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Q&A with Tecumseh Court
Can we at least count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else?
Reader: What does the fog of war look like when Putin is willing to use chemical and nuclear weapons? How do NATO and the US respond should Putin instruct Russian forces to make forays into Moldova, Poland, and Romania? What is the likelihood Putin does something unwise on US soil? How does the US respond?
Tecumseh Court: I’ve seen much these past few days I’ve found concerning. Whenever I read news about war, I ask: “Is it good or bad that I’m reading this? Is the enemy advantaged or disadvantaged by this information? Am I?” Because news in war is counterintuitive. It’s what everyone wants to read about, so media organizations will always post something. The headlines (as CG readers know well) rarely provide the story’s substance. We can’t do anything now about Mariupol. We know that. We’ll read about it anyway, but that’s not what we're trying to understand. Once we’ve confirmed that Zelensky’s still alive and supply lines are intact, we’re looking to see that more Russian soldiers are dying and the ISW’s Ukraine map isn’t further colored red.
So my stomach turned when I saw headlines about the MiG-F-16 swap-out plan. If that was going to happen, we never should’ve read about it. There’s no need for John Q. Public or the Russians to know NATO cut that deal. If it was a go, Ukrainian pilots could just get in the MiGs and start killing Russians. Clearly, the people closest to the point of decision—the Ukrainians and Poles—already thought it made sense. They were following Warfighting just fine. When I read it, I thought, Oh shit. This could’ve happened, but now it’s dead in the water.
Why did we read about it? I imagine because after the Poles worked out the deal with the Ukrainians, bureaucrats in DoD or State or wherever got squeamish and shot holes through it. The Poles and Ukrainians, accurately grasping that we are well past the time for bureaucratic bullshit, then leaked the MiG deal, hoping the press and public opinion would force senior decision-makers (Blinken, Milley, Austin, and ultimately Biden) to cut through the bullshit and do the right fucking thing.
Sadly, the American leadership failed. The US welched on a perfectly reasonable plan to field F-16s to Poland and get MiGs in the Ukrainian skies—even with Ukraine having an 81 percent approval rating among Americans—because ... why exactly? Because we need those F-16s on standby in case Russia invades Lithuania or China invades Taiwan? The Ukrainians (less so the Poles, but still) need equipment now.
News flash, American generals, senior policymakers, and White House special advisors: We’re in the war you thought we’d never fight. Sorry, but here it is. You need to change your game plan. Stop asking “how do we prevent a nuclear war.” It’s simple: In MAD we trust. Stop worrying about what the enemy’s going to do us and focus on what we’re gonna do to the enemy. Right. Fucking. Now. There is no other way out.
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Yes, the Americans will push Javelins, equipment, logistics, etc. into the field. Sure, we’ll train your army. We’ll send support and training missions to NATO countries. We’ll even fund Erik Prince’s private army (whatever Blackwater/Xe/Academi/Constellis is now called) which is likely operating out of the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security. These reports and pictures from US and UK “volunteers,” the targeting accuracy of those Russian cruise missiles, and even the immediacy and accuracy of the reported casualty figures, suggest organizational support and operational capacity. Let’s not pretend NATO doesn’t have its own Wagner Groups.
But for now, anyway, it seems that’s as far as the Americans will go. The Russian targeting of NATO’s base at Yavoriv (yes, let’s be honest: this was most likely a NATO base) was a clear message. Biden’s silence (and that of other NATO leaders, but ultimately Biden) was the American and the NATO response.
Why did the Poles and Ukrainians feel like they would need to press the Americans into a fighter jet deal in the first place? Because the US can’t be trusted. This reality frames the entire question of US and NATO response to Ukraine and any further Putin aggression.
I’ve written about Warfighting as a US Marine who has watched the American military and political leaders shamelessly discard its primary tenets when they mattered most of the 21st century. Throughout two decades of war, the Americans cast obvious opportunities—not once or twice, but multiple times— into the shitter, utterly wasting ample combat power many times over, under administrations from both political parties.
I wish I had more confidence that the US will eventually step up to Russia with something bigger and bolder then a “special economic operation.” I wish Blinken, Milley, and Austin had the courage, creativity and audacity to, say, send the Seventh Fleet to blockade the Kuril Islands. Jesus, guys, I’m not asking for 30 seconds over Tokyo, but at least do something after Yavoriv. That’s what should be public news.Unfortunately, we’re reading things we shouldn’t be, and not seeing what we should.
How will the US respond? How is the US responding right now? The only major shift in American public opinion I've seen since 24 February is: “Ukraine good, Russia bad.” That’s nice. Does that make any difference in what the US does operationally? Sadly, no. It doesn’t.
Two months ago, here in the Cosmopolitan Globalist, Nicolas Tenzer wrote:
Putinism’s primary adversary is the law—especially international law ... Putinism is unique in that it does not aim to construct an alternative order. Rather, it seeks the systematic destruction of any order. This is the specific, unique aspect by which Putinism may be recognized.
Putin’s stated objective is to conquer Ukraine. The US position has been, and is: We will arm and support the Ukrainians; we will attack your economy (with uncertain results). We will diplomatically convene and solemnly condemn.
But will the Americans fight? Unless Putin sets foot on NATO soil, thus invoking Article V (which I do think the US would hold sacrosanct), I doubt it. It appears the Americans will keep doing what they’ve been doing: training, equipping, supporting, and trying to follow the post-WWII international law rulebook that, as Tenzer explained so well, doesn’t matter anymore.
Putin knows this and still believes he can achieve his stated objective. At the crux of any question of US involvement is the dangerous assumption I think many of you—especially in Europe—have been making as events have unfolded. You’re wondering why we can’t fast-forward to D-Day, since we know how this movie is supposed to end. We saw the 20th century. Three times—1918, 1945, and finally in 1989 (or 1991, depending on when you’re keeping score)—the Americans secured peace on MacKinder’s World Island. You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else ... right? Right?
I’m not sure. I wish I could say yes, as I’ve often staked my life on that premise. But this time, I really don’t know. What if Japan hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor? Would the Europe you’ve known much of your life have existed? It’s hard to say. Probably not.
But, hey, at least Germany’s rearming. All together now …