« A book recommendation post | Main | Get your warm takes! »

March 28, 2022

Comments

Some people think it is toxic masculinity (which it is), but I would also note that African-American culture is one where calling out and that kind of masculinity is a thing.

Black rednecks?...

The slap was shown but the f-bomb was beeped out?

This from the guardian adds another layer

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2022/mar/28/will-smith-abusive-childhood-chris-rock-oscars

Pro Bono, I think the whole thing was cut off, but not really sure. Though it’s an interesting question whether it was during a commercial break or if they saw something going down. The director presumably would have had some inkling, a rough script, cause they would need to know to cut to the reaction shot

Smith should have been escorted out of the building immediately, IMO. But I guess when you're up for Best Actor you get a lot of leeway. Or maybe they thought doing that would lead to an even bigger scene. I don't know.

I'm curious to know if Rock knew of Pinkett Smith's medical condition or not. If he didn't, the joke was kind of run of the mill (IMO). If he did, it was a little crueler than need be.

In either case, Smith's reaction seems out of bounds. To me.

The ironic thing is that Rock has explored the issues of black people's hair, and in particular black women's hair, at length. I'd be surprised and disappointed to find that he knowingly made a joke out of Pinkett Smith's alopecia. Not that Chris Rock is interested in my opinion about much of anything.

...hair, at length.

Heh...

On Ukraine: There are reports that the Ukrainian peace negotiators (and Roman Abramovich who was mediating) showed signs of poisoning after meeting last week. Bellingcat corroberates:

https://twitter.com/bellingcat/status/1508463513013997580

Biden's comment may have been tactless. But the attempts by his staff to walk it back look like an over reaction. Confining themselves to saying that the US did not envision taking action ourselves to remove him would have been sufficient.

Actually, without that staff effort, I suspect that the comment would have been a 2 day wonder, soon forgotten. As it is, it will end up being the focus of any coverage of the speech. (Which was a really good speech, by the way. One of the best of Biden's career, in fact.)

re GftNC’s of 1:41, it’s like Putin is saying, okay if I’m not going to be Peter the Great at least I can be Ivan the Terrible.

C4 News (on location in Ukraine) has just said that Zelensky has been "trying to pour cold water" on the poisoning story....

if I’m not going to be Peter the Great at least I can be Ivan the Terrible.

I was under the impression that he already didn't think Ivan was that terrible. As it, Peter and Ivan were both among his icons before this all started.

Apparently, US Intelligence sources say it was "environmental factors" rather than poison (couldn't it be both?)

Zelensky has been "trying to pour cold water" on the poisoning story

Of course, regardless of the facts, he would need to do so in order to keep negotiations going. If he confirms the poisoning story, he pretty much has to shut down negotiations.

maybe Putin is toxic

Some comments, from someone in a position to know more than any of us, on Russia and Ukraine:
https://www.economist.com/podcasts/2022/03/17/we-ask-the-former-russian-foreign-minister-what-is-next-for-russia

(The podcast does go on to other topics after the interview is done..)

Peter the Great was quite a monster too.
Ivan (unintentionally) killed his son in a fit of anger with a single hit of his iron staff and immediately regretted it.
Peter had his son tortured to death. Whether he personally participated is disputed. But he acted as torturer and executioner on other occasions, so it's not out of the question.
He was also an extreme alcoholic.

In addition to Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible, Putin's other great hero is . . . Stalin. Seeing the common thread here?

Well, in a couple generations (if not sooner) views of him will likely be similarly negative.

Looks like Russians are traditionally more fond of successful* even if evil leaders than of more benevolent ones that were not successful.
So, Boris Godunov and Gorbachev are seen as losers, Ivan IV. and Stalin as success stories.
At the moment it looks like Putin is switching from a seeming success story to failure. But I won't make too many predictions about Russian views on him in a hundred years (when those who lived under him are all dead**). Will he be fondly remembered as the one who brought Crimea 'home' or the one who failed in restoring Russian superpower status? His personal corruption will probably be taken for granted (normal behaviour for people in power. To the victor the spoils).

*or at least presented as such. Ivan e.g. failed in his main goal to get access to the Baltic Sea.
**or at least the majority. Some regions in Russia are famous for longevity.

More background on Russian poisonings:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/28/truth-may-never-be-known-about-latest-russian-poisoning-roman-abramovich

I'm curious what people think of this:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/28/biden-diplomatic-liability-putin-hands

Two Nato leaders, Biden and Britain’s Boris Johnson, are populists unschooled in the art of diplomacy. Both face electoral hostility at home. Both are prancing along Ukraine’s frontier beating their chests in parodies of Churchillian machismo. The bombast is not deterring Putin, but it strengthens his existential narrative and raises the war’s global profile. This must make him less inclined to accept the cost of any concession in defeat.

Personally I think two competing things are true:

1. Condemnation by Biden and BoJo, and others, does strengthen Putin's existential narrative to some extent, at least among sympathisers and the ill-informed (or perhaps I should say, in the case of this war, the hoodwinked) in Russia.

2. Opposition to him, both within and outside Russia, is serious and widespread enough for the condemnation to cut sufficiently through so that, while his objective has not been attained (largely because of Ukrainian staunchness and foreign willingness to supply them with weaponry), his position is looking dangerous.

Given this, the necessity to give him a face-saving retreat (for which read a way to claim victory) is paramount. Zelensky seems prepared to do so. But as some commentators have said, if he puts it to the Ukrainian people in a referendum, the jury is out on what they will say.

Personally, I would hate to give Putin the ability to claim any sort of victory. But it may be the way to end Ukrainian agony, and perhaps the filtering through in Russia of news of military deaths etc will continue to undermine Putin from within. One can hope. I can't see what one might call a "good" outcome for any of this.

And, FWIW, I am perfectly happy with the Guardian's characterisation of BoJo's bombast and Churchillian machismo, but I think it is unfair to Biden. Boris is a man without principles, but Biden (despite being too old and worrisomely unfiltered) has a history of caring about these issues (the small matter of democracy, for example) so he deserves respect on that front. IMHO.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/28/the-guardian-view-on-zelenskiys-strategy-giving-war-and-peace-a-chance

I found it a bit jarring to read someone putting Johnson and Biden in the same box after spending the last few years reading comparisons of Johnson and Trump, not to mention the "populist" label. Not that there aren't significant elements of populism in Biden's political persona, but comparatively it falls well short of Johnson and Trump.

The machismo thing is interesting, though. Just by virtue of being an American president, the machismo baseline is high. The whole "World's Policeman" thing is so baked in that it's almost an unconscious impulse, particularly in someone of Biden's generation. We're almost all cowboys to some degree, I guess, here in 'Murica.

Heh, dozens of decades of service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn't give experience in "diplomacy"?

dozens of decades

Eeek, I had no idea he was that old!

Hartmut,

At the moment it looks like Putin is switching from a seeming success story to failure.

GFTNC,

Opposition to him, both within and outside Russia, is serious and widespread enough for the condemnation to cut sufficiently through so that, while his objective has not been attained (largely because of Ukrainian staunchness and foreign willingness to supply them with weaponry), his position is looking dangerous.

I myself have an unfounded opinion that Putin is coming under strong, and personal, pressure from his generals to cut his losses and go home.

They are, according to me, tired of seeing their soldiers, maybe especially their fellow officers, being killed and their equipment destroyed, as the rest of the world looks in amazement at their apparent incompetence.

"We beat the Wehrmacht, and now we come to this."

It might be that the generals caused the problem, but can we be sure? Do we know what Putin was told before the invasion, and by who?

So maybe the message he is getting is,"Get us out of this mess or you'll find yourself in a big mess of your own."

unschooled in the art of diplomacy.

Seeing that applied to Biden rather undercuts the credibility of the whole article.

Sure, Biden occasionaly makes "gaffes" by speaking frankly rather than applying a proper PR-based filter to every word. So, perhaps "undiplomatic" applies.

But take a glance at how successful he has been in getting most of the world on-board with quite heavy sanctions. That's some impressive exercise of "the art of diplomacy". And not just compared to his predecessor, who was totally clueless about diplomacy.

Putin already sees the US promoted expansion of NATO under the Clinton administration as an attack on Russian sovereignty, so I don't think that Johnson's and Biden's dominance displays *actually* change anything except the messaging for either side.

Had Johnson and Biden remained silent and left the public communication to their diplomats, then Putin would have played that off as him being the only world leader with masculine virtue and taken the lack of public opposition as a sign of weakness on the part of the West.

Either way, though, I'm not sure that it changes Putin's overall course of action.

And even if Putin can now treat the actions of the US as an actual existential threat to his regime (and thus to Russia itself in his formulation), that would just make annexation of East Ukraine and the Crimea a bold gain in the face of Western imperialism.

What's really going to matter is whether Putin can take and keep territory, and whether the sanctions bite deep enough to weaken Putin's hold on power.

Either way it goes badly for both the people of Ukraine and of Russia, but neither of those appear to hold any value in Putin's mind.

Looks like Trump was using burn phones on Jan 6. There's a 7 hour gap in the White House call logs:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/29/trump-white-house-logs/

Somehow, not a surprise that a career criminal knows to do that.

Having read further, it may not be burn phones. Just destruction of part of the call logs.

Evidence: the last call before the gap is at the end of the page, and has no completion time shown (nor who it is to). The first call after the gap is the first entry on the page. A person who was suspicious-minded could see that a someone losing/destroying the intervening pages.

Eeek, I had no idea he was that old!

He scalped tickets for Lincoln to Ford's Theater...

He scalped tickets for Lincoln to Ford's Theater...

Before that, he was a printer's devil for Ben Franklin.

And before that he taught canoeing technique to the Voyageurs.

I myself have an unfounded opinion that Putin is coming under strong, and personal, pressure from his generals to cut his losses and go home.

This is what I want to believe, particularly that such pressure matters. OTOH, we know seven generals have died in Ukraine. How many have been effectively arrested/retired back in Moscow? Who holds actual control of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces? Are the generals willing to commit to holding even the Ukrainian territory Russia held before, given that now a Ukrainian resistance will be much better armed courtesy of NATO? Are there enough generals in a position to pull off a coup, and will they do so before Putin turns his former KGB assassins loose on them? They have to be crazy if they willingly leave Putin in power.

Are there enough generals in a position to pull off a coup, and will they do so before Putin turns his former KGB assassins loose on them? They have to be crazy if they willingly leave Putin in power.

Probably not willingly. But can they get past Putin's KGB assassins, to remove him?

I also would like to believe they are getting desperate enough to try. But I suspect that the only realistic scenario is for one of said KGB folks to decide to take him out. Which probably requires Putin to have left in place at least one who is not a fellow Greater Russia ideologue. (Or, I suppose, a fellow ideologue who decides that Putin is in the way of the devine plan for Russian resurgence.)

Cohen sez that Trump got a staff member to buy several burner phones at CVS.

Probably got points on their CVS loyalty account, also, too.

With all this noose-tightening, it would be disappointing if it doesn't end in twitching & stillness.

Alexander Vindman being interviewed on C4 News.

"Russia is absolutely not interested in having a confrontation with NATO....we absolutely must continue to send arms to Ukraine....Putin will not give up his ambition to take the whole of Ukraine....this has to be prevented, Russia must be defeated militarily.

I called Trump a traitor today because he has set the conditions for this incursion of Putin's, which is not just a threat in Europe but a threat to America. We are on the cusp of a larger war if this is not handled correctly, and you have Donald Trump continuing to act as a cheerleader for Russia"

you have Donald Trump continuing to act as a cheerleader for Russia

Of course, you also have Trump saying "Putin is Ukraine's enemy, but he's not my enemy. So if he acts against Biden, which helps me, I'm all for that." That's beyond just cheerleading for Russia.

Whatever. At least he didn't wear a tan suit.

At least he didn't wear a tan suit.

Although he might, if Putin decides to set that as a fashion trend....

At least he didn't wear a tan suit.

Could have been worse. When I was young and had a clothes horse body, I had a beautiful white three-piece suit. Pink shirt, blue tie, and a matching white Panama hat. I used to wear them to work from time to time just to irritate the more senior managers at Bell Labs. If I had been President at that point, I would have worn them some of the time just to piss people off.

I have been trying to imagine how The Village would have reacted if He, Trump had said what Joe Biden "ad-libbed" about Putin.

Gaffe? Or predictable plain-spoken-ness?

Diplomatic blunder? Or laudable rejection of political correctness?

Sign he's past it? Or virile masculinity?

It's hard to think it through, because you'd have to imagine a timeline in which He, Trump is neither a Russian mole nor Putin's Little Bitch.

--TP

Well, first you have to look at the character and personality of the person doing the ad lib. Is he a normal guy? Or someone who feels compelled to posture constantly, and act out, in a (vain) attempt to demonstrate how macho he is?

Biden isn't likely to order some half-assed attempt to assassinate a foreign leader, just to prove himself. Trump, on the other hand....

Shortly after that, we had President Biden say that Putin 'cannot remain in power' and then arguing that no, of course that doesn't mean regime change.

I don't really see the inconsistency there.
The first is plain moral outrage at a mass-murdering autocrat running a large country; the second is a (welcome) recognition that the US has no automatic right to change other people's governments, since to do so is effectively an act of war.

I don't even know how to describe this.

Trump brazenly asks Putin to release dirt about Biden's family
https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/29/politics/trump-putin-hunter-biden/index.html

Could have been worse. When I was young and had a clothes horse body, I had a beautiful white three-piece suit. Pink shirt, blue tie, and a matching white Panama hat.

Times (and mores) change, Michael Cain. You have just described a certain kind of upper class dandy's outfit, which, suitably adapted (white linen two-piece, no tie) would now be considered pretty spiffy summer wear to a garden party, wedding, smart restaurant (or indeed Lords Cricket Ground if you include the panama hat) on the right guy here in the old country.

As for Trump's repeated plea to Putin for help against his perceived adversaries, really what else is there to say?

I may be giving more weight than strictly merited to Vindman's views, because of how outrageously a good, qualified and dignified man was treated, but when someone who has been pretty judicious before now starts using words like "traitor", it really underlines how hard it is (and not just for Nigel) to find words adequate to describe it. And, as always, the fact that this will be the equivalent of the blue/black or white/gold dress meme, depending on which half of America you fit in, is infinitely depressing.

Times (and mores) change

What's rather amazing is that the necktie has not only persisted, but spread to the rest of the world. Crazy!

They still hand out Oscars?

What's rather amazing is that the necktie has not only persisted, but spread to the rest of the world. Crazy!

Even worse, perhaps... I recall seeing a set of photographs of men in American conservative business suits for each decade of the 20th century. Remarkably little variation over the course of the century.

men in American conservative business suits for each decade of the 20th century. Remarkably little variation over the course of the century.

Seriously conservative, there. But consider: women's clothing still routinely fastens/closes in back. Which wasn't totally unreasonable for upper class women in the 19th century, who had ladies' maids to stand behind them and help them dress. But today???

It's not like the engineering is that challenging. Heck, there are already front-buttoned blouses, even front clasp bras. But they are still not standard.

Maybe, when it comes to clothing, women are even more conservative than men . . . ?

This guy. I guess the GOP has some kind of bottom.

https://theweek.com/north-carolina/1011997/tillis-backs-madison-cawthorn-challenger-in-extraordinary-broadside-against

some kind of bottom

Although one notes that Cawthorn isn't being faulted for his (numerous) other shortcomings. Just for failing to bring home the bacon for his district. Which, given that he is in Congress to posture (and maybe line up a lucrative future gig on Fox or somewhere), isn't actually surprising.

From what Cawthorn was saying it sounds like the GOP has a lot of bottoms...

*rimshot* (as opposed to rim job)

wj, don't forget that fashion design is a male dominated business.
But go far enough into the past and it was men that wore outrageous clothing while women were expected to dress 'conservatively'.
Modern male business attire and its monotony is a relatively young development.

don't forget that fashion design is a male dominated business.

Watching the contortions that the women in my life over the years have gone thru, just to get dressed, it would have to be. (It would no doubt be snarky to suggest that the gay guys in the business also don't have to watch women struggling with their clothing every day. Models, after all, are among the few who still will have dressers.)

Admittedly, in some places men still have to struggle with the fashion police.
https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2022/03/12/why-omanis-are-required-to-dress-up

Literally, police. As in, fines** are mandated for improper male attire.

** Not a wrist slap. Something like $2,600 per infraction.

I once had a co-worker who came from southern India. One summer day he and I were walking to a business meeting, suitably attired, when he complained of being outside in the heat.

Me: I thought you wouldn't mind so much. Isn't it pretty hot where you come from?

Him: Yes. But we don't dress like idiots.

But we don't dress like idiots.

Exactly. But I must say that, despite wj's observation about neckties, it seems to me that with the exception of certain very specific professions (e.g. the law, high-end financial services), formal work clothes for men - i.e. in US terminology dress shirts (not what they are called in the UK), two or three piece suits, ties and jackets - are becoming somewhat less mandated. I believe that less dressy trousers like chinos, shirts without ties, smart-casual jackets etc are becoming acceptable in very many professions. And I understand that suit manufacturers are pretty worried about it.

https://www.statista.com/outlook/cmo/apparel/men-s-apparel/suits/united-states

I could be wrong, but I'm sure I have heard this from various sources.

@GftNC, when I worked as a staffer for the Colorado state legislature in 2006-09, coat and tie was mandatory to be on the floor of the House or Senate. Women were cut a small amount of slack, but were required to be wearing a blouse with a collar, top button buttoned, and something that was recognizably a tie-surrogate.

There were situations where the coat rule was sometimes relaxed, and outside of the legislative session some of the staff organizations allowed business casual. I was a member of the Joint Budget Committee staff, and our coat-and-tie rule was never relaxed. Our staff director treated it the way that some of the British military units treat outlandish dress attire: we are different, and we are special, because we are just. That. Damned. Good.

It's interesting to watch these things change. In California, in the mid-70s, we all had to be in coat and tie. (Although you could take off the coat while at your desk.) Then, IT folks, especially experienced ones, got ever harder to find. So in order to attract staff, (buttoned) shirt, and slacks became acceptable. A decade later, and still with staff in short supply, we got to jeans in the IT department of even big businesses.

Elsewhere in the companies, other back office staff asked: How come these guys get paid like executives, but we're the ones in coat and tie? There being no good answer, "business casual" arose. There were still a few places (c.f. Michael's post) that clung to the old dress codes, but mostly, the only ones in ties were consultants passing thru.

Again, I'm talking California here. Elsewhere, things may be different. But I note that, at the conferences I attend, very few countries (and nowhere in the US) send people is suits. Even government IT staff.

Except for department heads and up, most employees at Texas Instruments dressed informally for most of its history. That was certainly the case when I was there in the '70s and '80s.

I attended a private school as a kid, white shirt, school tie, blue blazer.

When I started my career as a system programmer, dress code was relaxed, even in New York City. Same when I moved to Silicon Valley: nobody expected software types to wear a tie. But I found that at Amdahl it made a difference in how other people regarded me, so I took to wearing a sport coat and tie.

Nowadays of course "business casual" has given way to jeans and T-shirts working from home. What the camera doesn't see on Zoom nobody asks about.

re Madison Cawthorn, I thought the argument that the problem with what he was saying was not that it was over the line qua over the line (because for the right wing is there actually even a line anymore?) but rather that he was attacking Republicans instead of Democrats had the virtue of simplicity and plausibility (as well as a nice nod to Saint Ronnie).

To be effective within a culture, one must adopt the Tribal Regalia.

Maybe that's a suit&tie; maybe it's cutoff jeans and an old ratty t-shirt.

"Humans are weird"

But we don't dress like idiots.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPnJM3zWfUo

Hartmut: it has never been said better.

Same when I moved to Silicon Valley: nobody expected software types to wear a tie.

When I was in the software business in the mid-80's our programmers dressed extremely casually - jeans and t-shirts were common.

It turned out this actually had a benefit, as visiting customers sort of assumed that people who dressed like that for work must be whizzes.

Chino's are out. Almost entirely replaced with jeans. Financial services wear ties but mostly not starch.

Suits are exceedingly rare. I no longer own one. Standard dress for any IT management is jeans and sport coat.

Oddly, gaming industry management is still suits.

Clown suits were de rigueur in all of my professional pursuits, with one very small company car provided and shared for travel. Squirty lapel flowers were provided as well if you were in sales. Racks of cream pies were brought in for meetings with management and all employees awaited with excitement who would be chosen to be shot out of the corporate cannon.

None of that "sad clown" crap; if you weren't smiling maniacally like a realtor at all times, off you went to clean out the python cage.

Every job had a bearded lady as well, but now the American conservative movement has removed them to Moscow, Texas, or Florida for a shave and haircut, sterilization and the confiscation of their voter registrations, as glasnost between their fascists and ours proceeds apace.

Bearded fetuses were exempted and in fact went to the head of the line for promotions and bonuses as the rest of the post-born workforce was issued bootstraps and told to suck it up through straws with no openings at either end.

A yearly bonus, if you were one of the deserving clowns, was to serve as a rodeo clown to divert shareholders', customers' and regulators' attention by letting the latter dress up as pissed off cattle-prodded Brahma bulls in flowery straw hats and chase you around a dirt enclosure using their pointy forefingers as menacing horns as an announcer fluffed the onlookers.

We had pantsless Tuesdays most weeks, but now I'm retired and I've adopted that attire seven days a week.

I have heard stories that back in the days when failure to wear the company standard blue suit, white shirt, and tie was a firing offense at most of IBM, the rule was ignored at the research labs. Also that non-research employees were only allowed into those facilities with enough prior notice so the researchers involved could dress up for it.

Biden is not a decent man. You can only think that if you compartmentalize his reaction to Russian war crimes from his continued support for the Saudi war in Yemen. But it is the same guy. And that undoubtedly nice guy Secretary Blinken was part of the team that gave the Saudis the green light to start bombing in 2015. Nice people can still support policies that cause mass death.

https://foreverwars.substack.com/p/yemen-biden-bone-saw-daddy?s=r

People are weird. I could imagine a parallel earth with somewhat different politics where Putin was our ally and the Saudis were allied with someone else— maybe China. ( This second part might happen.) In that case Biden would be supporting Putin as he bombs Ukraine and denouncing the Saudi war crimes in Yemen as crimes against humanity, which they are. ( The death toll there is close to 400,000, the majority children dead of famine.)

The politics of Earth 2 would be different, but the morality would be exactly the same.

There might be a truce now in Yemen, but only because the Saudis can’t prevent Houthi missiles from hitting their oil facilities.

In a very sincere report on the Ukraine "special military operation" (hey, two out of three, right?), this
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/01/russia-belgorod-fire-helicopter-ukraine/
On a Ukrainian helicopter strike into Russian territory.

“Ukrainian helicopters delivered a missile strike upon a civilian oil storage terminal located on the outskirts of Belgorod,” a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told a briefing. “A number of tanks were damaged and caught fire after being hit by missiles." He added, “The oil terminal has no relation to the Russian armed forces.”
If you believe that last, about there being no implications for the Russian military, let me make you a bargain on this bridge....

Of course, the Russians consider it "an escalation" that the victim of their aggression has hit back on their territory. Sympathy seems likely to be limited.

Will Russian military leaders feel reminded of Stalin's pre-Hitler attempt to sack Poland that ended with parts of Ukraine under Polish control? If so, will they also fear that their current political leader will do the same to the military afterwards in order to shift the blame?

Throwback to TFG, from a piece on Bill Browder in today's Times. I love that "not a little bracingly":

Once, while on holiday in the US, he woke up to learn, completely unexpectedly and not a little bracingly, that Donald Trump had casually declared his openness to the idea of swapping Browder, a British citizen, for some Russian intelligence agents. It was, said Trump at a joint press conference, an “incredible offer”.

Hey, if you can trade (or buy) stuff, why not human beings, too? If you're a career criminal, the fact that those offered by one side were stolen/kidnapped is irrelevant. Besides, to TFG, nobody but himself, and maybe Ivanka, are really people anyway.

Hey, if you can trade (or buy) stuff, why not human beings, too?

I hear there's a thriving market for politicians...

I hear there's a thriving market for politicians...

But mostly, they can't be counted upon to stay bought....

The accounts of mass murder from the newly liberated towns across Ukraine are not unexpected, but nonetheless horrific.

Putin has earned himself a war-criminals death:
short drop, long twitchy dangle.

Too bad it seems unlikely that he'll get it.

Maybe if someone offered a $1B bounty.

I'll write them a check.

Putin has shown us nothing new about his nihilism in Ukraine that we had not already known about him from Syria. The only thing that we have really learned in Ukraine is that his military is really not good at doing anything but indiscriminate bombardment.

I do worry that his recruitment of Syrian mercenaries will mark an increase in effectiveness for his ground forces if he concentrates on taking and keeping the territories he's attempting to annexed. The Syrians actually have experience with street fighting and they have no emotional ties to the people they would be fighting against.

“ Behind the Assad regime’s atrocities lies a fear of demographic exhaustion. Its rebel opponents have no such worries: They can draw on a vast well of Islamist sympathizers across the Arab world.

These facts translate into a genuine gratitude — in regime-controlled areas — toward Russia, whose military intervention in late 2015 may have forestalled a total collapse. Many Syrians say they feel reassured by the sight of Russian soldiers, because they (unlike the army and its allied militias) are not likely to loot or steal. Some of my contacts in regime-controlled areas are even learning Russian. In Latakia, some people told me that their city might have been destroyed if not for the Russians. The city has long been one of Syria’s safe zones, well defended by the army and its militias; there are tent cities full of people who have fled other parts of the country, including thousands from Aleppo. But in the summer of 2015, the rebels were closing in on the Latakia city limits, and mortars were falling downtown. If the rebels had captured the area — where Alawites are the majority — a result would almost certainly have been sectarian mass murder. Many people in the region would have blamed the United States, which armed some of the rebels operating in the area. In this sense, the Russian intervention was a lucky thing for the Obama administration too. Andrew Exum, who worked in the Pentagon at the time, told me that the military drew up contingency plans for a rapid collapse of the regime. The planning sessions were talked about as “catastrophic success.”

From “ Aleppo After the Fall” by Robert Worth NYT Sunday magazine May 2 2017

Got the date wrong. May 24

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/magazine/aleppo-after-the-fall.html

Putin has shown us nothing new about his nihilism in Ukraine that we had not already known about him from Syria.

Well, he has clarified that his atrocities are not based on racism. He's every bit as willing to commit them against Europeans, fellow Slavs even, as anyone else.

Behind the Assad regime’s atrocities lies a fear of demographic exhaustion. Its rebel opponents have no such worries

That is, always, the risk of running a minority government which represses the majority: once a reaction gets going, the majority may be sufficiently resentful (to put it mildly) that they decide to eliminate the risk of a future repeat by eliminating said minority.

One would say "Republicans politicians (and voters) take note" . . . except that there seems little chance that they would.

Syria went kinda sideways in 2014 with the flood of outside fighters, and the brutality of the Daesh factions does not mitigate the brutality of the Russian tactics in the area any more than it minimizes the brutality of Assad's rule.

My classes just finished watching Children of Syria on Friday, which sparked a healthy discussion of the UN Rights of the Child frameworks. The father of the family at the center is shown using an indiscriminate weapon (Hellcanon) against what we assume are regime troops, and his daughters collect shrapnel to use as part of the improvised ordnance he is firing. Yet if they try to leave the area in busses to seek safety, they are vulnerable to regime attacks on civilians.

It's all a mess. The residents of Aleppo were all subject to the extremity of the circumstances and trapped in a context that removed their privilege not to be complicit.

Spoiler. The father is abducted by a Daesh faction and is never heard from again.

None of this changes the fact that Russian forces committed war crimes in their struggle to control territory on behalf of a murderous regime, and neither of those parties were driven to become criminals by the barbarity of the opponents who came in part way through. They were all just looking for a narrative that would excuse their inhumanity in the name of expedience.

Yeah, wj. Now apply that reasoning to one of Syria’s neighbors and see how it sounds. Civil wars are ugly ugly things but the way Syria was presented in the West was deeply dishonest. Assad and Putin were and are war criminals, but they weren’t the only ones. People fought for Assad because they feared genocide. A large fraction of the Alawite population died fighting against the rebels because they were terrified by them. Read the Worth article. He doesn’t hold back regarding Assad and Russian brutality, but he also describes what the rebels did in the areas where they were in control.

Quite a few people on Twitter with non- Western backgrounds are noticing with extreme bitterness the difference between how the West reacts to Putin’s attack on Ukraine vs how it reacts to other situations where Western governments are on the side of the oppressors. It isn’t just grumpy Western leftists who have seen this hypocritical BS for decades but people who have experienced it. They often attribute it to racism, and in some cases it probably is, but much of it is simply a question of who the oppressors are. It is human nature to be hypocritical on such things.

I saw a poll recently where the majority of Palestinians favor armed struggle to liberate themselves. Well, okay, who is up for giving them the weapons they need? How about sanctions? Not the silly symbolic sanctions that BDS represents in practice which still upsets Israel, but the truly harsh kind we level on countries where we don’t give a crap about the ordinary people, the sanctions that increase mortality rates amongst the poor and those who need expensive medicines.

People notice that too. Which situations call for sanctions and moral outrage and killing and which ones do not. Which conflicts require diplomacy and compromise even with nasty people and which ones don’t. Oh, not in nice liberal Western circles, but elsewhere.

The human shield argument needs to be examined.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/4/3/why-we-need-to-challenge-russias-human-shields-narrative

The Washington Post had an article about this. It won’t save the Russians in a hypothetical war crimes trial for civilians killed execution style but the Ukranians are putting weapons in civilian areas.

To me it always seemed like both sides are guilty in such cases. If the defending side fights next to civilians they endanger them and if the other side just blasts them anyway then both sides are at fault.

People fought for Assad because they feared genocide. A large fraction of the Alawite population died fighting against the rebels because they were terrified by them.

Yeah, Donald. But the Alawites feared that because of the way they, following Assad, had been treating other Syrians for decades. The Middle East (and lots of other places) have group feuds going back centuries. Which doesn't change the fact that using control of the current government to settle old scores is not a wise course in the long run. (Even if, as in the Jim Crow South, you can make it last quite a while.)

It won’t save the Russians in a hypothetical war crimes trial for civilians killed execution style but the Ukranians are putting weapons in civilian areas.

In an invasion of conquest, there are no civilian areas for the defense. You put weapons wherever the invaders troops are.

But in the cases of hospitals, schools, etc., do you have evidence that the Ukrainians were putting weapons in them? (Before they discovered that they needed defensive weapons there.)

The evidence coming out of liberated areas like Trostyanets, which were occupied for weeks by Russians, is that rape, torture and murder were widespread under that occupation.

This is not a civil war; it’s a plain invasion. The ‘both sides’ argument is nonsense.

I’d add that conditions in the occupied Donbas have been brutal for years. Again,reports of torture and murder are not uncommon.

Nothing much wrong with Biden's judgement here, headlined Biden finds Murdoch "most dangerous man in the world", new book says:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/04/joe-biden-rupert-murdoch-fox-news-new-book

If the defending side fights next to civilians they endanger them and if the other side just blasts them anyway then both sides are at fault.

If civilian areas are being attacked why wouldn't the defenders fight from there?

Biden finds Murdoch "most dangerous man in the world

Folks who are driving climate change for profit, or aggressively marketing opioids for profit, etc. are pikers. Murdoch is doing far more damage, and has been doing it (deliberately) for far longer.

This is not a civil war; it’s a plain invasion. The ‘both sides’ argument is nonsense.

Completely agree.

And regarding what is being revealed in the areas the Russian forces retreat from, as with all such atrocities wherever they take place, words fail.

In a just world, whatever sanctions* apply to Russia for their war crimes would also apply to Saudi Arabia for their actions in Yemen. I do think the US harms its credibility when it gives its allies a pass on things for which it condemns its nemeses.

I know "a just world" ain't possible, but we can work for "a more just world."

Moral authority is hard.

*With the usual ambivalence and caution about the disproportionate impact of sanctions on the poor, the old, the young, and the marginalized.

In a just world, whatever sanctions* apply to Russia for their war crimes would also apply to Saudi Arabia for their actions in Yemen.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia, the US government seems be still living in the past. Time was when we were forced to accomodate the Saudis, because we depended on oil imports. As we discovered with the 1970s energy crisis, they were the swing producer, and so could effectively control the world price of oil. They could create massive inflation for us if they were irritated.

But that was half a century ago, and it's no longer the case. We're a net exporter of petroleum. We no longer need to cater to them. And it's high time we stopped doing so.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad