Streetwise Professor

November 28, 2023

Tales of Two Wars

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Ukraine — cpirrong @ 2:12 pm

The war in Ukraine grinds on with no appreciable movement on either side–except in the body counts.

The conflict is often compared to World War I, but this is in some respects unfair to World War I. Territorial gains on both sides are measured in meters–when there is any progress at all. Even catastrophic assaults like the Second and Third Battles of Artois in 1915 saw the French advance a few miles.

The most extreme current example is the sustained Russian assault on Avdiivka. Day after day for more than a month the Russians have mounted attacks on the three fronts of the Ukrainian salient enclosing the town. And day after day their attacks are repelled with massive losses. Many times the assaulting troops do not even make it to the contact line, being smashed by Ukrainian artillery and drones as they move to contact.

At most the Russians take a field or two here, a tree line there.

The Ukrainian experience to the south, around Verbotene, is much the same. The Ukrainians made some decent (albeit slow) progress there during the summer, creating a modest bulge in the Russian positions, and here and there breaching Russian minefields and fortifications. But for months the two sides have fought to a standstill, exchanging fields and tree lines here and there.

Moreover, in each location the attackers at first attempted armored assaults, only to suffer massive tank losses from mines, artillery, and drones. Consequently, each now mounts small infantry assaults. In Avdiivka, the Russian AFVs drop off their mounted infantry a couple of kilometers from the front. The soldiers slog forward and then throw themselves into frontal assaults.

You can find lots of video of the results on Telegram. It is not pleasant viewing.

And if these infantry assaults succeed breaching enemy lines? Nothing will change. Just as in WWI, infantry cannot exploit a penetration by infantry. The “successful” attackers are worn out and often combat ineffective due to heavy losses. Even if they were capable of moving forward, or reserves could be rushed into the breach (something neither side has proved able to do) the defenders can withdraw and regroup faster than the attackers can advance. Meaning that a “breakthrough” just moves the stalemate a kilometer or two. Absent the ability to exploit with armor–and crucially, without the logistics to support armored exploitation–decisive advances are impossible.

The stasis of the battlefield is in large part due to the inability of either side to achieve air superiority. In Ukraine, air superiority does not refer to manned fixed wing aircraft or helicopters, but drones. Both sides are able to operate drones for both reconnaissance and attack with relative impunity. This is a major reason (mines being another) for the impotence of armored forces.

The only front holding out the prospect for maneuver is in the south, on the left bank of the Dnieper/Dnipro River near Kherson. Unlike on the remainder of the front, here Russia did not create deep lines of entrenchments, and its forces are spread relatively thin. But an advance here would require Ukraine to send large amounts of supplies over a wide river, and it is doubtful that it is capable of doing this. (Its logistic capabilities to support a deep drive are suspect generally, even without the necessity of bridging a wide river, and defending the bridges.)

The Ukrainian government and its Western supporters claim that if it only had more weapons, it could drive out the Russians. Given the trivial incremental effect of the offensive weapons already supplied, this is to be seriously doubted.

The real constraint on Ukraine now is manpower, not equipment. It started at a severe manpower disadvantage, exacerbated by the emigration of many military aged men, evasion of conscription, and lukewarm volunteering. In contrast, Russia has proved able to replace its ravaged ranks by hook and crook, even without resorting to a formal nationwide mobilization. Even at an inflated exchange ratio, this meat swap is a contest that Ukraine cannot win.

That said, there is no real prospect for peace because Zelensky and many others in Ukraine are still wedded to the idea of driving Russia out of Ukraine altogether, and Putin is perfectly willing to pay the exchange rate for as long as it takes to out wait Ukraine.

Israel stupidly hit pause in the other war, in Gaza, apparently bowing to U.S. pressure. The pressure was stupid, and bowing to it was too. Israel was making steady progress at extirpating Hamas and digging up–literally–its military infrastructure.

The deal it made with Hamas takes off the pressure on the terrorist organization. Moreover, the terms of the deal, in which Israel releases more prisoners than Hamas does hostages only encourages future hostage taking. This is utterly insane.

The fecklessness of Biden and his administration exceeds even what I had expected–which is saying something. The only American hostage released so far is . . . wait for it . . . a relative of one of the connoisseurs of Hunter’s art. I mean you cannot make this shit up. And it demonstrates that the administration calculates that it will pay no political price.

The proper response to the taking of American hostages should have been reboot of “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” The Hamas “leadership” livin’ large in Qatar (apparently on large stacks totaling billions) should have been told: all our hostages alive, or you dead.

But noooooo. Indeed, that’s not even the worst example of his cravenness. Yesterday, he abjectly apologized to five (unnamed) Muslim heavyweights for questioning whether Gazan “authorities'” (AKA Hamas stooges’) casualty figures are accurate.

Joe is disappointed in himself. Aren’t we all. Aren’t we all.

He “promises to do better.” Even though the bar is very low indeed, I’m taking the under on that one. It’s always the sure bet with Biden.

War is always grim. These wars are even grimmer than most. They will be long running attractions, with no constructive results.

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  1. I wish I could disagree, especially re: Israel.
    But I can’t.

    Comment by Tatyana — November 29, 2023 @ 11:59 am

  2. Do you think President Potato Head remembers what he says from one day to the next, much less care? Of course, in the old days when he knew what he was saying it didn’t bother him one little bit. So . . . .

    Comment by Donald Wolfe — November 29, 2023 @ 1:49 pm

  3. Craig, i worked with you 100 years ago on the cbot grain delivery system revision committees
    i enjoy your commentaries but can’t find a way to sign up for an email list
    if they are ‘pushed’ to me i will read, but i don’t have time to dig out a website
    would you please consider

    Comment by dan brophy — November 29, 2023 @ 2:00 pm

  4. USA should keep a strategic distance from both these conflicts.
    It’s for the Ukrainians, not USA, to decide when they’ve had enough.
    Israel should be left to get on with it. Clearly they see some collateral advantage (PR on the Arab street?) in a truce and prisoner exchange. When a previous exchange was done at a ratio of 140:1 the current rate of 3:1 doesn’t seem outrageous.
    Mossad can be left to deal with the Hamas leadership in Qatar. (I’m doubtful that a decapitation strategy is much use with this hydra headed monster, but that’s arguable.) USA getting involved would only mean Qatar closes the US naval base.
    My contempt is less for dopey Joe and more for the Irish premier. “She was lost and now is found” FFS, like she just wandered off into the woods, or skipped town and blew her inheritance on drugs and whores like the prodigal son, instead of being kidnapped by murderous thugs. And even more so for the moral cretins who wave Palestinian flags every Saturday.

    Comment by philip — November 30, 2023 @ 12:38 pm

  5. @philip: ‘or skipped town and blew her inheritance on drugs and whores like the prodigal son’ – what fitting an decent words for the situation of a girl that just turned 9 years old, what empathy…the girl, her family and their fate is irrelevant to you, it’s just standing in row for pissing on Varadkar’s legs after others had went first…who found the more adequate words for the situation?

    Comment by Mikey — November 30, 2023 @ 3:30 pm

  6. @mikey
    read my comment again when you’re sober.
    If I repeat others’ horror about the evil Hamas has unleashed I plead guilty to plagiarism.

    Comment by philip — November 30, 2023 @ 6:33 pm

  7. @Dan–Hi. Great to hear from you. Blast from the past! Glad to hear from you, and to hear that you like my posts.

    Yours is a good idea. I will check with my hosting service to see if I can set up an email notification function.

    Hope all’s well.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 30, 2023 @ 6:37 pm

  8. @philipp: you did not just repeat, you added something, a comparison that was inadequate, and you wrote ‘her’ and not ‘his’ within it. Maybe you need a glass of Irish Whiskey to find you inner balance again?

    Comment by Mikey — December 1, 2023 @ 1:50 am

  9. @Philip: No reasonable person would interpret Varadkar’s words to imply that he though a 9 year old was off buying drugs and hookers. That this is your interpretation of his words says a lot more about you than it does about the Irish or their leader.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — December 1, 2023 @ 4:31 am

  10. So despicable Varadkar is sleepy-frog’s leader. Good to know it’s confirmed.

    Comment by Tatyana — December 1, 2023 @ 7:51 am

  11. ‘Taoiseach’ translates into ‘chieftain’ or ‘leader’, h-frog writing about the leader of the Irish is just using the official wording.

    Comment by Mikey — December 1, 2023 @ 10:28 am

  12. A followup to the Irish and their “leaders”:

    Likud lawmaker Eliyahu Revivo protested that Irish Ambassador Sonya McGuinness did not come to the Knesset discussion on Hamas’ crimes against women, even though she was invited, and sat in her place in the chair next to her name. “The Irish ambassador got lost. Someone will inform us when he finds her

    Comment by Tatyana — December 1, 2023 @ 3:47 pm

  13. [absence of an edit function in comments is a real pity…I wouldn’t post so much if there was]

    Another followup re: Ireland and why they are a model of “how NOT to do things”, by a commenter someplace else (a group blog):

    One key point in Ireland, which I really expect to be pushed here is the abolishment of their equivalent of free speech. Right now they are literally making it a felony level crime to say or possess anything that is offensive or might provoke violence. At least such speech or possession by Irish. Quick hint. “Indigenous people” have legal and moral superiority over everyone else. Unless the indigenous people are European descended.

    Comment by Tatyana — December 2, 2023 @ 10:03 am

  14. Was reading the booklet of a vinyl now, written in 2017 by Allen Thayer with Marcos Valle for the repress of the latter’s self-titled 1983 record. One song is ‘Para os Filhos de Abrao’ – For The Children of Abraham ( ).

    From the explanations: ‘…Laudir started off as a percussionist in these Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies…I showed it to my brother Paulo, but instead of bringing the voodoo thing, the Macumba, he decided to bring – it’s still a religious thing – but he brought the idea of why do the Jews fight with the Arabs?…so the music is more from Bahia…It’s not exactly a bible story, but more a narrative of what we have today where we have the Jews and the Palestinians and everybody looking for their own lands and the fight that goes on and on and never ends.’

    From the Lyrics:
    ‘…These children of Abraham
    In truth, they are brothers
    But it seems they do not see what they are
    These children of Abraham
    They are brave to hell and back
    But the time is to stop fighting.

    Abraham, come and see
    Call Hagar, call Sarah
    Because in this way
    they’re going to kill themselves
    …But their women suffered to much
    They want peace…

    Abraham, come and see
    Call Hagar, call Sarah
    [Why, so] these boys remember that they are
    On the one hand Ishmael and the other Isaac
    From the same harvest
    Only one heart.

    Comment by Mikey — December 6, 2023 @ 3:54 pm

  15. Not sure anybody will check answers here, but did have a look these days into demographics.

    Israel and Jews word-wide face a situation with the orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews having a very high fertility rate. 1/7th of all Jews now is ultra-orthodox, expected to rise to 1/4th by 2040 (acc. to Haaretz). Acc. to Wiki EN: ‘According to data from a January 2023 report by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Haredim, with their current population growth rate being 4% per year, will by the end of the decade form 16% of the entire Israeli population, including Arabs. A previous report from May 2017 forecasted that Haredim will form 20% of the total population in 2040, and 32% in 2065; by then, 1 in 2 Israeli children would be Haredi.’ Ultra-Orthodox do complete school grads only exceptionally, may not work normally and mostly do not join the IDF (military). Pls compare:

    So, but had a look into the demographics of Palestine, esp. Gaza. And following here Wiki EN, for the population in just Gaza (excluding West Bank):
    Total population was 265.800 in 1960 (acc. to CSIS), 340.000 in 1970, 460.000 in 1980, 650.000 in 1990, 1.13 Mio in 2000, 1.6 Mio in 2010, 1.82 Mio in 2014, 2.2-2.3 Mio now in 2023.

    Yearly growth rates 2-3.5%, mostly in the 3% range. Ca. 4.3 Children per Woman. Every 10th woman/girl forced into early marriages as teenagers and having a child early. When calculating with a 3% growth, the Gaza population would be 2.7 Mio in 2040 (but I’ve read about projections estimating 3 Mio already for 2030:,according%20to%20a%20Palestinian%20expert. ) and 3.7 Mio in 2040.

    So, e.g. I’ve read an interview with Hamas officials, conducted around 2000, so Gaza had a population of 1.13 Mio then. Now, it problem grew to 2.3 Mio.

    I’ve found that media reports about the high population density (poor living conditions), the high children rate in population and victims of war etc., how children are ‘such no. of wars old’, but they don’t ask the simple question: ‘how does this come?’.

    Also, in that interview, there was that theme that they find it unfair that they could not live in pre-1967 territories but did not want to confirm/acknowledge the existence of the state of Israel. They’d accept an interim solution. When ask that the rest of the world could take this for Hamas just wanting to better their position and then opposing Israel from a better position, they just said that if they’d agreed to it they could not act differently in the future as this would not be allowed in Islam, Muslims would need to stick to their words. It’s that explanation, that I’ve read Hamas used to say the sexual crimes against Israeli women and teens on 7th of Oct would not have happened, because this would not be allowed in Islam…that confirms for me it happened and will/would happen…

    So, may impression is they are not taking responsibility for their situation including population growth and what it means, what I’ve read, every commentator was viewing the population growth and the situation it leads to as not feasible within that territory. But with this and other patterns, who would be willing to take bigger numbers into exile?

    It looks like a complete farce and failure of international politics (and Israeli politics), to leave this going on.

    By the way, it seems Hamas was (co-)created by Israel, Netanyahu and Shin Bet:
    Netanyahu would have also asked Qatar to further fund Hamas, even when Arab supporter countries became frustrated with Hamas some years ago.
    Reportedly Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatari Minister for International Cooperation, took decisions for Hamas when she visited Israel in order to resolve problems with the hostage exchange:

    So, there was something created and supported, a situation including the peoples ‘of Gaza’ (that lives on support from outside), that is now there to be dealt with. I don’t like the idea of re-education camps, the way the media presented them for the Uyghurs as reportedly initiated by China, but some ‘Enlightenment/Aufklärung’ would clearly be necessary there. And a ‘solution’ how ever it looks like will need to address ‘demographics’ amongst other things, so it looks to me.

    Comment by Mikey — December 11, 2023 @ 3:25 am

  16. Pounding on that long-ago South African tangent (well, just jumped to me at breitbart):

    Naturally. All birds of a feather shuffle into a mob.

    Comment by Tatyana — December 11, 2023 @ 1:20 pm

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