective liberal-progressive interventionism. The argument often heard from Ukraine skeptics is we could have been managing those resources better had it not been for the paranoia and the “do or die” narrative over Ukraine (a narrative that’s now falling apart among Ukraine’s backers in DC).
While there is fierce resistance to Ukraine, conservatives have remained skeptical of Israel, China is simply an existential threat, and the real risk of Hunter Biden (and Joe Biden) making a nice profit from the shady businesses in China with direct links to Beijing is a matter of concern, acceptance of government intervention in what appears to be a crisis remain prevalent. People on the right and a handful on the left accept the idea that it is unfeasible to conduct forever wars, especially in the interest of making the world safe for a liberal-progressive order, but the necessity of war to target a “narrowly defined” national interest when deemed critical will be the new line.
But don’t celebrate yet. While the never-ending wars in the Middle East and Ukraine are receiving a bad reputation from both the public and even the Beltway dwellers, the recalibration will be minor at best; there may be a more robust check on the idea or hypocritical rhetoric for that matter. On defending democracy abroad, national interests will garner more votes. But neither people nor the experts are well informed.
In other words, the realpolitik camp will become the mainstream and the establishment. In foreign policy, the predominant view won’t lean toward neutrality, especially with what appears to be an ever-growing China becoming more expansionist as time goes on. The conventional wisdom remains regardless of who will ascend to the White House, whether a seventy-year-old lifelong politician or a millennial with no political background. “Do more” will remain a motto for a reason: China hawks, especially ones on the left, are the ones who prefer many of China’s authoritarian impulses without understanding the reality of China’s misery.
Therefore, expect them to take inspiration from China’s crony regulatory regime for technology like artificial intelligence and semiconductors. Expect more bailouts for autocrats worldwide while taxpayers are going through heavy burdens from inflation, as well as further bankrupting the country. And there might be no guarantee that American soldiers will be deployed elsewhere, especially with Israel and Mexico in mind. Toppling down the morally fallacious argument of “spreading democracy around the world” is a small fish, especially when the phrase “national interest” has been liked by Machiavellian central planners throughout history.