Stephen King recently shared in a tweet that "What most of us learned as kids on the playground: You don’t stand by while a big kid beats up a little kid. You might take a punch or two making the big kid stop, but that’s the right thing to do."
His metaphor claiming that even though there may be losses, we have to get involved in the war between Ukraine and Russia to help out the little guy. He is not alone in this belief. People everywhere – from celebrities to politicians to media outlets to your neighbor – have all echoed this sentiment. With good reason because in a vacuum, that sounds pretty great, but in reality, it is deeply flawed.
I’ll answer King’s comparison with one of my own. When I received my concealed carry permit, my instructor said to me "From this moment on you need to be the biggest coward in the room. When a fight breaks out you don’t join, you get away. If you’re in a bar and a guy tries to feel up your girlfriend, you simply remove yourself from the situation. Under no circumstance should you confront that guy. What he did was obviously wrong and it feels wrong to let him get away with it, but from now on, every conflict you have has the capacity to escalate to the use of lethal force. That carries a very heavy weight and is a very burdensome responsibility." I’ve taken these words to heart ever since that day. And the geopolitical foreign policy equivalent of the guy who carries a gun is the nuclear armed foreign power. What Russia is doing is undoubtedly terrible. Ukraine deserves no such suffering. But the moment the US decides to enter a war we now see two powers entering into a conflict with each other where either one could escalate it to the use of nuclear weapons.
Even if they do not resort to this absolute worst case scenario, devastation is sure to follow. The US’ involvement will only raise tensions as it will force Russia to rise to the challenge and escalate further. US involvement will be sold on pretenses like the claim King pushed forward, but that is deeply misleading. It’s easy to say that we will only "take a punch or two" but once we get involved in this fight the little kid is going to be absolutely decimated in the crossfire. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya have always been attempted to be sold on the basis of some noble cause that was spoon fed to us, but in hindsight we’ve seen that the people who were hurt most were the individuals we were supposedly there to help. Ukraine will be no different. This is not a noble cause.
All we have to do to see that this is not a noble cause is look to a previous publication here on Antiwar.com Shortly after the end of the war in Afghanistan I published something here explaining that in response to the end of America’s longest war, we should’ve expected the military budget to decrease, yet it was increasing instead. As I claimed then, "Even now, seeing the end of a war, we are not seeing the actual contraction of the empire, just moving pieces around." It is finally being revealed to us not just that it was right, but how it was right and to where the pieces are moving. This is not some honorable defense of the little kid on the playground – no matter how much they want to phrase it as such. No, this is the next move on the board. This is the expansion of the empire. However this time, the expansion of the empire has more risk than ever before. It is time that we as a nation recognize that the weight we carry on the global level is the same as a man who now carries a gun. This is a responsibility and we must bear the weight appropriately by not intervening, not escalating, and not leaving Ukraine in a burning pile of collateral damage.
Connor Mortell graduated from Texas Christian University with a major in finance and a minor in Chinese. After graduation, he went on to work as a legislative aide for the Florida House of Representatives for two years. He then returned to school and is currently studying for his Master of Business Administration at Florida State University. Additionally, he is a graduate of Mises University where he passed the Mündliche Prüfung Viva Voce Exam on Economics. He can be contacted at email@example.com.