Ukraine and the Danger of American Polarization

The War in Ukraine has, by and large, dropped off the radar of most Americans, becoming more of an occasional headline rather than something at the forefront of the average American’s mind. Yet, Ukraine should be especially important to Americans not because our support of Ukraine illustrates our great national strength, but because it serves as a lesson on our political weakness. 

While it is undeniable that aid to Ukraine has become immense in quantity as of the present day, with Congress having approved more than 13 billion dollars in aid, the initial response to the invasion by the United States was beyond lackluster. The first few days of the invasion saw only diplomatic condemnations and seemingly meaningless aid. It was not until the middle of March that a proper aid package from the majority of major Western nations was effectively organized, almost three weeks after the beginning of a war which was predicted by Mark Miley, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to last only 72 hours. That is to say that it took far too long to organize a response to what was predicted to be a nearly knockout war.

Part of the reason for the massive delay falls on the shoulders of American politics. The Democratic party has been trying to desperately reshape their image surrounding the war. For them, this is imperative so that when midterm elections come around in November, there is not an, as Democratic strategist Steve Schale puts it, “absolute debacle” ending in a Republican general victory. 

When you look at the numbers, the Democrats have become far less popular than they once were as a result of their approach to the war. The “LA Times” reported that as few as 42 percent of Americans support Biden’s handling of the situation in Ukraine, and the WSJ reported that 57 percent of Americans are unhappy with his performance overall, reflecting poorly on the Democratic party’s chances this November. With the decline in Democratic support, Republicans have also polled more favorably with regards to who they will be voting for for Congress within the past few months. But the most clear example of partisanship influencing governmental response was when 31 Republican senators attempted to shoot down aid to Ukraine in Congress while simultaneously calling for further military aid and an enforced no-fly zone. This is all simply to say that the invasion of Ukraine is an inherently important issue for the upcoming election to both parties. And while this is unavoidable, the effects of politics put on American weakness full display unto the world.

We should not have taken such a ridiculously long time to support a democracy under siege. This is part of our historic role in the international community: we are supposed to be the arsenal of democracy, willing and able to provide assistance to whichever nations so desire it. And undeniably, yes, the United States has committed horribly immoral actions under the guise of protecting democracy—it’s understandable that some may attack that image—but this war should still be simple to approach as a lawmaker. Substantial, meaningful military aid should have been able to immediately be signed into legislation with near complete bipartisan support if this nation truly focused more on its morals than on its partisanship. 

Regardless of elections or of polling numbers, the American government should never be so caught up in politics so as to prioritize the success of elections rather than of the interests of the United States and her people. While the two can never be separated completely, we, as a nation, should expect our politicians to be able to act in an efficient way that we, the people, can support. Three weeks without significant support to Ukraine should never have happened. The issue turning into a political mind-game on the scale that it has become is disgusting. Even as a political realist, there are cases where morality will supersede, and at times such as this one align with, national interest. 

And, really, we have always meant to be a moral nation, one which supports the ideals of democracy and freedom the world throughout. Even though our recent history is very much clouded by our support of dictatorships during the Cold War, we had a perfect chance to show we have changed. Yet, with that chance, all we have shown to the world is that, once more, politics takes precedence over national values. Russia committed transgressions against every single one of our ideals through the complete violation of Ukraine’s sovereign rights while we stood by issuing little more than diplomatic complaints while our senators and congressmen lobbied to gain political power. Our moral values should never be second to politics. 

Our political polarization is a weakness that we must rid ourselves of. Voting against the other party solely for the sake of voting against the other party is nothing short of mind-boggling. We cannot function as a nation if we treat every issue like a chance to snub the other party. We must be mindful of our inherent biases, or our nation will collapse under its own growing political division.