Huh. I’ve had my head down for a day — I’m getting back into the swing of classes and had to get a lot of new material together — and I check out the news today, and whoa:
NATO says that up to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner or are missing in Ukraine, said a senior military official from the alliance.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization calculates the figure based on information provided by Ukrainian authorities and information obtained from Russia–both officially and unintentionally, the official said.
NATO estimates that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began on Feb. 24. Using statistical averages from past conflicts that for every casualty roughly three soldiers are wounded, NATO analysts reach their total figure.
Russia began its invasion with roughly 190,000 troops. It has since brought in additional troops from Chechnya, Syria and other locations.
That’s a lot of casualties. If that was an American army rather than a Russian one, we’d be backpedaling so fast, and the media would be blaming the president for their incompetence, and there would be massive protests in the streets. Russia, though, has a reputation for brute force and pouring men into a meatgrinder to accomplish their ends, so it’s probably too early to declare victory.
At best, they can hope for a Pyrrhic victory here. More likely they’re going to have to find an excuse to get out.
Hey Pootie, Ukraine doesn’t want to join you! Yeah, it was once part of the USSR but Lithuania once ruled over Moscow. How would you feel if Lithuanian troops decided to remake their old country? Think about it.
Reginald Selkirk says
Ukraine has destroyed nearly 10% of Russia’s tanks, making experts ask: Are tanks over?
Jake Wildstrom says
A few days ago, Komsomolskaya Pravda posted (and then quickly took down) casualty numbers of 9,861 KIA and 16,153 WIA. These numbers are kind of interesting for two reasons: first, they gain a certain plausibility from the fact that the KIA number is pretty much in the middle of the range everyone except Russian state media has been suggesting, and second, that’s a really gruesome WIA/KIA ratio. Typical ratios in modern war tend to be, as your quote above indicates, 3:1 or sometimes 4:1. Those figures have a ratio of below 2:1, suggesting that either KP was still working on massaging numbers downwards, and did it for the WIA but never got to the KIA numbers before they got posted, or that the Russian operations are so screwed up that a lot of people are dying of eminently survivable wounds.
Apropos of the prospect of dying of survivable wounds, Ukraine’s Security Service released a harrowing intercepted call* alleging utterly terrible conditions on the Russian front line: huge rates of untreated frostbite, body armor missing major components, and corpses being brought along on the road instead of being sent home. Other reports suggest that Col. Medvedev’s soldiers hated him so much they ran him over with a tank (Medvedev was indeed wounded in action).
*Given how on-the-nose the call is as a morale manipulation, and the lack of independent corroboration, there seems a more-than-reasonable likelihood that the whole recording is Ukrainian disinformation, but it might well also be real.
Ray Ceeya says
I’ve said it over and over again. Armies are meant to fight other armies. They don’t do so well when they are up against an entire mobilized country. The USA learned it in Vietnam. I THOUGHT Russia learned it in Afghanistan. Putin only has two options left. Cut and run and hang onto Crimea and Donbas, or commit the greatest genocidal campaign since the holocaust. Russia has a third option however. Kill Putin. A dead Putin would solve a lot of problems. I rarely advocate for capital punishment, but killing Putin would save thousands of other lives. Russian, Ukrainian, they’re all casualties as long as that man lives.
Reginald Selkirk (#2) –
The Libya-Chad war of the late 1980s may have proved tanks are over. Technicals are the modern equivalent of light cavalry, but their weaponry is ten (twenty? fifty?) times more effective than a century ago.
Speed usually beats muscle. Technicals are so ubiquitous now that the US military’s latest vehicle is essentially an unarmoured dune buggy.
Reginald Selkirk says
@4: If you take out the top guy, who takes over? Putin has made sure that no one competent who opposes him is still around (sometimes with poison), and those in the highest positions are the sort of “best people” that Trump surrounded himself with.
Also, the majority of the Russian public seems to be rowing Putin’s boat.
Ray Ceeya says
@5 The Toyota War? Improvised weapons and vehicles (Toyota pickup trucks). Good at killing people, but not so good against armor. Thing is though, armies are made of people. The tanks are just tools. A tool without a person to wield it is just a useless thing. The Russians butchered the NAZIs at Stalingrad, not because they had more tanks, but because they killed the meat machines that drove the tanks. The Finns did the same thing to the Russians during the winter war. It’s called Asymmetric Warfare, and it’s ugly. Putin will not see victory without genocide. For him to win Ukraine, he must kill Ukraine. The fact that that sociopathic asshole is willing to do that is disgusting.
R. L. Foster says
@2 – That’s a good question. There’s a documentary on Netflix called The Age of Tanks that explores the history of tanks from WW1 to what was the reality when this series was made. The final episode touches on Russia putting its faith in tanks whereas the U.S. was said to be somewhat ambivalent about whether to continue with the mass production of main battle tanks. I believe that if this documentary were to be made today the answer to this question would be clear. Heavy infantry armed with Javelins and missile carrying drones have made tanks obsolete.
The US did not learn that lesson in Vietnam or there would have been no occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan.
(Having said that, the Bush regime’s true goal in those occupations was not to expand imperial borders but to divert wealth from the occupied countries and the US Treasury to American business interests, especially petrochemical firms, arms manufacturers and mercenary groups. In that sense, those occupations were a smashing success!)
R. L. Foster says
@9 – The Pentagon’s view at the time of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was that the lessons of Vietnam did not apply because there are no triple canopy jungles in those two countries; therefore we won’t see the level of successful resistance that we experienced in Vietnam. But as we’ve learned deserts and mountains can be used almost as effectively as dense jungles.
Ray Ceeya says
@6 My point exactly. This is the weakness of autocracy. When one person controls all, what happens when that person dies? In the USA, Biden dies, Kamala takes over. Kamala dies, Nancy Pelosi takes over. We have a chain of command that goes 18 deep. I haver no idea who Alejandro Mayorkas is, but he’s in charge if the 17 above him die. Who follows Putin if he dies? Well that would probably be the Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin. Then working its way through the State Duma. It really doesn’t matter. Anyone is better than Putin.
Ray Ceeya says
We should have never invaded Iraq at all and we should have only went into Afghanistan with one goal. Kill Bin Laden. When you are dealing with a cult of personality, i.e Hitler, Stalin, Putin, Binladen, or Saddam Hussain, remove the person at the top and the rest falls apart. I’ve dealt with cults before. It’s not easy to get out.
It looks very much like he isn’t going to win, at the very least not without very great cost.
What will the face saving psychopath do to avoid losing face though..
He’s already said nukes arevon on the table if there’s an existential threat to Russia. He’s compared sanctions to an act of war. NATO are deploying more troops. Losing might mean Russia is threatened.
Ray Ceeya says
I grew up in the Cold War. You think I’m afraid of nukes? I grew up within 50mi of TWO primary targets. The Umatilla Weapons Depot (nerve gas) and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (plutonium). It wasn’t “if” for me, but “when”. Putin is rebooting the Cold War and the millenials and zoomers are going to have to learn what we went through.
Ray Ceeya says
He’s compared sanctions to an act of war.
That’s like forcing someone to fuck with a gun to their head. You can rape someone’s holes, but you CANNOT force them to enjoy it. Right now, we are witnessing the RAPE of Ukraine. Pardon my vulgar language, but I have strong emotions here.
I grew up in the Cold War. Anyone who isn’t afraid of nukes is a psychopath or an idiot.
Reginald Selkirk@2 The initial invasion map made me think of some of the dumbest things I used to try when playing Civilization (which is different in numerous respects from reality). That didn’t mean a massive tank invasion was actually poor strategy. I assumed the Russian military knew a lot more about it than I do. Now I am not sure what to think. It’s at least clear that it has not turned out as they were expecting.
That is more or less meaningless.
We or any other nuclear weapons state could say the same thing.
Yeah, that is what I’ve discovered.
I grew up close to a Trident nuclear missile submarine base, an ICBM assembly plant, and not too far from the plutonium producing reactors. We had duck and cover drills in grade school. From as early as I can remember, we lived with the knowledge that nuclear war was possible and we were going to be heavily targeted. As a young kid, you didn’t get a lot of perspective on it, the adults wouldn’t talk about it, and so we just treated the possibility of nuclear war as a fact.
When Putin started waving his nuclear weapons around, it was the same as what I grew up with and have lived with for my entire Boomer life. Nothing new or different about it.
Ray Ceeya says
You act like I have something to lose. I’m not an idiot or a psychopath. I just quit caring in the 80s. I’ve beaten death more times than I can count. Dying in nuclear fire sounds better than a lot of the things that tried to kill me before.
KG@16 Agreed, and I was going to comment that Ray Ceeya’s insouciance is unlikely to survive the actual use of a nuclear weapon anywhere. Cold War babies may joke about nuclear weapons as an abstraction, but we never had to face the consequences.
The BBC has a report that Ukraine is claiming to have sunk a Russian assault ship that was docked in a harbor in a city that the Russians captured on Day 3.
(And, so far as I can tell, the current count of dead general officers is 5 Army Generals and 1 Navy Admiral.)
Ray Ceeya@19 Yes, if you die in a fireball you may be able to avoid any fear. Suppose any populated city is hit, but far enough from you to survive and witness it (I remember thinking this about India and Pakistan). Suppose optimistically that people come to their senses and stop right there. Unless you really are a psychopath, and I don’t think you are, then you will probably gain a very new outlook on whether to fear nuclear weapons. In the best case scenario, the entire world is going to be addressing a crisis.
I’m sure everyone including Putin are afraid of nuclear weapons. That is why we never use them, since the first two were dropped on Japan.
But after that, then what?
No point in hiding in the closet or under the bed anyway.
We just go on with our lives. And if some dictator waves his nukes around just wave ours back at them.
No point in giving in to idle threats or nuclear blackmail either.
It’s been this way since the 1950s.
Ray Ceeya (#7) –
You missed the point. A competent leader will only fight on terms that play to their own strengths, not the opponents. Tanks made sense in WWII and early Cold War conflicts because weapons needed to fight tanks could only be mounted on tanks or were hard to move. Now tank killers (and aircraft killers) are portable and shoulder held, and don’t a vehicle heavier than a truck. The only place for tanks now might be urban warfare, if the side with tanks wants to occupy, avoid hand to hand urban combat and not completely destroy infrastructure with bombs (which appears to be Putin’s goal).
In the US’s case, technicals make sense because of body armour. Armour fell out of use in the 18th century because it was expensive, heavy and ineffective against new weapons. But now it’s again light enough for individuals use and fit in a light vehicle. Why armour a vehicle when footsloggers can wear it?
What worries me is what Putin is implying are existential threats. It might even include any form of coup. I think it goes beyond what we would.
One would hope but, just like Putin/Russia, that might depend on who is in the White House and if their party controls congress.
Seems Putin is going full throttle on the Pyrrhic victory, but perhaps that’s because he doesn’t have an escape plan. If he bails now, then those around him who want the position may see it as an opportunity to replace him.
whheydt @ #21
Rumor has it that there are some “casualties” in Putin’s inner circle. Perhaps not killed, but demoted.
Just to be clear, I made those points to illustrate what a dangerous, unhinged madman Putin appears to have become.
Oh, so you’re the only person in the world, are you? It’s evident you don’t give a shit about anyone else: hence, you’re a psychopath.
I grew up during the last 10 years or so of the Cold War. I was young enough that I never paid it much heed. I don’t remember doing duck and cover drills in school, though I heard about them. What I do remember was doing tornado drills. We’d all file out into the hallway and sit against the wall with our arms protecting our heads. Truthfully, both of those drills seemed equally ridiculous to me. If a tornado came right through the school hallway, all the head-covering in the world wouldn’t save us. Likewise, if a nuclear bomb were dropped somewhere in the vicinity, all the ducking and covering drills wouldn’t protect us from the fallout. I often wondered why adults seemed to think that something as flimsy as a desk would protect anyone from something that powerful. Now that I am an adult, it seems to me that far too many fall prey to wishful thinking, which I left behind sometime in my teens.
robro@26 The backpedaling was awfully slow in the case of Vietnam. In fact Kurt Vonnegut made an analogy in an interview a few years before his death that has stuck with me:
This is when nobody is getting shipped off to the gulag or disappeared as they build their protest laser. I can hope for the Ukraine invasion to end with an internal disavowal in Russia and a change of government, but I am fooling myself if I think it is likely or soon in coming.
The eventual backpedaling came for the Iraq war as well, but the damage is lasting.
Howard Brazee says
We’d be backing up because the government doesn’t control the press. The people would know about the deaths.
On the issue of tanks in modern warfare, there are several points to consider.
As with other major weapons systems, yes, they are vulnerable to certain cheaper counter measures, but they also bring a utility that is not matched by any other weapon, if they are reasonably deployed and screened.
Consider that iin the first month of WW2, a 600 ton submarine sank a 22,000 ton fast aircraft carrier, yet by the last three years of the war, carriers were key to defeating the U Boat campaign, and utterly destroying Japan’s fleet, which at the start of that war, was the third most powerful fleet around.
Similarly, tanks in modern warfare have great uses, but they also require supporting arms, such as mobile and armoured infantry, artillery, and good air support and cover.
Indeed, at Stalingrad, the Red Army’s tank force was crucial in swiftly surrounding the German 6th Army, thus creating the cauldron which ultimately doomed it.
Now, in modern asymmetrical warfare, where the other side doesn’t have a conventional land army, tanks are reduced to being mobile gun platforms, and escorts for softer skinned convoys. And yes, taking tank units into a city scape is, well, stupid.
The issue isn’t that tanks are ‘obsolete’. The issue is that the modern Russian Army does not grasp their operational characteristics and limitations, due to the top army positions being filled by Putin’s yes men and not competent warfighters. The latter type of commanders would also grasp the key factor of timely logistical support. Which the 40 mile stuck convoy weeks ago showed that the current Russian Army also has zero operational grasp of.
Putin and everyone else has to understand by now I hope that the first use of any nuke would be followed quickly with an exchange and be suicide. All of NATO’s militarizes are on full alert by now and in position for any rapid action that is required. The first use would be the existential threat to the survival of Russia. the question is does Putin think of himself as the embodiment Russian state or not.
There is an interesting video “all bling, no basics” that goes a long way to explaining why the Russian military is doing so badly compared to the Ukrainian military. The author (who seems to have studied history in university?) has several good points.
The Russian military was not built for the job its doing now. Most of its budget goes to things that have little added value in this war. This includes nukes, a large navy, wonder weapons, maintaining a huge amount of older hardware and a large “internal security” force.
The Ukrainians on the other hand could see what was coming and built their military for that purpose only.
His video about drones is also interesting.
unclefrogy@33 I hope so too, and you’d also think Putin would be familiar with MAD doctrine. I am not as confident as you sound, however. From an NYT article a few weeks back
It’s possible they’ve had time to reconsider or that they consider MAD obsolete (the arsenals are substantially reduced from Cold War levels). There’s enough here to worry about.
NATO assesment seem to assume 3:1 wounded to kill ratio, but we expect it not to be true due to abysmal ruSSian field medics.
Using recently leaked ruSSian info of 9861 KIA and 16153 wounded we get 26014 total and 1.64 ratio.
That also means that USA with similar total casualties would have 6504 KIA so US field hospitals would save 3357 soldiers from dying so a bit above 34%
About removing Putin – the perfect magical scenario would be people of Russia protesting, Putin getting removed and whoever comes after blames it all on Putin, praises protesters, West pretends they believe in such story and goes on with “Putin’s war stopped by sacrifice of ukrainian soldiers and russian protesters”.
That gives excuse for Russia not to feel defeated (because they have themselves beat evil dictator) so they can agree to ukrainian demands and west pays for everything during rebuilding.
that’s the only win-win scenario I can imagine. Add west realizing they need to invest in green energy to stop sending troops to middle east all the time and that they need to improve conditions of the poorer part of society to avoid unrest and resistance towards rebuilding the east, and we could achieve the repeat of post ww2 rebuild.
But that would require so many people working against their own interests and desires.
there is another aspect to this that I think sets up the Russians to have the very difficult time they are having. their Army besides not having very effective stratagem and procedures has an army with a very large component of one year conscripts with little to no experience in actual combat The regular contract part of the military has only experience fighting lightly armed at best, civilians the Ukraine’s army has been actively fighting asymmetrical war for 10 years besides fighting on their own ground and it shows
at the end of WWII the US was indeed very powerful and undamaged our economy was in pretty good shape as was our tax structure in fact there was a boom after the war. That is not where we are now unless the tax structure and government funding is overhauled we could not repeat a Marshall Plan for eastern Europe. The west and the NATO countries could afford to do something like that in Ukraine but it would take something else again to help Russia transition if they really wanted to
Paulbc thanks but I do not really feel as confident as it may sound
Tank blogger Nicholas Moran aka “The Chieftain” is saying “Be careful drawing conclusions from the Ukrainan videos”
Moran is a sympathic character that has a history about drilling down into primary sources to debunk myths.
One interesting question I saw asked was “who’s actually in overall charge of this operation in Russia?”. The three prongs that have invaded Ukraine seem to be entirely acting on their own and not coordinating their operations with each other and their aims seem to be just to advance and capture territory as they approach it. This might be because the Russians didn’t expect or weren’t told that this was going to be a long war but if Putin had any marbles left, he’d have put together an overall command structure to guide the effort. And whoever gets put in charge would then also be the ideal scapegoat when this malaise finally collapses on itself.
Walter Solomon says
This isn’t entirely true. The bazooka was around in WWII. It was portable, shoulder-fired, and capable of destroying the tanks of that era.
Rob Grigjanis says
The assumption was that the three prongs would converge rapidly, with little resistance. The Russians seriously thought that their initial missile and artillery strikes would take out the Ukrainian air force, navy, and army command in the first hour.
Walter Solomon says
I’ve read that quote by Vonnegut before and I’m a big admirer of the man. I’ve read, I believe, all or at least most of his books. That said, any historical overview of that time in history will show his assessment here isn’t correct.
What turned the tide in Vietnam wasn’t the NVA or Viet Cong but how Americans perceived the war effort. It largely began to sour with the Tet Offensive. Tactically, it was an American victory but the fact that the North Vietnamese could even carry it out let Americans know their government wasn’t being very truthful about what was going over there.
Here’s where the cultural icons Vonnegut mentioned come in. At that time Americans had far more trust in the government than today. Without any cultural pushback, people like Nixon and Kissinger could’ve easily cooked up something to make the situation seem better than it actually was. They didn’t because of people like Vonnegut who vocally protested the war.
I think he was just doing his usual self-deprecating, dark comic routine with that quote. Also he was close to the end of his life at that time and like his literary prototype Mark Twain, his views became much less optismistic than they had been before.
I wonder if this is true: ‘It’s a Sh*tshow’: Russian Troops Are Now Turning on Each Other
R.L. Foster@10– Agreed. That is an example of the Pentagon not learning the lessons of Vietnam, and coming up with spurious reasons (no jungles!) why those lessons would not apply in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that excuse (no jungles!) was blatantly self-serving (it ignored the history of insurgencies in non-jungle landscapes, including Afghanistan itself during the failed Soviet occupation, but also Algeria, Ireland, the Baltic insurgencies, and so on), which makes it clear that the Pentagon at that time was not giving frank advice about the success of the operation, but instead running interference for the Bush regime to start a war that their frank advice should have vehemently opposed.
Ray Ceeya@12– Yes, the justification for the War in Afghanistan was to destroy bin Laden and his base of operation (which was by then a virtual sub-nation within Afghanistan and Pakistan), and so the mission should never have included long-term occupation. No surprise that the operation failed on both counts (failed to seize bin Laden and failed to secure Afghanistan). The Second Iraq War of course was justified by malignant lies from the Bush regime and therefore had no true strategic mission; it was, however, an extremely successful assault on the wealth of Iraq and the American taxpayer. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and dozens of others should have been tried for war crimes for the very act of starting that war, but we know that the US regards war crimes as something only other nations do.
Ray Ceeya@19– I’m pleased for you that you’ve worked through your fears of nuclear war. I’m not sure how comforting that will be any non-Ceeyas affected.
Walter Solomon@43– I’m with Vonnegut. Yes, the big change in the Vietnam War was when the US public became disillusioned. But as per Vonnegut, this change was not driven by the American literati. It was driven by the public finally realising that the US Army and government had been lying to them to maintain the illusion of inevitable victory. This is why the Tet Offensive was such a disaster for the US despite it being an overwhelming defeat for the Viet Cong (failed to achieve any of the objectives, routed in a month, and a horrifying loss of nearly half their forces with a casualty rate of >12:1 compared to South Vietnam/US). But according to the military and government, things were going so well in Vietnam that the Tet Offensive should not have even been possible. And then, in response to the Tet Offensive, Gen. Westmoreland asked for another 200,000 troops…which really rubbed American faces in the lie.
The artistic community had very little to do with it. Not a criticism. They did what they could. And they were frustrated by their lack of impact. It’s not artists’ fault that most people use art and literature to bolster the moral judgements they already have. Which is why the most famous anti-Vietnam War art (mostly movies) was made after the war and most contemporary anti-war art pieces, if you show them today, would not even be recognised by most people as being anti-Vietnam War without an explanatory caption.
(Philip Guston: “What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything—and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?” He stopped painting abstract expressionism and moved to angry, blunt pieces like San Clemente — but that was painted in 1975 with the war winding down, Nixon 2 years out of office, and inspired by news of Nixon suffering phlebitis in his leg. That is, even one of a great anti-war artist’s most recognised works is actually a piece of victory art — again, not blaming the artist!; if anyone deserves contempt in defeat, it’s Nixon.)
John Morales says
Ray’s personal perception is almost certainly not supposed to be some sort of comfort, any more than my own is.
It does indicate that not everyone is afraid, and that the basis for it is not ignorant or wilful.
“Have no fear for atomic energy, ‘Cause none of them can stop the time.”
I’m not entirely sure what Bob Marley was getting at, but the more I think about it, the more I agree. Even in the worst Cold War nuclear conflict, nobody’s stopping time. It’ll march along without us. I’m sure there’s plenty going on outside our little corner of the the universe. It won’t miss us. Neither will we if we’re all dead.
Or maybe I should quote Woody Allen:
“I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
That’s the real problem, not dying but being around to witness it. Real nuclear war won’t be like a movie, a video game, or even Douglas Malewicki’s card game. There will be protracted suffering, and anyone capable of empathy will suffer as well, regardless of whether they’re directly affected.
So how about let’s not?
Re: Walter Solomon @ #41…
As was the Panzerfaust, which was arguably a better weapon than the Bazooka.
And speaking which…Germany is sending Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank missiles in support of the Ukraine.
Speaking of anti-tank weapons, I was recently looking up the invasion of Poland in wikipedia to get up to speed, since I’ve never been a WWII buff who spends weekends watching the Hi
tlerstory channel. It was interesting to read that contrary to perception (maybe corrected by now) the Polish cavalry was equipped with anti-tank rifles and not on an entirely hopeless mission against German tanks. Clearly, they were still outmatched, but maybe it could have gone differently. (Also, if the Soviet Union hadn’t come in one another front.)
I was also a surprised to see that it took about a month before Poland surrendered. I had the idea that the whole invasion happened over a weekend. (slight exaggeration) (Silly me, but I’m sure I’m not alone.)
The invasion of Ukraine has now lasted a month. Ukraine is clearly putting up a much greater resistance than anticipated (except in Ukraine itself). It has taken longer than Russia anticipated. That doesn’t mean they can’t just keep throwing everything they have at it. Regardless of outcome, the human toll is unacceptable.
Walter Solomon says
I understand your point but the same could be said of films about previous wars like WWII and Korea. The films about those wars that were made after the wars were over are arguably better. Some of this has to do with technology and production values but I believe having the benefit of hindsight gives a film about a particular war but made after said war a certain advantage that films made during it don’t have.
With that being said, we shouldn’t disregard films, particularly documentaries, made while the war was still happening. Hearts and Minds (1974) and In The Year of The Pig (1968) are still considered to be groundbreaking by both filmmakers and critics. For instance, Michael Moore was heavily influenced by those films.
Walter Solomon says
Is the Panzerfaust 3 superior to the Javelin? BTW, I read a few weeks ago Abu TOW, the famous Syrian tank destroyer, wants to fight for Ukraine. As far as I know, there are no TOWs in Ukraine so he might be out of his element in more ways than one unless he brings his own.
Walter Solomon@43 I don’t think Vonnegut’s point was even remotely to suggest that activism is futile or ineffective. I think he was making an accurate statement about power. Sometimes the very worst people are going to win, no matter what “should” happen in a moral sense. You still have to take a stand. He didn’t say that it was a waste of time for artists and celebrities to protest the war, or even that it didn’t do any good, just that on balance, often raw power wins.
The challenge is ultimately less about how you defeat unjust power, because that requires circumstances beyond your control, but how do you maintain your humanity? I believe Kurt Vonnegut would never consider that to be a futile effort.
PaulBC: I’m pretty sure the success of Ukraine exceeds their expectations. Russia was bound to lose if Ukraine decided to fight, but everyone (I think even Ukrainian leaders) expected it would be a short conventional phase followed by a long, grinding guerrilla war. Russia had tanks so it could roll in, Ukraine had population so it could take endless cheap-shots.
Now it looks like Ukraine is reasonably likely to win outright. That’s a shock.