The Old Guard Sees NATO’s Defeat

When the Special Military Operation began, both Messrs. Lind and van Creveld were inclined to viewing it as a Russian mistake. However, unlike NATO’s military strategists, both of the old lions are still capable of changing their minds on the basis of the facts on the ground, as William S. Lind’s recent commentary on the situation demonstrates:

Kiev’s defeat need not shatter world peace. But NATO’s response to defeat in Ukraine may do so. Panic is already showing its head in Paris, where French President Macron is suggesting NATO might send in troops to fight Russia directly. Berlin says no, but the traffic-light coalition government is weak and can be pushed around. London is in a belligerent mood and Warsaw is always eager to launch a cavalry charge against Russian tanks. The decisive voice will be Washington’s. That is not good news, because the Dead Inca has no idea what he’s doing and his advisors will be terrified of the charge of “losing Ukraine” in an election year. Can NATO just swallow hard and say, “We lost?” If not, the alternative is escalation in a war against nuclear power.

In Gaza, Israel has destroyed itself at the moral level of war, which is what states usually do against non-state opponents. Martin van Creveld’s “power of weakness” is triumphing again. Hamas will emerge from the war physically diminished but not destroyed, while most of the world sees it as “the good guys” because the massacres on October 7 have been overshadowed by Israel’s destruction of Gaza. Hamas will rebuild quickly, and not only in Gaza. Recruits and money will flow to it in a veritable Niagara.

The threat of a wider war lies to Israel’s north, not its south. While Hezbollah’s operations have been restrained, they have nonetheless driven 80,000 Israelis from their homes, along with tens of thousands of Lebanese who have fled Israeli airstrikes. The latter don’t matter strategically, but the former do because Netanyahu needs their votes. As always, he will put himself above his country’s interests. That suggests he is likely to launch a ground invasion of Lebanon, which Hezbollah apparently is anticipating and ready for. Hezbollah is much stronger than Hamas, and recent events suggest Iran will also be forced to get involved directly.

On a philosophical, but not-unrelated note, Martin van Creveld provides some important advice:

– Prepare to change your mind when new evidence arrives. As has been said, too often it is not old opinions that die; it is those who hold them, still clinging to their antiquated views, who do. This is not a fate you want for yourself and for your work.

It’s remarkable that both of these great military historians can still accomplish, in their eighties, what so few of their successors have been able to do.