In the U.S. Civil War, the Confederacy faced almost insurmountable challenges from the very beginning. True, this wasn’t universally known or understood at the beginning of the conflict, but by 1864 it was obvious to all but the most delusional that the Union had enormous advantages in manpower, industrial strength, naval forces, railroads, and international recognition. Yet the Confederates fought on, and another 200,000 people would die. Why?
In part, because the leadership of the Confederacy believed that they still had one viable path toward victory. If the conflict could be continued and made bloody and expensive enough for President Abraham Lincoln to lose his bid for re-election, it was widely believed that President George McClellan would seek to end the conflict on more favorable terms to the rebels.
Now, that wasn’t exactly treason on the part of ol’ McClellan. He didn’t steal any war plans and deliver them to Jefferson Davis, and I do think it is important in a functional democracy for the population to have electoral options for changing, avoiding, or ending wars. That being said, McClellan behaving as he did probably extended America’s bloodiest war considerably.
Indeed today, Vladimir Putin has squandered vast amounts of Russian wealth and lives in his folly in Ukraine. Moscow is being bombed, Putin’s beloved bridge keeps getting blown up, and his mercenaries can’t be trusted. Incidentally, I’ve been to Ukraine and written intelligence summaries in the Army before, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert. Even so, no one on Earth thinks the war is going well for Russia.
Putin could end this conflict tomorrow if he so chose, and yet he doesn’t. Why? At least in part, as is so often the case, because he still sees a viable path toward victory. You no doubt see where I am going with this. Almost certainly, if Donald Trump were to reclaim the White House next year, on the way to fully destroying American democracy, he would cut off all aid to Ukraine. This would likely force Ukraine to capitulate and consent to Russian domination over half their country or something equally odious.
Personally, I don’t think this is going to happen. I think Trump is much more likely to be under house arrest for the next five to seven years at Mar-a-Lago than in the White House, but that isn’t the point. The mere possibility of Trump 2 is going to keep this war going. That means more cruise missiles into apartment complexes. More dead children. More drafted teenagers learning how to kill and die.
Trump inspires the worst people on the planet. He tells men that it’s OK to assault women if you’re rich. He tells racists that they are really the victims and theirs is a noble struggle. He tells everyone that it’s OK to lie and cheat and steal because that’s what it takes to win. And he tells dictators and tyrants that they should keep holding on just a little longer…
Some people have criticized the left for being obsessed with Trump, that he is a symptom not the disease, and that he didn’t cause any of the horrors of the day.
Fine, OK. He didn’t cause climate change or force Russia to invade Ukraine, but he is a symbol. He is a huge, bigly motivating force to most of what is wrong in the world today, and until that is acknowledged and he is stopped, permanently, everyone on the wrong side of the struggle for peace and justice will just keep fighting.
— Wolf is a retired Army officer and professor of history who divides his time between DeLand and New Orleans. You can find more of his writings online at medium.com/@evancwolf