Stop Asking for WW3
Why No-Fly Zones, Assassination Rhetoric, and Air Strikes on a Nuclear Power are Dangerous
The conflict rages in Ukraine as Russian troops continue to take ground despite their questionable competence at combined arms. Meanwhile, Western pundits are increasing their rhetorical agitation toward Russia. While understandable in solidarity with the Ukrainian people’s valiant defense, a lot of rhetoric is downright dangerous and unbecoming of public political figures.
In my last piece, Why I Write, I briefly touched on the effects of social media and polemics to encourage overgeneralized language. These two linked items also encourage incendiary rage commentary by political figures. These figures attempt to incite and emotionally manipulate viewers for engagement and notoriety. Social media acts like digital heroin – addictive, destructive, and can make people prone to wild emotional swings. The companies and those who produce rage-inducing content are like dealers, throwing incendiaries hoping something catches fire. When this incendiary language originates from elected officials, we have a diplomatic crisis in waiting.
Two of the most egregious examples are US Senator Lindsey Graham’s calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assassination and the Western demands for a No-Fly Zone. On Thursday, March 3rd, Lindsey Graham's comments were particularly reprehensible for a sitting US Senator to make. He called for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin. While Putin wins no favorites from any thinking person in the Western world, the precedent which Graham calls for is tantamount to a de facto rejection of basic principles of diplomacy and the conduct of nations at war. Assassinations by any state are difficult to justify. Contrary to public opinion, the United States goes to great lengths in its “targeted killings” to avoid engaging foreign countries’ diplomatic and political administration members.
This assassination would constitute aggression on par with state-sanctioned terrorism with more significant fallout given the magnitude of the players. Peace between the major powers in the Cold War was kept by agreeing to certain rules and a willingness to engage diplomatically. If a ruler or rulers of a nation felt that their safety wouldn’t be guaranteed in a peacetime state, diplomacy would break down. The United States isn’t at war with the Russian Federation.
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It's beyond irresponsible to call for the destruction of the world’s institutionalized norms of diplomacy. However, a Senator did just that. While we in the US can mock and ridicule Graham as much as we please, this is a problem given the world's perception of his authority. In Information Operations, perception is as important as reality. While Graham has little power to compel the American armed forces and the security state, the comments are still impactful. In my opinion, the end to the Russo-Ukraine war will end in negotiations with the United States at the table. The remarks by Senator Graham injure and victimize the Ukrainian people, who bear the brunt of the Russian onslaught, who are most in need to the end of the conflict.
Pam Keith, Esq. @PamKeithFLIf EVER there was a justification for a preemptive strike, it is right now, against a madman hell bent on destroying the world to appease his ego. If EVER there was a time to drop a MOAB on a bunker, it’s RIGHT NOW, on Putin’s hidey-hole BEFORE the obliteration of Ukraine.
Just as egregious, though not as harmful to the United States, are the calls for No-Fly Zones and Western air raids on Russian forces. There’s a political phenomenon where the parties out of power are more polemical than those in power. Contrary to my own expectations, the more measured tones come from whatever constitutes the “center-left” media in the Anglo-American alliance. There are multiple such examples of dangerous rhetoric by media pundits and politicians. This rhetoric is dangerous given the power of mass media to convince people of wrong and evil things. These memes end up permeating the political base, encouraging ideological support for foreign policy decisions that are harmful to the United States and our allied nations. These memes then support the actions of politicians and their courtiers, who often use ideological fervor to enact policies that further their agenda rather than the common good. A prime example is the 2003 Iraq War, where still public inquiries into the motivations for war are met with total hostility. I digress.
When Sean Hannity calls for a strafing run on the big Russian convoy (it’s not actually 40km long, that’s roughly the journey it took, from my understanding), he feeds into popular delusions of invincibility of American airpower. I wrote a piece about the propagandization of airpower that touches upon the information operations motivation for this sentiment. The post-Desert Storm perception of unstoppable airstrikes is intoxicating. One place where Russiaphiles get right about “Russia not committing its best troops” is that Russia’s most sophisticated air defense systems are idle. The S-400 Triumf mobile surface-to-air missile anti-ballistic missile system is probably the best of its kind in the world. These systems are designed to kill American stealth aircraft technology. These platforms are sitting idle, and Russia’s air superiority fighter aircraft, on standby for an air confrontation with NATO. The potential loss of American and other allies' lives is very high with these alone in the case of a strike on Russian forces.
Tobias Ellwood MP @Tobias_EllwoodPleased to see powerful voices joining my call for a humanitarian partial or total NO FLY ZONE. What scale of war crimes, what numbers of civilian deaths must we witness - before NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, is tasked to intervene? https://t.co/O8YNpbkCbz
The other item that the “just bomb them” crowd and No-Fly Zone crowd have in common is that it escalates the risk of nuclear war. Russia is a nuclear power, perhaps the ultimate nuclear power. A No-Fly Zone or any unannounced, nonconsensual Western air incursion would be considered an act of war by Russia and an escalation of a conflict that hasn’t been seen even in the Cold War. American and Russian troops have never shot at each other except in proxy wars since World War II. This peace was kept very delicately, with several incidents of a near-global thermonuclear apocalypse.
The Globe and Mail @globeandmailThe UN and NATO have failed Ukraine. But it’s not too late for them to step up now https://t.co/E9fiO6APAF
Furthermore, the parties involved with the hypothetical air incursions are members of NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance. Guarantees of political sovereignty of non-NATO countries or the offensive engagement of Russia are contentious. Ukraine is not a member-state of NATO; it does not have the alliance's assurances. Diplomatically, NATO forces moving against Russian aggression is military aggression. Would all the member-states agree to such action? Would there be a coalition of the willing? Would disagreeable member-states be dragged into a land war in Eastern Europe?
Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ @caitoz74% of Americans say they support a US/NATO no-fly zone in Ukraine because the press and the pollsters aren't doing their fucking job and telling people what those words mean.
Rational leaders must maintain global stability given the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials. It is highly suspect that people involved at high levels of politics are engaged in rhetorical jingoism. What do they seek to accomplish? I think these are throwaway comments, about as meaningful as a coffee napkin, especially by political commentators like Sean Hannity. However, the politicians, I suspect, are playing a more dangerous game. Money flows through the lobbies, special interests, and the (unethical) legal ways legislators increase their net wealth.
Western legislators climb into bed with foreign adversaries and nefarious actors through these perverse incentives. The bigger specter on the horizon is US-China geopolitical rivalry. Rhetoric that further draws the United States into an Eastern European quagmire benefits China from global instability and forces the United States to commit more resources into that region. These “conservative” figures do the work of a foreign power’s information operations by calling for American troops to fight Russian troops. The pressure on Russia is enormous, with novel tools used against her each day. The United States should not go to war with the Russian Federation except in actual self-defense.
Interesting, one of the most pro-No-Fly Zone characters, former Canadian MP Chris Alexander has walked his No-Fly Zone comments back. On a Twitter Space I was on he called for a NATO-enforced No-Fly Zone.
I’m glad he rolled these comments back, however, a politician is a politician, and thankfully he’s not in government.