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Why Can’t America Accept An Imperfect World?

An F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team pilot flies behind a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 465th Air Refueling Squadron assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, March 8. 2021. The F-22 team from Joint Base Langley–Eustis, Virginia, is assigned to Air Combat Command and received fuel from the Okies during their flight back to their home station after performing at an air show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mary Begy)

Since the twilight of the Cold War at the beginning of the 1990s, the United States has meddled militarily–or even waged outright wars–in numerous regions for a multitude of reasons.  The roster is a lengthy one: Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and, most recently, Ukraine

Moreover, that list does not include Washington’s ongoing “drone wars” in Pakistan and other countries.

Even if U.S. leaders sincerely believed that those military interventions were both strategically desirable and morally justified, the record proves otherwise. Again and again, Washington’s actions have destabilized countries and regions, empowered unsavory, extremely dangerous political elements, and created massive refugee crises. Most of those crusades have made already bad situations worse. U.S. leaders must learn that frequently it is wise to accept an imperfect, even unpleasant, situation to avoid creating a catastrophic one.

Unfortunately, most members of the foreign policy establishment show no signs of having internalized appropriate lessons from previous blunders. Acknowledging that Washington’s arrogant insistence on expanding NATO to Russia’s border trampled on core Russian security interests and helped trigger the tragic war in Ukraine would be a good first step. The logical follow up would be to facilitate negotiations for a peace accord that would guarantee Ukraine’s strict neutrality. 

Such a settlement would leave Russia in control of both Crimea and the Donbas, and it would confirm that Ukraine will be in Moscow’s sphere of influence.  Instead of accepting such an unpleasant, but still bearable, outcome, Washington is using Ukraine as a pawn in a NATO proxy war against Russia—a strategy that creates the nightmarish prospect of a bloody, multi-year conflict.  Worse, the proxy war could escalate to a direct war between NATO and Russia, with possible nuclear implications.

Such an ill-advised policy typifies U.S. behavior over the past three decades. Instead of allowing the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s to proceed in a natural fashion, despite the accompanying violence, the United States led NATO military interventions to keep the inherently unstable new country of Bosnia intact and (conversely) to sever Serbia’s Kosovo province from Belgrade’s control. Both areas remain ethnic and political powder kegs a quarter century later.

Washington’s myopia was even more in evidence with respect to its policy toward Iraq. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, once a valued U.S. client, committed the unpardonable sin of seizing neighboring Kuwait without U.S. permission. The United States punished him by expelling his forces from Kuwait and inflicting major damage on Iraq’s own infrastructure.  But U.S. leaders did not stop even when those actions created ripples of destabilization throughout the Muslim world. Instead, under President George W. Bush, the United States initiated a new war and ousted Saddam from power.

Saddam was certainly a nasty, brutal ruler.  But he was also a pragmatic, effective secular ruler, who kept the forces of religious extremism at bay.  Post-Saddam Iraq has been a mess, punctuated by a Sunni-Shia civil war in 2005-2007 and the subsequent rise of ISIS during Barack Obama’s administration.  At one point, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, including the country’s second largest city, Mosul.  Even today, the Potemkin democratic government in Baghdad retains a precarious grip on power, while Kurds in Northern Iraq exercise de facto independence at the same time as they must fend off repeated Turkish military incursions.  With its Iraq policy, Washington undermined stability enforced by a secular tyrant, creating instead a dangerous, much more volatile, environment.

Obama’s foreign policy team managed to produce an even more horrible outcome in Libya.  In 2011, the United States and several key NATO allies (principally, Britain and France) helped rebel forces overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated Qaddafi’s downfall (and sadistic execution) with the flippant quip “we came, we saw, he died.”

It was extremely difficult to feel any sorrow for Qaddafi’s demise; he was a typical corrupt and brutal Third World dictator, seemingly straight out of Hollywood casting.  But as in the case of Saddam, Qaddafi was a secular tyrant who managed (barely) to hold a fragile, artificial country together.  By helping to eliminate him, the United States plunged Libya into more than a decade of horrific chaos. The result of NATO’s meddling has been massive refugee flows, both internally and with desperate attempts to make the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe. There have even been reports of open-air slave markets selling black African migrants. Currently, a simmering struggle for power continues between the official government in Tripoli and the forces of rebel Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.  No rational person could argue that the U.S.-led military intervention made Libya a better place.

The outcome of U.S. policy in Syria is at least as bad. The Obama administration launched an effort to help Sunni powers (primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey) oust Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad.  As bad as Assad was, his domestic opponents were worse. Washington ended up backing some of the most odious Muslim extremist forces in the Middle East, while falsely portraying them as pro-democracy “freedom fighters.”  As in the cases of Iraq and Libya, U.S. meddling has produced a massive humanitarian tragedy.  More than 300,000 Syrians have perished in the fighting and some 6.8 million are refugees—creating a huge refugee flow that has created serious social and political tensions in Europe. By refusing to accept the continued rule of a pro-Iranian secular dictator, Washington has made Syria into yet another chaotic arena and a playground for radical Islamist elements.

Those episodes should induce much greater caution on the part of U.S. policymakers, especially with respect to the conflict in Ukraine. The United States and its NATO allies already caused a needless tragedy because of their clumsy, tone-deaf policy toward Russia and Moscow’s strategic interests in Ukraine. Once again, U.S. leaders refused to accept an unfavorable situation and thereby created a worse one.  If they don’t back off now, the ultimate result could make the ugly outcomes in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, and Syria seem like minor missteps.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at 19FortyFive, is the author of 13 books and more than 1,100 articles on international affairs. His latest book is Unreliable Watchdog: The News Media and U.S. Foreign Policy (2022).

Written By

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of 12 books and more than 900 articles on international affairs.  His books include (with Doug Bandow) The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004).



  1. PubliusNaso

    January 16, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    NATO expansion has created a dynamic, prosperous and stable region all the way from the Baltic countries to Bulgaria, and including many of the former Yugoslav republics. If you have seen these countries in the 90’s and now, as I have, you would be astounded by the transformation.

    None of these countries or NATO as a whole attacked or threatened Russia.

    Russia is opposed to NATO expansion because they would like to bully their neighbors.

    USA benefits enormously from a stable and prosperous Europe, and trust in the US sustains a web of alliances that will keep in check bullies like Russia and China.

  2. Ezra Teter

    January 16, 2023 at 8:07 pm

    Once our failed wars are over, we just stop reporting about them unless it is to further demonize them.

  3. Paul Radlock

    January 16, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    And how much blood has been shed, lives lost, lives ruined, trillions diverted from the welfare of our country with this ill advised adventurism ? Far too much.

  4. GhostTomahawk

    January 16, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    So what’s the big take away here?

    Democrats pretend to be the anti war party and get a free pass for their incessant warmongering but over the last 30 years have caused more global chaos than any other govt on earth. Bush Jr gave us Iraq. Clinton and Obama gave us EVERYTHING else.

    Stop voting D is the place to start

  5. Ho

    January 16, 2023 at 9:29 pm

    Why? To properly answer that, the writer has to first set forth all possibilities, and then argue the merits of each. In the above article, the writer has not done that.

    One feature of America is that historically it was founded on religious freedom. Even though now in 2023, America has lost most of its religious background, nevertheless, the American culture has remnants of that heritage.

    We see this in many examples where, in the past, America has taken steps because it has viewed it as “the right thing to do”. Certainly, there are many aspects of American culture that do things 100% for personal profit. But that does not negate a historical heritage where America did things because it felt it was the right thing to do.

    There is probably very little of that religious heritage left in America right now, but it’s still there to a tiny extent.

    This is why, growing up in the developing world, we had a greater trust in America than in totalitarian regimes. For all the evils America has committed, on the other hand, there have been great good as well.

    e.g. people can criticise America for its imperialism of attacking Afghanistan – but those people ought to also acknowledge the good things the Americans tried to do while in Afghanistan, such as education for women.

    It is quite likely that the current generation – who have discarded their religious values – cannot see how past generations of Americans were motivated by the desire to do what is right. For instance, the “greatest generation” who fought in WW2 to liberate Europe and Asia, it is likely that many of those young men were motivated by the desire to do what is right.

  6. The Al U Know

    January 16, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    Some would say,
    ‘It’s the best we have.’….
    ….Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Scandanavia would disagree

    ‘At least we are trying’…
    ….c.40k gun deaths in USA last year, 10k murders and a lot more were suicides. A good chunk among minorities, the former Black slave population, whom the ruling elite says they care about but don’t.

    ‘There are too many bad actors keeping things from working’…
    …sweatshops in California- even Canadian CBC is worried the South Americans shipped through Mexico have become the slave labour in a new domestic colonialism. Companies like Apple use Chinese dirt-cheap labour to produce a $200 phone they sell to us plebs in the 1st World for $,1000. And China is fueling the fentenyal that comes along and incapacitates Americans alarmingly.

    The 1st World, GHW Bush’s New World Order does not care about favelas, African slave markets, child cobalt mining, famished Somalis, Sudanis or Tigrayans. It does not care if 1% of 1.4 Billion Indians own 40% of the wealth.

    It is not the end of universal equality that matters. It is means of messaging:it is the journey, the story that matters. That is why social media is so addictive. It is a soothing distraction, a time-waster. The Pandemic hit and Americans went from 4 hours a week, to 4 hours a day average.

    From The Al U Know

  7. leonard Barker

    January 16, 2023 at 11:41 pm

    I agree that the US sticks it’s nose in things to much especially over Human rights but two of those events were do to 911 and american people expected action, right or wrong. Bosnia was a UN action to stop out right mass murder. This very short sighted blow hard writer should pick up a history book and read what happened in 1938 to 1945 while americans and british streamed on and on that it was not our business. Ten million deathes later and here we go again.

  8. JD

    January 16, 2023 at 11:50 pm

    ” The United States and its NATO allies already caused a needless tragedy because of their clumsy, tone-deaf policy toward Russia and Moscow’s strategic interests in Ukraine. ”

    LOL. The United States did not “cause” Putin to invade Ukraine. That was a decision he made all on his own.

  9. troll-feeder

    January 17, 2023 at 12:20 am

    Well, you better hope and pray that it is not Dr. Carpenter who happens to walk past when you’re about to be beaten, mugged, and left to die by vigilantes on some dark night. No attempt at help would be made, just some indiscernible muttering about how terrible the hooligans are these days and it truly is an imperfect world we live in but acceptance is all one can strive for.

    The “blame the victim” bull crap from think-tank intellectuals such as Dr. Carpenter is so disappointing. Ex-soviet states begging for protection from Russia because they don’t want to become the next Geo-political snack any time little peter wants to play Risk does not constitute “Washington’s arrogant insistence on expanding NATO to Russia’s border…” Why don’t you share that sentiment with the parents preparing to bury their children in Dnipro after the Russians leveled their civilian residential apartment building with an anti-ship missile. Maybe for his next book Dr. Carpenter can detail those families’ reaction to his theories about it being their fault. But yes, I must have forgotten, everyone and everything OTHER than Russia is responsible for the heinity (don’t look that word up, I just invented it) that erupts from Russia at just about every instant for the last 10ish months.

    I won’t argue that the USA has made mistakes regarding foreign interventions. No question. However, there is a principle attached to this conversation that cannot be ignored and is as follows: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (No, I really don’t care who said it.)

    What I find so cute and ironic about really hard-core libertarian ideologues like Dr. Carpenter is they raise a loud voice in condemnation of intervention. However, it is the very reality that we are willing to intervene that maintains the rule of law (aka western hegemony if you …googles russian stereotypes… at this very moment are wearing a ushanka and have a half empty bottle of vodka in your hand) and thus the ability of free thought and speech that said ideologues use to proselytize for NO intervention. I would say it is a textbook example of the tragedy of the commons, but who’s into books these days anyhow?

  10. Christophe

    January 17, 2023 at 6:20 am

    Cato Institute: the voice of Russia.
    Shameful anti-American account. Should be investigated by the FBI.

  11. 403Forbidden

    January 17, 2023 at 7:02 am

    America ?

    America is the great fomenter of chaos in the 21st century.

    That goes a long long way to make its arms manufacturers number one in the world.

    Numero uno.In chaos and weapons production.Like no other.

  12. John

    January 17, 2023 at 7:35 am

    America is an Empire. The US dollar is the world reserve currency. The rules based world order is really USDemocracy/US empire rules. If we do not defend those such as the integrity of states like Ukraine the US world order and the US dollar will crumble. Then our ability to print money will cease. Try to fix a 1.5 trillion budget deficit then. Suddenly medicare and social security would have to be based on means testing with necessary spend down until retirement savings are exhausted

  13. Walker

    January 17, 2023 at 8:12 am

    Oh God, Isn’t Daniel Davis enough? Do we need another yellow belly telling us that we should let Russia take Europe? What is it with these Putin lovers? Are they really this brain dead?

  14. Simon Beerstecher

    January 17, 2023 at 10:06 am

    The writer completely disregards the “Will of the people of Ukraine” and the necessary stability in Europe for America to prosper.Democracy is non negotiable for a safe and rules based world.NATO has allowed the Eastern European countries to prosper as free democratic states without hindrance from Russia.It amazes me that this Nincompoop thinks that NATO somehow is a threat to Russia,a fallacy oft repeated,NATO is a defensive alliance and lacks the wherewithall to attack Russia..what for?the West has bent over backwards to accomodate Russia and PUtin into the economic fabric of Europe,thank God we still have NATO.He also forgets that Russia is the last remaining Imperial power , hell bent on restoring some sort of mythical golden age.The only reason it holds together is due to its authoritarian nad quite frankly now fascist regime.Domination by Russia is not what Ukraine wants, certainly not nuetrality.Russia is a thuggish nation , plain and simple.No sovereign nation should be expected to kowtow to barbarism.Argueing for an isolationist America will only result in America sitting behind its own iron curtain,that would be the only ironic outcome from this mans idiotic ideology.

  15. Jim

    January 17, 2023 at 10:59 am

    A good many comments regarding this post reflect a warmonger mind-set.

    They want to rule the world and any criticism of that warmongering desire receives grief.

    They need to be called out for their warmongering.

    (And their decidedly unpatriotic mindset… warmongers are traitors to America… they fail and fail… but they are intellectually dishonest… and claim otherwise… no you are traitors to the Republic.)

    They are like mules… stubborn… and refusing to acknowledge the damage they cause.

    Please, do you think you are a good American when you want to rule the world?

    No, you betray our Republic and show an attitude that can’t stand public scrutiny.

    I dare you: run for U. S. Senate or House in any state and declare U. S. foreign policy is to rule the world…

    You won’t win election, rather, you will be called out for being a warmonger… warmongers think every foreign policy issue is a nail and all they got is a hammer.

    Americans of good will and who love our Republic reject this failed policy.

  16. Psychobabble

    January 17, 2023 at 11:05 am

    A strange title for a strange article. The interesting element that is lacking is the obvious but oft neglects question; what would have happened if the US had done nothing? The answer is pretty obvious too; nothing good. It is true that US interventions have not often had the desired results when judged against the stated goals. That said it is also likely that the desired results of non-intervention would also not be met. I am not an apologist for the Iraq invasion which was executed incompetently, in bad faith and turned out to be a disaster. However, I’m also not delusional enough to believe that leaving Saddam in power would have resulted in a better outcome. The argument that he didn’t have WMD at the time of the invasion does not mean that he wouldn’t acquire them in the intervening years as the world moved on to the financial crisis and other international concerns. Unfortunately, in most of these revisionist arguments, a true counterfactual hypothesis of the results of in action are rarely posited. Power vacuums do have a history of creating substantial instabilities leading to conflict. Look at Africa; America’s absence has not brought peace to that continent.

  17. Partner

    January 17, 2023 at 11:40 am

    If the author lived in Ukrainian Bucha, and Russian soldiers raped his wife and small children before his eyes, it would be very interesting to read – what would he write about this? Probably a very entertaining erotic story?

  18. Jim

    January 17, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Hey, babler, you comment, “what would have happened if the US had done nothing? The answer is pretty obvious too; nothing good.”

    False, we wouldn’t have a new Cold War and be uncomfortably close to General European War.

    Europe would not be suffering with inflation and energy shortage issues that have crippled German heavy industry that relied on inexpensive energy.

    Your question also ignores that the U. S. pushed the Ukraine Project by supporting a coup in 2014 and constantly encouraged Ukraine’s leaders’ desire to attack the Donbas where over 10, 000 Eastern Ukrainians had already died by random shelling, terror bombing between 2014 and 2021.

    Are you okay with terror bombing… babler?

    Without U. S. encouragement of Ukrainian warmongering… the Kiev leadership likely would have taken a different approach to Russia… like honoring their commitments in the Minsk agreements… now, we find that was all a lie and deception as told by Angela Merkel, Poreshenko, and France’s Hollande.

    So, in the final analysis, you question is a red herring because we already had taken actions that encouraged this war.

    If we had done nothing the result likely would be peace in Ukraine and normal economic development.

    Babler, why are you against peace & prosperity for Ukraine? Why do you want to use Ukraine as a tool?

  19. darksnark

    January 17, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    Such a waste of space… here there could have been a really interesting and insightful article.

  20. Walker

    January 17, 2023 at 6:53 pm

    Jim exemplifies the reason I can say I hate Russians. The pure lying and twisting of reality is infuriating. Worse that they do this to justify their murderous tyranny and blame it all on the victim.

    First let’s go back to 2014. Jim and his deceitful Russian troll brothers like to blame the coup on the US instead of Russia where it belongs. It’s not surprising that the extremely corrupt Yanukovych ran to Russia when the people of Ukraine became fed up with his disregard for their wishes to get closer to EU. He was after all a puppet ruler hand picked by Russia.

    Russia knew that the removal of their puppet was their last chance to maintain their thumb on Ukraine politically. They therefore rushed in to put a thumb on it militarily. These trolls will tell you that this was to protect the Russians in Donbas, but that is just more of their lies. Ukrainians never hated Russians before 2014. There is not a single Ukrainian who doesn’t have family and friend ties to Russia.

    Putin expected Ukrainians to break and corruption to grow after 2014. But instead Ukraine continued to clean house and reduce corruption. The attack on Donbas failed to achieve the control that Putin required and so in 2021 he decided he would just take Ukraine. He still hadn’t learned that not only had he not broken Ukraine, he had actually strengthened their resolve since 2014.

    Russia is an evil country and most Russians are part of that evil by coming on here and lying like these trolls or by supporting the lies they all should know to be dishonest and even for not standing up and fighting what they know to be wrong. I will not accept a single Russian who doesn’t stand up against their evil government. Because each of them has some responsible for Putin being in power.

    While Russians like Jim are pure evil, people like Ted and Daniel Davis are conceited and poorly thought out. They have fallen for the isolationist rhetoric or part of the push for the ideology. They haven’t learned from history that isolationism doesn’t work. Aggression needs to be stopped early. Even now, the war in Ukraine happened because we ignored Russian aggression before. If we continue to ignore, Russia would have gone after Poland and Finland. Isolationism is inherently stupid.

  21. TjerkLaan

    January 17, 2023 at 8:27 pm

    Could Mr. Ted Galen Carpenter please elaborate on what he thinks are “core Russian security interests” or “Moscow’s strategic interests in Ukraine”?
    Whatever they are, they have now flattened them in a hail of missiles and artillery.
    I’m sure the Cato Institute has an extensive library; Mr. Carpenter would do well to check out some books on Russian history over the last, say, 600 years.
    Maybe he will then realize that Ukrainians do not want to be a “core Russian security interest” and neither do the Finns, Lets, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Byelorussians, Georgians and quite frankly, me neither (I’m Dutch).
    Russia (or the mobsters who pretend to rule it) must lose this war, decisively. And they must be seen to lose this war.
    That is in the “core strategic interest” of humanity, democracy, the rule of law, and thus in the “core strategic interest” of the United States.

  22. Phantom Flame

    January 18, 2023 at 7:35 am

    The Military Industrial Complex rules America not the politicians. The politicians are only there to do the bidding of their backers

  23. David Chang

    January 18, 2023 at 8:04 am

    God bless people in the world.

    Thanks Mr. Carpenter for the philosophy question.

    The reason for this question is our sin, but most people do not trust God. From ancient to this day, people always argue about this morality issue, so this is not a moral dispute between developed countries, developing countries, and the third world as atheism scholars say. It is the morality that every people should think about, because of sin.

    God created whole world, the whole world is God’s grace, even if this wonderful world is not perfect, it’s just a question of physics, such as pi is not a positive integer, but this is not about morality. Because of our sin, people rob and murder in this wonderful world, and the sin is called war.

    But many people don’t obey Ten Commandments and think about moral issue with atheism, such as psychology, sociology, political science, history, law and other social science, so we always have wrong policies.

    Many policy consulting companies which promoting atheism, such as Institute for Defense Analyzes, RAND, Hoover Institute, and many universities which promoting atheism, such as Ivy League, Michigan State University, University of California, etc. They teach people to believe atheism and worship democracy, so people don’t repent to God, nor will oppose wrong policies, and cause more wars.

    United Nations, Europe Union, and NATO are also promoting atheism and opposing the justice taught by God, so we should ask United Nations, Europe Union, and NATO to obey Ten Commandments, realize the justice declared in Article 1 of North Atlantic Treaty, and oppose social justice, collective security, and global doctrine advocated by Karl Marx.

    Devil shows us all the kingdoms and glory of the world,
    and say to us, “all these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
    But we shalt worship the Lord our God, and God only shall us serve.

    Because God created the world and gave us rights such as life, property, and freedom, we should protect life, property, and freedom of other people. But we shall pay for the righteousness taught by God, and freedom is not free. So we should observe financial discipline and prepare our military cautiously. We should oppose modern monetary theory, and against Democratic-Communist-Socialism Party, because they incite war to implement modern monetary theory.

    So every people shall confess sin and repent to God, obey Ten Commandments, stop robbing and killing people, and protect the freedom of others, not rely on other people.

    God bless America.

  24. Sofronie the Monk

    January 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Jim, me boy, you know what else we would have had? And by “we” I don’t mean you, I mean “we”, those living next door to Russia – the same thing we had at the end of World War 2: Russian imposed regimes that screwed up our countries for over half a century and resulted in the most impoverished part of the entire continent.

    I love it how Ted casually discusses Russia’s strategic interests, but none of Ukraine’s existential interest – as in existing as an independent country (which Russia has explicitly denied). To add to troll-feeder’s comment, if summoned to testify at a rape trial, Ted would casually explain to the jury the legitimate interests of the rapist in sophisticated philosophical terms (unlike the usual Russian propagandists who use the more down-to-earth terms like “just spread your legs and take it” and “the more you struggle, the painful it will be”).

    Dear Ted, please ask yourself why did all the former Communist countries in Eastern Europe ran away to NATO and the EU as fast as they could and as far away from Russia as possible. Let me spell it out for you: BECAUSE WE DON’T GIVE A F**KING C**P ABOUT MOSCOW’S “INTERESTS” AND THEIR IMPERIAL DREAMS. WE. DON’T. WANT. TO. BE. A. PART. OF. RUSSIA. None of our countries (hell, none of ANY European countries) have the intention, interest or capacity to attack Russia. And yet, we’re a constant danger to the “genuine” Russian interests. The Baltic juggernaut or the warmongering Moldovans who just got THREE Piranha IIIs, thereby creating a severe threat to Moscow itself.

  25. Tamerlane

    January 18, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Excellent article. On point.

  26. Erny72

    January 19, 2023 at 10:54 am

    Why Can’t America Accept An Imperfect World?
    …because from the perspective of Washington and it’s corporate owners ‘an imperfect world’ is one in which they don’t own everything and don’t get to dictate the ‘rules based order’ (the golden rule being it’s rules for thee but not for me).
    So of course these deluded megalomaniacs can’t accept an imperfect world. Trouble is, for the rest of us, they also can’t accpet that they’re not commanding an industrial super power, nor one that is actually wealthy; they’ve outsourced their industry to competitors and have printed so much toilet paper that it’s becoming worthless. So whether Team America can accept an ‘imperfect world’ now is kind of irrelevant, you’d better learn to like it boys and girls because you really don’t have a choice anymore. Other than to have a dummy spit, throw your toys out of the pram and shit in everyone else’s sand pit.

  27. Steve G.

    January 19, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Dr. Carpenter’s speciously titled “Why Can’t America Accept An Imperfect World?” tries to make an argument against America’s involvement in Ukraine. It fails miserably.

    Most of the article focuses on US military interventions since the Cold War, claiming they had poor results, arguing that our involvement Ukraine is likely to make a bad situation even worse. The list of our recent clashes is indeed long: “…Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…”. But only one of those bears any similarity to Ukraine: Kuwait.

    Only Kuwait was invaded by a superior military force for the purpose of territorial conquest. In that conflict we had a broad coalition of allies because the cause was just. We won. We ejected the invader. We succeeded in preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait. We left Saddam Hussein in power, accepting an imperfect world (as America always does).

    To get a better analogy, we have to go back a few years more, to an earlier US involvement in Afghanistan. In that case the Soviet Union invaded, and we provided arms in a sort of proxy war. By most accounts, that war was directly responsible for the fall of the USSR. While Afghanistan is still a mess, the result surely advanced America’s values (or relative strength, or hegemony, if you prefer) like nothing since WWII.

    The small part of the article not devoted to poor military analogies speaks to consideration of Russia’s (actually Putin’s) concerns. There are two such statements. The first is:

    “Acknowledging that Washington’s arrogant insistence on expanding NATO to Russia’s border trampled on core Russian security interests and helped trigger the tragic war in Ukraine would be a good first step.”

    This is nonsense. First, NATO has been on Russia’s (then the USSR’s) border since it was formed in 1949. Second, countries don’t join NATO unless they want to, whether or not Washington insists (arrogantly or otherwise). Third, NATO has never been any threat to the territorial integrity of Russia, so the term “security interest of Russia” means “the perceived security interests of a paranoiac.” If Putin can’t distinguish Emmanuel Macron from Napoleon Bonaparte, that’s an issue to deal with. But it’s not Washington’s fault.

    The second time Dr. Carpenter’s blames Washington for Putin’s aggression is:

    “The United States and its NATO allies already caused a needless tragedy because of their clumsy, tone-deaf policy toward Russia and Moscow’s strategic interests in Ukraine.”

    Hindsight is 20/20, so we now know that what Putin was really telling us is that if Russia couldn’t control Ukraine by subversion, making it Russia in all but name, then it would control Ukraine by force, making it Russia in name, too. For nearly thirty years Mr. Putin has been vocal and unwavering in his goal to create a “Russian World”, and as Zbigniew Brzezinski once said, “Without Ukraine there is no Russian empire.”

    Putting aside the ludicrous assertion that the US and NATO are responsible for Putin’s war of aggression (and presumably his war crimes, too), there is no indication of any tone-deaf policy. Quite the opposite. Putin said “roll over and play dead” and we said “no”. That’s not tone-deafness, that’s thoughtful self interest.

    I would never downplay the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, and the displacement of millions. But how much better would it be to have tens of millions of Ukrainians (and future generations) forever stripped of all liberty? Would that be a greater or lesser tragedy for the Ukrainian people?

    Historically the US has made plenty of mistakes, and every action surely has unintended consequences. But that’s a poor reason to freely allow Putin to spread tyranny and oppression throughout Europe and the world at the expense of American values.

    I hope Dr. Carpenter’s pleas fall on deaf ears.

  28. Serhio

    January 19, 2023 at 8:53 pm


    “None of these countries or NATO as a whole attacked or threatened Russia.”

    Read the NATO policy documents. In them, Russia and China are directly called enemies. Tell the Yugoslavs, Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans about the defensive nature of the NATO bloc. NATO “defended itself” against them by attacking these countries and ruining them.

  29. Caliman

    January 20, 2023 at 9:24 am

    Where I disagree with Mr Carpenter is in assumption of our good intent … I think it’s entirely unwarranted given all known pattern of our behavior from the coups sponsored and the military interventions supported since end of ww2. No continent has been spared our “benevolent” attention in service to the interests of MICIMATT.

    The posters here by and large seem to mostly the article for two reasons: some are obviously foreigners who benefit from current US interventionism and want it continued for their own purposes. These remind us of Geo Washington’s farewell speech and his advice/warning against trusting the word of foreign partisans.

    Others seem to have sadly embibed the admittedly comprehensive and one-sided propaganda of the west against Russia. A realistic view of the situation shows that it is Russia that is fighting a defensive battle on its historic territories and that it repeatedly warned everyone concerned what the consequences of non friendly military control in Ukraine would be. Well, the next few months should be instructive.

  30. Sanford Kelson

    January 21, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    Who will take a poll of the people who survived US “humanitarian” interventions around the world about whether they are thankful or pissed off?

  31. Mr. Raven

    January 21, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    You really triggered the national security state war bots. You are over the target. Thank you for being an advocate of keeping American treasure and lives out of conflicts that are none of our business. We are not the world police, and we have tried to be, we have failed 9 times out of 10.

  32. Robert E Smith

    January 22, 2023 at 10:55 am

    Implying that this country is perfect, or is a position to lecture others on said perfection? Excuse me while I barf…on the way to the nearest drag queen story hour or celebration of a mentally ill person being castrated and then donning a frock. Good ‘ol USAUSA!!

  33. JMF

    January 22, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Ted: My sympathies for the abuse the “true believers” here will characteristically heap on your well-substantiated thesis. I’ve read your work for years and never seen any reason to criticize.

    You are manifestly the epitome of reason and common sense, qualities that many of 19fortyfive’s detractors sorely lack.

    To put it succinctly, perhaps Rodney King said it best: “Can’t we all just get along?”

    Of course the answer from the imperial establishment and its toadies is, “Hell, no!”

  34. Tom_Q_Collins

    January 22, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    So many terrible takes in this comment section. From the defense of the brutal anti-communist wars waged after the end of WWII, defenses of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and occupations – one based on outright lies, the other a clever feint to distract from the real perpetrators of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia and Israel). Ridiculous to think that Americans just wanted to do the right thing when considering the number of bombs dropped on Laos alone or the tragedy of Vietnam.

    Russian soldiers are not the ones raping innocents in Ukraine – it’s the SBU and Azov nazis, such as what happened in Bucha where they massacred anyone suspected of being Russian collaborators (usually because they wore white arm bands or had Russian field rations which were donated to them by the RF army before leaving voluntarily).

    All these people have are lies and cowardly smears when someone raises the astute and accurate point that the US intentionally provoked Russia into action in Ukraine after 8 years of AFU shelling of civilians and “Russian backed separatists” alike in the Donbass region. During this time two separate Minsk accords were agreed to and only recently we’ve learned from people like Angela Merkel that these were mere lies and delay tactics rather than good faith attempts at bringing a mutually agreeable peaceful settlement to the raging civil war sparked by an American-led coup in 2014.

    Calling the Cato Institute a Putin mouthpiece is the icing on the cake. What does an arch-libertarian think tank funded by the Koch brothers have to do with Vladimir Putin or Russia in general other than the same desire to see that country balkanized and its natural resources stripped bare with an ultimate goal of turning the former RF nations on China’s periphery into the same type of countries as Ukraine is now to Russia.

    Some of 1945’s readers are clearly heavily propagandized boomers who have been fed a diet of American exceptionalism, anti-communism, russophobia, and a feeling of entitled ownership over the world since they were children. Pretty sad, really.

  35. David

    January 23, 2023 at 6:00 am

    It seems that in cases of intervention, it has No bearing on attempted benevolence. Muammar Qaddafi made the fatal error of threatening to sell oil outside the petrodollar. So much for democracy and free markets. Assad did not want to allow a pipeline that would undermine it’s relationship with Russia. Ukraine, prior to the 2014 coup, decided that a western deal with austerity and terrible terms for their country was not as good for them as the Russian offer… I am sure the same goes for the other interventions. No democracy, it is all just 1984 speak as cover for tyranny.

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