Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Guns Of April

 Ordinarily I try not to post about current events.  While very meaningful at the time you are writing them, 95% of them do not do well 5 years hence or with audiences that do not have the background (the same is true of pop culture).  That said, I am taking a offramp today, based partially on my post about Transfers of Power.

For any that have been under a rock over the last two weeks, Russia and Ukraine have been steadily building up forces along the Luhansk/Donetsk and Crimean borders.  If the photos and reports are to be believed, both sides are pouring thousands of troops and a great deal of military equipment into the area (if I might give a shout out, I would recommend EndGameWW3 on Twitter.  They have very good information, are non-partisan, and you do not have to have a Twitter account to follow).

Both sides have grievances: Ukraine for what it considers the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, Russia for what it considers to be the threat to ethnic Russians in Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the Ukraine.  Both sides claim that they want a de-escalation but continue to build troop strength.  Ukraine has reached out NATO for support, up to and including the point of asking to join NATO.  Russia has apparently requested assistance from Belarus (which shares a border with Ukraine), opening the risk of a two front war.

The US, for what it is worth, has continued to call for de-escalation while unequivocally supporting the Ukraine, up to and including providing non-weapons support in the form of a shipment that recently arrived in the Ukraine (you may also recall that our Sitting President called President Putin a killer.  Not a great way to win friends and influence people).

This may turn out to be something.  This may turn out to be nothing.  What is interesting to me - in a rather dark and "if I am right, it is a horrible thing" way - is that this is the sort of thing that leads to terrible conflicts.

Think about it.  If you have not read Barbara Tuchman's classic The Guns Of August, which is a history of the start of World War I, you would do worse than to pick up a copy (as a prognostication tool, if nothing else).  What her book - and history - will tell you is that it was not inherently the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started the war.  It was a fuse, but a fuse that could have been extinguished.  What started the war was the resulting mobilizations because of a feared impending conflict.  Once the mobilizations started, along with the transfer of troops, the forces that could have called the war to a halt were thrust aside.  As the other side was mobilizing, our side had to mobilize as well.  And then our side had to get in the first strike before their side could.

It was really only a matter of time at that point.

This is where the real risk is:  a major event, in the end, by intent, but by a potential mistake or error:  the vial that is dropped that has a plague, the one soldier that opens fire precisely when they should not have, the computer virus that infects a network because someone accidentally opens a file.   All relatively simple errors, but all errors that have tremendous impacts.

What would also be helpful, of course, would be if everyone would take a moment and actually try to de-escalate the situation.  But this seems precisely to not be the case.  Ukraine builds up troops - in response to Russia - and openly calls for outside aid, including NATO (To be clear, parking NATO on Russia's doorstep will simply not be allowed.  Russia considers NATO an existential threat.  NATO somehow cannot see that after 77 years in business against the then Soviet Union and now Russia, Russia might be a little concerned about having them at their doorstep).  Russia builds up troops - in response to Ukraine -and suggests that everyone mind their own business, while conducting drills on their side of the border (without considering that to the Ukrainians with the history of the Soviet Union, thousands of troops on their border might be a bit worrisome).

There are so many ways this can go wrong.  Really only one or two that can go right.

Time will tell, of course.  Two weeks from now, we can possibly all have a good laugh about this and remind me why I should never do current events.  Or, we could be looking at a major European Theater War, something we have not seen since the 1990's in Yugoslavia.

It is not that I am inherently pessimistic about the situation.  But at the same, time, all I see is weapons and troops flowing into an area and absolutely no-one with any moral authority or perceived wisdom stating "We might want to think about this for a little bit.  Maybe stop sending troops up.  Maybe stop lobbing the odd shell or bullet the other way."  To be fair, I cannot think of anyone that could serve in that role at this time.  There are no more neutral parties anymore, just countries and groups fighting for power and perceived interest.

Wars have started over less.


  1. "earthquakes in various places, wars, rumors of wars...."
    ♪ Its beginning to look a lot like 'end times'....all around the world. ♫

    1. STxAR, I think the most "interesting" thing to me is how quickly things seem to have fallen apart or ratcheted up (depending on how you look at it). In something like three weeks we have managed to get to confrontational situations in Russia/Ukraine, China/Taiwan, and Iran/almost everyone else. With so many pots almost boiling, it seems likely something has to give.

  2. Hmmm. I may check out Barbara Tuchman. For my two cents, The assassination of the Archduke may have been A fuse, but not necessarily THE fuse. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of similar fuses burning in Edwardian era Europe, any one of which would have dragged the world into war. There were just too many competing militant empires locked in suicidal alliances.

    A couple of thoughts occur and if this is too political for you, friend - just delete it and think nothing of it:

    The coloured demographic of the US is huge and growing. If America is to launch a large scale war effort, the war will have to be 'sold' to them... and I don't see them buying into what is essentially a 'white' war in their eyes. Many of them actively hate America and advocate communism and socialism themselves.

    There are growing numbers of Americans that are infuriated by the endless wars and losses from right across the political spectrum. I am ordinarily hawkish by nature and one of America's most loyal fan boys... and good lord, I would regard a war right now to be the worst thing possible happening at the worst time - with the worst possible adversary.

    America's military fitness and readiness is of concern: It galls me to say it but with the endless diversity efforts and political meddling... a military staffed by queers, trannies, feminists and affirmative action flunkies is taking its toll. In a toe to toe conflict with a modern adversary like Russia they are going to get murdered.

    Finally - America's leadership isn't up to it. Joe Biden is a vegetable and Kamala ... oh boy. I don't see anyone on the other side of the aisle able to fill the role of a wartime administration either.

    I can't see a war with Russia or anyone else without the population being motivated first - by an event like 9/11 or something like that.

    1. Your last sentence is the most terrifying. What will be cooked up to stampede the American public into a war? What new atrocity can the Alphabets concoct? Call me a pessimist, but the deep state doesn't even really need our consent or enthusiasm at this juncture in history. They are just burning the foundations now.

    2. Glen - Barbara Tuchman is a wonderful writer and very understandable. I think you would enjoy her.

      Any military event at this point would have to be heavily "sold", to both your and Just So's point. The difference between the United States unified (WW I and WW II) and many of the other military events is striking. Without a unified home front, there is no long term ability to win the war. And sadly, there is little to no unity in the United States at all, and that is likely passing even further every day.

      In terms of leadership, I see no-one - Red or Blue - that would rise to the level of actually being a wartime leader.

      And, as you point out, we are now having our military do a great many other things besides what I always understood the point of a military to do: break things and kill people. I am dreadfully afraid that this is precisely the perfect time for an opponent - or opponents - to strike, demonstrate that the U.S.'s fabled military strength is a paper tiger, and move the balance of power somewhere else once and for all, leaving a divided, disgraced U.S.

    3. Just So, outside of a literal attack by the clearly marked troops of a foreign power on actual U.S. soil, I find no reason to go to war.

  3. When it comes to foreign policy, I am a bit of an isolationist. My question before aiding any foreign conflict would be to ask myself, how does this conflict benefit my country. In this case, I think the answer would be it wouldn't. If Russian and the Ukraine go at it, I'm pretty sure Russia would win. I don't think preserving Ukraine benefits the U.S. in any way. But getting involved by giving support to Ukraine puts us in the mix and potentially affects us if Russia invades.

    It would suck to be Ukranian if Russia did invade and I'm sure there would be lots of atrocities as a result. But I just don't feel like the U.S. has the ability or the moral authority anymore to be a global police force. We lost the moral authority a long time ago and while we might still have the military might, we don't have the financial standing anymore to support the military in police keeping efforts outside our borders.

    My vote would be to just keep an eye on the situation and ponder how do deal with the what ifs after it goes down if they threaten to drag us into any subsequent conflict. And even then, it would be how to not get involved in any more global conflict.

    1. Isolationism only benefits America and American citizens, which is why it will not be tolerated. There is still blood to be squeezed from the rock.

    2. Ed, we are in agreement. I have had a great many questions of virtually all of the military conflicts that have occurred in my lifetime. For most of them, we simply meddled where we should not in the name of "nation building".

      My bet would be on Russia in the event of a war as well - and yes, it would be awful if it were the Ukraine. On the other hand, the Ukraine's hands are not completely clean here and they could have chosen to de-escalate the situation by pulling back and not removing themselves from the Minsk Accords. In my opinion, they have been encouraged by parties (probably including the US) to commit to this course of action. For the US, this becomes a proxy war. For Russia, it appears to them to be direct threat.

      More and more, I find there is very little worth going to war about.

    3. Just So, one wishes that Washington's admonition to "Avoid foreign entanglements" was held to after 1890. To our shame, we did not listen.


Your comment will be posted after review. Thanks for posting!