Remembering when Vladimir Putin tried to help us

Today is the 10th anniversary of the jihad waged by successful asylum-seekers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the Boston Marathon. They lived at taxpayer expense in Cambridge, Maskachusetts after being granted permanent welfare entitlement in the U.S. on the grounds that Russia would not let them wage jihad in Russia. Dzhokhar studied diversity and tolerance at the Cambridge Public High School.

Tamerlan celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by killing two Jews and a roommate in Waltham, Maskachusetts.

Aside from eliminating access to the U.S. for asylum-seekers, what could have been done to prevent the Waltham murders and the Boston Marathon jihad? We could have heeded the warning of Vladimir Putin’s government. From “Russia Told America To Detain Tamerlan Tsarnaev Years Ago” (Insider, March 2014):

NBC News said the Russian intelligence agency FSB cabled the FBI about its concerns in March 2011, warning that Tsarnaev was known to have associated with militant Islamists.

The network said the FBI opened an investigation of Tsarnaev that month conducted by a joint task force of federal, state and local authorities. Tsarnaev was interviewed in person, and a memo was sent to the Customs and Border Protection database called TECS that would trigger an alert whenever he left or re-entered the United States.

But the investigation was closed in June 2011 after finding Tsarnaev had no links to terrorism, NBC quoted the report as saying.

In September 2011, the FSB sent a cable to the CIA, restating the warnings of the first memo. NBC News quoted sources close to the congressional investigation as saying a second note about Tsarnaev was entered into the TECS system the next month, but spelled his name “Tsarnayev.”

So we can perhaps reflect today on a time when we had a better relationship with Russia.


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The stateless players in the U.S. Open tennis tournament

I hope that everyone will tune in today to watch our fellow Floridian Frances Tiafoe compete in the marked-safe-from-Djokovic U.S. Open tennis tournament. There are a variety of questions raised by Tiafoe’s situation. We are informed by daily reports in the media and on Facebook that Florida is being crushed under the boot of the dictator Ron DeSantis. Books are banned. Pregnant people cannot get on-demand abortion care when they go in for reproductive health care after 15 weeks of being pregnant persons. Science is suppressed. Public schools are not allowed to “instruct” kindergartners in all of the rites of the nation’s established religion. A professional tennis player can live anywhere in the world and, certainly, could live in any of the 49 states that are not tyrannically governed by Ron DeSantis. Why is Tiafoe, with his $6+ million in prize money so far, still a Florida resident?

Another question raised by my casual searches for matches and times using The Google… what country or countries are Medvedev and Khachanov from? Google shows nearly every other player next to a national flag. Are we to understand that, contrary to international law, Medvedev and Khachanov are stateless?

According to Google, Tiafoe beat a stateless player named “Rublev” two days ago:

Readers: Did you also notice this unusual situation?

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Is Joe Biden fighting an undeclared war against Russia?

According to the Constitution, it is Congress’s job to decide when to declare and wage war on a foreign country.

What is the Biden administration doing?

“U.S. Intelligence Is Helping Ukraine Kill Russian Generals, Officials Say” (NYT, May 4, 2022):

The United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials.

Ukrainian officials said they have killed approximately 12 generals on the front lines, a number that has astonished military analysts.

The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine. That intelligence also includes anticipated Russian troop movements gleaned from recent American assessments of Moscow’s secret battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the officials said. Officials declined to specify how many generals had been killed as a result of U.S. assistance.

The United States has focused on providing the location and other details about the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, which relocate frequently.

If a country did that to the U.S., would we call it an “act of war” and flatten their capital in retaliation?

“U.S. Intelligence Helped Ukraine Strike Russian Flagship, Officials Say” (NYT, May 5, 2022):

The United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces locate and strike the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last month, another sign that the administration is easing its self-imposed limitations on how far it will go in helping Ukraine fight Russia, U.S. officials said.

The targeting help, which contributed to the eventual sinking of the flagship, the Moskva, is part of a continuing classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine.

What if a country helped some jihadists conduct an operation similar to the USS Cole bombing, e.g., by letting the attackers know exactly where one of our ships was?

What about funding? One way to figure out if a country is at war is if its taxpayers are funding a war. From a May 4 NYT article in which the President actually does run a proposal by Congress:

This week, the Senate will take up a request from President Biden to send $33 billion in aid to Ukraine, mostly in the form of artillery, antitank weapons and other military and security assistance. If the measure goes through, the United States will have authorized a total of $46.6 billion for the war, equal to more than two-thirds of Russia’s entire annual defense budget.

The request comes just weeks after President Vladimir Putin of Russia called on the Biden administration in a formal diplomatic letter to stop supplying advanced weapons to Ukrainian forces. If it didn’t, Putin warned there would be “unpredictable consequences.”

It sounds like Americans been doing everything on the Ukrainian side except the final trigger pull. We are funding the entire Ukrainian military, just as we fund our own military. We are directly running the Ukrainian military’s electronic and satellite intelligence branch. With some assistance from NATO allies, we are designing and building the weapons that the Ukrainian military uses in combat.

The above should not be intended as an opinion regarding the Russia-Ukraine war. (I don’t understand the languages, the history, etc.) The topic for this post is the process of governing the U.S. If the Constitution says “Congress shall have Power . . . To declare War” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11), how is Joe Biden allowed to do all of the stuff that he is apparently doing without specific Congressional authorization?


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Department of Poor Timing: Flying Across Russia cover story

Cover story in the March 2022 issue of a printed-and-mailed magazine for Cirrus pilots: “Flying Across Russia”.

Here’s the route that John R. Bone, a Florida-based pilot retired from Delta Airlines, took in July 2021:

(the trip from Florida to Iqaluit and Iceland was a mere prelude) The SR22 has enough range that there was no need to install ferry tanks for the over-water legs.

Captain Bone describes a Russian general aviation community that is well-integrated with the rest of the world and where everyone is friendly to Americans.

At press time, the author/editor added “given the current situation in the Ukraine, you should consult with the U.S. State Department for any trip in the region.”

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A world-class military tries to subdue a vast land (England versus the American rebels)

Portions of The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III (Andrew Roberts) are, unfortunately, timely.

The American rebellion surprised the experts:

One of the reasons why British politicians failed to comprehend that Americans would soon be agitating for nationhood was the paradoxical one, considering the propaganda of the independence movement twelve years later, that they were not being persecuted in any discernible way. ‘The colonists were the least oppressed of all peoples then on earth, politically, economically and nationally,’ noted Hans Kohn in his seminal book The Idea of Nationalism in 1944, written when half the world knew genuine oppression. ‘Politically the colonists were infinitely freer than any people on the European continent; they were even freer than Englishmen in Great Britain. The favourable conditions of frontier life had brought Milton’s and Locke’s teachings and English constitutional liberties to faster and fuller fruition in the colonies than in the mother country.’19 Royal governors and colonial assemblies generally ruled Americans with the lightest of touches, and the colonists certainly paid the lightest of taxes in the empire. The average American in 1770 paid a tiny fraction of what his British cousin paid in direct taxes, and crucially all of what he did pay stayed in America.

In the words of Edmund Burke’s biographer, ‘The general belief was that responsible people in the colonies accepted British sovereignty; that the disturbances in America were the work of a small minority of trouble-makers; and that American resistance would collapse if confronted with a show of force. If a war proved necessary, Britain would win it quickly and easily. Not until Appeasement in the 1930s did virtually the entire British establishment get something so important so badly wrong.

The British Army was tasked with domestic policing as well as wars with foreign nations because there was no permanent police force in England until 1829. The number of soldiers was miniscule by modern standards:

In 1775 there were only 48,000 men in the entire British Army, including the 8,000 already stationed in North America, which with its other global commitments would be nothing like enough to subdue the 2.5 million inhabitants of thirteen colonies that stretched over a thousand miles from north to south and several hundred miles inland.

In the summer of 1775, the British Army had 10,000 men already in America (mostly in or around Boston) and Canada, or sailing there; 7,700 in Gibraltar, Minorca and the West Indies; 7,000 in Ireland, which at half its normal peacetime establishment was dangerously low; and the remaining 23,000 in the United Kingdom, the minimum number for defence and domestic control, of whom 1,500 were unfit for duty.

The Cabinet continued to suffer under the delusion that the British Army and Royal Navy that had defeated France (with her population of more than twenty-five million) and Spain (nine million) only a decade earlier, and won a great empire in Canada and India, would, if necessary, similarly destroy the untrained and semi-organized militias of far fewer Americans. The crucial difference was of course that Britain had not needed to invade and occupy France or Spain in order to be victorious in 1763.

What were these professional soldiers up against?

As well as their proficiency with firearms, the Americans also had the advantage of numbers. According to Benjamin Franklin’s calculation in 1766, if a quarter of the remaining male population bore arms, and Loyalists, pacifists and seamen were deducted, about a quarter of a million Americans could theoretically fight against the Crown.

Supplying troops in the field wasn’t any easier then:

The logistical supply problem was immense too: because the local population tended to be hostile – with the American Loyalists providing far fewer troops than the British government had hoped for and expected – food had to be either foraged (that is, requisitioned, with all the local unpopularity that entailed) or bought (routinely at high margins), or else transported 3,000 miles over an ocean that was vulnerable to storms, colonial privateers and, later, enemy navies. Once the British armies penetrated inland, their lack of knowledge of the interior and the inescapable problems of reinforcement and supply both told against them heavily.

I recommend The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III, but you might want to skim over some of the exhaustive/exhausting explanations of 18th century English politics (at least as complex as anything we have today and political disputes quite often resulted in violent clashes).

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Potential explanation for the Ukraine situation

A reader comment on Why didn’t Ukraine become a NATO member back in the 1990s? highlighted this 2018 lecture at Yale by a French-Russian-American guy, 83 years old at the time(!), who was formerly a Soviet spokesman. Starting at about 19:00 he summarizes the various insults that the U.S. and NATO have inflected on the post-Soviet Russians. These include the 1998 expansion of NATO, breaking explicit promises made to the Soviets, recognizing the split off of Kosovo from Serbia, rejecting Putin’s proposals to join NATO and the EU, returning nothing for Putin’s assistance post 9/11.

He highlights Thomas Friedman, not for being smart enough to marry the daughter of a billionaire and fret about global warming from inside an 11,000-square-foot mansion, but for a 1998 article about the NATO expansion:

So when I reached George Kennan by phone to get his reaction to the Senate’s ratification of NATO expansion it was no surprise to find that the man who was the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union and one of the great American statesmen of the 20th century was ready with an answer.

”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. ”I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.”

The point about “neither the resources nor the intention” reminds me of a question at a Chinese New Year party in Miami: “Why does Joe Biden want to defend the Ukraine border when he won’t defend our own?”

”I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

If we are unlucky they will say, as Mr. Kennan predicts, that NATO expansion set up a situation in which NATO now has to either expand all the way to Russia’s border, triggering a new cold war, or stop expanding after these three new countries and create a new dividing line through Europe.

Thanks to Western resolve and the courage of Russian democrats, that Soviet Empire collapsed without a shot, spawning a democratic Russia, setting free the former Soviet republics and leading to unprecedented arms control agreements with the U.S.

And what was America’s response? It was to expand the NATO cold-war alliance against Russia and bring it closer to Russia’s borders.

As he said goodbye to me on the phone, Mr. Kennan added just one more thing: ”This has been my life, and it pains me to see it so screwed up in the end.”

Geopolitics is a complex topic so I don’t think Pozner or Kennan has access to the whole truth (but Friedman does! Marry a rich woman and live under Maryland family law so that she can’t get rid of you without ruinous financial consequences). However, the Pozner lecture is a good refresher for Americans who’ve forgotten everything that we’ve done in Europe during the past 30 years.

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