Just Biden His Time

CommentaryThere he goes again! Almost as soon as he took office last year, President Joe Biden heralded the new era in American diplomacy by calling Vladimir Putin, president of the country’s chief rival as a nuclear super-power, a “killer” without a human soul. Now everybody knows—at least everybody who has been paying attention knows—that Putin actually is a killer. Whether he has a soul or not is a matter of some dispute, since former President George W. Bush claimed to have looked into it. And yet, for several centuries now at least, it has been considered very bad diplomatic manners to mention a thing like that in public, particularly when the person you are so insulting is heavily armed, demonstrably inclined to use his weaponry, and likely to take offense at such an insult, as Putin in fact did. Anyway, what seems to have elicited this breach of good manners on the part of our president was not any concern for those the Russian dictator was supposed to have killed—many fewer than he has killed since—but an attempt to get a little more mileage out of the Democrats’ “Russian collusion” narrative, which had lately fallen on hard times and been downgraded to mere “Russian meddling” in America’s elections. As in so many other ways, what Biden thought was good for himself and the Democrats turned out to be very bad for America. And the Ukrainians. And, very possibly, the world. His promise at the time to “punish” the Russian president for his meddling—the nature of the punishment was left unspecified—may not have led directly to the military alliance that was concluded between Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China a few months later, but it certainly did nothing to hinder it. And it lent some credence to the two dictators’ claims of being threatened by the United States that were cited among the principal reasons for their alliance—which was concluded just in time to ensure Chinese support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine that followed it almost immediately. You might have thought that, having had to resort to such a rhetorical big bang right off the bat like that, the American president would have been left with little scope for stepping up the verbal pressure on his adversary in response to the invasion. But he has proved equal to the challenge. First, he claimed that America’s war aims—though of course America was not to be supposed to be at war—comprised “regime change” in Russia, effectively cutting Putin off, so far as we were concerned anyway, from any chance of reconsidering or even calling off his invasion, as the brave resistance of the Ukrainians might otherwise have persuaded him to do. Then, as if such burning of his bridges were not enough, Biden proceeded to blow them up by announcing that he considered Putin to have been guilty of “war crimes.” The Russian strong-man was in effect being put on notice that his choices—again, so far as the United States was concerned—were reduced to only two. They were the same two that were faced long ago by ancient Roman generals: victory or suicide. Nobody seems to have considered the advisability of offering such a choice to a war leader armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. Though some, even some in his own administration, considered this threat escalation to be a gaffe on Biden’s part, others—most notably professor Niall Ferguson—saw it as a deliberate tactic to prolong the war and thus, as noticed in this column, to “bleed Russia dry” and make her “a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations.” The beauty part of that strategy, if it was the Biden strategy, was that the price of the prospective Russian exsanguination would be paid by Ukraine, and possibly others of Russia’s neighbors, and not America or any of her Western European allies. There was further support for Ferguson’s theory of the administration’s strategy last week when Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that, as reported in The Epoch Times, “the Russia-Ukraine war will last much longer than previously anticipated and will develop into a ‘protracted conflict’”—one that will be “measured in years. I don’t know about a decade, but at least years for sure.” Now, as if in furtherance of the “pariah state” strategy, Biden has raised the temperature yet again, and again quite needlessly, by accusing Putin and the Russians of “genocide,” thus putting their atrocities in the scale alongside the Holocaust or the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in 1915, or the massacre of the Rwandan Tutsis by the Rwandan Hutus in 1994. We in America are used to the penchant for rhetorical overkill of those, like Biden, who routinely warn us in apocalyptic terms that “democracy” itself is threatened when the other party wins elections, or that human life on earth is on the brink of extinction from global warming unless we bankrupt ourselves and return to a more primitive state of developm

Just Biden His Time

Commentary

There he goes again!

Almost as soon as he took office last year, President Joe Biden heralded the new era in American diplomacy by calling Vladimir Putin, president of the country’s chief rival as a nuclear super-power, a “killer” without a human soul.

Now everybody knows—at least everybody who has been paying attention knows—that Putin actually is a killer. Whether he has a soul or not is a matter of some dispute, since former President George W. Bush claimed to have looked into it.

And yet, for several centuries now at least, it has been considered very bad diplomatic manners to mention a thing like that in public, particularly when the person you are so insulting is heavily armed, demonstrably inclined to use his weaponry, and likely to take offense at such an insult, as Putin in fact did.

Anyway, what seems to have elicited this breach of good manners on the part of our president was not any concern for those the Russian dictator was supposed to have killed—many fewer than he has killed since—but an attempt to get a little more mileage out of the Democrats’ “Russian collusion” narrative, which had lately fallen on hard times and been downgraded to mere “Russian meddling” in America’s elections.

As in so many other ways, what Biden thought was good for himself and the Democrats turned out to be very bad for America. And the Ukrainians. And, very possibly, the world.

His promise at the time to “punish” the Russian president for his meddling—the nature of the punishment was left unspecified—may not have led directly to the military alliance that was concluded between Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China a few months later, but it certainly did nothing to hinder it.

And it lent some credence to the two dictators’ claims of being threatened by the United States that were cited among the principal reasons for their alliance—which was concluded just in time to ensure Chinese support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine that followed it almost immediately.

You might have thought that, having had to resort to such a rhetorical big bang right off the bat like that, the American president would have been left with little scope for stepping up the verbal pressure on his adversary in response to the invasion.

But he has proved equal to the challenge.

First, he claimed that America’s war aims—though of course America was not to be supposed to be at war—comprised “regime change” in Russia, effectively cutting Putin off, so far as we were concerned anyway, from any chance of reconsidering or even calling off his invasion, as the brave resistance of the Ukrainians might otherwise have persuaded him to do.

Then, as if such burning of his bridges were not enough, Biden proceeded to blow them up by announcing that he considered Putin to have been guilty of “war crimes.”

The Russian strong-man was in effect being put on notice that his choices—again, so far as the United States was concerned—were reduced to only two. They were the same two that were faced long ago by ancient Roman generals: victory or suicide.

Nobody seems to have considered the advisability of offering such a choice to a war leader armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.

Though some, even some in his own administration, considered this threat escalation to be a gaffe on Biden’s part, others—most notably professor Niall Ferguson—saw it as a deliberate tactic to prolong the war and thus, as noticed in this column, to “bleed Russia dry” and make her “a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations.”

The beauty part of that strategy, if it was the Biden strategy, was that the price of the prospective Russian exsanguination would be paid by Ukraine, and possibly others of Russia’s neighbors, and not America or any of her Western European allies.

There was further support for Ferguson’s theory of the administration’s strategy last week when Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that, as reported in The Epoch Times, “the Russia-Ukraine war will last much longer than previously anticipated and will develop into a ‘protracted conflict’”—one that will be “measured in years. I don’t know about a decade, but at least years for sure.”

Now, as if in furtherance of the “pariah state” strategy, Biden has raised the temperature yet again, and again quite needlessly, by accusing Putin and the Russians of “genocide,” thus putting their atrocities in the scale alongside the Holocaust or the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in 1915, or the massacre of the Rwandan Tutsis by the Rwandan Hutus in 1994.

We in America are used to the penchant for rhetorical overkill of those, like Biden, who routinely warn us in apocalyptic terms that “democracy” itself is threatened when the other party wins elections, or that human life on earth is on the brink of extinction from global warming unless we bankrupt ourselves and return to a more primitive state of development by abolishing fossil fuels.

Other countries, however, may easily fall into the error of taking such people seriously—particularly when the American president himself appears to take them seriously.

It’s one more reason for thinking that Vladimir Putin and his generals may not be content to sink into the Ukrainian “quagmire” being prepared for them by Milley and friends, and that they must try something truly desperate to pull themselves out of it.

And then we may just find out that apocalypse is, for once, for real.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.