Credit Where It is Due: Lessons from the War in Ukraine, So Far

inmd

I'm an attorney in the greater Washington, DC area. When not busy untangling obscure questions about the American healthcare system I spend my time pondering law and public policy, working on the perfect dead-lift form, and praying that my dedication to the Washington Redskins doesn't result in a heart attack.

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27 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw
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    says:

    It is almost like electing a diligent person who spent their life dedicated to public service comes with benefits such as institutional knowledge and foresight.Report

  2. Philip H
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    says:

    nice post. You are spot on that the blob isn’t good at learning lessons.Report

    • InMD in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      Thank you!Report

      • Philip H in reply to InMD
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        says:

        Take for instance the fact that the US has reopened the Kyiv embassy, and determined the Marines who guard it may not be up to protecting it in a war zone, and so are discussing sending Special Forces to augment the Marine detachment.

        I’m sure the Marines are feeling insulted; its also an interesting way to get SF folks in country in a war zone . . . .Report

  3. Jaybird
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    says:

    Yeah, the intelligence failures of Afghanistan and the intelligence failures of Russia are both pretty staggering.

    With 20/20 hindsight, I mean, of *COURSE* they happened the way they happened and we should have seen that coming.

    Wait. Why didn’t we see those things coming? Well, the people who told us otherwise.

    How in the hell did the people who told us otherwise get stuff that freaking wrong?Report

    • InMD in reply to Jaybird
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      In the case of Afghanistan I think the prevailing belief was that it would actually put up a fight even if it was destined to lose, without understanding that government forces had mostly pre-negotiated their surrender. And if makes sense if you’re some underpaid Afghan soldier or local tribal chieftan. Why die to give a handful of corrupt elites breathing space to take their loot and flee to Qatar or wherever? If our intelligence wasn’t aware of that then it is indeed pretty damning. My guess is they all figured the Biden admin would blink under internal pressure to change course.

      On Ukraine I think no one believed they were willing to fight, including the Russians.Report

  4. DensityDuck
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    says:

    “Before closing it’s worth going back to the crazy people who were calling for a no fly zone, many of whom also spent a decade begging for military intervention in Syria. ”

    yes, those crazy people like Hillary Clinton, what a loony loonpantsReport

  5. North
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    says:

    Great article InMD! Agree entirely.

    And, yeah, the hardest part of this whole thing will be sticking the landing. As Drezner has noted several times- both sides think they can win and as long as that attitude persists the war will continue. I’m not sure what’s going to break that log jam.Report

  6. Marchmaine
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    says:

    Yes, it’s interesting to watch a semi-realist policy in action with everyone clamoring for an internationalist response and thinking they are getting it.

    But for that NATO expansion which will make this kind of action impossible in the future. Hopefully Turkey(!) will keep us on-mission. [Which, of course, is a joke of a different stripe]

    Now I’m seeing calls for Turkey to be bounced from NATO. Which I could get behind… Turkey, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria, … gone. I’m on the fence for Poland, Slovakia and Hungary; could go either wayReport

    • InMD in reply to Marchmaine
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      says:

      I’ve actually always appreciated Turkey’s membership of the alliance as kind of a realist coup. It has a big, competent military and it polices a strategic corner of the Mediterranean. Who cares that the government’s legitimacy isn’t always totally clear and there are some cultural tendencies that make them everyone’s least favorite guest at the dinner party? That’s what realism is all about!Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to InMD
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        says:

        Heh…

        What’s the projected range on those new missiles were developing? That’s it?

        Jenkins! Get me Ataturk on the line.

        Bayar, Sir.

        What? Oh right, sure him.

        But Sir, what about WWI and the Nazi Friendship Pact…

        Jenkins, one does not simply walk into Moscow.Report

    • North in reply to Marchmaine
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      says:

      Turkey isn’t going to block the expansion. They’ll name their price and be bought off- most likely with some airplanes. Erdogan is just posturing for his domestic audience and seizing the opportunity to wet Turkeys beak- not that there’s anything wrong with that.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to North
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        says:

        Those planes would presumably be F-35s. What’s going to make the US any more comfortable about putting F-35s in places where the S-400 system’s radar can take a good look at them? Or have we taken the Ukrainian experience to mean that all Russian weapon systems are greatly overrated?Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Michael Cain
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          says:

          Maybe F-14s in a Top Gun nostalgia gambit?Report

        • North in reply to Michael Cain
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          says:

          I suspect you’re correct and Turkey will press for F-35’s and you can be sure the US would very much prefer to not put F-35’s under the S-400’s eyeball and will, accordingly, try and talk Turkey down on the subject. That shall depend on the skills of the negotiators.

          I suspect, however, that S-400 or no, adding the Swedish and Finnish military and military industries into NATO and completely encircling the Baltic Sea would be a prize that the US might potentially decide they’re willing to swallow hard and pay Turkey’s price for. And, yes, I suspect that American fear of Russian weapon systems and military capabilities have diminished a LOT over the course of the Ukraine fiasco which might help.Report

          • InMD in reply to North
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            says:

            From my realist leaning perspective it’s a trade off the US has to make. I would not have expanded the alliance east but now that its done and shrinking it isn’t on the table we need to make the expansion plausible instead of the liability it is now, especially in the Baltics. Finland and Sweden go a long way towards doing that. They can also be big kids and denounce whatever Kurdish faction Turkey thinks they’re coddling.

            Also I don’t want to underestimate the Russians in light of whats happened but… if they can’t even establish air supremacy in Ukraine I’m not sure it matters what they can get a peek at. Not in the near term anyway.Report

            • Damon in reply to InMD
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              says:

              Right, let’s CONTINUE to encircle a nuclear power, AFTER we promised NOT to recruit former Warsaw pact countries to NATO. That seems like the smart move.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Damon
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                says:

                So does saying I won’t invade country X so long as you promise not to let them into your club, and then invading that country anyway.Report

              • Damon in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                But we WERE letting Ukraine into our club. IIRC they had petitioned for membership and were under “evaluation”. I don’t believe they were ever told that membership was denied.Report

              • InMD in reply to Damon
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                says:

                What started all this was a 2008 announcement by George W. Bush that the US intended to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. Russia has since attacked both. Part of the response to that was Ukraine amending its constitution to include the goal of eventually joining NATO.

                On the one hand it was really stupid of W to say that, and that he did, and that others in the Blob supported the position is a major contributing factor to the crisis. However it’s also far from clear that the big continental members (France and Germany) ever would have agreed to the expansion. So bad policy all around. But we also need to adapt our thinking to current realities instead of relitigating that which can’t be undone.Report

              • InMD in reply to Damon
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                says:

                At this point whats done is done. Unless you’re going to legitimately downsize the alliance, which again, isn’t on the table, the next best thing to do is make sure it can plausibly defend the outlying members from exactly the kind of attack happening in Ukraine right now. Before the invasion of Ukraine it was completely plausible that Russia could seize Tallinn before NATO had a chance to respond, forcing a quandary that could split the alliance. The chances of that happening if the Finnish and Swedish airforces are immediately intervening is far lower and knowing what we do now about Russian capabilities might not even be possible at all.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Also worth nothing that Finland and Sweden are not former Warsaw Pact Powers, and Poland joined in 1999 alongside the Czech Republic and Hungary. NATO then added Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 2002. So this is 20 plus years in the making.

                None of which changes that Putin – after invading Ukraine the first time in 2014 agreed to no do so anymore if NATO didn’t admit Ukraine. Which NATO hadn’t done this year when Russian tanks rolled across the border. NATO kept its promise. Russia broke its promise. And here we are.Report

              • Brent F in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Which agreement to not recruit former Warsaw pact countries specifically? And how would that agreement not be superseded by the NATO-Russia Founding Act?Report

    • Brent F in reply to Marchmaine
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      says:

      The actual Realists said we were leading Ukraine down a primrose path and it should be left as a Russian sphere of influence regardless of how the Ukrainians felt about it. Its the Liberal Internationalists that thought every state is sovereign and NATO expansion was good that have lead to what’s looking like the greatest US security policy success of the 21st century (not a lot of competition there).

      But this is mainly about how the Realism school achieved a coup by naming itself, because it isn’t that closely associated with little “r” realism.

      As for the Baltics out of NATO, do you really want to give up the excuse to put the Baltic sea on lockdown and pressure on St. Petersburg because you’re afraid of Russia’s ramshackle army? This fear of the need to use nukes to defend Riga has been long detached from the conventional forces reality that NATO would smack CTSO around in a straight fight and everyone knows it.Report

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