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2022-03-28 The Bully in the Schoolyard

Definition from Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary:

"A blustering fellow more insolent than courageous : one given to hectoring, browbeating and threatening: especially : One habitually threatening, harsh, or cruel [beyond words] to others weaker or smaller than himself."

There is no doubt that Putin and Putin's Russia is a bully. The question is: What are we going to do about it?

When I was a kid in a steel town in central Pennsylvania (Coatesville), there were always bullies in the schoolyard and in the Park where we kids played. What did we do about it? Well, we often got beat up. It was especially humiliating to have the beating occur as our friends stood by and looked on.

Growing up in a steel town was a seasoning experience. Especially when I didn't have any parents to come home to (my brother and I lived with our grandmother). If the occasion arose you had to stand your ground or be shunned. If that meant taking a beating, so be it. You were compelled to fight your own battles. Friends from the sidelines might shout encouragement, but that was it in the form of assistance.

The best strategy as it turned out was to fight back, ferociously, regardless of the bully's size. I soon discovered that more often than not this tactic worked. The bully would curse at you and then walk off. This was not a good strategy if more than one of them were together. Then the best thing to do was run like hell. If the bully's companion was about my size or smaller, however, I stayed to fight.

Once, as a young kid, I was hawking newspapers on a Coatesville downtown street. I was carrying all the cash I'd made that morning selling an armful of papers. Only a few were left: "Record. Coatesville Record. Get your Coatesville Record here", I shouted.

Two guys approached me from behind and walked on either side of me. The big guy (head and shoulders above me) told me to give him my money or else: I won't go into details. The other guy slightly smaller than me kept nudging me from my other side. I sized up my alternatives. The big guy was on my left. I switched the remaining papers to my left hand. Then swung my fist up and into the bug guy's jaw with as much force as a skinny 11 year old could muster. He buckled backwards holding his jaw and the other kid ran. I chased him.

Fact is, I'm still alive today writing you this.

Putin and Belarus are the two guys on Zelenskyy's sides. He has punched Putin in the face. The result is Putin's battering Zelenskyy with missiles from afar while the rest of us stand by and watch, shouting words of encouragement while throwing him toothpicks with which to defend himself. Biden looking on yells that "Putin cannot remain in power". The headline in today's Wall Street Journal screams "Biden's Remark on Putin Stirs Anxiety Among Western Allies." Zelenskyy as much calls us chicken shits: "cowards" to be exact. He's right.

Let's cut the bullshit and stop this incessant killing of innocent men, women, and children that we watch with shock and awe on TV every day. We should not be content to watch. We are acting like kids. We ought to be acting like parents.

2022-03-07 Look Over the Edge

Putin's plan was to overrun Ukraine with superior numbers and military hardware in just a few days. This included taking Kyiv, eradicating Zelenskyy , eliminating the democratically elected government, and intimidating the rest of the country by immediately placing Russian troops in all the major cities in Ukraine. With those troops in place, and military rule the order of the day, it would be difficult  if not impossible to rid the country of a Russian presence. Blitzkrieg.

Not so fast said the well-trained Ukrainian military, and Russia's plan A has been abandoned by default. Plan B, bombing civilians, is the ad hoc response: not a good choice. It's like having the tree you just cut down fall on you.

Putin implies he will use tactical nuclear weapons if his troops in Ukraine are attacked. But he is not stupid. Now it's NATO's turn to attack. Tell Russia  they have 24 hours to get out, or they will face the consequences of an all out war with NATO; this does not have to be a bluff. And that withdrawal should include the separatists in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The future becomes untenable the longer Russia is given the upper hand in Ukraine. NATO will necessarily be drawn into a wider conflict not of its choosing, and without its current favorable military position. Russia will annex Moldova next, and gain the time necessary to recruit military support from Syria and China.


With All due Respect to Boris Johnson

Nothing short of war is going to have any significant impact on Putin's empire building decisions. Furthermore the majority of the Russian populace believe in and support Putin; they are not about to  overthrow him for what he is doing in Ukraine.


Russia, in spite of any sanctions levied on it, has the  energy, agricultural, mineral and industrial resources  to carry on quite independently. Moreover, Russia's empire building is fully supported and even led by China. Russia also has significant moral and economic support from African nations.


Take notice: what we have right now is a reprise of the conditions that prefaced WW II, when  Germany threatened the western hemisphere and Japan the eastern half.


This time, however, a world war with nuclear arms would assure the devastation of all humanity. The Ukraine of 2022 is the Czechoslovakia of 1938. We simply cannot afford to retrace  the path we took into WW II.  We need to forcefully demonstrate that the democracies of the world will not tolerate the reprise of Hitler's imperial vision.


We can only accomplish this by force of arms. Half of Russia's army is concentrated in the Ukraine, outside the Russian mainland. Putin has at least the  option of withdrawing his troops if he is placed under military duress  Now is the time to strike with the least probability of forcing a nuclear holocaust in the future, and at the same time give immediate pause to China's imperial ambitions.





We are in a race with Russia and China for whose form of government will dominate the world for generations to come.

Both Putin an Xi represent a top down form of government where people are ruled by dictators. We have been working for years to develop a bottom up form of government where rules for behavior are determined by the people themselves.

Today we face a direct challenge to our way of life and our influence on the other countries of the world by Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Today, 01 March 2022, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, made an appeal to the United States for direct military intervention: troops not simply munitions.

In his own words, broadcast on CNN, he said that  the Ukrainian people are fighting valiantly but cannot possibly hold out alone against the overwhelming manpower and military might of Russia. And that he needed an additional military presence, the United States in particular, to win this war.

As Putin invaded Ukraine, social media in China rejoiced at his bravado. Those expressing this praise are mostly young adults who have  come of age knowing  nothing but dictatorship, censorship, and the absence of freedom of self expression.

These are the people who will soon become officers of rank in the Chinese military, or play a role as leading figures in the Chinese Communist Party. They are closely studying the responses of the United States and other democracies to China's territorial incursions, and the political and territorial incursions of other dictatorships around the world.

They are looking for evidence of strength in dictatorships and weakness in democracies. In the past twenty years dictatorships have shown nothing but healthy growth, while democracies have been prone to self destruction. The young Chinese population is rooting for Putin, and hand-in-hand, the demise of democracy in the United States.

The problem, as supporters of dictatorships see it, is the inefficiency of a democratic way of life. The truth is that you can't have freedom of choice without inefficiencies. You can't run a democracy like you can a corporation. Democracies are slow to act, even on important matters, because all opinions need be taken into consideration: even those of the uninformed. In this country today, being uniformed even seems to be a highly regarded state of mind.

However, there are some matters that cannot wait to be hashed out in endless detail, especially where the evidence for action is clear, and history is a clear guide to the future. Ukraine is one of those matters.

We cannot afford to wait for another Pearl Harbor to awaken our fighting spirit, Ukraine will be gone as well as many other smaller countries in Eastern Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. Couple that with the nuclear threat that will be posed by Iran and North Korea and you can kiss any hope for a democratically governed world goodbye.

Any military historian can give you many examples of how hesitation to act on the battlefield when the opportunity presented itself has resulted in the prolongation of a war. Our own Civil War is rife with examples of this sort in the Union cause. I recommend "Grant" by Ron Chernow for documented evidence thereof. And no one need be reminded of the incursions of Germany under Hitler and Japan as predictors of WW II.

We need to act now, today, to stop Putin. We have half of Putin's army parked on a forty mile stretch of highway  leading to Kyiv. Destroy that and Putin's little war will come to a sudden halt. All this without touching the Russian mainland directly. Otherwise we sit and watch and offer our "thoughts  and prayers" to those remnants of families streaming once again into Western Europe, leaving piles of Stinger and Javelin missiles in the hands of Russian troops.

What a waste of years of NATO preparation for just this sort of conflict. And the Chinese and other dictatorships around the world will be throwing parties in Putin's honor.




"This is Putin's War. But America and NATO Aren't Innocent Bystanders"

—Thomas L Friedman, New York Times opinion article, 21 February 2022


I generally like Friedman's political analyses, but this time his opinion is so far out in right field that he is sitting in the stands. However, he is not the only one who is blaming  the U.S. and NATO for helping to create a world order that "forced" Putin into invading Ukraine. The attached article is his explanation of how Friedman arrived at this conclusion, but a careful interpretation of the facts, rather than acceptance of opinions from extant policy wonks at work in the 90s, tell a much different story. And strangely enough they all appear in this same article.


Friedman's argument goes something like this.


After the Soviet Union collapsed to end the Cold War during the years 1988-1991, the U.S began expanding  NATO to include a host of now independent Eastern Bloc countries. These included Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Bulgaria through 2004 . More have since been added. All of these countries are in close proximity to Russia's western border.


This was not a big deal in the pre-Putin days, and the early Putin years , when Russia grew back some semblance of economic strength. But in the last decade Russia's economy has stagnated due primarily to the trillions of dollars being siphoned off by the oligarchs who control the country's economy. Putin needed a distraction to hide this truth, so he chose the close presence of NATO.  He focused on the military threat that NATO posed to the Russian mainland, and sold this propaganda wholesale and successfully to the Russian populace.


When the Ukraine began making overtures to NATO in recent years, it was all Putin needed to set his sights on this resource rich region. He started with Crimea, annexing it by force in 2014. Since then he has supported secessionists in eastern Ukraine in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Now he is in the process of forcefully annexing  the entire country of 40 million people.

Again, ostensibly because of the dangers posed by NATO in the Ukraine to Russia and Russians themselves: NATO is the bogeyman that needs to be held at bay or defeated at all costs. Today even  China has stated that it "understands" the threat.


At least that's how Friedman sees it. I see his argument as a big stretch of his imagination, or better, simply a "stretch".


The former Soviet "Republics" themselves sought refuge in NATO, and were not actively recruited by the United States. NATO was not abandoned by its members after the end of the Cold War because they and the newer members foresaw a time when Russia might once again covet unrestricted access to the resources of these countries, and the exploitation of the people. If I were one of those people living in a Soviet bloc country for any number of years beginning in 1922 and ending in 1991, especially during the Stalin years, my first move after obtaining my freedom would have been to run to NATO for protection,  hopefully obviating this domination from ever happening again.


But it is. And they were right to run to NATO.  And now it's time for NATO to make itself felt as a force to be reckoned with.