Sunday, April 26, 2015

Our Coldly Brutal Foes?

Every time we contemplate military action, we think about what kind of casualty price we are willing to pay to achieve victory. Why do we assume our foes are immune to such calculations?

We don't want to help Ukraine with military aid because Moscow could escalate to cope with anything we provide to Ukraine?

President Obama and others worry that providing arms to Ukraine could worsen the fighting, particularly because Moscow retains escalation dominance on the ground thanks to its ability to flow weapons and troops practically unimpeded across the Russo-Ukrainian border.

One, I don't think we need to send basic small arms or heavy armor to Ukraine. They have plenty, although they need help to put it into operation. Ukraine needs weapons and equipment to fill gaps in their arsenal that Russia exploits.

But more important, let's examine that "escalation dominance" nonsense.

Sure, Russia can escalate at will beyond much smaller Ukraine's ability to escalate. The Russians can send more troops into Donbas or even expand the war into other parts of Ukraine to strain Ukraine's smaller military.

But Russia has a relatively small army (and associated Interior Ministry light force), with an even smaller competent component, with a very long land border to protect (and interior to police).

At some point Russia runs out of good troops to rotate into UKraine and has to send in second or even third rate troops who will die in larger numbers and commit atrocities in larger numbers.

Then Russia has to take risks on other parts of their border (and remember, they're already stripping bit of units from all across Russia to fight at the relatively low level that their subliminal war requires) to continue the war.

Escalation dominance has to be matched with sacrifice dominance--the relative willingness of each side to die for their cause.

Perhaps I missed it, but did North Vietnam wilt in the face of our theoretical escalation dominance during the Vietnam War?

I'll wait while you contact the South Vietnam embassy for their view on this issue.

Okay, then.

This fallacy also applies to Taiwan's survival in the face of China's power. China has to be willing to pay a price to take Taiwan. At some point, the prospect of casualties will deter an invasion or actual casualties will prompt "peace with honor" or "responsibly ending the war." Maybe Taiwan falls before that level is met. But it is not guaranteed.

If this theory of submission to more powerful states is real, why is the United Nations nearly 200 nations strong? Why don't we have just one planetary government as stronger powers absorb smaller states until just one remains?

War is not an exercise in math. Real people have to fight and die. And real people have to cope with the price (both people and money) of war. Even Russia and China.

And real people have to decide to just give up and not try to resist aggression.