Monday, March 04, 2024

The Modest Request of Valiant Ukrainians

 The photo below is from the Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar which is at risk now that the Russian invaders have taken Avdiivka.


“We are not asking too much,” reads the graffiti in Chasiv Yar, which two years of intense fighting has slowly razed to the ground. “We just need artillery shells and aviation. Rest we do ourselves. Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

(Source: NBC)

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Why there cannot be "two-state solution"

 Copying from Gadi Taub, Tablet:

"Sorry, but There Is No Two-State Solution

 I don’t fault any Zionist or ally of Israel for having embraced the two-state solution, as I did for many years. No other peace plan could reconcile self-interest and lofty principles so seamlessly...

The two-state solution was also naturally appealing to Israel’s friends in the West, especially liberal Jews: Faced with attempts to paint Zionism as colonialism, Judaism as fundamentalist messianism, the IDF as an army of occupation, or Israel as an apartheid state, the two-state solution would dissolve such smears with a single flourish.

But compelling as it is as a debating strategy, or a form of self-therapy, the two-state solution is, sadly, no solution at all. Rather, it is a big step down the road to another Lebanon. It would doom the Zionist project, not save it, while producing much greater misery and more bloodshed for Israelis and Palestinians alike. By now most of us in Israel understand this dreadful math. If there was still a substantial minority among us who clung to the two-state promise against the evidence of the Second Intifada and everything that followed, that minority has shrunk considerably since Oct. 7.

We now know exactly what our would-be neighbors have in mind for us. We see that a majority of Palestinians support Hamas and are well pleased by its massacres. Most of us therefore believe that turning Judea and Samaria into another Hamastan to satisfy those who see the massacre as an inspiration and its perpetrators as role models would be suicidal. Who in their right mind would inflict the ensuing bloodshed on their partners, children, friends, and parents? If one is determined to feel overwhelming sympathy for one of the many stateless peoples of the world, why not start with the Kurds, or the Catalans, or the Basques, or the Rohingya, or the Baluchis, or any of one of dozens of subnational groups—none of whom seem likely to attain their longed-for goals of statehood anytime soon. After all, it took nearly 2,000 years for the Jews to succeed in refounding their state. If the Palestinians are determined to kill us on the road to replacing us, then presumably they can wait, too...

To be sure, the two-state solution was a noble dream. But it turns out it always was just that—a dream. What enabled those who clung to it long enough to continue sleepwalking through the wrecks of exploding buses, the bodies of slain civilians, the constant wild calls for violence against us, the massive efforts to build terror infrastructures under our noses and on our borders, was our own tendency to imagine Palestinians in our own image. For all the fashionable talk of diversity, we too find it hard to imagine a people that is not like ourselves. Knowing our own striving for self-determination, we assumed that the Palestinians, too, want above all to be masters of their own fate in their own sovereign state.

But that is not what they want. The huge amount of international aid Palestinians have received since 1948 was never used for nation-building. It wasn’t used for building houses and roads or for planting orange groves. It was harnessed to one overarching cause: the destruction of the Jewish state. This is what the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) does: subsidize and shield Palestinian terror infrastructure. This is what the PA does with its pay-for-slay salaries—underwritten by the U.S.—to the families of terrorists. And this is what Hamas was able to do as a result of the billions invested in Gaza: It bought weapons, trained terrorists, and built a sprawling network of terror tunnels—and not one bomb shelter for civilians.

As Einat Wilf and Adi Schwarz demonstrate in their bestselling book The War of Return, the Palestinian national movement has built its ethos and identity around the so-called “right of return” of the Palestinian “refugees”—by which they mean the destruction of Israel through the resettlement of the Palestinian diaspora, the so-called refugees that UNRWA numbers at 5.9 million, within Israel’s borders. But there’s no such thing as the right of return: First, it is not an internationally recognized right; second, if implemented it would not be a return, since almost all of those who demand it have never been to Israel themselves. And finally, of those who fled or were expelled from the land of Israel in 1948, only an estimated 30,000 are still alive today.

No other group of people on Earth is considered to be refugees decades after so many of its members have resettled as passport-holding citizens of other countries. No other group has its refugee status conferred automatically on its offspring. And no group of actual refugees is excluded from the purview of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), entrusted instead to the care of a special agency, UNRWA, whose mandate is to perpetuate the problem rather than solve it. UNRWA cultivates Palestinian hopes for a “free” Palestine “from the river to the sea,” allows for weapons to be stored inside its facilities and schools, and for a Hamas intelligence and communications center to be built under its headquarters, indoctrinates children to glorify terrorists—whom it also employs—and disseminates wild antisemitism, while still steering clear of what it should have been doing all along: resettling those who were, or still are, actual refugees.

What the centrality of the “right of return” to the Palestinian ethos means, of course, is that Palestinian identity itself is structured as a rejection of the two-state solution, and denies the legitimacy of any form of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the land of Israel. The two-state solution presupposes mutual recognition between both peoples. Each would affirm the right of the other to national self-determination. If you demand partition but also insist on the right of return then what you are really asking for is a two-Palestinian-states solution: one state in the West Bank and Gaza, ethnically cleansed of Jewish settlers, and one in Israel, where the Jews would eventually become a minority, and would consequently suffer the fate of the Jewish communities in every other Arab state. There has never been a Palestinian leadership ready to give up the right of return, which means that they have always manipulated their Israeli counterparts, as well as all mediators (including, of course, American mediators) with fake negotiations intended to extract temporary benefits, and to buy time, in preparation for the larger goal of eradicating all traces of Jewish sovereignty between the river and the sea. Fortunately, they have failed each time. But failure hardly keeps them from trying.

There never was a Palestinian leadership ready to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish nation-state. That is a constant fact of life in the conflict. The Arab side has rejected any and all partition plans starting with the Peel Commission in 1937, the United Nations partition resolution of 1947, and all the way through the various American mediation plans and Israeli offers, and those offered by Israeli leaders, including the Camp David 2000 offer, in which Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to the partition of Jerusalem, and the further concessions offered later by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. All have crashed on the nonnegotiable demand for the right of return. Even Salam Fayyad, the technocrat former Palestinian prime minister, a figurehead with no popular support at home but beloved by Western peace processors—and who’s receiving renewed attention in administration-friendly media—insisted on the right of return in an article he wrote mere days after the Oct. 7 pogrom.

Luckily, the Palestinians were never patient enough to even temporarily put a stop to terrorism or defer their demand for return until they could muster better-organized forces. It seems that the cult of death and the worship of martyrs make for an addiction to terror, and a need for violent venting. If you bring your children from kindergarten to stage plays where they pretend to kill Jews, you cannot also tell them to hold back forever on acting them out once they’ve grown up. The tree of Palestinian identity, it seems, must be constantly watered with the blood of Jews to sustain it through the many sacrifices required for a nonproductive life of permanent victimhood.

Had our neighbors been able to restrain themselves for a time, our seduction by the two-state illusion, the game we played with ourselves to relieve our moral pangs from the imperative to rule over another people, could easily have been fatal...

Israel is a strong country, but it is also a small country surrounded by enemies. It is important for Israel to mark the difference between embracing folly and being polite. It is time that Israel and her leaders be more vocal about the folly of America’s misguided Middle East policy. We can afford to continue limping along with the burdens of the occupation for another generation or two, by which point many unforeseen things will have come to pass that may make a solution either more or less obvious. But we will not live that long if we are once again seduced by the two-state siren song."

***

Hattip for this article: Prof. Jerry Coyne's post The myth of the two-state solution. I want to add two comments from there:

"Emily

When I leaned that the PA pays sizable sums to the families of terrorists for committing their acts of terror against innocent Israelis with money it receives from Europe and the US my stomach sank and I understood immediately there is no effing way that a two state settlement is a viable solution to the conflict.

There is just no way to live in peace next to a state and people who value their own deaths and the deaths of their enemy more than their self determination and peaceful development. It’s impossible. That’s the sad reality Israelis have to live with."

"Doug

A point about language: perhaps best to refrain from using the terms set by one’s opponents. Whether that be in the DEI realm, “gender” wars, or a host of other contentious topics, the “progressive” left excels at dictating the terms of discussion and, thus, controlling the perceptions and bounds of debate.

The two-state “solution.” Notice it isn’t a proposal, an idea, a wish, a dream. It is a solution. Who could be against a solution? A solution SOLVES things! Except that this “solution” would prove quite a bit like another “Solution” the Jews once faced."

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Islam, in one picture


Afghanistan under theTaliban. Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP, copied from this report.

Readers' comments:

"What a shame! They look like closed up patio umbrellas!"

"Why leftists cheer and support this is beyond me."

"We should have armed the women."

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Australia prefers to destroy helicopters instead of giving them to Ukraine

 From Kyiv Post:

"OPINION: Australia – Let Ukraine Have Your “Retired” Taipan Helicopters

by Stefan Romaniw

The idea of transferring Australia’s retired fleet of MRH-90 helicopters to Ukraine has been suggested by several parties since the government decided upon early retirement. Yet the most recently reported development in the MRH-90 saga is that the ADF plans to dismantle and bury these aircraft rather than donate them to Ukraine.

There are compelling reasons why donating the MRH-90 fleet to Ukraine makes much more sense than scrapping them.

Ukraine has had a chronic shortage of helicopters since Russia initiated its partial invasion in 2014, and its full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine inherited more than 400 military helicopters when the USSR collapsed three decades ago, mostly Mi-8 HIP multi-purpose helicopters and Mi-24 HIND helicopter gunships. By 2014 most of these helicopters were no longer airworthy, with worn out engines, gearboxes and rotor blades, and many had been cannibalized to keep others flying. Ukraine lacked production capabilities for many spare parts and was only able to get replacement rotor blades into production shortly before the 2022 full scale invasion.

The Ukrainian helicopter fleet numbering a few dozen flyable aircraft was heavily overused from the earliest days of the 2022 full-scale invasion. During the Battle for Kyiv in the first weeks of the war, the fleet was used round the clock to strike at Russian forces besieging the capital, with many helicopters and courageous aircrew lost to Russian air defenses. The besieged Ukrainian garrison at Mariupol was resupplied for weeks by helicopters that flew in under Russian air defenses. But that heroic operation ceased after the Russians blocked access and shot down a flight killing the crew and wounded troops that were being evacuated.

NATO allies, including the US, donated what remaining Soviet and Russian helicopters they had to partially compensate for Ukraine's losses. The fleet now comprises a proverbial “zoo” of no less than sixteen variants of the two main helicopter types.

As the HIND gunships are scarce, many of the HIP transports have been modified to fire Western supplied Hydra and Zuni air to surface rockets. But modifying leftover transport helicopters into gunships cannot not solve the more basic headache of a worn-out, understrength, shrinking, and largely obsolete fleet of military helicopters.

Ukraine needs modern Western helicopters, both quickly, and in large numbers.

Why the Australian government did not pre-emptively offer the MRH-90 helicopters to Ukraine when the decision was made on early retirement remains an unanswered question.  Agreeing to the ADF plan to scrap and bury assets for which taxpayers had spent over $3 billion dollars, and which have years of remaining life in them, qualifies as bizarre.

No doubt the defense ministry can dredge up any number of irrelevant “explanations”, as we have seen with their ongoing media campaign which seems designed to discourage Ukraine from asking for the forty plus mothballed RAAF F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter aircraft.

Donating the MRH-90 fleet, remaining spare parts, documentation and support equipment does not incur any future financial or support obligations for Australia. Variants of the NH-90 series are operated by nine European allies of Ukraine all of whom have been generous donors of military equipment and training.

Ukraine already operates the Airbus Super Puma and has established supply chains in Europe. So, the supply chain and maintenance woes that bedeviled the ADF while operating the MRH-90 simply do not apply to Ukraine – Ukraine's European allies can solve these problems.

No differently, airlifting the MRH-90 fleet to Europe is also a task Ukraine's other allies can handle should the defense department decide that it is too expensive or inconvenient.

Donating the remaining MRH-90s to Ukraine would offer a strategic payoff to Australia. Russia's long running campaign to destabilize Europe and the Middle East, and meddle in Western politics, directly threatens Australia's interests as a global exporter.

In the zero-sum game between Russia and the West scrapping the MRH-90s, instead of donating them to Ukraine, is in effect aiding Russia in its genocidal campaign to conquer Ukraine.

The Australian Government might want to ask some hard questions of its defense department - especially as Ukraine has requested these helicopters as aid.

The Kafkaesque episode of the disposal of the MRH-90s is one of many we have seen play out in the ADF over the last two decades and one that should have politicians and the public asking for some real explanations – not contrived excuses that make little sense.

The bottom line is that donating the MRH-90 fleet to Ukraine is cheap and yields good strategic and political payoffs with no baggage for the Government or the taxpayer."

 

 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The US Democratic Party's Troubling Recent History Concerning Russia

 From Brookings:

"Why it’s hard to take Democrats seriously on Russia

James Kirchick Former Brookings Expert

July 27, 2017

Democrats are exasperated that Republicans don’t share their outrage over the ever-widening scandal surrounding Donald Trump and Russia. The president’s personal solicitousness toward Vladimir Putin, the alacrity of his son in welcoming potential assistance from Russians during the 2016 campaign, and mounting questions as to whether Trump associates colluded with Russia as part of its influence operation against Hillary Clinton are leading Democrats to speak of impeachment and even treason.

As a longtime Russia hawk who has spent most of the past decade covering Kremlin influence operations across the West, I share their exasperation. Over the past year, I have authored pieces with headlines like “How Putin plays Trump like a piano,” “How Trump got his party to love Russia,” and, most recently in this space, “How the GOP became the party of Putin.” As I see it, conservatives’ nonchalance about Russia’s attempt to disrupt and discredit our democracy ranks as one of the most appalling developments in recent American political history.

But as much as Democrats may be correct in their diagnosis of Republican debasement, they are wholly lacking in self-awareness as to their own record regarding Russia. This helps explain why conservatives have so much trouble taking liberal outrage about Russia seriously: Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the past eight years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.

Consider the latest installment of the unfolding Trump-Russia saga: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting last summer with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Clinton. Before inexplicably publicizing his own email correspondence, which revealed him eager to accept information that would allegedly “incriminate” his father’s opponent, Trump Jr. claimed the confab concerned nothing more salacious than the issue of “adoption.” Democrats have rightly pointed out that this was a ruse: When the Russian government or its agents talk about international adoption, they’re really talking about the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 measure sanctioning Russian human rights abusers named after a Russian lawyer tortured to death after exposing a massive tax fraud scheme perpetrated by government officials. The law’s passage so infuriated Putin that he capriciously and cruelly retaliated by banning American adoption of Russian orphans. Five years after its enactment, the law continues to rankle Russia’s president. According to Trump himself, it was the ostensibly innocuous issue of “adoption” that Putin raised with him during a previously undisclosed dinner conversation at the G-20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month.

Yet for all the newfound righteous indignation in defense of the Magnitsky Act being expressed by former Obama officials and supporters, it wasn’t long ago that they tried to prevent its passage, fearing the measure would hamper their precious “reset” with Moscow. In 2012, as part of this effort, the Obama administration lobbied for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War-era law tying enhanced trade relations with Russia to its human rights record. Some voices on Capitol Hill proposed replacing Jackson-Vanik with Magnitsky, a move the administration vociferously opposed. Shortly after his appointment as ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul (today one of the most widely cited critics on the subject of Trump and Russia) publicly stated that the Magnitsky Act would be “redundant” and that the administration specifically disagreed with its naming and shaming Russian human rights abusers as well as its imposition of financial sanctions. McFaul even invoked the beleaguered Russian opposition, which he said agreed with the administration’s position.

This was a mischaracterization of Russian civil society, the most prominent leaders of which supported repeal of Jackson-Vanik only on the express condition it be superseded by the Magnitsky Act. “Allowing [Jackson-Vanik] to disappear with nothing in its place … turns it into little more than a gift to Mr. Putin,” Russian dissidents Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov wrote for the Wall Street Journal days after McFaul’s remarks. (Nemtsov, one of Putin’s loudest and most visible critics, was assassinated in 2015 just a few hundred meters from the Kremlin walls). Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, meanwhile, wrote that while he supported repealing Jackson-Vanik, “no doubt the majority of Russian citizens will be happy to see the U.S. Senate deny the most abusive and corrupt Russian officials the right of entry and participation in financial transactions in the U.S., which is the essence of the Magnitsky Bill.”

Nevertheless, the Obama administration not only persisted in opposing Magnitsky, but continued to claim that it had the support of the Russian opposition in this endeavor. “Leaders of Russia’s political opposition,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case.” Despite administration protestations, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act and Obama reluctantly signed it into law. Reflecting on the legislative battle two years later, Bill Browder, the London-based investor for whom Magnitsky worked and the driving force behind the bill, told Foreign Policy, “The administration, starting with Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry, did everything they could do to stop the Magnitsky Act.”

Today’s liberal Russia hawks would have us believe that they’ve always been clear-sighted about Kremlin perfidy and mischief. They’re displaying amnesia not just over a single law but the entire foreign policy record of the Obama administration. From the reset, which it announced in early 2009 just months after Russia invaded Georgia, to its removal of missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland later that year, to its ignoring Russia’s violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (while simultaneously negotiating New START) and its ceding the ground in Syria to Russian military intervention, the Obama administration’s Russia policy was one, protracted, eight-year-long concession to Moscow. Throughout his two terms in office, Obama played down the threat Russia posed to America’s allies, interests and values, and ridiculed those who warned otherwise. “The traditional divisions between nations of the south and the north make no sense in an interconnected world nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War,” Obama lectured the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, a more florid and verbose way of making the exact same criticism of supposed NATO obsolescence that liberals would later excoriate Trump for bluntly declaring.

When it abandoned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic that same year—announcing the decision on the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland, no less—the Obama administration insisted that the move wasn’t about kowtowing to Moscow but rather more robustly preparing for the looming Iranian threat. Notwithstanding the merits of that argument, perception matters in foreign policy, and the perception in Central and Eastern Europe was that America was abandoning its friends in order to satiate an adversary. That characterizes the feelings of many American allies during the Obama years, whether Israelis and Sunni Arabs upset about a perceived tilt to Iran, or Japanese concerned about unwillingness to confront a revisionist China. Liberals are absolutely right to criticize the Trump administration for its alienation of allies. But they seem to have forgotten the record of the man who served as president for the eight years prior.

Three years later, in the midst of what he thought was a private conversation about arms control with then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Obama was famously caught on an open microphone promising that he would have “more flexibility” (that is, be able to make even more concessions to Moscow) after the presidential election that fall. (Imagine the uproar if Trump had a similar hot mic moment with Putin.) Later that year, after Mitt Romney suggested Russia was America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Obama ridiculed his Republican challenger. “The 1980s are now calling and they want their foreign policy back,” Obama retorted, in a line that has come back to haunt Democrats. An entire procession of Democratic politicians, foreign policy hands and sympathetic journalists followed Obama’s lead and repeated the critique. According to soon-to-be secretary of state John Kerry, Romney’s warning about Russia was a “preposterous notion.” His predecessor Madeleine Albright said Romney possessed “little understanding of what is actually going on in the 21stcentury.”

This wasn’t merely a debate talking point. Downplaying both the nature and degree of the Russian menace constituted a major component of mainstream liberal foreign policy doctrine until about a year ago—that is, when it became clear that Russia was intervening in the American presidential race against a Democrat. It provided justification for Obama’s humiliating acceptance in 2013 of Russia’s cynical offer to help remove Syrian chemical weapons after he failed to endorse his own “red line” against their deployment. Not only did that deal fail to ensure the complete removal of Bashar Assad’s stockpiles (as evidenced by the regime’s repeated use of such weapons long after they were supposedly eliminated), it essentially opened the door to Russian military intervention two years later.

Even after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, the first violent seizure of territory on the European continent since World War II, Obama continued to understate the severity of the Russian threat. Just a few weeks after the annexation was formalized, asked by a reporter if Romney’s 2012 statement had been proven correct, Obama stubbornly dismissed Russia as “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength but out of weakness.” Truly. Russia is such a “regional power” that it reached across the Atlantic Ocean and intervened in the American presidential election, carrying out what Democrats today rightly claim was the most successful influence operation in history. “It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” a senior Obama official, speaking of the administration’s halfhearted response to Russia’s intrusion, told the Washington Post. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

Yet rarely in the course of accusing Trump of being a Kremlin agent have liberals—least of all the president they so admire—reflected upon their hypocrisy and apologized to Romney, whose prescience about Russia, had he been elected in 2012, may very well have dissuaded Putin from doing what he did on Obama’s watch. In Obama, Putin rightly saw a weak and indecisive leader and wagered that applying the sort of tactics Russia uses in its post-imperial backyard to America’s democratic process would be worth the effort. The most we’ve seen in the way of atonement are Clinton’s former campaign spokesman Brian Fallon admitting on Twitter, “We Dems erred in ’12 by mocking” Romney, and Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau sheepishly conceding, with a chuckle, “we were a little off.” If Obama feels any regret, maybe he’s saving it for the memoir.

But even if liberals do eventually show a modicum of humility and acknowledge just how catastrophically wrong they were about Romney, this would not sufficiently prove their seriousness about Russia. For their current criticisms of the Trump administration to carry water, liberals will have to do more than simply apologize for regurgitating Obama’s insult that Republicans are retrograde Cold Warriors. They will have to renounce pretty much the entire Obama foreign policy legacy, which both underestimated and appeased Russia at every turn. Otherwise, their grave intonations about “active measures,” “kompromat” and other Soviet-era phenomena will continue sounding opportunistic, and their protestations about Trump being a Russian stooge will continue to have the appearance of being motivated solely by partisan politics.

For now, the newfangled Democratic hawkishness on Russia seems motivated almost entirely, if not solely, by anger over the (erroneous) belief that Putin cost Clinton the election—not over the Kremlin’s aggression toward its neighbors, its intervention on behalf of Assad in Syria, its cheating on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty, or countless other malfeasances. Most Democrats were willing to let Russia get away with these things when Obama was telling the world that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” are obsolete, or that Russia was a mere “regional power” whose involvement in Syria would lead to another Afghanistan, or when he was trying to win Russian help for his signal foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal. If the Democrats’ newfound antagonism toward the Kremlin extended beyond mere partisanship, they would have protested most of Obama’s foreign policy, which acceded to Russian prerogatives at nearly every turn. As the former George W. Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer cleverly imagined in these pages, had Trump ran for president and won with the assistance of Russia but as a Democrat instead of a Republican, it’s not difficult to imagine Democrats being just as cynical and opportunistic in their dismissal of the Russia scandal as Republicans are today.

Democrats’ lack of introspection about their past policy failures, along with their amateurish, newfound zeal for opposing Russia, hurts the wider effort to convince the American public that Russian meddling in our democracy is a serious issue. The most credible voices in this discussion are those genuinely knowledgeable about Russia’s grand strategy to disrupt Western democracy, of which the Trump case is but one element of a long-running global campaign. Not coincidentally, these people have also been consistent in their hawkishness across presidential administrations, as willing to confront the Obama administration over its failures as they are today lambasting Trump. Yet largely because of a media preference for sensationalism, these nuanced voices are being drowned out in favor of Democratic partisans and internet conspiracy theorists peddling wild accusations of “treason.” Most liberals, to put it bluntly, are new to the cause, and their obvious overcompensation and shrill rhetoric is degrading our civic culture. “We were and are under attack by a hostile foreign power and … we should be debating how many sanctions we should place on Russia or whether we should blow up the KGB, GSU [sic], or GRU,” Democratic factotum Paul Begala recently blathered on CNN, referring to, successively, the Soviet-era intelligence service, a non-existent agency, and Russian military intelligence. On Twitter, MSNBC host Joy Reid recently opined, apropos of nothing, that “Donald Trump married one American (his second wife) and two women from what used to be Soviet Yugoslavia: Ivana-Slovakia, Melania-Slovenia.”

Put aside the weird, inquisitorial implication that Trump, solely by virtue of his having married two women from the former Eastern bloc, must therefore be a Russian mole. Reid’s assertion managed to fit three basic errors into a single sentence: 1) Ivana Trump was born in the present-day Czech Republic, not Slovakia 2) Slovakia, furthermore, was never part of Yugoslavia and 3) Yugoslavia, though socialist, was never part of the Soviet Union and famously resisted incorporation into the Warsaw Pact. This is what happens when partisan Democrats who never expressed an iota of interest in Russia before June 2016 try to impersonate Scoop Jackson: They end up sounding like a less methodical Joe McCarthy.

Taken too far, liberals’ Russia obsession could hurt them. Many Democrats seem to genuinely believe that Putin is the only reason Clinton isn’t America’s first female president. Seeing Russian meddling as the single or most significant explanation for their electoral woes conveniently lets Democrats ignore the many other factors—a lousy candidate, an uninspiring and unconvincing platform, a left-wing identity politics that alienates many Americans, just to name a few—that thwarted what ought to have been an easy victory against the most toxic and unqualified individual ever to run for president. While the American people certainly need to be better educated about the breadth of Kremlin influence operations and the multifarious ways Russia threatens the free world, a fixation on Russia to the exclusion of all else will not win elections.

Hypocrisy is no stranger to politics, of course, and it’s never too late for people to come around to the realization that Russia poses a danger. But with Democrats seriously talking about impeachment or even treason, a reckoning is in order. Constantly harping on Trump’s strange affinity for Putin and suspicious connections to Russia isn’t sufficient; the far more substantive policy concessions made to Russia by the previous administration did at least as much damage to American interests, if not more. Are liberals willing to admit the reset was a giant miscalculation from the start? Are they willing to support sending arms to Ukraine? To redeploy missile defense systems to allies in Eastern Europe? Are they willing to concede that Obama’s Syria policy was an epic disaster that paved the way for Russia’s reemergence as a Middle Eastern military power? Are they, in other words, willing to renounce the foreign policy legacy of one of their most popular leaders? Because only that will demonstrate they’re serious about confronting Russia. Anything short reeks of partisanship."

 


Monday, December 25, 2023

Ukraine abandoned

 From the Los Angeles Times:

"Congress has left Ukraine in the cold. The consequences will be dire if aid isn’t renewed soon

Doyle McManusWashington Columnist 

Dec. 24, 2023

Ukraine’s war to repel Russia’s invasion suffered two major setbacks this year.

The first was on the battlefield, where a long-promised Ukrainian ground offensive was stymied by Russian fortifications that were stronger than expected.

The second is underway in Washington, where Republicans in Congress have held up President Biden’s request for $61 billion to keep Ukraine’s war effort going in 2024.

The battlefield setback was a painful disappointment for Ukrainian leaders, who hoped the offensive could turn the tide of the war.

The political problem could be even worse. If U.S. funding isn’t approved quickly, aid from Europe could dry up as well, and Ukraine’s ability to fight could erode dramatically.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told an audience in Washington that if the deadlock persists, it will create a “big risk to lose this war.”

His warning was for naught. Republican leaders in both houses of Congress say they support helping Ukraine in principle, but they‘re holding the aid hostage to bargain for tougher immigration rules, especially toward asylum seekers. .

The House of Representatives went home 10 days before Christmas without acting on the administration’s request. Senate negotiators from both parties stayed behind last week to try to strike a deal, but they fell short, too.

As a result, Ukraine doesn’t know whether it can count on more funding for the artillery shells and air defense weapons it needs to defend its cities from Russian onslaught.

Military experts say Ukraine’s armed forces can keep fighting until the end of January with ammunition they already have. But the uncertainty over future supplies has forced them to scale back operations and reduce their rate of artillery fire.

“A lower level of resources is going to mean a lower chance of success,” said Michael Kofman, a military analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The effect of delayed funding … will result in tangible deficits at the front line.”

There’s a broader political impact, too.

If Congress doesn’t approve funding quickly, the lesson to other countries will be that domestic politics has made the United States an unreliable ally.

For almost two years, Biden promised that the United States would support Ukraine “as long as it takes,” and urged other governments to do the same.

This month, faced with pushback, he downsized the commitment. Now it’s “as long as we can.”

“If Congress passes new funding by the end of January, it won’t be a major blow to our credibility,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow. “But if it drags on for months, it will be a disaster.”

GOP leaders said their decision to delay the funding was ordinary legislative hardball — a bargaining chip to win concessions on immigration, which most voters consider more important than Ukraine. But their willingness to stiff-arm Zelensky also reflected eroding support among GOP voters for Ukraine’s battle against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Polls show most Americans support helping Ukraine at current or higher levels of aid. But conservative Republican voters — the ones most likely to turn out for primary elections — are disproportionately opposed.

The logjam has left Ukraine in the cold, literally and figuratively.

The Ukrainians’ short-term military goal is to survive Russia’s winter offensive, which is likely to focus on civilian targets such as cities, electrical power plants and other economic infrastructure.

After that, the Ukrainians hope to use long-range missiles supplied by the U.S. and other countries plus home-grown drones to strike Russian targets.

In a recent interview with the Economist, Ukraine’s military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, called the situation a “deadlock,” adding that trench warfare does not favor Ukraine in the long run.

Without a technological breakthrough, he warned, “Sooner or later, we are going to find that we simply don’t have enough people to fight.”

In some wars, a deadlock might open the way for peace negotiations. Not this one.

At his four-hour-long news conference Dec. 14, Putin buoyantly declared: “Victory is ours.”

One reason for his confidence, he said, is how shaky Ukraine’s Western support appears.

Ukraine is “getting everything as freebies,” he said. “But those freebies can run out at some point, and it looks like they’re already starting to run out.”

He did not sound interested in seeking a compromise settlement. “There will be peace when we achieve our goals,” he said.

Those goals, he added, include replacing Zelensky’s government and disbanding Ukraine’s armed forces.

He doesn’t sound ready to give up his ambition to absorb Ukraine into Russia.

Our aid to Ukraine isn’t an act of charity. It’s in our interest to prevent Putin from expanding his empire.

Putin still thinks he can wait out the West — that the United States and Europe will tire of helping Ukrainians defend themselves and walk away.

The grim lesson of the last few weeks is that he may turn out to be right."