Israel Falls into the 4GW Trap

As of this writing, Israeli forces have penetrated Gaza city and are on their way to taking northern Gaza.  Tactically, they are succeeding, as state forces usually do against 4GW opponents.  In the process, they are losing at the moral level, also as state forces usually do.  The result promises to be that, at the strategic level, Israel will defeat itself.  That is the 4GW trap.

Martin van Creveld calls this the power of weakness.  Physically, Hamas is far weaker than Israel.  It has no fighter jets, no tanks, and little artillery beyond mortars and bottle rockets.  Israel has all of these things and it is using them freely.  This turns Hamas into David and Israel into Goliath.  

Van Creveld illustrates the 4GW trap with a parable.  If a child is behaving horribly in public, an adult can get away with giving him one good wack.  But if the adult tries to administer a prolonged beating to the child, onlookers are soon horrified.  They intervene, the police are called, and the man is arrested.  He has committed a crime.

The horror generated by Hamas’s brutal massacre on October 7 gave Israel the initial moral advantage.  But the news cycle moves on.  Now, what the world is seeing day after day is Palestinian civilians, including women and children, blown apart by Israeli bombing, dragged lifeless from buildings Israel has collapsed, deprived of food, water, and medicine, with no safe place to flee to and winter soon coming on.  Israel has become the adult beating up a helpless child.

At present, Israel seems to be saying, so what?  What are you going to do about it?  No Arab state will fight Israel because it cannot win; Israel has nuclear weapons.  Hezbollah is so far staying out, in part because Hamas is Sunni and Hezbolla is Shiite and also because it has a lot to lose; its vast rocket force is a “fleet in being” that protects it only so long as it is not used.  Iran is fighting through its proxies, which is both safer and more effective because it cannot do more on its own than strike Israel with some V-2s.

The moral level of war operates more slowly, but also more powerfully.  Israel is alienating not just governments but ordinary people all over the world.  Israel is a state that can only survive with external support.  It needs money from overseas, weapons from other countries, and markets for its products.  If external support stops, it is just a matter of time before Israel goes under.  That is the ultimate defeat at the strategic level.

The moral level also intersects the operational level.  With extensive American help, Israel has been fundamentally changing its relations to its Arab neighbors.  It has ententes with Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, and Morocco.  It was on the cusp of a similar arrangement with Saudi Arabia.  The development of normal relations with these countries gives Israel new markets, new allies (discreetly) against Iran and also against Islamic 4GW entities, and legitimacy in the eyes of the world.  Now, the moral defeat Israel is inflicting on itself in Gaza puts all these relationships in danger.  Those countries’ governments face pressure that grows daily as their populations get angrier with Israel.  At some point, their own legitimacy will be at stake.  Either they will have to return to a policy of hostility toward Israel or risk overthrow.  Either outcome defeats Israel at the operational level, thus feeding her destruction through isolation at the strategic level.

The strategy for Israel I outlined in my last column was designed specifically to avoid moral defeat.  So long as Israel refuses to take the moral level of war into account, regardless of what is happening on or under the ground in Gaza, Hamas is winning.

A Strategy for Israel

Shortly after World War I, a British officer said, “Thank God that’s over.  Now we can get back to real soldiering.”  That expresses the U.S. armed forces’ attitude towards Fourth Generation war, war waged by entities other than the states, following our withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Hamas’s deadly raid on Israel, the worst defeat Israel has suffered since the early days of the 1973 war, has put 4GW back front-and-center, whether state armed forces like it or not.

As I write this, Israel has painted itself into a strategic corner.  Part of the reason is that Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s premier, set a strategic goal very difficult to attain, namely the complete destruction of Hamas.  That would appear to require an Israeli invasion of Gaza, a fight Hamas is prepared for, will welcome, and will result in high Israeli as well as Gaza civilian casualties.

Another cause of Israel’s strategic predicament is inherent in Fourth Generation war: the moral balance is tilting in favor of the people currently under attack, i.e., those who live in Gaza.

Hamas’s initial raid on Israel was a typical action by a 4GW entity.  It bore no resemblance to an invasion by a state army.  Rather, it looked very much like an Indian raid on an American frontier settlement.  The savages massacred a lot of people, took others hostage, set buildings on fire, then either died fighting or ran for home, hostages in tow.  One of my ancestors, Hannah Dustin, was taken in just such a raid on the Massachusett’s frontier in the 1690s.  Not only did she escape her captors, she killed several Indians in the process.  We saw similar heroic actions by civilians in some of the kibbutzim Hamas overran.

That original massacre gave Israel the moral high ground.  But as is usual in 4GW, as the fighting drags on and Israel pits its high-tech, well-equipped armed forces against low-tech, comparatively poorly equipped Hamas fighters, and the bombing kills more and mo4re Gaza civilians, the moral balance is shifting against Israel.  Soon, the international pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire will become overwhelming. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli economy has ceased to function because so many reservists have been mobilized.  Those mobilized soldiers now sit around as Isael’s government tries to come up with a strategy to use them.

Since Israel wants a strategy, let me propose one, a strategy that allows Israel to avoid defeat on the moral level and does not require an invasion of Gaza:

First, Israel re-imposes a complete blockade on Gaze.  Nothing comes in, not food, not water, not medicine, nothing

Second, Israel simultaneously establishes a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza through which anyone can leave.  As they do so, fighting-age males, let’s say males between the ages of 14 and 50, are separated from the women, children, old people, etc.  The latter go to the West Bank, where Israel allows other Arab and Moslem states to provide the PLO with plenty of money to take care of them.  The fighting age males go to POW camps set up in the Negev, where they remain until Israel’s war with Hamas ends.

Third, after all the Gazans who want out have gotten out, Israel wipes out Hamas.  It starts by attacking from the sea, establishing beachheads, then pumping sweater into Hamas’s tunnels under Gaza.  At the same time, it works from the north to south, destroying every structure standing in Gaza, artillery and bombing, not by sending Israeli soldiers into a fight on the ground.  In the end, everything in Gaza is flattened, the same way the Romans flattened Jerusalem, with not a stone left standing on stone.  Israel keeps the blockade on for however long it takes to starve out remaining Hamas fighters.  The remains of Gaza are then bulldozed into the sea.

Israel then announces it will release the fighting-age males held in Negev to any country that will take them, in whatever number they want, from one to all of them.  This puts the moral onus for their continuing captivity on other Arab and Moslem countries rather than on Israel.

What about the hostages of Hamas?  As in past hostage situations, Israel, working through third parties such as Qatar, will offer Palestinian prisoners it holds in trade for the hostages’ safe return.  If Hamas starts executing hostages, it will defeat itself on the moral level of war – war’s most powerful level.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners will oppose such a strategy because they want to drive all Arabs out of the West Bank, not bring more Arabs into it.  But if Netanyahu has a political future after the intelligence failure that left the back door open to Hamas, it will be based on a credible claim might be politically powerful enough that he would no longer require his current coalition partners.

For Israel, the time to adopt and execute a strategy is running out.  The continued bombing of Gaza and resulting civilian casualties are turning the moral balance against Israel.  As the Italian statesman Cavour said, you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.

Three Ways to Counter Cultural Marxism

Since the 1960s cultural Marxism, aka “Political Correctness” or “wokeism,” has been on the offensive, trying to destroy every aspect of our traditional, Judeo-Christian, Western culture.  Conservatives have largely responded with a passive defense, which merely slows, not stops, the cultural Marxists.  If we want to win, we have to strike back.  Here are three ways to do so:

  • Allow high school students to graduate with two diplomas, one for high school and the other a B.A.  Since most college humanities and social sciences departments offer little beyond conditioning in cultural Marxism, the students would lose nothing by not actually attending those courses.  To receive their B.A. along with their high school diploma, they would have to take a few extra courses in high school.  But they would no longer have to shell out $100,000 plus to get a degree without which they cannot get a decent job.

This would be an enormously popular program because it would save young people from needing loans  to pay for college, loans that burden them in some cases for decades.  At the same time, it would destroy the cultural Marxists’ base in the universities.

Some school districts are already offering an Associates Degree that comes along with a high school diploma, again for taking some extra courses.  This would merely extend that to include a B.A.  A B.S. would still require attending college, because in science and math students actually learn things in college.  Few of the professors who teach in those departments are cultural Marxists, and the few who are would either have to keep their ideology out of the classroom or find no students signing up for their courses.

  • Require all colleges and universities that receive federal funds, including research funding, to adopt a strong statement guaranteeing their students freedom of thought and expression.  The University of Chicago’s statement should serve as a model, perhaps with the addition of a clause defining “diversity” as including diversity of viewpoints, which the cultural Marxists’ definition does not.  With their research funds at stake, all faculty from the hard science departments would come to the faculty meetings they usually avoid and vote the required statement in.

President Trump announced this proposal in his last year in office and started its trek through the federal rulemaking process.  I am sure Mr. Biden killed it on his first day in office, but if Mr. Trump wins in 2024, it should come back.  Again, this would be a direct hit on the cultural Marxists’ control of the universities.  The only way they can peddle their bilge is by threatening students and other faculty who dissent from it.

  • Add “political beliefs” to the list of forbidden discriminations in federal civil rights law.  As in the universities, the cultural Marxists who run companies – and there are many, often in senior positions – can only cram their ideology down their employees’ throats by threatening the jobs and careers of anyone who dissents.  This would put an end to that.  The legislation would allow entities that openly label themselves as political to be exempt.  But how many companies making, say, light beer, would want to label themselves as political?

I am sure others can come up with ideas beyond these, ideas that would enable conservatives to take the offensive against cultural Marxism.  What conservatives need is leaders with guts to do that.

Breakthrough or Break-In?

The papers are full of reports that the Ukrainians have broken through on their southern front, opening the way for an armored offensive on the operational level.  Such an offensive could seek either to destroy the Russian army by getting between it and the Russian border, or go for a terrain objective such as the coast of the Sea of Azov.  From a maneuver warfare perspective the former is preferable, although I think the latter is more likely.  Aiming for the Sea of Azov is much easier logistically; rolling out behind the whole Russian army leaves Ukraine’s logistics train following in trace with whatever Russian units hold together on its left flank.

However, I question the reports of a Ukrainian breakthrough.  Much more likely is a break-in.  In other words, Ukrainian forces have succeeded in entering the Russian defensive lines – a break-in – but they still face more Russian lines ahead of them.  While that is a step toward opening the door to an operational offensive, it does not do so of itself.

Ukraine learned the hard way a lesson the Germans learned early in World War II: don’t try to make a breakthrough by charging headlong with tanks.  Neither Germany then nor Ukraine now could afford the tank losses, and the effort usually fails anyway.  Use infantry to make the breakthrough and then send in your armored units to turn a tactical success into an operational victory.  I think it likely the Ukrainians are employing the infantry infiltration tactics developed by the German Army in World War I; they still work against an enemy who employs a static, linear defense.

As I noted in previous columns, the Russians’ cordon defense is inherently weak.  It is likely to fail unless it is supported by a strong tactical and operational reserve, with the latter made up of the defender’s best armored units.  I do not know what the Russian Army has left to make up those reserves, but the outcome on the ground depends largely on the answer.

Meanwhile, on the strategic level both the U.S. and NATO are sleepwalking.  There is no apparent effort to address the central threat to the western powers, namely a nuclear war.  If Russia is defeated on the ground, she has no choice but to go nuclear; she cannot afford to lose this war.  If Putin refuses to escalate (the correct decision), he will be replaced by someone who will.  From this perspective, every Ukrainian victory moves us closer to the worst possible outcome, nuclear weapons landing on American and/or European cities.  That in turn can lead to a state collapse in Russia, Europe, and the U.S.

What the West needs most right now is an effort to end the fighting and begin talking with Moscow about peace terms.  That initiative will not come from the Blob, the Washington foreign policy establishment, where any departure from neo-con/neo-lib groupthink is a career ender.  The only potential sources in NATO for a push to end the war are France and Germany.  As usual, Germany’s worst enemy is her own foreign office, which is terrified of crossing Washington.  The French rather enjoy doing that, so Paris is the only hope.  God save us.

The Eastern Front

No one familiar with the war in the east 1941-45 can fail to see parallels between events then and now.  The similarities are obvious.  Ukraine is smaller than Russia, its army is smaller, and it has less, although better equipment.  The Ukrainian army seems to be following the German way of war, maneuver warfare, or at least trying to.  It does appear to have developed the culture maneuver warfare requires, where results are more important than methods, decision-making is decentralized, initiative is desired more than obedience and it all rests on self rather than imposed discipline.  I find it interesting that a Slavic army seems able to do this; could the Russian army do the same?

At present it certainly cannot.  By 1944, perhaps 1943, the Red Army was equal to the Germans on the operational level.  It was never so on the tactical level, where the culture was strictly top-down.  Today, the Russians seem to have lost their ability on the operational level without improving on the tactical level.  I recall a conversation I had in the 1970s with John Ericson, the author of Road to Stalingrad and Road to Berlin.  He said to me, “Do you want to understand today’s Russian army?  Ask yourself what it was like under Tsar Nicholas I.”

All this would seem to leave Ukraine with good odds of victory.  But as we move from the board situation to specifics, the balance changes.  Having largely failed on the offensive, the Russian army has gone over to the defensive.  Clausewitz argues that the defensive is stronger than the offensive.  More, we know from military history that armies which are ineffective ont he offensive often fight much better on the defensive.  That was true of the Russians facing Army Group South in 1941, and may be true again today.  The Russians appear to have adopted a cordon defense, which is inherently weak, but they have built it in depth.  Much will depend on whether they have strong, mobile operational reserves that can counter-attack and encircle Ukrainian forces that break through; the dissolution of the Wagner Group may have hurt the Russians badly in this respect.

From the Ukrainian perspective, they face one problem that greatly hampered the Wehrmacht and another the Germans did not face.  The first is that they have a hodgepodge of equipment drawn from anywhere and everywhere, or produced in an endless variety of models, each with different parts.  The result is a logistics nightmare.  That in turn feeds into Ukraine’s second problem, one not facing the Wehrmacht: insufficient operational depth.

As I have said before, for Ukraine to win it needs to turn the conflict from a war of attrition to a war of maneuver.  But that requires deep thrusts that encircle masses of Russians.  They don’t have the operational depth to do that because they cannot cross the border into Russia itself.  So they face a Russian defense that has operational depth without that depth being available to the attacker.

I can see only one way around this: break through the Russian defenses at one end and then turn parallel to them in their rear and drive to their other end.  This would be classic German Durchbruch und Aufrollen at the operational level.  With major Ukrainian forces in their rear, the Russian linear defenses might collapse in a rout. 

But here is where Ukraine’s dog’s breakfast of equipment becomes a serious problem.  Through the Aufrollen aspect of the campaign, Ukraine’s supply line would be slow and vulnerable.  It would also have to carry ammunition and spare parts for a wide variety of tanks, air defense units, artillery, etc., meaning it would be enormous.  If Russia’s cordon defense collapses, the Ukrainian supply line could be shortened.  But if it doesn’t, Ukraine’s army could be trapped behind enemy lines without ammunition and spare parts.  That would mean the end of Ukraine.

The Russian Damn Cracks

The Prigozhin putsch was a crack in the Russian dam, the dam being the Russian state.  So far, the dam is holding.  But behind it are the swirling, dirty currents of Fourth Generation war, in the form of all the non-state loyalties and entities that will flood over Europe and Asia if the dam falls.

The proximate cause of Wagner Group’s march on Moscow was an ultimatum to submit to the Russian state.  The June 26 Wall Street Journal reported that:

A key trigger was the June 10 defense ministry order that all volunteer detachments would have to sign contracts with the government by July 1, a move to bring Wagner under formal military control.  Prigozhin refused.

This alone shows how the authority of the Russian state has been undermined.  But the WSJ reported further that:

Prigozhin made his move after state support that once flowed to Wagner was diverted to a new private mercenary group established by state-owned companies such as Gazprom.

So now we see the Russian state is so weak that it must turn, not to the state’s armed forces, but to other mercenary units as alternatives to Wagner.

Then, when major elements of the Wagner group advanced on Moscow, covering about 500 miles with only 100 left between them and the Kremlin, they met almost no opposition from any state security forces.  Neither the police nor the Russian army intervened.  They were met with only a few attacks from the air, to which they responded by shooting down some helicopters and a jet, killing 13 Russian airmen.  And for that, President Putin was constrained to grant them amnesty from prosecution.

President Putin’s popularity within Russia is based on his restoration and maintenance of a strong state after the chaos of the Yeltsin years.  The Prigozhin putsch and the state’s weak response to it have undermined his reputation as a guarantor of order.  The June 26 New York Times quoted Sergei Markov, a Russian political expert and advisor, as saying,

What he (Putin) always took pride in is the solidity of Russian statehood and political stability.  That’s what they loved him for.  And it turns out that it doesn’t exist.

The blob and its NATO counterpart can’t wait for President Putin to fall.  But who or what will replace him?  He has no anointed successor waiting in the wings.  Nor does Russia have a political process that is clear, clean and widely accepted by which to find a new leader.  It is quite possible that if the man who has run Russia for almost a quarter-century falls from power, the succession process will bring chaos.  That, in turn, runs a risk of the RUssian state itself failing.  

I cannot emphasize enough how disastrous a failure of the Russian state would be.  We would face nuclear weapons and delivery systems that can reach America in the hands of, well, who?  The answer is anyone who can grab them.  It is not difficult to imagine a criminal enterprise getting hold of ICBMs, lobbing one minus its warhead at American soil, then telling us to hand over all the gold in Ft. Knox or they would take out one American city every week until we complied.  As a gang, they would have no return address.  The U.S. has no reliable missile defense, despite spending more than 100 billion dollars trying to build one, a scandal for which some people in the Pentagon and in the defense industry should go to jail.

To head off the catastrophe of Russia falling into the sort of stateless chaos we see in Syria or Libya, the U.S. and NATO need to act now to support the RUssian state.  What Russia needs most is a golden bridge over which it can retreat from its botched war in Ukraine.  That means Russia has to get something out of it, at least international recognition that Crimea is Russian and probably also the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held by pro-Russian statelets before February of last year.  Stupidly, Washington has said it will not accept any peace terms rejected by Kiev, which itself cannot agree to the loss of any territory.  This faces Russia with two unpalatable choices, continuation of the war or a humiliating peace.  The last time Russia faced this choice, in 1917, the result was civil war and a Bolshevik takeover.

After the war ends, we need to do what should have been done in 1990 after Communism fell in Russia, namely reintegrate Russia into the Concert of Powers.  This is what Metternich did with France after 1815, and it gave Europe a century of relative peace.  It is late in the game to do this with Russia, but perhaps it is not too late.  Henry Kissinger is the right man for the job, and at just 100 years old, I think he would say yes if asked.  No one knows better than he the price state collapse, like that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, can bring.

When Black Swans Mate

As almost everybody knows, a black swan is a new term for an unexpected event that has major consequences.  Like avian black swans, such events are rare.  But when they hit, panic, overreaction, and demands for safety at any price tend to follow.  Think of Wall Street in October of 1929.  

A number of potential black swans have been circling over the last year or so.  One landed: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The consequences of that black swan are still unrolling, but they already include recession in Europe, large refugee flows (refugees from Ukraine are people we should welcome in large numbers), a rising risk of nuclear war, and, if Russia loses, a possible break-up of the Russian Federation and the spread of Fourth Generation war in the vast region between Ukraine and Vladivostok.

But what if black swans mate?  In Ukraine, imagine the consequences if Russia employs nuclear weapons.  What would happen to world markets?  The West has been doing its best to destroy Russia’s economy, without much success.  But Russia could return the favor, with interest, by popping some nukes.  As the possibility of nuclear war, always present in the background since 1950, suddenly became real, it is not hard to imagine a rush for safety in markets of all kinds that would leave only gold and dollars standing, and maybe only gold.

Imagine that happens, and the world’s eyes all turn to the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington.  A story in the June 8 Wall Street Journal illustrates the touching faith in the Fed that was once reserved for pieces of the True Cross.  The article, “Big Influx of T-Bills Threatens Volatility” by Eric Wallerstein, discusses potential market effects from a deluge of Treasury bills soon to be dumped on the market following the raising of the Federal debt limit.  The article states, “But even if banks pull back from short-term funding markets, history suggests Fed officials would quickly extinguish any fires. . . ‘It’s that unintended, unexamined, event that causes a clogging up of the financial plumbing,’ said Joseph Brusuelas, principal and chief economist at RSM US.  ‘That doesn’t mean the doomsayers are right – if a hiccup occurs, the Fed will step in.’

Just a few years ago, when inflation had been low and steady for a decade, the Fed could indeed step in and pump out more liquidity.  But now inflation is running, not at the Fed’s desired 2%, but between 4% and 5%.  If the Fed increases liquidity, it will also increase the rate of inflation.  Imagine the effect on, well, everything if the United States faced even a realistic possibility of hyper-inflation.  That is exactly what can happen when black swans mate, in this case the two birds labeled “worthless dollars” and “nuclear war.”

The Chinese economy is already dealing with at least a gray swan in the form of a collapse in its property market.  Add in the black swan of an attack on Taiwan that fails, coupled with an American distant blockade of raw materials to China.  China’s greatest historic weakness is its own centrifugal tendencies.  Would several catastrophic policy failures by the Chinese Communist Party lead to another break-up of the Chinese state and the rise of new warlords, some with nuclear weapons?

The consequences of black swans mating are potentially so dire that each Great Powers’ leaders, those of the U.S, Russia, and China, should have a joint policy of stability at any price.  Regrettably, at present all three are pursuing adventures at any price.  Those adventures are decoys for black swans, drawing them to land and make themselves at home in ways that suggest mating season is at hand.  Their progeny will be ugly.

The View from Olympus: Ukraine’s “Big Push:” Tactical or Operational?

Ukraine and its allies have been prepping the propaganda battlefield for months about Kiev’s big spring offensive, or counter-offensive if you prefer.  The ghosts of Kursk have been gathering over the scene, warning about attacks which are predictable and made where the Russians have been able to prepare extensive defensive positions.  This time, will the Leopard tank be what the Tiger Elephant was last time?

That is a small question which leads to a big question: will Ukraine’s offensive be of operational or just tactical significance?  The U. S. military has but a small understanding of the operational level of war, which comes between the tactical and strategic levels and connects the two.  In essence, it is deciding what to do tactically in order to strike as powerfully as possible at an enemy strategic “hinge,” something on which the enemy depends and which, if destroyed, collapses him.

The advice Ukraine seems to be getting from the U.S. military reflects the latter’s failure to grasp the operational level.  Most American recommendations suggest terrain objectives, either in the east toward Donbas or south to break the Russian-occupied corridor connecting the Donbas with Crimea.  But even a successful Ukrainian offensive in these places would mean little strategically.  Attacking toward the Donbas would just take back more Ukrainian land, which Russia could retake again later; shoving contests of this sort reflect attrition warfare, not maneuver warfare.  Attacking south towards the Sea of Azov would seem more promising operationally, but this is an illusion.  Even if Ukraine can break the Russian-held corridor and keep it broken, it will be at most a strategic inconvenience for Russia.  Why?  Because Crimea can easily be supplied by water.  In today’s world, people forget that transportation by water is the most efficient and least expensive way to move goods of any sort.  A Ukrainian offensive to cut Russia’s land links with Crimea would only have strategic effect if Ukraine controlled the Black Sea, which it does not and cannot.

What if we look at Ukraine’s situation from a German, not an American, perspective?  The German way of war focused on the operational level.  Ukraine has a strong German heritage in its approach to war, reflecting the facts that Germany and Austria-Hungary gave Ukraine its independence during World War I and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fought alongside Germans to defend their country and people from Stalin in World War II.  As best I can tell at this remove, Ukraine’s army has been fighting German-style maneuver warfare at the tactical level, which is one reason for its surprising successes.

From the German perspective (Kaiserheer and Wehrmacht, not Bundesheer), Russia has a critical strategic hinge Ukraine can attack.  What is it?  The Wagner Group and some allied Russian mercenary forces.  The performance of the Russian Army has been so poor that only these mercenaries have offensive capability.  With a handful of exceptions, Russian Army units seem to be fortress troops, Stellungsdivisionen who can only be expected to fight when defending, not attacking (and sometimes they cannot do that).  So a suitable operational goal for the coming Ukrainian offensive would be destruction of the Wagner Group.  That could be strategically decisive.

Furthermore, it looks to me as if the Wagner Group is wearing a large “kick me” sign on its back.  How so?  By deploying most of its forces in an effort to encircle Bakhmut.  All Ukraine’s spring offensive has to do is encircle the encirclers.  Moreover, because Wagner is attacking, not defending, it is unlikely to have built extensive defensive fortifications.  It appears to be a ripe plum, ready to be picked off.

Ukraine may already grasp this, which may be why it has been so focused on defending Bakhmut.  The city itself has little strategic significance.  But if Bakhmut is grabbing Wagner Group’s nose so Ukraine’s offensive can kick its tail, then Ukraine’s losses in Bakhmut would be worth it.

This is of course all conjecture.  But if Ukraine’s spring offensive is operational it its objective, then its long range prospects, never good, at least get better.  If it squanders its newly-built forces for mere tactical gains, that will tell us to move as quickly as possible towards a negotiated peace before Ukraine’s position deteriorates further.  So, Kiev, who are you going to listen to, Milley or Manstein?


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