All Roads Lead to War

Yogi Berra, famous as a baseball catcher and a wandering philosopher, is credited with the statement, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Uncle Sam, famous for initiating endless wars and philosophizing about democracy and human rights follows Yogi’s pronouncement in only one direction ─ the road to war.

The endless wars, one in almost every year of the American Republic, are shadowed by words of peace, democracy, and human rights. Happening far from U.S. soil, their effects are more visual than visceral, appearing as images on a television screen. The larger post-World War II conflagrations, those that followed the “war to end all wars,” in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan have not permanently resolved the issues that promoted the wars. From their littered battlefields remain the old contestants and from an embittered landscape new contestants emerge to oppose the U.S. “world order.” The U.S. intelligence community said, “it views four countries as posing the main national security challenges in the coming year: China, followed by Russia, Iran and North Korea.” Each challenge has a fork in the road. Each fork taken is leading to war.

“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily, and technologically — and is pushing to change global norms,” says a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Interpretation ─ China has disrupted the United States’ world hegemony and military superiority. Only the U.S. is allowed to have hegemony and the military superiority that assures the hegemony.

Foreign Policy (FP) magazine’s article, “How Primed for War Is China,” goes further: “The likelihood of war with China may be the single-most important question in international affairs today.”

If China uses military force against Taiwan or another target in the Western Pacific, the result could be war with the United States—a fight between two nuclear-armed giants brawling for hegemony in that region and the wider world. If China attacked amid ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the world would be consumed by interlocking conflicts across Eurasia’s key regions, a global conflagration unlike anything since World War II. How worried should we be?

No worry about that. Beijing will not pursue war. Why would it? It is winning and winners have no need to go to war. The concern is that the continuous trashing will lead the PRC to trash its treasury holdings that finance U.S. trade debt (already started), use reserves to purchase huge chunks of United States assets, diminish its hefty agricultural imports from Yankee farms, and enforce its ban of exports of rare earth extraction and separation technologies  (China produces 60 percent of the world’s rare earth materials and processes nearly 90 percent). The U.S. should worry that, by not cooperating, the Red Dragon may decide it is better not to bother with Washington and use its overwhelming industrial power, with which the U.S. cannot compete, to sink the U.S. economy.

China does not chide the U.S. about its urban blight, mass shootings, drug problem, riots in Black neighborhoods, enforcing the Caribbean as an American lake, campus revolution, and media control by special interests. However, U.S. administrations insist on being involved in China’s internal affairs — Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, South China Sea, Belt and Road, Uyghurs — and never shows how this involvement benefits the U.S. people.

U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs has not changed anything! The United States is determined to halt China’s progress to economic dominance and to no avail. China will continue to do what China wants to do. With an industrious, capable, and educated population, which is four times the size of the U.S. population, arable land 75 percent of that of the U.S. (295,220,748 arable acres compared to 389,767,633 arable acres), and a multiple of resources that the world needs, China, by default will eventually emerge, if it has not already, as the world’s economic superpower.

What does the U.S. expect from its STOP the unstoppable China policy? Where can its rhetoric and aggressive actions lead but to confrontation? The only worthwhile confrontation is America confronting itself. The party is over and it’s time to call it a day, a new day and a new America ─ not going to war to protect its interests but resting comfortably by sharing its interests.

Western politicos responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment, “The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century,” with boisterous laughter. Go to Ukraine and observe the tragedy and learn that Putin’s remark has been too lightly regarded. It’s not a matter of right and wrong. It’s a matter of life and death. The nation, which made the greatest contribution in defeating Nazi Germany and endured the most physical and mental losses, suffered the most territorial, social, and economic forfeitures in post-World War II.

From a Russian perspective, Crimea had been a vital part of Russia since the time of Catherine the Great ─ a warm water port and outlet to the Black Sea. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s attachment of Crimea to The Ukraine Republic was an administrative move, and as long as Ukraine allowed Russia free entry to Crimea, Moscow did not seek annexation. To the Russia government of year 2014, the Euromaidan Revolution changed the arrangement. Putin easily rationalized annexing a Ukraine region whose population was 2/3 Russian, considered a part of Russia, and was under attack by Ukrainian nationalists.

Maintaining Ukraine in the Russian orbit, or at least, preventing it from becoming a NATO ally, was a natural position for any Russian government, a mini Monroe Doctrine that neutralizes bordering nations and impedes foreign intrusions. Change in Ukraine’s status forecast a change in Russia’s position, a certain prediction of war. Ukraine and Russia were soul mates; their parting was a trauma that could only be erased by seizure of the Maiden after the Euromaidan.

Ukraine has lost the war; at least they cannot win, but don’t tell anybody. Its forces are defeated and depleted and cannot mount an offensive against the capably defended Russian captured territory. Its people and economy will continue to suffer and soldiers will die in the small battles that will continue and continue. Ukraine’s hope is having Putin leave by a coup, voluntarily, or involuntarily and having a new Russian administration that is compliant with Zelensky’s expectations. The former is possible; the latter is not possible. Russian military will not allow its sacrifices to be reversed.

For Ukrainians, it is a “zero sum” battle; they can only lose and cannot dictate how much they lose. A truce is impeded by Putin’s ambition to incorporate Odessa into Russia and link Russia through captured Ukraine territory to Moldova’s breakaway Republic of Transnistria, which the Russian president expects will become a Russian satellite, similar to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This leaves Ukraine with two choices: (1) Forget the European Union, forget NATO, and remain a nation loosely allied with Russia, or (2) Solicit support from the United States and Europe and eventually start a World War that destroys everybody.

As of July 8, 2024, Ukraine and United States are headed for the latter fork in the road. After entering into war, the contestants find no way, except to end it with a more punishing war. That cannot happen. Russians crossing the Dnieper River and capturing Odessa is also unlikely. The visions of the presidents of Russia and Ukraine clash with reality. Their visions and their presence are the impediments to resolving the conflict. Both must retire to their palatial homes and write their memoirs. A world tour featuring the two in a debate is a promising You Tube event.

Commentators characterized the Soviet Union as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. After it became scrambled eggs, Russia’s characterization became simplified; no matter what Putin’s Russia does, it is viewed as a cold, icy, and heartless land that preys on its neighbors and causes misery to the world. Apply a little warmth, defrost the ice, and Russia has another appearance.

Ponder and ponder, why is the U.S. eager to assist Israel and act aggressively toward Iran? What has Iran done to the U.S. or anybody? The US wants Iran to eschew nuclear and ballistic weapons, but the provocative approach indicates other purposes — completely alienate Iran, destroy its military capability, and bring Tehran to collapse and submission. Accomplishing the far-reaching goals will not affect the average American, increase US defense posture, or diminish the continuous battering of the helpless faces of the Middle East. The strategy mostly pleases Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have engineered it, share major responsibility for the Middle East turmoil, and are using mighty America to subdue the principal antagonist to their malicious activities.

Although Iran has not sent a single soldier cross its borders to invade another nation and has insufficient military power to contest a United States’ reprisal, the Islamic republic is accused of trying to conquer the entire Middle East. Because rebellions from oppressed Shi’a factions occur in Bahrain and Yemen, Iran is accused of using surrogates to extend their power ─ guilt by association. Because Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah have extended friendship (who does not want to have friends), Iran, who cannot even sell its pistachio nuts to these nations, is accused of controlling them.

Iran is an independent nation with its own concepts for governing. The Islamic Republic might not be a huggable nation, but compared to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, it is a model democracy and a theocratic lightweight. Except for isolate incidents, Iran has never attacked anyone, doesn’t indicate it intends to attack anyone, and doesn’t have the capability to wage war against a major nation.

Defined as Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian government has not been involved in terrorist acts against the United States, or proven to have engaged in international terrorism. There have been some accusations concerning one incident in Argentina, one in the U.S. and a few in Europe against dissidents who cause havoc in Iran, but these have been isolated incidents. Two accusations go back thirty to forty years, and none are associated with a particular organization.

If the US honestly wants to have Iran promise never to be a warring nation, it would approach the issues with a question, “What will it take for you (Iran) never to pursue weapons of mass destruction?” Assuredly, the response would include provisions that require the U.S. to no longer assist the despotic Saudi Kingdom in its oppression of minorities and opposition, in its export of terrorists, and interference in Yemen. The response would propose that the U.S. eliminate financial, military and cooperative support to Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands, oppressive conditions imposed on Palestinians, and daily killings of Palestinian people, and combat Israel’s expansionist plans.

The correct question soliciting a formative response and leading to decisive US actions resolves two situations and benefits the U.S. — fear of Iran developing weapons of mass destruction is relieved and the Middle East is pointed in a direction that achieves justice, peace, and stability for its peoples. The road to war is a tool for Israel’s objectives. The U.S. continues on that road, willingly sacrificing Americans for the benefit of the Zionist state. Tyranny and treason in the American government and the American people either are not observant or just don’t care.

Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
Nowhere and seemingly everywhere, North Korea stands at a fork in the road. The small and unimportant state that wants to be left alone and remain uncontaminated by global germs, is constantly pushed into responding to military maneuvers at its border, threats of annihilation, and insults to its leaders and nation. From United States’ actions and press coverage, North Korea assumes the world stage as a dynamic and mighty nation and exerts a power that forces respect and response. How can a nation, constantly described as an insular and “hermit kingdom,” cast a shadow that reaches 5000 miles to the United States mainland and speak with a voice that generates a worldwide listening audience?

The world faces a contemporary DPRK, a DPRK that enters the third decade of the 21st century with a changed perspective from the DPRK that entered the century. Rehashing of old grievances, reciting past DPRK policies that caused horrific happenings to its people, and purposeful misunderstanding of contemporary North Korea lead to misdirected policies and unwarranted problems. Purposeful misunderstanding comes from exaggerations of negative actions, from not proving these negative actions, from evaluating actions from agendas and opinions and not from facts, from selecting and guessing the facts, and from approaching matters from different perspectives and consciences.

Instead of heading away from North Korea, the U.S. speeds toward a confrontation and North Korea makes preparations — developing nuclear weapons and delivery systems and signing a mutual defense pact with Russia. The U.S. State department paves the road to war and, as a favor to its antagonist, induces it to develop the offensive and defensive capabilities to wage the war. Apparently, the U.S. defense department has orders not to attack the DPRK before it has ICBMs and warheads that can demolish the U.S. Unlike Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, let’s make this a fair fight.

North and South Vietnam have only one problem ─ U.S. interference in their internal affairs. Stop the joint maneuvers and remove the U.S. troops and the North and South will learn how to get along and realize they must get along. If they do not find friendship and engage in hostilities, they will resolve the issue in a way that badly affects both and does not affect the U.S. Why internationalize an issue that is national and can be contained? Why make the U.S. land subjected to possible attack because two miscreants cannot behave?

North Korea might go down in history as the nation that awakened the world to the consequences of global saber rattling. It has shown that the nuclear world can become one big poker game, in which a challenge to a bluff can be an ‘all win’ and ‘all lose’ proposition. Which gambler is willing to play that game when an ‘all win’ doesn’t add much more to what the gambler already has, and an ‘all lose’ means leaving the person with nothing? The odds greatly favor America, but the wager return is not worth taking the bet, despite the odds. Keep it sweet and simple, let the Koreans settle their problems, and we will see doves flying over the Korean peninsula.

The Road to War
The U.S. does not develop foreign policies from facts and reality; they are developed from made-up stories that fit agendas. Those who guide the agendas solicit support from the population by providing  narratives that rile the American public and define its enemies. This diversion from facts and truth is responsible for the counterproductive wars fought by the U.S., for Middle East turmoil, for a world confronted with terrorism, and for the contemporary horrors in Ukraine and Gaza. U.S. foreign policy is not the cause of all the problems, but it intensifies them and rarely solves any of them.

Because violence and military challenges are being used to resolve the escalating conflicts throughout the globe, should not more simplified and less aggressive approaches be surveyed and determined if they can serve to resolve the world conflagrations. Features of that determination modify current U.S. thinking:

(1) Rather than concluding nations want to confront U.S. military power, realize nations fear military power and desire peaceful relations with the powerful United States.

(2) Rather than attempting to steer adversaries to a lose position, steer them to a beneficial position.

(3) Rather than denying nations the basic requirements for survival, assist their populations in times of need.

(4) Rather than provoking nations to military buildup and action, assuage them into feeling comfortable and not threatened.

(5) Rather than challenging by military threat, show willingness to negotiate to a mutually agreed solution.

(6) Rather than interfering in domestic disputes, recognize the sovereign rights of all nations to solve their own problems.

(7) Rather than relying on incomplete information, purposeful myths, and misinterpretations, learn to understand the vagaries and seemingly irrational attitudes of sovereign nations whose cultures produce different mindsets.

Recent elections in the United Kingdom indicate a shift from adventurism to attention with domestic problems. The Labor Party win over a Conservative government that perceived Ukraine as fighting its war and the election advances of the far right National Rally and the far-left Unbowed Parties in France show a trend away from war. A win by Donald Trump, whose principal attraction is his supra-nationalist antiwar policy, will emphasize that trend and indicate that the most disliked of two disliked is due to the abhorrence to war.

From ever war to war no more.
A pleasant thought
that U.S. administrations thwart.
All roads still lead to war.

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan). Read other articles by Dan.