Questions Warhawks Must Answer

We have lent a grave ear to the war coverage these past three weeks. And we have concluded Mr. Putin’s unfolding crimes are atrocious.

All civilized men condemn them. And let the record reflect: We are with the civilized — even if we are not necessarily among the civilized.

Yet this war coverage has likewise left us confused… and puzzled. But why? Who can be confused or puzzled?

Here you have Vladimir Putin, a mighty fee-fi-fo-fum, a berserker out of time, a 21st-century Hitler.

That is, the year is not truly 2022. The year is rather 1938… and a madman is limbering his legs for a mighty romp.

Cede him one Ukrainian inch today, we are informed, and he will seize a European mile tomorrow.

We Must Act Now!

After Ukraine he will walk several yards into the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

He will next take galloping strides into Romania and Poland. A half-mile in, he will set his cap for the finish line — another half-mile distant — Germany and France.

The wind to his back, he will soon finish his mile. He will break the tape at Calais. He will then swim the channel.

A new iron curtain will thus descend upon Europe. Not of communism, but of authoritarianism. And reactionism.

Homosexuals will be jailed, all genders but two will be banned, mass immigration and multiculturalism will die the death.

Orthodox Christianity will spread its suffocating nets across secular Europe.

There you have the prevailing Western consensus — Putin is Hitler — and Hitler is Putin. The two are one (yet the Russian vows to sweep “Nazis” from Ukraine).

Thus Ukraine is the “ground zero” of civilization itself. Fight Putin now, when you can — or fight him tomorrow — when you cannot.

Does This Make Sense?

Yet we confessed at the outset to a confusion. Where then is our confusion? It is here…

The same doomsdayers who match Putin with Hitler…who shriek about Putin’s vast territorial hungers… at the same time chuckle at Russia’s military incompetence.

The Russians are “bogged down” in Ukraine they tell us, stymied and halted. They field an unmotivated conscript army, lacking all martial spirit.

Many of these Russian pitiables — if reports are accurate — abandon their vehicles and surrender themselves to the enemy.

Moreover, these Russians lack fuel, they lack food, they lack ammunition. Thus the Russian bear is proving a lumbering doofus, an oafish brute mired in the Ukrainian muck.

It has taken its bites of flesh, yes. But it is choking upon the portion. It cannot worry the thing down — and it may never get it down.

Is this the army that will gulp Europe?

A Toy Economy

What is more, Russia boasts a toy economy unequal to the challenge. Mr. Paul De Grauwe, chair of European political economy for the European Institute of the London School of Economics:

According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s GDP amounted to $1.7 trillion in 2021. That is barely 10% of the European Union’s GDP, or roughly the combined output of Belgium ($620 billion) and the Netherlands ($1.1 trillion).

With such a small economy, Russia is hardly equipped to win a war against a country that is fighting its forces tooth and nail, let alone to occupy that country — and face a determined insurgency — for an extended period. Russia today spends some $62 billion annually (about 4% of its GDP) on its military. That’s just 8% of what the United States spends – and not nearly enough to sustain an intense and protracted war effort.

We must conclude that the Russian bear is a bear of paper, of tissue paper. Its growl constitutes a greater menace than its bite.

And yet we are told — by the identical experts — that this is the roaring and mighty bear that will take aboard all of Europe once it digests Ukraine.

Which is it? We request a square answer. We are not certain we will receive one.

Go Ahead, Keep Poking

We are further informed that prodding this dual-natured bear is reasonable policy.

Mr. Putin has already warned of grave consequences for nations shoveling arms into Ukraine.

Yet the United States and its European allies have already sent in arms, they argue — and the Russian has sat idle upon his hands.

Thus the United States and its European allies can keep ramming their stick against the bear. He desires war with the NATO powers no more than they desire war with him.

They assure us fears of nuclear war are sheer hysteria. Vladimir will not play with his nuclear toys because he realizes the United States will play with its own.

That is, he is “rational.” He will go so far — but no further.

What if Putin Isn’t Rational?

Yet the very gentlemen who take their stand upon Mr. Putin’s rationality label him a “madman.” A “psychopath.” He is “unhinged.”

A madman… by definition… is not rational. Nor is an unhinged psychopath rational.

The Russian has already executed crimes against humanity, so-called. How can anyone know what a madman will do next?

Is atomic warfare beyond him? We do not know. Nor, we hazard, do the experts.

Do we need a definitive answer? Perhaps it is best to stop poking this ursine beast. Perhaps it is best to let him exhaust himself in the present rumpus. Let him diminish himself.

What did Monsieur Bonaparte say?

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

It appears Mr. Putin is making a mistake. Why interrupt him?

The 10 Rules of Propaganda

Yet many in the United States appear determined to interrupt him. Rather than stand paws off, they would engage.

They are of course hot to rile and inflame the American people. And so they go on television and yell about Mr. Putin’s infinite barbarities… practice the dark arts of the propagandist.

Lord Arthur Ponsonby was a British diplomat and politician, dates 1871–1946. This cagey fellow identified 10 rules of propaganda. They are these:

1. We don’t want war, we are only defending ourselves.

2. The other guy is solely responsible for this war.

3. Our adversary’s leader is evil and looks evil.

4. We are defending a noble purpose, not special interest.

5. The enemy is purposefully causing atrocities; we only commit mistakes.

6. The enemy is using unlawful weapons.

7. We have very little losses, the enemy is losing big.

8. Intellectuals and artists support our cause.

9. Our cause is sacred.

10. Those who doubt our propaganda are traitors.

Why Defend Those Who Won’t Defend Themselves?

Now we ask: How many of these rules presently manifest themselves in the media — both broadcast and print?

We can identify nine at a stroke. With some slight additional time, likely all 10.

Rule No. 10 is presently having itself an inning.

Please understand: Propaganda is not necessarily false. It often weaves truth into its tapestry to trick the eye.

Vladimir Putin may be an abomination among men, the hellcat of hellcats. Yet those against intervention are not necessarily traitors… Sen. Romney.

Besides, why should the United States place a nuclear gamble over Europe?

We observed a recent poll indicating that substantial portions of European peoples would not defend their nations upon invasion.

And so we ask: If Europeans decline to defend themselves against Mr. Putin… why should the United States?


Brian Maher

Brian Maher
Managing Editor, The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning