Tuesday 31 May 2022

David Goldman understands the Ukrainian war


I am utterly on the side of the Ukraine against Russia and am very sure that, were it not for incompetent American diplomacy or worse, the invasion could have been avoided.

David Goldman's latest article is the cleverest, most rational thing I have read about the war in the Ukraine. Unfortunately in time of war emotions take over.

'I argued in 2008 and on many subsequent occasions, including the February 2014 note in PJ Media reposted below. The obvious course of action in Ukraine was to permit its people to vote for a divorce, as the Czechs and Slovaks did. Instead we elected to keep the NATO option open for Ukraine, knowing that this was a red line for Russia. Never mind that Putin is a wicked fellow; he is a predictably wicked fellow with a well-defined understanding of Russian national interest, and his response to Ukraine’s prospective NATO membership was entirely predictable.'

'After three months of nearly-unanimous media predictions of the collapse of Russia, it now appears that the Russian army is close to controlling the Donbas. Extricating it will be difficult if not impossible. The result, as Henry Kissinger suggested at Davos last week, will be (eventually) a peace in which Ukraine cedes territory to Russia. All the “don’t appease Putin-Hitler” rhetoric will simply make us feel shabbier when we make the deal. We should feel shabby. We screwed this up on the grand scale.

'Our bathetic outpouring of sympathy for Ukraine served mainly to obscure the ugly fact that Russia has better strategic weapons than we do (hypervelocity missiles and the S-400/500 air defense systems). No doubt the Russian army is corrupt, as Western commentators aver, but not so corrupt by orders of magnitude as our Pentagon, which pays top dollar for obsolete weapons while Russia and China innovate. The Javelin and Switchblade and Stinger are fine toys, but the West remains in fear of Russian nuclear weapons–as well we should. The Biden Administration won’t sent long-range missiles to Ukraine because it fears, correctly, that Ukraine might use them to attack targets deep inside Russia and start a broader war.'

Neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz, US Under Secretary of Defense, set out the so-called Wolfowitz doctrine in 1991. His ideas appeared to have been vanquished but are still held by the US State Department.

'We endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

'We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power.'

From a muddle-headed article by Adam Tooze about John Mearsheimer (I have been agreeing with the latter since the late 00s).

'In Moscow itself, none of the serious foreign policy establishment – all devotees to Russia’s future as a great power – believed that Putin would go to war. They were incredulous not because they do not understand the logic of power, but precisely because they do. They saw no good reason for Russia to risk employing the means of all-out war, with all its hazards, uncertainties and costs. Events are proving them right.

'Morality and legality are one reason for opposing war. The other is simply that over the last century at least, it has a poor track record for delivering results. Other than wars of national liberation, one is hard pressed to name a single war of aggression since 1914 that has yielded clearly positive results for the first mover.'

Mr. Tooze is right on this. I am not a pacifist but going to war is usually wrong, including by the Americans in 1776, 1812, 1846, 1861, 1898, 2001 and 2003. Vietnam I am not sure about. It was perfectly just but turned out very badly for everyone (as wars usually do).

One reason for the 1776 revolution was that the British government prevented American subjects killing Indians.


  1. 'I am utterly on the side of the Ukraine against Russia'

    That's the party line.
    I am against those who made Ukraine the poorest country in Europe.

    1. I am against prolonging the war more then necessary. I am very much against Biden and the EU, but Xi and Putin are even worse.

    2. 'Putin and Xi'

      It is up to their people to judge them... and, at least from where I'm standing, the Russian and the Chinese seem pretty happy with their lot.

    3. Many people in Hong-Kong are not and want to emigrate. Russians ditto.

    4. Nobody keeps them in against their will.