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This week’s geopolitical news should raise a lot of questions about what is going on, and whether the “strategists” in the Biden Administration have any clue what they are doing.
So we’re going to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine—eventually (because it will take months to get them deployed). This decision is apparently thought necessary to get Germany to send 200 of its smaller and simpler Leopard tanks. Abrams are a very advanced tank, but have huge logistical requirements for fuel, spare parts, and so forth. The manpower requirement alone seem dubious. I am doubtful they will actually be deployed on the Ukraine battlefield. But perhaps if this gesture calls Germany’s bluff it is worth it. But it is not without risk.
This follows a pattern of the Biden Administration saying it won’t send certain categories of advanced weaponry to Ukraine, and then reversing course days or weeks later. Is there a strategy here at all? What happens if a new Russian offensive in the next month or two looks to break the stalemate of the last year and raises the prospect that Ukraine might lose? What is our strategy and arms policy then? Sixty Abrams tanks? A-10 Warthogs? Direct US-NATO intervention? Conversely what is our policy if Ukraine breaks through and succeeds in pushing Russia out of most of its territory—especially if a desperate Putin thinks he has no choice but to deploy some tactical nukes? Do we actually want Ukraine to win this war, or just not lose it? Zelensky might want to check in with South Vietnam about this. . . Oh, wait—South Vietnam doesn’t exist any more.
I’m generally sympathetic to helping any nation that wants to resist aggression against its sovereign territory. But increasingly our Ukraine policy looks like our Afghan policy—it is not a situation to be solved, but merely “managed.” It risks ending the same way—for us, and for the poor Ukrainians.
Meanwhile, last week the U.S. and Israeli military forces held a widely-publicized largest ever live fire exercise, designed, so the media line went, to “send a message to Iran.” I’m tempted to use the old line attributed to Frank Capra: If you want to send a message, use Western Union.
Maybe Israel used the equivalent of Western Union yesterday, when it sent a drone attack at a site in Iran, though it seems a rather tepid attack in many ways. The curious element here is that President Biden has a long history of deep animus toward Israel stretching back to his earliest days in the Senate in the 1970s, and his administration, no less than Obama’s, is deeply hostile to any Israeli government that Netanyahu leads. Yet last week CIA director William Burns quietly visited Israel supposedly to discuss “containing” Iran, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is heading to Israel in a few days. Is this to coordinate a more aggressive policy toward Iran, or is it more likely a strong-arm attempt to prevent Israel from from defending itself as vigorously as it would like?
My money is on the latter possibility. Supposedly Biden is frustrated that Israel isn’t lining up behind the pro-Ukraine crusade (although some our munitions sent to Ukraine have come from Israeli stockpiles), saying that Israel wants to maintain good relations with Russia. But given Biden’s hostility to Israel, keeping our Ukraine crusade at arms length seems like sensible realpolitik.