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US politics

It’s healthy to disagree about Ukraine

Ron DeSantis with his wife, Casey: a healthy scepticism. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty

Ron DeSantis has caused outrage by saying that becoming “further entangled” in the Ukraine war is not a “vital national interest” for the US, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. The Washington Post “wheeled out their perennial ‘appeasement!’ editorial”; The Wall Street Journal called it a return to the “isolationism of the 1930s”. “I’m sorry. But I don’t get it.” First off, all DeSantis actually said is that defending Ukraine might not be a “vital national interest” – it could still be a general one. And “no further entanglement” could well mean he’s willing to maintain our current level of involvement. “Sure: no F-16s. But that’s also Biden’s position.”

Even if DeSantis is warier about supporting Kyiv, it is a “critical advantage” of democracies that two parties can differ on foreign policy. Contrasting views help us correct mistakes and “adjust to an always-changing reality”. It makes sense for one party to be more interventionist, and “even more sense” for the conservative party to be “more sceptical of wars… and the unintended consequences they invariably entail”. DeSantis’s stance is in many ways a natural retreat from the “catastrophic and bipartisan hyper-interventionism” of recent years, and back towards the “foreign-policy realism” of Barack Obama, who said in 2016, when asked about Ukraine, that the US should be cautious about who it’s “willing to go to war for”. DeSantis’s pragmatism may well be what’s needed to prevent Biden from escalating further, and to open our eyes to the “ugly compromises” any peace settlement will entail.