Joe Biden and World War III for Dummies

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Mikhail Metzel/Pool Photo via AP

Who had “Big Mouth Biden Talks His Way into World War III” on their Everything Sucks 2022 Edition bingo card?

As the Ukraine War drags into its fifth week, things aren’t going well for Russia. That isn’t to say Ukraine is winning, but Russia has lost nearly 10,000 men, according to a (since scrubbed) semi-official Russian report, thousands more have been wounded, there are untold numbers of destroyed armored vehicles, trucks, frontline fighters, attack jets and helicopters, and five senior generals (and even more colonels) have been killed.

Perhaps even worse, from the view at the Kremlin, is that Russia’s painfully expensive ten-year military modernization has proven to be a painfully expensive sham.

This is when wise Western leadership — an unfunny joke these days, I know — would be taking Sun Tzu’s ancient advice to heart.

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across,” he told winning generals.

In other words: When the other guy is effectively beaten but still needs to keep his dignity intact, offer him a gracious way out. You never know how much fight he might have left in him, or what desperate-stupid thing he might try if you insist on pushing him too hard.

Not warring is almost always better than warring, particularly in the case of Ukraine, which is Not. Our. War.

Can you guess what Presidentish Joe Biden is doing instead?

If you guessed, “The most extreme and dangerous exact opposite of what Sun Tzu would have done,” well … BINGO.

Historian and Stanford scholar Niall Ferguson has a must-read Bloomberg column this week, in which he argues that “Biden is making a colossal mistake in thinking he can bleed Russia dry, topple Putin and signal to China to keep its hands off Taiwan.”

Forget the China stuff, at least for now, which isn’t germane to Biden jabbering his our way into the Third World War. What is important is Putin’s view of the battlefield — and any off-ramps he might look for if the war effort continues going poorly.

And yet, according to Ferguson:

“The only end game now,” a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month, “is the end of Putin regime. Until then, all the time Putin stays, [Russia] will be a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations.

This attitude, shared by the Brits, “helps explain, among other things, the lack of any diplomatic effort by the U.S. to secure a cease-fire.” Ferguson says that it “also explains the readiness of President Joe Biden to call Putin a war criminal.”

Ferguson says that “In the east, according to military experts whom I trust, there is a significant risk that the Ukrainian positions near the Donbas will come under serious threat in the coming weeks.”

Which is exactly the scenario I warned you about three weeks ago today.

“The Ukrainians have shown their cards,” says Ferguson. “They are ready to drop the idea of NATO membership; to accept neutrality; to seek security guarantees from third parties; to accept limits on their own military capability.”

We have the basis for a peace deal, but Biden’s harsh rhetoric leaves no room for compromise on either side.

It’s one thing to keep Ukraine supplied with antitank and antiaircraft missiles, and I think we should give them all they can use. That’s the stick.

The carrot should be peace talks aimed at neutralizing Ukraine (as Kyiv has already agreed to in principle), protections or even border realignments for Russian-majority areas, and relaxing (but not removing) sanctions so long as an effective ceasefire holds.

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