Patterico's Pontifications

2/24/2023

Ukraine Full-Scale Invasion, One Year In: Is the “Spirit of the Army” Flagging?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:28 pm



One year ago today, Russia launched the latest and most shockingly brutal part of its years-long attack on Ukraine. The war began in 2014, so it would not be correct to say that today is the one-year anniversary of “the war,” but it is the one-year anniversary of this phase: a large-scale, massive invasion conducted with the intent of wiping Ukraine off the map and ethnically cleansing its population.

In September, long after it had become evident that the invasion was not the cakewalk for Russia that most of us had expected, I quoted Tolstoy on the issue of the “spirit of the army”:

What explains this shift? It’s a complex problem, and Mencken reminded us that for every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. Still, don’t discount the “spirit of the army” — the fact that Ukraine has a strong reason to fight, and Russian troops have no reason at all to fight.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace:

By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.

Tolstoy elsewhere proposed an equation similar to that describing the relationships between momentum, mass, and velocity:

In military affairs the strength of an army is the product of its mass and some unknown x.

Military science, seeing in history innumerable instances of the fact that the size of any army does not coincide with its strength and that small detachments defeat larger ones, obscurely admits the existence of this unknown factor and tries to discover it—now in a geometric formation, now in the equipment employed, now, and most usually, in the genius of the commanders. But the assignment of these various meanings to the factor does not yield results which accord with the historic facts.

Yet it is only necessary to abandon the false view (adopted to gratify the “heroes”) of the efficacy of the directions issued in wartime by commanders, in order to find this unknown quantity.

That unknown quantity is the spirit of the army, that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army, quite independently of whether they are, or are not, fighting under the command of a genius, in two—or three-line formation, with cudgels or with rifles that repeat thirty times a minute. Men who want to fight will always put themselves in the most advantageous conditions for fighting.

The spirit of an army is the factor which multiplied by the mass gives the resulting force.

Having some nice High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems never hurts either.

I recently saw some Trumpist dunderhead trying to explain how Russia kills with cold. They defeated Napoleon and Hitler with the cold, this idiot said. What was lost in that explanation is that, yes, Russia did defeat Napoleon and Hitler . . . but then, they were fighting a defensive battle for their very country. The folks doing that nowadays are the Ukrainians. Today, most Russians fighting Ukraine have no idea why they are fighting. The spirit of the army, at least early on, was a factor that decisively favored the home team: Ukraine.

But today, NPR reports some dispiriting evidence that all-important spirit may be flagging:

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A year ago, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and stunned the world. Most thought Kyiv would fall. Well, that didn’t happen. Ukraine’s forces have upended expectations. And through it all, U.S. military aid has played a key role. Now, the invasion has become a grinding war, and some U.S. lawmakers are raising questions about that support. So how does the year ahead look? We’re going to put that question to three NPR correspondents – Frank Langfitt in Kyiv, Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman and White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

And, Frank, I’m going to let you kick us off since you are there. You’re on the ground, and I know you were recently out toward the front lines, in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, talking with soldiers. What are they saying? What’s the mood?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, I got to say, Mary Louise, it was kind of pessimistic. They were saying that the Russians are building up huge numbers on the front lines. They’re using everything from convicts, which we’ve heard about, of course – the Wagner – the mercenary group – as well as new conscripts. They’re throwing them into the fight. And the Ukrainians that I talked to just didn’t feel like they had the numbers to match the Russians and also not getting the kind of quality of people into the army that they were getting if you go back to the first two months of the war. I was talking to a sergeant named Andriy. He oversees a company of more than 100 reconnaissance soldiers.

ANDRIY: (Non-English language spoken).

LANGFITT: So what he says here is the new people who are coming – the ones who are being mobilized – they’re not that motivated. And the core of our forces – the ones who have been with us since the beginning – they’re coming to an end. And, Mary Louise, what he means by that is they’ve been killed.

KELLY: Oh, it’s just awful to hear. Stay with those new people – with the new conscripts. I keep thinking of them. These are people who were civilians yesterday, and today they’re being sent to the front.

LANGFITT: Yeah, and I’ve met a number of them. And I watched them being trained, and it’s a tall order. Just like Andriy was saying, you know, in the beginning, there were all these highly, highly motivated people. Now, these are people who are sort of being conscripted. Some of them don’t get a lot of training – sometimes a few days, couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months if they’re lucky – before they’re sent to the front. And the ones that I saw seemed quite frightened. And Andriy says some of them – they won’t even shoot in battle because they don’t want to kill anybody.

This is not to say Russia has it in the bag. They are throwing men into the meat grinder by the thousands for, so far, very little gain. It’s not like the Russian army has developed greater skill or motivation. To the contrary.

But as the war drags on, the Ukrainian motivation is taking a hit.

Now, more than ever, sensible people — people whose values have not been warped by partisanship; people who understand the depth of Putin’s evil and the need to support Ukraine — need to do what little we can to shore up the spirit of the Ukrainian people. Call your Congressman and support sending aid to Ukraine. Donate to a charity that provides warmth to those in Ukraine left in the cold. Speak out against the selfish Republican fringe mentality that ignores principle, accepts and repeats Putinesque propaganda, and promotes a self-centered view of the world.

The long-promised weaponry these people need might give a lift to their spirits. Get it to them yesterday.

Glory to Ukraine!

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:48 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

With 141 countries voting in favor, 7 voting against (Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria), and 32 voting in abstention (including China, India, Iran and South Africa), the UN called for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine. During the meeting, Chinese deputy envoy to the UN, Dai Bing blamed the West for exacerbating the situation in Ukraine by supplying arms to the country, saying that the West is adding fuel to the fire will only exacerbate tensions.

Provoked by his comments, Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock rejected the accusation and reminded the world of a simple truth that is just as relevant today as it was on Day 1 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago:

The truth is that if Russia stops fighting, the war will end, If Ukraine stops this fighting, Ukraine ends.

Knowing that Bejing’s claims of neutrality are laughable, Bill Browder warns:

China has disingenuously come up with a 12-point “peace plan” at the same time as they’ve begun to discuss providing arms to Russia. If they do provide arms, it will be catastrophic for Ukraine and could lead to WW3.

Meanwhile, Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling explains why he believes Ukraine will win the war (hint: Russia can’t adapt…):

Looks have always been deceiving when it comes to Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. From the start, Russia’s capacities were overestimated. Both the size of its army and the modernization it had supposedly undergone indicated to many observers that Russia would triumph easily. But since the invasion began, the Russian military has failed to adapt its strategy and operational objectives to battle conditions and circumstances…Ukraine’s armed forces have admirably adapted in each phase of this fight, learning lessons from training they received over the past decade, and from the scars earned on the battlefield itself. And Russia has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to do the same…It will remain difficult for Russia to change — simply because it can’t. A nation’s army is drawn from its people, and a nation’s army reflects the character and values of the society. While equipment, doctrine, training and leadership are important qualities of any army, the essence of a fighting force comes from what the nation represents. Putin’s autocratic kleptocracy is thus far proving no match for Ukraine’s agile democracy.

Related: At the one-year mark, the U.S., in coordination with G7 members, announced new sanctions against Russia and other entities supporting Russia in the war against Ukraine:

The sanctions…target over 200 individuals and entities, including a dozen Russian financial institutions.

President Biden is also set to sign a proclamation on Friday to raise tariffs on certain Russian products imported to the U.S., including 100 Russian metals, minerals and chemical products worth approximately $2.8 billion…Treasury Department…target[s] at least 12 Russian banks and the country’s mining industry…Department of Defense announced a $2 billion security assistance package for Ukraine…includes additional artillery rounds, munitions for laser-guided rocket systems and unmanned aerial systems…Department of Energy announced its third infrastructure package for Ukraine, which will include critical transmission grid equipment that will be delivered in early March.

Second news item

After causing a firestorm by announcing hundreds of edits to Roald Dahl’s classic stories and claiming that they had a “significant responsibility” to protect young readers, Puffin Books clearly felt the heat:

Puffin announces today the release of The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, to keep the author’s classic texts in print. These seventeen titles will be published under the Penguin logo, as individual titles in paperback, and will be available later this year…The Roald Dahl Classic Collection will sit alongside the newly released Puffin Roald Dahl books for young readers, which are designed for children who may be navigating written content independently for the first time.

Per Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children:

We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation…We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.”

Third news item

Some MAGA Republicans split from Fox over the war in Ukraine:

The war in Ukraine has moved from city to city: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Bakhmut. But its outcome, oddly, might be decided by a political contest thousands of miles away. The contest isn’t between Ukrainians and Russians. It’s between Republican hawks and Fox News.

Vladimir Putin is betting that the international alliance in defense of Ukraine will unravel. His best shot to win that bet is in the United States, where polls show that public support for arming Ukraine has declined, particularly among Republicans. War fatigue and unease in the Republican base are being channeled and fueled by Fox News, whose primetime anchors have worked to undermine America’s support for Ukraine.

The question now is whether congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates—the people who could cut off further aid to Kyiv—will withstand this pressure. The struggle is playing out on live TV, as Fox anchors press these politicians to disown or curtail our commitment to Ukraine.

Fourth news item

NTSB releases initial report on the East Palestine train derailment:

The report found that one of the train’s cars carrying plastic pellets was heated by a hot axle that sparked the initial fire, according to Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the safety board. As the temperature of the bearing got hotter, the train passed by two wayside defect detectors that did not trigger an audible alarm message because the heat threshold was not met at that point, Homendy explained. A third detector eventually picked up the high temperature, but it was already too late by then.

“This was 100% preventable. … There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable,” Homendy said during a news conference Thursday. “The NTSB has one goal, and that is safety and ensuring that this never happens again.”

Fifth news item

Uh-oh:

A bill aimed at forcing Arizona’s public school students to recite the Pledge of Alliance each day passed the state House this week. Despite opponents citing that the measure is clearly unconstitutional, the House’s Republican majority is pressing forward…As much as Arizona Republicans want to enforce this “citizenship” exercise, the Supreme Court decisively ruled in 1943 that schoolchildren cannot be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court ruled that the state cannot compel anyone—even schoolchildren—to profess or vow a belief they do not hold.

“Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard,” wrote Justice Robert H. Jackson in the Court’s opinion, famously adding, “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Sixth news item

Five months into the massive protests after the death of Mahsa Amini, this is an absolute slap in the face and betrayal of the courageous women in Iran who have removed their hijabs in protest:

Switzerland’s ambassador to Iran on Thursday faced accusations of betraying the women-led protest movement after she wore all-enveloping black Islamic dress on a visit to a holy shrine alongside clerics.

The Swiss foreign ministry has batted away the criticism, saying ambassador Nadine Olivieri Lozano was appropriately dressed in line with protocol for a visit to a holy site.

Iranian media had published images of Lozano dressed head-to-toe in black with a full headscarf and long black garment alongside turbaned clerics during a visit to the holy shrine city of Qom.

The ambassador’s act was not an act of neutrality.

Related: The barbaric inhumanity of Iran’s authorities (Note: the report is very graphic and disturbing.):

CNN has been able to pinpoint the location of more than three dozen black sites. Many are undeclared jails inside government facilities such as military and Revolutionary Guards bases, known to rights groups and lawyers for years. Others are makeshift, clandestine jails – sometimes warehouses, empty rooms in buildings or even the basements of mosques – that cropped up near protest sites during the Mahsa Amini uprising…According to dozens of testimonies from survivors of torture as well as legal experts, the torture used on protesters in these off-grid sites was “unprecedented” in its severity. These clandestine jails exist outside of whatever due process the Islamic Republic affords, seemingly enabling unfettered cruelty…Off-the-books detention centers are not a new phenomenon in Iran. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Kurdistan Human Rights Center have documented the abuse perpetrated in these places for years. Yet lawyers and activists say the proliferation of the sites during the Mahsa Amini protests was unprecedented.

“Not only has the use of secret detention centers increased significantly, but the torture used in them became more severe and the conditions of detention more restrictive,” said Ghassem Boedi, a lawyer from Tabriz, northwestern Iran.

The regime’s fear of being overthrown led to increasingly brutal tactics, observers say. “The major difference between these protests and the previous ones is the scale of the protests. They have been so widespread,” said Boedi, who sought refuge outside Iran. “The regime felt that it would be overthrown this time. They needed to stop the protests at any cost.”

This makes the Swiss ambassador’s actions all the more despicable.

MISCELLANEOUS

Oops!

A council meeting in Romania descended into hysterics on Friday after one councilor—supposedly “working” from home—turned his camera on while in the shower. The chairperson of the meeting was calling for attendance when Social Democratic (PSD) councilor Alberto-Iosif Caraian appeared on screen undressed in his shower. The soggy official was asked to turn his video feed off as colleagues could be heard cracking up. “But I can’t hang up,” Caraian said as he scrambled to turn the camera off. “I can’t hang up, I apologize profusely. I have a bad cold, but I don’t know how to hang up.” He later rejoined the meeting with his clothes on.

He messed with the wrong Grandma, and she messed him up:

“Next thing I know, he walked up talking about, ‘give me your keys, I got a gun.’ I said, ‘baby, you better shoot me, because you’re not taking my car.’”

She declined to go on camera, but she’s known in her 22nd Street Southeast neighborhood as “Grandma.” She was on her way to chemotherapy Friday when a 15-year-old boy tried to carjack her, MPD said.

“He pushed me to the door and I got up and I grabbed him and was hitting his ass, and hitting him and fighting him and I said, ‘you not going to take my car, youngin.””

Grandma said when she called for help, neighbors responded.

“They all came out to help me,” she said.

He ran across the street and that’s when they caught him.

“They caught him and I said, ‘oh, you going to jail today. You definitely going to jail, yes you are,” she said.

Have a great weekend!

–Dana


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