DeSantis Fails His First Test
The leader of the ‘Free State of Florida’ waffles on the American interest in backing Ukraine’s bid for freedom.
Much as we admire Governor DeSantis it strikes us that he’s erred in waffling on Ukraine. In response to a survey from Tucker Carlson, the Florida governor declared that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” is not a “vital national interest.” So he reckons that America should not “enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders.”
The governor’s position strikes us as off. This is partly because so much of his case for the White House revolves around his heroically carrying a banner for freedom. His budget is named “Frameworks for Freedom.” It’s just hard to see how a Russian victory in Ukraine would be a framework for anything related to freedom. Or how in the world a victory by President Putin’s regime could be in any way in America’s national interest?
We put the question of Ukraine the other day to one of our erstwhile contributors, Michael Ledeen, who is, in our view, a shrewd foreign policy thinker. He’s rooting for Ukraine. He, like the Sun, doesn’t have any particular affection for Ukraine, though we admire their grit in this fight. The point he looks at is that Russia would be, in victory, more likely to wheel on America and its allies than Ukraine would.
We share Mr. DeSantis’s wariness of a wider war. Yet his formulation — pro-Russian in effect if not intent — suggests that he is trying to pass President Trump in the same lane. Mr. Trump himself says as much, telling the Columbia Broadcasting System that Mr. DeSantis is “following what I am saying. It is a flip-flop. He was totally different. Whatever I want, he wants.” The former president might be vulnerable, but not on his own turf.
To us, the better position for the Republicans is that of Vice President Pence and, to a degree, Ambassador Nikki Haley. Mr. Pence said last month that “if we falter in our commitment to providing the support to the people of Ukraine to defend their freedom, our sons and daughters may soon be called upon to defend ours.” Ms. Haley warns that if “Russia wins, there is no reason to believe it will stop at Ukraine.”
Yet, our Benny Avni reports that Republicans seem to be “increasingly distancing themselves from President Reagan’s muscular approach to world affairs.” For our part, we tend, after all, to view things through the prism of Vietnam. Then it was the Democrats and a “peace movement” riddled with Soviet sympathizers who in Congress ended support for Vietnam, to catastrophic effect, for the Vietnamese and for the Democrats.
The Democrats, after all, were the architects of the betrayal of Vietnam, voting to halt military aid to the free South Vietnamese army even while it was in combat — on free Vietnam’s own soil — with the Russian-backed North Vietnamese. It was, too, the Democrats who betrayed Iraq. And, as we saw in August 2021, the pro-American government in Afghanistan. Let us not do now what they did in respect of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Democratic weakness in foreign affairs led to the rise of Reagan and to the Republicans holding the high ground on foreign policy for two generations. Pushing back against the excesses of the left on these shores does not preclude helping Ukraine resist President Putin’s advances. Ensuring the Magic Kingdom does not fall to progressive ideology is not at odds with arresting the march of the Rusky Mir. It is of a piece with it.