Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: How Putin handles losing is the key question

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: How Putin handles losing is the key question


Putin’s KGB past didn’t help him with intelligence on Ukraine

The botched invasion suggests that—as happens with many authoritarians—his analysts told him what he wanted to hear

Putin’s present problems can be reduced to two main options: Either he ignored the advice of his national security and intelligence advisers; or, as with so many authoritarian leaders before him, he set the conditions under which his subordinates only told him what he wanted to hear. Although “truth to power” has become a hackneyed mantra of modern intelligence bureaucracies, it remains the case that sometimes the highest form of service an intelligence agency can provide is to disabuse leaders of the magical thinking that often accompanies their foreign policy agenda.

Just a reminder that “freedom of speech” refers to freedom from *the government* restricting your speech, NOT freedom from criticism for what you say. Yes, I am referring to the NYTimes editorial.

— Natalie Jackson (@nataliemj10) March 18, 2022

[Addendum: here’s the link to America Has a Free Speech Problem]

Casey Newton/Platformer:

The vibe shift in Silicon Valley

Notes on where tech power is moving in the Biden years

Last month, Allison P. Davis wrote a widely read article in New York titled “A Vibe Shift Is Coming.” In it, she posited that the third year of our pandemic would reveal an obvious, and perhaps wrenching, evolution of the culture. A vibe shift, she wrote, is “a relatively simple idea: In the culture, sometimes things change, and a once-dominant social wavelength starts to feel dated.”

I have been thinking about Davis’ piece more or less ever since. In particular, I’ve been working on how to apply it to my chosen field: tech journalism, which is driven as much by social wavelengths as any other part of our culture. For some time, I had been attempting to work out which stories felt relevant in 2022 that may not have in, say, 2020. Today, I want to tell you what I’ve come up with.

In short, some kinds of tech journalism has come to feel dated to me; some stories feel like they are beginning to come to their conclusion. At the same time, there are a host of new stories that need telling, thanks to shifts in power in Silicon Valley, and talented journalists are already beginning to bring them to our attention.

On an unrelated topic, I suspect part of the reluctance to acknowledge Trump’s fading fortunes is that it would mean acknowledging the obvious: MAGA is intrinsic to the Republican party, not some add-on Trump is forcing on them. But also a vibe shift.

Cancel culture strikes again. The MN GOP has canceled OH Sen candidate JD Vance as their annual Lincoln Day Dinner speaker after his comments that he doesn’t care what happens to Ukraine.

— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) March 18, 2022

War on the Rocks:


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s quest to “de-Nazify” Ukraine has found a fertile audience in the United States, especially online. For those of us monitoring the virtual spaces inhabited by far-right and white supremacist extremists, it is evident that Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has been a major topic of conversation, with sharp disagreement. This isn’t surprising, necessarily. The individuals, groups, and networks that comprise the violent far-right online ecosystem have never been a monolith.

At their ideological core, these groups view the world—and the events taking place within it—through the lens of their political aspirations for the creation of a white ethno-state and the destruction of Western liberal societies. This violent cornerstone is a good starting point for understanding the narratives shaping the American far right’s online discourse around Ukraine.

We’re finally figuring out what these guys are ACTUALLY protesting.

— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) March 18, 2022

Mark Hertling/Twitter:

Today’s thread on the ongoing RU invasion. (NB: All of this are just some personal thoughts to contribute to understanding)

3 things:
-Difference between Annihilation & Attrition
-How RU’s logistic plan did not support their operation
-How logistics affects both sides now 

From their original plan with 4 Axis of Advance, it appears to me the RU wanted an classic battle of annihilation.

What’s that? It isn’t what is sounds to be.

this was months before the election…

— Joanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) March 18, 2022


Fauci: COVID cases, not hospitalizations, may rise with BA.2 variant

Driving the news: “I would not be surprised if in the next few weeks we see somewhat of either a flattening of our diminution or maybe even an increase,” Fauci told ABC News’ Brad Mielke on the podcast “Start Here.”

  • Fauci said that in the United Kingdom, where cases are rising, “their intensive care bed usage is not going up, which means they’re not seeing a blip up of severe disease,” ABC News reports.
  • The pandemic trajectory in the U.S. has largely followed the UK’s by about three weeks, ABC notes.

We’ve known for a while that COVID-19 can be detected in sewage and, therefore, testing it can potentially reveal surges—a valuable tool in getting out of the pandemic. So, I set out earlier this year to find out what D.C. is doing with our poop. And here’s what I found 💩

— Chelsea Cirruzzo 🌸 (@ChelseaCirruzzo) March 18, 2022

More on that thread here.


Putin Is Telegraphing His Weakness

Three weeks in, Russia is losing

We’ve now gone three straight weeks without Russia achieving any significant military or political objectives in Ukraine. Instead, Russia has suffered a series of defeats. Their strategic position is not salvageable by conventional means. And Vladimir Putin’s political position may not be, either.

Some things to note:

(1) From Volodymyr Zelensky this morning:

Zelensky with powerful message to Russian soldiers’ parents: “We do not need 13 thousand or more dead Russian soldiers. We do not need that. We didn’t want this war. We only want peace. And we want you to love your children more than you fear your government”

— Dmitri Alperovitch (@DAlperovitch) March 18, 2022

What’s notable about this appeal is that you can only talk like this from a position of strength. Zelensky does not have to posture and pretend to be tough; he does not have to boost morale at home by talking about unleashing hell on evil Russian soldiers. Ukrainian forces have been so successful that he can attack Putin’s regime by going directly to the Russian people and position himself as their ally.

Putin’s invasion has caused Tucker Carlson and JD Vance to lose their ideological footing. They can’t bear to see Americans rallying to the internationalist response. Americans are supposed to see the threat to US sovereignty as the only true emergency:

— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) March 18, 2022

War on the Rocks:


It is still too early to draw definitive conclusions, but it has been striking how well the Ukrainians have defended themselves. Facing a quantitively larger and better equipped Russian military, Ukrainian forces have proven stubbornly resistant despite assessments that they would be unable to stop Russia’s rapid movement. This underestimation of the Ukrainians’ capability and will to fight had disastrous consequences for Russia. The same hubris could bedevil a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. As in Ukraine, national identity could play a factor. An overwhelming number of people in Taiwan see themselves as Taiwanese, distinct from mainland China, which can serve as a powerful motivation to fight. Training these people into some sort of territorial defense force could help make them lethal. Tactically, in advancing from Taiwan’s western shore to Taipei, an invasion force could encounter numerous insurgents ready to set ambushes and take out vehicles with the types of anti-tank weapons being used in Ukraine. Rather than engage the People’s Liberation Army force-on-force, Taiwan would be better positioned to pursue an asymmetric guerilla war in which civilians and military forces fight from urban areas, where they could hide and restock supplies. Similarly, the same forces could use guerrilla tactics to defend key choke points like bridges or valleys while leveraging mountains or rivers as obstacles. The more effectively teams of citizens and soldiers work together, the more of a challenge the Chinese forces will face. In Ukraine, Russia is already facing these challenges, including resupply issues. The longer Ukrainians hold out, the more challenges Russia will face. The same would be true for China, made worse by the fact that any resupplies would have to be brought from the mainland across the Taiwan Strait.

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