Ukraine War, June 1, 2022: Rigid decision making and its consequences–What if Ukraine and NATO lose the war?

Dispatches

1) “Ukraine War, May 31, 2022: Biden’s Op-ed, and his abject fear of Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, May 31, 2022;

2) “Ukraine War, May 30, 2022: No cure for addled thinking–Biden’s fear of Putin and refusal to give Ukraine weapons that can strike Russian territory; Trust and policy coordination with Ukraine v. mistrust and denial of needed weapons; SDP and Scholz out of sync with German public; New coalition of Greens and CDU possible if not likely,” The Trenchant Observer, May 30, 2022;

3) Editorial, “Biden’s Ukraine Rocket Whiplash; Kyiv will get weapons for the artillery war, albeit belatedly, Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2022” (7:02 pm ET).

Analysis

So much of the U,S. and allied decision making related to Russia’s war against Ukraine seems to be the product of assumptions and conceptual errors that are hard-baked into the decision matrix. They seem immutable, and impervious to any critical analysis.

Non-use of force in response to Russian invasion

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the U.S. was taking force off the table in terms of the potential NATO response to a Soviet invasion of the Donbas–in April, 2014!

Barack Obama was cowed my Putin’s nuclear threats–in 2014!

President Joe Biden has not deviated from Obama’s position on force, and in November 2021 began broadcasting to Putin that force was off the table in the event of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine. That is,  Biden explicitly confirmed that he was continuing Obama’s policy.

Apparently not understanding the right of individial and collective self-defense in international law as authorized by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, Biden has respected Russia’s “red line” that attacks by Ukraine should not be carried out on Russian territory.

Irrespective of the fact that rockets launched from sites inside Russia are killing thousands of civilians and destroying whole cities.

On Monday President Biden as much as declared that to be U.S. policy, adding that the U.S. would not “enable” Ukraine to carry out such attacks. By that he meant the U.S. and NATO would not transfer weapons to Ukraine that had the potential–the capability–to be used for such attacks.

An important goal of the U.S. and NATO in the Ukraine war has been to not get involved in a military confrontation with Russia.

As the U.S. and NATO pursue this strategy, with these baked-in conceptual errors and false assumptions and policies, it is not hard to imagine how Ukraine might lose the war.

Military assistance to Ukraine, like economic sanctions, has always seemed to be “too little, too late”, not arriving in time to make the difference it otherwise might have made.

A defeat for Ukraine would mean a defeat for NATO, the EU, and the international legal order based on the U.N. Charter. It would mean a defeat for Civilization.

Leaders in the West, instead of improvising decisions on a day-to-day basis, need to think long and hard about what the world would be like after a Ukrainian defeat, and then design a realistic strategy that might effectively forestall such an outcome.

They should then adopt and implement  the strategy, even if to do so requires them to fix conceptual errors and to discard false assumptions.

So far the West has proceeded on the assumption that by supplying weapons and other assistance to Ukraine, both NATO military engagement with Russian forces and the military defeat of Ukraine can be avoided.

But what if that assumption does not hold up in the face of events on the ground?

We are still in the early stages of what could be a long war. It took the Russian army four years to defeat the German Wehrmacht after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

What is the use of critical analysis of these policies and decisions?

The underlying hope of the critic, of course, is that some people are listening and taking note and that, eventually, the criticism will be heard and heeded by the decision makers.

But what if the decision makers are so well-defended, in their silos of groupthink, that they can’t hear the criticism, and are so full of hubris and self-righteous certainty that they just plough ahead on the pre-ordained path dictated by their conceptual errors and false assumptions?

Well, you get horrendous outcomes, like the Viet Nam war, or the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Or maybe an outcome like where we are right now, at the end of phase 1 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians killed and cities destroyed by Russian bombardments, others murdered as in Bucha, and the continuation of Russia’s  campaign of systematic war crimes (crimes against humanity) and genocide.

You could even get an outcome in Phase 2 or Phase 3 where you lose the war.

What would it be like if Ukraine and the West were to lose the war?

You fill in the blanks.

The Trenchant Observer

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