The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

We all know the story of 'the boy who cried wolf'—a parable that warns against false alarms and analogous claims made by either well-meaning but misinformed catastrophists or those of malevolent intent. Yet, we live in an era that has normalized the insanity of false alarms and the consequent government actions that result in truly catastrophic outcomes. 

Whether it's the covidiocy of the past 2.5 years that resulted grave damage to lives and livelihoods, economies and culture or the apocalyptic claims of climate change alarmists who argue that any temperature rise or increase in CO2 will inevitably lead to planetary destruction, crying wolf has become accepted among those who have embraced the insanity.

Yet actual catastrophies do occur  and not every warning of their escalation is equivalent to crying wolf.

In that vein, it is true that the Russian aggression in Ukraine is a catastrophe. Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB thug, who with the support of a small but powerful cabal within Russia is slowly destroying a neighboring country, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians, and threatening a much larger population throughout Europe. Having said this, there is also a very real danger that the Russian-Ukrainian war could easily escalate. 

Statesmanship and clear-eyed diplomacy are essential, but unfortunately, the Biden administration foreign policy 'Teams of 1s' do not appear to be up to the task. Already, they have allowed (encouraged?) the conflict to become a proxy war between Russian and the United States (along with a few of its NATO allies). Oddly, many (but certainly not all) leftist Democrats have joined forces with old school Neocons to suggest tougher and tougher talk, more and more armed assistance, and greater and greater sanctions, all designed to push Russia into a corner and precipitate a cessation of hostilities. The big question, as yet unanswered by those who sponsor this approach is how that happens. At the same time, those who suggest an alternative approach are branded as Russian stooges or Putin sympathizers.

There is increasing and worrisome talk within the Biden administration and among their trained hamsters in the media about the growing likelihood of a nuclear exchange. But is this talk of nuclear just more catastrophist thinking? Is it yet another example of the normalization of insanity?

Jeremy Shapiro (read the whole thing) presents a plausible and thoughtful discussion of the likelihood of nuclear escalation:

In war, nothing is inevitable and not much is predictable. But the war in Ukraine has a direction that observers can see and that we should name. What began as a criminal Russian aggression against Ukraine has become a proxy war between Washington and Moscow. The two sides are locked in an escalatory cycle that, along current trends, will eventually bring them into direct conflict and then go nuclear, killing millions of people and destroying much of the world. This is obviously a bold prediction and certainly an unwise one to make — in part because if I’m right, I’m unlikely to be around take credit for it.

President Joe Biden has named this danger, to great criticism, apparently because he believes that acknowledging the danger increases the chances of avoiding such a terrible outcome. Indeed, much can change the current trajectory, but doing so will require purposeful action by both sides specifically intended to avoid direct confrontation. At the moment, neither side seems willing or politically able to take such steps. On the contrary, in Russia nuclear threats are a prominent part of the Russian war strategy. In the United States, commentators condemn those who even name this danger, fearing that doing so will weaken Western resolve. Any mention of such considerations on Twitter, where it is always 1938, inevitably provokes accusations of appeasement and references to Neville Chamberlain.

Is Shapiro a catastrophist in the same way that those who suffer from covidiocy or climate alarmism are catastrophists? Is he normalizing insanity in the same way? I don't think so. 

First, Shapiro's arguments are fact-based and sound; second the scenario he proposes dovetails well with the typical escalations that occur when international conflict occurs, and third, Putin is a thug who feels his grasp on power is threatened, and Biden and his Team of 1s are incompetents who appear to be way out of their depth.

Having said all of that, I do think Shapiro's scenario will not come to pass, but that doesn't mean that the United States should encourage or enable further escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. It is critical to provide Putin with an 'off-ramp' and coerce (if necessary) the Ukrainian leadership to accede to that off-ramp. 

The worrisome aspect in all of this is that Biden and NATO are not floating any proposals that might lead to an off-ramp. Why is that?