A ‘Nothingburger’ Letter About Ukraine, the Backlash and Washington’s New Groupthink
The author, a journalist and commentator, writes:
- “On Oct. 24, 30 progressive members of Congress wrote President Biden a letter about Ukraine policy ... Given that Mr. Biden has already said the war must end in a 'negotiated settlement' and that his top advisers are already talking to their Russian counterparts, the missive largely encouraged him to continue what he's already doing. ... And yet its release sparked a ferocious backlash.”
- “The authors retracted the letter ... because a new Cold War atmosphere now pervades Washington. Politicians who suggest even modest compromises with America's great power foes face censure from both sides of the aisle. During the last Cold War, fears of appearing soft on communism cowed progressive legislators into silence as the United States descended into war in Vietnam. After the attacks of Sept. 11, many Democrats acquiesced to the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq because they feared being called soft on terrorism. When it comes to Russia and China, another climate of conformity is now taking hold. Unless challenged, it could eventually bring disaster as well.”
- “Cold wars create their own cancel culture. They encourage politicians to swallow their doubts as conflicts escalate. They make compromise and cooperation with America's adversaries appear dishonorable. The backlash against last week's Ukraine letter will now serve as a cautionary tale. When a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine finally becomes possible—a solution that may require the United States to relax some sanctions on Russia—members of Congress will be wary of endorsing it, even if it enjoys Kyiv's tacit support. When hawks push to ditch the 'one China' policy entirely, many congressional progressives will fear objecting, lest they be accused of sympathy for Xi Jinping.”
- “The greatest current threat to wise American foreign policy isn't polarization. It's groupthink.”
Read the full article at The New York Times.
Peter Beinart is a journalist and commentator who writes frequently about American foreign policy.
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. White House photo by Adam Schultz available in the public domain.