Are 500,000 dead and wounded in Ukraine enough? Apparently not.

The United States government estimates that approximately 500,000 soldiers in the Ukrainian and Russian militaries have been killed or wounded on the battlefield to date. 

Shockingly, the real numbers are surely dramatically higher as both nations are known to deliberately undercount their casualties. Sorrowfully, those numbers don’t include the thousands of Ukrainian civilians killed or the millions who have fled the country. 

All of which invites the question: Do those calling for Ukraine to continually march into the teeth of the Russian war machine have a maximum number of Ukrainians in mind who can be slaughtered before they say, “You know, maybe we have to rethink our strategy”?

Most on the left seemed to be against such gruesome wars before they were for them. Say, for instance, back in March of 2003. 

Back then, many on the left were calling out President George W. Bush and his fellow advocates for the invasion of Iraq to overthrow the “evil” Saddam Hussein as wrongly, coldly and egotistically viewing the process as some sort of game or sporting event with human pawns to be sacrificed at will.

These Bush-connected civilians, pundits and “experts” had no skin in the game, as they were not in the military and would not be walking point in the coming combat — nor would any of their children. Some pushing for that war sat in luxurious offices thousands of miles from the pending horror atop six- and even seven-figure financial platforms.

While their lives of privilege and luxury went on uninterrupted, history reminds us that the war with Iraq came at a very steep price in human lives lost. Approximately 4,500 American soldiers killed; 32,000 wounded; between 100,000 and 400,000 Iraqi deaths, depending upon the study; and a Middle East that is destabilized to this day.

Could the U.S. War with Iraq have been prevented? Of course. Could most of those lives lost have been spared? Yes.

Could the war in Ukraine have been prevented, or at least negotiated into a ceasefire, during the first few months of conflict? Some believe so. 

Unfortunately, many from both the left and the right (the war-pushing neocon class) successfully tagged those questioning American policy towards the war in Ukraine; those warning that it might trigger World War III; or those pointing out the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children killed in that conflict, as “Putin and Russia lovers.” 

Now, with these latest casualty counts, will they reevaluate the strategy of fighting to the last Ukrainian?

This war is not a board game or an academic exercise. Like every war, it represents the obscene murder of human hopes, dreams and futures. 

Those who push a nation into war are almost exclusively from the privileged class. Those who die in those wars are almost exclusively from the underclass, either drafted into service or seeking a way to better the lives of themselves and their families.

Ukrainian, Russian, American, Chinese, Canadian, French, English, Israeli or Palestinian, it will invariably be a young person who dies or loses limbs because someone from the privileged class wrote a white paper, drew a line in the sand, wanted to “nation-build,” wanted to settle a grudge or wanted to benefit a military-industrial complex.

Since the war in Ukraine began, one of the leading voices consistently calling for a negotiated peace has been Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Regarding the latest casualty reports, Kennedy posted on X, “Half a million dead and wounded soldiers in Ukraine. Was this proxy war to ‘weaken Putin’ worth their blood and our treasure?”

Back in May, Kennedy rightfully labeled the war in Ukraine as “the most violent conflict since World War Two.” 

On the Republican side, we have 38-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Now, while Ramaswamy may be losing some of his luster with conservative voters finally paying attention to his conflicting past statements, he has separated himself from the GOP pack on Ukraine. 

In a column published in the American Conservative, Ramaswamy outlined his approach to the war in Ukraine by saying, in part: 

“The longer the war in Ukraine goes on, it becomes ever clearer that there is only one winner: China … A good deal requires all parties to get something out of it. To that end, I will accept Russian control of the occupied territories and pledge to block Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO in exchange for Russia exiting its military alliance with China. I will end sanctions and bring Russia back into the world market. In this way, I will elevate Russia as a strategic check on China’s designs in East Asia.”

Former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen condescendingly compared Ramaswamy’s article to “a freshman foreign policy paper” and claimed his position on Ukraine was “utterly disqualifying.”

While Thiessen has every right to his opinion, it is clear that millions of Americans are not only beginning to seriously question our involvement in — and quite possibly instigation of — another “forever war,” but are becoming sickened by the butchering of hundreds of thousands of human beings who, only months before, were planning for full lives with careers, children and grandchildren. 

As they enjoy their lives of luxury and entitlement, maybe those advocating for Ukraine to continue the fight will tell us if 1,000,000 dead or wounded might be the cutoff number for a new strategy.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

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