War, Maturity, and Necessity

Are we avoiding facing hard truths?

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In an Atlantic essay, Elliot Cohen argues, “The Awfulness of War Can’t Be Avoided.” After a setup involving Henry IV, Part II (he recently published a book subtitled Shakespeare on How Leaders Rise, Rule and Fall) he observes,

The fact—the necessity, as King Henry might have put it—is that although any force engaging in urban warfare has a responsibility to limit civilian casualties, city fighting is ruinous. The residents of Mosul, Fallujah, or for that matter of Aachen in 1944, would agree.

Halting the war now, leaving Hamas still standing, is a surefire way to breed more wars. Doing so would encourage Hamas to fulfill its promise of launching many more October 7–style attacks. It would also embolden Iran, which has already gotten away with firing massive volleys of long-range missiles at Israeli cities; Hezbollah, which has ignored a deal requiring it to withdraw behind the Litani River and is waging a low-level war across the Lebanon frontier; and the Houthis, who have been taking potshots at merchant shipping.

The effectiveness of antimissile defenses has shielded governments from treating necessities like necessities. Indeed, it has in some measure obscured the existential nature of the long-running Israel-Hamas war. Western leaders have preferred not to take seriously the eliminationist rhetoric of Hamas, Iran, and their various proxies, just as they preferred not to take Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric denying the existence of a legitimate Ukraine seriously.

While I’m largely in agreement, it’s worth noting that Iran’s missile attacks were almost surely planned with the expectation that Israel’s missile defenses would render them largely inert. As much a rogue actor as the regime in Teheran has been over the last 45 years, they have studiously kept their provocations below the threshold of all-out war.

The vacuous commitment of Western leaders to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” allows them to avoid defining that awkward word, it. Creeping talk of cease-fires—in which the Ukrainians evince no interest—substitutes for providing Ukraine with the means to win. More hard thinking of a Henrician kind would make clear that a cease-fire would produce only a demoralized Ukraine, a triumphal Russia, a blow to Western prestige—and, in the end, a renewed Russian war of conquest. It would also force other states in the path of Russia’s ruthless imperial ambitions to choose between accommodation and nuclear proliferation.

Donald Trump managed to delay US aid to Ukraine but the Biden administration and mainstream Republicans seem ready to continue aiding Ukraine’s war effort indefinitely. That’s true of many of the NATO allies as well.

At the same time, while I support that policy, I understand the push for a cease-fire. The war is a humanitarian disaster and Ukraine is pushing for unachievable, maximalist goals. As much as I would love to see Ukrainian troops push out of its pre-2014 borders, it’s not going to happen. Accepting hard realities works both ways.

In both cases, there is in Western circles a desire to avoid confronting the awfulness of real war—not war waged in far-off lands for obscure purposes, but war waged to save or destroy nations, wars launched with massacre and the promise of more massacre in the event of victory by the side that started them.

Again, while Cohen and I support both Israeli and Ukrainian war aims, this strikes me as a straw man. It’s a keen awareness of the awfulness of these wars that have people calling for an end to fighting.

This phase of the Russo-Ukraine was is more than two years old now. We’re seven months into the Gaza war. In both cases, it’s rather apparent that the good guys have no plausible theory of victory. Even if the West were to accede to Ukrainian demands for materiel fully, it’s hard to see how they totally defeat the vastly larger Russian army. Nor is it obvious what Israel’s vision for a post-war better state of peace looks like; indeed, it’s not obvious they have given it much thought.

I don’t think any of the four combatants in these conflicts are yet at the point where a workable peace deal is possible. It’ll take more pain to get there. But I’m confident that, at some point, peace deals short of unconditional surrender will be reached in both instances.

After some shorts at Defund the Police, COVID shutdowns, and a dysfunctional Congress, Cohen gets back to his main theme:

The world has a distinctly 1930s feel to it. Western leaders have offered stirring or at least forceful rhetoric in response to multiple crises. But when it comes to deeds rather than words, the record is less compelling. During the Cold War, countries spent 4 or 5 percent of their GDP on defense, and the United States got as high as 8 percent. Today, even the United States is below 3 percent. There is a broad political consensus that China is a growing threat, that Iran is a violent menace, and that Russia is an imperial revanchist state. Yet no one is seriously calling for the kind of sacrifices that are needed to meet the crisis, such as raising taxes to reverse the shrinkage of the United States Navy or create the kind of industrial base that could sustain the American military should worse come to worst.

It’s hardly shocking that nations not at war behave differently than those at war. Still, the US Defense budget for FY2024 is $883.7 billion ($841.4 billion for DOD alone) and the FY2025 DOD request is $849.8 billion. That’s a lot!

Are a rising China, a revanchist Russia, and an increasingly aggressive Iran threats to US security interests? Yes. Are they a “crisis”? Probably not.

While both the Trump and Biden administrations characterize China as our pacing challenge, they’ve judged the threat to be emerging rather than present. Are we building fast enough to stay ahead of them? Probably. Are we going to remain so far superior as to make Chinese aggression unthinkable? Probably not.

With some notable exceptions, Europe is even more lost in its world of wishful thinking than the U.S. is. France’s Emmanuel Macron may talk of stationing Western forces in Ukraine, but unless his and other governments introduce large-scale conscription and create the industries required to sustain armies, they will not have much by way of land forces to do it. Great Britain, a traditional defense stalwart, will struggle to meet a target of 2.5 percent of GDP spent on defense by 2030—as its forces have shrunk to levels not seen, in some cases, since Victorian times.

While I don’t believe troop levels are a particularly useful point of comparison given the combat multipliers of technology, it’s simply undeniable that our European allies have, by and large, invested considerably less in military capability than we have. Because we see our security interests globally, we’ve seen the threats as more real. It took the wake-up call of the 2021 invasion of Ukraine to awaken Western Europe to the renewed Russian threat.

Thucydides, of whom Shakespeare’s King Henry would have approved, famously said that war is a rough master, a violent teacher. In peace and prosperity, he said, states and individuals do not find themselves “suddenly confronted with imperious necessity.” At a time when war flickers on the borders of a generally peaceful and generally prosperous and generally immature West, we would do well to heed his wisdom, and that of the tired but resolute Shakespearean king.

I honestly don’t know what to do with that. We’ve sent billions of dollars in aid and materiel to Ukraine and Israel. We’ve spending close to a trillion dollars a year on defense. We’ve spent the last several years rebuilding the force structures of each of our armed services around a future fight with China.

Could we be spending more? Taken the obvious shortfalls in our capacity to produce munitions more seriously? Probably. But we aren’t a politically united country these days, making getting behind major projects extremely difficult.

Cohen’s analogy to our 1930s posture may be prescient. It may take another Pearl Harbor to create a sense of necessity.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    As regards Ukraine, I don’t see any case for Ukraine accepting any sort of peace at this time. Any sort of peace works against Ukraine. I do not think I can trust anything Putin says, or any promise he makes, and I think they think so, too.

    My best information is that Russia is losing materiel and manpower at about 3 times the rate of Ukraine. Peace would stop that bleeding.

    So a peace would work better for Russia than for Ukraine.

    Sigh. Peace is hard. When I was young I thought it was easy. It isn’t. There’s just those few people that mean we can’t have nice things.

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  2. JKB says:

    “You might as well appeal against a thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”
    –Gen William T. Sherman, USA

    It will be hard to even use another Pearl Harbor to create support. The US intel/foreign policy community have refused to let the US win a war since 1945. Start doing too well, and the sabotage by rolling to nation building. And then we saw the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle that revealed the quality of the flag ranks after 20+ years of war.

    Replace Biden and the Democrats running DC today with someone who doesn’t believe the hostages held by Hamas for 7 months are safer if Israel doesn’t be mean to Hamas and things will calm down.

    When Trump wins, I expect a shift on the scale of the Iranians in 1981 as Reagan was sworn in.

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  3. DK says:

    As much as I would love to see Ukrainian troops push out of its pre-2014 borders, it’s not going to happen. Accepting hard realities works both ways.

    Does the “hard realities” crowd think they’re telling Ukrainians something they don’t know?

    Ukraine is right to push a maximalist position. You don’t start a negotiation by giving away half the store up front. It would be ridiculous for Ukraine — in the midst of this war — to be publicly stating, “Well, we’ll settle for a quarter of our territory back.”

    I still have the same questions for the Americans giving lectures to Ukraine about hard realities: if a foreign army invaded the United States, bombed your house, killed your wife, raped your sister, and hauled off your surviving children to god knows where…

    …would you be ready to give up fighting after two years? Three years? When? What would you say to those telling you to accept hard realities and negotiate?

    It’s easy to tell Ukraine what to do from the comfort of our fine, unbombed homes where our unkidnapped kids are safe and sound. The American peanut gallery needs to STFU telling Ukrainians what realities to accept. Instead, we should help them with the full force of American might and power — which we are still not yet doing.

    It’s a keen awareness of the awfulness of these wars that have people calling for an end to fighting.

    For some, possibly. But this gives Putin’s dickriders way too much credit. I do not think Tucker Carlson, Matt Taibbi, Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald, JD Vance etc. give a damn about Ukrainian suffering, or about the tens of thoudands of Ukrainian kids still missing. MAGA doesn’t want to stop the awfulness of the war: they want to hand Putin a victory because he shares their hateful, rightwing, antidemocratic values.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @DK: We’re in agreement on our policy but even Biden and company are pushing negotiations behind the scenes. I’m willing to fight to the last Ukrainian, as they’re both on the side of the right and serving as a proxy against Russia. It’s a win-win. At the same time, I don’t think Blinken and company are feckless—they’re looking ahead to possible end states.

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  5. Franklin says:

    @JKB: Are we talking about the same Trump that kowtowed to Kim Jung Un?

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @JKB:

    When Trump wins, I expect a shift on the scale of the Iranians in 1981 as Reagan was sworn in.

    It is telling that two presidents as different in their approach to foreign policy as Reagan and Trump get lumped together under the notion that they succeed because they project strength and the weenie Dems don’t. This caveman logic is JKB’s entire response to James’ nuanced and reflective post. That says everything about why so many Americans simply lack the cognitive capacity to deal with the complexities of geopolitics.

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  7. DK says:

    @JKB:

    Replace Biden and the Democrats running DC today with someone who doesn’t believe the hostages held by Hamas for 7 months are safer if Israel doesn’t be mean to Hamas and things will calm down.

    Ha. Trump and Republicans — who wanted the Afghanistan black hole war to continue permanently — want to give a blank check to Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, who have done a bang-up job of keeping the Israelis safe by a) funding and bolstering Hamas, b) leaving southern defenseless, including on 7 Oct when it took hours for the IDF to show up, and c) leading a war effort with such reckless ROE that the IDF killed surrendering hostages.

    Rightwingers do such an excellent job of keeping countries safe with their rank incompetence. Although I will admit Trump’s bromance with Bibi is an upgrade from his Putin fellatio and love letters to Kim Jong Un.

    Meanwhile, the families of the hostages are protesting Netanyahu and publicly stating they’ve been treated better by the Biden administration than by the Israeli government. They know Likud and its fluffers do not care about the hostages or their safety.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Dude, Trump isn’t going to do anything useful on foreign policy, he does not give a single fuck about it unless he needs some crowd-pleasing but ineffectual gesture to stoke the MAGAts. The idea that this narcissistic coward who has already bowed down to Putin and Kim Jong Un will be some kind of tough guy is ludicrous. If Trump saw personal profit in it he’d sell out NATO, AUKUS, Taiwan, South Korea. Trump is for sale, he’s a whore, and a weakling, not to mention being too fucking dumb to understand anything about FP.

    I’d like you to read the following, verbatim transcript, and show me where Trump understands anything. This is him trying in Alzheimery way to rationalize his flatly stupid decision on Iran nukes:

    Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

    Your cult leader is a fucking idiot and senile to boot.

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  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Lmao, the 1930s, rebooted on every occasion upon demand. It’s like the 8th verison of Spider Man 2 being released in 2032 direct to the last remaining streaming service…anyway, numerous people have pointed out Elliot Cohen publicly believed the Iraq invasion and occupation to be even easier than that first Gulf War. It’s great that he has heard of Thucydides and a line or two of his, but the Greeks and Romans would have required that a man with his record retire to his villa and open his wrists rather than be given be a sinecure at The Atlantic, the monthly for the American deskilled.

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  10. Andy says:

    Most wars do not end in decisive victories. Most combatants are forced to settle for less than they hoped to achieve.

    It was never realistic that Ukraine could retake territory back to its pre-2014 boundaries – it’s taken two years of fighting for Ukraine and many in the west to finally start to realize that. Ukrainian capabilities are not and will not be up to the task.

    Israel has a different problem – it has the military capability to destroy Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades and hunt down and kill Hamas leadership in Gaza, but it has failed to do so in a timely manner.

    Unlike Ukraine, Israel has the military capability to occupy and control the territory it is fighting over. It can do what many believe it wants to do: ethnically cleanse Gaza or kill all the Palestinians there. Unlike Ukraine, Israel’s military capabilities are not the issue; the issue is achieving political goals that, contrary to what some may claim, are not about conquering, annexing, and cleansing Gaza – Israel’s goals are getting its hostages back and achieving long-term security such that another 10/7 can never happen again. That can only realistically be achieved by ensuring that a future government in Gaza is not hostile, something that cannot be achieved by military force alone.

    The reality for both of these wars is that all of the combatants will have to settle for less than they hoped for. The only question is how much more fight the various parties have left in them before they are willing to make the necessary compromises.

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  11. reid says:

    Even if the West were to accede to Ukrainian demands for materiel fully, it’s hard to see how they totally defeat the vastly larger Russian army.

    Two things:

    1. In the context of ending the war, is it required for Ukraine to “totally defeat” Russia? No one thinks the USA was totally defeated in Vietnam, but we eventually got out after too much pain.

    2. Is the Russian army really “vastly larger”? Ukraine was holding its own before supplies ran low. Russia’s population is only (“only”) about 3.5 times larger than Ukraine’s, so it’s not that lop-sided. Russia’s army performed poorly for much of the war, and they’ve had relatively large losses.

    I don’t mean to nit-pick, but it sounds like defeatism. If only Ukraine had been properly supplied all along.

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  12. Andy says:

    @DK:

    Sure, Ukraine has to make its own decisions, and the “Peanut Gallery” should not make their decisions for them. The same goes for Israel, BTW – somehow, a different standard applies there.

    At the same time, the Peanut Gallery should not blow smoke up their ass, tell them we will support them 100% in their maximalist goals, and make promises that we can’t keep. We need to give them honest advice, including realistic assessments of what support they can expect from us and for how long, and what we think is an honest assessment of the situation.

    What’s needed is tough love, not slavish support for goals and commitments that cannot be kept.

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  13. steve says:

    Israel doesnt need to kill all of Hamas to prevent another 10/7. Just leave enough troops in the area of Gaza and prioritize that over expanding settlements on the West Bank. A bunch of guys with AKs on motorcycles arent a real threat against a real military. Oh, also either improve their intelligence services or, more likely, improve the people in charge of interpreting intelligence. That said, do they have the right to try to kill Hamas for the attack and for the missiles they launch. Sure. The debate is about how many civilians they should kill along the way and what kind of goal they can realistically achieve.

    Also, military spending as a percentage of GDP has some limits. It helps when comparing spending with other countries, though even then it needs adjusting. However, it really doesnt make sense that if we are having real economic growth that military spending needs to increase as a percentage of GDP.

    Steve

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  14. gVOR10 says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    My best information is that Russia is losing materiel and manpower at about 3 times the rate of Ukraine.

    The sad fact is Russia has 4.4 times Ukraine’s population, 10.5 times Ukraine’s GDP, and a tradition, in their minds sanctified by WWII, of sacrificing troops and materiel for victory. (We have double Russia’s population and 5.3 times their GDP (PPP).)

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  15. Gustopher says:

    Halting the war now, leaving Hamas still standing, is a surefire way to breed more wars.

    What is the scenario that doesn’t lead to more wars in the near future, and is Israel pursuing that? Or, are all these people dying for nothing?

    War is awful and leaves lots of dead and maimed people, it changes those who fight it, and those who are the victims, and never in a good way.

    The civilian deaths and infrastructure damage caused by bombing, invading and then clearing out Hamas is only worth it if it sets the stage for something that will be better. There is no sign that Israel has any intention or plan beyond the invasion.*

    It’s been 7 months, they should at least have a vision of the future, if not a plan on how to get there.

    ——
    *: disregarding minor cabinet officials who openly advocate for ethnic cleansing. So, maybe there is a plan.

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  16. DK says:

    @Andy:

    the issue is achieving political goals that, contrary to what some may claim, are not about conquering, annexing, and cleansing Gaza

    “Some” here must refer to high-ranking members of Netanyahu’s own government, like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, both of whom “have advocated for the mass relocation of Palestinians outside of Gaza to make way for Israeli settlers…”?

    A better, more competent Israeli government — one less preoccupied with elevating Hamas to stymie a two-state solution, with dismantling judicial checks and balances, and with helping Israeli terrorists ethnically cleanse the West Bank — could have prevented 7 Oct.

    An Israel that does not want to be accussed of ethnic cleansing — an Israel serious about securing its long-term security — would be worried about its own government, not just Gaza’s. The call is coming from inside the house.

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  17. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    I think you are you are mistaken on this point.
    More major wars end with decisive victories, with a “negotiated settlement”, if any, coming merely as the recognition of that end-state by the defeated party, than in some sort of stalemate.
    The only recent major war to terminate otherwise was Korea.

    That does not mean the end-state is necessarily stable for the victor, but that’s another issue.

    It was never realistic that Ukraine could retake territory back to its pre-2014 boundaries – it’s taken two years of fighting for Ukraine and many in the west to finally start to realize that. Ukrainian capabilities are not and will not be up to the task.

    This may well be true; but assuming that is a foundation for a peace is less so.

    If Russia calculates it can outlast the West/Ukraine alignment, Putin has every incentive to press on with war until he obtains his victory objectives, which still appear to be: annexation of much of the country, subordination of the remnant.
    Why should he not?

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  18. DK says:

    @Andy:

    The same goes for Israel, BTW – somehow, a different standard applies there.

    Of course it does.

    One, as you yourself just pointed out, Israel is well-positioned to defeat Hamas, while Ukraine is very much an underdog against Russia.

    Two, unlike Israel, Ukraine has not made the United States a state sponsor of terror — while publicly thumbing its nose at US advice, undermining US presidents, and using US weapons to kill aid workers and commit war crimes.

    Of course we will not apply the same standards to a dedicated ally who is outmatched vs. a hostile, backsliding one led by a two-bit Putin wannabe while facing a weaker opponent. Obviously.

    Nobody here or elsewhere is calling for the US to lie to Ukraine, but the peanut gallery loves to argue against its own lazy strawman arguments no one is making.

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  19. gVOR10 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think Blinken and company are feckless—they’re looking ahead to possible end states.

    Thanks for noting that. Virtually all the commentary I see is based on public positions of the players. There’s going to be a lot going on behind the green curtain that nobody’s talking about.

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  20. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s just funny that people keep on saying Israel doesn’t have a plan. Sure, they had a plan: it was insane, and involved trying to convince Egypt to take a huge number of refugees in an act of ethnic cleansing. Not surprisingly, that didn’t check out.

    Also, when people say they don’t have a plan think about what you are saying. Modern governments and militaries are made up of contingencies and variants on an endless slew of counterfactuals. The fact that Israel didn’t even have anything in the archives to dust off is laughable. They just didn’t have anything good or even reasonable to anybody who isn’t a member of Likud and thinks all Palestinians are terrorists, or worse, so unreasonable that they don’t find the dusty half-literate plans Likud drew up to be convincing.

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  21. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR10:
    Russia does not have 4.4 time Ukraine’s population
    c. 144 million vs c. 38 million = c. 3.7 times.
    Still larger, but as Ukraine appears to be inflicting about 3:1 casualties on Russia, not insuperable.
    Russia is not the Soviet Union, and a sizable minority of the Red Army was, in fact, Ukrainian.

    The Russian GDP outclasses the Ukrainian, true enough.
    But Western assistance can easily rectify that; the West could outmatch even a fully war mobilised Russia in productive capacity with a mere 2% of GDP.

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  22. Jay L Gischer says:

    @gVOR10: Nevertheless, it’s about replacement rate. Not all that GDP goes to weapons. Not all that population are soldiers, or are ever going to be soldiers.

    Best estimate is that the Russians can keep this up for, very roughly, another year. At which point, if it’s still going, things will have to change. That doesn’t mean total victory for Ukraine, I don’t know or care to predict what it means other than it won’t be the same.

    Now, ask yourself what might happen in the next year that Putin would think is helpful?

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  23. JohnSF says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Likud are far from being the radicals in this.
    Neither Smotrich nor Ben-Gvir are members of Likud, and they are the ones pressing for a strategy of permanent occupation and expulsion.

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  24. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnSF:

    Sure, Likud’s plan was to run the status quo forever, while moving troops around to defend settlers and propping up Hamas. They did a test in Dubuque, the audience composed of late middle-aged American balding white guys who have major problems with college kids. Audience loved it. Oddly it didn’t play too well with the Palestinians. Go figure.

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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: I don’t think the most serious issue with Ukraine is that they will have to settle (although that is, of course, a very serious issue). I think the biggest issue is that any negotiation with Russia is worthless. They will simply regroup, rebuild and attack again.

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  26. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:

    I suspect the recent offer of NATO membership after the war ends is one such carrot. The other hint was in the form of Macron saying he would send in French troops only if Kyiv was threatened. Another is in the fact nobody is willing to send troops in there now, nobody is willing to lend them their air force. A handful of F16s can be useful but something of a joke. We all say publicly the fate of the whole West hangs on Ukraine reaching their maximalist goals but if any one of us really believed that we would’ve have troops on the ground and planes in the air there more than a year ago.

    Ukraine is being carefully, carefully, encouraged to negotiate with Russia but that encouragement cannot be overt. That would place them behind the 8-ball in negotiations and the time is not right. The Russian summer offensive must be checked and a stalemate clearly apparent to both sides.

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    There are clear differences between Israel and Ukraine. Israel is an ally, legally, by treaty, Ukraine is not, yet. We have not promised to defend Ukraine as we have Israel for many decades.

    At the same time, Israel is fighting for itself, but not in a way that advantages the US. Ukraine however is doing the West a great service by killing Russians, bringing about NATO expansion and some re-arming, and weaning Europe off Russian oil and gas. The war in Ukraine is good for us; the war in Israel is not.

    Yet still all the peanut gallery criticism of Israel comes down to the fact that Israelis aren’t the only ones who have no plan, neither do we, nor does the UN, nor even the slogan-chanting college kids. The notion that Gaza and the West Bank can be fashioned into an independent nation that will respect human rights and be anything other than a corrupt, repressive, KSA/UAE charity, is ludicrous. The Peanut Gallery keeps crying for a solution that is a mirage. It’s on a level with people who talk about ‘manifesting’ like that’s a real thing.

    The problem I have with Israel is that they don’t even have a short-term plan for Gaza. Hamas is back in Gaza City – that’s what happens when you don’t have a plan for Step Two. There’s no Step Three, but there’s going to have to be a Step Two. Someone needs to run that pile of broken concrete, someone will need to pay the bills. I assume Israel is going into Rafah, and they’ll kill a bunch of Hamas, but that still leaves them at, ‘what then?’

    BTW, another interesting aspect of the Ukraine war is that Russia is made ever more subservient to China. Putin may tell himself it’s an alliance, but as Gandalf said to Saruman: There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will, and he does not share power.

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  28. DK says:

    @James Joyner:

    We’re in agreement on our policy but even Biden and company are pushing negotiations behind the scenes.

    Yes, of course Ukraine and its allies are gaming out all scenarios and looking for ways to end the war. That goes without saying. It would be absurd to assume they’re not doing so because their main and/or public position has maximalist goals.

    Criticizing those goals, or criticizing their allies for backing them, is ridiculous. What else would they be saying? What’s the alternative? For them to come out and say we’ll settle for half a loaf? For the President of the United States to publicly signal we don’t support them? That’s not how you prosecute a war — or negotiate to end it.

    I want know what Ukraine’s (alleged) supporters who apparently know better want said and done that is not being said and done? They have no answer. Just reactiobary Monday morning quarterbacking. They can always tell what shouldn’t be happening, but there’s no workable alternative, proactive plan.

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  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Not if we bring Ukraine into NATO. Do that and we can put US forces and bases in Ukraine. Any treaty will have to include NATO membership. Of course that’s assuming Trump loses. If he wins there will be no Article Five.

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  30. JohnSF says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Don’t misunderstand me.
    I regard Likud’s policies in general, and Netanyahu’s in particular, as having been pernicious, refusing to take any constructive steps, stonewalling, undermining the Palestinian PA/Fatah, and playing footsie with the nutcases among the “Greater Israel” settlers etc.

    Netanyahu has pursued the grand objective of keeping his sweet Bibi behind out of jail, above any rational evaluation of Israel’s longer-term national interest.
    For which “accords” with various monarchs of dubious durability are not a sensible substitute, even if they are useful for balancing versus Iran in the shorter run.

    Likud policies in re the PA did aid the position of Hamas; but once Hamas secured power in Gaza, the position was difficult.
    Which illustrates the folly of a “divide and rule” policy in the first place, of course.

    But given Hamas in Gaza, and Hamas was in the ascendant there before the advent of Netanyahu’s iteration of Likud, could Israel have insisted no funds be provided to Gaza?
    What would the reaction to that have been?
    Should they have attempted to re-install Fatah by military force?

    But my point was: in Israeli politics, Likud are not the extreme end of the spectrum.
    Bad enough, but not totally insane.

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  31. Andy says:

    @DK:

    “Some” here must refer to high-ranking members of Netanyahu’s own government

    One can always find a nut to pick. Those people don’t make policy and won’t make policy. The reality is that Israel is not going to ethnically cleanse or genocide the Palestinians in Gaza, and anyone who actually believes that’s what’s going to happen needs to have their brain worms removed.

    @JohnSF:

    If Russia calculates it can outlast the West/Ukraine alignment, Putin has every incentive to press on with war until he obtains his victory objectives, which still appear to be: annexation of much of the country, subordination of the remnant.
    Why should he not?

    That does appear to be his aim. The question is whether his goals are achievable and to what extent. I think the maximalist goal of toppling Ukraine and making it a client state is no longer on the table. The more immediate Russian goal to secure the annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia territories is partly achieved and they look like they will make more gains this year, but I’m skeptical they’ll achieve anything major.

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  32. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Once again: what incentive is there for Putin to agree to this, if he believes he can simply outlast effective western support grind Ukraine down into submission?

    @dazedandconfused:
    @Michael Reynolds:
    As for NATO membership, I seriously doubt that will happen any time soon, even if there were a peace.
    Remember, any country can veto, and Hungary almost certainly would.
    And the moment any intra-NATO negotiations got underway, you can guarantee Russia would stage an “incident” of some sort.

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  33. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I don’t think the most serious issue with Ukraine is that they will have to settle (although that is, of course, a very serious issue). I think the biggest issue is that any negotiation with Russia is worthless. They will simply regroup, rebuild and attack again.

    That is also Israel’s primary concern with Hamas.

    The question of how to achieve real and lasting security guarantees in each case is, of course, quite different, and very challenging.

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  34. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    If Russia can secure the south coast up to the Dnipro, it’s very doubtful if Ukraine can ever be economically viable.
    Russia could simply switch back to the economic/”static conflict” mode of 2015/2022: periodic limited renewals of fighting aimed at preventing Ukraine from any economic recovery and rebuilding, and offer “peace” in return for subordination, as in the “Minsk” approach.

    Though I doubt Putin would bother: why not just keep on keeepin’ on, and take at minimum everything east of the Dnipro, and the entire south coast including Odesa?
    After all, Russia does not control much of Kherson and Zaporizhia, and not even all of Donetsk and Luhansk, even now, but insist they will under no circumstances accept anything less than ALL of those areas.

    The only price is lots more dead Russians, which does not seem to worry the Russian government much at all.
    As long as the regime is secure, and the elite continue to live well, why should they care?

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  35. Andy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    There are two problems with NATO membership.

    One is that preventing NATO membership is one of Russia’s primary war aims, and in any armistice or peace, Russia is likely to have that as a condition or require huge concessions to give that up, such as Ukraine relinquishing the territory Russia wants.

    Secondly, NATO accession requires universal acceptance by all members, and it is extremely unlikely that Ukraine will be accepted as a NATO member by all members unless there is a durable peace and resolution to the disputes between Ukraine and Russia.

    So I think Ukraine security guarantees would need to be some other structure or with bilateral agreements. Ukraine would need to be powerful enough to deter future Russian aggression, so that would require enduring financial and military commitments.

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  36. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    That’s the thing—Russia doesn’t have most of those areas. I doubt very much it can cross the Dnipr and take the south coast. This war strongly favors defense, but the key is that Ukraine needs continued Western support.

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  37. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    But the point is, Putin’s likely calculus at this point is that all he needs to do is just continue the war, for a decade if need be, and Ukraine will eventually collapse, possibly due to the erosion of said Western support.
    Russia can then impose a settlement of its choice.
    My point is that to disabuse him of this requires a increased, not just continuing, level of effective support. To increase the attrition level sufficient that it’s plain the Russian Army is in peril of destruction by bleeding to death, if it continues to engage.

    IMO this has been the error from the outset: attempting to “calibrate” support, to “signal”, to set up a balanced negotiating position on the basis that Russia has a mirror image of a rational calculus of minimal acceptable terms for which it will settle if going further imposes adverse costs on Russia.
    The problem is, what Sullivan and Blinken consider sufficient adverse costs seem unlikely to me to be considered such by Putin.

    Slow-walking various items (“Ukraine can’t operate F-16’s” “we don’t have spare SAM systems” etc etc etc) meant that such things may come into play later this year, or next, when their effect of increasing adverse attrition COULD and SHOULD have been operative from early last year.

    That does not mean Ukraine would have “swept to victory last Summer”; but if the goal is to wreck the Russian Army to the extent that Putin desires peace for regime protection, the only thing that is likely to motivate him, the more and earlier attrition is maximised, the better.

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  38. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself: They don’t have a plan that they are willing to put forward and defend.

    At this point the plan may be permanent occupation so when Hamas (which is not being destroyed, just moderately degraded) wants to kill some Israelis, they can just go down the street and kill them in Gaza rather than rather than launch missiles or hang gliders a few miles away. The classic George W. Bush flypaper theory, but right next door rather than half a world away.

    If that is the plan, then Israelis may not be entirely up for it. And the US might want to back away.

    Killing 2-3% of the population might generally be considered too big a cost for that.

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  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    Orbán strikes me as a guy who has a price, and we have more to offer.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The fact that Israel didn’t even have anything in the archives to dust off is laughable.

    They have plans for invasions and other military options sitting around, being dusted off regularly and updated, waiting to go.

    They don’t have any political plans. The short-term military part is easy but the political plan that the military plan is in support of is more important — just look at Gulf War 2.

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  41. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:

    Perhaps, and certainly it does not seem to me to be assured or assumable either, yet the NATO carrot is clearly being dangled.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/national-security/2983589/nato-floats-ukraine-membership-stoltenberg-meets-zelensky/

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  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    One can always find a nut to pick. Those people don’t make policy and won’t make policy.

    But they do. Israeli is conducting a war without a plan because of these coalition members. They are cabinet members! One of them was effectively given jurisdiction over the West Bank and settler policy! On what planet are they fringe figures?!

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  43. JohnMc says:

    @JohnSF: Fairly early in this war read a piece (Michael Kofman?) explaining how a modern nation can wage war to amazing lengths despite horrible losses. His example was France, 1914 — 18. Roughly same population as Ukraine.

    There is a river of blood between now and either combatant finding it impossible to go on.

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  44. DK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    On what planet are they fringe figures?!

    On the planet where one has to cling to obsolete priors that buttress Israel’s super special permanent victim act, rather than face the current situation: this is no longer the plucky city-on-a-hill Israel of Meir and Rabin, fighting for a Jewish-branded liberal democracy. This is an Israel that increasingly opposes our values* — flirting with terror state status, led by fanatics who believe in holy war, and in concert with Islamofascist barbarians.

    *If Trump and/or MAGA ends up entrenched in US leadership in 2025 and beyond, American allies would be right to recalibrate their views of and dealings with us, correctly concluding we lost our way. After 15+ years of Netanyahu’s failed extremism and rank incompetence in the Israeli premiership, Israel should look in the mirror same as Syria, Iran, Russia and the rest with entrenched, corrupt, violent leaders who suck.

    It requires suspension of disbelief, to the point of surrealism, to convince oneself that Israel’s Minister of National Security and Minister of Finance are just random nuts who aren’t helping Israel set policy. But if indeed they are not, hopefully Israelis will strip their authority soon, with a referral to RFK Jr.’s brain worms physician.

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  45. gVOR10 says:

    @JohnSF: @Jay L Gischer: I used WIKI, which lists Russia’s and Ukraine’s population as 147,182,123 (2022 est.) and 33,365,000 (2024 est). 4.41:1. That number for Russia includes Crimea, but they also list a number without Crimea that agrees with yours. That may also be the difference between their Ukraine number and yours. And I have no idea how they treated occupied Ukraine. 4.4, 3.7, close enough for current purposes.

    I felt relative size was necessary context to Jay L’s comment. Beyond that, I think you’re arguing with things I didn’t say.

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  46. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    The incentive is the end of having to fight a war and managing to do so with something to spin as a “victory”. Heck of a lot of wars in history, perhaps most, did not end with either side achieving their original objectives, and they ended with both sides knowing that the piece of paper they signed was only that, a piece of paper, and each successfully spinning it as “victory”.

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  47. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnSF:

    I think they’re insane in how they deal with the Palestinians. There’s an old story about Netanyahu in the 80s being terrified to sit in the same room as Edward Said in DC for a television show. He thought Said, a professor at Columbia and devoted fan of Brahms, was going to kill him. He’s not gotten any better, and his insanity is the status quo in Israel’s politics and its American enablers.

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  48. Gavin says:

    Two side points that bear at least some discussion:

    raising taxes to reverse the shrinkage of the United States Navy or create the kind of industrial base that could sustain the American military

    1) USN
    The shrinkage of the US navy is solely due to its head-in-the-sand-or-high-on-cocaine procurement decisions since I was in high school. Those “littoral” ships that had what a 3 year lifespan could be the single most unproductive class of ship the US has ever had. Second, you can’t be shocked that ships [the other ones] which intentionally aren’t properly maintained have a tendency to fall apart and eventually require longer repairs. Yes, it’s always a choice — and the “deferment” choice has been made for so long with so many ships that the long-term maintenance bill is now coming due for much of the fleet. And give the crews the time to actually train rather than running them ragged without training, get the spare parts onboard for deployments, etc etc.
    Are admirals being judged based on ships-at-sea rather than ships-at-sea-and-impeccably-maintained? I don’t know where the gap in evaluation is but it seems wasteful.
    2) Industrial Base
    Sure, but that would require a nationwide industrial policy which might detract from some C-suite person somewhere not being able to get a billion-dollar bonus for taking all the factories to China, so we forever can’t possibly do that. Are we now somehow an enemy of China who added our factories to their industrial base? Whoopsie!
    Fun question: What was the total production from US-only factories in 2023 of 155mm shells? How does that compare to the daily run rate in Ukraine?
    You don’t set up factories overnight.. or even in one year. And you also need the parts suppliers, the tool&die manufacture/repair facilities, etc etc, to run a plant or group of plants. The US does have manufacturing, but nowhere near as much as it used to.
    I’ll be the first to be happy when US chooses to mandate the actual factory creation, because that would mean they accept that the “tax incentive” BS they’ve tried for 20 years now won’t move the needle.. but, again, the only solution is an active industrial policy.

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  49. Ken_L says:

    Are a rising China, a revanchist Russia, and an increasingly aggressive Iran threats to US security interests?

    A question that deserves far more discussion than it tends to get in America. If “US security interests” are defined as “the ability of the US to bestride the world like a colossus” (since we are being Shakespearean today), invading other countries’ airspaces with impunity to assassinate perceived enemies, launching military expeditions against unfriendly nations without fear of serious consequences, stationing troops in bases all around the world that threaten nations America has decided it doesn’t like, exerting its will with endless sanctions against countries and corporations and individuals who displease Washington – then yes, virtually any nation that pushes back will be “a threat to US security interests”. It’s a worldview, for example, that assumes the US has a God-given right to encircle China and remain the dominant military power in the Indo-Pacific region. If China acquires the capability to break this encirclement, then it is threatening America’s self-defined security interests, and US admirals start grimly predicting war within a few years.

    If, on the other hand, one defines “US security interests” as consisting fundamentally of protecting US territory from hostile foreign interference while preserving the ability of American citizens and corporations to go about their business internationally in accordance with the laws and norms which apply in other sovereign nations, then it’s not at all obvious how China, Russia, and Iran are threats. China is a competitor, to be sure, but even if it successfully eliminates America’s dominance of its own region, that is only a threat to the US if the US chooses to regard it as one. Russian aggression is a challenge which could and should be handled by other European countries, which ought to be able to do it easily given the comparative resources available to both sides. And it’s hard from a distance to think American hostility to Iran isn’t based largely on irrational loyalty to Israel and lingering resentment at being made to look impotent in 1979.

    It’s often been observed that Europe blundered into war in 1914 without any of the major powers really knowing what the fuck they were doing, but national pride insisted that no threats of retaliation from Austria-Hungary/Russia/Germany/France/Great Britain were going to be allowed to intimidate [insert name of warlike government]. It would be possibly the most catastrophic bit of governmental pusillanimity in history if inflammatory rhetoric about imaginary “security threats” were ever to persuade Washington to get drawn bit by bit into armed conflict with a new coalition of “enemies”.

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  50. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    But the point is, Putin’s likely calculus at this point is that all he needs to do is just continue the war, for a decade if need be, and Ukraine will eventually collapse, possibly due to the erosion of said Western support.

    The problem with that is Russia can’t keep this up for a decade. And Putin is likely to be dead in a decade. Russia is peaking and beginning to burn the seed corn. It can’t sustain this level of effort for that long.

    Slow-walking various items (“Ukraine can’t operate F-16’s” “we don’t have spare SAM systems” etc etc etc) meant that such things may come into play later this year, or next, when their effect of increasing adverse attrition COULD and SHOULD have been operative from early last year.

    For F-16’s, no one has spares lying around. Giving Ukraine F-16’s means giving Ukraine part of it’s Air Force. And a complex platform like that isn’t integrated in a short timeframe – it does take a LONG time for training – not just pilots, but the entire maintenance and support chain.

    For most other weapons, it’s the story I’ve been telling here the late summer of 2020 – the limits of defense production. We’ve given Ukraine about everything we can out of wartime stockpiles, we’ve borrowed from allies, we’re continuing to borrow/buy from allies, we’re investing in increasing production capacity, but all of that takes time. Unfortunately – and this gets back to the hubris of that initial year when people thought it was going to be a quick war – the decisions to do all this were made much later than they should have been, especially in Europe.

    There is certainly a lot more that could be done – for example, the US has a ton of old M113s that should be given to Ukraine – Ukraine loves them for protected mobility, especially for recovering wounded. But the higher tech systems like SAMs we are nearing the point where we would have to impact our own readiness if we’re going to give them to Ukraine until production can reach the necessary level to meet the need.

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  51. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    But they do. Israeli is conducting a war without a plan because of these coalition members. They are cabinet members! One of them was effectively given jurisdiction over the West Bank and settler policy! On what planet are they fringe figures?!

    No they don’t. They are not on the war cabinet and, therefore, do not have any authority when it comes to decisions on the war in Gaza. None.

    Again, we all know that Netanyahu’s coalition includes far-right minority parties. Key word being minority. I just looked up the poll numbers for the two parties DK mentioned – as of May 10th, they have – combined – 13% support in Israel. DK jokingly mentioned RFK Jr who has 12% in some polls. If you think RFK is fringe, well….

    Catastrophizing outcomes in Gaza and suggesting that Israel is going to ethnically cleanse or genocide an entire population because of two ministers who have zero authority over the war is just not any kind of serious argument. It’s like saying that the US is going to invade Iran because Tom Cotton is the Secretary of the Interior.

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  52. Ken_L says:

    @Andy:

    No they don’t. They are not on the war cabinet and, therefore, do not have any authority when it comes to decisions on the war in Gaza. None.

    They presumably have significant political influence over Netanyahu, which is why they’re in the cabinet. Politics isn’t the army, with a clear-cut chain of command. There have been countless situations over the years in many countries where a minority party exerted effective control over decisions on matters it regarded as vital by threatening to withdraw from a coalition and bring down the government if they didn’t get their way.

    Israeli Defence Minister Gallant, who most certainly is in the war cabinet, “has voiced open frustration at the government’s failure to address the question of a post-war plan for Gaza.” He has signalled pretty clear concern that some of his colleagues would like to annex the territory, or at least take over its administration indefinitely.

    In a rare public sign of divisions over the direction of the military campaign within Israel’s war cabinet, Mr Gallant urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare publicly that Israel has no plans to take over civilian and military rule in Gaza.

    “Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet,” he said, “and have received no response.”

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded harshly, saying he was “not ready to exchange Hamastan for Fatahstan,” in reference to rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.

    Indecision, he warned, would leave only two bad options in Gaza: Hamas rule or Israeli military rule.

    Either “would erode our military achievements, lessen the pressure on Hamas and sabotage chances of achieving a framework for the release of hostages,” Mr Gallant said.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/cglxlj4m3v0o

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  53. JohnSF says:

    @Ken_L:
    You are mistaken.
    Setting aside the sword of the hegemon is not an option without consequences; very dangerous ones.

    The US has too much potential power for another that is intent on establishing a regional dominance to safely ignore.
    The US might be “safe” without global power if it were Switzerland; it is not.

    It was a similar calculation of co-existent competing Powers that led the UK to declare war on Germany: Germany might well have been primarily focused on expansion in the east, an empire of Eurasian lebensraum.
    But Britain was too powerful for Germany to safely ignore.
    The inevitable logic being, for the safety of the Nazi Imperium, it would always be inclined to reduce the British to subservience.
    Therefore, better to assure Germany did not become strong enough to win.

    Similarly, the US could have avoided war with Imperial Japan, if had merely stood aside and allowed Japan a “free hand” to wage its war of conquest in China.
    For better or worse, it would not do so.

    In order to avoid the risk of war to respond to such situations, it is far better to sustain a globally predominant alliance system.

    Also, the view of 1914 as a “blunder” is in many respects mistaken.
    The British government, at least, were quite aware of the magnitude of their decision.
    British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”.
    There were not, though, prepared to permit Germany to conquer Belgium and France with impunity.
    And neither China, nor Russia, nor Iran are benign regimes.
    They are oppressive autocracies, with an internal focus on the continued ascendancy of ruling elites, and external ambitions they are prepared to pursue by sustained violence.

    Power brings responsibility; and unfortunately, it brings it whether you want it or not.

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “The incentive is the end of having to fight a war…

    You are assuming that Putin sees the end of war as a benefit.
    It would be a benefit to the Russian people.
    Whether it would be seen such for the Russian rulers self-interest is less evident.

    “…to do so with something to spin as a “victory””

    Why would Putin not aim for what he consider actual victory, not “spin”, if he thinks that achieveable?

    “…a lot of wars in history, perhaps most, did not end with either side achieving their original objectives…”

    On the other hand, a lot did end with one side achieving, or even exceeding, its original goals.
    If Putin consider Russia capable of achieving his goals for it, why would he not attempt to attain them?
    Certainly not from much care for the lives and welfare of ordinary Russians, as far as can be seen from the evidence to date.

    In the dominant mind-set of much of the Russian ruling class, the interests of the Russian state, and themselves as its guardians, benefactors, and beneficiaries, are NOT the same thing as the interests of the Russian people as individuals, and certainly not a matter for said people to determine.

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  55. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:

    It can’t sustain this level of effort for that long.

    Maybe it can’t sustain this level of effort.
    But I suspect Putin calculates it can sustain enough, for long enough, to beat Ukraine in a war of attrition at current levels.

    See also the current moves in the Russian government; the appointment of Belousov in place of Shoigu, among others, may well indicate a focus on improving the industrial/financial side of the war operations that a “long war” option would entail.

    Re. F-16s: they would not, and will not be a decisive weapon (nothing is likely to be so, in and of itself) but some are going to be turning up, later this year.

    My point is, the prolonged dithering a “chin stroking” about “escalation calibration” and second guessing Ukrainian logistic capacity delayed them unnecessarily. They could, and should, had the decision been taken swiftly in Spring 2022, have been operational by late 2023.

    Of course, what is not there can’t be sent.
    Production is the key, as in most modern major war.
    (As per WW1 1915 shell crisis, role of supply shortages in Russian collapse 1917, UK focus on economic mobilisation in WW2, etc)
    And the decision delay you point to in production, quite rightly, is also my point. Once again, the sooner the better.
    Also, the continuing, infuriating, argument in Europe between munitions firms and defence ministries over guaranteed orders, investment schedules, tax write-oof, and relation to EU competion/subsidy laws.

    And the “own needs” issue; though “needs” is sometimes debatable. Spain is hardly currently desperately vulnerable to missile attack from Morocco if it were to transfer its Patriot system, for example.

    Related: I am still extremely peeved about being misinformed by a local MP’s aide about gun barrel production being in train for Barrow works, when it turned out the production machinery had been sold to India.
    And it’s still not confirmed that this has been remedied. Almost certainly BAE won’t move without a sustained contract, and the Treasury will be trying to block a sustained contract by saying “why not buy off the shelf from Rheinmetall?” Sigh.
    (It will be progress if they aren’t arguing for buying from China.)

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  56. Jay L Gischer says:

    @JohnSF:

    But I suspect Putin calculates it can sustain enough, for long enough, to beat Ukraine in a war of attrition at current levels.

    He might. Let us remember, though, that when Putin went in to Ukraine, he never planned for it to take even this long. I expect he considers it a contest of wills, and of course, his will is stronger.

    I think he’s making a strong play toward getting Trump elected again which will halt resupply to Ukraine, and he wants to keep the pressure on until then.

    He’s not the first to think that.

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  57. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Putin did not anticipate a long war and it is unlikely he would’ve attempted to invade Ukraine if he had thought it might be one. Odds are good he’s looking for a face-saving way out and has already floated some proposals.

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  58. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Putin certainly hoped for a quick win.
    But since has seemed perfectly prepared to try for victory in a longer war.
    There seems to me zero indication he’s looking for a way out save via imposing the conditions he has sought since 2014: the subordination of Ukraine.
    Which all the Russian “proposals” have been aimed at, which is why they were non-starters.
    (Same as with the “Minsk processs”.)
    This is key: Putin’s prime goal has never been to conquer and annex all of Ukraine, but to subordinate it.
    To reduce it to what it was under the Soviets: an appanage of Russia.
    There is no indication has has, or will, waver from this goal, or cease pursuing it by war, unless the costs and risks of doing so are too high.

    Territorial annexations are merely a means to this end, not the end itself (with the possible exception of Crimea).

    The only cost and risk that currently seems likely to coerce a change of course is that the the Russian Army in Ukraine might be so damaged as to risk its capacity of carrying out its primary task: ensuring regime security.

    In pursuit of that, it is imperative that Russia NOT perceive that the Western support for is conditional on negotiation, or will be limited to encourage that, or “calibrated” to ensure that Russia is not subjected to regime-endangering damage.
    That is all too often what US and German, in particualr, supply policies have seemed to indicate.
    If such indications continue, and the Russian Army is capable of staggering on, the war will continue.

    Because Putin will have no reason to end it.

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