I read Hanania, but I don't like him much. While he does have some good analysis, I think he falls into three traps:

1: Reflexive contrarianism. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence, and I think his anti-social-desirability-bias reflex leads him astray as he thinks it is inherently good.

2: Arguing from aesthetics. He states in his latest piece that a lot of his politics is based on “I just hate X, and like Y.” That shouldn't be part of politics! I think the biggest problem we have in the US is we have decided to make many matters of personal preference matters of law, so we have to fight about everything. I wish Hanania would realize that was bad and stop doing it. Additionally, it is a pointless argument to make; if he and I disagree on whether we like something, he isn't going to convince me by saying "I just like this, and you should too" over and over. I have noticed that represents a lot of his argument style when he receives pushback, however.

3: Sloppy thought processes and motivated reasoning. I think this is linked strongly to 1 and 2. He just doesn't apply his own ideas consistently, and can't seem to integrate new arguments or counter points into his thought process. People point out a gap or other issue with his reasoning and he tends not to explain how that fits into his argument, but instead dismisses them.

In short, he presents a lot of the flaws of most pundits and politically driven academics. I still have a free subscription to his Substack, but I don't like him much. He's more like a right wing Freddie de Boer: some interesting points and ideas, but hardly a role model for the modern thinker.

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I think he's better on domestic politics than on foreign policy (ironically, since he sees himself as more of an expert on the latter). On your #2, I gave him some credit for - as I perceive it at least - putting aside visceral reactions in acknowledging that anti-capitalism is a more dangerous movement than 'wokeness' even if the latter seems more viscerally annoying (this is my sentiment, I think it's his too). But I guess like anyone he can be selective about setting aside his visceral reactions.

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The first trap you mention is totally at play in Hanania's comment on Putin and intervention in Ukraine. Pure intelectual narcissism

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I don't find him that inconsistent. But then I don't spend much time in his comments section.

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His essay about how liberals read and conservatives watch TV is kind of what set me off. He misused a survey as foundation to build this whole castle of spun sugar of a theory, which pretty obviously he had before reading the study. I pointed out he was taking way too much away from what the survey said and misinterpreting it by taking the most extreme possible interpretation as the only reasonable one, as well as ignoring the the fact it was just one survey which is hardly the basis for a system of government... er, theory. His response was to call that sophistry. I mean, ok he's a political scientist I guess so statistics is not something he is familiar with perhaps, but still, it struck me as a very ugly case of confirmation bias and sloppy thinking. It wasn't even that great of a survey study...

After that I started paying very close attention to his claims when reading, and that sort of behavior was pretty common. He gets points for having some pretty original ideas and being willing to point out how silly some ideas are, but most of his positive ideas seem to be equally wrong, just in another direction.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

Importantly, "banish Hanania" is the most idiotic thing here.

I mostly disagree with him about Ukraine, but still am a huge fan.

even if someone is not a fan, shouldn't we all agree that Hanania adds multiple very interesting points to think about?

it's damning evidence of how those lack a minimal appreciation of the value of ideas

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Self defense and initiating violence are different morally. I've always opposed military adventurism, but there's a big difference between invading a country and giving someone weapons to defend themselves. I think the distinction between "rational" violence and "irrational" violence is irrelevant. If someone breaks into your house and is trying to kill you, you don't care at all about their motivations. Maybe they are just trying to kill you and steal your stuff. Maybe they are trying to kill you because of a blog post you made. Morally, it does not matter. You have the right to defend yourself. Ukraine is not trying to annex Russian territory or make any demands whatsoever on the Russian government other than "stop killing us".

You can't appease someone intent on genocide. If all they want is wanton slaughter of someone based on their ethnicity, they simply have to be met with force. To appease them and let them kill all Ukrainians just means in a few years, they'll try to kill all Lithuanians or all Poles, or all.... forever. How many millions would the West have had to let Hitler kill before his bloodlust was sated? There is no number.

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"Self defense"

People in Donbass, Crimea, and Odessa all thought they were acting in self defense too. Russia believes it's acting in self defense against western aggression.

Of course Ukraine has demands. An unfriendly regime that treats its Russian citizens like trash doesn't want to let them leave and uses violence against them. If they wanted Russia to "stop killing them" they could sign peace terms today.

It's not about peace. It's about peace were one faction of a randomly drawn bunch of lines from the USSR gets to lord it over another faction.

"You can't appease someone intent on genocide."

Have you seen even the slightest indication that Russia wants to "kill all Ukrainians."

The official civilian kill count from the United Nations is ~4,000 civilians. It's possible the number is higher, but even if it were five times as high it would be 0.05% of the population.

And most of that count of civilian deaths is from Maripoul, where *literal Nazis* (founded and funded by the same oligarch that got Zelensky elected president) used civilians as human shields.

If Putin wanted to kill all Ukrainians he could have used artillery to level Kiev when it was in firing range. He could have nuked every highway coming into the country. He could have destroyed the rail system or poison their food.

It's almost like he was hoping to do what he said he'd do. Take the country over in a relatively bloodless fait accompli and then install a new regime, which honestly couldn't have done any worse of a job then the shitty Maiden government that it replaced.

When that failed he refitted to trying to capture the Russian areas of Ukraine that don't like the central government that much anyway. If he succeeds in this what terrible thing do you expect to happen? How could it be worse than what is happening?

Putin has been in charge of Russia for 20 years. Where are the death camps? Why hasn't he invaded Poland already? Didn't take Hitler that long.

This kind of unhinged lunacy is going to get us all killed.

Eisenhower actually defeated Hitler. He didn't start WWIII over the invasion of Hungary. Was he an appeaser?

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Russia agreed to Ukraine's borders in a treaty. Furthermore, when Russia annexed Crimea, Donbass, and Luhansk, the U.S. did not get involved because there was some ambiguity whether or not the people there actually wanted to join Russia. The U.S. did not supply defensive weapons to Ukraine until Russia invaded parts of Ukraine that were unambiguously opposed to joining Russia and they did not supply heavy weapons until it was clear from crimes against humanity that Russia committed that Russia's goal was genocidal in nature.

When a country is fighting a war, they have to decide how much firepower to use against civilian targets and how much to use against military targets. If Russia did expend all of its munitions targeting civilians, there would be none left over for actually fighting the Ukrainian military. The fact that they did not exclusively focus on civilian targets is not some moral victory to trot out, it just reflects the realities of war. In the Battle of Britain, Hitler lost the air war because of his decision to prioritize civilian targets over military ones. Russia did deliberately target hospitals, schools, etc.

Putin has been in power for 20 years, that is true. But in that time he has committed many crimes against humanity in Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya. The reason he has not attacked Poland is because Poland is in NATO. This war could have been prevented if NATO admitted Ukraine in 2008, but they did not.

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"Russia agreed to Ukraine's borders in a treaty."

Ukraine exited Russia in the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union because those were the lines on the map at the time. They weren't drawn up because they reflected any genuine national sentiment. The Nazi western parts conquered in WWII had nothing in common with the Eastern Russian parts. Crimea was added in 1954 because they got their water and electricity from the Kherson area (something Maiden shut down in 2014 to starve their "own people").

The people in the east voted 90% for the president that was overthrown. John McCain and Nolan visited Kiev to support the coup in public and picked out the new government. NATO has provided weapons and training to Ukraine.

"Russia did deliberately target hospitals, schools, etc."

Ukraine deliberately used hospitals, schools, etc as shields for their forces. If I see an image of a blow up school, and I see charred Ukrainian military vehicles right next to it, it's a military target.

Ukraine chose to retreat into the cities and use their own citizens as human shields rather than face Russia in the field. They turned their own cities into fortress cities. What do you think the likely outcome of that is?

"This war could have been prevented if NATO admitted Ukraine in 2008, but they did not."

Or it could have triggered a war in 2008.

The way this war has been fought provides ZERO evidence for some Operation Barbarossa style genocide as the goal. This Putler talk is a wild fantasy that might get us all killed.

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I don't think I can continue to talk about morality in good faith with someone who clearly places so little value on human life.

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That rando may be wrongheaded, but their argument was not "human life is not valuable" and I suspect you're aware of that yourself but don't want to grapple over your real disagreements since it's easier to attribute something else to them.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

When someone says "If I see an image of a blow up school, and I see charred Ukrainian military vehicles right next to it, it's a military target.", I don't think it's productive to talk anymore. I've heard all the arguments made before, and have grappled with them, but I don't think I'm going to convince him and I don't think he's going to convince me, so it's a waste of time.

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The US was involved in the 2014 coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. The post 2014 Ukrainian government, armed with US weapons, was persecuting Russian speaking residents and killing thousands of civilians. Lastly, US Congressmen like Adam Schiff are on record in 2020 saying that we are deliberately fighting Russia in Ukraine, which is admitting to waging a proxy war. These events really undermine the argument of the US engaging in a defensive posture.

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No it didn't, no they weren't, and proxy wars are better than direct wars. It's not about the U.S., it's about Ukraine. Does Ukraine have the right to fight back against an imperialist country trying to conquer and kill them? Yes they do. And to that end, they are morally justified in asking for weapons from their allies, the U.S. included.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

Pundits such as John Mearsheimer have called the 2014 overthrow of the Ukraine Government a coup of the USA's doing. Many others have echoed this. The more anti-Russian politicos avoid talking about the 2014 coup, but none of them, to the best of my knowledge are seriously disputing that. You offer a terse dismissal of this without any backing evidence or arguments whatsoever. That's not good enough.

Pundits such as Hanania claim that Ukraine has been persecuting its Russian speaking civilians since 2014. You offer a terse dismissal of this claim with no evidence. That's also not good enough.

Also, this isn't simply Russia vs Ukraine. There has been a two-sided war within Ukraine of Western-aligned Ukrainians vs Russia-aligned Ukrainians. The US has backed one side and seized control of the Ukrainian Government by force. Russia has backed the other side.

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I don't begrudge the Ukranian's asking us for weapons.

I begrudge our leaders for providing them.

Most especially, I begrudge providing them with no clear national goal in mind based on logic and evidence. It's just mindless emoting with an upside of a brutal war and a downside of nuclear war.

And I don't actually think the Ukrainians have a great claim to Crimea or Donbass. I think it would be morally correct to just let them go.

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I think that's a fair position. I don't think people should be too focused on territorial integrity because land isn't worth trading lives for. I do think getting Russia to limit its attacks on the other parts of Ukraine is a valid goal. Rather than mindless emoting, it's a game theoretic decision how far to let someone push you in response to nuclear threats. If someone can just say "let us do X or we're going to nuke you" and get away with anything, the logical endpoint of that is boundless imperialism. If Russia uses nukes, NATO will nuke them back. This has been the logic for 60 years and nothing has substantially changed it. So they can bluster all they want, but unless the entire nation is suicidal, it's not a credible threat.

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The entire logic of MAD in the Cold War was both logical and arbitrary.

Why do we threaten nuclear war if USSR puts nukes in Cuba (an independent country morally justified in having its own foreign policy!!!), but we let them invade and subjugate rebellious Warsaw Pact members without reprisal?

Why is it OK to give the Mujahideen stinger missiles but not provide air support?

Why was it OK for the commies to support the Vietcong? Why was it OK for us to fight in South Vietnam but not invade North Vietnam?

There is a certain logic to all this that you can tease out and I'm sure there is a RAND wargame spelling it all out in detail. One of the things that should give us pause is that since the USSR fell it turns out many of RANDs assumptions of USSR nuclear doctrine weren't actually all that good. And anyway when you go back to the first principals of the logic a lot of it kind of boils down to "my gut says that would be too much."

The problem I have is I don't think what's driving Ukrainian policy is "game theoretic decisions about how far to let someone push you." If it was our entire Ukrainian policy would have been different for the last eight years. It violates all the old Cold War rules. We are clearly the aggressor in this case, both in Ukraine and around the world, violating promises, encroaching into other peoples spheres of influence, promoting revolution, invading the countries. There is a reason that every non-western country hasn't joined sanctions against Russia. LOOK AT A MAP! It's really damn obvious that the Washington is a lot further from Kiev than Moscow.

My mental model of Putin is a man pushed too far. A man that has zero in common with all of these crazy Hitler references. That would have avoided this war if we had tried. And that would walk away now if we offered a reasonable deal. Maybe I'm wrong, but there is a lot more evidence for this interpretation than that this is some kind of replay of the 1930s. We certainly haven't acted in a way that would give peace a chance.

If you want to add to that description that Putin is a terrible human being and petty despot, go ahead. It's just so STUNNING AND BRAVE to note that Putin is a thug. Really going out on a limb there. I will certainly agree with that assessment.

So are all of the tinpot dictators we will be buying oil from to replace Russian oil that we call our allies. Or the CCP members selling Russia its supplies and funding the treasury bonds that pay for those weapons we are sending Ukraine.

My mental model of the USA is an insane global empire led by a mixture of ideological fanatics and cynical defense contractors that makes everything everywhere its business and would get us all killed for bullshit personal and domestic reasons (Hanania wrote a book about this). I consider the American empire a greater threat to peace then Putin.

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No, Hanania points are not great. They make no sense at all.

The ¨at least until those in favor of being involved have to answer for Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the other disasters that have characterized American foreign policy over the last several decades¨ part is akin to say that the US cannot condemn any genocide in the world ¨until those in favor of being involved have to answer for the extermination of native Americans¨... obviously a total nonsense.

The best world is a world with no foreign interventions, but a world with interventions on Iraq, Syria and Libya, but not in Ukraine is better that a world with interventions in Iraq, Syria, Libya AND Ukraine. The fact that some of us make mistakes does not mean that a world where more mistakes are made is a better one.

The artificial pedantic argument about neighbors A and B is another total nonsense. Is akin to say that the US should not have armed and supported European countries fighting WWII, since the US faced no threat from those closest to it and prolonging WWII while ¨watching the two sides killing each other¨

Pure intellectual show off at play.

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The people responsible for the Trail of Tears have been dead for a long time.

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So there is a "statute of limitations" for national mistakes. The US can not support Ukraine now (because of the intervention in Iraq, Syria and Libya). But it could in X years time.

X would be defined using another onanistic thought game, I guess

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A "statute of limitations" prevents punishment of living persons. There's no need for any such statute to protect the dead!

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

You give him more credit than I do. He lost me around 'cultural genocide'. You can make a lot of claims, but requiring schools to teach your national language, laws to be in your national language, and books to be printed in your nation's language isn't cultural genocide.

The Soviets used to do this same thing -ask any older Ukrainian. They would require that books, laws, schooling, and all other public communication be in Russian, and effectively stamped out Ukrainian language -which made sense, as Ukraine was part of the USSR. It wasn't 'cultural genocide' then, and it isn't now: it's just common sense. Is it cultural genocide of Mexican-Americans if we require laws in border towns to be in English, and schools to teach in English? (even if we allow them to have their own Spanish translations, as Ukraine does with Russian) Some whackjobs will say yes, but I say no: it's keeping things consistent and efficient.

Arguing otherwise in the case of Ukraine suggests that you have some severe bias. I don't really care to hear arguments from severely biased people, not when it's on a topic I'm not deeply familiar with, to the point of being able to come to sound conclusions on my own.

Sadly that essay was one of the first things I read by Hanania. Big turn-off.

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> requiring schools to teach your national language, laws to be in your national language, and books to be printed in your nation's language isn't cultural genocide.

If the requirement is like that in contemporary Canada, where you require that schools offer the national language, that laws be available in your national language, and that signage include national language, that isn't cultural genocide.

But if it's like that in 19th century France (or for that matter, 19th and early 20th century Canada with respect to the indigenous languages), where you ban students from speaking non-national languages in school, ban people using non-national languages in court, and ban signage and book publication in languages other than the national language, then that just is cultural genocide. This is how the Occitan, Gascon, Breton, and other cultures were eliminated.

The Soviet Union went through a period in the 1920s where they encouraged local and regional languages, and then they went through a period where they tried to stamp them out (to different degrees in different regions and with different languages). Some of the latter may well have been attempted cultural genocide.

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Yeah, that argument's a hard no-go for me. You wanna talk about genocide, we can talk about the Holodomor, but requiring that your language, which was largely driven to a minority language by Soviet policies, to take precedence over Russian? Using the same word just rubs me the wrong way -not to mention the faulty reasoning. We could have a difference conversation about colonial policies, but that ain't the same thing.

It would be like if the American Indians had been forced to learn English, then had eventually taken back their land and tried to assert the independence of their nation and culture (assuming such was difficult to differentiate or in question somehow) by requiring their native languages be spoken ... then the west tries to invade on the pretense that this is some form of genocide? Uhhuh, no: different situation; the colonial policies argument just doesn't apply.

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I think that undoing an attempted cultural genocide by asking that the nearly-eliminated language take priority over the dominant language is not itself cultural genocide.

I do think it's useful to have the phrase "cultural genocide" for attempted elimination of a regional culture, and I think it is an appropriate phrase for the Stalinist practice, but not an appropriate phrase for recent Ukrainian policy.

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Perhaps there should be a word for suppression of cultural practices, but it definitely shouldn't be 'cultural genocide.' The principal reason genocide is bad is because it's killing innocent people for an arbitrary reason, not because in the future no one will be speaking that people's language or wearing its traditional hats. It seems disingenuous to try to borrow the connotations of actually murdering people because of their ethnicity and transferring it to penalizing cultural expression.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

Bear in mind, a part of why Ukraine had to do this was because of Putin's own rhetoric. Putin has written/ spoken rather extensively trying to argue that Ukraine is, at its core, a part of Russia, and that it has no identity outside of its history with Russia. Ukraine has had to assert its independence -that part of its culture and heritage that makes it different- and it picked language as one of those points to focus on. It's hardcore gaslighting to corner someone like that, and then accuse them of cultural genocide (no, no, actual genocide, in the case of Putin's accusations) to create a pretense for invasion.

It's such an intellectually dishonest and manipulative argument to even banter with, it costs serious thinkers a lot of credibility in my book.

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Suppose those Indians would ban any English language broadcasts on their territories, require any media outlet to use American Indian language, tell any detractors "Go back to US if you like English that much", and then invited Russians for joint drills to ward them from harmful American imperialist influences...

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Putin believed that the ultimate goal of the US government was to sponsor a color revolution that overthrew him. This assessment seems very plausible.

The situation in Ukraine was also not sustainable for Russia. NATO would have gotten more and more involved with Ukraine over time, including eventual membership. Crimea had no water. The LPR/DPR obviously couldn't hold out forever.

If anything not invading in 2014 was a mistake on Putin's part.

"I fear the answer this time was, “Probably not.”"

Appeasement is unpopular with your friends, so you are against it. If Kiev fell in a day you'd have a different opinion. This is all Overton Window social desirability bias.

Obviously appeasement could have worked. It can still work. It may be the only thing that prevents us all from dying in a nuclear fire.

In our case simply declaring that we will no longer support Ukraine would end the war tomorrow. Without Western assistance there is no war. Ukraine will sue for peace terms and that will be it.

To think this is a bad idea you have to conjure up fantasy scenarios of Putin responding to this by invading Poland next summer. I hope we are grown up enough to realize how ludicrous that idea is.

"We’ll probably avoid nuclear war over Ukraine, but it’s hard to believe that the risk hasn’t multiplied tenfold this year."

Ukraine has no nuclear weapons. The only way we could end up in a nuclear war is if the west starts one.

Many western leaders are calling for war with Russia with the goal of regime change, including our president (who also recently endorsed official military protection of Taiwan). Mitt Romney has an op-ed in the times calling for war with Russia if a nuke is used (how this doesn't turn into a nuclear conflict is pure fantasy). Others are calling for a naval fleet to violently enter the Black Sea and force open trade to Odessa. Ukraine has already attacked territory inside Russia.


Senator Manchin, who I think is a good stand in for mainstream elite opinion, thinks the war should not end in a treaty. But a total defeat of the Russia army pushing it all the way out of every inch of Ukraine (including Donbass and Crimea) and the overthrow of Putin.

All of this is fun and game "acting tough" until we all die in a nuclear fire.

I'm against Putin's invasion for what its worth (in the sense that I'm against war), but I don't think its irrational. Nor do I think Ukraine's resistance is irrational. I think both sides did bad things to end up where we are (Putin exploiting the Donbass rather then helping it, Ukraine for persecuting its Russian citizens).

But the only irrational actor in this case is the West. Why does it care about Ukraine? Why is it involved? Why is it openly seeking to escalate the conflict? Why is it making regime change in Russia its stated war goal?

None of this shit makes any sense.

The correct western stance on Ukraine should be non-involvement. At most it should operate in the same rule set we did during the many Cold War proxy conflicts.

We remain uninvolved in so many global conflicts. Why did we choose this one to give a shit about?

I don't think there are any good reasons. I think Hanania's reasons (both participants are white, Putin is evil because he doesn't love the gay) are the ones that make sense.

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Precisely because the US has nukes and is known to be irrational, it was incumbent on Putin to appease and not risk a nuclear war with us.

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This runs both ways. If Putin is irrational and has nukes we should appease him.

Especially since Ukraine is obviously more important to Russia and the West. Appeasement in Ukraine would cost us nothing. It's a lot easier for the West to blink.

In Putin's case I think he believes that Russia has practiced appeasement since 1990 and its been a series of ever escalating humiliations and broken promises.

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The west is involved for the obvious reason that wars of conquest are rather taboo in the west these days. I doubt it has much to do with Putin being white or homophobic (maybe the icing on the cake for a few, but the Taliban and Saddam Hussein weren't exactly 'allies,' if you recall, and wars against them are/were unpopular) than with the expectation that Europe is a war-free zone. War just a few miles from Poland is too close for comfort for Europeans and has to be deterred.

I think you're also basically scaremongering in implying that Putin might launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the west for 'tough talk.' No, he won't.

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The furthest Russia advance was to Kiev, which is 500km from the Polish border. The fighting in Donbass is nearly 2,000km away from Poland.

Moscow is 900km from the same place in Donbass. Which is only 125km from the Russian border.

The Finnish border is 200km away from St Petersburg and we have chosen to escalate the situation by adding them to our alliance.

I guess "is Ukraine part of Europe" or "is the Donbass part of Europe" is at the heart of the question. On the map it looks like a far away hellhole we should have nothing to do with.

I think Putin could easily decide that using nukes in western Ukraine to shut off western weapons shipments is a reasonable escalation.

If the US then decides to attack Putin over this move he can use nukes to blunt that attack.

I hope we don't get to that. If we stop the weapons shipments Ukraine will have to negotiate. Quite frankly, I see no reason to believe Kiev can make the lives of people on Donbass any better then Russia can. The war sure isn't helping.

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"But the only irrational actor in this case is the West. Why does it care about Ukraine? Why is it involved? Why is it openly seeking to escalate the conflict? Why is it making regime change in Russia its stated war goal?"

I think the US is rational here, everyone else in 'the West' is ... I just don't see it.

It's perfectly understandable to use Ukraine to weaken Russia and try to remain world hegemon for as long as possible.

As someone who prefers competition on the geopolitical stage rather than monopoly, I don't prefer it, but I understand.

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I just don't see Russia as a threat worth weakening? If Ukraine remains in the Russian sphere of influence or just plain neutral...what bad event is going to happen to the West?

Putin can barely conquer part of the Donbas. How is he going to reach the Rhine?

It's just mind boggling to me.

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The US government considers Russia a threat worth weakening because they did a thing that the US both finds morally disreputable (invading another country) which is damaging to a system that the US government sees it in its interests to uphold (the liberal international order).

Charitably, Russia is damaging the liberal international order because "unjustifiably invading other countries destroys the norm that countries shouldn't solve their problems with invasions."

Uncharitably, Russia is damaging the liberal international order because "only the US and its proxies are allowed to do that and Russia doing so weakens that norm."

Very uncharitably, "Russia successfully invading Ukraine increases Russia's relative power which if you assume international geopolitics is zero-sum would result in a relative reduction of US power", in the same sense that even if you are ahead three pieces in a game of chess, that would not mean you would be fine with letting your opponent capture one of yours, even if that piece means little to you but a lot to your opponent.

All of those rationales for a US intervention are more or less *rational*. Perhaps not all of them are *justified*. My personal view is that reality mostly reflects somewhere in between the charitable and uncharitable view. Regardless of which of those framings is most correct, while US intervention in the form of arms shipments, training, etc. might not be *right* but certainly I do not see how it would be "mind-boggling."

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My very very uncharitable view is that none of those things are really driving US policy in Ukraine. There is no, as Hanania would put it, "Grand Strategy." To the extent the reasons you've offered are invoked, it's as post rational justification for something people want to do anyway.

Rather it's driven mainly by a mixture of Current Thing Emotive Hot Takes and self interest of special interests (politicians who think it might benefit them, defense contractors that want to sell F35s to Germany, etc).

If Russia didn't have thousands of nukes I would say "that's sad and stupid but whatever, our government does lots of sad and stupid stuff and I don't care enough." But Russia does have thousands of nukes. So what would normally just be some dumb thing that got a lot of poor people halfway around the world killed and wasted a few of my tax dollars might actually end human civilization.

So what really bothers me is that I see in Ukraine the same thing I've seen with COVID and lots of other recent Current Thing events. That nobody is driving the bus. Nobody has a plan. Nobody is doing cost/benefit analysis, certainly not beyond their immediate personal timeline at best. And unfortunately, nuclear war isn't something you can fix after the fact is someone does something stupid.

Even if I believed all of propaganda about the "liberal international order", I would still want some kind of rational cost benefit analysis behind how our actions are supposed to advance that order given the risks of the situation. I'm not seeing that happen.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

Well, you can remember that 2013 deal with Yanukovich - where Yanukovich got promise of 15 billions in loans, and even got 3 billions immediately (something West didn't match until years later) - involved promise of using Ukrainian heavy and high-tech industry in massive rearmament program for Russia to drive Russian investments into Ukraine...

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One reason for the invasion that you don’t address is color revolutions. Putin rationally believed that allowing Ukraine to drift into the Western camp increased the chances of agitation that could eventually bring him down despite his nukes. He also gambled that his near gas monopoly would be enough to keep the West divided. I still think he miscalculated and could have gotten most of what he wanted through threats and negotiations. We’ll see whether his gamble on gas works. I think that chapter has yet to be completed.

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May 26, 2022·edited May 26, 2022

Based on these excerpts, which is all I have read of him, Hanania completely misunderstands and mischaracterizes US foreign policy and his assertion that the US and Russia are morally equivalent is ignorant. Since the end of WW2, the US has been the world's hegemon. In this period, the USSR was defeated and the world has witnessed an unparalleled improvement in life expectancy, living standards, reduction in dire poverty, etc. This is the result of making the world safe for peaceful trade, investment, travel, and so forth. In our role as hegemon we have made many mistakes, as is natural under conditions of great risk and uncertainty. But unlike Putin and numerous other dictators, we have never in this era fought a war of conquest. In the absence of US hegemony, we would not all be sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya, but would be experiencing hegemony by one or more ugly substitutes. This is not an original argument on my part, but is made eloquently Professor Teson here: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=334104065093093122020110075123103123039036077022086085028001091070094019120090110026035041039045052104054115124112079002113105102013037042081114065125115028074108034002005090099064076086088084014127113015084091104075081002107006026070024027103096116&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

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"The “Nazi Ukraine” story is transparently silly."

You know nothing about the conflict.

"I fear the answer this time was, “Probably not.”"



"Nuclear weapons aside, Russia’s invasion is now very likely to push Finland and Sweden into NATO."

These countries were already de facto NATO members. It doesn't matter if a country is a de jure member of NATO or not. It does matter a great deal if it is a de facto one.

Also, see the history of SEATO. It expanded early in the Vietnam war, and collapsed when North Vietnam won.

"refuses to even deliver a public ultimatum clearly stating his demands."

'cmon. There were plenty of Russian demands.

"But actually invading Ukraine has greatly multiplied the chance of Putin’s own demise. "

Because....??? His approval rating has spiked.

"Furthermore, once sanctions come on, they almost never come off."

Yeah; that's the point. Putin correctly calculated further sanctions were inevitable regardless of what Russia did (see the Trump admin), and the only way to make the sanctions go away at any future point was to destroy Ukraine as a state.

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> These countries were already de facto NATO members. It doesn't matter if a country is a de jure member of NATO or not. It does matter a great deal if it is a de facto one.

If it doesn't matter, why did they change their opinions now, and why did it make Putin angry?

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Not to justify Russia but the US invaded Iraq because they were suspected of heaving weapons of mass destruction which they never did

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And that was a mistake. The argument that the US mistake in Iraq makes Ukrainian invasion acceptable is a pretty flimsy one.

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Simple question Bryan.

Do you support the war in Ukraine?

To clarify, current mainstream actions, rhetoric, and likely future actions/outcomes of that policy/rhetoric.

If you were in charge, would you do anything different?

You're an American, so you should be primarily focused on American foreign policy in this case. Let's try to shrink the question down to something reasonable.

If America stops supplying Ukraine with aid/weapons and/or punishing Russia with sanctions, then the war will end very quickly. Ukraine would come to terms quickly if we cut them off.

Endorsing the status quo is essentially pro-war.

Maybe you want to elaborate. "I would cut Ukraine off if they didn't agree to the following terms." That's fine, lay it out. Perhaps something simple like "current front lines become new international borders" or whatever else you want. Keep in mind if they aren't terms Russia could reasonably accept, that is pro-war as well.

I find Russia and Ukraine sane in this war, though particular groups within those countries are insane (and making it hard for the sane people to come to terms).

I don't find the western response sane.

Do you?

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I appreciate you setting things right.

But I agree with your friends that you're way too kind with Hanania here.

Saying things like ...

"I can at least understand why (...) he would not want a neighbor to engage in cultural genocide against his fellow Russians."

or ...

"From the early days of the Syrian Civil War, anyone who knew anything about the region could understand that the only meaningful opposition to the government had always been Islamist."

puts him somewhere between the loony side and the highly negligent side of of DC pundits that is severely lacking in epistemic humility.

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What's so loony about that claim about Syria? Why else would the US support groups aligned with al Qaeda there?

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The part about "the ONLY meaningful opposition" and "had ALWAYS been"

It's more complex. Many DC pundits said that pretty much from the beginning, which especially bolstered the Islamist faction to the detriment of the non-Islamist ones.

If you admit that there are genuinely innocent people who are hit hard, or those who share values or want a better society - you may start thinking what you can do. People like Hanania don't like that, because they think that leads to interventionism.

As a result, they commit intellectual fraud by just downplaying or ignoring that there are modern, somewhat liberal or at least non-Islamist Syrians opposing Assad - something that's admittedly complex in Syria, but extremely obvious in Ukraine.

That's why I'm saying "severely lacking in epistemic humility".

In situations like that, you need to be able to keep multiple things in your head at the same time like "Putin is evil" and "NATO involvement is probably a bad idea" - just like Bryan does.

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He said "meaningful opposition". The fact that a person in Syria may exist with liberal views who opposes Assad does not make them a "meaningful" opposition.

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May 25, 2022·edited May 25, 2022

I read the above mentioned Hanania's piece shortly after he posted it and was compelled to write a lengthy comment highlighting why he was wrong in his analysis from a prospective of a Russian speaking Ukrainian whose whole family lived there until the war broke out. I rarely comment on anything I read. Could not agree more with your opinion. Hanania is a great writer and has certainly written some thought provoking pieces in the past, but this particular one was not one of his best, to put it mildly.

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To be clear, I oppose war, which includes the present war between Ukraine and Russia.

From 2014-2022, Russia and Ukraine were in a hot and then cold war. None of the disputed territories had been resolved: Ukraine still claimed Luhansk, Donetsk, and Crimea. Ukraine also never implemented the Minsk Agreement and openly violated it. These are facts.

What would happen to this ongoing conflict if Ukraine joined NATO? (NATO said they wanted Ukraine to join, and Ukraine said it wanted to join.) If Ukraine then invaded Luhansk and Donetsk with its full military--and Russia then sent troops into these regions for their defense--would Russia's action trigger Article 5? If Ukraine sent troops to Crimea--its "territory" as it has always said--and Russia reacts, would this trigger Article 5?

The very fact that these hypotheticals can even be entertained is an absolute failure of diplomacy and negotiation. We never tried appeasement. Rather, we armed the Ukrainians and continued to give all indications that we intended Ukraine to join NATO without resolving/ending the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian cold war. We never moved one inch towards trying to restore the Ukraine-Russia relationship to the pre-2014 antebellum configuration.

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What I've noticed here in Europe (especially here in Italy) is that analysts of any kind who say Putin isn't all that much worse than Western leaders, are also people who claim Putin's Russia is much stronger than it actually is. They really give the impression they fear Putin so much that they won't speak badly of him, even though one other explanation seems more likely: a lot of "geopolitics schools" are - at least here - funded by pro-Kremlin organisations of some kind.

This is not necessarily true of Hanania, of course. Actually, I do not think it is the case. But today I found out he has previously tweeted the following (how ironic):

> US foreign policy has been based on delusions. Here are the fundamentals realities that every analysis must start with

1) Russia has overwhelming military power

2) The west has no political will for extreme sanctions much less war

3) Whatever Russia takes, it’ll never give back

> If you see anyone with a take that ignores any one of these realities, their analysis can be discounted. Sometimes you have to accept that things you don’t want to be true are actually true. Wishful thinking and hot air is how we got here.

Seriously, everybody: please stop saying the West is too weak to confront Russia. You'll end looking more stupid than you are.

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>Russia’s armed forces have always had massive conventional superiority over Ukraine’s.

>Russia’s conventional superiority is stable, because Russia has a far larger population and GDP per capita.

So why isn't Russia winning?

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