Nora Hoppe makes some astute observations concerning the NATO-Russian war in Ukraine and the very poor level of analyses on both sides of the conflict, especially in light of the Russian withdrawal from Kherson:
When people speak of the “optics not looking good“… a film set immediately comes to my mind (I have worked in the film world for many years). And that immediately tells me how some people view this operation – as spectators: it has to have a good catchy script, suspense, uninterrupted action and – heaven forbid – no lulls! It has to ultimately supply a dopamine release. It has to have a “Dirty Harry Catharsis”.
This reminds me of similar reactions to the prisoner exchange in mid-September, where some saw it as a sign of weakness to even think of releasing Azov prisoners… or when the Chinese government did not deliver a dramatic retort when Pelosi went to do her skit in Taiwan.
What is at the base of these kinds of reactions? Why such impatience? Why such concern with “appearances”? Why such a need to satiate one’s own personal sense of justice and retribution? Does it have something to do with consuming? Especially in the western world one has become an addicted consumer of not only things but “experiences” that can be lived indirectly… We have become spectators… and our world has become a spectacle.
In his powerful masterpiece, “War and Peace”, Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy depicts the Battle of Borodino as the greatest example of Russian patriotism… The collective engagement of all those involved in the Battle of Borodino is what ultimately attained the end result: despite all their losses and the sacrificial need to evacuate Moscow and burn its resources – in order to save the army and Russia, the Russians, achieved a moral victory in this battle… which ultimately led to the comprehensive victory of the Russian army and the entire campaign.
“Several tens of thousands of the slain lay in diverse postures and various uniforms on the fields and meadows belonging to the Davýdov family and to the crown serfs—those fields and meadows where for hundreds of years the peasants of Borodinó, Górki, Shevárdino, and Semënovsk had reaped their harvests and pastured their cattle. At the dressing stations the grass and earth were soaked with blood for a space of some three acres around. Crowds of men of various arms, wounded and unwounded, with frightened faces, dragged themselves back to Mozháysk from the one army and back to Valúevo from the other. Other crowds, exhausted and hungry, went forward led by their officers. Others held their ground and continued to fire.” [“War and Peace” – book 10; chapter 39]
General-in-chief Mikhail I. Kutuzov’s motto of “patience and time” allowed the Russian army to be victorious when he was able to embrace, as opposed to trying to know, the contingencies of war and prepare his soldiers as best he could for such battle. He knew that, by fighting the pitched battle and adopting the strategy of attrition warfare, he could now retreat with the Russian army still intact, lead its recovery, and force the weakened French forces to move even further from their bases of supply.
Retreat is not defeat. It can be the result of a defeat, or, as in the case of Kherson, where no significant combat even took place, it can be strategic maneuver. Or, as in the case of Borodino, it can be both.
Optics are an illusion. They are transient, easily manipulated, and are not reflective of the underlying reality. Those who concern themselves first and foremost and solely with optics are inevitably media creatures whose opinions are reliably wrong and assuredly irrelevant.