The powerful David vs. Goliath lesson that Russia’s unprovoked invasion in Ukraine has given global superpowers deep pause. They still believe they have the power to shape the world as they wish.
Each Russian tank gets FriedThe message being sent by Ukraine is that armies with more money, troops and weapons cannot expect to be dominant. Russian armored cars are being destroyed Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons are (NLAWs), and can be carried and unlatched by individuals in seconds. These weapons can also be deployed quickly with very little training or fatal accuracy. In just one month, Russia is believed to have lost nearly $5 billion of its military equipment. Russia has suffered a human tragedy that is more than just the financial cost. Nearly 10,000 troops were killed during combat in Ukraine, and at least five generals.
This is the truth of modern warfare. Smaller and more agile groups fight back against the dumb, lumbering relics from the past. Even though they are the fifth most powerful fighting force in the world and have five times more active military than Ukraine’s, this war started with the largest number of soldiers. Russia is stuck in a situation that virtually everyone expected would be easy.
This isn’t to say that Russia isn’t also inflicting massive, horrific violence against Ukraine—or that it won’t prevail in this conflict, especially the longer things drag on. This war demonstrates what James Dale Davidson, William Rees Mogg and William Rees – Mogg in 1997’s prophetic book called “the changing logic of violence” as well as “the diminishing return to violence”. The Sovereign Individual.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for traditional militaries or countries to effectively and quickly achieve their objectives using brute force, because weapons are smaller, less effective, more cost-effective, and better dispersed. That resistance includes “information warfare”—which includes hacking and cyber attacks—but also the use of social media, which Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has excelled at to project an aura of invincibility and to cast the conflict in stark terms of good vs. evil.
Americans should not be surprised by this lesson. Our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 20 years have shown that the old-school method of invasion and occupation can prove more costly and less effective than the quick and efficient ones. But Russia’s incompetence drives home in graphic detail to us—and, one hopes, to the Chinese officials supposedly eyeing an invasion of Taiwan—that even if Goliath does take out David, the price is too high and the victory too transient to bother undertaking.
If the collapse of the Soviet Union—that gargoyle incarnation of belief in top-down authority, power, and decision-making—was the beginning of the end of the 20th century’s romance with the nation-state, then Russia’s blundering in Ukraine and the United States’ disasters in central Asia and the Middle East may be its epitaph.
Not the men and women who are unable to see the future, nor the armies who try to control it, but the people who accept and encourage decentralization.
Photo Credits: EyePress/Newscom; LOC; Artvee; Sun news; Jorchr, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Ministry of Defence, OGL v1.0OGL v1.0, via Wikimedia Commons; MoD, OGL v1.0OGL v1.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Ministry of Defence Ukraine/MEGA / Newscom; Maximilian Clarke/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Ministry of Defence Ukraine/MEGA / Newscom; U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Master Chief Terry Cosgrove., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Newscom; Havrylo Pustoviyt (1900-1947) , Antikvar magazine, Ukraine, issue 4(112) 2019, p.16.
Music Credit: Faith Richards via Artlist.
Nick Gillespie wrote and narration. Regan Taylor edited.