A US Marine combat veteran explains “Warfighting,” the how-to manual for the US Marines, and its practical application in Ukraine.
The United States did not come into being through dispassionate real-politick or informed judgement: It required a tremendous embrace of risk in service of an ideal. Thoughtful analysis of the author’s points is worthwhile, but criticism of CG’s commentary for an embrace of humanity with its essential emotion ignores reality. The attempted crushing of a democracy by an autocratic regime by force is an inflection point for the West: Here, the post-WWII liberal democratic order accelerates its decline, or reverses that trajectory. Substantial risk is warranted. It will only become more difficult, and riskier, if we fail this test.
I have a couple of thoughts on this conflict. First this is the first "real" peer war since Vietnam. In particular this is not the Gulf War where essentially Saddam's Iraq was a relatively minor power which had the whole world against him and the real fighting had already ended by now. Nor is this the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan where the west was basically supplying a tribal based "insurgency." Charlie Wilson for example wasn't providing fighter jets to the Mujahedeen. The EU talking about sending fighter jets to Ukraine is something that hasn't been done since the USSR and PRC's support for Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam almost 50 years ago.
Which brings up another point. In the eyes of most military strategists back in the day both the Korean and Vietnam Wars were never have supposed to happen. All wars after 1945 were going to be strategic nuclear wars. You weren't going to have fighter pilots engaging in dog fighting anymore and hence the US military in particular built aircraft like F-4 Phantom designed for total air superiority much like US after memory of Vietnam had faded in the late 1990s built the F-35 an aircraft very unsuitable for low speed closeup combat just like the F-4 Phantom was.
I think a sometype of China-India-Russia alliance is very unlikely coming out of this conflict however, I do think it is China interest to have Russia stay in the conflict as long as possible even if they Russians are getting totally "pasted" and to see the introduction of "Western" weaponary into the conflict say the Dassault Rafale fighter jet going against the Russian Air Force for the reason that many of China's neighbors like India and Indonesia or prospective Rafale customers like Vietnam and Taiwan and China's Air Force and Aircraft have a lot of similarities to Russia's.
Which brings up a final point which is I can see France definately having a big interest in introducing it's arms kit like the Rafale into the conflict if only to show to more Russophilic elements of the Indian military and others(i.e. Vietnam) they are better off with French supplied arms over Russian. In particular I think there is definately a possibility of sometype of unilateral French involvement in the war outside of NATO structures in terms of introducing French fighter jets to this Russo-Ukraine war(i.e. no fly zone). There are a lot of people at Dassault Aviation(Which also owns the Le Figaro newspaper btw which is why Pecresse might suddenly be so hawkish) that would like nothing more that to see the Rafale "paste" Putin's top Sukhoi fighters and French Air Force and Navy pilots are uniquely trained for "Top Gun" style dogfighting in a way no one other than the US and Israel are.
And back to China they have a deeply cynical need to see the Russians and the Sukhoi-35 go up against the Rafale even if there nominal Russian allies get completely "wasted" by the Rafale if only for the reasons they need to find out what they might face in a conflict with there own neighbors buying Rafales like India and possibly Taiwan.
Happy birthday indeed, Leo!
I have a thought or two about all this.
V. Putin had a political objective and a military strategy designed to achieve it.
The political objective was to depose the current Ukrainian government and replace it with a cabal of Russia-friendly stooges, thus scotching the possibility of Ukrainian membership in NATO and the EU. Additional benefits would be to put the fear of Vlad into other countries in the region, and to “negotiate” formal recognition of his conquests thus far with a compliant puppet government.
The military strategy designed to achieve all this was modeled on the December 1979 coup de main in Kabul, Afghanistan: a lightning strike that seized control of the capital and deposed an inconvenient government. This was clearly the initial Russian objective in the present war: to storm into Kyiv and arrest or eliminate the current government with ruthless celerity.
Unfortunately for Putin & Co. they overestimated the capabilities of the Russian armed forces and underestimated Ukraine’s will and ability to resist. Thus the coup de main didn’t come off and there is now no possibility of installing a puppet government in Kyiv that could claim a shred of legitimacy. As a result, Russian policy objectives and Russian military options have lurched out of synch. Probably if sufficient terror were applied, e.g. indiscriminate bombardment of urban areas, the Russians could beat down Ukrainian resistance. But that would make it virtually impossible for Russia to control the country in the long run.
What has been overlooked in much of the commentary about this war is the deep current of hatred toward Russia that flows through the Ukrainian national consciousness. The historical sources of this hatred need not be detailed to the CG audience. This is why I believe that the military measures necessary for Russia to claim a victory would make Ukraine ungovernable by either a puppet government or a military occupation. The way I see it, Putin’s opening move having misfired, he has no military options that can deliver the outcome he desires. On the contrary—if he persists, the costs to Russia of his colossal blunder will escalate into the stratosphere.
Putin will either realize this and cut his losses or, Hitler-like, he’ll retreat into a fantasy world where nothing but his will to victory matters. I’m sure that there’s a bunker under the Kremlin; wouldn’t it be droll if the old apparatchik ended his days down there?
The reader who posed these questions is precisely on target. The answers are very important for those of us trying to analyze this whole imbroglio in a serious way.
In terms of a nuclear threat, there’s an issue that I’m increasingly worried about. To anyone with an ounce of medical training, it is obvious that Putin is physically unwell.
Based on the puffiness and swelling in his face, Putin is almost certainly taking glucocorticoids (steroids). These medications are prescribed for numerous ailments including rheumatological disorders, breathing disorders and cancer. Long before the current crisis, there were reports that Putin was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and/or cancer. Parkinson’s Disease can seriously impair judgement and mood. Many cancer treatments can also seriously impair judgement.
Videos of Putin meeting with Macron as well as his own advisors show him seated very far away from those he is visiting with; much further away than necessary to avoid a COVID infection. It is pretty obvious that Putin is immunocompromised. Whether this is caused by whatever underlying disease he has or merely as a side effect of his steroid regimen is unknown.
Behavioral impairment from high dose steroid use (colloquially known as “roid-rage”) is a real phenomena. Superimposed on whatever psychological issues that may be associated with his suffering from a serious disease, makes Putin an extremely dangerous individual.
There is reason to be worried, and perhaps very worried about Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Could Putin order a launch unilaterally or are there any layers of protection to prevent him from doing so? A few months back, Claire published some essays on how close the world has come to a nuclear conflict because of miscommunication or miscalculation. She’s also worried aloud whether an unhinged Donald Trump could have bumbled us into a nuclear conflict. Given the state Putin is in, aren’t the risks of this greater than ever?
If Putin is capable of launching a nuclear attack at his own discretion then there is, I think, a reason to be very worried.
Is this something U.S. intelligence and defense officials are likely to be thinking about?
However important Ukraine is, it hardly seems worth it to allow someone who may be a mad man to launch a nuclear Armageddon.