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John R. Bolton | Vladimir Putin has a larger strategy on Ukraine. The United States needs one too. – The Washington Post

John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Donald Trump and is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

Russia’s focus on Ukraine is certainly intense. The Kremlin has massed troops and equipment along their common border; launched major cyberattacks against Kyiv’s government computer systems; planted operatives in the eastern Donbas region who could stage false-flag operations as pretexts for Russian invasion; and escalated a long-standing insistence that Ukraine is not a legitimate sovereign state.

Source: Opinion | Vladimir Putin has a larger strategy on Ukraine. The United States needs one too. – The Washington Post

https://wapo.st/3tPNXe2

Thomas L. Friedman | Putin to Ukraine: ‘Marry Me or I’ll Kill You’ – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Why is Vladimir Putin threatening to take another bite out of Ukraine, after devouring Crimea in 2014? That is not an easy question to answer because Putin is a one-man psychodrama, with a giant inferiority complex toward America that leaves him always stalking the world with a chip on his shoulder so big it’s amazing he can fit through any door.

Let’s see: Putin is a modern-day Peter the Great out to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He’s a retired K.G.B. agent who simply refuses to come in from the cold and still sees the C.I.A. under every rock and behind every opponent. He’s America’s ex-boyfriend-from-hell, who refuses to let us ignore him and date other countries, like China — because he always measures his status in the world in relation to us. And he’s a politician trying to make sure he wins (or rigs) Russia’s 2024 election — and becomes president for life — because when you’ve siphoned off as many rubles as Putin has, you can never be sure that your successor won’t lock you up and take them all. For him, it’s rule or die.

Somewhere in the balance of all of those identities and neuroses is the answer to what Putin intends to do with Ukraine.

If I were a cynic, I’d just tell him to go ahead and take Kyiv because it would become his Kabul, his Afghanistan — but the human costs would be intolerable. Short of that, I’d be very clear: If he wants to come down from the tree in which he’s lodged himself, he’s going to have to jump or build his own ladder. He has completely contrived this crisis, so there should be no give on our part. China is watching — and Taiwan is sweating — everything we do in reaction to Vlad right now.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment”
Draft 2, fixing typos.
Why am I a hawk on this? I was against the war in Vietnam as a 16 year old, and that position changed my life deeply. NATO should send troops and aircraft to the Ukraine, but the Europeans lost so many in two world wars, that they don’t have the heart to sacrifice their youth. Can’t blame them. I am reminded of the Tolkien books and movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, and in book two, the people of the horse retreat to a fortress, where the forces of Saruman are sure to destroy them. Then the elves come to their aid, even though elves are immortal, until slain in battle. Their sacrifice was part of the almost miraculous saving of middle earth. It feels similar, but I’m not sure it is as easy as the fantasy I refer to. But the fantasy was also about WW II. If we stop Putin, or take him out, will we save middle earth? I’m afraid we should try, but assassination would be so much more sophisticated, say the great strategists like Sun Tsu. The other shoulder has a smart spirit saying, let Putin take Ukraine, it will help bleed him to death. But I am a creature of the 21st century. It will make terrible TV. And there is a small chance it will prop up the monster, rather than topple him. If its true that the GNP of Russia is between that of Florida and New York, NATO should have no trouble turning the rube into ruble.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

The Soldiers Came Home Sick. The Government Denied It Was Responsible. – The New York Times

“The soldiers with inexplicable breathing complaints started appearing in Dr. Robert F. Miller’s pulmonology clinic in 2004, the year after Baghdad fell to invading United States forces. These new patients were active-duty troops from nearby Fort Campbell, men and women who came home from war with mysterious respiratory ailments. The base asked Miller, an unassuming and soft-spoken lung specialist at Vanderbilt University, to take a look.

Miller was baffled to see formerly healthy soldiers gasping for air after mild exertion. Some of them had been close to the fire at the Mishraq sulfur mine outside Mosul, thought to be the largest release of sulfur dioxide ever caused by humans. But others had never gone anywhere near the burning mine. Some of them could no longer run or climb stairs, and yet their X-rays and pulmonary-function tests looked normal.

Confounded, Miller decided to try something radical: He began ordering lung biopsies under general anesthesia to look for more subtle damage known as small-airways disease. Sure enough, the tissue revealed toxic lung injury, which Miller diagnosed as constrictive bronchiolitis. To the doctor, this meant two things: First, the soldiers were not exaggerating their symptoms. And more important, noninvasive screenings couldn’t be trusted to detect these new post-deployment ailments.

Eager to share his discovery, Miller contacted doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This led, at first, to what Miller recalls as an enthusiastic collaboration. Army doctors flew to Tennessee to review Miller’s biopsies, and together they went to Fort Campbell to develop a protocol for evaluating patients.”

DL: Excellent article. The end is surprising. Jon Stewart takes up the cause, and the congress and military decide finally to help these people. It took a star with the power of gigantic publicity coverage.

How a World War II Bomber Pilot Became ‘the King of Artificial Trees’ – The New York Times

“The B-17 he was piloting had lost two of its four engines to enemy fire, and as Si Spiegel surveyed the ruined landscape, he had one thought: We have to get behind the Russian front.

As part of the Allied raid on Berlin, his bomber had dropped its payload over the German capital, but he’d been hit with flak and would almost certainly not make it back to the base in England. No pilot wanted to get shot down over Nazi Germany, especially not a Jewish pilot.

Mr. Spiegel had essentially bluffed his way into the cockpit as a skinny teenager from Greenwich Village, trusting he’d figure it out as he went. This was no different. He told his crew they were headed for Poland; they could get their parachutes ready, but were not to bail out unless he gave the order. They would attempt an emergency landing.”

Paul Krugman | Foreign Terrorists Have Never Been Our Biggest Threat – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“It may seem like a terrible thing to say, but a fair number of people — especially in the news media — are nostalgic about the months that followed 9/11. Some pundits openly pine for the sense of national unity that, they imagine, prevailed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. More subtly, my sense is that many long for the days when the big threat to America seemed to come from foreign fanatics, not homegrown political extremists.

But that golden moment of unity never existed; it’s a myth, one that we need to stop perpetuating if we want to understand the dire current state of American democracy. The truth is that key parts of the American body politic saw 9/11, right from the beginning, not as a moment to seek national unity but as an opportunity to seize domestic political advantage.

And this cynicism in the face of the horror tells us that even at a time when America truly was under external attack, the biggest dangers we faced were already internal.

The Republican Party wasn’t yet full-on authoritarian, but it was willing to do whatever it took to get what it wanted, and disdainful of the legitimacy of its opposition. That is, we were well along on the road to the Jan. 6 putsch — and toward a G.O.P. that has, in effect, endorsed that putsch and seems all too likely to try one again.”

In Afghanistan, War and Climate Change Collide – The New York Times

Somini Sengupta has reported on more than 10 conflicts around the world, including in Afghanistan.

“Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years.

Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.

And while it would be facile to attribute the conflict in Afghanistan to climate change, the effects of warming act as what military analysts call threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over water, putting people out of work in a nation whose people largely live off agriculture, while the conflict itself consumes attention and resources.”

Ezra Klein | Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem – The New York Times

“. . .  Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.

“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.” “

Bret Stephens | Our ‘Broken Windows’ World – The New York Times

“. . . We now live in a broken-windows world. I would argue that it began a decade ago, when Barack Obama called on Americans to turn a chapter on a decade of war and “focus on nation-building here at home,” which became a theme of his re-election campaign.

It looked like a good bet at the time. Osama bin Laden had just been killed. The surge in Iraq had stabilized the country and decimated Al Qaeda there. The Taliban were on the defensive. Relations with Russia had been “reset.” China was still under the technocratic leadership of Hu Jintao. The Arab Spring, eagerly embraced by Obama as “a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” seemed to many to portend a more hopeful future for the Middle East (though some of us were less sanguine).   . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Hi Bret,
Nice column, but you reach too far, and fall short, though there are criticisms you approach that are valid. Comparing the Russian gas pipeline to other failures seems silly, like comparing apples to oranges. Everyone needs a little natural gas for the next 50 years or so. Even Biden didn’t cancel all the pipelines from Canada. Our walking out of Afghanistan doesn’t show that we are over as a great power, but that we are starting to act again like an intelligent as well as great power, with more fights in the future than just against the primitive Taliban. You are still right about several important and serious mistakes. We should be occupying Syria right now not Afghanistan. Ignoring the red line Obama had drawn himself was dumb, cowardly, and over cautious. But Afghanistan is history. We should be discussing an invasion or insurrection in Brazil, to save the rain forest. That is in our national interest.
David is a jack of all trades and master of none, and a military historian, who blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Sami Sadat | The Afghan Army Collapsed Against the Taliban. Here’s Why. – The New York Times

General Sadat is a commander in the Afghan National Army.

“For the past three and a half months, I fought day and night, nonstop, in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province against an escalating and bloody Taliban offensive. Coming under frequent attack, we held the Taliban back and inflicted heavy casualties. Then I was called to Kabul to command Afghanistan’s special forces. But the Taliban already were entering the city; it was too late.

I am exhausted. I am frustrated. And I am angry.”

David Lindsay

This is the best explanation to date that I’ve read, to understand why the Afghan army collapsed so quickly. It confirms many ugly reports. The autopsy will stink. The time table to withdraw was too fast, and absurdly, we gave the Taliban an exit date. Trump and Biden will be seen here as guilty of mindless impatience– Penny wise and pound foolish.

Opinion | I’m Organizing Evacuations From Afghanistan. It’s Chaos. – The New York Times

Mr. Azizzada is a community organizer based in Los Angeles who has been coordinating efforts to evacuate Afghans from Kabul.

“The day our lives fell apart, Sunday, Aug. 15, I received a call from a close friend in Kabul. Usually cool and confident, vital skills for a community leader in a complex, conflict-ridden place like Afghanistan, my friend now whispered in desperation. “I need to get out,” he said. “Help me.” In the background, I could hear the city bustling nervously as millions of people absorbed the fact of the Taliban’s conquest.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you for this report, sad as it is. It is helpful to get details, and we could use more, about what the Taliban are doing to our friends and allies, behind their wall of rhetoric. Clearly, if they meant what they are saying, they wouldn’t be stopping citizens from going to the airport. It is significant, that a NYT commenter the other day, was a vet who served in Afghanistan. He is terrified for his translators and the people who helped his men get around and function. He is horrified by our country’s failure to these people.
David blogs on military, political and environmental matters at InconvenientNews.net
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