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To Win in Ukraine, Think Outside the Box

Bomb them back into the Stone Age (Courtesy CNN)

To win the war in Ukraine, the United States needs to think outside the box. Whether or not it can remains to be seen.

At this point, the war is not front page news. The daily battles seem like more of the same and not anything new. Maybe if the Russian Air Force entered the fray that would be a game changer.

In public, we hear that Russia has sustained massive casualties. The number mentioned is over 200,000 dead and/or wounded. That is the same number we have hearing for weeks if not months. It calls into question that validity of the number.

In public, we hear that Russia is running low on artillery shells. Similarly that is a claim that has been made for weeks in not months. There always seem to be more.

One shocking image that has surface comes from space. It shows the map of Ukraine and the lights that are being generated. The photo of a nearly black country then is compared to a map of Ukraine prior to the artillery bombardment. The difference in palpable. These images attest the success of the Russian artillery barrage targeting infrastructure even without the Air Force joining the battle. If one were to judge the present status of the war based on these images, one would conclude that Russia is winning. If one were to judge the status of the war based on the facts on the ground, one would conclude that Russia is winning. Ukraine looks like Germany after the Allied bombing or Georgia after Sherman marched through it.


During World War II, the United States became known as the arsenal of democracy. The nickname refers to the unleashing of American industrial might on behalf of the Allied cause. America’s multiple civilian factories were transitioned into producing the arms and armaments necessary to support the cause. Cars could become tanks. Civilian planes could become war planes. The very power the Japanese feared could be unleashed was, in fact unleashed.

Recently we have been exposed to the double fallacy of transferring the lessons of the past to today. First, there was a big to-do about whether or not to supply Ukraine with the tanks it needed. When the European nations advocating a more robust and immediate response to Ukraine’s plea, their own arsenals were found wanting. These countries had very few tanks to begin with and those they had often were is disrepair.

For that matter, NATO’s military production has been allowed to whither in country after country … especially if they did not border Russia. No one needed Donald Trump to decimate NATO as a fighting force, NATO had done it to itself. No matter how willing countries were to come to the military aid of Ukraine, they simply were unable to do so. They did not have the infrastructure necessary to manufacture the equipment needed and what they did have in stock often was not working.

Unfortunately, some of these shortcomings extended to the United States. Much of American manufacturing has been outsourced to China. Furthermore, technology changes since World War II mean it is not so easy to convert an automobile production line to a modern tank. Gearing up to produce war planes – in the event it comes to that – takes time. In fact up and down the line for the military equipment needed, expanding production to meet Ukrainian needs requires years.

Times have changed. Once upon a time, the Unites States military was supposed to be combat ready to fight two and one-half wars. We are not even remotely capable so doing. True the military budget is huge but is it adequate to fight one and one-half wars where the one is China for when it invades Taiwan?  The answer clearly is “No.” We talk about the United States as a global power and have aircraft carriers around the world with many bases (including now back in the Philippines) but that does not translate into being ready for combat.

No one expected a land war in Europe such as the one we are fighting now. Perhaps after this war is over, it will be possible to indulge in such fantasies … unless, of course, even with Ukrainian victory this is only round one until Russia gears up again for round two (unlikely).

Still our ability to successfully predict the type of war to be fought has not been so good. We did not predict an Afghan type war. Nor were we prepared for a Ukrainian type war. This means as we strategize for future military encounters even with such likely opponents as China and Iran, we must recognize that they will be different from the current war.


At this point everyone is expecting more of the same. The documents recently disclosed are not a recipe for success. They are a commitment to stay the course. The hope is that if Putin is living in the real world and not his isolated bubble, he will realize that he cannot win in Ukraine and eventually call of the war. He will have to content himself with a decimated foe even if it still exists as a country. The darken sky tells the story.

Sad to say, what the United States should do hasn’t changed since last year. Here are excerpts from that blog of thinking outside the box.

Cranes for Ukraine: Build It Back Better

March 28, 2022

The time then is now for the United States to take the initiative.

In my last post (Putin Isn’t the Only Loser: Trump and the Woke Are Too), I mentioned Herbert Hoover and the Marshall Plan as two examples of the United States helping to build Europe back better. Now it is time to start planning to do the same in Ukraine.

We know the areas which have been devastated by Russian artillery. We know that there are mountains of rubble that need to be disposed of in some way. We know that there are buildings still partially standing in a dilapidated state that will have to be demolished adding to the rubble.

We have the expertise to conduct a giant 9/11 removal project. Now instead of it being two buildings, it will be cities as it was in Europe after World War II.

President Joe Biden should immediately call for the creation of a team of nations and construction companies to begin the planning for the removal of the Russian rubble. The planning for this international effort should begin now and it should be public.

President Joe Biden should then call for the creation of a team of nations, city planners, and construction companies to begin the planning for the rebuilding of the cities destroyed by Russian artillery. Working with the Ukrainians who lived in and governed these cities, city planners, architects, and engineers should begin planning for the new cities to be built once the Russian rubble is removed.

The time to start planning for the cleaning up of the Ukrainian cities and their rebuilding is now. We should not wait until the last minute. We should not wait until Putin allows us to do so. We should show the world now that we are planning now for the future of the country. We should show the refugees that they will have a country to which to return. We should show Russia that the Ukraine will not be destroyed.

The planning for the assembling of the “Cranes for Ukraine” convoys should start now. We saw how long it took for Putin to assemble his equipment for destruction. It will take time to assemble the equipment for construction.

Start now.

Sadly, a year from now, there is a good chance I will be able to write a third version of this blog.

Thomas and Friends to the Rescue

Will Only Taiwan Be Allowed to Attack Chinese Supply Depots if Invaded?

To Boldly Go Where No American Official Has Gone Before (

There are many lessons to be learned from the current invasion of the Ukraine by Russia. Like the investigation of January 6, the story is still unfolding and the outcome cannot yet be known. Still there are some observations worth considering for where we are in the world at present and what may happen.

Lesson 1: Only Russia and China Can/Will Invade countries

When it comes to traditional wars between counties and nation-states, in the world as it exists today, only two countries are likely to invade another country – Russia and China. Yes they are two big nuclear-armed countries but the prospects for actual invasions is limited to a few specific targets. (India/Pakistan?)

For Russia, it already is in the midst of an invasion of Ukraine. The war is not going well and could even get worse. It has stalked a huge portion of its military resources on the now comparatively small goal of seizing a portion of neighbor. Given the prospects that even more of its once vaunted military force could be destroyed, the chances of any additional invasions such as to the Baltics or Poland seem slim. In the end, this may be the last gasp of a Russian military threat. In fact, its own continued existence as a Putin-dictatorship may be jeopardized.

For China, its one and only target for invasion in Taiwan. Certainly it will throw its weight around in the South China Sea, but that does not mean it has any intentions of invading any country in the Pacific yet alone Japan or Australia. Instead its preferred path to power is through economic domination and bullying the way it does over the NBA, Hollywood, and the Olympics. Like Russia with Ukraine, China considers Taiwan to be part of its country so it remains a target for invasion.

Lesson 2: Are only invaded Nations allowed to strike the invader?

The present war in the Ukraine is being fought under the rules that only it can directly strike the invading the nation on its own grounds. This is due to Russia having nuclear weapons. Otherwise the 40-mile and 8-mile convoys would be decimated and the supply depots in Russia would have exploded by now.

On the other hand, Russia is free to interfere with American elections as it did especially in 2016.

The United States and its allies are free to accept the invitation from the Ukraine to send troops to that country and to begin planning for the rebuilding of the country. As previously stated, there are vast areas in the country where there are no Russian present (Cranes for Ukraine: Build It Back Better). What are we waiting for? There is a huge amount of rebuilding which needs to be in the capital and elsewhere. What are we waiting for? The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom visits that capital city and we do not even have an embassy there? What are we waiting for?

Russia is putting practically everything it has into this war and we are not. Why not?

If China decides to invade Taiwan, will only Taiwan be allowed to strike China? What precedents are we establishing now?

Lesson 3: The Wars within Nations Are Really International Wars

The wars that we are having and will continue to have technically are considered domestic wars because of the way Europeans have drawn the maps. Yugoslavia never was a country or nation-state except that others pretended it was. That kind of division or breakup into its constituent parts is the more typical type of war that is and will be likely to occur.

How come non-Arab Kurds were part of Iraq while Arab Kuwait was not?

How come Arab Sudanese who for centuries raided multiple black African tribes to the south and independent Darfur were combined into one country instead of being three right from the start?

Pakistan already divided once politically reflecting its geographic separation. Will it separate into its constituent part as well?

At present, there are multiple nations on paper in Africa and Asia that exist solely because European colonizers drew the borders that way. The lack of stability of these entities will be a sore point for years to come as they often are already. There is no mechanism at present to undo the artificiality of these false nations except by war among the different peoples forced to live in one political entity with other people with whom they little in common besides geographic proximity. Even without climate change, the situation is ripe for emigration and refugees as is happening anyway. At some point, the so-called United Nations will have to face the fact that many of its members are nations in name only and we are not united.


The world is changing rapidly while we still use the same old playbook.

COVID was and continues to be a global threat. Who knows what the next pandemic will be?

Climate change increases whether we choose to recognize it or not? Why do we think coping with refugees is the best way to deal with climate change?

More and more countries will be destabilized. We have and are seeing it in Central America and in parts of Africa and Asia. How much longer can we pretend the United Nations is an effective way to deal with this collapse?

Finally, what happens if the United States is both unwilling and unable to be the leader the world needs us to be?  Right now we are trapped between the Woke and the Trumpicans with a weak president.

The Woke assault on the country will only accelerate as we approach the 250th anniversary of its birth. They will continually undermine the very idea of America playing a leadership role in the world. For them it is an example of American Exceptionalism that is best abandoned. Tell that to the Ukrainians.

The Trumpicans have paid no price for their blatant attempt to seize power after an election they knew they had lost. They have conned tens of millions of Americans into believing their attempted coup was legitimate political discourse. They are poised to seize power in one house of the government in the next election. If Putin can hold out, he may no longer need to be concerned about American support for the Ukraine and instead become the savvy genius the American former president says he is.

This is a critical moment in world history and we are not ready for it. Even in his prime, Joe Biden was not a dynamic visionary leader even in his prime. Now that shortcoming matters. Big time.

Putin’s COVID War: Facing His Mortality

Putin's strawberries (Reuters / Centers for Disease Control)

Why now? Why invade the Ukraine now? The previous post (Putin’s Last Rodeo: It’s Now or Never) explored his rationale for the invasion, such as there is one. The issue here is why did Putin choose this particular moment to act on that rationale no matter how farfetched and delusional it may appear to be?

Here we may have been misled by the Hollywood image of our Russian adversary. In the movies 007 always confronts a highly rational and disciplined foe with clear-cut objectives. We see the KGB operative as coolly collected. Move and counter move. Three dimensional chess. A battle of wits.

The model seems to be derailed in the current crisis. If one examined the invasion rationally, on paper, Putin could have chosen better.


On paper, the most opportune time for Putin to invade the Ukraine occurred when the American President was a Russian asset. Drawing on the analysis of niece Mary Trump, it is easy to put the Putin-Trump dynamic in family terms that do not reflect well on the immature child president craving alpha-male approval. As I wrote (Putin’s Pence: What Does He Get from the Relationship?):

How long would it have taken a skilled KGB operator like Putin to realize that he didn’t need to put the alpha male wannabee on the Russian payroll? Putin’s Pence would be a Russian asset all on his own, so pathetic was the American President’s need for Putin’s approval. The alpha male dominated the child inside the body of an adult.

On Putin’s side, it is relatively easy to determine what he gets or wants from his relationship with his American asset.

End of the sanctions
Restoration of the G8
Approval for the invasion of the Ukraine
Approval for Russia’s actions abroad including in Afghanistan, Africa, Libya, and Syria
Permission to violate the American elections in 2020 as he did in 2016
Approval for invading the Baltics should he decide to do so.

Historians analyzing this invasion will have easy points of comparison between the previous administration when Putin did not invade and the current one when he did.

The Russian-asset President would have praised the invasion as a work of genius.
The Russian-asset President would not have sanctioned Putin or the oligarchs – They are his customers.
The Russian-asset President would not have sent arms to a country that did not do him a favor – He resisted sending the arms he was legally obligated to send anyway.
The Russian-asset President would not have organized a global alliance against Russia – He spent his administration undermining NATO.

I suspect that the secret closed-door meetings included discussions about invasions.

In short, the ideal time for Putin to have invaded the Ukraine was in the previous administration. Yet he did not do it. That attests that cool calm reasoning by a mastermind was not a factor in this invasion. Other considerations are relevant.


For several years, Foxhub has disseminated a consistent portrayal of Joe Biden. If he was not already dead, then he was on the verge of death. If he was awake then it was only for a few moments before he went back to sleep. If he spoke it was nonsense babble.

Foxhub and the Trumpican-media apparatus was persistent in presenting Joe Biden as too weak for the job … especially in contrast with President Rambo, the most masculine President in American history. And then there was the Afghanistan withdrawal.

We know how popular Foxhub is in Russia. It is quite possible that Putin drank the Kool Aid and sees Biden as a weak figure whom he could dominate. If so he erred.

This mistake in judgement was not Putin’s only error.

He appears to have misjudged the Ukrainian reaction to the prospect of being freed by their Russian brothers. They were supposed to welcome the Russians. He did not anticipate the exponential growth in Ukrainian nationalism as directly result of his invasion.

He appears to have no long term plan for the occupation of the Ukraine once (if?) his military imposes Russian rule on the country. How exactly does he plan to govern the country? If his presumption of a welcome was in error, then his failure to anticipate the challenge of governing compounds that error. He did not think this through in part due to his false assumption that the Ukrainians were supposed to be happy about being liberated. Did he create his own Afghanistan?

He appears to have misjudged the reaction of the Russian people. Why are they attacking and killing their literal brothers and sisters given the intermarriages? Even with his control of the media, Putin’s explanations seem farfetched to many Russians … especially those with access to non-Russian news sources.

He appears to have misjudged how much the Russian people also see themselves as part of the West just as the Ukrainians do. Russian athletes, Russian artists, Russian oligarchs and their children are all used to travelling in the West and buying goods there. Western soft power should not be underestimated in either Russia or the Ukraine. The simple-minded former American President who equated taking over a country with $2 of sanctions missed the mark too. Not only has Putin accelerated the development of Ukrainian nationalism, he is bringing to the surface the Russian desire to part of the West (and not a vassal to China) too. He seems to forget that his hero Peter the Great opened Russia to the West.


The terms commentators are using to describe Putin’s state of mind are truly frightening. He is unhinged. He is delusional. He is isolated. He is isolated. He is isolated.

By now, Westerners have seen the strange table meeting between Putin and Macron. We are aware of the seven-hour in advance appearance demanded in exchange for a photo-op with Russian doctors and not French doctors administering the required testing. We are aware of Putin’s public putdown of his own spy chief. He sure seems to be behaving more like Donald Trump than Joe Biden!

As to the cause of this aberrant behavior, may I suggest that COVID has caused Putin to confront his own mortality and failure to achieve his life goals? The virus has not been kind to Russia. The vaccination prowess of the country is suspect.

The result has been a leader who has erected a ring of barriers to separate himself from direct human contact. True he is an aging dictator as commentators have pointed, but his behavior suggests special circumstances. He is deathly afraid of catching the disease and succumbing to it. He is taking every precaution he can to minimize the possibility of this premature death. It is as if he is watching the sands of his lifetime continually dripping down leaving with little time left to make his mark in history as he understands it. One commentator compared Putin to Captain Queeg and his strawberries. How do you think he will react if the war drags on and he cannot even claim victory? The longer the war lasts the more his grip on reality will be tested. How will the Russian oligarchs, the Russian military, and the Russian people react then?

Putin’s Last Rodeo: It’s Now or Never

If Putin stops there, he wins; if he continues ... (

Vladimir Putin is 68 years old.

He is closer to the end of his reign in Russia than to his beginning.

He has ruled Russia this entire century.

He has ruled Russia this entire millennium.

What does he have to show for his rule in history?

One area of agreement in the effort to predict what will happen in the Ukraine is that one and only individual is the decision maker.  Learned people and experts have filled the airwaves and websites with their prognostications. All of the points they raise are no more than ivory tower debating points. But the situation is not an academic one where the outcome can be determined by reasoned discussion, aka “negotiations.”

What is being overlooked or minimized in the plethora of analyses is the recognition that the current crisis is solely one Putin’s choosing. No Archduke has been assassinated. No ship Maine has been exploded. No missiles have been surreptitiously snuck onto an island a mere 90 miles from America. Nothing has occurred which could have triggered the encircling and invading of the Ukraine with a huge proportion of the entire Russian military. The catalyst for the event is solely in the mind of its instigator. Putin launched this threat solely because he needed to.

Putin famously has asserted that:

First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. 

The century he meant was the 20th century and not the 21st when he spoke these words. The idea that one could have a rational debate on the merits of this claim is preposterous. It is what he believes and will believe until his dying day. And even though he named the Soviet Union, he was not bemoaning the collapse of communism. Quite the country, just as Stalin called upon his people to fight for Mother Russia in the darkest days of World War II, so Putin was referring to Russia, the Russia that seemingly was the co-equal with the United States in the battle for world supremacy.

Russia today is a hollow shell of what it once was. True it has a nuclear arsenal second only to the United States and still more than China. But it has no ideology that even can provide a fig leaf to its global ambitions. It has no economic success story that it can proclaim to the world. Its only world class achievements seem to be in hacking, the military, and drugged athletes.

Putin’s concern is Russia’s role in human history and his personal prowess in making that claim real. From the Middle East to Africa to Latin America, Putin is extending Russia’s limited resources in the effort to be recognized as a giant astride the globe as China has done. Russia lacks the economic resources to compete at that level but still it tries.

So if the demise of the Russian empire was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century, what does Putin have to show for having reversed it, for having undone the havoc foisted upon the Russian people? In his 2005 speech, Putin then went on to say:

As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.

Not only was the Russian empire no more, Russia did not even rule all the Russian people. So many of them were beyond the borders of what was left of Russia.

In this context, Putin’s goals are clear. At minimum, before he dies or his forced to leave office, he wants his legacy to be that at least he put Humpty Dumpty back together again for the Russian people. He wants those people beyond the fringes of Russian territory to be part of Russian rule even if they are in separate countries. It is one thing for Moslems to be separate from Russia; it is quite another for God-fearing Orthodox Russians to be beyond the pale.

Eastern Ukraine is not the Sudetenland. Putin’s dominance of this Russian-speaking area beyond Russia’s borders is not a prelude to a larger campaign to seize non-Russian empire lands in Europe and to dominate a continent. There has been no invasion from the Russian perspective because the lands have declared their independence so how can the United States claim otherwise? Russia is not invading the foreign country of the Ukraine, he is assisting the independent countries formerly dominated by the Ukraine in their quest for independence. Whether this ploy makes him a genius or not is a separate issue.

For Putin, it is now or never. It is time for him to stamp his legacy in Russian history. His Russia will rule Russian-speaking people. We have seen Yugoslavia dissolve into its constituent parts. We have seen Czechoslovakia divide into its constituent parts. We have seen the ongoing debate in the United Kingdom about both Scotland and Northern Island. We have watched Sudan split.

We know that many countries in the United Nations are lines on a map and not real national entities. Libya. Syria. Iraq/Kuwait/Kurds. If Putin is willing to stop at Russian-speaking people to affirm his place in history, then he holds the winning hand in the current Ukraine crisis. If he seeks not just the Russian-speaking portions of the Ukraine but the entire country, then events on the ground may spiral out of control, the circumstances are more dire for both him and the world. We should know in a few hours which way he will go.


P.S. The assertion by the alpha-male wannabe that Putin is a genius is exactly what he should have been expected to say. The hope that it will be the straw that breaks the Trumpican’s camel’s back is a forlorn one. The new Congress may very well favor Putin over NATO just as Trumpicans prefer Lee to Lincoln and support the overthrow of the Constitution.