Sitzkrieg?

Several People have inquired why I have not written a column for TR in some time.  Let me assure them I am in good health and face no lack of material as our world speeds towards destruction.  The reason I have not written is that the TR website is being wholly revised and much improved.  That work should be done soon, and once it is I will fire more barrages at my usual target, folly.  I think readers will find the revisions to the website worth the wait.  

Meanwhile, the two wars the United States is involved in, those in Ukraine and in the Gaza strip, seem caught in strategic Sitzkrieg.  In the former, Russia grinds slowly forward in a war of attrition Ukraine is doomed to lose.  In Gaza, Israel digs itself ever-deeper into the Fourth Generation war trap in which a state defeats itself.  But this seeming strategic stability is deceptive.  Below the surface lurk factors that portend upheavals.

In Ukraine, NATO must soon face the fact that Kiev is losing and will continue to lose unless it can create a war of maneuver.  It had its chance to do that in the summer of 2023 and blew it at the operational level by duplicating Operation Barbarossa; it launched three divergent thrusts, which is to say there was no Schwerpunkt.  No Schwerpunkt means no decisive result, which is what Ukraine got.

Kiev’s defeat need not shatter world peace.  But NATO’s response to defeat in Ukraine may do so.  Panic is already showing its head in Paris, where French President Macron is suggesting NATO might send in troops to fight Russia directly.  Berlin says no, but the traffic-light coalition government is weak and can be pushed around.  London is in a belligerent mood and Warsaw is always eager to launch a cavalry charge against Russian tanks.  The decisive voice will be Washington’s.  That is not good news, because the Dead Inca has no idea what he’s doing and his advisors will be terrified of the charge of “losing Ukraine” in an election year.  Can NATO just swallow hard and say, “We lost?”  If not, the alternative is escalation in a war against nuclear power.

In Gaza, Israel has destroyed itself at the moral level of war, which is what states usually do against non-state opponents.  Martin van Creveld’s “power of weakness” is triumphing again.  Hamas will emerge from the war physically diminished but not destroyed, while most of the world sees it as “the good guys” because the massacres on October 7 have been overshadowed by Israel’s destruction of Gaza.  Hamas will rebuild quickly, and not only in Gaza.  Recruits and money will flow to it in a veritable Niagara.

The threat of a wider war lies to Israel’s north, not its south.  While Hezbollah’s operations have been restrained, they have nonetheless driven 80,000 Israelis from their homes, along with tens of thousands of Lebanese who have fled Israeli airstrikes.  The latter don’t matter strategically, but the former do because Netanyahu needs their votes.  As always, he will put himself above his country’s interests.  That suggests he is likely to launch a ground invasion of Lebanon, which Hezbollah apparently is anticipating and ready for.  Hezbollah is much stronger than Hamas, and recent events suggest Iran will also be forced to get involved directly. 

If Israel is able to degrade Hamas but not destroy it while an Israeli invasion of Lebanon does not go well (it didn’t last time) and Iran is sending presents to Tel Aviv, what does a panicky Netanyahu do?  Don’t rule out his pushing the nuclear button.  That might destroy Iran’s nuclear program, and maybe southern Lebanon as well.  But it would leave Israel a pariah in a world where all bets are off.

The current strategic stability is an illusion.  Wars move in fits and starts, and Sitzkrieg tends to be followed by wild swings and dramatic breakthroughs.  The fact that gold has risen about $500 an ounce in a few months says I am not the only one seeing danger ahead.