Freddie deBoer and Noah Smith on Ukraine sentiment; William Costello on Tinder; Russ Roberts and David McRaney;
The war in Ukraine was completely avoidable- all it really required was for Ukraine to agree to allow the Russian majority east separate, and for NATO to agree to never admit Ukraine to the treaty alliance. However, for the last 30 years NATO had expanded right up to the Russian border, and spent part of the last year and a half trying to induce color revolutions in other former Soviet Republics that are still aligned politically with Russia, like Belurus and Kazakhstan.
Now we are stuck with a situation where the likely path seems to be escalation. Putin bit off more than he could chew with the limited operation, and will now likely commit more forces to the conflict, which runs the risk that the US gets even more deeply involved in supporting Ukraine with air support and possibly actual troops if it looks like Ukraine's effort is about to collapse. The clowns in charge of the west and Russia are going to blunder us into a nuclear exchange if they don't start looking for an off-ramp soon.
I'm hardly a booster for Ukraine. I think the war was entirely avoidable and that the "good side" shares a lot of blame for it starting. I think many of the problems Ukraine had will still be there after the war even if they win, though I hope the experience of fighting the war might generate enough social bonding to break out of some old equilibirums. If the best case scenario outcome comes to pass, I still don't think supporting Ukraine was worth the risks.
However, I think the Vietnam reference is flawed.
1) Vietnam was a guerrilla conflict, this is a conventional conflict.
2) Ukraine has clear war aims that are measurable and achievable (we can debate how achievable they are, but "push army to the following borders" is certainly clear and at least possible).
3) America was the aggressor in Vietnam, Russia is the aggressor here.
4) The Vietcong could call on essentially unlimited reserves of fighters and the war itself generated new Vietcong fighters. Russia has the men it went into the conflict with and it has clearly shown it can't or won't replace them.
For the first six months of the conflict it seemed as if we were in a First World War trench warfare type situation. One in which nobody was going to move the front lines much and a lot of people would die in artillery duels. In such a situation, continuing the war in a futile attempt to wrest control of the Donbass seemed really dumb and immoral.
Now it appears that Ukraine is capable of large scale offensive action that can break Russian lines. Given all I've outlined above, they will eventually win the war.
Maybe in some alternate timeline of more reasonable people, we could skip all of the fighting and dying to get to that point and negotiate some deal, but I don't really see it happening. Probably the most likely outcome for a negotiated settlement is if both sides were pessimistic and thought there was something to gain from peace. Other than saving a few lives, its not clear to me that the Ukrainian side would gain much from peace at this point. Putin also isn't going to give up all that territory without a fight.
I don't think Putin will mobilize or use nukes. I think he will do what he's done the whole war, putz around and always wait till its too late to matter.
There are enough rebuttals to FdB's points in his comment section, including by a Swede (Nick), a Finn (jnlb), a Brit (Tom W) and a probable ex-Warsaw Pact guy (Vlad the Inhaler). One of Nick's points is so good that I'll take the liberty and quote it here:
To be perfectly frank, I think the isolationists/anti-imperialists are coping far harder than the interventionists. After all, they are suddenly confronted with a situation where the United States gets to intervene in a conflict without any moral doubts and the Russians, the righteous enemies of the Great Satan/the manly anti-woke exemplars of lost virtue (pick your favourite), did something widely condemned and worse yet keep bungling it spectacularly. NATO is suddenly rejuvenated and retroactively justified, American power abroad is solidified for another generation, the defence budget is secured from cuts, and all this while looking good.
The unread McRaney seems to be consistent with what works according the recent Chris Blattmann book "WHY WE FIGHT The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace".
No talk of "conspiracy theories" should be discussed without explicit note of the two year Russia Collusion Hoax investigation based on FBI accepting Clinton campaign lies and lying itself.
Because Democrats have far more college educated personnel who have emotional commitments to their truths, it seems unlikely that organized Republicans would actually use the street epistemology or deep canvassing, but I'd be happy to hear otherwise.
But David denies the possibility of his claims, implicitly PC/woke, being wrong
"If it's actually a true thing, if it's actually something that the evidence will support over and over again, if it's actually an actual, fundamental STEM-based truth, a stronger epistemology will get you closer to that STEM-based truth and that's what happens in a street epistemology thing."
False. All group IQ testing shows differences in average group IQs.
Group average performance on math SAT or chess tournaments show sex differences.
I'd guess David McRaney is unwilling to attempt to change minds to be more true in these two highly polarized and politicized areas.
I often wish Arnold would be a bit more clear in what he thinks - but just making a clear point gives lots of room to commenters, like me, to add other ideas. Which seems consistent with leaving more room for we readers.
My daughter recently gave me the third edition of Kling's Three Languages of Politics, and I think McRaney really avoids these three axes which are quite compelling. In the added chapter on Trump, there might be a new fourth axis of elite vs ordinary, which I think is part of the post-smartphone social media change.
Re: Freddie deBoer- this is why narrative writing is so fraught, you just have to drop highly salient facts to make it work. Ukraine was expected to lose the war quickly, and when they didn't lose it quickly they were expected to lose it in short order anyway, and then they were expected to lose it eventually. and the discussions were on how much land they would give up and in what regions would satisfy Russia. Only in the last few weeks have we gotten to the point where serious people are discussing how Ukraine might actually win the war and possibly expel Russia. If Americans were chomping at the bit for a righteous war in which the good guys win then this was not it until very, very recently. This entirely throws off his analysis because now the Americans are spending resources on a lost cause on a matter of principle or strategic interest, not on some deluded desire to be both righteous and strong. We are far to close to this conflict to be already making such basic mistakes about motivations of participants and onlookers. Yes a few years after the conflict ends the ending, whichever way it goes, will seem inevitable and (not so sharp) commenters will be cherry picking real outcomes against possible outcomes to craft narratives, but to already be framing it as if not only Ukraine winning is likely to a foregone conclusion but as always being such is a great dishonesty.
Noah Smith has been completely right about Ukraine throughout. Many people are trying to be too clever, twisting themselves in pretzels trying to find some justification for not supporting Ukraine. It’s the easiest FP call of my lifetime.
Freddie is a far better writer than Arnold, and a decent & mostly honest thinker. Arnold is an even better, and possibly more truthful thinker, with the writing advantage of brevity. (A similar advantage over Scott Alexander). Left this comment there:
Bravo, Freddie, well said. Very well said.
Tho maybe not as true as you'd like: Ukraine corruption IS talked about.
Russia using nukes IS talked about.
But I believe you're very accurate about recent decades: " no great good wars for the United States to win". Most Americans DO want to be good - and to win wars against bad guys. As you quote Patton (GC Scott) "America loves a winner." Certainly MAGA Republicans strongly do.
Yet you totally fail to note the problem for Biden supporters & Trump haters - if Trump had been allowed to win, Putin wouldn't have attacked.
1) US keeps pumping oil & gas, prices stay lower, Putin & Russia miss out on billions and billions of higher energy profits.
2) US military is not humiliated in leaving Afghanistan. Trump wanted to leave but would "not tolerate a loser." Winding down in far more order, and possibly not yet even gone.
3) Democrats usually sympathize with those who complain about America's imperfections, it's many problems, with America guilty first. So Putin's anti-NATO expansion would have greater retweets.
Because of these facts, any rational arguments against unlimited support for Ukraine risks opening the question about whether it wasn't a global mistake to somewhat unfairly put Biden in the White House. (the censorship of truth on Hunter Biden's laptop means the election was NOT "100% free and fair".)
Trump had won?
No Ukraine invasion in 2022.
Arnold wrote: “Although this struck me as correct, I did not like his book as much as I had expected. I can’t quite put a finger on what bothered me about it.”
It would be great if you could try to figure it out! Your book – The Three Languages of Politics – came up in the discussion, so I’m guessing you’ll have something interesting to say.
Important takeaway IMO is that this is a mostly emotional/rhetorical appeal, not a reasoned one (join my tribe you'll feel better).
"Freddie’s point that we’re in one of those times where we need to feel like we’re fighting a good war strikes me as plausible. But I think that the consensus is not as strong and deep as it appears to be."
The last "good war" America was involved in was in 1812.
Covid 19 vaccine damage repair protocols:
Regarding Ukraine, there is an undercurrent of worry that the war will expand if Putin feels trapped. CBS Sunday Morning had a story about people in the UK and US building bomb shelters. Many talking heads may be focused on the "good" war, but there is concern out there, too.
I haven't read McRaney's book, but I do not agree that 'to change someone’s mind, you have to make them more comfortable being part of your identity community and less comfortable being part of the identity community that holds the beliefs you want to change'. I think that this is a rather bad idea altogether.
First of all. identity communities based on narrowly held required beliefs are the problem, independent of whether the beliefs in question happen to be true or not. If you are a member of a group that requires you to believe certain things or face shaming or expulsion from the group, leave. If skepticism and doubt have no place in your group, then your group has become poisonous, and it's time to walk away from it.
This whole 'I will make you feel uncomfortable' usually amounts to bullying, and it is very clear that you cannot trust somebody who, instead of presenting evidence and making reasoned arguments tries to jerk you around emotionally and manipulate you into renouncing one set of beliefs so that you can belong to a group that has another set. Whoever plays the 'I will make you feel uncomfortable' card just hardens the opposition. They expected to get a fight from the untrustworthy, and you showed up right on schedule and flashed your 'I am an emotional bully' card.