Talking Points

Drums of war start to beat in Democrats' chests

President Biden has tried to walk a careful line on Ukraine: keeping Kyiv in the fight against its Russian invaders while also keeping the U.S. and NATO out of it. His policies are aimed at making the invasion as costly as possible for Russian President Vladimir Putin while avoiding a wider war between nuclear powers.

That is probably the best that can be done, given that Russia's interest in Ukraine vastly exceeds ours, however horrific the world rightly finds Putin's aggression. But it does leave Biden open to the criticism that he should be doing more to help Ukraine achieve victory or to deter Putin. And there is a risk that his current approach will merely prolong the war, leading to more death and destruction. 

So far, it has been easy for Biden to ignore such criticism, because it has mainly come from the type of hawks who brought us the Iraq war, a folly the president supported himself as a member of the Senate but has since regretted. Sen. Chris Coons, the man who now holds Biden's Senate seat and a liberal Democrat, will prove harder to ignore. 

"We are in a very dangerous moment where it is important that, on a bipartisan and measured way, we in Congress and the administration come to a common position about when we are willing to go the next step and to send not just arms but troops to the aid in defense of Ukraine," Coons said over the weekend. "If the answer is never, then we are inviting another level of escalation in brutality by Putin." He claimed Putin "will only stop when we stop him."

Coons also raised the specter of Syria, where war has continued to rage, as a view into Ukraine's future. The White House is holding firm for now. "The president has no plans to send troops to fight a war with Russia. He doesn't think that's in our national security interests," said press secretary Jen Psaki.

Once the "conversation" in Washington moves in this direction, though, the risk that we will blunder into war grows. We will soon see how deeply Biden and company have learned the lessons of 20 years of ineffectual foreign interventions.