Bret Stephens | Putin Is Starting to Do What Won Him a War 7 Years Ago – The New York Times

“. . . The strategy is clear. Putin’s armies might be falling back in the field. But if he can freeze, starve and terrorize Ukraine’s people by going after their water supplies and energy infrastructure — while waiting for winter to blunt Ukraine’s advance — he might still be able to force Kyiv to accept some sort of armistice, leaving him in possession of most of his conquests.

That would count as a victory in Putin’s books, however wounded he might otherwise be. It would also be encouragement to China’s Xi Jinping as he eyes Taiwan and Iran’s Ali Khamenei as he tries to suppress weeks of protest that are starting to have the color of a revolution. Much more is at stake in the outcome in Ukraine than the fate of Ukraine itself.

What can the Biden administration do? More. And more quickly.

So far, we’ve had a policy of nick-of-time delivery of critical weaponry, such as the Javelin and Stinger missiles that saved Kyiv at the beginning of the war and HIMARS, the rocket systems that turned the tide of war over the summer. We need to switch to an approach that stays consistently ahead of the pace of war and weather.

On Tuesday the administration announced that it would soon be delivering to Ukraine two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, with ranges of up to 30 miles. But there’s a hitch: Only “in the next few years,” according to a report in The Times, will Ukraine get to take delivery of the next six systems.

Ukrainians, whose country is nearly the size of Texas, need the systems now. If the United States can’t deliver them quickly, we can at least provide Ukrainians with unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.s) that can give them vastly improved detection and defensive capabilities over much longer ranges.

The Biden administration has been considering the sale of four of the U.S. Army’s long-endurance U.A.V.s armed with Hellfire missiles since June, but the request has been held up in the bowels of Pentagon bureaucracy for months over excessive fears that some of its technologies could fall into Russian hands. Why not approve the sale, increase the numbers and start training Ukrainians on the systems immediately?” . . . .

Bret Stephens | Climate Change Is Real. Markets, Not Governments, Offer the Cure. – The New York Times

“ILULISSAT, GREENLAND — On a clear day in August, a helicopter set me and a few companions down on the northern end of the Jakobshavn Glacier in Western Greenland, about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The ground under our feet seemed almost lunar: gray silt and dust, loose rocks and boulders, and, at the edge of the glacier’s face, mud so deep it nearly ate my boots. To the south, the calving front of the glacier known in Greenlandic as Sermeq Kujalleq periodically deposited enormous slabs of ice, some more than 100 feet high, into the open water.

I asked the pilot to give me a sense of how much the glacier had retreated since he had been flying the route. He pointed to a distant rocky island in the middle of the fjord.

“That’s where the glacier was in 2007,” he said.

Over the course of the 20th century, the Jakobshavn Glacier retreated about 10 to 15 kilometers. Over just the next eight years, it retreated about the same amount, according to the oceanographer Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Later the front advanced a little — a function of complex dynamics partly involving ocean currents — before resuming its retreat.

For anyone who has entertained doubts about the warming of the planet, a trip to Greenland serves as a bracing corrective. Flying low over the vast ice sheet that covers most of the island, I immediately noticed large ponds of cerulean meltwater and dozens of fast-flowing streams rushing through gullies of white ice and sometimes disappearing into vertical ice caverns thousands of feet deep. Such lakes, scientists report, have become far more common over the last two decades, occurring earlier in the year at higher elevations. Last year, it even rained at the highest point of the ice sheet, some 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. That’s a first since record keeping began in the 1980s.”

David Lindsay:  Hallelujah. Thank you Bret, for this careful and honest essay.  One climate crisis denier starts to understand.  Here is a comment I especially liked, of many I endorsed.

Former American engineering professor
EuropeOct. 28

I have been waiting for this column. I liked it. Thank you for stating everything so carefully. Mostly I agree with what you have said, but as FunkyIrishman points out, we would not be in nearly as much of a bind if the earth had the same population it did in the 1950’s. “Grow and multiply until you fill the earth” doesn’t mean standing room only. The earth is “full” when population starts to stress the system in potentially dangerous or irreversible ways. I know conservatives hate regulation and I can relate, but consider the horrible photochemical smog that plagued Los Angeles in 1970. We had the ability to make it go away all along, but it did not start to go away until a regulation limited vehicle emissions. It is naïve to assume companies will consider the wellbeing of society. I am not saying companies are bad. Companies are certainly indispensable, but they exist to make a profit and nothing more. They are incredibly good at that. Once a clean-air level playing field was established in California, they made profits while improving air quality. Having said that, regulation needs to have the lightest touch possible to get the job done, and it needs to be straightforward. About having a lot of time to deal with it – the idea worries me because policy makers are so good at kicking the can down the road. I think you were a little unfair to climate scientists. They have tried to explain about the uncertainties, but the public have a hard time with that concept.

3 Replies 265 Recommended

David Lindsay: Most of the top comments were hyper critical, and they scored great points, without recognizing the strengths of Stephen’s piece. He overstates the case for letting markets solve the problem, and yet keeps mentioning regulations that were successful in guiding markets to sanity. It is as if, he hasn’t digested all that he has just learned. I reread the piece and marked most of the good or excellent and bad or terrible points, and the count came out, 42 good or excellent points, 17 bad or terrible points, so the score or grade was 42/59= .71 or 71%. Many of the comments discuss the 17 terrible points, without acknowledging all the many good points in the piece, which is typical of the carelessness of many commenters in this space.

I’m rereading the second half of the Fritjof Capra book, “The Hidden Connections, A Science for Sustainable Living,” which I recommend to Bret Stephens, for an introduction to the new economics of sustainability, which is not based on GDP, but bringing humans into balance with nature, and a healthy environment and ecosystems, in an economy that recycle everything and doesn’t pollute.

David Lindsay Jr  is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net. 

 

 

 

I

Bret Stephens | This Is the Other Way That History Ends – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The End of History was supposed to have happened back in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama announced the conclusive triumph of liberal democracy. We know how that thesis worked out. But what happens when the other kind of History — academic, not Hegelian — starts to collapse?

That’s a question that James H. Sweet, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the president of the American Historical Association, tried to raise earlier this month in a column titled “Is History History?” for the organization’s newsmagazine. It didn’t go well.

Sweet’s core concern in the piece, which was subtitled “Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present,” was about the “trend toward presentism” — the habit of weighing the past against the social concerns and moral categories of the present.”

David Lindsay: One of Bret’s best pieces, and the comments are glowing with praise, on a complex and difficult subject.

Opinion | Bret Stephens: I Was Wrong About Trump Voters – The New York Times

“. . . . A final question for myself: Would I be wrong to lambaste Trump’s current supporters, the ones who want him back in the White House despite his refusal to accept his electoral defeat and the historic outrage of Jan. 6?

Morally speaking, no. It’s one thing to take a gamble on a candidate who promises a break with business as usual. It’s another to do that with an ex-president with a record of trying to break the Republic itself.

But I would also approach these voters in a much different spirit than I did the last time. “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall,” noted Abraham Lincoln early in his political career. “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Words to live by, particularly for those of us in the business of persuasion.”   -30-

Bret Stephens | Five Blunt Truths About the War in Ukraine – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Five sentences sum up the war in Ukraine as it stands now.

The Russians are running out of precision-guided weapons. The Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era munitions. The world is running out of patience for the war. The Biden administration is running out of ideas for how to wage it. And the Chinese are watching.

Moscow’s shortfalls with its arsenal, which have been obvious on the battlefield for weeks, are cause for long-term relief and short-term horror. Relief, because the Russian war machine, on whose modernization Vladimir Putin spent heavily, has been exposed as a paper tiger that could not seriously challenge NATO in a conventional conflict.

Horror, because an army that cannot wage a high-tech war, relatively low on collateral damage, will wage a low-tech war, appallingly high on such damage. Ukraine, by its own estimates, is suffering 20,000 casualties a month. By contrast, the U.S. suffered about 36,000 casualties in Iraq over seven years of war. For all its bravery and resolve, Kyiv can hold off — but not defeat — a neighbor more than three times its size in a war of attrition.”

Bret Stephens | The Left Is Being Mugged by Reality, Again – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

“Is a decade of destructive progressive ideology finally coming to an end?

That San Franciscans, some of America’s most reliably liberal voters, chose on Tuesday to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin, one of America’s most leftward D.A.s, is a sign of hope.

Voter patience for what Mayor London Breed of San Francisco calls “all the bullshit that has destroyed our city” — aggressive shopliftingrampant car burglariesopen-air drug use, filthy homeless encampmentssidewalks turned into toilets — is finally running thin.

Progressive overreach has its price. Even for progressives.

What’s going on in San Francisco is happening nationwide, and not just in matters of criminal justice and urban governance. In one area after another, the left is being mugged by reality, to borrow Irving Kristol’s famous phrase. Consider a few examples:     . . . . . “

David Lindsay:

Great points Bret, thank you.

My beyond beef, is that you sound ignorant, or dumb, on the threat of climate change. Your brilliance is your hard honesty, that we climate hawks have a tough job, since, as you point out, most folks are for the environment, as long as it won’t cost them more than an extra $10 a year. The irony, is that as you sound almost gloating over our failures to mitigate climate change, you seem oblivious to the fact that the planet we are trying to keep habitable, is the same one you and your family live on.

Your punishment, or assignment, is to go study Edward O Wilson, and learn about the sixth great extinction of species going on right now all around us. Why did he conclude that at current rates of growth and pollution, we will lose 80% of the world’s species in the next 80 years, and humans will be probably one of the casualties.  Some aliens in outer space are probably gloating, since those humans won’t last very long.

David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Bret Stephens | On Taiwan, Biden Should Find His Inner Truman – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The White House insists that President Biden did not break with longstanding policy when, at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday with the prime minister of Japan, he flatly answered “yes” to the question, “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

Don’t believe the diplomatic spin that there’s nothing to see here. Don’t believe, either, that the president didn’t know what he was doing. What Biden said is dramatic — as well as prudent, necessary and strategically astute. He is demonstrating a sense of history, a sense of the moment and a sense that, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new rules apply.

American policy toward Taiwan for the past 43 years has been chiefly governed by two core, if somewhat ambiguous, agreements. The first, the One China policy, which Biden reaffirmed in Tokyo, is the basis for Washington’s diplomatic recognition of Beijing as the sole legal government of China.

The second, the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, is the basis for our continued ties to Taiwan as a self-governing entity. But unlike the treaties the U.S. maintains with Japan and South Korea, the act does not oblige American forces to come to the island’s defense in the event of an attack — only that we will provide Taiwan with the weapons it needs to defend itself.

Former presidents, including Donald Trump, have hinted that the United States would fight for Taiwan but have otherwise remained studiedly vague on the question. That may have once served Washington’s strategic purposes, at least when relations with Beijing were warming or stable.

But Xi Jinping has changed the rules of the game.”

Bret Stephens | Why We Admire Zelensky – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“Why do we admire Volodymyr Zelensky? The question almost answers itself.

We admire him because, in the face of unequal odds, Ukraine’s president stands his ground. Because he proves the truth of the adage that one man with courage makes a majority. Because he shows that honor and love of country are virtues we forsake at our peril. Because he grasps the power of personal example and physical presence. Because he knows how words can inspire deeds — give shape and purpose to them — so that the deeds may, in turn, vindicate the meaning of words.

We admire Zelensky because he reminds us of how rare these traits have become among our own politicians. Zelensky was an actor who used his celebrity to become a statesman. Western politics is overrun by people who playact as statesmen so that they may ultimately become celebrities. Zelensky has made a point of telling Ukrainians the hard truth that the war is likely to get worse — and of telling off supposed well-wishers that their words are hollow and their support wanting. Our leaders mainly specialize in telling people what they want to hear.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Excellent essay Bret Stephens, thank you. I recently reread “the Hobbit,” by JRR Tolkien, for possibly the 10th time, and it is famous for good reason. Tolkien describes the elves, dwarves and hobbits of Middle Earth with humor and wisdom, poking politely at the many strengths, weakness, and foibles of human beings.
  Dictatorships, such as that of Russia, is represented by the Necromancer, and the goblins and orcs. The Hobbit was published in 1937, after WW I. WW II was on its way.
  Reluctantly, I think that NATO should go to war with Russia, to save the Ukraine, as if it were in NATO already. I think some things are worth dying for. In the Hobbit, the leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, sits out the great battle of five armies, while others fight to protect his gold and dragon treasure. He is honorless, while his kin on the field fight with honor, for their freedom and very lives.
  The NATO countries are a bit like the coward, Thorin Oakenshield, whose mind is clouded with the love of his hoard of gold, to the point where he will not risk his life for his own kin and neighbors. In Tolkien’s magnificent story, Thorin pulls himself together, and restores his honor. It is not too late for NATO to do the same.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion,” about war in18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Bret Stephens | What Do We Do if Putin Uses Chemical Weapons? – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

“There are reports that Russia may be planning to use — or, according to unverified reports from local officials in Mariupol, might have already used — chemical weapons as part of its offensive in eastern Ukraine. The Biden administration has already set up a Tiger Team of national security officials to consider options in the event this happens; now is the time for these discussions to become more public.

We’ve traveled this road before, badly. In August 2012, Barack Obama publicly warned the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria against employing chemical weapons. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” he said. “That would change my calculus.”

It didn’t.  . . . “

Bret Stephens | Biden Is Still Right. Putin Has to Go. – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“Horrific scenes of mass murder on the outskirts of Kyiv should appall everybody and surprise nobody.

The brutalization of civilians has been the Putin regime’s calling card since its inception — from the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999, where the weight of circumstantial evidence points the finger at Vladimir Putin and his security service henchmen, to the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Magnitsky and Boris Nemtsov to Russia’s atrocities in Grozny, eastern Ukraine, Aleppo and now Bucha.

Mostly, the world has found it easier to make excuses to get along with Putin than to work against him. One example: In 2015, Germany got about 35 percent of its natural gas from Russia. In 2021, the figure had jumped to 55 percent. Berlin is now a major diplomatic obstacle to imposing stiffer sanctions on Russia, and Germany continues to buy Russian gas, oil and coal, to the tune of $2 billion a month.

To put this in simplified but accurate terms, Germany — having fiercely resisted years of international pressure to lessen its dependence on Russian gas — finds itself in the position of funding the Russian state. That is money that helps keep the ruble afloat and the Kremlin’s war machine going. Surely this can’t be the role that Berlin wishes to play.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Yes, great column Bret Stephens. Note to NATO and Biden, send in the the heavy anti-ship, anti-aircraft, and anti-missile missile defense systems– asap. Germany, and Europe, stop appeasing another ruthless dictator.
Germany, It is time to look again at the exciting new designs for nuclear energy that are cleaner and safer than the the designs from the 1950’s, from 70 years ago. Look carefully at the one by Bill Gates and associates. On paper, it can’t melt down, overheat or explode, and runs on spent nuclear fuel. It is time to build a few, and see if they work as well as designed for.
NYT: there are supposedly 20 or so new designs out for safer nuclear energy. Please start reviewing them all, one or two at a time.
David also comments at InconvenientNews.net, and is the author of “Talking Climate Change Blues.”