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The case for taking the fight to Russia

American warships on fire in Pearl Harbour in 1941. MPI/Getty

In recent months, the Ukrainians appear to have been taking the fight across the Russian border, says Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic. There have been drone attacks on Moscow, mysterious oil depot explosions, an “unusual number” of train derailments. Yet the White House isn’t impressed. “As a general matter,” the administration declared, “we do not support attacks inside of Russia.” Well, why on earth not? Failing to do so betrays ignorance of war “to the point of illiteracy”. What country has ever won a conflict by confining itself to homeland defence? It’s also “operationally obtuse”. Ukrainian raids demoralise the Russian public and divert crucial resources and attention away from the front lines. “The more Russian troops guard the border, the fewer dig in outside Melitopol.”

The White House’s statement reflects two common American flaws: “naivety and arrogance”. The US is lucky enough to have experienced only two “substantial attacks” on its territory: Pearl Harbour in 1941, and 9/11 in 2001. As a result, we struggle to imagine what it would be like to have “missiles rain down on our cities, smashing hospitals and schools”. If something even remotely similar happened to us, we wouldn’t show “anything like the restraint asked of Ukraine”. And despite our recent record – humiliating defeats in Vietnam and Afghanistan, “far-too-costly draws” in Iraq and Korea – American officials still see themselves as experts in the art of war, and privately dismiss the Ukrainians as “brave but primitive”. The US has done a lot of good in this conflict, but it’s time they showed Kyiv the respect it deserves.