This Is Not the America I Knew

This Is Not the America I Knew

© David Burton 2024

I Miss the America I Grew Up In

     Some years back, there was an America with which I felt comfortable. Around the globe, America unequivocally supported is allies. It knew who its enemies were and it strongly opposed them. Much the same could be said for my politics which were conservative and Republican.

     These days, all that has changed. Today, I see an America that represents itself as Israel’s eternal and strongest ally while our president takes global positions that are opposed to the best interest of that nation. I see an America that condemns the invasion of a peaceful Ukraine by a belligerent Putin-led Russia and then holds up much need funding for that country which allowed Russian forces to advance because Ukraine was running low on much needed ammunition to fight off the enemy.

     One Ukrainian reporter wrote that, “What I see sometimes is that Europe and America are getting tired from the Ukrainian war. I would like to correct them. They’re not getting tired from the Ukrainian war; they’re tired of the Russian war. They came here, remember? We’re just defending ourselves.”
     What began as a regional dispute a decade back with the annexation of Crimea and land grabs in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine metastasized into something larger and more ruinous with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. For a stretch there, Ukraine seemed the center of everything: Europe’s shield, the front line of democracy, all the rest.
     Then time passed. The war persisted. Russian offensives stalled out; Ukrainian counteroffensives made gains, though not as much as internet mystics had foreseen. New global hot spots emerged. America and the West continued to supply Ukraine with weapons and aid, but often in lesser amounts than had been requested. The Biden administration’s cautious stance toward the conflict revealed itself through a deliberate policy of half measures and limited packages, leaving Ukrainian leaders in the difficult position of thanking their benefactors in one breath and asking for more in the next.
     And then, further US aid to Ukraine hung in the balance in our Congress, delayed by domestic issues that had nothing to do with our ally or its war for self-determination. Strong forces in the Republican Party once led by Ronald Reagan advocated for appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin in the name of peace, while Democratic top aides to President Biden — so committed to half measures when Ukraine was advancing — told American lawmakers on Capitol Hill that without our continued support, it’d be a matter of weeks or months until Russia broke through Ukrainian defensive lines.
     In two short years, Ukraine became something of a forgotten war. Which is remarkable, even by the low standards of the American attention span. This is not the America with which I grew up!
     Ukraine continues to get support from European allies. Still, there’s no substitute for US military aid. One needn’t be a strategic expert to understand that. Just watch a few viral videos of HIMARS rocket-launching systems striking faraway Russian command posts, or loitering-munition drones blasting apart deep bunkers, or Bradley armored fighting vehicles destroying Russian T-90 main battle tanks.
     “I feel like we’re fighting with one arm tied behind our back,” said an American military veteran serving in the armed forces of Ukraine. “Candidly, it’s embarrassing, as I’m the lone foreigner in an all-Ukrainian battalion. The voices we hear the most from Washington are either trying to prolong this as long as possible — thank you, military-industrial complex — or want to walk away and hand Russia the keys.”
     American support for the war waned since the unifying days of spring 2022, when Ukrainian resolve — and sound tactics — defied the invasion attempt, when President Volodymyr Zelensky said he didn’t need a ride but ammo.
     It’s become a partisan litmus test. Once upon a time, this would never have become a political issue between Republicans and Democrats. According to Gallup, some 62% of Republicans believed we were doing too much to support Ukraine compared with only 14% of Democrats.
     This is the defense of a democracy against a Putin-led totalitarian dictatorship. Ukrainians have fought for their freedom and independence.
     Back in July 2023, President Biden said, “Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for liberty and freedom today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes.” By February 2024, Ukraine was short of ammunition because Republicans were unconscionably insisting upon tying a Ukrainian funding bill to a totally unrelated American southern border security problem! This is not the America it used to be![1]

     America’s seemingly wavering support of Ukraine has worldwide repercussions. In late February 2024, Taiwanese senior officials repeatedly questioned members of a visiting U.S. congressional delegation on what the stalled aid to Ukraine means for U.S. commitments to defend the island from potential Chinese aggression.
     As noted, the Senate had passed a national security supplemental — which included $1.9 billion in U.S. funding to restock arms bound for Taiwan — but Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson vowed to block the bill unless it included provisions to tighten American border security.
     The issue of U.S. support for Ukraine came up repeatedly in the Taiwanese meetings. It was reported that they were watching the supplemental requests for Ukraine like hawks and they viewed Ukraine prevailing against the criminal invasion by Russia as incredibly important in sending a message to the mainland Chinese Communist Party.
     The potential for a Trump victory in the 2024 U.S. presidential election and the possibility that it might result in a change in traditional U.S. support for Taiwan was also worrying its leaders. Those concerns reflect the knock-on effect of the impasse on Capitol Hill in supplying Ukraine the weaponry it needed to fend off Russian aggression.
     The congressional deadlock had frozen U.S. military aid to Kyiv and prompted warnings from the Pentagon that Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines were running out of ammunition and other weapons needed to fight the invading Russian forces. That spooked a Taiwanese leadership that was also heavily reliant on U.S. arms to deter repeated threats from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to use force to “reunify” with Taiwan.[2]

     In still another conflict area on the globe, it is time for politically cool heads to kick back and separate out the issue of U.S. aid to Israel from the “my way or the highway” culture that has overtaken our governmental process. At the end of February 2024,It had become a critical moment to put an end to Hamas’s threat to the geopolitical interests of the United States as well as Israel. Domestic political feuding should have had no place in U.S. support of Israel. Backing the Jewish state’s effort to rid the world of the Hamas terrorist scourge should have been a no-brainer! Yet a proposed supplemental aid package to Israel was challenged and held up by House Republicans. Also adversely impacted was Ukraine, which would also receive aid for its war with Russia – something which was “strongly supported” by President Biden and congressional Democrats.
     Opponents to Ukrainian aid, predominantly from the Republican side, irrationally argued that the defense of Ukraine’s borders had taken second place to the defense of our own borders. They insisted that the U.S. should not be sending any more billions of dollars to support Ukrainian security before seriously acting to secure our own border with Mexico, through which millions of migrants had illegally entered our country. In fact, Republicans even rejected a Biden administration proposal for funding a border crackdown because they said it didn’t go far enough. Republicans also contended that sending more money to Ukraine would be unavailing because it had become clear to them that Ukraine wouldn’t be able to defeat the far larger and more militarily powerful Russia on the battlefield despite the Ukraine’s heretofore impressive defeats of the Russian invaders during the past two years. To these Trump-led Republicans, submission to a Russian commissar made more sense than opposing the brutal Russian assault on the much smaller and democratic nation. One could rightly ask where was the intestinal fortitude of earlier Republican leaders, like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower? Where was American staying power similar to that of the United States that resulted in the dissolution of the Evil Empire in the second half of the twentieth century and the West’s victory over Soviet-style Communism in the decades-long Cold War?
     Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson hinted that he might be open to pushing aid legislation that included Israel but not Ukraine, although he said he believed that helping Ukraine was important to American national interests and America’s reputation for not abandoning its friends. How stupid could Republicans and any American be? They were refusing to pass legislation that was important to American national interests and its reputation for not abandoning its friends. This is not the America nor the Republican party I knew!
     We also find particularly disturbing the various calls from members of Congress that U.S. aid to Israel should be conditioned on Israel’s compliance with a diktat from President Biden on how Israel should conduct its war with Hamas. Although the President himself had not gone that far, it is fair to say that his comments suggested that he was certainly considering moving in that direction. Very simply stated: Israel must be left free to deal with its Hamas problem in its own way.[3]

     A while back, I began to support Republican candidates and the Republican political party. The Republican party’s political agenda largely mirrored my political views. But that was a time and place that is now a distant legend — not because I am so different, but because the Republican Party I was glad to support in those days has become unrecognizable to me in this, the third decade of the twenty-first century.

     I have been a life-long resident Massachusetts, residing in the greater Boston area. Ronald Reagan carried Massachusetts and went on to become a popular and effective president. To my mind, the conservative Republican outlook he and other GOP leaders embraced seemed self-evidently correct. The party was often analogized to a three-legged policy stool: It fused together voters who wanted to advance (1) market economics, (2) national security, and (3) social conservatism. Resisting communism, expanding individual freedom, and reducing the size of government were part of the formula too. That worldview made good sense to me. By and large, it still does.
     In 1990, Bay State voters elected a Republican governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer, and sent 16 Republicans to the state senate. Two years later, two Republican congressmen were elected as well.
     But, once Donald Trump emerged upon the national scene, it was to bury whatever remained of the GOP’s attachment to the ideals of the party I once supported. I had been repelled by the way Democrats circled the wagons around Bill Clinton, whose dishonesty and low character I thought should be disqualifying. To my disgust, Republicans began doing the same for Trump even before he got elected. More than was ever the case with Clinton or any previous president, Republicans have remade their party into a cult of personality. In today’s GOP, Trump is everything. Virtually no leading party members will openly oppose him on anything. Indeed, much of the party’s rank and file appears to revel in his boorish and insulting narcissism. And almost nothing that Trump stands for now bears any connection to the “three-legged stool” that once made the Republican Party so successful or so appealing to me.
     Like millions of other Americans, I find myself politically homeless today. Neither major party offers a vision I can relate to. In 2016, I thought the Republican Party was headed for a crack-up, much as the Whig Party collapsed in the 1850s. I held my nose and voted for Joe Biden. If necessary, I will do so again in 2024.[4]

     In an effort to distract from his own legal woes and other misdeeds, Donald Trump and his sycophants pushed charges of impeachable actions by President Biden and his son. Embarrassingly for today’s Republicans, even a casual political observer can recognize that the House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Biden was all but dead. Allegations from Alexander Smirnov, a former FBI informant, led House GOP legislators to hype their investigation into Biden and his son Hunter. But then a Justice Department special counsel charged Smirnov with peddling lies planted by Russian intelligence officials. Just like that, Republicans lost the star witness whose mendacious tales of corruption fueled their inquiry.
     Anyone with a shred of integrity would have long ago shut down a bogus investigation that was always been short on evidence and long on Donald Trump led bombast. Now, House Republicans are trying to downplay, if not outright dismiss, Smirnov’s oversized role and march forward with their ridiculous impeachment pursuit. There is simply no juice left in this dried-out Republican nothingburger of an investigation.
     The investigation was from the beginning “a wild goose chase built on conspiracy theories and lies.” But most House Republicans, who, instead of doing their jobs to help address America’s problems were – and still are - doing Donald Trump’s bidding. They, along with too many other Republicans, love nothing more than conspiracy theories and lies.
     Those beholden to Trump are hellbent on continuing this charade for one reason only: to impugn as much as possible the integrity of his likely Democratic opponent for the presidency in 2024. It’s Trump who’s been propelling this Biden investigation. He wants Biden impeached, and soon.
     There’s also this: Faced with 91 federal felony charges in 4 jurisdictions, Trump loves to pretend that he’s being singled out for prosecution. Trump’s attempt to get Biden impeached is nothing but a pure distraction.
     To borrow a line from writer Agatha Christie, Republicans lie “with fluency, ease, and artistic flavor.” And they haven’t worked this long and hard to erode Biden’s reputation only to get waylaid by admitting they got it wrong on an impeachment inquiry that’s as empty as it is politically motivated.[5]

     Clearly, this is not the Republican party I once knew and supported!

     With respect to the more-than 2-year old war in the Ukraine, Vladimir Purin’s invasion was propelled by confidence that the world would dither, look the other way and permit Ukraine to go under. Putin had ample reason to be confident. After all, the world has dithered, looked the other way and permitted wretched regimes to prevail plenty of times before. And he had reasonable basis to believe that today’s United States would do little more than wag its finger and pronounce itself “deeply concerned” and “greatly troubled” by Russia’s invasion.
     After all, in the last Democratic administration, for example, President Obama had pooh-poohed the very notion that Russia was a global threat, gone passive when Russia invaded Crimea, first announced that Syria’s use of chemical weapons to murder its citizens would cross a “red line” and then mumbled “Never mind” when the red line was crossed, and derided those who warned that funneling tens of billions of dollars to Iran would fund Hamas, Hezbollah and other entities that we have long stipulated are terrorist organizations.
     Led by President Biden, an international coalition mobilized to arm Ukraine so that it could defend itself. Ukrainians were in essence fighting not merely to prevent Russia from subjugating them but to prevent Russia from turning its armed forces thereafter on Eastern European nations that it formerly controlled, and which it wishes to control again. Our NATO allies did what NATO was formed to do. And President Biden, with strong bipartisan support from those in Congress not entirely subservient to Donald Trump and Trump’s directive that Putin be coddled, ensured that Ukraine had the aid necessary to keep Russia at bay. In the process of inflicting staggering losses on Russia, Ukraine also sustained staggering losses, and saw its economy shattered by Russia’s onslaught.
     But then, on orders from the best friend Putin ever had, a group of MAGA Republicans, perfectly content to see Putin win and Ukraine lose, and perfectly content to see our allies endangered by a bona fide axis of aggressors that includes Russia, Iran Mainland China and North Korea, blocked the support Ukraine desperately needed to avoid being plowed under.
     It was not just the far right whose head was deep in the sand when it came to the real threats posed to democracies by barbaric states and non-state actors. On the far left, the usual feckless wonders saw no evil, heard no evil and acknowledged no evil when evil was directly in front of their noses.
     Self-professed progressives eviscerated their credibility on human rights by whitewashing Hamas’ mass slaughter on Oct. 7, a slaughter not merely bestial but patently genocidal. Naturally, they accused Israel, the victim of the genocidal attack, of genocide, illustrating the point that “sometimes the more absurd the lie, the more effective it is.”
     America and its democratic allies found themselves at a hinge point. Whether Putin succeeded in overrunning Ukraine, and whether Iran and its proxies succeeded in imposing a state of savagery on the Mideast, was up in the air. How it ultimately comes out depends on whether America fights for the survival of democracies, or simply folds.[6]

     On a late February 2024 TV show, President Biden again urged Israel to institute a ceasefire in its war against Hamas as part of a deal to free Israeli hostages and for Israel to halt its campaign to eradicate the last strongholds of Hamas in Gaza and to pause the fighting before the start of Ramadan. He also insisted that the “Palestinians” should be rewarded for the Oct. 7 massacres with a diplomatic process that would lead to a statehood that they don’t want, but which they could use to continue their genocidal campaign to destroy the one Jewish state on the planet. His TV appearance served as an opportunity for him to tell us just what the United States stands for in international affairs. It was nothing that I or any other rational American should be proud of. It did not represent the America that I once knew!
     For nearly five months, the Jewish world was calling for the release of hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 massacres in southern Israel - all of them. Indeed, the freedom of the hostages is one of Israel’s two main war goals alongside the elimination of Hamas. But as ongoing negotiations for the release of the more than 100 Israelis still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza continue with flurries of diplomatic activity involving the United States, as well as Hamas’s ally Qatar, something is missing from the discussion of the proposed terms for such a deal. And that is a moral compass.
     Trading the lives of innocent Israeli civilians who were kidnapped from their homes amid an orgy of mass slaughter, rape and torture that took place on October 7, 2023 for the release of Palestinians who were convicted of acts of violence against Jews, including murder, is a bizarre and immoral concept that has already become normalized.
     With Biden promising to treat any pause in combat as an excuse to work for a permanent ceasefire, the main outcome of the next hostage deal (and there inevitably will be another) will be not so much an egregious act of extortion as a political victory for Hamas that will solidify its hold on Gaza and its place as the preeminent voice of the “Palestinian” people.
     The most worrisome aspect of the effort to force Israel to halt the war against Hamas is not coming from within the Jewish state but from its closest ally.
     A Hamas victory in the war, sealed by a hostage deal, would not simply be a defeat for Israel but a devastating blow to the interests of the United States with implications that go far beyond the conflict with the Palestinians. Yet it is exactly the outcome that the president of the United States seems most interested in achieving.
     Hamas has an international movement of sympathizers - wittingly and unwitting - and an American government that is more eager to end the war than to eliminate the group that started it with unspeakable atrocities on Oct. 7.
     Biden’s position on the Middle East and his insistence that Israel must, sooner or later for the sake of its “survival,” accept a two-state solution is the oldest and most discredited policy option that could be imagined. Palestinians have made it clear they have no interest in a state if it means living in peace next to a Jewish one.
     It’s also absurd that Biden pretends that the whole world is behind Israel but that it will lose that support unless it stops its campaign against Hamas due to Palestinian casualties falsely labeled as “genocide,” which are regrettable but only continue because the terrorists refuse to surrender. This is much like the Nazis - whose ideology is echoed in Hamas’s goals – who in the last days of World War II preferred to see Germany destroyed and its people slaughtered rather than concede to the inevitable.
     American interests are involved. This would be a deal that would not just grant a victory to the perpetrators of the largest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust; it would mean that Hamas would exist as the main force in Palestinian politics for the foreseeable future with unknowable consequences for regional stability. It would be a gift to Iran which funds Hamas and supplies them with weapons, and to Iranian allies elsewhere, like the Houthis, who are threatening the global economy because of Biden’s foolish pre-Oct. 7 appeasement of Iran.
     Above all, in a world in which the United States still plays an irreplaceable role as the defender of Western values and security, the eagerness with which Biden is pursuing this amoral deal is a measure of just how far American foreign policy has fallen on his watch.[7]

This is not the America in which I grew up!

  1. This is no time to give up on Ukraine, Matt Gallagher, Boston Sunday Globe: Page K8, 11 February 2024.
  2. Taiwan’s leadership ‘extremely worried’ US could abandon Ukraine, Phelim Kine, POLITICO, 23 February 2024.
  3. Disentangling Emergency U.S. Aid To Israel, Renée Graham, The Jewish Press; Pge 7, 16 February 2024.
  4. I was a young Republican. Now I want nothing to do with either party., Jef Jacoby, Boston Sunday Globe: Page K7,
    11 February 2024.
  5. Being a Republican means never having to say ‘I was wrong’, Renée Graham, Boston Sunday Globe: Page K7,
    25 February 2024.
  6. America must decide whether to fight or fold, Jeff Robbins, Boston Herald: Pge 13, 27 February 2024.
  7. Why is Biden pushing for an immoral hostage deal?, Jonathan S. Tobin, World Israel News, 23 February 2024.

  14 March 2024 {Article 615; Politics_89}    
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