Searching for an Answer

by Dave Schuler on July 20, 2014

There’s an interesting article at Fiscal Times on the alternatives for punitive measures against Russia. Here are David Francis’s proposals:

  • Arm the Ukrainian military.
  • Strangle the Russian economy.
  • Extend NATO membership to Ukraine.

I think that each of those proposals is problematic in its own way and all fail by the standards I suggested yesterday. Is the present Ukrainian government really one we want to ally ourselves with? Germany in particular has shown few signs of any appetite for further economic sanctions against Russia. As I said yesterday, it’s not a crisis until Europe decides it’s a crisis.

Finally, the Ukraine is not a vital interest for us but it is a vital interest for Russia not only because of its substantial Russian population and historic ties but for its strategic importance. Do we really want to commit to defend the country? Does anybody believe that we would?

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

TastyBits July 20, 2014 at 11:36 am

I suspect that the only NATO member voting to include Ukraine would be the US, and the only country voting to strangle the Russian economy would be the US. The US will be the only country giving weapons to Ukraine.

If the US is giving weapons to Ukraine, does that mean that Ukraine is a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothing, lay-abouts living on the government dole? If we give them weapons, they will just sit around all day drinking vodka.

What David Francis and the other delusional hawks fail to understand is that the US had a 50 year post-WW2 run because the world knew it meant business. Hiroshima and Nagasaki established that the US had atomic weapons and would use them.

The post-Iraq invasion squandered any lasting effect. The only way to get back the magic is to go big. I suggested tactical (battlefield) nukes. I would recommend leveling a city or two, but I suspect the hawks are too squeamish for it.

For those who think I jest, nuclear weapons are nothing but big bombs. There are not enough nukes to blow up the world. More than likely, a lot of the bombs are worthless. They have a shelf life. An earthquake in Iran can kill 20,000 people. A tsunami (2004) can kill 200,000 people.

If you are going to be a hawk you need to get over the whole human life thing. Let the peaceniks worry about that crap. We have more important things to do.

Guarneri July 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Rory at the British

18th. Tee shot

That, my friends, is mature and correct golf.

Sorry for ot

Dave Schuler July 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm

There are not enough nukes to blow up the world.

No, but there are enough to render it uninhabitable by humans or, at least, very uncomfortable. There are about 17,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, most of them held by the U. S. and Russia. If only half are still effective that’s still enough.

Just to put things in some perspective there are about 200 American cities with a population of 100,000 or more and most of the country’s population lives in those cities or their immediate surroundings.

What David Francis and the other delusional hawks fail to understand is that the US had a 50 year post-WW2 run because the world knew it meant business.

That is the essence of the vital psychological component of deterrence. We’ve had too many presidents for too long who haven’t understood that for nuclear deterrence to work any possible adversary must believe that we’d be willing to use them.

Jimbino July 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Amerika won the cold war and became socialist. There’s much less in the USSA worth defending than there was before.

TastyBits July 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

@Dave Schuler

You assume that all those weapons are functional or still at their full capacity. They deteriorate over time, and they need to be restocked. You assume perfect detonation and targeting. You assume perfect results. A few of the larger cities would take most of the damage, but there would be a lot of benefits.

Fewer humans would reduce CO2 emissions, and a nuclear winter would reverse AWG. Chicago’s gang problems and Detroit’s blight would be solved. The rebuilding projects would solve the unemployment problem, and it would get the economy rolling.

At this time, the next nuclear war will be between India and Pakistan. In any case, I would expect the US and Russia to have enough sense to not bomb each other. You use proxies and trash their country.

steve July 20, 2014 at 2:21 pm

50 year post-WW2 run. Korea anyone? Vietnam? (Ok, we kicked ass in Grenada!) We had a Cold War. The Russians and Chinese expanded (Russians really) quite a bit during those years. However, communism fell apart as it was not a sustainable economic system. They were certainly more willing to be brutal than we were, they just couldn’t pay for stuff. We were left as the only superpower because we could pay for that kind of military. We also had a much more stable, functional government. (Nukes just aren’t that great of an offensive weapon.)

Steve

PD Shaw July 20, 2014 at 4:53 pm

A. It’s premature to talk about punishment while facts are being disputed and evidence concealed.

B. Appropriate responses will probably be some combination of the talking cure in the U.N. and an additional round of sanctions –whatever the Europeans will agree to, which certainly will not be strangulation. I would add one thing about deterrence, it’s really about future conduct, not the past. Or the past is an excuse to head-off future problems.

Dave Schuler July 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

It’s premature to talk about punishment while facts are being disputed and evidence concealed.

Sentence first, verdict afterwards.

michael reynolds July 20, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I do love the idea we have that the US is never brutal.

End of WW2. The Russians have suffered like very few peoples in modern history have suffered. The suffering doesn’t bear thinking about because you just end up hating humanity. In retaliation the Russians rape and massacre their way into Germany. It’s brutal. It’s sickening.

End of WW2. The USA has not been harmed directly in any way. No American city has been bombed. We’ve lost a tiny fraction of our population. So we burn entire cities full of women and children to the ground.

The Russians had revenge as their motive. What was our motive for Tokyo and Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What do we call the people who deliberately created firestorms in civilian cities that sucked the air from baby’s lungs and incinerated their mothers? The Greatest Generation.

We have much better propaganda. The Russians have always been clowns when it came to dealing with the rest of the world. They’re pathetic at propaganda. But as to efficient brutality, ask African-Americans and what’s left of Native Americans and the survivors of Yokohama and Nagasaki whether they think Americans are sweethearts.

It’s worth pondering the fact that in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the world on the brink of annihilation, it was the Russians who backed down, not us.

.... July 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

That is the essence of the vital psychological component of deterrence. We’ve had too many presidents for too long who haven’t understood that for nuclear deterrence to work any possible adversary must believe that we’d be willing to use them.

Which is why we should have nuked Kandahar and Kabul in late September/early October of 2001. (Actually Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and Medina would have been more to the point, but someone important would have objected to the lost profits, I’m sure.) An opportunity squandered.

.... July 20, 2014 at 5:24 pm

They were certainly more willing to be brutal than we were, they just couldn’t pay for stuff.

LMAO!

Dave Schuler July 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm

We have much better propaganda.

You’re kidding, right? There are dozens of subjects on which it is impossible to post or comment without having Soviet disinformation parroted back at you.

ask African-Americans and what’s left of Native Americans and the survivors of Yokohama and Nagasaki whether they think Americans are sweethearts.

A poor choice of words, perhaps? The last time I checked both African-Americans and Native Americans were Americans.

michael reynolds July 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm

We don’t really give a fuck about Ukraine, and there’s no reason we should, really, aside from humanitarian concerns. It is sure as hell not worth going to war over.

The Ukrainians have a right to choose the West over Moscow, and we can and should make the appropriate loud mooing noises and impose sanctions. But get into an actual war? Over Ukraine? Please.

michael reynolds July 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Oh come on, Dave, even the Russians don’t believe Russian propaganda. 70 years of Pravda cured them of that. We, on the other hand, still think we’re sweethearts.

michael reynolds July 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

No, not a poor choice of words. African-Americans and Native Americans are Americans now. They sure as hell weren’t then. They weren’t even humans. They were slaves and a bunch of poor fools standing between us and gold or grazing land.

.... July 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Oh come on, Dave, even the Russians don’t believe Russian propaganda.

That’s funny, as I follow several on Twitter who do believe most of it.

Dave Schuler July 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Ah. You’re talking about self-propagandization. The Russians were quite successful in convincing others on a whole range of subjects including Iran, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Stalin’s Russia, and Chile. There are still plenty of people who believe that the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss were innocent.

I might add that Putin’s approval ratings in Russia are something that President Obama can only dream of. If that isn’t successful self-propagandization, what is?

Dave Schuler July 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm

They sure as hell weren’t then.

I guess it depends on how you define “then”. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st black Americans and Native Americans have been among the most patriotic of Americans. I haven’t done the research but my impression is that the patriotism of Native Americans goes right back to the founding of the Republic.

mike shupp July 21, 2014 at 2:11 am

” . . . my impression is that the patriotism of Native Americans goes right back to the founding of the Republic.”

Sort of. Ever hear tell of something called Stockholm Syndrome?

CStanley July 21, 2014 at 7:05 am

Not just Stockholm syndrome, but likely also a situation of “the enemy of my enemy” in many cases.

Don’t know that much about the Native American history but I’m guessing the tribes were mixed on their alliances to the newly forming nation. And again, just hazarding a guess, those who allied with the Continental Army were mixed, some supporting the creation of the new Republic while others just deciding they could deal with the Colonials more than the Brits.

This is like my ancestors in Poland, who seem to have fought alongside Napoleon’s army. They weren’t Francophiles, they just hated the Prussians more and decided to trust the promise of restoration of their nation.

Dave Schuler July 21, 2014 at 7:35 am

I think it’s difficult to explain somebody like Ely Parker using either of those explanations. I would also caution against circular reasoning.

Frequently the simplest explanation is the best.

PD Shaw July 21, 2014 at 8:01 am

The most famous Native American contribution to the American Revolution were the Iroquois Confederacy. About two-thirds sided with the British and a third with the Colonists — it became a civil war.

PD Shaw July 21, 2014 at 8:03 am

As I recall, the breakdown of the Iroquois members broke down in terms of proximity. Those living closest to the colonist, sided with them, while those closest to the British forts, like the Mohawks, sided with the British.

michael reynolds July 22, 2014 at 6:04 am

It’s a bit crazy to describe getting along with whoever had the nearest cannon as “patriotism.”

Dave Schuler July 22, 2014 at 6:43 am

Michael, you might want to listen to the testimony of the Native American code-talkers. They fit my description pretty well and your preconceived notions not at all.

michael reynolds July 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm

dave:

I’m a bit at a loss to understand your point. The Code Talkers were in 1942 onward. Obviously I was talking about the preceding 300 years or so. And I’m well aware of African-American patriotism, I wrote a quickie kid non-fiction on Benjamin Davis Jr., the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. (Quickie, low-budget contract work.) I did phone interviews with a couple of the surviving airmen. I am unashamed to admit I could barely keep my composure talking to them.

I kind of thought my time frame was obvious. Apparently not.

Dave Schuler July 24, 2014 at 7:53 am

I’m a bit at a loss to understand your point. The Code Talkers were in 1942 onward.

You have apparently lost track of your own argument. Here’s what began the sidebar discussion:

But as to efficient brutality, ask African-Americans and what’s left of Native Americans and the survivors of Yokohama and Nagasaki whether they think Americans are sweethearts.

To which I responded that Native Americans and African-Americans are Americans, adding a remark about the notable patriotism of African-Americans and Native Americans, something I think is obvious and indisputable to anyone with firsthand experience.

Other than through seances we are unable to ask Native Americans or African-Americans of 300 years ago anything. Consequently, the context of your argument must be the present and in the present Native Americans and African-Americans overall at least by my observation are more patriotic than, say, the average American.

I think that my argument is pretty clear and yours is muddled.

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