The Ukraine War
The US Civil War and the War in Ukraine
June 10, 2022
When the US Civil War began, it was unanimously, and not unreasonably, thought, at least in the North, that it would be over quickly. The North was more populous (more than 3:1, not counting slaves) and had almost all (90%) of the nation’s manufacturing capability. The Crackers did not stand a chance.
Therefore, the war actually lasted some four years. The South arguably came within one cavalry charge of winning the war, or at least ending the war in a truce. We can analyze why that was for a long time.
The answer is complicated and multi-dimensional. But, I will climb up to 30,000 feet and simplify:
The war was fought primarily in the South – they were defending their homes, and were therefore more highly motivated.
The South had better leadership, and Lincoln did a particularly bad job of choosing generals until he finally chose Grant. Lee was world-historical good, and generals such as Jackson, Stuart and Longstreet were best-in-class good.
“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that is the way to bet.” (Hugh Keough)
Ukraine should not, in any reasonable universe, win this war. Even with the US providing weapons, it is still David vs. Goliath, and Goliath will win, 99 times out of 100. So long as Russia is willing to sustain significant losses, both on the battlefield and through sanctions, they can simply grind Ukraine down with more soldiers and more bullets.
But, the US Olympic hockey team did beat the USSR hockey team in 1980.
Sometimes David wins.
Ukraine is defending its home, and its leaders, so far, have been better.
The question of the moment is, how much will Ukraine have to give up to make this go away? The keys to the answer to that question are political backlash in Russia; there has been very little political backlash so far, or a degradation in energy sales through sanctions and technical issues with the fields, of which there have been very few up until now.
The dynamics change drastically if the West decides it is now time to break Putin.
The important thing for the West is not necessarily that Ukraine win, but that Putin be stopped from taking things farther.
This is a snowball that has started down the hill and can have ramifications in multiple dimensions for a long time. As bonus points, Germany has gotten (mostly) off the fence, Switzerland and Finland have gotten off the fence and NATO is now stronger and more unified.
The West is winning; Ukraine is not. Whether the West can win the financial / energy war is not clear – I think the odds favor Russia. This fall will tell the tale when Europe has to choose between solidarity and freezing.
June 3, 2022
So, to be brutally honest and Machaevellian about it, Ukraine does not matter, geopolitically. Think Zambia or Cambodia. Not worth the loss of people or treasure.
Unless you view (as I do) that Russia is to Ukraine as Germany was to Poland in World War II. Much bigger aspirations and a testing of the enemy to see if they will resist, and how strongly they will resist. (Of course, that was the “domino theory” vis a vis Viet Nam.)
All of that Nato-on-Russia’s border stuff has substance, but on a scale of 1-10 in an era having submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, not so much.
Russia does not like it, but not enough to go to war.
I think that Putin simply made the determination that the West was weak, bankrupt, divided, hedonistic and unwilling to fight. I would have made the same determination. So, he made the decision that so many have made over the millennia and decided to strike against weakness.
Who knew that the US, particularly under get-out-of-Afhanistan-any-way-you-can Biden, and Germany would each grow a pair?
Who knew that, at least for now, Europeans would be willing to undergo hardship?
But now the world is radically changed. Rules and alliances and attitudes toward food and energy are changing at breathtaking rates.
We are in a remarkable, geopolitical point in history.
The West has done what the West needs to have done – it has shown Russia and China that it is more than a paper tiger. And that is extremely important.
And Putin has learned that he cannot get what he wanted, at least for now.
So, we return to my first proposition. If Russia has been stopped and exposed and if Ukraine is not existentially important, the goal now is for both sides to declare victory and go home.