Caution, uncomfortable reading ahead, tighten your lap belts, and put your bias aside for the hard, bumpy truth ride that is coming…

First, war is terrible. I’ve seen it firsthand in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq.

The current situation with Ukraine is especially troubling because it’s a clear example of a head of state sacrificing regular civilians as pawns on the global chessboard to advance a strategic position.

I have friends from business school and the YPO (YPO.org) community in Ukraine and Russia.

If I have to choose sides, I personally choose no war and to side with the courageous President Zelensky of Ukraine.

So here we are in 2022.

We’re coming off the heels of a global pandemic and still killing each other.

Lead bullets, rockets, and fearing chemical weapons, or worse, a nuclear event.

Goodbye COVID variant. We have much more important things to think about now, like the start of WWIII.

and…America has no moral high ground to stand on.

Zero high ground.

If you’re reading this far in and wondering when I’m getting to Putin, hang with me, this is necessary background.

Republicans Democrats
Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

The US, under both Republican and Democrat Presidential administrations, has been drunk behind the wheel of an out-of-control Foreign Policy that has done much more harm than good in the past 20 years.

I say again, America has had no meaningful strategy or clear objectives for the past 20, yes TWENTY years.

A clear strategy in 2001 in Afghanistan of destroying the terror camps faded into no strategy and part-time nation-building that lasted two decades and ended with an embarrassing withdrawal.

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The US then went on to destabilize the northern Middle East with a failed campaign in Iraq, and then all hell broke loose after we pulled out and left a power vacuum with no transition plan.

I still remember face-palming myself when seeing all the old white guys in DC advocate arming rebels in Syria with American firepower. These so-called “rebels” were essentially terrorists.

Usama Bin Laden was once a rebel fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, backed by, yes, you guessed it, America.

Have we learned nothing from our past?

Are Trump and Biden the best American leadership our flawed two-party duopoly can deliver?

Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Joe Biden: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (source: Joe Biden); User:TDKR Chicago 101 (clipping) Donald Trump: Shealah Craighead (source: White House) Сombination: krassotkinCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

After the US pulled out of Iraq, we saw the rise of ISIS. A civil war kicked off in Syria, a flailing Iraq with Iran firmly in charge. We also saw a regime change in Libya backed by us that created chaos there as well. All of this kicked off a massive refugee crisis within the European Union that started to divide.

A once open-border EU started trending to close borders, and the barbed fences started going up.

It’s also easy to arrive at the conclusion that the situation with Middle Eastern refugees pouring into the UK let the old guard political elite spread fear to the masses that ultimately drove a successful BREXIT referendum isolating the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe.

And if we didn’t have enough on our plates, we took a quick road trip down to Libya and overthrew an otherwise stable and less boisterous regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi.

I lost my best friend and former teammate, Glen Doherty (Navy SEAL/CIA GRS), in that debacle.

If there was an Oscar for the “Shit Show” category in 2012, Hillary Clinton would win the Best Director in a documentary short.

Thank you, America. May I have another?

Leaders in America come and go. The one constant in America’s world tour of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is Putin.

He’s been through all of it. Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in. Put yourself in his shoes.

It was recently reported in the New York Times profile on Putin (an excellent read) that he was deeply disturbed that America would so haphazardly assist in the assassination of Gaddafi.

Russia, under American pressure, had abstained in a 2011 United Nations Security Council vote for military intervention in Libya, which authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. When this mission, in Mr. Putin’s perception, morphed into the pursuit of the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who was killed by Libyan forces, the Russian President was furious. This was yet further confirmation of America’s international lawlessness.

Something else was at work. “He was haunted by the brutal takeout of Qaddafi,” said Mark Medish, who was senior director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton presidency. “I was told that he replayed the videos again and again.” The elimination of a dictator felt personal. From the New York Times, “The Making of Vladimir Putin.”

Putin has been radicalized by decades of a Schizophrenic American foreign policy and the whims of what America wants when we want it.

He’s long voiced concern over the NATO agenda, and rather than engage in dialog, the US largely just chose to ignore Putin and drive on with a loose agenda.

PRATIC DI MARE (Italian air force base). Official photographing of the participants of the Russia-NATO summit, 2002. (Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

NATO represents the spread of democracy to Putin.

It’s like a neighbor who builds a fence next to your house without chatting with you first, and that fence feels tall and ominous. It encroaches on your side of the yard.

This is the short story of what America has done with Russia under Putin’s leadership.

Democracy in its western form is a radical departure from Putin’s leadership ideology, and this concerns him.

Putin doesn’t want another fence on his side of the property line, and he has seen an America that supports a dictator one day and assassinates him the next.

It’s likely what keeps him up at night.

He knows that America has no moral compass right now.

He knows we are a country divided by our differences. But, let me remind you that our diversity can also be our greatest strength.

He knows we have no public appetite for conflict after the brutal egg on face pull-out in Afghanistan. Let’s remember that we can admit failure, learn, and do better.

He knows policy is driven by popular opinion in America. Constituent opinion polls based on election strategy are, unfortunately, what shape a lot of policy in this country. This is why we need term limits to remove career politicians and this incentive. We need to get back to strong leadership and tough decisions regardless of popular polling.

America is still one of the greatest countries on the planet, but we had better understand our role in global politics and our past, take a hard look in the mirror.

And if there were ever a time to showcase the American Defense supremacy and remind Putin of America’s strength, our resolve, our fighting spirit, and that we can admit and learn from our mistakes and become better and stronger, it’s now in Ukraine.

The free people of Ukraine need more than empty rhetoric and a box full of weapons and dusty gear right now. They need our help, and we should give it to them.