43 Comments

I absolutely agree about Lily Lynch’s piece. I was absolutely fuming after reading it. There is definitely a type of person who feels entitled, or even obliged, to comment on something about which they know nothing, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought hordes of them out of the woodwork. Politicians are another breed of splurge (ex-Royal Marines will know what this means) producers. Even the supposed adult-in-the-room, Wallace couldn’t resist commenting on kicking the Russians’ backsides, and later complaining about the Ukrainians’ lack of gratitude. I am personally deeply ashamed at the way the West has provided too little, too late in the way of support. But self reflection among politicians and most commentators is as rare as hen’s teeth.

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The Ukraine War seems to have resuscitated the doctrine of imposing liberal internationalism by the use of military force, aka liberal interventionism. Lawrence Freedman is one of that doctrine's most longstanding champions. However the Ukraine War is also reminding us of the doctrine's deficiencies, on a daily basis. An inability to think ahead seems to be something that is inescapably part of the package. Now that we know what the US and UK-armed-and-directed Ukrainian forces can't do, what exactly is the plan from here? We have clearly reached the long mindless continuation phase so familiar from Afghanistan and Iraq. The phase that only ever succeeded in sowing dragon's teeth.

Does Lawrence Freedman really think the threat of a never-ending war of attrition is going to make Russia pack up and go home? Who does he think is best placed to win such a war? How much damage to the economies of the West and the wider world is it worth sustaining to keep this objectiveless attritional war going? A lot of us have seen more than enough of liberal interventionism to have made a judgement about it, and we find the endless pro-war justifications of Freedman and his like wholly unconvincing. He represents a longstanding and influential point of view, but please NS - give the realist alternative at least equal respect.

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For good or ill the Baltic States are NATO members and Article 5 would apply, which is why that is a straw man argument. Russia doesn’t want WW3 - to believe otherwise is to believe a caricature. As for how the current war can be brought to an end, that is really above my pay grade, but meaningful negotiations to achieve secure borders would probably be a good place to start.

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The entire critque of JJM's piece Blitzkrieg by Lawrence Freedman rests on citing Big Serge and not the over 100 other citiations., How about pieces citing the inevitibly of victory from winners like Petraeus, Hodges, or Ryan. That was an absurd thing to argue. Liberal Internationalism does deserve a black eye, for the catastrophes in the name of global reformation. These poeple are ideologues and dangerous and no matter how badly they have failed in the past, they don't get banished or exiled, they survive and fail upwards with more prestige power credibility and respect and money. Foreign policy it would seems rewards failure. Congratulations for dominating the media with a sanctimonious manichean narrative, one that demands and conditions morons to buy into to the idea that wars begin in vaccums. I'd be shocked if in five years these people don't offer half hearted mea culpas of the kind :we learned valuable lessons from this". Bleed the bete noir at the expense of the proxy in the end. Slava

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I'm interested in who makes the best argument. For Freedman to discount Big Serge, and use him to diss Mearsheimer, is absurd and tinged with Russophobia. To be expected to ignore the Russian side, which is half of this conflict, is the same as saying we should only listen to Western propaganda. That's got a terrible history of warmongering, so maybe we should ignore that inconvenience too. It's far easier to accept lies for truth than try figure out the truth for ourselves. I question the morals of anyone who takes the easy route. That path litters humanity with the limbs of the young.

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OK boys, play nice. There is enough conflict already in the world out there. We don't need to add to it here

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‘He was the one arguing that after Ukraine got independence that it should keep hold of its nuclear weapons.’ Obviously it should.

Freedman’s a loon.

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Putin’s clear fear of NATO expansion, though especially the deployment of additional U.S. anti-nuclear-missile defense systems, further into eastern Europe is typically perceived by the West as unmerited paranoia.

We in the West assume that the West, including NATO, would never initiate a nuclear-weapons exchange. But how can that be known for sure, especially with U.S. foreign-policy history? Cannot absolute power corrupt absolutely?

After President Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur as commander of the forces warring with North Korea — for the latter’s remarks about using many atomic bombs to promptly end the war — Americans’ approval-rating of the president dropped to 23 percent. It was a record-breaking low, even lower than the worst approval-rating points of the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

Had it not been for the formidable international pressure on Truman (and perhaps his personal morality) to relieve MacArthur as commander, Truman may have eventually succumbed to domestic political pressure to allow MacArthur’s command to continue.

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This isn't about Stalin Hitler and Mao though is it? This is about Putin in comparison to Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden and their body counts. What do you think happened with the illegal bombing of Serbia, they only hit military targets? That was a hardcore civilian bombing followed by child sex trafficking to serve NATO troops stationed in the country. Mosul was completely flattened, google the images, so was Raqqa residential buildings and all. I could go on but honestly why waste time. you will no doubt respond to whatabouttery, which then will proceed to claim false equivelence.

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Yes we won’t know what the negotiations would have looked like but people with pretty good authority have said that the us said to ukr we will back you to the hilt ‘not to negotiate’. So I think we can reasonably conclude that Russia was more in favour of negotiation, which of course is the only way to prevent ongoing bloodshed)

This was pre annexation and may well have been a commitment to the Minsk agreement that ukr/west refused to honour. Can you blame Putin for not trusting the west?

Yes war is abhorrent all wars are. Armies look for pressure points and squeeze. (Think about Dresden/Hiroshima… would you consider them war crimes!?) one could argue that Russia has tried to avoid civilian casualties. They could have sent a pile of cruise missiles straight at Kiev at the start.

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Liberal Interventionism is about imposing Western values, institutions and alignment by the use of military force. The stage a country has reached in democratic development is important, especially to the citizens of that country. But it does not determine whether or not force will be used. Realpolitik and perceived national interests determine that, in the context of an emerging multipolar world.

In a sense I’m saying we should be looking under the bonnet more. The causes of wars are always complex and are never just about the short-term issues. Liberal Interventionism is an ideology which has been used to justify the use of military force for decades now and Lawrence Freedman is particularly associated with it. The plan-less, aimless stage the Ukraine War has now reached is very reminiscent of the operational drift which we have seen in other Western post-Cold War military interventions - the kind that have been justified by Professor Freedman.

Whether the motives of the Western powers in enabling the Ukraine War were justified or not, the questions the West faces now are very different from those we faced at the start of the conflict. (I tried to raise a few of them in my original comment). This situation could have been foreseen, but wasn’t, perhaps because so often in war nothing turns out as originally expected.

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“(Trump) will be campaigning from a jail cell, we hope”

There will eventually be a reckoning for this era of insanity. And people will ask: “When fascism came to America, were you one of the cheerleaders??” Did you stand up for your rights, or were you a Bill Atwood who rolled over and begged them to be gentle with him?

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Hi Dale,

How nice to get a reasoned and informative reply! Thanks for the time and effort you put into writing it. And no, I am not being ironic.😉 But there’s a lot to digest, so I will delay a full reply. Interestingly, although my knowledge of the Russian Empire is much less than yours, I have long wondered how such an enormous and diverse “country” can be held together and ruled centrally.

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Excellent discussion and points both ways. While I respect LF immensely, I think the attack on JM was baseless. Jeff Sachs has a fairly similar opinion, should he also be 'disgraced'? JM isn't taking sides, just stating his opinion on where we are. Having different opinions is surely ok? Or is LF suggesting we should moderate/supress our opinions, in the hope that somehow has a 'positive' outcome, and 'we' can continue fighting until the last Ukrainian as the saying goes...

Russia clearly was up for negotiations in March 2022, it was the West that wasn't. I just hope diplomacy can restart, but I doubt that is possible with the current UKR, US and European leaders. I'm just praying for change at the top.

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Helen Lewis? Oh, dear. What a shame.

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My family emigrated to Australia in 1988 and the last 6 years whenever we get together and the topic of England comes up, other than ‘thank god we left’ the other phrase we constantly use is ‘broken country’ And it all goes back to austerity, at a time that the Govt was being paid to borrow money they decided for ideological reasons to go with cuts instead and now here you are, crumbling buildings, unaffordable homes, NHS falling apart and a stupid ‘triple lock’ that simple maths shows that if it doesn’t end eventually pensions will be higher than wages, but nobody will touch it as the most selfish generation in history feel entitled to it

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