Preventing A Stain On All Of Us

As I predicted, we have a ringside seat to horror. The slaughter of noncombatants and the destruction of centuries-old cities are happening before our eyes. The war is a test of Ukrainian and Russian character, but it is also an assessment of ours. If we have a claim to humanity, we have to do everything to save civilians. Are we doing all we can to prevent another holocaust? 

Along with many on the right and the left, the administration fears that if we do more, it will escalate to World War III, and it could go nuclear. Even as others believe Russia already started World War III, there are still actions we can take without raising the ante.

The idea of mercy flights akin to the Berlin airlift organized and run by humanitarian organizations delivering life-saving food and medicine to noncombatants in beleaguered areas is on the table. Flying well-marked planes on routes known to all combatants could save untold lives and relieve some war sufferings. In a war where one side is now mainly targeting civilians, can people with any conscience refrain from action? 

We have to approach “nonaligned nations” for planes, volunteers, and goods. First, solicit China due to its size and capabilities. While China supports Russia’s territorial claims, do they embrace Putin’s methods?

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Plan Long To Make It Short

We continue to make the error: looking short term when a longer-range solution might be more profitable. Putin has given us an opening, and we should take advantage. By publicizing his plans to use contractors to bring in foreign fighters, probably from Syria, he opened the door to the Democracies to do the same. It is not an escalation to do the same thing. Their foreign fighters are armed to the teeth. We can do the same. The problem for Putin is we can do it on a grander scale.

Foreigners fighting in someone else’s war is nothing new. The Lafayette Escadrille in World War I, the Eagle Squadrons, and the Flying Tigers in World War II were made up of Americans before we entered. Many Americans and other non-Spaniards fought in the Spanish civil war. We had more contractors in Afghanistan than we had military.

Given our long experience with contractors and CIA black ops, speeding up “Freedom Units” assembly areas with air defense systems in Western Ukraine is well within reach. Air and ground units trained and integrated. The number of the volunteers left open-ended. Good pay, conditions, and high purpose provide an ever-expanding force. So far, plenty of people is already showing up.

Given the Russian battlefield performance to date, these air and ground units could be a body blow to Russian morale. The Russians might divert forces to attack the assembly areas, but they would pay a steep price if we recruited the right people with solid weapons. Pulling Russian Resources away from the Ukrainians in the East gives them respite and raises the cost of victory beyond Putin’s resources, especially if the sanctions are in place. Maintaining Ukraine’s supply lines allows their forces to continue fighting. Instead of time theoretically being on Russia’s side, we bleed Russia for however long it takes.

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Catching Up With Rapid Change

Has it only been a little over a week? So many solidly held assumptions turned on their heads. The vaunted Russian military would make short work of the corrupt Ukrainians. We gave them some arms showing our compassion. Of course, not nearly what we could’ve, but they’d lose them in a short Russian victory. We could all wring our hands and then go back to our lives. 

The always anti-war left, the never interfere abroad libertarians, and the “America First” conservatives echoed Nevile Chamberlain in their dismay of involvement in a “quarrel in a faraway country between people whom we know nothing.” Chamberlain’s appeasement was over the Sudeten in Checkoslovia. A less than a two-hour flight from his London. The world is much smaller now. 

Supposedly intelligent people believed Ukraine was out to conquer Russia. Many agreed with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and others it was our fault because we decided to extend NATO to so many ex-Russian-dominated Eastern Europe countries. By desiring to join them, Ukraine threatens Russia’s existence. It seems so quaint now. 

The only one threatened was Putin. A prosperous capitalist Ukraine on Russia’s doorstep would illustrate his failures. The same threat Taiwan presents to China’s Xi. Even with China’s progress, the island’s per capita income is double the mainland.

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The Ukraine crisis is more evidence of incompetence. To deter Russian President Putin from an attack, continuing to expand the lethal aid deliveries started in the Trump administration is just common sense. Russia began to move forces to the Ukraine border last spring. Making Ukraine a much harder nut to crack could’ve raised the price of an assault to the unacceptable. Instead, we paused our lethal aid. Biden even O.K.’d the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to appease Germany and Russia.

The Trump era deliveries, especially the Javelin anti-tank missiles, allowed the Ukrainians to stabilize their eastern front. Adding anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles could’ve raised the price of invasion higher than the Russians could afford. The prospect of a long sustained war for an economy about the size of Italy while under sanctions might not seem palatable to an aggressor.

Recently, we’ve resumed deliveries, but with the invasion already begun, it is far more challenging to get them in the hands of the defenders. Still, the Ukrainians are valiantly holding out. Think how much better their position is if we had sent arms earlier. Maybe there wouldn’t even be an attack. 

How could we have made such mistakes? One has only to look back at the Afghanistan fiasco. Could anything have gone worse? The same climate zealots who failed to acknowledge relinquishing energy independence had dire national security consequences are still calling the shots in Washington. The same people producing our greatest humiliation in decades are still in charge. Unbelievably, not one person in our national security establishment has lost their job. The better question is why we expected better.

I think this is evidence of a rot infecting our bureaucratic establishments. Look around. We spend more on healthcare than almost any other advanced nation. Yet, we will be suffering from our disastrous lockdowns far into the future. We relied on data from other countries, such as Israel, throughout the pandemic for accurate data. This is despite the billions given to these bureaucrats. Again most of the major players are still in place. 

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Prisoners of Dogma

The current inflation gives us insight into our inability to use common sense and logic to solve problems. We know inflation results from too much money chasing too few goods. You can end inflation by severely restricting the money supply. The Federal Reserve stopped the inflationary spiral of the 1970-80s by tightening to the point where interest rates were higher than the rate of inflation. Rates went above 18% while inflation was t 14%. The result was a deep recession with unemployment above 10%. 

Today it would take interest rates above the current 7 1/2% inflation rate. This move would mean mortgage rates about triple g from where they were at the beginning of the year. The resulting recession would probably end rapid inflation but at a horrible price. Anyone with variable rate loans or an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) would be in a dark place. 

If we only slowly raise interest rates, it adds to costs and feeds rather than stopping inflation. Interest rates are a blunt and cruel instrument.

The other path is to increase supply. The most visible commodity affecting almost all our endeavors is energy. Today most of our energy comes from fossil fuels. Every time we fill up at the pump or open our heating bill, we are made painfully aware of inflation.

Expectations drive inflation. If we feel prices will be higher in the future, we buy now and buy more in anticipation. This perception adds to demand. Inflation’s upward march is most visible in the price of gasoline. If the price is still rising at the pump, we know prices are still going up. For this reason, it is essential to stop the upward march of oil and natural gas prices.

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