Dick Hubert’s Worldview: Threats—and how the USA has reacted to them over the decades—until now
November 9, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
The Ukrainian flag—as flown in local houses of worship, appearing on bumper stickers and yard signs after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is not so ubiquitous today—at a time when Ukrainians desperately need American financial support and arms. Republican House leadership now says no more funding for Ukraine.
I’m of a generation that understands geopolitical threats.
When I was a freshman in high school, my baseball hero Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who fought in World War II, was called up as a reservist and ordered to fly fighter jets in the Korean War.
I learned quickly that wars and the need to contain and/or prevent bigger ones were on my personal horizon.
As a student, I spent the “Eisenhower years” focused on studying and writing about the threat from the Soviet Union.
Nine years after Williams got his marching orders, I was drafted (from London, England, where I worked as an editor for United Press International) into the U.S. Army when the Soviets built the Berlin Wall. I was in uniform in France when President Kennedy faced the Cuban missile crisis.
So you can imagine my mindset today when I hear historians, analysts, and those in public life whom I respect saying the United States faces a multinational threat to our existence greater than anything since we fought Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II.
Dick Hubert, a retired television news producer-writer-reporter living in Rye Brook, has been honored with the Peabody Award, the DuPont Columbia Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award.
Editor’s Note: This column, written by Dick Hubert, represents his opinion and not that of this newspaper.
As an example, take Dr. Kimberly Kagan, the 51-year-old military historian who is the founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War.
Last Friday night, in an interview with Margaret Hoover on the PBS series “Firing Line,” Dr. Kagan laid out this ugly scenario of the worldwide simultaneous threats to American financial, trade, and military might:
*Vladimir Putin is determined to defeat Western democracies, which he views as a threat to his very existence. That’s why he invaded Ukraine, a fledgling democracy and aspirant to membership in the European Union and NATO. In the process, Putin and his Russian acolytes are teaming up with Iran to supply him drones; North Korea for munitions for his forces in Ukraine; and China, a customer for Russia’s oil and gas and the developer of the high technology he needs for his military ambitions in Ukraine and elsewhere.
*Iran is determined to destroy the one democracy in the Middle East, Israel, which has spent years cozying up to Putin—to no avail when the “chips are down.” Tying up American power in the Middle East, attacking our troops (already in process), and getting the USA out of the Middle East is an Iranian goal. It also serves Russian interests.
*North Korea, which claims to have ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads capable of reaching American cities, is part of the Russia-Iran-China Axis, currently sending weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.
*And then there’s China, with its eyes on invading Taiwan and its determination to push the United States out of the Pacific sphere of influence.
Kagan sees the United States totally unprepared for this multifront challenge and to simultaneously deal with all these conflicts around the world.
Our unpreparedness for
the war in Ukraine
It may seem like ancient history, but do you remember when the United States was offering Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an escape route to get away from the Russian invasion of his country and Zelenskyy refused and instead asked for help to fight the Russians?
We’ve been supplying weapons, financial aid, intelligence assets, and more ever since.
Visiting Zelenskyy in Ukraine has become a political necessity for our leaders ranging from President Joe Biden to Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who led a delegation to Kiev that included Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas. Add to that list of Republicans visiting Kiev: South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsay Graham and Republican Presidential hopeful Chris Christie of New Jersey.
When in turn Zelenskyy visited Washington this September, he told Senators, according to our New York Sen. Chuck Schumer: “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”
Last Sunday, Zelenskyy gave an impassioned interview to NBC’s Kristin Welker on “Meet the Press” practically begging for continued critical American financial and munitions support in the oncoming year in the Ukraine War.
And yet, at this moment, House Republicans led by their new Speaker Mike Johnson refuse to appropriate a dime for Ukraine aid, while agreeing to support Israel in its fight with Hamas only if corresponding funds are taken away from the Internal Revenue Service. Apparently starving the government of tax revenues to fund military preparedness and aid to Ukraine and Taiwan is now House Republican policy.
You can imagine how our enemies are cheering and how our allies are terrified that the America they knew (and I knew) which was a bulwark for freedom and democracy is now, like Gulliver, hamstrung by a horde of House Republican isolationist Lilliputians.
As for the Ukrainians, they’re not only worried by the United States falling into the hands of anti-Ukraine and anti-NATO isolationists, but their war against Russia is now looking like a very long, dangerous, and potentially fatal, drawn out 21st Century incarnation of the fighting in World War I.
The concerns of Ukraine’s top general
Last week, the London, England based weekly magazine The Economist wrote the following on the so far unsuccessful efforts of the Ukrainian 2023 campaign to dislodge the Russian military from their occupied lands:
“Sharing his first comprehensive assessment of the campaign with The Economist in an interview this week, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, says the battlefield reminds him of the great conflict of a century ago. “Just like in the first world war we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate,” he says. The general concludes that it would take a massive technological leap to break the deadlock. “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”
The Economist added: “The course of the counter-offensive has undermined Western hopes that Ukraine could use it to demonstrate that the war is unwinnable, forcing Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to negotiate. It has also undercut General Zaluzhny’s assumption that he could stop Russia by bleeding its troops. “That was my mistake. Russia has lost at least 150,000 dead. In any other country such casualties would have stopped the war.” But not in Russia, where life is cheap and where Mr. Putin’s reference points are the first and second world wars, in which Russia lost tens of millions.
…“General Zaluzhny is desperately trying to prevent the war from settling into the trenches. “The biggest risk of an attritional trench war is that it can drag on for years and wear down the Ukrainian state,” he says. “In the first world war, politics interfered before technology could make a difference. Four empires collapsed and a revolution broke out in Russia.”
The Ukrainians need some kind of technological breakthrough to counter the Russians, and that hasn’t happened yet.
A long war favors Russia, which has three times the population of Ukraine and an economy ten times larger.
As Zaluzhny told The Economist, “Let’s be honest, it’s a feudal state where the cheapest resource is human life. And for us…the most expensive thing we have is our people.”
The Ukrainians are clearly worried that Putin could bleed them dry.
Putin, Iran, China, North Korea
think they can wait us out
It’s not just Ukraine, or our NATO allies, or our allies in the Pacific, that are worried about the “long haul.”
I have to believe that every thoughtful American who understands our history, our national challenges, and our current political divisions shares the fear that our enemies might just be right.
Too many in this country—and I don’t know in numbers how many is “too many”—believe that if the House MAGA Republicans and Donald Trump control our politics come January 2025, the grand American experiment will be over.
There is a concern that a generation brought up on YouTube and TikTok videos will mindlessly buy the propaganda of our enemies—especially when the Communist Chinese government controls the TikTok algorithms.
That concern was best articulated by NYU Professor Scott Galloway in his weekly “No Mercy/No Malice” column last week.
Here’s an excerpt. And ask yourself: can you argue against his thesis?
“Xi Jinping has described the Internet as "the main battlefield in the battle for public opinion," and in 2013 he said, "online public opinion work should be taken as the top priority of propaganda and ideological work. Many people, especially young people, do not read mainstream media and get most of their information from the Internet. We must face up to this fact, increase investment, and seize the initiative on this battlefield of public opinion as soon as possible. [We must] become experts in using new means and methods of modern media."
“ByteDance employees have confirmed the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has backdoor access to American TikTok user data, which it has used several times. In addition, the CCP has refused to let TikTok’s parent company ByteDance go public for national security reasons. FBI officials have themselves stated TikTok could be used as an "aggressive weapon" against the U.S. and China’s enemies at large. In sum, the CCP’s manipulation of TikTok is hiding in plain sight.”
TikTok (and the Chinese) have helped turn a generation of young Americans against post Oct. 7 Israel and U.S policy there. What’s next?
We are living in historic and highly dangerous, life-changing times.