When Russia's Vladimir Putin demanded that the U.S. rule out Ukraine as a future member of the NATO alliance, the U.S. archly replied: NATO has an open-door policy. Any nation, including Ukraine, may apply for membership and be admitted. We're not changing that.

In the Bucharest declaration of 2008, NATO had put Ukraine and Georgia, ever farther east in the Caucasus, on a path to membership in NATO and coverage under Article 5 of the treaty, which declares that an attack on any one member is an attack on all.

Unable to get a satisfactory answer to his demand, Putin invaded and settled the issue. Neither Ukraine nor Georgia will become members of NATO. To prevent that, Russia will go to war, as Russia did last night.

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Not so long ago, Democrats seemed the party of the future.

"Inevitable!" predicted some pundits, for demography is destiny.

Moreover, in 2020, Democrats, who had won the popular vote six times in seven presidential elections, swept the popular vote again, by 6 million ballots. And they captured both houses of Congress.

The future did seem to be theirs.

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When NBC's Lester Holt asked President Joe Biden what might prompt him to send U.S. troops to rescue Americans fleeing Ukraine, Biden replied: "There's not. That's a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another."

"It's not like we're dealing with a terrorist organization. We're dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. ... Things could go crazy quickly."

Biden was saying Americans are not going to fight Russians in Ukraine, even to protect or extract imperiled U.S. troops, diplomats or citizens.

Speaking last week on the Senate floor, Sen. Ted Cruz echoed Biden: "I want to be clear and unequivocal. ... Under no circumstances should we send our sons and daughters to die to defend Ukraine from Russia."

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Whenever America is polarized, as it is today, people go back in memory and history to recall other times their nation was so divided.

The Civil War of the 1860s and the social revolution that tore us apart in the 1960s come instantly to mind. In that latter time, there was no figure more central to the conflicts of his day than Richard M. Nixon.

And no staff member was closer to Nixon in the campaign of 1968, or for the first four years of his presidency, than his personal aide Dwight Chapin, whose memoir, "The President's Man," is published this week.

Coincidentally, this February of 2022 is the 50th anniversary of Nixon's trip to China that changed the world. Chapin was at Nixon's side every day of that trip and had negotiated with the Chinese to prepare the schedule for both the president and first lady Pat Nixon.

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Because America entered both world wars of the 20th century last, while all the other great powers bled one another, and because we outlasted the Soviet Empire in the Cold War, America emerged, in the term of President George H.W. Bush, as "the last superpower."

We had it all. We were the "indispensable nation." We saw further into the future. We could impose our "benevolent global hegemony" on all mankind. And so it was that we set out to create a "new world order," plunging into successive wars in Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Syria, Libya, Yemen.

So doing, we bled ourselves, distracted ourselves, exhausted ourselves and sundered ourselves, until half the country was echoing George McGovern's 1972 campaign slogan: "Come home, America."

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