"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion."

So reads Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Historically, that constitutional duty -- to protect America's states against invasion -- has been the province of the president of the United States, the chief executive, who today is Joe Biden.

How did Biden's predecessors do in discharging their duty to secure America's borders?

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The prime ministers of Sweden and Finland, Magdalena Andersson and Sanna Marin, both signaled Wednesday that they will likely be applying for membership in NATO.

The "prospect" is most "welcome," says The Washington Post: "Finland and Sweden Should Join NATO."

The editorial was titled "A Way to Punish Putin."

Before joining the rejoicing in NATO capitals, we might inspect what NATO membership for these two Nordic nations would mean for the United States.

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When he arrived at Christ the Savior Cathedral to pay his respects to the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who had died of COVID-19, Russian President Vladimir Putin carried a clutch of red roses.

The man beside him was carrying a briefcase.

That briefcase appeared to be Russia's version of the "football" that is carried by a military aide to U.S. presidents and contains the codes for launching strategic nuclear weapons.

French King Louis XIV had stamped upon his cannon the inscription, "Ultima Ratio Regum" -- The Last Argument of Kings.

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Speaking of the seven-week war in Ukraine ignited by Vladimir Putin, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is warning us to expect a war that lasts for years.

"I do think this is a very protracted conflict ... measured in years," Milley told Congress. "I don't know about a decade, but at least years, for sure."

As our first response, said Milley, we should build more military bases in Eastern Europe and begin to rotate U.S. troops in and out.

Yet this sounds like a prescription for a Cold War II that America ought to avert, not fight. For the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, while a declared goal of U.S. policy, is not a vital U.S. interest to justify risking a calamitous war with Russia.

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"In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security," said President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address.

"This is a real test. It's going to take time."

Thus did Biden frame the struggle of our time as the U.S. leading the world's democracies, the camp of the saints, against the world's autocrats, the forces of darkness.

But is "democracy" really America's cause? Is "autocracy" really America's great adversary in the battle for the future?

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