Any aspiring history Ph.D. candidate out there looking for an intriguing dissertation topic? I think this could be a hell of a book. The media world of the Second World War was still radio, newspapers, magazines and film footage shot by brave camera men on the front lines. The news media at that time could be used to spread propaganda and misinformation. In the category of misinformation, for example, there was the ghost Army of General Patton. Public news about his “Army” was backed up by a large volume of supposedly classified messages and radio traffic that the Germans were intercepting. The goal of that particular misinformation was to persuade the Germans that the Allies intended to attack at Pas de Calais. I don’t think swaying public opinion was a priority.
I think the critical issue is whether or not a government and its military leaders place high value on what social media and popular media are saying. I think it is pretty clear that the United States and the United Kingdom and NATO are depending heavily on social media to work some magic and help defeat Russia. I also think that Putin and his military leaders do not give two shits about social media. They have been very poor at countering the Western media campaign. Maybe they are just inept. That is one possibility. Alternatively, they simply may not care because they are focused on carrying out this war, not just in Ukraine, but against the West in order to secure Russia’s future.
If you have not studied the history of the American Civil War or the Soviet Union’s war with Nazi Germany, I would encourage you to read two authors–Shelby Foote’s three volume masterpiece, The Civil War: A Narrative, and When Titan’s Clashed: How The Red Army Stopped Hitler, by David Glantz and Jonathan House. Foote’s compelling account of the Civil War takes you back in time and puts you in the thicket of the bloody battles and political intrigue. When you read the account of the last year and a half of the Civil War, with General Ulysses S. Grant suffering defeat and stalemate and still continuing to press his troops forward in a grinding war of attrition that sapped the will and ability of the South to continue the war, I want you to imagine the kind of pressure that Grant might have felt if Twitter and Facebook existed.
The tactical reality on the ground — not just with Grant’s troops in Northern Virginia surrounding Richmond, but with Sherman’s Army pillaging the South through Atlanta then on to Savannah and then turning north — is clear in retrospect that the South was defeated. It just took them several months to realize that reality.
Similar lessons can be drawn from the Soviet’s initial failure to hold back the Nazi hordes. The Battle of Stalingrad, in my view, was the ultimate turning point in the war against Germany. While two years of battle lay ahead, the die was cast and the myth of the invincible Wehrmacht was destroyed. It took two more major battles — Kursk and Bagration — to make the inevitable clear.
As I noted earlier, the West is heavily invested in the belief that winning the information war will translate into battlefield success for Ukraine. Yet, we have seen how the “success” of the U.S. information wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have turned out. Money pits that have swallowed trillions of U.S. tax payer dollars with no actual success on the ground, where it counts.
Both of these cataclysmic wars — the Civil War and World War II — are relevant to the carnage unfolding in Ukraine. The facts are very simple:
- Fact one — Ukraine’s economy is in tatters and there is no viable path to restore what it was on February 24, 2022.
- Fact two — Ukraine is totally dependent on Western aid to keep it army in the field.
- Fact three — Ukraine does not have a viable air force and cannot provide close air support to its front line troops. This means any Ukrainian advance on the ground is dependent on the limited armor and artillery units still intact.
- Fact four — Ukraine’s ability to produce electricity and power is being steadily degraded and there is no short-term solution to keep the lights on.
- Fact five — Russia has not committed its front line forces and high tech weaponry to the fight.
- Fact six — Russia’s economy is strong despite Western efforts to sunder it.
- Fact seven — Russia is economically self-sufficient. It does not need foreign exports to sustain its industrial base but the world does need critical products and minerals that only Russia produces.
- Fact eight — Russian factories are operating 24/7, producing essential military equipment and technology to keep its forces in the fight.
- Fact nine — Russia can mobilize and train new troops on its own territory without fear of attack from Ukraine. Ukraine cannot.
The United States and NATO are deluded. They are wielding power like the mean girls in high school, i.e. they are shunning Putin and won’t let him sit at their lunch table. They remain convinced that will crush him. What they did not count on is that Putin is building his own cafeteria and will eat the food he wants and a table he controls. In fact, many of the countries in Europe need essential resources that Russia supplies. It is just a matter of time before those girls try to get a seat at Putin’s table.
It is true that Russia relinquished, at least for now, the portion of Kherson that sits to the west of the Dnieper River. But it controls the rest of Kherson to the east of the river. If Ukraine wants Crimea it will have to cross the Dnieper and fight its way to Crimea. Ukraine does not have the military resources to do that; even with the help of the United States and NATO.
Okay. Enough from me. What do you think? The floor is yours.