Seizing territory isn’t winning the war


The Russian convoy in Ukraine is fascinatingly horrifying. It just goes on and on, miles and miles of trucks slowly approaching their target, completely obvious to the satellites watching from above. I guess this is modern war, mostly the long tail of the supply chain delivering food, fuel, and ammo to the deadly beast at the head.

The question is…how effective is the cutting edge at the head? How vulnerable are the logistics of that supply chain? I don’t know. We’ll find out in the next few weeks, I suppose, at the expense of all the Ukrainian civilians fleeing.

Fuel trucks are exactly the sort of “soft targets” that the Ukrainians should be aiming to attack as they attempt to undermine the more sizable and powerful Russian army’s ability to fight, according to Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), an Army veteran who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and visited Ukraine in recent weeks.

“You don’t hit the combat units. You don’t hit the tanks. You hit the fuel trucks, the ammunition trucks,” Crow said. “You cut off their supplies, and you also try to strike terror into the minds of the enemy.”

The sight of the stretch of Russian vehicles appears to be helping bolster public opinion toward providing more military aid. Government officials, once reluctant to escalate involvement in the conflict, are now talking about providing aircraft and additional munitions to help Ukraine resist the ongoing invasion.

“I call that 40-mile convoy, by the way, the biggest, fattest target in Ukraine,” retired Navy admiral James Stavridis, who previously led NATO forces as the supreme allied commander Europe, said on MSNBC. Put certain fighter jets “in the hands of the Ukrainians,” he added, “and watch that thing blow up.”

Please don’t. I want the war to end, but escalation won’t end it, it’ll set the whole region on fire. I don’t pretend to understand Russian tactics at all, but dangling that big, fat target out there, inviting the US and NATO to blow it up, might be one of Putin’s escape routes. It’s not his fault that his army is bogged down and his soldiers are getting killed, it’s the evil imperialist West ganging up on holy mother Russia, we must redouble our efforts and marshal all of our patriots to fight on…and keep Putin in power.

As it stands, what I’m seeing is overwhelming force being steadily applied with increasing intensity to pressure the Ukrainians into surrender. This isn’t a blitzkrieg, it’s Russia doing what has always worked for them: pouring raw manpower and resources into the conflict, burying the enemy without finesse. They might not be stoppable by Ukraine, although they will bleed the Russians badly. It’s a horror show on both sides. So let’s not ramp it up.

Send the Ukrainians the matériel they need to hold out and fight back themselves, but please no, don’t engage the Russians directly. That’s how this turns into WWIII.

I say that even while I’m hoping Ukraine wins and the Russian army has to retreat back home.

Another thing I don’t understand. If Putin is “denazifying” Ukraine, and hopes to bring the nation back into the embrace of the Russian empire, why is he bombing civilians who are running away? Why put land mines in the “humanitarian corridors” that are intended to allow civilians to evacuate? He’s sowing the seeds of a prolonged rebellion, even if his gigantic convoy manages to secure the capitol.

I know. War never makes sense.

Comments

  1. andrei613 says

    Well, a key point to remember is that Putin is a big fat liar. He lies to a degree that makes Trump look honest in comparison.

    As to hitting the supply lines. Among the military gear being delivered to the Ukraine are man portable anti tank missiles, Javelins. It wouldn’t take much to get, say, ten or twenty teams of Ukrainian fighters equipped with such missiles to start pumping them into the fuel trucks, et al. Using shoot and scoot tactics.

    But, somehow, Putin has to be gotten rid of. He’s Hitler 2.0.

  2. pick says

    I definitely don’t think that it would be wise for the US or NATO to get involved with air power. However the issue is whether the Ukrainians can be given the air power to destroy the convoy on their own.
    The individual shoulder fired missiles are the real menace to the Russians.
    Putin is a psychopath who has lost his way.

  3. says

    PZ:

    Send the Ukrainians the matériel they need to hold out and fight back themselves, but please no, don’t engage the Russians directly.

    Stavridis:

    Put certain fighter jets “in the hands of the Ukrainians,” he added, “and watch that thing blow up.”

  4. raven says

    How vulnerable are the logistics of that supply chain? I don’t know.

    Very vulnerable to air power.

    Highway of death Wikipedia

    During the American-led coalition offensive in the Persian Gulf War, American, Canadian, British and French aircraft and ground forces attacked retreating Iraqi military personnel attempting to leave Kuwait on the night of February 26–27, 1991, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of vehicles and the deaths of many of their occupants. Between 1,400 and 2,000 vehicles were hit or abandoned on the main Highway 80 north of Al Jahra.

    Two A-10 Warthog planes took out 1,400 Iraqi vehicles on the road out of Kuwait. What they did was bomb the head and tail of the convoy, boxing in everything else. They didn’t kill all that many Iraqi soldiers because they had the sense to get out of the trucks and run off into the desert.

    If the Ukrainians had enough air power and/or maybe drones, they could destroy a lot of that convoy.

  5. wyst says

    My generally available information from a great distance away is that the Ukrainian military is aware of the convoys, and they are expressly seeking out Russian fuel trucks, as their fiery destruction stalls other trucks, and ruins the section of road they are on. One of the reasons that the convoy is still sitting there, is that it is stuck because of the destruction of other trucks and roads.

    Russia actually has a fairly large infrastructure building corp in their army (to create things like pipelines to move oil to forward bases), if they are able to be deployed might be a different question.

  6. Doc Bill says

    There was a nice analysis that explained the Russian (Soviet) military strategy.

    In a word: Rail. Vast rail network in Russia controlled 90% by the government/military. Russia has been moving tanks and supplies towards Ukraine for months and months. In the age of social media, people who follow trains, trainspotters, have published these movements and the large number of dashcams have recorded tanks rolling by at rail crossings. All of this public domain data has been used to plot military movement (numbers, quantity and type) heading to Ukraine.

    The video went on to explain the main logistical difference between “our” military and the Russian’s. We use a “pull” method in that commanders in the field request logistics depending on their situation. Russians use a “push” method under which central control and planners determine what logistics the field needs.

    So, what has happened was this: Ukraine blew up rail lines at the border to Russia and Belarus forcing Russia to take to the roads. Heavy equipment turned the roads into a quagmire and trained Ukrainian soldiers picked off units with 94% effective Javelin rockets and Stinger ground-to-air rockets. The Russians are literally stuck in the mud at this point. The “push” logistics means the Russian army has 3-4 days of supplies, if that. Backed into this corner their only option is to intensify the air campaign, but even so the army is in no position to mount an occupation. It’s really a dire situation at this point with no clear objective.

  7. simonhadley says

    The Russian army today is a shadow of the cold war Soviet army and it shows. The entire operation is a ham-fisted clown show, not a slow organized advance.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Just about all the US coverage over the last several days has had it that “The Russians are losing! The Russians are losing!”

    This calls for a double fistful of salt, folks.

  9. says

    Armies are meant to fight armies. Right now the Russians are an army engaging an entire mobilized population. This leaves Putin with two choices, withdrawal or genocide. Putin served in Afghanistan. He should know this is unwinnable. Even if he manages to decapitate the Ukrainian leadership he’s looking at an occupation that will make The Troubles look like a summer picnic.

  10. says

    Also let’s talk about Putin’s “terms”. He want’s the Ukraine completely demilitarized and he wants them out of NATO forever. Those two facts mean he wants a Ukraine dependent on Russia alone for defense. He’s not conquering the Ukraine, he’s subjugating the Ukraine. The people will not stand for this. The Ukraine has had 30 years of self rule and autonomy. Putin would take that all away. FWIW, I hope Putin pulls back and allows the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny, but I doubt the fascist POS is willing to cave. Not until they make him squeal some more.

  11. robro says

    I read last night that the head of the Russian army is General Sergei Shoigu. Shoigu is from Tuva. His father was Tuvan and his mother Ukrainian. Although he’s called a general he isn’t a military man particularly…more of a “political” officer as in the Stalin era sense. He’s a big supporter of Putin, of course, who put in the position as “Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation”. He has advanced into his current role from more innocuous positions dealing with emergencies. Like Putin, he has apparently been indoctrinating himself with some version of Russian history and re-introduced such indoctrination into military training.

  12. PaulBC says

    If Putin is “denazifying” Ukraine, and hopes to bring the nation back into the embrace of the Russian empire, why is he bombing civilians who are running away?

    “Don’t run. We are your friends.” Maybe they are just doing a poor job translating their message into Ukrainian language.

    I was thinking something similar. After Russia finishes seizing a vast swath of scorched earth, how do they get millions of refugees to return? “See, we denazified it for you. No, you don’t have to thank us. Just come back and enjoy Russky Mir. We made it for you.”

  13. says

    Cross-posted with the Infinite Thread – from today’s Guardian Ukraine liveblog:

    Poland is ready to immediately transfer all their MIG-29 planes free of charge to the US government as part of a move to give the planes for use by the Ukrainian air force to repel the Russia invasion, the Polish government has announced.

    Poland also said it was asking the United States of America to provide it with used aircraft with similar operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately agree on the terms of purchase of these machines.

    The Polish government also asks other NATO countries – owners of MIG-29 planes – to act in a similar way.

    The move follows weeks of backstage negotiations and discussions in London between the Polish prime minister and Boris Johnson

    Here’s the full statement from the Polish government following its announcement that it is ready to immediately transfer MIG-29 planes to the US for Ukrainian use:

    The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Goverment, are ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America.

    At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.

    The Polish Government also requests other NATO Allies – owners of MIG-29 jets – to act in the same vein.

  14. says

    @14 Holy shit that’s huge. Poland is taking a stand. I thought that deal was down the drain yesterday. When a war is on a lot can change in 24 hours.

  15. Tethys says

    Place those migs at the disposal of NATO, not the US. The US has to stay in a support position to NATO or risk more escalation. The Putinistas are already claiming that the reason they invaded was US aggression via NATO, so let’s not give them any fodder.

  16. raven says

    tacitus

    Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

    To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
    Close of chapter 30, Oxford Revised Translation

    I’m late here but we’ve seen this movie before.

    The old Roman empire.
    They call it an empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.

  17. Timo Kaaarp says

    It’s possible that unleashing a flood of refugees into Europe is the plan. Flood Europe, agitate the already enflamed right and more hard-line extremists will rise in Hungary, Poland, Germany etc. Then, Putin can invade those countries to fight the Nazis.

    And I don’t think cowering in fear of WWIII is the answer. Putin is a bully, and a coward, and the west must stand up to him, not by taking away his pocket money but by destroying his military capabilities.

    There are no winners here but the quicker the world sees Putin in a casket the quicker we can all stop losing.

  18. fergl says

    Tunnocks in Scotland have stopped supplies of not only the Tunnock log, but also the Tunnock wafer!! Surely only a matter of time now.

  19. R. L. Foster says

    There is a dark humor element to the blundering, amateurish slow march of the Russian army. I’m sure most of you have seen photos of abandoned Russian vehicles on roadsides, fields and even in city streets. Most have been found to be in operational condition with fuel still in their tanks. What’s going on? people ask. It turns out that upon close inspection the sidewalls of many of these vehicles have been blown out. They’re made by the Chinese company Yellow Sea Tire. One person who knows something about these tires said they’re a cheap knock-off of an excellent Michelin tire. He has two theories. One is that they’re so poorly constructed that they simply can’t handle the rigors of military vehicles in winter. The other is that the Russian army warehouses its vehicles for long periods of time, up to a year or more, without cranking them up and running them on roads. The cheap Chinese rubber cracks and is prone to blowing out under the weight of the vehicles. But this doesn’t explain why tracked vehicles have been abandoned too. Cheap Chinese batteries?

    I know there’s nothing funny about what’s going in Ukraine, but if this is part of the Russians’ problems it does rate a giggle. I’m also beginning to believe that Taiwan may not have as much to fear as I thought.

  20. Susan Montgomery says

    “That’s how this turns into WWIII.”

    And if we can’t get Putin in a drum circle and work out our differences over herbal tea?

    We tried to play nice (relatively speaking) with North Vietnam and look where that got us. A war that could have been won in two months dragged on for 10 years.

  21. Susan Montgomery says

    Let’s not forget that Putin is counting on us trying to take the high road.

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    Susan Montgomery @ # 22: … North Vietnam … A war that could have been won in two months dragged on for 10 years.

    Please don’t chug that right-wing Kool-Aid so hard – you might choke.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    I read the same analysis as Doc Bill @ 6
    And I am told the Russians have comitted 95% of the troops amassed at the border.
    He has already taken troops from the Chinese border and from the Murmansk area. To get more, he has to call up reservists, arm them with Soviet junk that has spent 30 years in storage and send them to fight highly motivated Ukrainans.
    Byt where will he get the trucks to supply them?

  24. says

    If Putin is “denazifying” Ukraine, and hopes to bring the nation back into the embrace of the Russian empire, why is he bombing civilians who are running away?

    Because this was never about conquering land. It was about conquering people.
    If it was just about land, he would have taken Donbass and the Black Sea coast and let everyone go. Move Russians into the abandoned buildings and declare victory. Already done, if that’s what he wanted. Since he keeps going, it’s not.

    Putin needs the Ukrainians to submit to his idea of what they are; Russian citizens. They won’t. That, I think, is the conflict.

  25. says

    I am surprised that you have not been promoting the obvious answer to the Russian invasion: spiders. The US needs to send drones to drop tens of thousands of spiders on the Kremlin, having first painted a small Chinese flag on each one. Putin will respond by a similar attack on China, depleting Russia’s strategic supply of fire ants. Then, we send in the snakes, and beat both of them.

  26. PaulBC says

    LykeX@25

    Putin needs the Ukrainians to submit to his idea of what they are; Russian citizens.

    And what better way to accomplish this than by bombing civilizations? Maybe he is hoping that Stockholm Syndrome works on a scale of tens of millions.

  27. says

    @PaulBC
    I think the current behavior is an expression of his frustration with not getting what he wants. “Let them hate, as long as they fear.” That sort of thing.

  28. says

    I mean, I get the sense that that’s how he’s holding Russian right now. The Russians have been beaten down for so long, I’m not sure how much democratic consciousness is even left. He might be hoping to do the same in Ukraine, even if it’s going to be harder than he anticipated.

  29. PaulBC says

    LykeX@30 To be clear, I am not exactly joking about Stockholm Syndrome on a mass scale. I mean Trump got that to work. Doing it with artillery is taking it to whole other level.

  30. dragon hunter says

    It seems that Putin’s plan was to achieve a type of Blietzkrieg, but base on disguised elite soldiers placed ahead of time. The initial fighting, appeared to be done by small groups that were already in Kyiv. The mass convoy, was suppose to advance only after those units had been successful, and were supposed to be there only as defensive (assuming that remote missiles would destroy most of the military capacity. This would explain Putin’s use of the term “special military operation”, the use of mostly inexperienced conscripts that didn’t know they were fighting, and the poor resource planning. However, when this failed spectacularly, Putin was left losing face. It was a high risk strategy that failed. Sadly, this means more pain for the Ukranian people.

  31. numerobis says

    dragon hunter: I’ve seen the result of the blitzkrieg described as a ditzkrieg.

  32. numerobis says

    Susan Montgomery: “playing nice” via carpet-bombing cities and napalm on villages? The hell is wrong with you?

  33. says

    this site really doesn’t like my IP, lets hope it will pass my comments

    Another thing I don’t understand. If Putin is “denazifying” Ukraine, and hopes to bring the nation back into the embrace of the Russian empire, why is he bombing civilians who are running away?

    It’s simple: he can’t win otherwise and he doesn’t care. Most of Russians still believes that brave russian soldiers beat nazis who were killing innocent children in Donbas. Russia lies whenever they think they have a chance to convince at least a few and they completely control flow of information among Russians, at least those over certain age.
    And ukrainians? Some will adapt, some will resettle to the west, some will resettle to the Siberia – and if you didn’t get the reference, it is one more reason why nations that had the misfortune to be dominated by ruSSia see USA and ruSSia differently.

    The idea with flooding Europe with Ukrainians is also possible. I think russian trolls overplayed their hand recently because they believed their own propaganda too much and didn’t realize how outlandish it is.
    So unintentionally they blew cover of many of their agents of influence and cross analysis was easier to make.
    All far right fringe movements in europe get assistance (money) in exchange for promoting russian talking points, but what is new is how prolific russian propaganda is and how intertwined are russian bots with antivax movements, antirefugees and german greens (german greens are the strongest force oposing german nuclear power plants and steering germany towards gas power plants, go figure) or brexit (although in many cases russian bots are on both sides, because the more divide in society, the better).
    Polish far right is fed stories with Afghanis cooming with Ukrainian refugees and raping and pillaging in Przemyśl (there was 1 robbery with knife), polish left is talking mostly about polish far right hunting those refugees (there was around dozen of scuffles), according to European Council President there were no cases of discrimination of people of color at the polish border (so it’s not just the polish who oppose this news) and the panis was organized russian propaganda aimed at african countries befor UN-vote, happily spread by international left, the neoliberal centrist (free market stans worshipping Reagan) are already bombarded with messages how Ukrainians will get handouts.
    And yes, big tech gets it money from riling people up, but most of those started with few accounts that are connected with russian propaganda.
    So if tension intensifies, there will be more opportunities to cause more division in Europe.

    About convoy, check this

    much less optimistic source

    About polish jets and WW3
    No one wants WW3, because conventionally ruSSians can kill a lot of civilians and it will take a long time, but ruSSian would be stomped into the ground.
    But at impossible to bear cost and unacceptable loss of life and facing the loss and occupation they would definitely push the red button.
    No one wants nuclear war even more, it would turn Russian cities into glass, west would survive barely and even Chinese would be crippled (well, Mao once confronted with the fact that in case of nuclear war half of Chinese will die responded “but half will live”).

    So everyone will try to keep real (not just plausible) deniability and even biggest hawks will need to make sure at leaast Putin is able to claim it was not NATO aggression (not like it’s in character for him).
    That’s why no government considers using own air power or allowing Ukrainians to use NATO airfields – except journalists and they already got to Putin who started throwing such accusations.
    That’s why there is idea of transfering post soviet migs – is there really difference between supplying javelins and jets to Ukraine, except the price tag? We can even sold them to Ukraine with payment due in 2025.
    There are 3 problems however – they need some reffiting so the sooner decision is made the better, Poland (and others) understandably don’t like being left without 1/3rd of their airforce (maybe finally some deal like another NATO country sending their planes and pilots to defend polish skies until new planes can be bought) and how to get them to Ukraine – even if Ukrainians pilots would take them from Poland, what if they get attacked on the way to their base in Ukraine and defend themselves? That would be Ukrainian fighter supplied on polish airfield fighting Russian fighters and ww3 is ready and the case can be made Poland was attacker there, so article 5 is not necessarily triggered – last time when Poland expected to be defended by allies Poland lost 1/4th of it’s population, that trauma doesn’t go away even in the century.
    Probably that’s why Poland wants to pass the hot potato to USA, hoping Russia will be less inclined to attack it or hoping that USA is more reckless than Poland.

    The conundrum is Putin can’t lose this war (in the eyes of russians) and West has to force Putin to realize he lost the war and to break russia as much as possible, because if it will be just temporary slump in economy, it will grow resentment among russians and problems will come back.

  34. Susan Montgomery says

    @23 Okay, two months is an exaggeration, but I think the overall point stands that had we treated Vietnam as a proper war rather than a police action undertaken for political kabuki it would have been over a lot quicker.

  35. Susan Montgomery says

    @39 a “proper war” would have ended with Uncle Ho and his pals swinging from lampposts.

    The point I’m trying to get at is that if you are going to war, don’t half-ass it.

  36. Pierce R. Butler says

    Susan Montgomery @ # 38, 40-41 – Learn some history from somebody better than wherever you’re getting yours from.

    The Vietnamese fought the Japanese, the French, and the US to a standstill, three in a row, over more than three decades, and still had the resolve to stand up to Cambodia and China afterwards.

    The only way for the US to have “won” that war, in any number of months, would have entailed killing every last one of them. If that’s what you mean by a “proper war”, perhaps you’re wasting your time in any position other than advising the Saudis on their Yemen unpleasantness.

  37. Rob Grigjanis says

    @41: In 1969, the US had more than 500,000 troops in Vietnam. Where’s the ‘half-assing’? Should they have bombed some cities flat? Slaughtered even more villagers?

  38. Susan Montgomery says

    PZ, if you have a way to get Putin to hold hands and sing Kunbaya, we’d all love to hear it. Absent that…

  39. says

    Why are the retired admirals and generals harping about scrapping that convoy? Because IIRC that has been standard NATO doctrine for decades. And for good reason; tanks are armored, trucks are not. And without fuel, tanks are pretty much expensive pillboxes.

    The thing is, the Ukrainians aren’t stupid. They can read the satelite images as well as everybody else. But they don’t have the means that NATO has. So it’s probably no surprise that they make different trade-offs.

    I would guess that a greater priority for the Ukrainians is taking out the russian artillery that is pounding their cities to rubble.

  40. Tethys says

    It’s kumbaya, and what a stupid remark to make. Nobody can force Putin to back off better than his own administration.

  41. says

    Susan Montgomery, setting aside…a number of things, you were asked by several people what you mean by a “proper war” in that context. These were questions about method – how you think the war should have been waged concretely. You merely tossed out a few more vague, belligerent metaphors and straw men and then turned to your preferred violent result or outcome of the conflict. But that doesn’t speak at all to the questions you were asked.

  42. robro says

    Pierce R. Butler @ #42 — Basically you’re right with some minor tweaks. The Vietnamese and their neighbors fought the French for a hundred years…practically from the first military intrusion in the 1850s (merci Louis Napoleon) until the Japanese arrived in 1941. The Japanese didn’t fight the locals very much. They largely kept to the cities and let the Viet Minh have the run of the countryside. That was fine for the burgeoning resistance in the north (Communist) and south (not so Communist). This set the stage for the return of the French and the disaster that led to. Which of course, left a wide open door for the US to stumble in and stupidly stub it’s toes. While it was a half-hearted effort and political constraints didn’t agree with a total war policy, there was no way for the US to win in the first place…short of the Goldwater solution.

    Come to think of it, the Goldwater solution has a lot in common with the Putin solution.

  43. says

    I’m so tired generally of people’s refusal to own their statements. These are serious times. If you’re (and I mean that in the sense of on or se) suggesting concentration camps, murder, disinformation, genocide, or whatever, have the guts to say it aloud and put your name or ‘nym to it, FFS; at least then people will know the sort of argument they’re dealing with. It’s pretty ironic for someone to be blathering on about how others weren’t and aren’t tough enough for them in actual fucking wars while lacking the spine to make an actual concrete statement of their argument on a blog and stand by it.

  44. Pierce R. Butler says

    robro @ # 49 – thanks for the correction(s).

    As I recall, the “Goldwater solution” involved mushroom clouds, and fortunately Putin has not gone that far … yet.

  45. says

    SC #50
    I’ll sign on to that. At the very least, we should be honest about what we want to do and how we think things should be resolved. If people think war is the way to go, they can say so. I can disagree, but at least then it’s an honest disagreement.

    From time to time, I catch myself about to say/write something that I then realize I can’t actually back up. To me, that’s a sign that I have unexamined assumptions in my head and the right move is to think some more before I proceed.

  46. whheydt says

    One might well wonder if Ukraine commanders see the convoy as not being a problem so long as it isn’t moving. It’s not delivering anything to anybody until it can move and in the mean time, the troops manning it/driving the vehicles have to be fed and kept warm, which will use up supplies NOT attacking Ukrainian assets or populace. Can’t be good for Russian troop morale, either, on the part of both those stuck in it and those that would like to get those supplies for their own use.

  47. says

    Thanks, LykeX.

    (And I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting anyone needs to stand by any argument in the sense of their being wedded to it for all time. Things change and we learn new information and hear new arguments, and it’s great that we can change our minds and come to hold new views. What I object to is coyness and imprecision used to avoid stating a position clearly and responsibly.)

  48. PaulBC says

    Susan Montgomery@38 I was reluctant to reply, because I’m honestly flummoxed how to respond, and others have done a good job already.

    But I get the impression you have no comprehension whatsoever of what the US actually did to Vietnam and Cambodia. And well, I was very young while this was still going on and only a little aware myself. I’m certainly no expert now, but the following “factoid” helpfully provided in a Google search summary makes a good start

    Between 1965 and 1975, the United States and its allies dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—double the amount dropped on Europe and Asia during World War II. Pound for pound, it remains the largest aerial bombardment in human history.

    Now you can retreat back into the circular argument that it was not a “proper” war for whatever reason you like. Obviously the outcome was not favorable to the US. But it certainly lack for bombs dropped.

    Or is your beef with “troops on the ground”? In that case,

    U.S. troop numbers peaked in 1968 with President Johnson approving an increased maximum number of U.S. troops in Vietnam at 549,500. The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with the American spending US$77.4 billion (US$ 576 billion in 2022) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 ARVN soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed compared to around two hundred thousand PAVN/VC killed. The deadliest day of the Vietnam War for the U.S. was 31 January at the start of the Tet Offensive when 246 Americans were killed in action.

    It started out small, but it escalated into a full blown war by any reasonable standards. The idea that the US could have “won” if we just dedicated more troops and materiel is ridiculous. Maybe with a different strategy? Who knows, but we should not have been there in the first place. The only relevance I see to the present discussion is that the US acted as wrongly in Vietnam and Russia is now acting in Ukraine. The ability of the Viet Cong to hold out against such an onslaught is perhaps a hopeful sign for Ukraine (though obviously all wars are different).

    Finally, please read Jon Lackman’s explanation of why only ignorant people use “kabuki” the way you just did. Unless you’re prepared to explain what you actually know about kabuki theater and where you disagree with Lackman.

  49. says

    See also – Agent Orange:

    Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant chemical, one of the “tactical use” Rainbow Herbicides. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand,[1] during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.[2] It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, traces of dioxin (mainly TCDD, the most toxic of its type)[3] found in the mixture have caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed, and their offspring.

    Agent Orange was produced in the United States from the late 1940s and was used in industrial agriculture and was also sprayed along railroads and power lines to control undergrowth in forests. During the Vietnam War the U.S military procured over 20 million gallons consisting of a fifty-fifty mixture of 2,4-D and Dioxin-contaminated 2,4,5-T. Nine chemical companies produced it: Dow Chemical Company, Monsanto Company, Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Hercules Inc., Thompson Hayward Chemical Co., United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal), Thompson Chemical Co., Hoffman-Taff Chemicals, Inc., and Agriselect.[4]

    The government of Vietnam says that up to four million people in Vietnam were exposed to the defoliant, and as many as three million people have suffered illness because of Agent Orange,[5] while the Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to one million people were disabled or have health problems as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.[6] The United States government has described these figures as unreliable,[7] while documenting cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and various kinds of cancer in exposed U.S. military veterans. An epidemiological study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that there was an increase in the rate of birth defects of the children of military personnel as a result of Agent Orange.[8][9] Agent Orange has also caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over 3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2 or 11,969 mi2) of forest were defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock, making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species diversity is sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas….

  50. robro says

    Pierce R. Butler @ #51 — That’s right, mushrooms, and not the fun kind. Fortunately, we never went there in Vietnam, but the threat was there just as it is from Putin. Having grown up in the “Cold War” and the ever present threat of “mutual assured destruction”, I can say with certainty that even that was not healthy.

  51. says

    Maybe a “proper war” is one declared by congress as required by the Constitution. The US hasn’t done that in, oh, call it 80 years.

  52. crimsonsage says

    I usually just lurk but I am not gonna lie, the level of blood thirstiness and glee people are showing here, but also all across liberal spaces generally these days is quite disturbing. Like there is no winning here, this isn’t the story of a scrappy underdog that will win and the sun will shine. This is already only going to end with generations of trauma and more political chaos and violence. The only real humane response should be a push for a negotiated end to this, and weapons aid should only be done to at most expedite that end.

    It really disturbs me how many people can come off a two decades long war crime only to want the same machine of misery and death to kick into gear again against a new even more dangerous foe. The idea that putin is some globe spanning tyrant is absurd, he is a tin pot gangster dictator of a country with an economy about the size of Italy’s that can barely conquer it’s neighbor. Fear of ‘appeasement’ is absurd, and only carry’s water for those who seek to profit off this misery. And lest I be accused of being a pacifist that is not remotely the case, war can be a valid tool of politics but this isn’t a time when it is. What is the end game here?

    I really feel like the Trump years really deranged a lot of people. If that is the case, you arent going to get back at the russians for whatever you perceive they did to us via sacrificing ukrainians to kill russians.

  53. Tethys says

    I’m in agreement that Putin is a tin pot dictator, Except for the bit where Putin is threatening to use nukes if they don’t get their way. Hell no is it a good idea to add provocation to an already volatile situation by reducing a column of tanks to smoldering rubble. The US can launch very targeted attacks from battleships that aren’t anywhere near Ukraine, if it becomes necessary.

    Cutting off the money supply is much safer for the planet.

  54. PaulBC says

    crimsonsage@62 I’d also like to see this war end, and for people to stop dying. Not just Ukrainians whose nation was invaded, but the Russians doing the invading. But:

    The only real humane response should be a push for a negotiated end to this, and weapons aid should only be done to at most expedite that end.

    As JFK put it, “We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” What sort of “negotiated end” would fit the current circumstances other than outright, abject surrender by Ukraine? This appears to be what Putin intends and even what I’ve seen from a number of apologists posting here.

    That said, it’s just out of my control. If the Ukrainian people were to offer unconditional surrender (as Japan did after WWII) (after we dropped an atom bomb, then an inconceivably powerful weapon) that’s their business and not mine. If they were to fight on, as they seem to be doing, then again, it’s not something I have any control over.

    A “negotiated end” that works to Russia’s advantage would save lives at least immediately. It would also encourage future aggressions. I don’t know that such a settlement is a humane response, let alone the only one. I think it’s very humane in fact to accept someone’s choice to fight for their home even when outnumbered.

  55. says

    Mines Advisory Group – Laos:

    Despite the bombing ending more than 40 years ago, cluster bomb contamination continues to kill, injure and hinder development in Laos. MAG has worked in Laos since 1994. Working across Xieng Khouang and Khammouane provinces, we clear community land from unexploded bombs.

    More than two million tons of cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the second Indochina War (1964-1973), making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history per capita. Khammouane Province in central Laos was a target for US bombing. The airstrikes were mostly aimed at disrupting movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail – a key logistical supply route used by the North Vietnamese.

    An estimated 30 per cent of the 270 million sub-munitions dropped on the country did not detonate. Four decades after the war, these deadly items remain a persistent threat and daily reality for thousands of communities across Laos.

    There is no agreed figure on remaining contamination in Laos, but current data suggests that approximately 1,600km² of land still requires clearance – an area equivalent to the size of Greater London. Contamination prevents communities from fully utilising their land, with the main economic activities for rural communities – forestry and agriculture – accounting for a large proportion of unexploded bomb accidents.

    Development experts have long recognised the links between unexploded bomb contamination and poverty levels in Laos.

    Vietnam:

    Although a considerable effort has been made by humanitarian organisations and the Vietnamese government, unexploded bombs continue to place communities at risk and restrict access to safe land required for housing, agriculture, infrastructure, and community development.

    As a consequence of intense fighting and heavy bombardment during the war, the provinces where MAG works are among the most affected by cluster munitions and other unexploded bombs in Vietnam.

  56. says

    the level of blood thirstiness and glee people are showing here, but also all across liberal spaces generally these days is quite disturbing

    Quote and respond to specific comments or STFU, troll.

  57. crimsonsage says

    @PaulBC We cant know what would be an acceptable end until negotiations begin. The Ukrainians are in a surprisingly good place, they have performed much better than anyone expected and have given themselves some space to play with. Putin definitely overplayed his hand, this was an incredibly stupid move even if you accept the assertions that the russian government has made as to their provocations; this move alone has probably extended the life of Nato by decades at least, so if his goal was to undermine Nato good job moron. That being said you are right that we, as americans and westerners in general, have no place in making decisions for the ukranians. This also means though that the US shouldnt be promising to aid the ukrainians in ways that prolongs the conflict, which is one thing that we as citizens of this purported democracy DO have the right to control or have a say in.

    We should be pushing both parties for a negotiated settlement that both sides can live with, which unfortunately means yes the russians are probably going to get some demands, but it also means the ukranians will be willing to live with the deal they make. As I understand it there have been some pushes already for diplomacy, and even if we, as the head of Nato, probably cant be seen as a neutral arbiter to the parties we should be able to push others to help broker a peace.

    As to future aggression’s. This is always a risk, but I think one that is not too extreme. While this escalation is shocking and horrible, it is still in line with the unfolding framework of the conflict that had been going on in ukraine since 2014. If Putin had unilaterally invaded say Iraq out of the blue I would worry about random aggression from the russians, but that isnt the case. Additionally most of russia’s neighbors are already Nato members, or after this soon will be, again smooth move putin, which gives them a Article 5 guarantee, which Ukraine did not have. So I think that the risks of future aggression are worth the saving of life that ending the conflict as soon as possible would entail.

    Finally, as I mentioned, what is the endgame for us here? How would encouraging escalation, or even prolongation, help anyone.

  58. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 Pierce R. Butler
    “The Russians are losing! The Russians are losing!”
    This calls for a double fistful of salt, folks.

    Vile Putinite stooge!!!!. Uoops, sorry forgot myself there for a minute.

    It looks like things are going about as planned by the Russians though I think they hit stronger opposition than they had expected in the first two or three days and are a bit behind their optimal schedule.

    Kherson taken, Mariupol invested —but this is going to be nasty. There are reports of the Azov Battalion using the population as human shields. Odessa seems to be encircled. Kiev finally encircled thus accounting for the “crippled and stranded” convoy back moving. Kharkov, who knows, but apparently not completely encircled. I think it’s a tougher nut than the Russians expected.

    Militias from the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic seem to be making good progress in retaking the rest of the oblasts.

    US news coverage reminds me of the build-up to the Iraqi invasion. I have the same level of respect and trust in it now as I did then.

    @ PZ
    I don’t pretend to understand Russian tactics at all, but dangling that big, fat target out there, inviting the US and NATO to blow it up, might be one of Putin’s escape routes.

    It was there because the Russians are 99.9% sure that the Ukrainians cannot do a thing about it. To really do anything serious about it you need air power. For all practical purposes, the Ukraine air force ceased to exist on Day One though it was not until yesterday that the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that no Ukrainian aircraft remained in Ukraine.

    It was also a threat to Kiev. “Look we are coming to get you and there is nothing you can do about it”.

  59. says

    OK, I’m done here. Anyone who thinks crimsonsage and jrkrideau are good-faith interlocutors is welcome to waste their time with them. I remain astonished at the vileness of it all. It’s grotesque.

  60. Rob Grigjanis says

    crimsonsage @67:

    you are right that we, as americans and westerners in general, have no place in making decisions for the ukranians. This also means though that the US shouldnt be promising to aid the ukrainians in ways that prolongs the conflict,

    What decisions are the west making for the Ukrainians? The Ukrainians ask for Stingers and Javelins. Not providing them might mean “not prolonging the conflict”, but that translates into allowing the Russians to roll over Ukraine, with poorly armed Ukrainians being slaughtered in greater numbers.

    Yes, a negotiated settlement is the ideal. But Putin has proven over and over again that he cannot be trusted. “Hey, we’re only training here near the Ukrainian border!”. “We’re only gonna hit military targets!”. “Yeah sure, we’ll have a ceasefire to let civilians leave!”.

  61. Rob Grigjanis says

    jrkrideau @68:

    There are reports of the Azov Battalion using the population as human shields

    That sounds awful. Where do these reports come from? What media do you trust? Could you provide links?

    BTW, I’ve heard reports that Ukraine still has most of its air force.

  62. dorght says

    Saw a map of the extents of the Russian invasion (sorry can’t find it again) that illustrated that the Russian’s don’t in fact control those vast areas in the North and South. They control the some of the roads in those areas.
    Sort of like coloring the entirety of the middle US states red and saying it is all republican, ignoring all those districts that are blue.

  63. crimsonsage says

    @rob grigjanis

    Material aid to the Ukrainians may or may not be prudent, I am not one to make that decision; should it be the case direct provision from the US is probably not an ideal solution, a third party would have to be used. That being said what I do know is that, barring direct intervention of a third party on the behalf of the ukrainians a longer and longer conflict will tell for the russians who simply have more resources to bring to bear. A push for negotiations would be the best solution and again, as americans, this should be our push on our officials. It is the responsibility of the ukranian leadership to decide when and how they should do that, but there are many avenues and levers that the US can approach to encourage this outcome.

    I also agree that putin has proven to be a untrustworthy interlocutor, but, barring a uprising/revolution he is the man we have to deal with; and honestly I dont know how much we can trust that his replacement by some other russian oligarch would be more amenable, as I understand it many of them are just as much right wing nationalists as he is.

  64. Rob Grigjanis says

    crimsonsage @77: You are aware that the Ukrainians have appealed to Israel and China to talk to Putin, right? In response, the leaders of those countries have in fact had talks with Putin (outcome unknown but guessable). The Ukrainians have met with Russian negotiators at least twice. And a meeting is scheduled between the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Russia somewhere in Turkey. In other words, everything that apparently can be done to talk is being done. Meanwhile, Russia continues to murder civilians.

  65. PaulBC says

    As long as we’re discussing hypotheticals (i.e. fantasies), what I would most like to see is Russia resurrect whatever vestigial governmental procedure may exist, oust Putin with a vote of no confidence, and then explain to Ukraine that the previous government made a terrible mistake that they are working to correct. At that point, I could imagine “negotiating” some kind of settlement, which would still leave Ukraine worse off than before the invasion started (cities demolished and dead or displaced citizens). But that’s a fairly “humane” fantasy, right?

    Unfortunately, Putin doesn’t appear to have lost any credibility. As I’ve read, the Russian people actually believe his lies about Ukraine. I’m not sure how they manage to control the news without people noticing the news is controlled. (The Soviets used to be cynical about Pravda, didn’t they? But now all of a sudden Russians believe the new?!)

    I don’t see any positive outcome without a change from Russia. Russia still has more force, even aside from nuclear weapons. In fact, that’s also vaguely analogous to Vietnam. Ukraine may be able to fight back indefinitely (I don’t know) but they aren’t in a position to get Russia troops to leave without Russia reversing its decision. The US did eventually leave Vietnam, but it took years of domestic pressure in an ostensible democracy.

    The issue of military aid is way outside anything I can comment on with honesty. How the fuck should I know if it prolongs or helps things? E.g., a strengthened Ukraine, since it was initially unanticipated, could result in Russian withdrawal. Or it could just mean the fighting continues longer with the same outcome.

  66. PaulBC says

    dorght@73

    Sort of like coloring the entirety of the middle US states red and saying it is all republican, ignoring all those districts that are blue.

    OT but also ignoring those cornfields where most people do not actually live, and even farmers rarely need to visit. And in the West ignoring land where nobody lives at all.

  67. crimsonsage says

    I had heard about those avenues of negotiation and I hope that some resolution comes quickly, because that is the only way the murdering of civilians will stop. Honestly what I am scared of is that some elements of the US ‘security state’ will see this as an opportunity to bleed the russians like they did in afghanistan.

  68. crimsonsage says

    @79 some ~30% of Americans believe fox news, and they are the sane ones compared to the OAN Qultist fellow travelers. Controlling the narrative these days is less about what you say and more about what you dont say.

  69. vucodlak says

    @ crimsonsage, #67

    This also means though that the US shouldnt be promising to aid the ukrainians in ways that prolongs the conflict, which is one thing that we as citizens of this purported democracy DO have the right to control or have a say in.

    Ukraine isn’t asking us to stay out of it. They have asked, BEGGED for our help. It is not “making decisions for Ukrainians” to help them. In point of fact, we are already interfering when we stop Poland from sending jets to Ukraine.

    We should be pushing both parties for a negotiated settlement that both sides can live with, which unfortunately means yes the russians are probably going to get some demands, but it also means the ukranians will be willing to live with the deal they make.

    Putin has made it clear that his price is the total subjugation of Ukraine. That’s what his whole “they must never be allowed to join NATO and give up ‘contested territories (which are only ‘contested’ because Putin sends troops and weapons into them)’” deal means. Russia has no right to tell another sovereign nation who it can or cannot enter alliances with, or to demand that they hand over their country piece by piece.

    That’s why negotiations (the ones that were going on for months before Putin invaded, which you seem to have missed) failed in the first place. Ukrainians have made it clear that they don’t want to be Russia. Putin has made it clear that he already considers Ukraine Russia.

    Ukraine has tried on several occasions to open peace talks with Russia since Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Russia has no interest in good-faith negotiations.

    As to future aggression’s. This is always a risk, but I think one that is not too extreme.

    If you give a sadistic bully what they want, they WILL keep coming back for more.

  70. jrkrideau says

    @ 74 Pierce R. Butler
    “So (among multiple questionable calls) why do you persist in using Russian names for Ukrainian cities?”

    I have been writing Kiev for 45 years in English. I see no reason to change. BTW, there is a city in Germany that I usually write in English as Cologne. I should immediately change to Köln?

  71. John Morales says

    crimsonsage:

    I had heard about those avenues of negotiation and I hope that some resolution comes quickly, because that is the only way the murdering of civilians will stop.

    Nah. For example, were Putin to have an… event, it would stop pretty quickly.
    You’re indulging in what’s sometimes called “the fallacy of the excluded middle”.

    Honestly what I am scared of is that some elements of the US ‘security state’ will see this as an opportunity to bleed the russians like they did in afghanistan.

    It’s not just the USA, though, is it?

    But yes, because of Putin, the Russian state will bleed. And become poor and isolated.

    It’s civilians won’t die as much, but they will collectively suffer and suffer miserable conditions.

    Because of Putin.

    (Have some pity for ordinary Russians!)

  72. Rob Grigjanis says

    jrkrideau: Do you also still write Peking instead of Beijing, Bombay instead of Mumbai, etc?

  73. PaulBC says

    jrkrideau@84 I didn’t skip a beat switching from “black” to “Black.” Journalistic conventions change all the time. And it’s now Kyiv. You can find articles explaining why.

    Actually, I was about to bring this up with a friend who emigrated from “Kiev” as a child and recently wrote that. Indeed, she left a city in the Soviet Union that was called “Kiev” so I think it’s strictly correct in her case. I am curious if the choice was conscious.

  74. jrkrideau says

    @ 72 Rob Grigjanis
    That sounds awful. Where do these reports come from?
    Things accumulated over about a year so I’ll have to dig for a fairly clean link. It is as much based on reading about Azov ovor a couple of years as much as anything.

    I don’t suppose you would accept a video with Vladimir Putin? I am not joking.

    Essentially google “Azov Battalion” and decide if I might have a worry. IIRC the US Gov’t has forbidden their training by US citizens.

    Mainstream western media
    Sorry, I remember the US build up to the Iraq Invasion. I have zero trust in US mainstream media. Other Western media, so, so, depending on the subject.

    I’ve heard reports that Ukraine still has most of its air force.

    The existence of that 65km convoy which suffered no damage is a good argument that the Ukraine air force does not exist.

    @ 76 Rob Grigjanis
    Thanks Rob. I had not seen that one. Definitely not an unimpeachable source but sure beats that video with the rotten tires that PZ posted.

  75. PaulBC says

    “Azov Battalion” is a red herring. I don’t know why I am supposed to think it changes anything.

    Let me explain my highly simplistic model for identifying an aggressor. There are two sovereign nations with established boundaries and military forces. We find a circumstance in which nation’s troops are inside the boundary of the other nation, but not vice versa. Then the former nation is the aggressor. (And I know there are some reasons some Americans may have “issues” with this model.)

    It applies in lots of cases. For instance, in 1990, I wouldn’t say that either the “strongman” government of Saddam Hussein or the hereditary emirate of Kuwait met the standard of “government by consent of the governed.” If you asked me which was “better” or “more legitimate” I’d have to provide a very honest: “Fuck all if I know, but neither are democracies.” On the other hand, if you asked me which was the aggressor, I would have a very simple formula for identifying Iraq as the aggressor.

    Likewise, the US was the aggressor when George W. Bush sent troops to Iraq. This isn’t very complicated. It’s extremely rare for troops to be invited into other nations in large numbers, and while they may come up with all kinds of creative reasons to be there like “denazification” it’s still an invasion if the other nation didn’t asked to be “denazified.”

    I go into my kitchen and see a guy under the sink with the drain pipes all apart. Maybe my drains were getting a little slow. But if I didn’t call a plumber, he is an intruder, not one of Mr. Roger’s “look-for-the” helpers. It could be an honest mistake, but he’d better have a pretty good explanation for being there.

    If Putin is so great at rooting out Nazis, maybe we ought to invite his troops into the US. I mean we’re doing a pretty crappy job at it.

  76. Rob Grigjanis says

    jrkrideau @89:

    Things accumulated over about a year…

    In #68, you’re obviously talking about recent reports, and the statement from the Russian government about human shields was from March 5. So I call bullshit.

    Yes, we all know the Azov Battalion has neo-Nazi links. And that Russia has its own scumbag thugs fighting for them (apart from the scumbag thug in charge).

    You have zero trust in US mainstream media, but you believe statements coming from the Russian government?

    The existence of that 65km convoy which suffered no damage is a good argument that the Ukraine air force does not exist.

    It might be a good argument that the Russians have excellent anti-aircraft defence covering the convoy. Or it might be that the Ukrainians are happy to let the convoy sit there and stew in its own nervous sweat.

  77. John Morales says

    jrkrideau:

    The existence of that 65km convoy which suffered no damage is a good argument that the Ukraine air force does not exist.

    Either that, or Ukraine doesn’t want to lose what they do have in a futile gesture.

    (What sort of fool would imagine that column is not well-protected against air attack?)

    Look, the Russians chose the actual start of the war, they laid plans, they went for infrastructure and air defenses in their first attacks. And they did degrade Ukraine’s air defence and offence. Just not exactly a killing blow.

    Have you considered that Ukraine could be playing a longer game? Every kilometer it gains is two extra kilometers the Russian resupply lines need to cover, back and forth. Soldiers need to be fed, trucks fueled, ammo replenished. Soldiers need to sleep and whatnot.
    Logistics.

    Classic resistance tactics, IOW. What a weaker opponent does to a stronger opponent.
    Snipe, harass, trade space and time for consolidation. Weaken.

    Mainstream western media
    Sorry, I remember the US build up to the Iraq Invasion.

    It is a sorry reply, indeed. Feeble, even.

    (Do you really think “the US” and “Mainstream western media” are synonyms?)

  78. PaulBC says

    Even some US media reported the Iraq war buildup accurately as being built on faulty and rigged intelligence. Knight Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel did an unusually good job and their reporting appeared in “mainstream” papers, just not the big ones like NYT and WaPo. One reason (or I’ve read) is that they weren’t as likely to get access to White House contacts as more prestigious papers, so they weren’t being spoon-fed likes the way, for instance, Judith Miller was.

    And I remember this pretty well. Part of it resulted from my own confirmation bias. Google news search had been around for a few years and I would tend to read news by looking for “stovepipe” “rigged intelligence” etc. and this was the narrative I followed–but still from pretty mundane sources like San Jose Mercury, not DailyKos or HuffPost (if they were around I forget) let alone Jacobin, The Baffler. I read The Guardian a fair amount too, but I realize that’s not a US source.

    Shame on me for cherry-picking my news, but at least I wasn’t glued to a TV or accepting the NYT as holy writ. It was obvious that there was very little evidence of WMDs and that Saddam Hussein was actually cooperating with the inspections by Hans Blix, etc. despite Bush’s claims to the contrary. So even within US media, it was possible to construct if not an accurate picture, at least cast doubt on the ones presented.

    I don’t really know what is going on in Ukraine except for the obvious that Russian troops are there and should not be. It also seems to be undeniable that they’re bombing civilians. It’s also undeniable that Ukrainians are running away. I don’t need a complete picture to see that the official Russian explanation is complete bullshit.

  79. jrkrideau says

    @ 86 John Morales
    I really don’t care. I am not writing for publication and following a stylle book.

    @ 87 Rob Grigjanis
    If the name changes are enough that I I adapt . I say St Petersburg not Leningrad

    Do you also still write Peking instead of Beijing, Bombay instead of Mumbai, etc?

    If “Peking” had become “Pecjing” I would ignore the change.

    @88 PaulBC
    About the conscious choice. If I understand the question, yes the choice is conscious.

    I cannot be bothered to use a different spelling in a blog post. I cannot be bothered to remember what that idiot Trump called the new trade deal so I say ” the new NAFTA”.

  80. John Morales says

    jrkrideau:

    @ 86 John Morales
    I really don’t care. I am not writing for publication and following a stylle book.

    Neither am I, yet I have no issue with it. Nor should you.

    Anyway, point is that you claimed “I see no reason to change”, and I’ve put up two reasons you have obviously seen. That excuse no longer flies.

    So, you are claiming your personal comfort Trumps any claim to adopting modern usage.

    (PS “not writing for publication” — this in a blog comment! I shan’t delve into that)

  81. jrkrideau says

    @ 92 John Morales
    Have you considered that Ukraine could be playing a longer game?
    No. If my info is correct, the main Ukrainian forces in the East are in a kettle, I think the Russians say cauldron. It still leaves the cities though.

    Every kilometer it gains is two extra kilometers the Russian resupply lines need to cover, back and forth.

    Very true, and what helped save the USSR. The German High Command were terrible about logistics.

    It is a sorry reply, indeed. Feeble, even.
    (Do you really think “the US” and “Mainstream western media” are synonyms?)

    The old anglophone ones especially the US and UK yes. Canada a bit less and Australia probably yes. Look at the ownerships. I am not joking. I would want at least 3 corroborations from outside the USA before I began to believe the New York Times. Toronto Globe and Mail, maybe just one but maybe two depending on the subject.

  82. jrkrideau says

    @ 95 John Morales
    So, you are claiming your personal comfort Trumps any claim to adopting modern usage.
    Yes. I have no obligation to adopt modern usage. I am open to convincing arguments why I should. Inwsome cases I am sure i would agree.

    PS “not writing for publication” — this in a blog comment! I shan’t delve into that)

    Publication in a recognized journal. In my terms, a blog post is not a publication.

  83. John Morales says

    jrkrideau,

    Have you considered that Ukraine could be playing a longer game?
    No.

    Well, that’s your problem, right there. Perhaps you should.

    Here, for your instruction: https://acoup.blog/2022/03/03/collections-how-the-weak-can-win-a-primer-on-protracted-war/#easy-footnote-bottom-4-11757

    Very true, and what helped save the USSR. The German High Command were terrible about logistics.

    Exactly! Precisely!

    Then, it was the USSR being invaded. This time, Russia is the invader.

    We’re talking about Russian logistics, here.
    Whether theirs is better than that of the Nazis, ceteris paribus, is rather questionable.

    (And guess who was helping the USSR at the time? Good ol’ Uncle Sam, among others.
    This time, other way around)

    (Do you really think “the US” and “Mainstream western media” are synonyms?)

    The old anglophone ones especially the US and UK yes.

    What about francophone? Hispanic? Italian? Japanese? etc.

    (Hey, did you notice the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_fries incident? That was amusing, but kinda doesn’t fit into your conceit)

  84. John Morales says

    jrkrideau:

    Yes. I have no obligation to adopt modern usage. I am open to convincing arguments why I should.

    Of course you are under no obligation. In fact, it’s better that you reveal yourself.

    As for convincing arguments, I just gave you a sample — again: “Anyway, point is that you claimed “I see no reason to change”, and I’ve put up two reasons you have obviously seen. That excuse no longer flies.”

    Publication in a recognized journal. In my terms, a blog post is not a publication.

    Fair enough. But you also claimed that “I am not writing for publication and following a stylle book.”, so it follows that were you actually writing for publication and following a style book, you’d adopt current and modern style.

    The downside it that it would make you look like someone who didn’t support Russia.

    (I think I see the problem there)

  85. jrkrideau says

    @ 93 PaulBC
    Even some US media reported the Iraq war buildup accurately as being built on faulty and rigged intelligence. Knight Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel did an unusually good job

    I was not aware of that. I am Canadian and we really only got the “big” reports and they were uniformly “RaH RaH RaH look at that yellowcake.”

    CBC Radio used to have Scott Ridder, the UN chief arms inspector on regularly saying that there were no WMD. I got the impression that none of the main news organizations would talk to him.

    I don’t really know what is going on in Ukraine except for the obvious that Russian troops are there and should not be.

    Very true but they do not want to be there either.

    It also seems to be undeniable that they’re bombing civilians.
    On purpose or accidentally? The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work. These people are neighbours and often cousins. Gratuitous bombing upsets family reunions.

    It’s also undeniable that Ukrainians are running away.

    You mean the rufugees? Anybody in their rigt minhd would be heading for the border.

    I don’t need a complete picture to see that the official Russian explanation is complete bullshit.

    Oh, and just what is the Russian explanation?

    If you are interested here is a short explanation
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT_W0Cs-wjs&t=2s

    Be careful. If anyone knows you have seen this you may have to go through a complete purification ceremony.

    Click on the “cc” button to get the English subtitles.

  86. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    crimsonsage in 77
    In brutal pessimistic realpolitk terms, war is diplomacy by other means, and war alone cannot achieve peace. Only negotiated settlement (or genocide) can achieve peace. War is a tool to bring someone to the negotiating table to achieve peace – or – key part here – war is a tool to strengthen one’s position at the negotiating table. It is likely that Ukraine’s much-greater-than-expected resistance will greatly strengthen their bargaining position at the negotiating table. Prolonging the conflict may be in Ukraine’s interests, and it is up to the people of Ukraine to decide what is in their interests.

  87. John Morales says

    jrkrideau (to PaulBC):
    I was not aware of that. I am Canadian and we really only got the “big” reports and they were uniformly “RaH RaH RaH look at that yellowcake.”

    Um, what you just recently wrote about US media and Western mainstream Media kinda relies on this particular claim not being true.

    I don’t really know what is going on in Ukraine except for the obvious that Russian troops are there and should not be.
    Very true but they do not want to be there either.

    Mate! The Ukrainians most certainly want to be there. That’s why they’re fighting for their homeland, instead of invading their neighbours’ land!

    But I get you:
    item: Russian troops do not want to be there.
    item: Ukrainian troops do not want Russian troops there, either.

    So, the easy fix comes to mind, no? The Russians stop invading.

    Oh, wait. Dictator de facto Putin wants a war of aggression.

    (Dictator de facto Putin gets a war of aggression, yay. Shame his troops do not want to be there, eh?)

    It also seems to be undeniable that they’re bombing civilians.
    On purpose or accidentally? The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work.

    Um. There are plenty of reports from reporters from all over the world, you know.
    Video, pictures.

    But I get you, it was indeed undeniable, since even you cavilled at denying it.

    Perhaps not bombing the city blocks or the hospitals or generally civilian areas would increase the success rate. You know, smarter instead of barbaric.

    But these are Putin’s toys (who you consider don’t want to be there), and they do what they’re told.

    I don’t need a complete picture to see that the official Russian explanation is complete bullshit.

    Oh, and just what is the Russian explanation?

    Pretty much the same as yours, actually.

  88. Rob Grigjanis says

    jrkrideau @100:

    The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work.

    You really believe that, don’t you? How do you breathe with your head so far up your arse?

  89. John Morales says

    Wow. Gonna fix that — though I normally don’t to avoid spamming. In this case…]

    jrkrideau (to PaulBC):

    I was not aware of that. I am Canadian and we really only got the “big” reports and they were uniformly “RaH RaH RaH look at that yellowcake.”

    Um, what you just recently wrote about US media and Western mainstream Media kinda relies on this particular claim not being true.

    I don’t really know what is going on in Ukraine except for the obvious that Russian troops are there and should not be.
    Very true but they do not want to be there either.

    Mate! The Ukrainians most certainly want to be there. That’s why they’re fighting for their homeland, instead of invading their neighbours’ land!

    But I get you:
    item: Russian troops do not want to be there.
    item: Ukrainian troops do not want Russian troops there, either.

    So, the easy fix comes to mind, no? The Russians stop invading.

    Oh, wait. Dictator de facto Putin wants a war of aggression.

    (Dictator de facto Putin gets a war of aggression, yay. Shame his troops do not want to be there, eh?)

    It also seems to be undeniable that they’re bombing civilians.
    On purpose or accidentally? The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work.

    Um. There are plenty of reports from reporters from all over the world, you know.
    Video, pictures.

    But I get you, it was indeed undeniable, since even you cavilled at denying it.

    Perhaps not bombing the city blocks or the hospitals or generally civilian areas would increase the success rate. You know, smarter instead of barbaric.

    But these are Putin’s toys (who you consider don’t want to be there), and they do what they’re told.

    I don’t need a complete picture to see that the official Russian explanation is complete bullshit.

    Oh, and just what is the Russian explanation?

    Pretty much the same as yours, actually.

  90. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work. These people are neighbours and often cousins. Gratuitous bombing upsets family reunions.

    What the flying fuck? How far up Putin’s ass is your head? If you go a little further, you might see daylight.

    On what possible reliable basis could you make such an outrageous claim – outrageous because of all of the evidence to the contrary?

  91. jrkrideau says

    98 John Morales
    Here, for your instruction: https://acoup.blog/2022/03/03/collections-how-the-weak-can-win-a-primer-on-protracted-war/#easy-footnote-bottom-4-11757

    Read that last week at did a minor critique on its application to Ukraine but thank you

    We’re talking about Russian logistics, here.
    minisce compared to the USSR. The Russian forces appear to be well equipped for local combat. France? forget it

    And guess who was helping the USSR at the time? Good ol’ Uncle Sam, among others.

    Ah you were? Oh the shipments via Vladivostock. Barbarossa started in June.

    What about francophone? Hispanic? Italian? Japanese?

    I do not read the francophone press that much but I have a bit more trust in it but it depends on the subject and the country.

    I don’t read or comprehend the other languages.

  92. jrkrideau says

    @ John Morales

    @ GerrardOfTitanServer

    Yes, damn it, they are doing their best and taking losses for it.

    outrageous because of all of the evidence to the contrary? Which is?

    Let’s talk about Raqqa. Obviously the USA was minimizing casualties there too.

    For four months in 2017, an American-led coalition in Syria dropped some ten thousand bombs on Raqqa,

  93. John Morales says

    jrkrideau, you have no credibility left.

    Such as that which is there to be seen. Even when purportedly purblind.

    cf. https://www.google.com/search?bm=isch&q=images+destruction+ukraine

    Also, be aware tu quoque is not an excuse. It’s an admission in hope of an evasion.
    A losing strategy. Like Russia’s.

    (e.g., one does not defend a rapist by saying that others also rape.)

    Yes, damn it, they are doing their best and taking losses for it.

    That’s one way to put it.

    More accurate would be to note they are doing their worst and taking losses for it.

    (It being Putin’s ego)

  94. John Morales says

    jrkrideau, just checking.

    How many women and old men and children have fled Ukraine, as we argue the merits of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? In your informed estimation.

  95. says

    7 March 2022
    Between 04:00 on 24 February 2022, when the Russian Federation’s armed attack against Ukraine started, and 24:00 on 6 March 2022 (local time), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,207 civilian casualties in the country: 406 killed and 801 injured.

    Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.

    Link

  96. says

    lotharloo @ #110:

    Idiots like jrkrideau are called tankies…

    Yes, I’m aware. About a month ago, as it happens, I linked to this podcast. Who knew discussions about Stalin denialism would so soon be relevant to understanding Putin denialism?

    This meme describes them perfectly:…

    Good meme.

  97. numerobis says

    The weird thing about today’s tankies is they’re defending an anti-communist fascist dictator as if he were the second coming of Stalin.

    One of the joys of my life was getting invited to dinner at my neighbour’s ~10 years ago and one of the guests, who I guessed was maybe late 60s or early 70s, pipes up with “I broke with Stalin when he allied with Hitler”. She was actually in her mid-90s, and had been a communist on a commune in Russia in her 20s.

  98. StevoR says

    @107. jrkrideau : “Let’s talk about Raqqa. Obviously the USA was minimizing casualties there too.”

    Didn’t Putin and RuSSia devastatingly bomb Syria’s cities and its rebels too to protect his puppet dictator – not Trump, the other one, Bashar Assad?

    Hmm .. Yes :

    https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/10/1/what-has-russia-gained-from-five-years-of-fighting-in-syria

    &

    https://www.dw.com/en/russian-attacks-on-syrian-water-stations-and-farms-deliberate/a-60747405

    &

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/world/middleeast/russia-bombing-syrian-hospitals.html

    Igf you ar egoing to be an apologist for Putin -and again, what is wrong with you that youchoose to be that?

    Then Syria is probly really NOT the best counter-example to try to use.

  99. StevoR says

    That’s

    If you are going to be an apologist for Putin – and again, what is wrong with you that you choose to be that?

    For clarity and yeah, its way past my bedtime and Ican’t type wellwhen I’m wide awake. But still. FFS dude.

  100. birgerjohansson says

    I may be biased as I grew up a short ferry tour from Finland, another country with a troubled history with Russia.
    However, I see no problem with the anti-corruption democratically elected Ukrainan president.
    Objectively, a sovereign state has the right to orient itself towards the EU and NATO if it wants to. And if Russia is upset with neighbors joining NATO, well that is the consequence of past Soviet/Russian belligerence.
    The western leaders may often be motivated by bad reasons for their policies but right now is a rare moment when they line up with ethics.
    (I can’t believe I am praising Biden et al)

  101. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Yes, damn it, they are doing their best and taking losses for it.

    How do you know that?

    I see reports coming in all the time of Russian troops using indirect shelling of Ukrainian cities and repeatedly violating ceasefires and humanitarian corridors. That seems to be inconsistent with trying to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

  102. snarkrates says

    I think what we are seeing–in addition to gross negligence in planning by Russia–is that there are limits to what can be achieved by military means unless your sole objective is killing your enemy.

    The limits are imposed in part by the losses and expense the home population are willing to endure. This is what has driven the US and other democracies to rely so heavily on air power–with predictable results that we wind up not controlling the ground. Russia does not suffer as much from these limitations imposed by public opinion. Putin and his generals only care what the oligarchs think, and as long as the oligarchs benefit more from the current regime than from regime change, Putin et al. have nothing to fear.

    However, there are other limitations even when one controls the “ground”. An occupying force will always generate opposition merely by virtue of being an occupier. They can try to get around this by installing a puppet regime, but a puppet will lack legitimacy (viz. Hong Kong). They can try to suppress dissent with force–and wind up generating even more dissent and more opposition and eventually violence. And such an opposition can over time bleed the occupying force–and the national treasury–to death.

    This is why it is so tempting for those contemplating an invasion to imagine that they will be greeted as liberators. It is why invading regimes get high on their own supply of propaganda and discount the level of resistance they will face. And really, other than the Allies driving out the Nazis in occupied Europe, how many instances have there been of conquerors being celebrated as liberators? Military forces are always more effective as defenders than they are as invaders. And politicians seem astoundingly slow to comprehend that fact. Clausewitz said, “War is politics by other means.” And since all politics is local, an invader is never going to be a winner in the long term.

  103. PaulBC says

    jrkridea@100

    The Russians are trying their damnedest to keep civilian casualties down but it does not always work.

    This is one of the most ludicrous things you’ve said so far. Again, I don’t know what news sources I can trust, but I have other context for comparison. The US also kills civilians (e.g. killing people at weddings during “targeted” bombings) but clearly does not do it at the rate Russia has been for the past couple of weeks. To believe they are “trying their damnedest” would require a level of incompetence inconsistent with the rest of your claims.

    Let’s very hypothetically replace “Russia, the invader” with “Russia, the incompetent butcher that means well and just wants to rid Ukraine of those pesky Nazis.” While I find the latter idea ridiculous, I don’t think that if I were living in Ukraine it would be a salient distinction.

  104. PaulBC says

    Now I’m curious what jrkrideau thinks of the arguments typically offered in defense of police violence in the US: (a) police are there to fight the bad guys (b) yes, sadly, they sometimes kill innocent people by mistake (c) they are “trying their damnedest” not to use lethal force unnecessarily.

    It seems to be roughly the same argument, though US cops don’t level entire city blocks to address a “situation.” Well, with rare exceptions.

  105. jrkrideau says

    @ 114 StevoR

    From Al Jazeela
    In the span of five years, Russia not only managed to preserve the Syrian government ….
    Success. Russia did not want a failed state full of jehadis. Jehadis are pretty well gone.

  106. whheydt says

    Re: snarkrates @ #118..
    It goes back to Italian general Douhet. He proposed in, the 1920s, that it was possible to win a war through air power by destroying the plant production needed to support a modern army and–in the process–destroy civilian morale and support for the war effort. Both sides of WW2 bought into the idea. Both sides of WW2 tried to implement it. Both sides claimed that it would work on their opponents, but that their own population “could take it” and still support the war effort.

    Just about the only time the Douhetist thesis worked was when enough bombers dropping enough bombs (including incendiaries) to start a firestorm, e.g. Hamburg and Dresden. That actually broke–local–civilian morale. Though by the time that worked, Germany was pretty much pounded flat, anyway.

  107. microraptor says

    I notice that jrkrideau is not actually providing the sources for their information, just context-free sentences that they claim are from somewhere.

  108. Kagehi says

    Got to rant on this someplace, so will here. The “latest” madness, invented today, by my coworkers (don’t tell Fox, of they will steal it) is that Biden somehow pulled a crystal ball out of his ass when he got into office, predicted that Putin would invade Ukraine, so THAT is why he made a deal with the Taliban to leave Afghanistan – to free up troops to send to Poland.

    Between this, and the madness of them ignoring “everything” that oil companies have done over the years to cheat us, lie about their tech, refuse to improve anything (Them there pipelines must leak, and have to leak into rivers, don’t you know. We can land on the moon, but can’t fix pipelines!), its 100% Biden’s fault for a) increasing how much Russian oil we where buying, then up and suddenly banning the purchase of the same, obviously as a conspiracy to make people buy electric vehicles – which we don’t have enough batteries, charging stations, or, for that matter, flipping cars, in any legit sense.

    Its a chicken, egg, and rooster problem. If we could make enough batteries, we wouldn’t be able to charge them, but without enough people wanting to buy electric cars we won’t get enough charging stations, fast enough, to be able to use them all. But.. yeah, logic is… literally the bane of these people’s existence at thing point. It is instead all about the next conspiracy that they read from Q, or gets repeated on Fox….

    Rant over… Sigh…

  109. Walter Solomon says

    jrkrideau @122

    Success. Russia did not want a failed state full of jehadis. Jehadis are pretty well gone.

    At what cost? The loss of life and human misery caused by Russia’s actions in Syria are likely greater than what would’ve been cause by any would-be “jehadi.”

  110. StevoR says

    @ 125. Kagehi : What exactly do they want Biden to do?

    What do they expectthe POTUS to do? Start WWIII? Negotiate an amazing peace treaty somehow? Wave a magic wand?

    Honestly curious. What is Biden, what is the United States supposed to do that will fix things or be better here?

  111. Kagehi says

    Yeah, StevoR. No idea, other than that I am 100% sure they all think, “If Trump was still in charge this wouldn’t be happening!” Its literally a game of, “Everything is Biden’s fault, even if the stuff that started under Trump. And even if, like withdrawing from the Middle East, it was something even they supported, until a Democrat was the one that did it.”

    I mean, after all, in their weird vision of how the position works (or should), the “president” is all powerful, and if he is part of the conspiracy all bad things that are happening must be part of a secret plot, while if he’s a conservative instead, and can’t do anything, it must be because the vast, secret, conspiracy is preventing it – or something. This literally seems to be their thinking – if its their guy, then the evil liberals are working in secret to undermine him, while if its a liberal, anything and everything, including Covid, Masks, Ukraine, and possibly dandruff and summer allergies are all, “a plot to take their freedoms!” (Which, much like a creationists “evidences” are both so myriad that they are undeniable, and yet impossible to describe, or explain, in any rational way, if at all.)

    Some days.. I just want to bang my head against the wall of the break room…

  112. lotharloo says

    Give up on the rightwing idiots. They are a cult of personality. They would be fawning if Trump were in charge and had done the exact same thing as Biden.

  113. numerobis says

    Zero chance Trump would have done what Biden has. Trump repeatedly tried to undermine Ukraine, and started the war by saying Putin was a genius.

  114. blf says

    jrkrideau@122’s “Al Jazeela” — really Al Jazeera — quote is from What has Russia gained from five years of fighting in Syria? (October 2020), previously mentioned by StevoR@114. The quote reads in full (the abbreviated misleading @122 version ends with “… Syrian government”):

    In the span of five years, Russia not only managed to preserve the Syrian government but also largely eliminated and marginalised the moderate opposition — the main challenger to [Bashar] al-Assad’s legitimacy and the only other political-military force whose participation in government would have been acceptable to the West.

    As for the bizarre @122 take, Russia did not want a failed state full of jehadis. Jehadis are pretty well gone — they probably mean jihadis — that analysis says:

    The decision to intervene in Syria also reflected the Kremlin’s fear of the so-called “colour revolutions” and their potential success sparking a major anti-government uprising in Russia itself. A year earlier, the pro-West Maidan revolution in Ukraine provoked a sharp reaction in Moscow, which led to the annexation of Crimea and Russian military intervention in the Donbas region. This, in turn, triggered Western sanctions, which hurt the Russian economy, particularly business circles close to the Kremlin.

    […]

    The rise of ISIL [daesh] provided an opportunity to wrap the intervention in anti-terror rhetoric, ensuring domestic [Russian] support, while the Obama administration’s reluctance to get involved more heavily in the Syrian conflict — to avoid an “Iraq repeat” — and the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal reassured Moscow that there would be no direct clash with the US.

    Russia’s superior military power managed to shift the dynamics on the ground in Syria relatively quickly. Although the declared goal of its operation was to fight “terrorist” groups, the Russian army, along with its Syrian allies, first targeted groups of the moderate opposition backed by the West, who at that time were already suffering from internal divisions and having to fight on two fronts — against Damascus and ISIL.

    The presence of daesh jihadis gave Putin a convenient covering excuse to support a dictator and remove the less-authoritarian local Syrian opposition, stopping of a wave of anti-authoritarian revolutions from reaching Russia.

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