History Should Be Our Guide in Ukraine by Victor Davis Hanson for Town Hall
There are several historical referents we should keep in mind about the Ukraine war.
First, no-fly zones. Lots of Westerners are calling for NATO aircraft to establish a no-fly zone above Ukraine to stop Russian bombing of Ukrainian cities.
That is a terrible idea. Russian planes can still launch missiles from the nearby airspace of Russia and Belarus. No nation in history has declared a no-fly zone against an adversarial nuclear power.
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No-fly zones are best known from the 12-year air block over Iraq in between the two Gulf Wars.
NATO also imposed a no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, and again over Libya in 2011.
These efforts were aimed respectively at the bloody though small-time dictators Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Muammar Gaddafi. None had nuclear weapons.
Eventually the air patrols withered away. Often allies bickered about their relative contributions. Sometimes the zones failed to stop ongoing anarchy on the ground. Enemies often still used low-flying ground assault helicopters.
The United States never attempted a no-fly zone against either nuclear Russia or China during the Cold War – despite a long history of these countries supplying wartime enemies of ours.
No nation wishes to risk Armageddon over the skies of a third party.
Second, regime change. There has been a lot of wild talk – from Joe Biden and various U.S. senators on down – about removing or assassinating Russian President Vladimir Putin to achieve “regime change” in Russia.
Here too, the U.S. has a mixed record, at best – from the engineered ouster of Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Efforts to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro boomeranged in ways that likely still remain classified.
Dozens of Cold War-era forced removals of hostile heads of state in Asia, Africa, and Latin America often did not achieve objectives that were in long-term U.S. interests, much less did they achieve regional stability. Such coups and hit jobs did, however, tarnish America’s claim to the moral high ground.