The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is the most prominent pacifist think tank in the US, and the one most skeptical of US military actions abroad. Mother Jones reports that two members of their board, including one of their founders, have resigned over the Institute's publications about the war in Ukraine.
Joe Cirincione and Paul Eaton criticized the organization’s dovish response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “They take this indefensible, morally bankrupt position on Ukraine,” Cirincione said in an interview Thursday with Mother Jones. “This is clearly an unprovoked invasion, and somehow Quincy keeps justifying it.”
Cirincione, who was until recently a “distinguished non-resident fellow” at Quincy, tweeted news of his resignation on Thursday, citing the institute’s “position on the Ukraine War” as his reason. . . .
In articles posted online and in media appearances, other Quincy experts have called for the Biden administration to press Ukraine to reach a peace deal that allows Russia to keep some of the territory it has seized, arguing the alternative is a prolonged war and increased risk of direct conflict between the United States and Russia. That position has little public backing from prominent Democrats in Washington, who support the administration’s efforts to aid Ukraine’s military.
In an interview Thursday night, Cirincione said he “fundamentally” disagrees with Quincy experts who “completely ignore the dangers and the horrors of Russia’s invasion and occupation and focus almost exclusively on criticism of the United States, NATO, and Ukraine.”
Cirincione’s exit comes just days after Eaton—a retired Army major general who has long been an adviser to Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups—resigned from Quincy’s board for similar reasons. When asked why he left the organization, Eaton said on Twitter, “I support NATO,” an apparent reference to the strain of thought among anti-interventionists that Russia’s invasion was motivated by the expansion of the NATO alliance.
The fissures within Quincy reflect a deeper conflict among skeptics of US military power. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated that conflict, with some backers of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy accusing critics of being Putin apologists.
The leadership of the Quincy Institute told Mother Jones that they do not support the Russian invasion and are focused on trying to find a diplomatic solution before the conflict escalates into a full-on war between the US and Russia. Perusing their web site, I did see attempts to find some kind of nuanced middle ground. But that's exactly what people disagree with; to many of us, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is an evil act, pure and simple, no more deserving of a nuanced response than Hitler's invasion of Poland.
Among the other anti-war figures to have criticized US support for Ukraine is Noam Chomsky (article here, video here). Chomsky has always baffled me because in some ways he is very intelligent and courageous, but all his gifts desert him when the US does something good. Or when, as in Ukraine and Syria, someone else does something worse. A Syrian activist once analyzed his problem thus: to Chomsky, imperialism is what the US does, so any nation opposing the US can't be imperialist. Chomsky is a master of whataboutism; on the subject of Ukraine he will agree that Russia's behavior is monstrous, then turn around to argue that the US provoked the invasion by expanding NATO and general belligerence and is now forcing the war to go on. He backs up these arguments with strings of lies, for example that Zelinsky tried to make peace after he assumed office but was blocked by the US and the Azov battalions, and non sequiturs, like saying that the US invasion of Afghanistan was "equally unprovoked." A particularly good one in the article linked above is that Bill Clinton supported Polish entry into NATO because he needed the ethnic Polish vote, as if there were such a thing as the ethnic Polish vote in the 1990s. On the contemporary situation in Ukraine, Chomsky keeps saying that diplomacy is the only solution but the US is blocking it, because we want to hurt Russia at any cost. This forgets that Ukraine did pursue diplomacy with Russia for weeks, only to give up in the face of total Russian intransigence. That the US and its allies might be persuing the best available course is an idea that Chomsky and, it seems, the leaders of the Quincy Institute, can't wrap their heads around.
I don't think the Ukraine situation is in any way simple, and I have voiced doubts here about the prospect of war to the bitter end. But sometimes there really is no choice but fight or surrender, and as long as the people of Ukraine want to fight, I think the world is morally bound to support them. US crimes in other places have absolutely no bearing on that.