Over at Foreign Affairs, Ryan Hass and Jude Blanchette have published an interesting argument. Hass and Blanchette are worried that the United States and China are needlessly inching towards armed conflict over Taiwan because of the two powers’ shared belief that “the hard questions at the root of the confrontation” can only be solved by a military settlement. In contrast, Hass and Blanchette argue that “sometimes the best policy is to avoid bringing intractable challenges to a head and kick the can down the road instead.” Implicit in Hass and Blanchette’s framing is the belief the United States controls the pace of the can-kicking. Decision makers in Washington, not Beijing or Taipei, will determine the character of their triangular tango. The reasons for this conclusion are laid out plainly: the United States has the power to constrain Taiwanese behavior, while the Chinese, who understand that the costs of a conflict will prove ruinous even in victory, will stage no campaign unless backed into a corner. It is America that will choose whether the can is kicked into that corner or whether it is kicked further down the road.1
Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass, “The Taiwan Long Game,” Foreign Affairs, December 20, 2022,
Hass and Blanchette’s case is cogent and clearly argued. Some of its particulars—such as their warning to avoid symbolics “that would aggravate Beijing without improving security in the Taiwan Strait” (e.g. Pelosi’s recent stunt)—are especially persuasive. But Hass and Blanchette’s larger argument is only compelling if we think crisis can be kicked down the road—and kicked down it ad infinitum. It is not clear to me that this is possible.
Let us start with Hass and Blanchette’s account of why the can-kicking has slowed to a point of crisis. They write:
昂泽民 [Jiang Zemin], 《江泽民选集》 [Selected Works of Jiang Zemin] 第三转 [vol 3], pp. 361-362. Translation is my own.
For decades, this approach [restraining both China and Taipei from taking hasty action] worked well, thanks to three factors. First, the United States maintained a big lead over China when it came to military power, which discouraged Beijing from using conventional force to substantially alter cross-strait relations. Second, China was focused primarily on its own economic development and integration into the global economy, allowing the Taiwan issue to stay on the back burner. Third, the United States dexterously dealt with challenges to cross-strait stability, whether they originated in Taipei or Beijing, thereby tamping down any embers that could ignite a conflict.
Over at least the past decade, however, all three of these factors have evolved dramatically. Perhaps the most obvious change is that China’s military has vastly expanded its capabilities, owing to decades of rising investments and reforms. In 1995, as the United States sailed the USS Nimitz toward the Taiwan Strait, all the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could do was watch in indignation. Since then, the power differential between the two militaries has narrowed significantly, especially in the waters off China’s shoreline. Beijing can now easily strike targets in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, hit U.S. aircraft carriers operating in the region, hobble American assets in space, and threaten U.S. military bases in the western Pacific, including those in Guam and Japan. Because the PLA has little real-world combat experience, its precise effectiveness remains to be seen. Even so, its impressive force-projection capabilities have already given Beijing confidence that in the event of conflict, it could seriously damage the United States’ and Taiwan’s forces operating around Taiwan.
Alongside China’s military upgrades, Beijing is now more willing than ever to tangle with the United States and others in pursuit of its broader ambitions. Xi himself has accumulated greater power than his recent predecessors, and he appears to be more risk-tolerant when it comes to Taiwan.
Finally, the United States has abandoned any pretense of acting as a principled arbiter committed to preserving the status quo and allowing the two sides to come to their own peaceful settlement. The United States’ focus has shifted to countering the threat China poses to Taiwan. Reflecting this shift, U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that the United States would intervene militarily on behalf of Taiwan in a cross-strait conflict. [Emphasis added].2
Hass and Blanchette’s three reasons for the shift are all bound up in the particulars of Sino-American relations. Crisis is a product of Washington’s view of Beijing, Beijing’s view of Washington, and the military balance between the two powers. But there is a third leg to the stool, and it is there the most important changes to the old status quo have taken place. Events in Taiwan also pull towards predicament.
The place to start this story is with a few words spoken by the recently deceased Jiang Zemin. These words are not particularly recent; Jiang delivered them in a 2001 address. Said he:
At present, the internal political situation in Taiwan is in a state of turmoil and their economy is in a state of recession. The mainland is more attractive to Taiwan. In addition, both sides of the strait will soon join the World Trade Organization, and Taiwan’s economy is becoming increasingly dependent on the mainland. This provides advantageous conditions and opportunities for us to comprehensively strengthen all aspects of our work on Taiwan, be they political, economic, or cultural.
We must continue to promote cross-strait dialogue and negotiations on the basis of the One China Principle, and strengthen cooperation and communication with people from all walks of life and all political parties in Taiwan that oppose “Taiwan independence” and advocate reunification. We must strengthen the reciprocal flow of political officials across the strait, as well as the reciprocal flow [of people in the] fields of commerce and culture. We must strengthen our work with the people of Taiwan. As the economic and cultural interflow across the straits continues to strengthen, “peaceful reunification” and “One Country, Two Systems” will be accepted ever larger number of the Taiwanese people.3
Here Jiang articulates the basic reunification strategy operative from the mid ‘90s through the late 2010s. There are eerie parallels between the Chinese strategy for cross straights reunification in this era and America’s parallel bid to incorporate China into a Western led world order. Both strategies assumed that a web of integrated supply chains, transnational trade flows, and overlapping cultural ties below the state level could induce a recalcitrant polity to slot themselves gladly into an unequal political order.
Both were also spectacular failures.
The two engagement bids failed for similar reasons. In both cases political leaders (and in the Taiwanese case, activists) understood the strategy they were subject to and reacted accordingly. In both cases these leaders took drastic action to limit unwanted cultural influence. In both cases they moved decisively to retain control of their national economy. In both cases they presented the question as a choice between popular sovereignty and private gain; in both cases they described their choice as a nationalist victory over internal greed and outside subversion.
I do not draw these parallels to make some moral equivalence between Taipei and Beijing. My point is simpler: engagement strategies are hard to pull off—especially when the other side understands the end state you seek. The tools to defeat engagers are clear. A determined opponent will use them. If they do so, engagement fails to achieve its aims. At that point the frustrated power invariably turns from engagement to more coercive measures. Thus America’s rough handling of China in the Trump and Biden eras—but also China’s rough handling of Taiwan in the same time frame.
This is an important point to grasp—Forgive me for pursuing it a bit further. If we back up to the aughts and observe the Bush administration see-saw between Taipei and Beijing, it is obvious they were doing exactly what Hass and Blanchette recommend: kicking the Taiwan can further down the road. But that bit of can-kicking was predicated on a less reactive policy for China as a whole. When Robert Zoellick introduced the phrase “responsible stakeholder” he was endorsing an active strategy for managing China’s rise. The China problem was not being deferred to the next administration.
It was only in this broader context that the Bush administration’s Taiwan can-kicking made sense. Taiwan could be kicked down the road because that road led towards China as a responsible stakeholder. The Taiwan issue was not just being deferred to “the future,” but to a very specific future—a future where the issue would be easier to manage. Solve the problem of China’s rise, and the Taiwan issue would largely resolve itself.
This gambit failed. Engagement did not pacify China. Cultural ties did not accommodate the Chinese elite to an American led world order. Economic integration did not lessen the Party’s fear of subversion. China’s economic rise strengthened, not weakened, nationalist narratives of humiliation and rejuvenation. And of course, Taiwan remained the sticking point it has always been. Thus two decades after the last straits crisis we face another—but this time the military balance does not tilt so decisively in our favor.
Hass and Blanchette advocate deferring to the future again. But unlike the engagers of yore, they do not offer a theory for why “the hard questions at the root of the confrontation” will be easier to answer in the years to come. We may hope for something miraculous: the collapse of one party government, the rule of some mild mannered reformer, some magic abandonment of the nationalist narrative sustaining Communist rule. But I am not hopeful. I fear that each kick just knocks the can further down a ravine we cannot kick it back out of.
When Chinese look at the political situation in Taiwan many feel the same way. Party leadership was not can-kicking when it set in motion its scheme to swallow the Taiwanese economy whole. We might have been deferring the Taiwan issue to an unknown future; they were deferring nothing. They were using economic, cultural, and political means to produce a settlement in their favor. There was a moment in the Ma administration where this looked like a winning strategy. That moment is passed; it will not return. The trajectory of Taiwanese politics from the Sunflower movement to the present day has delivered engagers in Beijing one resounding defeat after another. What is more: the Chinese know it.
If China coerces Taiwan more viciously than it dared a decade ago, this is because Chinese leaders recognize that the softer reunification strategy they pursued over that decade failed to achieve its aims. If they still believed that economic engagement and cultural infiltration could deliver them political results, they would not need to turn to military coercion to secure the ends they seek. This would be true regardless of Xi’s internal position, the PLA’s military strength, or any particular of plank of American China policy. Those things matter; they enable China to make decisions they could not have made in days past. But the need to make these decisions at all are downstream of internal political and cultural developments within Taiwan itself. Thus these developments, not policy decisions in Washington, are the most important input into Beijing’s Taiwan policy calculus.
This is hard for official Washington to hear. In their essay Hass and Blanchette describe how Pentagon planners fixate on “blockades and invasions because such scenarios line up most favorably with American capabilities and are the easiest to conceptualize and plan for.”4 In a similar fashion, Washington policy circles focus on the elements of a problem most tractable to officialdom. Taiwanese identity is not a tractable problem. Washington has no control over Taiwanese national sentiment. It has only limited influence on Taiwan’s domestic politics. The policy levers just are not there.
Blanchette and Hass, “The Taiwan Long Game.”
So we focus on the areas where the lever are more easily pulled.
Consider again the three reasons Hass and Blanchette provide for the cross strait descent. They attribute our problems to China’s growing military power, Xi’s particular assertiveness, and zealous American support of Taiwan. Nothing can be done to solve the second problem, and they have little to say about it. That leaves them with the two more tractable factors. Unfortunately, reducing American zeal and blunting Chinese military power work at cross purposes. Deterrence requires steadiness and sacrifice. Only an American people more zealous for the Taiwanese cause than now exists will provide that. At every turn Hass and Blanchette argue against the forces that might muster this sort of popular support. In rapid succession they endorse quiet diplomacy over open showmanship, ambiguity over clarity, nuance over ideology, negotiation over mobilization, and cool professionalism over democratic passion.
One could say Hass and Blanchette conceptualize the problem in a way that keeps it in the hands of people like themselves. Who else might hope to balance so carefully the demands of reassurance and deterrence? Only policy practitioners both sober and expert, deft yet determined, could hope to navigate such a narrow space.
Perhaps the whole thing is a bit illusionary. Hass and Blanchette speak in certainties. I wish they spoke in probabilities. They are certain that a successful PLA campaign over the strait “would be the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory.” Can we be so sure? Is it so difficult to imagine a scenario where the conquest of Taiwan and the defeat of American power redounds to China’s benefit? I would like to know the odds here: are we 95% confident the Chinese victory will be Pyrrhic? Or are we floating closer to the 65% level? And then what is the probability that the Chinese calculate these things the way we do? It was obvious to many military analysts that the Russians were not properly prepared for a Ukraine invasion. This caused some of them to doubt that an invasion was in the offing even as it happened. Is there reason to believe we will do better at discerning the designs of this opaque autocracy? Just how confident can we be?
I am a complete pansy on questions like these. I will make no predictions. Human affairs are complex and near impossible to forecast. Intentions can sometimes be known beforehand. How human passions will warp those intentions cannot. The Chinese may well intend to keep their military activities in the “gray zone”—but can they keep them there? Do the Chinese need to be planning a scheduled invasion years ahead of time for a vicious war to erupt? Is that proposition really so dubious?
One of the things missing from these debates is the old Cold War insistence on uncertainty. In those days it was well understood that geopolitical flash points posed a constant risk of unwanted escalation. Escalation might come even if it seemed unlikely or unnatural before the crisis began. Thomas Schelling’s entire theory of conflict was built on the insight that one state could coerce another simply by provoking crises whose outcome was uncertain. Can we be so sure that this logic is a relic of the Cold War past?
There are other lessons to draw from the Cold War experience. I am reminded of that old Lynn Rees essay “The Tragedy of the Geopolitical Nerd.” In the essay Rees dissects the failures and frustrations of George Kennan. Contra popular stereotypes, Kennan spent most of his life a bitter Cold Warrior. The nation took “containment” to mean something he never intended. When Kennan wanted a policy of political containment. This sort of containment was to be guided by a long term vision and a nuanced understanding of the international scene. It would be cool in its tone, varied in its instruments, flexible in application, yielding when required, firm when needed, and carefully calibrated to never humiliate the Soviets nor box them into a “position where [they] cannot afford to yield.”5
George Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs, July 1947.
Containment as implemented looked nothing like this. Most American policy makers conceived of containment as a strategy of military counterpressure. Its application was fitful and fickle; its rhetoric was bombastic and violent. It was marked by swings of fervor that sometimes matched external realities, but was more often synced to election cycles. Kennan hated it all.
Kennan was calling for an end that Americans could rally around yet he expected to fight it with a non-existent means: a subtle and nuanced American public and politicians, a quantity that’s breathtakingly rare to the point of extinction.
Americans do not see the world in black and white. Yet they don’t see it as an infinitude of subtle grays either. The world view of the average American is painted in primary colors with broad and sweeping strokes. There is room for distinction but not too much distinction. There has to be a readily digestible end and a readily digestible plan. Hopefully, whatever plan that’s adopted will achieve results quickly, with a definite ending achieved in thirty minutes, an hour, two hours, or, at most, a single TV season. If it goes over that time limit, progress must be demonstrable. Prolonged tension will simply lead to a strong desire to return to normalcy.
In Kennan’s vision of containment, America rediscovered moral fiber at home and State department Brahmans frustrated the Russians by finding clever ways of saying no across the negotiating table. The Russians would be morally hemmed in by American virtue on one side and politically hemmed in by frowning diplomats on the other. In other words, Kennan’s original vision was dead on arrival. The United States had neither the historical tradition, culture, politics, or personnel to carry out such a policy. America would continue to be a flawed, fractious, rather obtuse world power whose foreign policy was forever subject to the fits and starts of the American political cycle.
Kennan was fundamentally a flawed strategist. He accurately diagnosed the strategic goal of any American strategy, the containment of Soviet Russia in order to let its internal contradictions tear it apart, but he failed to propose a strategic implementation that would have to be executed by real Americans living in a real America operating in a real world.6
Lynn Rees, “The Tragedy of the Geopolitical Nerd,” Committee of Public Safety, 6 June 2009.
I see shades of Kennan in Hass and Blanchette’s approach. Rees’ “geopolitical nerd” operates quite effectively when the issue in question is not important enough to rise into the public consciousness. But when the question requires us to mobilize the entire bureaucratic blob to solve? When the question is already a central plank in election day platforms? When a policy is acknowledged by all to be of such titanic importance? When the costs of failure are so destructive to so many? At one point or another a policy domain reaches the point where democratic buy-in becomes a necessary prerequisite for success. Has China policy not reached that point?
Taiwan’s problems have escaped the realm of sober expertise. I do not believe they can can be forced back into it.
These are limits then to a strategy of deft diplomatic can-kicking. There are fewer deft diplomats than believers in deft diplomacy. Even the deftest and most diplomatic among them cannot always protect her schemes from the erratic outbursts of the demos or the unpredictable blunders of a dictator. And those are the easy issues. No matter how well they are handled, the truth is that no one in Washington has the power to turn back the clock on Taiwanese patriotism. No amount of deftness can cool the main engine of this conflict.
But the more serious problem with can-kicking is this: we are not just kicking down the road the core problems that divide Taiwan and China, but also a necessary debate among ourselves about our commitment to the Taiwanese cause.
Our commitment to Taiwan is a promise to safeguard the freedoms and autonomy of 23 million people and a determination to preserve America’s elect position in East Asia. It is also a commitment to risk a high intensity war—and a possible nuclear exchange—with the most fearsome military power the United States has faced since the Second World War. These are incredible stakes. Most Americans have yet to realize that these are the stakes. That was fine in the world of yesterday. Then Chinese military ambition could be deterred easily, without fear or sacrifice on the part of our people. Things have changed. It now strikes me as unwise, and potentially quite dangerous, to commit ourselves to contests that the American people have not been steeled for.
The can-kicker may hope that this too can be deferred to the future. Our people can be spared both fear and fury if we can get the Chinese to lengthen their timelines. There will be no need to steel the American people for anything. But here again we have that problem of probabilities: just how sure are we this plan will work? Just how confident can we be that this can will kick? What happens if we calculate things wrong? What if our schemes go awry? Then we find ourselves a bit down the road facing the same problem we do now, but with the military balance even more tilted against us, and with our own people less prepared to deter or defeat an unexpected enemy. Better we begin to prepare for that eventuality now—or decide to get out of the game of Taiwan protection entirely. Either option requires open discussion of the problem well before we face the sharp edge of crisis. Some things simply cannot be kicked down the road.
At the end of the day I am glad that Hass and Blanchette have made the case for balance and sobriety. I worry, however, that they value too highly what American officials can control and fear too little the forces they cannot.
For more writing on Taiwanese military affairs, you might also like the posts “Why Taiwanese Leaders Put Political Symbolism Above Military Power,” “Taiwan Will Be Defended by the Bullet or Not At All,” and “Losing Taiwan is Losing Japan.” To get updates on new posts published at the Scholar’s Stage, you can join the Scholar’s Stage Substack mailing list, follow my twitter feed, or support my writing through Patreon. Your support makes this blog possible.
Great post and title. Lays out the increasingly critical issue of timing and urgency which is now felt by both sides of Cold War II really well, even if there is no precise 21st century equivalent to The Guns of August’s railway timetables for mobilization or mass armies too unwieldy for either side to command. I can only add that the Matthew Pottinger / Blob position (there’s a funny juxtaposition, but lots of people jumped on board the Trump Train for personal ambitious reasons with his tougher but truncated trade approach on China) of doubling down on seemingly limitless money and weapons to Ukraine in 2023 is likely to exacerbate the Chinese hardliners position: the Americans are going for broke, they can’t compete with unleashed Han genius, they are certainly not waiting for China to peacefully supersede the U.S. in nearly all economic and technological terms by mid-century, but are forcing the issue within this decade when they estimate they’ll still have a favorable balance of power in the Pacific (mostly it appears due to Japan’s status as an unsinkable aircraft carrier and the US SSN fleet, not due to our sitting duck flat tops). That is, by baiting, then bleeding and knocking China’s principal ally and raw materials/energy supplier out first Washington hopes to simultaneously intimidate Beijing and bring Tehran to heel. Not unlike Wilhelmine Germany’s fears that then rapidly industrializing Russia would steamroll its Hapsburg ally in Galicia first (which sort of materialized during the bloody Brusilov offensive in 1916) then roll into East Prussian heimat while the French attacked from the West.
One Chinese commentator recently made the same argument and comparison to Germany’s pre-WW1 encirclement by the Western powers to argue that China has little to lose from bolstering Russia’s allegedly flagging Ukraine campaign with precision guided munitions:
Based on the Iranian Shahed/Geran precedent that has already been set–China is of course happy for Russia and Iran to bear the brunt of styming the Americans in Syria and thus American sanctions and post 2016 hatred–in my estimation we are already seeing entire sub assemblies of these Norinco standoff PGM glide bombs being flown to Russia for the first batch. License built, nearly entirely assembled in China but stamped with a Cyrillic label of final assembly in Russia is a way for China’s Ambassador to the U.S. to insist he and Beijing haven’t lied when they disavowed sending arms to fuel the conflict, as the weapons are indeed Russian. Just Russian with 90% Chinese parts that come 75% assembled.
As for the question of both sides resolve, part of the reason the Anglosphere and EU media lionize the Ukrainians so much is because thus far they’ve proven willing to do the bleeding and dying by the tens to soon hundreds of thousands for Washington and London’s cause that us effete and decadent Westerners are no longer willing to do. Taiwan of course, lacks the blessing of wide open borders for resupply to Poland, Slovakia and Romania. Neither can Taiwan enjoy so much geographic dispersal of firepower or an enormous 1980s vintage Soviet quality backbone of air defense which the Russians have slowly ground down and may soon irrecoverably break–a big source of both Pentagon and Ukrainian command hubris, imo, entering 2023 now that the Russians are getting their DEAD/SEAD crap together and even the British think tanks like RUSI which previously warned of crippling NATO shell shortages are noticing. All of which make the ‘muh resolve!’ Ukraine/Taiwan comparisons all the more dangerous, particularly since Ukrainian military training for conscripts was not a complete joke pre invasion that Taiwan’s has been up until now…
Good essay Tanner!
“It is also a commitment to risk a high intensity war—and a possible nuclear exchange—with the most fearsome military power the United States has faced since the Second World War. These are incredible stakes. Most Americans have yet to realize that these are the stakes…”
I am of two minds on this. I think the American reaction to the Russo-Ukrainian War has shown that Americans (except for fringe dissidents on Right and Left) are more than willing to coalesce around supporting an embattled, patriotic, broadly democratic society.
On the other hand, Russia can be handled with a rounding error of our defense budget. Fully opposing China would require us to endure a tremendous (hopefully ephemeral) economic decrement. That is something I would be willing to do, but I am not sure we could get most people to buy into that now. I hope that today’s political polarization will fade away by the late-2020s so we will be able to make such shifts if necessary.
Respectfully, Tucker Carlson with nearly three million viewers every weeknight on Fox News is not a fringe figure, love him or hate him. Neither is former Congresswoman and Hawaii National Guardswoman Iraq/GWOT veteran and Ukraine war critic Tulsi Gabbard. The bipartisan opposition to blank checks for what has rapidly degenerated into a wartime dictatorship is weak but it isn’t non existent. And the EU was able to almost top off winter gas storage before Nordstream 2 was blown. Next winter there won’t be enough gas available to avoid systemic shit downs of industry and brownouts at any price.
I’ve learned my lessons from 2022, and do not pay too much attention to battlefield SITREPs, much less try to predict any precise timing of this conflict here. The Ukrainian military or rather what is increasingly a US led, US intel directed NATO army primarily staffed by Ukrainians and increasingly Poles has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations, certainly the new STAVKA’s. But it’s clear the An124 air bridge (up to 150 tons per flight though with max fuel load for range probably several tons less) between Russia and China is expanding to a dozen or more flights per week—almost matching the Caspian Express of IL76s and Iranian Boeings that’s already delivered enough Geran flying lawnmower bomb components to destroy half of Ukraine’s power grid in the past two months. Judging by the New York Times running a story this week on the Ukrainian railways network as a lifeline for the country’s armed forces and their logistics, what happens when the Gerans and faster Arash drones are unleashed on Ukraine’s Soviet legacy diesel locomotives? Somebody in the Pentagon and Whitehall is at least thinking about that question as well as the RUSI study indicating NATO’s own air defenses cannot possibly replace Ukraine’s 1980s vintage depleted and destroyed S300s and BUKs. When the Russian Air Force gets those mostly Chinese partially assembled stand-off bombs the situation will get much worse for the Ukrainian Army, and the US at that point will likely have to expedite ‘Ukrainian’ F16s actually flown by USAF veteran volunteer pilots long anticipated (by Russian S400 crews) appearance in Ukrainian skies…
Putin and Xi despite the undoubted insta-spin that the Kremlin is coming away empty handed this week are not merely exchanging pleasantries regardless of the Russian transcript being more expansive than the Chinese one. I don’t do specific timing but l do think the Chinese missiles and bombs with Cyrillic factory labels are weeks not months away from use in combat.
Also (pls pardon the bad word typo above it was not intentional) $100 billion in total US mil / econ aid with another installment of $50 bln looming by St Patrick’s Day to pay for high 100s of refurbished late Cold War / Iraq War vintage Bradleys among other wish list items for Kyiv is not a ‘rounding error’. (Zaluzhny basically told the Economist he needed the equivalent of the entire French possibly throw in a German plus Italian Army’s worthy of armor to launch his next major offensive. The Bradley’s are being sent because the obsolete Vietnam era aluminum tin can M113s were death traps in the Donbass and perhaps the State Dept is running out of bribe-obtainable ex Soviet BMPs from the likes of Morocco or they wish, Russian and Chinese partners respectively Egypt and Pakistan.
That’s using Tucker’s cocktail napkin calculations, $300 headed well north $500 by summer 2023 for every American household; comparable to 15% of the highest DoD plus discretionary defense spending adjusted for inflation since the Korean War. In fact we’re on track to exceed the US Vietnam and Iraq War peaks of mid 1950s post Korea spending by end of FY 2023.
Here is a table showing the Ukrainian Army as of mid-February 2022 indeed was the second largest in Europe (if you count Russia’s as Asian and the Turkish Army as still in Europe because NATO). Ukraine including reservists in territorial brigades started this war with more men, tanks, APCs, multiple rocket launchers and above all Soviet 1980s Shock Army backbone short to medium range air defense systems than Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom *combined*. Russia has indeed had many painful defeats and failures in ten months of war as the Red Army did in the disastrous first 16 months of the Soviet-Axis War. But acknowledging Russia is fighting a NATO equipped led and real-time 5Eyes intel fed army isn’t Russian cope propaganda, it is simply fact. The only NATO war making piece held back is the air arm with AWACs in Poland saving Ukraine’s air defenses from suppression before the Russians found a solution in the cheap SAM bait Persian drone swarms E3s over eastern Poland can’t see from hundreds of miles away.
There are more than a few disavowed combatant foreign legionnaires or sheep dipped Polish regulars (Poland just quietly started mobilizing this autumn and expanded military cemeteries). Some estimates at the height of Ukraine’s quietly being rolled back Kharkov counteroffensive said thousands of English speakers just behind or on the front lines.
For geographic comparison, try to imagine how well the US military with six times Russia’s budget even adjusted for PPP would do if tasked with invading and occupying a good chunk of Iran with Russian and Chinese supply trucks pouring in via the Caspian Sea ports along with hundreds of active duty Russian advisors and thousands of Chinese directed Pakistani Army ‘volunteers’ coming in to fight US forces in that country. Not bloody well at all.
Ultimately I understand where our host is coming from, if the American and prior to them Southern European publics sour on the costs of this war in 2023-24 then asking the American people to sacrifice their sons or daughters in the US Pacific Fleet and USAF’s defense of Taiwan by the end of this decade will be an even greater ask. All the more reason before US artillery and HIMARS stocks get totally drained leaving South Korea and Taiwan vulnerable…to urge peace talks for Ukraine rather than pursuing the hitherto impossible for eight plus years greater Galician Ukrainian dream of retaking Donetsk, much less a suicidal Slava Ukraina banzai charge into Crimea.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Macgregor appeared on three Fox News programs in February and early March to speak in support of Russia’s actions. Three days after the war began, he said “The battle in eastern Ukraine is really almost over,” and predicted “If [Ukraine] don’t surrender in the next 24 hours, I suspect Russia will ultimately annihilate them.” Macgregor said he believed Russia should be allowed to seize whatever parts of Ukraine it wanted. In his second appearance, he revised his prediction: “The first five days Russian forces I think frankly were too gentle. They’ve now corrected that. So, I would say another 10 days this should be completely over… I think the most heroic thing he could do right now is come to terms with reality. Neutralize Ukraine.”
Any comments, MacGregor? Seems like your crystal ball should be sent out for repairs.
I’ve said many times the Colonel’s takes were premature perhaps many too soon to the point of looking foolish. It doesn’t mean he is wrong about attrition working against NATO and for the Russians.
And this is the core fallacy of the ‘turbo America’ triumphalism after Kherson — none of the UAF’s territorial gains means that Ukraine can afford to keep stubbornly feeding men into designed artillery meatgrinders like Bahkmut or the festung towns west of Donetsk where debacles like the recent Russian losses from placing an entire company inside a HIMARS targeted school at Makeevka (allegedly in the low hundreds of dead) are frankly just another day of typical losses for the UAF since early autumn or the admitted huge losses at Sverodonetsk / Lysichansk in the summer. The Ukrainians willingness to bleed and die by what Ursula Van Der Leyen the former German Defense Minister recently blurted out was a 100,000 deaths (before her comment was swiftly censored) has given American and especially British generals the notion that they’ve discovered a sort of cheat code to modern warfare and Ukraine’s massive artillery deficit and fast eroding Soviet legacy air defenses NATO simply can’t replace both behind and at the front lines can be overcome with HIMARS wunderwaffen and sheer willpower. They can’t and won’t.
To put it bluntly the open borders to NATO resupply give Ukrainian commanders a huge advantage and the luxury of lying to their people but worst of all to themselves regarding the scale of UAF KIA/WIA/MIA for many months now that the Taiwanese living on an aero naval blockaded island lacking much geographic depth or distance from the Mainland simply won’t have. Nor will China having watched Russia struggle vs the best CISR in the world leave US satellites unjammed and untouched once they’re fully committed invasion.
Regarding the will to fight to the bitter end, Taiwan also of course has a much stronger pro Mainland 5th column than Kyiv ever had since 2014 in terms of pro Moscow elements that have all been purged since Russia humiliated much of Ukrainian society by re annexing Crimea without a shot being fired, and Taiwan does not have the regional dynamics nor weaponized greater Galician (far western Ukrainian ideology including the January 1st celebrations of ‘Bandera our father’s’ birthday yesterday) or ‘Banderastan’ ultra nationalist identity that has successfully been foisted even on Kharkov natives with relatives living in Russia for example to overcome the post Western problem of blood being thicker than pro US sentiments. Aside perhaps from a few teenagers LARPing as Kempetai there is no equivalent among the Taiwanese to UAF soldiers proudly wearing Waffen SS Galitzien, Azov Das Reich adjacent or Totenkopf patches while the Establishment makes excuses for the in your face Nazi runes and symbolism.
I meant to write ‘once the PLA are fully committed to an invasion [having learned from Russia’s mistake of having not using its capability to jam Starlink and or at least dazzle some US sats with ground based lasers as a show of force to back the US off from day one, which is what the hard liners surely wanted Putin to do] will surely target US CISR capabilities, at least those already in theater.
Again, that’s another aspect of this strange Ukraine war where we keep laughably pretending that NATO isn’t in the fight and massively propping up a highly corrupt UAF that was previously too chicken for almost eight years to try its luck at storming Donbass militia held Donetsk and Luhansk cities, much less attack Crimea. This presumption of escalation dominance and that the Russians won’t dare retaliate in kind via Syrian/Iranian or Chinese/NoKo proxies in the future has made miltwitter ers downright smug. But if the PLA are convinced US intervention is a foregone conclusion, then unlike the AWACs hiding behind the precious Article V line of Poland’s borders the flight line at Anderson AFB and on Okinawa gets hammered by Chinese missile strikes and some of Adam Kinzinger’s former tanker squadron mates get killed or wounded on day one. We could add the Russian payback for Ukraine factor, which you will surely not see in war fantasy novels like Ex Supra and no one in the Establishment save for maybe Elbridge Colby is even thinking about when he as a China hawk goes on Tucker to warn about the dangers of doubling down in Ukraine: the nightmare of a quasi two front world war, where even as the US tries to avoid direct conflict with the Russians a Pacific Fleet Kilo/Varshanka class captain will be coming to periscope depth to watch the targeting coordinates he’s relayed to the PLAF/PLAN via satellite result in the hypersonic destruction of a US carrier battle group on the horizon. Because even a weakened by years of war in Russian Federation—barring the damn near impossible pro Western regime change and return to the defeated Russia of the Yeltsin years which is the neocons’ wet dream—will have the capability to act as a major force multiplier and unsinkable/unblockade-able source of strategic metals, oil, gas and coal for the Chinese in the event of a general war over Taiwan. And what would the US be able to do about the Russians supplying real time intel and hypersonic missiles for China to kill American sailors and airmen with, besides turn one massive war with one peer nuclear power into a Third World War on both ends of the Eurasian landmass that very well could leave the US reaching for tactical nukes first to avenge our sunk CVNs?
Tucker is fringe. Tulsi Gabbard even more so. C’mon.
With all respect to our esteemed host, anyone commenting here can name me a single pro Ukraine blank checks commentator with a larger audience than TC’s nightly 3 million plus. I’ll wait.
Support for this war is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Here you go: https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/fact-sheet/public-broadcasting/
NPR is a collective of multiple hosts, but I take your point Tanner that it’s overwhelmingly pro war repeats whatever the three letters tell it since the Obama years washed away any lingering Democratic skepticism of the deep state and has a large national audience.
As for the guy mentioning Crimea, the Wehrmacht and the Romanians ‘only’ lost something like 50,000 soldiers lives taking it and trying to hold out against Russian offensives during WW2. But I know, knowing a little bit of WW2 history or even how those bumbling Asiatics took Berlin makes me a Putinist stooge.
The logistics of the Ukrainians storming it without getting hit with massive thermobaric strikes or even tactical nukes incinerating their echelons stacked at the Perekop Isthmus or all their landing craft getting sunk before slipping out of Odessa harbor makes the PLA invading Taiwan under Tomahawk fire look like a walk in the park in comparison. But something something SBU sabotage campaign followed by a few HIMARS wunderwaffen salvoes and voila! Guys with Waffen SS Galitzien patches will be raising the bonny blue and gold over Sevastopol any week now. The British Defense Minister who’s still mad English isn’t the first language in Simferopol 170 years after the Brits won the Crimean War tells me so. A triumph of militarily brain dead but bipartisan wish casting…
Tanner — here’s what the first day of the PLA 2nd Artillery Corps saturating Taiwan with missile strikes would look like…about 300-500 times (this is likely an Iskander strike): 🇷🇺🚀💥🔥🇺🇦Enormous explosion in Druzhkovka tonight caught live on a French TV channel.
The other reason I respect Tucker’s Road to Damascus turn from mainline normiecon Bush Iraq invasion backer to edgy, Kennedy assassination awake dissident Rightist (besides that it parallels my own political journey and that of millions): his willingness to broach unpopular subjects. The Ukrainian State’s persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church whose bishops have denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a fratricidal act being one of them.
With respect to Taiwan, Tucker wants the US military focused on the China threat but I don’t get the sense that he’s eager to go to war for Taiwan either. The right balance in my opinion: no pro-Taiwanese independence leader should think America owes them a blank check. Preserving the status quo and avoiding 中国人杀中国人 is in everyone’s best interests, including the Mainlanders. My contention has simply been that making the Chinese mobilize their war industries for the benefit of the Russians to counter increasingly Indo-Pacific oriented NATO in order to prevent a pro-US regime change in Moscow and the emergence of a hostile or even unacceptably neutral neighbor to the north is not in the best interests of the cross straits status quo.
The premise is absurd. Taiwan is by no means an independent actor. Taiwanese national identity exists and can only exist in an environment where the United States threatens savage violence if China were to interfere with the Taiwan separatist project. If a hypothetical US president were to announce that Taiwan is Chinese land and that the United States would not defend it, I suspect the polls would read quite differently.
The Hong Kong separatist movement, by contrast, has no threat of American violence on its side, and as far as I can tell public offline expression of Hong Kong local identity has completely ceased once China decided that they would stop putting up with it. In time, with the schools in firm control of Beijing loyalists, the problem will take care of itself completely.
Hong Kong is part of China, Taiwan is not. Unless you think Crimea is Russia, than congratulations comrade, your future within FSB sure looks bright.
Article 7 https://www.ait.org.tw/u-s-prc-joint-communique-1979/
“The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese POSITION [but does not recognize or necessarily agree with it] that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”
Article 7 is worded in that way so that both sides can claim that they agree, even if they do not agree on anything of substance. The only conclusion that one can draw from Article 7 is that Americans understand and ACKNOWLEDGE that Taiwan is of the utmost importance and sensitivity to China. It does not bind the US to any position regarding Taiwan and it does not denote any acquiescence to China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.
Here is a recent post about 9 different ways that Article 7 has been reformulated between China and many other countries.
Some formulations are outright endorsements of China’s position that Taiwan is a part of China, while others only TAKE NOTE OF China’s position that Taiwan is a part of China. The US took a middle-of-the-road approach by wording Article 7 so that it could read by the Chinese as an endorsement of its claims, while leaving itself wiggle room so that it does not commit itself to this claim.
This wording allowed the US and China to bypass the question of Taiwan’s status with respect to China, thus removing a stumbling block to establishing official recognition with each other, by pretending the issue has been settled, when in fact it has not been settled. However, as Tanner’s post has pointed out, one can only maintain this pretense for so long; one can only kick the can for so long.
The commitment of the average American to supporting Ukraine seems to be a point of discussion. My take is there is none. Since the war started only one person I know has brought it up to me. Just one. I live in the rural South and the war that is of interest is the culture war here in the US, not the war in Ukraine. That might change if US soldiers become very much more directly involved but it is my opinion things would change from apathy to opposition.
As far as Taiwan goes, again, nobody I know but me has any idea about the situation. It will be hard to generate the support needed to engage in a “remember fight” with Red China if that support has to be quickly built from zero. Also, as Mr. Greer has suggested in the past, the Taiwanese may not really have their hearts into such a fight. If that is the case, forget it. Americans won’t support them.
Nobody seems to be considering the effect the on-going culture war here in the US will have on our capability to fight well in a big war. Maybe it will have no effect. Maybe it is already having an effect. The US Army is having a big problem meeting its recruiting goals. Its primary recruiting pool is middle and working class white males, men who have been told for many years that they excrable human beings to be condemned for merley existing. These guys may be getting the message and deciding those who condemn them can do their own fighting. If the middle and working class white guys check out, there will be no military.
As I said, support for waging this war to the last Ukrainian soldier in Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’s words is a mile wide and an inch deep. And the resentment of the US massively profiting from LNG and arms sales is bubbling just below the surface in much of Europe. It’s one thing to be a privileged US vassal like Germany another thing to be beggared by industry crushing energy costs while Washington obviously promotes a trillion euros in WW2 reparations demanding (and possibly western Ukrainian territory eye ing) Polish government as your replacement as the anchor of US Army land power on the Continent. Plus throw the Nordstream 2 pipeline destruction which was arguably an act of war by the British and Polish security services against a nominal German ally with American connivance, and you have—despite the German political class staying in line—lots of resentful BND walk ins volunteering their services to the Russians—only one of whom has been caught thus far.
Neither fanatical Ukrainian opposition to negotiations based on their notions of unlimited arms money and US cheat code for limitless cannon fodder (including Poles to replace the potentially decimated Ukrainian able bodied and willing military age male demographic in another year of such fighting) nor screwing the EU (to paraphrase Victoria Nuland’s infamous FSB leaked phone call) is sustainable like this. What can’t go on for another year like 2022 simply won’t continue without serious breakdowns by the deep winter of 2023-24.
I just want to echo this comment. I live in Trump country. I rarely hear about Ukraine, and never Taiwan. I do hear how people’s kids are leaving the military because of the culture war. “They don’t want to serve when ‘That man’ is president.”, is a common sentiment.
I concur. I live in a major city but drove across the country several months ago. Lots of Ukrainian flags flying from businesses and blue gold stickers on late model cars in the hip urban neighborhoods, none to be seen in poorer areas and almost none visible driving across rural Midwest America (and Ukrainian drivers are not uncommon in the trucking industry).
The core question that our esteemed host is facing that Matthew Pottinger and Elbridge Colby find themselves on opposite sides of is this: is the current very high levels of US aid and de facto intel war fighting on behalf of Ukraine making Taiwan safer or putting the status quo in the Formosa Straits in greater danger (thus reducing the amount of road Washington and its allies have to kick the cab down)? I would and have argued here the latter position, the Blob and vast majority of Anglo American media argue the former that draining and humiliating Russia can intimidate the CCP/PLA. The Establishment position rests on too many short term and hubris filled assumptions of broader full spectrum escalation dominance and that the radical acceleration of Russia-China-Iran econ/monetary/mil cooperation, let alone Russian retaliation in kind via Syrian/IRGC proxies killing Americans to drive the US out of Syria won’t prove highly detrimental to American financial and military power
Hm, the question for this line of logic is, how much does average American support actually matter?
Ukraine and Covid I think shows that consent can be manufactured quickly over fairly short time frames. As long as anti war people aren’t allowed near levers of power, how much would public sentiment matter? The start of a war provides a good excuse to purge anyone strongly anti war, and once purged those anti war getting back into power takes time.
I don’t care about the Ukraine war, but what does my opinion actually matter? I can’t seem to find specific answers (the websites are already gone), but I’m pretty sure both the Republican and Democrat were both pro Ukraine. Even if you cared, I couldn’t have voted on that issue, and like you say its secondary to any other.
I think the establishment can completely ignore any public opinion on anything they care about for about 2-4 years.
We also see they can spend seemingly infinite amount of money, with virtually no relation to taxes. So you don’t even have the traditional feedback to public discontent to money spending of tax revolts. And so much of the withholdings are automatic anyways, so you can’t really even refuse to pay new taxes without effort.
The only place a war would intersect with public opinion on any shortish time frame would be a draft. And the government there has so much authority there too. At least on a 2-4 year timeframe. If the Ukrainian war lasts past 2026, and there are actual material suffering, then public opinion might matter.
Normally I would be black pilled enough to agree with you. Clearly this war will drag on for at least another year, until next winter’s EU gas shortages and overall global commodity inflation makes the post-Western pips squeak.
After that entering spring to summer 2024 I think NATO’s reserves of ammo plus equipment and literally not figuratively decimated Ukrainian manpower will be facing exhaustion, along with significant war fatigue in Russian society too.
However, when evaluating NATO’s original goal of turning this war into a gigantic Soviets in Afghanistan style quagmire for the Russians [regardless of whether the initial Russian assault had succeeded in storming Kyiv there is no way any competent Russian advisor to Putin could pretend that the war and guerrilla resistance would’ve surely drug on], I have to also look at the flip side of that coin—which is the Russians and broadly aligned Chinese/Iranian state media seeking to Vietnam or Iraq-ize this war as a financial if not yet manpower quagmire for the US. Meaning, highlighting the Ukrainian equivalent to that infamous out of context photo of an ARVN officer shooting a VC infiltrator in the head in the 1960s. Now that image in 2023 might be a bunch of UAF wearing SS Totenkopf or Wehrmacht LARPing insignia shooting a suspected Russian informant civilian on the streets of Kramatorsk. And then we’ll start seeing anti war Americans not Russians trolling increasingly our increasingly woke mil twitter ers with the question ‘would you be ready to fight and die alongside these guys?’.
Try as J Edgar Hoover did with all his might even he couldn’t find proof that the KGB were paying the kids waving Viet Cong flags near the Nixon White House in the summer of 69.
Of course, since we now have confirmation from the Twitter Files that the IC watches social media like a hawk and often demands posts be taken down even those containing truthful material that makes Ukraine look bad, true geopolitical adversary messaging outside of the murky disputed and psyop sewage pumped waters of Telegram remains highly contained. Whatever the medium, the goal is to create cognitive dissonance then a ‘are we [funding] the baddies?’ moment—even if it starts with the very online dissident Right and Leftists and then takes months or years to percolate through the normies. Most of whom if they watch Tucker or listen to talk radio discussing the wide open US-Mexican border simply resent the sheer amount of money being poured by the DC UniParty into the Ukraine black hole—and being told it’s a bargain to drain Russia by proxy to boot (even as the Russians somehow likely thanks to Chinese support are NOT running out of drones and missiles).
It’s possible that the same feedback loops that make or made Ukraine the Current Thing in 2022 contain risks for the World War Woke waging Establishment going forward. Otherwise why the tremendous governmental and quasi government body efforts by the FBI, Atlantic Council and other usual suspects in the Twitter Files to control these platforms? But the Ukrainians have been winning the global information war hands down from the start. Still as they take heavy losses or L’s from successful Russian strikes on near frontline troop concentrations they try to very aggressively censor their own Makievkas…until they can’t, due to the ubiquity of camera phones and prevalence of TikTok ing soldiers complaining about being left to die by their own side in the Bahkmut meatgrinder. So WorldWarWoke war fatigue is going to be a real preoccupation of our trans-Atlanticist elites by this summer…
I can see your point but I think things have changed. The establishment could manufacture consent over a very short time but perhaps things have changed and they no longer can. About a third of us never bought into the China virus narrative and judging by booster and child innoculation uptake that percentage has grown. That fits into your 2-4 year time frame but that what we were told not matching what was is remembered. We saw the stain upon national honor that was Afghanistan and we remember. We see the border and we see denial of reality and acceptance of utterly outlandish behaviors becoming official US gov policy. All of this may result in a refusal to do as commanded as the military age white males seem to be starting to do. (The Ukraine thing is viewed as another governent spending project that we have no control over so it isn’t even noticed.)
All of our calculating weapons effectiveness and logistical considerations etc. are meaningless if the soul of the nation is being hollowed out. Just to cite one example-when not hurting feelings is a paramount cultural consideration to be enforced through law, that won’t result in an effective national war effort, or any effort at all. I am very sincere in my concern about this. We have got to start thinking about where the culture is headed, not the kind of thinking the stars on their shoulders guys do “Diversity is our strength”, “I was the last man out of Kabul and I have the picture to prove it.”. but real thinking. Things will fold up very fast if we can’t get a handle on this.
I am not hopeful.
Carl — I recognize your point. We look at things like the shortage of HIMARS rockets to conduct exercises in IndoPac or NATO sources admitting the 152 / 155 mm shell stocks are drained because these factors are quantifiable if not precisely knowable in the fog of war. National demoralization as occurred preceding the Fall of France in 1940 or the mid to post Vietnam War era is something else.
The surge in ‘died suddenly’ deaths among young otherwise healthy people and now the sad case of Damar Hamlin on an NFL team that’s almost been fully vaccinated, combined with the proof we have that all ‘anti vaxx’ and even Wuhan lab theory posts were suppressed by Twitter at the ‘Trump State Department’s’ request are systemic blows to what little is left of public trust. They can furiously deny Damar’s collapse on the field and likely brain death had anything to do with the vaxx and call anyone suggesting otherwise a ghoul, but people seeing healthy soccer or pro football players collapsing come to their own conclusions.
To bring it back to our host’s concern Washington is running out of road to kick the Taiwan can down, it would be ironic indeed if some of the same State Dept flacks who were telling Twitter to take down Zerohedge (really Epoch Times) articles pointing the finger at the NIH sponsored Wuhan lab in 2020 will be the same RINO bureaucrats charged by a DeSantis Administration in a few years with convincing Americans that China must be fought when it moves on Taiwan.
Well, that’s the question: how much do they need us? Lets think materialist terms, what generates the states combat power? Compare say a citizen army vs a feudal noble army: Rome’s power came from its mass citizen army: this however meant Roman military success was closely tied to mass political involvement, and thus republicanism.
This was thus replaced by effectively mercenary armies who’s loyalty was to whoever paid them, whether the mercenaries were foreign or domestic. The basis then of Roman power was taxes: vast plantations of slave labor in such a system is potentially superior to lots of independent farmers: easier to tax, simpler politics, less demand for things besides the army. Merchants are also quite important to the degree they can generate a lot of wealth to pay for the legions.
Medivial France comparatively was much more reliant on an elite Warrior aristocracy, rather than citizen armies or great wealth to buy mercenaries.
All these systems have different strengths and weaknesses, and also different social effects.
Thus we come to a question of current conditions. WWII was pretty clearly a kind of war that dramatically favored citizen armies: not only do you need mass armies on the field, with all sides deploying their millions, but vast labor pools at home also deployed in their millions: GM alone had over a 100 factories producing mind boggling quanties of war supplies.
As late as Vietnam you still had a very mass based army: as people who weren’t in that time, its easy to forget the raw scale of the Vietnam war: during the Vietnam war, out of a pool of about 27 million eligible men, 9 million served, and 3 million served in South East Asia. The military thus recruited about 1/3 of eligible manpower, and 10% were deployed to theater!
Material losses were also quite heavy: US and allies collectively lost about 12,000 aircraft over the war, and famously dropped more bombs than in WWII. Vietnam was very much in the mold of a mass, citizen soldier war. And had the direct domestic political connections to show for it too: the costs were born widely, and thus the people’s opinion mattered, and without popular buy in things fall apart.
Iraq was a completely different animal: over 9 years, roughly 1.5 million served in Iraq, half the number who served in Vietnam in a nation with much higher population. Perhaps more importantly, material casualties and expenditures were much lower too: we lost about 150 aircraft in Iraq over those 9 years, 1/80 the aircraft losses. With smart munitions, I’m sure a lot of bombs were used, but fewer than would have been needed in prior wars: boing was apparently building about 200-300 guided bombs a day during this time. That’s a good amount of money, about $6 million a day, maybe $2 billion a year. Probably not a huge number of workers in absolute times. And of course, 4,500 dead vs 58,000 dead is about 13x fewer casualties.
With that kind of war, public support is fairly immaterial to the ability wage it: manpower needs are relatively low, and without high casualties sustaining with professional soldiers is sustainable, and you don’t need to draft, and thus depend on general public support. Building for the war effort likewise requires fairly small, specialized material inputs: when war involves millions of tons of steel consumption per year in shells, all that metal going to shells means its going to be more expensive for me to buy sheet metal for a shed. Assembly lines building lots of tanks means less cars in the civilian use. And of course draft makes the war very personally important.
Meanwhile, the fact that those 2-10k people Boing has making guidance packages: if they weren’t doing that I would have more/cheaper – well, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s some way my life might be marginally better if those couple thousand people were doing something else. Much harder to say though. And its harder to get worked up over the State sending soldiers off to die . . . who volunteered for it, and who importantly aren’t going to be me or anyone I care about, unless they do volunteer. And even if someone I care about volunteers, the chance of them dying, or even getting seriously injured is low enough soldiering isn’t an expected sacrifice. Vietnam casualty rate was roughly 10%. Iraq was closer to 2%.
And of course the economy in general is probably less dependent upon the masses for its wealth: Walmart as the largest single employer produces about $250,000 in revenue per employee, but in generally marginal production: you only have about $11,000 of operating profit per employee. Much of the service industries probably have pretty marginal impact on US warfighting capability.
GM as a manufacturer produces much more per employee, about $800,000 in revenue per employee. Profit isn’t particularly huge though: about $60,000 in profit per employee.
Alphabet produces $1.4 in revenue per employee. And much more of this is profit compared to a manufacturer like GM: about $400,000 in profit per employee. In total, Alphabet produces some 8x as much profit as GM, with roughly comparable number of employees.
So, the military is manned by roughly half a percent, supplied by an elite half a percent of manufacturers, funded by elite ultra high productivity high tech/financial companies.
So, most of the military industrial complex is manned, equipped, and funded by, what, 2-4% of the population?
Where does public opinion strongly impact the working of such a small, insular system? Especially on short time frames?
JagerIV— you bring up some interesting points. In the 1960s Vietnam and the prospect of getting killed or maimed in Southeast Asia agitated American youth of all races. But the war itself wasn’t the reason inner cities burned during the post MLK Assassination riots in Detroit, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. That had more to do with America’s racial problems the war arguably exacerbated.
Similarly, I don’t expect the Ukraine War to be even a top 5 issue for the American voters when they vote in 2024. But you can be sure at the present or exceeded levels of spending $130 billion per year to prop Ukraine up as the 51st state (and arguably since NATO has burned through almost all the Central/Eastern European and soon North African Soviet legacy weapons and a huge amount of Cold War / 1990s stockpiles that’ll cost insane amounts to slowly replenish) it’s going to be one more reason for Americans already pissed with their under employed or unemployed stagflationary recession status and convinced the vaccines are the reason so many otherwise healthy friends or celebrities are dying to hate the Big Tech / Big Pharma / Big Government Establishment. Some of that hate I hope and pray does not get turned on ordinary Ukrainians as darlings of the Establishment as most Americans in my experience can still distinguish corrupt governments from their peoples. In Europe because the war’s impact is closer and the government agitprop even more intense especially in the UK and Poland / Baltics / Scandinavia I’m not sure this is the case, for either the Ukrainians or Russians, the latter of whom have faced calls for the total cancellation of Tchaikovsky and the like EU citizens parents especially the French would’ve regarded as chauvinistic idiocy at the height of the last Cold War.
Whether the MIC gets spared from the general American social disgruntlement and China-related (and possibly Chinese worsened) supply chain chaos / skilled labor shortages ahead, I don’t know. Anecdotally, I’ve read many stories of seemingly forever lost and re reverse engineered expertise when it comes to maintaining 1980s/90s legacy systems due to engineer retirements impacting the US Navy fleet readiness in particular, but also creeping up on the Air Force as its B52s, B1s and F15s/16s age out of service.
The US military certainly isn’t going to be spared from the culture wars over drag queen story hours / trans militancy on base or the growing sense in large deep red parts of the country that the DoD is at risk of becoming just another part of the federal government like the IC and the FBI that post-Obama became dominated by increasingly partisan Democrats in uniform, with all the Ds hatred of all things Russian that has become fashionable since the 2016 #TrumpPutin Russen dolstosslegende election possibly warping the judgement of the ‘woke brass’ and ‘woke miltwitter’ junior officers to over emphasize the ETO over the Pacific as well. But how representative many active duty servicemen who have added LGBT or Ukrainian flags to their profiles and are active on Twitter in particular compared to their peers is a separate question here, I’m only discussing public perceptions of politics in the ranks.
To CJCS Gen Mark Milley’s credit he has said Ukraine’s casualties are in the 100,000 range with an obligatory claim that Russia’s are the same or higher. But I don’t think it has sunk in for the most politicized American miltwitterers yet that ‘fighting Russian propaganda’ by uncritically citing Ukraine’s propaganda including ludicrous tales ranging from the Ghost of Kyiv to 90% of all incoming Russian missiles and Iranian drones being shot down in every air raid might make them and secondarily the DoD objects of ridicule for being woke AND gullible to a grasping, desperately taxpayer -squeezing foreign power. That and not blathering about maternity flight suits is the real reason many of them hate Tucker Carlson. Because he’s implying that the generals and broader MIC are increasingly out of touch with the country they serve and placing wokeness above warfighting. And that the emphasis on Russia over China as the main adversary is both a subtle sellout to Wall Street which still desperately needs China to supply what our hollowed out industrial base cannot, and hatred of a government that however hypocritical some of its adherents may be, still has aligned itself against LGBT and in favor of traditional values. To the point that ‘are you ready to die for gay pride parades in Donetsk?’ *could* become this generation’s ‘who wants to die for Danzig?’
Those who comment here by definition are probably more engaged with politics or the realm of ideas on defense than the regular Joes and Janes. Gauging how the normiecon Fox News watchers–who agree with Tucker’s digs at the Pentagon largely because they resent the wokejacking/skinsuit wearing of a socially prestigious institution that has always been intended to unite the country and indeed preceded our nation’s Founding–and NPR listening libs will react to events 4,000 miles away in Kharkov oblast is much more difficult, than projecting current trends two years into the political future.
As for my remarks about the US military, they were not meant to offend anyone. I grew up around a military base with many men in my family who served, but it’s like reaching mid-life realizing that a parent or beloved uncle had a dark past and was losing part of his personality to dementia. You still love that relative anyway, regardless of their flaws.
Hate the sin, love the sinner. Condemn Putin for launching a fratricidal war by his own admission against a people he has described as fraternal if not identical to the Russians (obviously the vast majority of Ukrainians now reject those notions). But don’t hate an entire country of 150 million or assume that the grandchildren of the men who took Berlin can’t adapt or overcome and finish their fight. Because when the factories beyond the Urals are humming 24/7 and the Chinese ‘Lend Lease’ pours in alongside a few thousand North Korean volunteers, they just might. Don’t gloat about dead Russians and not consider, both the fact that the Nazis also were pretty good at killing Russians and got crushed, or that Russian revenge might not be a dish served cold at coordinates delivered at hypersonic speeds wiping out a carrier group or by Russian tankers refueling PLAAF bombers en route to strike Alaska someday.
Aside from persecuting priests of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine who’ve denounced the invasion and married and buried Ukrainian soldiers, the most dishonorable and disgusting thing this Kyiv regime funded with your and my tax dollars does is to teach innocent Ukrainian children to hate their Red Army great grandfathers and love Galician Bandera/UPA Nazi collaborationist scum who butchered first their Jewish, then Polish neighbors. A fact so egregious regardless of Mr. Zelensky’s ethnicity it disgusts many Poles and Israelis, with the former no longer remaining silent about it over the Bandera birthday national holiday this past week. But the silent majority of Ukrainians are definitely not ‘Banderites’ no matter how hard the regime pushes his death cult.
JagerIV: What you are saying is that in the little, low casualty conflicts we have fought of late, we wouldn’t need many people to fight it and wouldn’t need many to produce for it so the buy in of the Americans wouldn’t be critical to making the war. Granted, if, if the war in question was little. A conflict with Red China would big, quite big, a war against a power as strong as we are involving titanic casualties as have all the recent wars between countries of reasonably equal power and determination. The current Ukraine war and the Iran-Iraq war are examples.
A war with Red China would be similarly bloody. It would require great determination, which would require the support of the Americans. No support, no war, or rather, no contest. Every forced injection, every DEI seminar people are forced to attend, every Twitter revelation, every drag queen event and every pronouncement by some woke general looking to secure a post retirement board position chips away at the foundation that support would be built on.
What I fear is that if the time comes to call on that foundation to contest the Reds, it won’t be there. So there won’t be a fight, but there will be a defeat; Guam annexed, a PLAN base in Hawaii and other things shocking to the mind.
Like I said, I am not hopeful.
Part of the reason I wrote that aside about the military was I just watched Top Gun 2 this week. This Revolver News review about Tom Cruise delivering the nostalgia for the 80s America was spot on (spoiler alert):
And in the end Tencent did pull out of the funding consortium and the flag of Taiwan stayed on Mav’s jacket, along with a few familiar NAS patches.
This SCMP headline speaks for itself, in terms of Taiwan’s readiness to fight to the bitter end (with the caveat that this is a Hong Kong paper that could be putting out PRC propaganda to demoralize the Taiwan armed forces):
Imagine if the Ukrainians Neptune missiles, most of which have been destroyed in Russian missile strikes, needed parts made in Russia…
First photo circulating on Telegram and now Twitter of a FAB ‘JDAMski’
No sighting of the Iranian or Norinco glide bombs on Russian Air Force jets as of yet
But it’s very clear General Surovikin has a major intensified RuAF campaign in the works and NATO knows it’s coming. The Russians’ successful suppression (by draining of expensive and no longer manufactured 1980s vintage Soviet AD rockets) or destruction of BUKs and S300s radars lit up to spr incoming decoys and $20,000 Iranian flying moped bombs has now reached the New York Times:
Counting on the enemy’s airpower to stay inept or be kept at bay indefinitely with dwindling resources old Crotales and Hawk batteries can’t possibly replace along a 1,000 kilometer frontline is an arrogant, crummy strategy mil twitter bros. And you betcha the PLA has their own version of ‘Shahed/Geran’ and is cranking them out after seeing the Russians success with cheap drone swarming attacks.
One thing I forgot to mention as far as American determination to really and truly fight Red China if the time comes, a lack of which makes whatever is wise or unwise diplomacy moot. The CCP has already suborned important segments of American society. The Tim Cooks, LeBron James’ and the John Cenas won’t exactly be first in line to volunteer. And didn’t General Milley have a back channel communication with the head Red Chinese solder, a channel that he used.
Yeah, I have great confidence in the establishment.
Carl —another excellent point. Part of the reason we had Russiagate in 2017-18 and not a replay of the Clintons Chinagate from the 1990s which involved actual state of the art space tech transfer to the Chinese military was due to how the country changed demographically.
Simply put, demonizing the Russians in quasi racial terms regardless of the act that they’ve been intermarrying for centuries with the Ruthenians and other peoples of The Ukraine (never understood why The offends Ukrainian nationalists, does The before the Netherlands imply the Dutch are actually German? Regardless of whether you think the kraina is a borderland of Europe or Russia it’s indisputably a borderland) is fine. Outright race hatred towards Chinese is taboo. But still evident in ghetto violence against Chinese (as well as Orthodox Jews in NYC) that gets swept under the Democratic cites rug.
I am privy to things about both the Reset in US Russia relations and Trump’s faint hopes for a second term detente with Xi after Beijing did him a favor with the North Korea summit that the general public doesn’t know.
I should add here, that since the Biden Administration made the big announcement about the French wheeled cannon AMX vehicles and 50 old Bradleys being shipped to Ukraine to distract from the Ukrainian lines buckling north and south of Von Zaluzhny/Hoth-Syrskyi’s little Stalingrad of Bahkmut, I thought I’d mention an oldie but goodie.
I recall there was a commenter not quite as prolific as me who said Russia after retreating from Kyiv had been exposed as a paper tiger and the Russian military was like a nuked-up Iran plus Turkey. Well, now that swarms of $20,000 low-flying honeycombed fiberglass Iranian drones that The New York Times admits are vastly cheaper than the NASAM AMRAAMs tasked with knocking them down (and maybe even cheaper than those Swiss-made Gepard flak cannon rounds fired into the skies of Kyiv like Baghdad in 1991), that dig is kind of painful if you’re a US vet stuck in Ukraine with no power or running water and the temps are hovering above zero Fahrenheit by the end of January. And Iran is probably just a year or two away from testing its first hypersonic anti-shipping missile capable of hitting a US carrier deep in the Arabian Sea (along with their NoKo buddies) thanks to Uncle Xi and Rocket Man.
Even if the good retired Army Colonel Macgregor’s forecasts were wrong (in terms of Russia prepping a huge big arrow offensive to Lviv or encirclement all along the Dnieper) or simply premature; so will be a lot of Blob commentary about how the Russians were running out of drones and missiles, while the Ukrainians would never run out of men.
If they do end up sending Abrams or Leopard 2s, God only knows how A) the Ukrainians will get enough fuel to the frontlines to keep those gas guzzlers running and B) prevent the urge of many of the methed up teenagers they’ll be conscripting to fight alongside the Leos from making [illegal in Germany] arms saluting for TikTok at the sight of the Totenkopf or Balkenkreuz painted panzers death riding into battle like it’s 1943.
And charred Bradleys accompanied by Katyusha will be quite popular video memes on WeChat, Weibo and other Chinese social networks.
An addendum on air defense and UkroNATO approaching the bottom of the AD barrel of what’s left to send by summer: the Ukrainians are getting Sea Sparrow missiles which unlike the new boutique handful of German IRIS systems but similar to AMRAAMs another aerial missile semi successfully adapted for AD in NASAMs, NATO has lots of 1980s and early 90s vintage stockpiles of.
The problem of course being that these are rigged up on Soviet legacy BUK launchers that are almost certainly incompatible or poorly data linked with the land based version of the NATO navies Sea Sparrow radar which has precisely one user in the world today: Taiwan. So the PLA may take a keen interest in seeing how the Russians increasingly successful SEAD/DEAD campaign using old cruise missiles and the cheap Iranian drones as bait to make the Ukrainians light off their radars deals with these. Since the Sparrow is not a fire and forget system, the radar has to continuously emit to maintain lock on an enemy aircraft and drones that makes it a fat target for RuAF SU35s escorting old Wagner contractor (retired after mid 2010s Syria service and hence more expendable greybeard RuAF pilots) SU24M ‘bomb trucks’ climbing to release their GLONAS guided bomb kit JDAMskis as bait at the edge of the NASAMs/Sparrow 20-25 mile range, while the firing Mach 3 capable Kh31 anti radiation missiles that lock on to the enemy emitter’s location. Similar to how US F4G Wild Weasels with HARMs (which the Kh31s outclass in range and accuracy) escorted F15Es and attacked Iraqi SA2 and SA3 ADs during Desert Storm.
But at least the Sparrow delivery accomplishes three things:
1) Making moar money for MICC contractors
2) Creating justification for replacement missiles in the next defense bill
3) Putting a lot of white streaks in the skies over Ukrainian cities the Kyiv regime can claim were part of its 110% successful intercepts when the Sparrow parts fall on Ukrainian civilians cars and apartments
Soledar has reportedly fallen today, which means the key Donbass crossroads city of Bahkmut the Ukrainians have stubbornly poured brigade after brigade into for the last five months is now semi encircled on three sides with one major highway left in under artillery and soon mortar fire. The same willingness to bleed and die in large numbers that leads mil natsec Twitter to hero worship the Ukrainians can also resemble another regime’s ‘stand and die’ defense of ‘festung’ towns on the Ostfront in 1944.
In addition to being the most costly and humiliating defeat the Ukrainians will have suffered since their retreat under heavy fire from Lysichansk and Sverodonetsk in the summer, continued Russian advances northwest of Soledar would expose the southern flank of the troops holding land the Russians retreated from in the fall, meaning at least some of those ballyhooed Ukrainian territorial gains could be lost while both sides dig in for a grim assault on Slavyansk/Kramatorsk where the pro Russian revolt began in the Donbass back in 2014. And all of this is happening, most ominously for the UAF, while the Russians keep building up troops and equipment in Belarus and in the south around Mariupol for future offensives.
I don’t do highly specific predictions about this war anymore but I’ll wrap up my contributions to this thread by saying, Russia might not appear to be winning decisively by summer should the Slavyansk/Kramatorsk/southern Kharkov battles drag on through June/July, with no big arrow moves toward Zaporozhe or along the Belarussian borders in the north. But maintaining the facade of a Ukrainian victory without first Polish, then American F16 drivers having to put their butts on the line and other disavowed sheep dipped NATO personnel having to bleed and die in Ukrainian uniform for it is going to get much harder. And as I’ve said that will just be one more straw on the camel’s back of high inflation and vaxx anger with the Brandon Administration as the calendar approaches the 2024 election year (and the year by the end of which I expect the Ukraine conflict to end in a Korea style armistice on the Dnieper).
As a parting shot if not something to read too much into yet regarding a dreaded ‘1930s Depression-style populist isolationist’ surge: online supporters of the House GOP insurgents are referring to Kevin McCarthy as Kyievan McKrainy and ‘Eyepatch McCain’ Rep Dan Crenshaw as a ‘Ukraine forster’.
I’ll leave this entire thread to everyone else, with this quote:
“Show Taiwan the vast sea of Ukrainian cemeteries, the howling mothers, the weeping Ukrainian soldiers who lost their limbs and eyes from shrapnel, many of whom drink themselves to death from depression afterwards.
For what? McDonald’s and gay marriage or something?”
If you are an Orthodox Christian celebrating the Nativity Feast, light a candle at church tonight or tomorrow for the departed Orthodox soldiers’ souls on both sides.
Hope this threads correctly. This is an interesting point: the plans I’ve seen don’t seem to assume thing. They generally seem to pretty explicitly rely on standing forces, not deep reserves. Even one allege Navy guy I’ve talked to online seem to believe we can win a war with China with the standing forces alone.
That Tiawan holds out for two weeks, while our cruise missiles destroy their industry, a far blockade cripples them further, by which point the Navy is mobilized and the US sweeps through and destroys the Chinese navy, and the blockade starves China in short order, crippling China long term and winning.
This all seems, hubristic. Its more ambitious than the Russian plan in Ukraine, where at least its physically possible for the Russian Army to be in Kiev in a week, and at steady progress of say 10 km a day in 1-2 months, and plausible that once Kiev is taken, Ukraine can be forced into a negotiated peace.
Modern China I’m not sure we actually have enough cruise missile in stock to “cripple” Chinese industry, enough naval strength to maintain any sort of total blockade, and if we do implent a total actual blockade on China, then South Korea is going to be invaded most likely, and the US military does not have the depth of reserves to fight through that grinding fight and survive.
I should have been a bit more explicit: they don’t think they need us, because they get money and power in ways that don’t require popular support all that much. However, the small, elite military, well, failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, at least as the terms were initially defined. The Russian attempt at a small, professional army failed, and they’ve needed to fall back on conscript mass.
Everything I’ve seen suggests the plan is to win with the volenteer army. Maybe this is just the limits of military power, where they don’t think they can pollitically argue for concription during peacetime, but secretly have plans somewhere of how many consripts they’ll need. Maybe they’re not even that organized, and know there going to have to play it by ear to see how much conscription Washington will grant, like Russia’s been with conscripting for Ukraine.
A lot however seem to believe we can win with the volunteer army.
The headline in this case really says it all Tanner and friends—it isn’t just about the UAF’s multi-brigades sacrificed defeat at Soledar/Bahkmut, but the much bigger worsening picture of massive American resources irretrievably committed to Ukraine that could’ve hardened Taiwan. Which is, given the vengeance on Russia for wildly exaggerated 2016 election meddling obsessed Democratic Party and aforementioned inroads of the Ds into ‘woke mil/natsec twitter’, partially a partisan argument. The woke miltwitterers are still in deep denial about how the Russian military has been bled and chastened but is far from defeated with brand new equipment and covert soon to be overt Chinese support flowing from the factories to the Donbass battlefront.
From a more cynical perspective, this is also about coming up with a face saving reason why US aid to the greatest UkroNATO proxy army ever assembled will have to be reduced after the final blowout giveaway of modern MBTs and Bradleys, while the Russia-obsessed Brits and the Poles with their already-bloodied infantry plus F16 pilots and Leo2 tankers being next on the neocons’ blood god block get left holding the Biden Admin’s burning bag of crap…
Please ban “Macgregor.” I believe him to be the same troll as “Fast Eddy” from “Our Finite World” (Gail Tverberg’s blog).
Done. I’m tired of him hijacking threads that have nothing to do with Russia for his sophistical Russia games, I’ve run out of patience for it.
An addendum, and addressing another bit of mainline natsec/miltwitter denial: getting a lot of no longer secondhand refurbished Polish/Czech/Bulgarian T72s but prestigious Challenger and Leopard 2 tanks destroyed on the Ukraine battlefield damages NATO and indirectly US military prestige. The Leos also provide the Russian Army with the Great Patriotic War legacy propaganda boost of ‘your great grandfathers destroyed German panzers, now it’s your turn’. Scholz’s reluctance is explained in part by this, partly due to the vulnerability of Turkish Army Leo 2s to cheap Russian-made ATGMs in Syria, as well as his full knowledge that the Ukrainian Army’s Nazism problem means Ukrainian soldiers will inevitably make seig heil Harry TikToks (which blue gold flag/NAFO Twitter will surely say is just ironic joking).
It also means NATO’s options to escalate without directly introducing more and increasingly undeniable numbers of sheep-dipped or Polish led ‘Coalition of the Willing’ personnel on the battlefield are reduced…and since the type of Poles likely to become soldiers of fortune are often highly right wing vets who know full well the history of the Volyn genocide, incidents of Blue-Yellow on Red-White ‘fratricide’ or the UAF command sending Poles to their deaths incidents on the battlefield increase.
Once you’ve sent hundreds of NATO tanks including almost certainly despite their gas guzzling maintenance hog issues M1A1 Abrams to the battlefield, two bad things from an American perspective happen:
1) Russia’s attribution of its failures thus far in the war to not fighting Ukraine but a de facto NATO army that happens to be primarily staffed by Ukrainians look much more credible, particularly to the PLA, the Iranians and the Indians who are not as unimpressed with the Russian Army as Western media would have you believe. After all the PLA hasn’t been bloodied since 1979…
2) with one less major rung on the escalation of proxy warfare ladder, the only rungs above that are more direct attacks on internationally acknowledged Russian territory / bases deep inside Russia, which while embarrassing to the STAVKA will do very little damage to Russia’s warmaking capacity and raise the risk of Moscow proxy retaliation in kind by Syrian or IRGC / Wagner trained militias using Russian intel to attack and attempt to overrun VC-style American bases in Syria or Africa
After that, you can start sending F-16s which almost certainly will have to be flown by Polish and eventually officially disavowed American ‘contractor’ pilots (basically Wagner-izing NATO to counter Russia’s effective use of PMCs on the battlefield) some of whom will inevitably come back in flag draped caskets after being torn into bloody meat by S400s hitting their Viper cockpits head on at Mach 12. Thus the ‘Tucker Carlson factor’ of ‘why did my veteran relative have to die for a corrupt regime in Kyiv?’
I don’t know who will win or what form winning will take; or rather, how it will end. What I have seen is the Russians appear to be much more inept than predicted and the Ukranians to the contrary. Both sides seem to taking heavy casualties which would stand to reason when opponents reasonably well matched at the point of contact square off. The Ukranians seem better able keep their actual losses concealed than the Russians. The Russians have been recruiting 50 years old men and bringing back 50 year old tanks which doesn’t tilt the betting their way. The Ukranians are taking what they can get from whoever will give it to them. What that means is neither side truly has a production line so both will eventually run out of equipment. The Poles I think will try very hard to keep actual Russian forces off their border. The Russians have their hands full now so I don’t believe they could effectively occupy Ukraine even if all the Ukranian soldiers disappeared tomorrow. It may come down to who gets too exhausted to fight on first. If the Ukranians get exhausted first, there will be Russians in Kiev. If the Russians get exhausted first, there won’t be Ukranians in Moscow. Both sides are heirs to the historically prime military strength of the Russians, the ability to take extreme losses and keep fighting. Who is better able to stand bad things happening, Putin or Zelensky? I don’t know.
What I am pretty sure of is we could end this in a month if by some magic we restored petroleum production in the US to what it was and encouraged more. That could be easily done if we decided to do it. But I am also pretty sure we won’t.
Carl — “I don’t know who will win or what form winning will take; or rather, how it will end. What I have seen is the Russians appear to be much more inept than predicted and the Ukranians to the contrary.” My admittedly getting repetitive point here and to the miltwitter and cable news general fanboys gullibly swallowing Kyiv’s propaganda is that Ukrainian ineptitude and failures have been covered over by 24/7 access to the world’s best CISR preventing any real Russian strategic surprise since the Iranian Shahed/Gerans were unleashed on their hitherto untouched electrical grid.
As for casualties, the ex-German Defense Minister Van Der Leyen’s blurted out admission of 100,000 UAF KIA, which would imply at least an equal number of permanently removed from combat WIA, is entirely plausible. Which would represent nearly 1/5th of Ukraine’s entire February 2022 pre-invasion strength lost in one year.
Primarily for that reason, I have a much lower opinion of Zaluzhny and co then miltwitter, I consider him to be a personally corrupt meatgrinder general who has demonstrated again and again he will obey Zelensky’s stubborn Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front-esque ‘stand and die’ orders at Popasna, Sverodonetsk/Lysichansk and now Soledar/Bahkmut. One slaughterhouse of Ukrainian conscripts after another sacrificed to Russia’s massed artillery fire and frontline air superiority ‘to buy time’ for the so-called elite UAF units to receive NATO training and fresh equipment. Well Russia isn’t too worried about the Ukrainians forming a Kursk-style shock armored fist, they know how to funnel enemy armor into kill zones like their grandfathers did to the Tiger wunderwaffen equipped panzer divisions in 1943. The main threat from the latest US arms package is GMLRS with 150 km range–though the Pentagon was already supplying those in limited numbers (another weapons system Taiwan could really use whose stocks are getting depleted Tanner).
Playing the devil’s advocate now I am because few of us really know. Large numbers of dead on both sides is to be expected. The Ukrainians seem to hide theirs better than the Russians so they are superior in that aspect and Russians foul ups appear to be more glaring. But who really knows?
One of the glaring faults exhibited by the Russians was starting this thing if the first place in the expectation it would be a walkover. That was pretty bad. They also have no real allies. I’m not sure the Iranians count for much. The drones are very helpful but not up to what the Russians had from allies in WWII. That was help.
Which is the main reason comparisons to WWII don’t help much. The people with the productive allies now are the Ukrainians and the Russians ain’t what they used to be which is a good thing for the Russian people. The WWII Soviet Union was a barbaric slave state the crucshed its people in winning a war they could not have won without those allies, which they ain’t got now. If the Russians fail one reason may be is aren’t quite the slaves they were. Lose a war that doesn’t really matter but have a slightly better existance. Not a bad trade.
But we are really two old men arguing about whose football team will win when neither one of us is playing so back to Taiwan.
Your last sentence was the most interesting. Taiwan is rich country, as technologically capable as any country in the world. They are fully capable of making their own version of GMLRS or any other missle you care to name and digging them in or making them mobile. So, why don’t they? Why do they need ours? They’ve seen the events of the past decades. They must know the Yanks can’t be trusted. They should be doing for themselves, which they can do.
Carl — I’ve hinted throughout these threads at the reasons, besides having parts from the mainland for their missiles, why Taiwan doesn’t build more of its own long range weapons and powerful MLRS when it’s more than capable of doing so: greater fear of provoking invasion without the luxury of wartime resupply that makes the Ukraine’s command overconfident and a much stronger 5th column on Taiwan supporting reunification than ever existed since the national humiliations of 2014-15 deeply entrenched and mainline revanchism and the Bandera/UPA WW2 Galician (western Ukrainian) Nazi collaborators death cult across all of Ukraine, including in Kharkov forty miles from the Russian border where everyone knows someone or has relatives in Russia!
By Ukrainian overconfidence, I mean as a good example the ongoing potential encirclement disaster at Bahkmut caused by their command’s stubborn refusal to lose face, withdraw troops, and let them live to fight again on more favorable terrain. The Ukrainians simply don’t give a crap about the lives of their territorial battalions, the forty and fifty something graybeard draftees. Only units operating the precious NATO equipment such as the handful of armored brigades they have left hoping for the new Leo2 tanks or having a high proportion of foreigners and foreign trainers such as the former SS rune flag wavers of Azov are/were intended to be preserved.
More broadly, the Taiwanese do not have delusion that if the Chinese haven’t done something for reasons of economy of force and still hoping for peaceful reunification after the US dollar and economy suffers a collapse that they won’t ever do it. The Ukrainians seemed genuinely shocked that after eight years of constantly even gleefully / sadistically shelling pro Russian Donetsk, that the Russians would finally start destroying their power grid the way their American sponsors in the USAF did from day one against Saddam’s Iraq during Desert Storm, and just a few weeks into the NATO war of choice humanitarian aggression against Serbia in 1999. The belief in one’s specialness or choseness as the greatest proxy client state in American history rationalized as existential struggle rather than a territorial dispute justifies everything, and the mainline and neocon positions on Twitter and in the legacy media seem to have converged in the sincere belief 1) Ukraine’s capacity to absorb casualties is basically unlimited or too high of a number to matter 2) if the Russians haven’t escalated yet they either lack the competency to do it or the will having been cowed by NATO’s escalation dominance 3) all the gleeful killing of Russians by proxy won’t be answered by first, Russia helping Syrians and Iranian proxies attack vulnerable US troops in the Middle East and 4) raise the risk of major Russian support including aeronaval reconnaissance and hypersonic missiles to help China kill Americans in a war over Taiwan many in Washington now speak of as inevitable…
Whereas if the GMLRS glide bomb wunderwaffen being supplied to the Ukrainians to strike northern Crimea actually work as advertised as opposed to getting mostly intercepted by Russian air defenses even more easily than standard HIMARS, then the odds of systemic Russian strikes on Ukrainian rail yards, continued destruction of the Ukrainian power grid to full collapse, and real not made up bounties on American volunteers or ‘volunteers’ in Ukraine goes up considerably. As well as the odds the boasted of shell factories in Bulgaria the Bulgarians thought untouchable on NATO protected territory having their own ‘smoking accidents’.