It sometimes feels like some people’s brains get wiped out overnight. Folks, do you remember the US withdrawal from Afghanistan? It was only a few months ago. Which adjectives would you use to describe that withdrawal? Brave? Heroic? Competent ? Professional? How would you describe the entire US war in Afghanistan? How about the US war in Iraq? I understand patriotism but let’s be realistic. When was the last time anybody described the US army as victorious, brave or competent? The reason why we keep hearing about wokeness in the US military is because it’s gone soft. It wages ideological battles because it hasn’t won any others since forever.
I had yet another discussion with a well-meaning American who informed me that nobody in the US wants “American boots on the ground in Ukraine.”
You know who else doesn’t want American boots on the ground in Ukraine? I asked.
America has fantastic technology. The best weaponry in the world. We are eternally grateful for the US sending them over. But American soldiers aren’t anywhere at the level of American technology. The US military leadership is pathetic. The US army routinely gets creamed by groups of raggedy cave-dwellers.
The nation-state came into existence to fight wars more effectively. The best armies in the world are nation-state armies. Post-national armed forces are bleating sheep in comparison to a truly national force. The US army in Afghanistan left behind US citizens without batting an eyelash because the concept of citizenship has been emptied of all meaning. Nobody wants these soldiers fighting on their side because they can’t even retreat, let alone bring a victory, without looking like a bunch of bumbling incompetents.
Have you noticed how pathetic the Russian army looks in Ukraine? You know why? They got no nation-state. The Russian soldiers aren’t “demotivated.” They are simply not a national army because there is no nation there. The US had a great nation-state. The strongest in the world. But it’s being dismantled as we speak and nowhere is this more obvious than in the collapse of the fighting spirit not only in the army but everywhere else.
I’m sorry if this sounds unpatriotic but nothing gets solved before it gets diagnosed correctly.
24 thoughts on “What Makes a Victorious Army”
Would you define the Red Army during the Russian revolution and Soviet army during WW2 as national armies?
Guess the tzarist army of Russian peasants in WW1 wasn’t one.
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This is a brilliant question that goes straight to the heart of the matter.
When Germany attacked the USSR, the Red Army began to retreat like scared bunnies. Ran all the way back to Moscow. SMERSH would shoot the soldiers who turned around and ran on sight but nothing worked.
You know what happened then? It’s in the history books now because it was a genius move. Stalin allowed nationalism. He hated nationalism but it was either this or lose the war.
Remember the “Родина-мать” poster? In 1931, you’d get death by firing squad for something like this. In 1941, though, it was immediately taken up and massively promoted by Stalinist propaganda. The creator, unsurprisingly, was not Russian. He was Georgian, which means that his nationalist feelings were strong.
Stalin himself all of a sudden started using the word “homeland.” And in his famous speech announcing the beginning of the war, he referred to the listeners as “brothers and sisters.” This was absolutely unheard-of.
Stalin even allowed non-Russian nationalisms to be appealed to during the war. Dovzhenko, the great Ukrainian filmmaker was allowed to film “The Battle for Ukraine” in two parts.
Then, when it was clear that the war was going to be won by the USSR, Dovzhenko was persecuted for his book “Ukraine on fire.” It was no longer ok to say “Ukraine.” But for the two crucial years of the war it had been. And those two years gave a massive boost to the reawakening of the nationalist feelings in the post-war. My grandfather came home from the war knowing very well that he was Ukrainian.
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// Remember the “Родина-мать” poster? In 1931, you’d get death by firing squad for something like this.
Didn’t know the author was Georgian like Stalin.
For other readers, here is the poster with the short explanation:
// “The Motherland Is Calling Us!” – this poster by Georgian artist Irakli Toidze is considered to be the most significant graphical work of the Second World War.
The woman on the poster is the author’s wife. It was created in July 1941 during the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Upon hearing the first report by the Soviet Information Bureau that Nazi Germany had attacked the Soviet Union, Toidze’s wife ran into his studio crying out “war!”. Startled by the expression on her face, the artist ordered his wife to freeze and immediately began to sketch the piece.
More info here:
The anecdote is sweet but there’s no doubt in my mind that the artist was ordered to do the poster and given very strict guidelines for how to do it. Otherwise, how would it occur to him to put the text of the pledge in the forefront.
Also, note the weaponry. It’s antiquated, WWI-era weaponry. The soldiers are conditioned to accept that they’ll have to go into battle against fancy, modern, huge tanks with outdated, useless bayonets.
This is a very, very well thought out poster that’s a product of cold calculation and not an artistic flight of inspiration. Like all great art, it’s coldly conceived and meticulously effectuated.
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Dear Clarissa, since you are there (in the US, I mean), you tell them.
Tell them like it is, tell them that there is no army without a nation, and no nation without an army. A nationless army is not an army: it’s a band of mercenaries.
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Disaffected, soft mercenaries who had medical experiments conducted on them. All of them. So I’m guessing their physical state is probably not that great.
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Disaffected, soft mercenaries who had medical experiments conducted on them. All of them. So I’m guessing their physical state is probably not that great either. Honestly, and I mean no disrespect, but who needs soldiers who’ll start collapsing with heart trouble on the battlefield?
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// Disaffected, soft mercenaries who had medical experiments conducted on them. All of them. So I’m guessing their physical state is probably not that great either… who needs soldiers who’ll start collapsing with heart trouble on the battlefield?
I respect your stand on new covid treatments, though I don’t share it, but those statements are wild exaggerations.
All my family and many many people around had been vaccinated three times. None of us have collapsed yet and our health seems as great as ever. 🙂
We used Pfizer rather than Sputnik, but the latter is not pure poison the way you describe either.
I would be more worried about their physical state due to growing up in extreme poverty and consuming too much alcohol, yes.
From what I understand, you don’t have that many men between the ages of 18 and 22 who do physically demanding work in your family. That’s the at-risk group. And that’s exactly who’s in the army.
Александр Невзоров writes
Не стареют душой сельдереи
Все погибшие «за родину» отдавали свою жизнь за глупости, ошибки или капризы режима
Режим может быть сколь угодно глуп, злобен и губителен. Он может плескаться в «крови и гное народа», насиловать, унижать и убивать миллионы своих подданных. Но если он умеет показывать один-единственный фокус, то убиваемое и насилуемое население всегда будет ему благодарно.
От режима требуется всего лишь суметь прикинуться «родиной».
Строго говоря, прекрасное понятие «родина» является чистым надувательством. Никакой «родины» ни у кого никогда не существовало. Была лишь последовательность режимов, которые распоряжались населением к своему собственному благу. Чтобы «жить долго и счастливо», режимы ткали нужную им мифологию и пропитывали ее ядом патриотической романтики. Этой паутиной и обволакивалось поколение за поколением.
Разумеется, иногда такие паутины бывают сотканы виртуозно, хотя чаще встречаются образчики попроще. Лучшим сырьем для их изготовления являются байки о подвигах предков.
Отметим, что «родины» не ведут войн и не устраивают репрессий. Они бесплотны и существуют только в воображении. Войны и репрессии — это всегда забава режимов.
Found his interpretation of studying history at schools interesting:
Дурочка Клио, или Почему историю не следует изучать в школах
Существует ясная взаимосвязь: чем ниже уровень интеллекта особи, тем выше ее потребность ощущать свою принадлежность к сильной и многочисленной стае. Это нормальное свойство homo, унаследованное от тысяч предковых поколений. Чем стая свирепее и бесстыднее, тем сопричастность к ней становится слаще. Возникает культ стаи, разоблачать который бессмысленно. Отметим, что к слову «стая» мы можем подобрать любой эпитет: «народ», «нация», «отечество». Суть от этого не изменится.
Не всегда все складывается, как хотелось бы homo. По разным причинам «родная» стая может быть сконфужена, ослаблена или «опущена». В этом случае особи логично было бы примкнуть к другому, более успешному сообществу и вновь обрести «комфорт сопричастности». Но это не всегда возможно, так как языковые, финансовые и географические нюансы препятствуют легким переходам из одной стаи в другую.
Что же делать в таком случае? Есть ли лекарство, позволяющее утолить эту «национальную боль», которая может быть и весьма острой? Разумеется, есть. Если сегодняшние успехи стаи весьма скромны, то в ход идет так называемая «история». Рисуя величавые картины давнего и недавнего, она, вопреки любой очевидности, помогает особи вновь ощутить себя частью сильного и агрессивного сообщества, испытывающего лишь временные трудности. В этом и заключены волшебная сила и притягательность истории, а также ее основная функция.
Дело в том, что почтительная страсть к прошлому не имеет никакого другого рационального объяснения. Более того, с точки зрения здравого смысла уважение к прошлому можно характеризовать только как странное извращение.
Yes, the nation-state is wildly imperfect. We can point out the artificial nature of nation-state foundations until cows come home.
But the problem is that the post-nation state is also completely artificial. It has all the same defects and a lot more. Rational, lonely, unattached individuals who are aimed exclusively at maximizing their advantage invariably end up being poor, miserable, depressed and angry victims. “I don’t care about history and community because it doesn’t maximize my value on the job market” is a neoliberal slogan created to rob us. It sounds super cool but the reality behind it is kind of sad.
Yes, and Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities is getting quite tiring as an overquoted topos.
Of course nations are artificial constructs: all social groups are to a large extent, and so are societies. It starts with families: people get together and have children who also get together with other people to beget more children and so on. Communities and societies and nations are no less real for being imagined: you need to “imagine” a family in order to create one, even at the most basic level (father + mother + offspring), or is this a homophobic/transphobic thing to say?
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Exactly. Anderson was fun until it became clear how extraordinarily useful he was to neoliberalism.
Kamil Galeev has a new thread in which he recommends books to read if one wants to understand Russian history:
If you want to learn more about Russian history, read Dominic Lieven’s “Empire”. Literally the best crash course on a national history I’ve read
I would also suggest some books that absolutely must be translated into English asap:
Bazhanov. I was Stalin’s secretary
Aven. Time of Berezovsky
Khazin, Schegloff. A stairway to the sky
Roschin. The country of lost empathy
Pokrovsky. Russian history
Don’t know whether you read the books he recommends but think you haven’t read “Страна утраченной эмпатии. Как советское прошлое влияет на российское настоящее” (2019) by Алексей Рощин either since it’s new.
I’ve been following his blog for a while and he seems a normal person despite strong disagreements on some issues.
Have at last found his book online and it seems written in the same easy-to-read style as his posts.
May be, you’ll like it too or find curious to check out since the subject sounds fascinating.
The full text is here:
Dominic Lieven’s “Empire” also sounds very interesting with the following description on Amazon:
// How does one empire differ from another? Why do empires rise and fall? What has made empires flourish in some eras and regions of the world but not in others? In this broad and ambitious book, Dominic Lieven explores the place and meaning of empire from ancient Rome to the present.
The central focus of the book is Russia and the rise and fall of the Tsarist and the Soviet Empires. The overwhelming majority of works on empire concentrate on the European maritime powers. Lieven’s comparative approach highlights the important role played by Russia in the expansion of Europe and its rise to global dominance. The book contrasts the nature, strategies, and fate of empire in Russia with that of its major rivals, the Habsburg, Ottoman, and British empires, and considers a broad range of other cases from ancient China and Rome to the present-day United States, Indonesia, India, and the European Union.
Many of the dilemmas of empire persist in today’s world, and Lieven throws new light on some of the most intractable current examples, including the crisis in the former Soviet Union, the troubles in Ulster, and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. This major examination of the imperial experience presents history on the grandest scale, combining formidable erudition with stimulating readability.
Btw, have you read books of Борис Акунин from his series about «История Российского государства» ? I read only the final tome so far После тяжелой продолжительной болезни. Время Николая II . Unfortunately, it stops immediately before the Bolshevik revolution and it doesn’t look like Akunin plans to publish new books in the series.
If you’re interested, found full text of Ливен Доминик >> РОССИЙСКАЯ ИМПЕРИЯ И ЕЁ ВРАГИ
The first page includes Table of Contents :
Loved the joke:
По требованиям Роскомнадзора книга Л. Н. Толстого «Война и мир» переименована в «Спецоперация и госизмена».
It’s from the website that is like The Onion, only in Russian:
Самое объективное и свободное новостное издание.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was much the same as Vietnam. Even in WWII the main US contribution was supplying weapons with other people doing most of the fighting.
Having a big standing army has never been an American thing. Most US military spending goes to weapons manufacturing companies.
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True. This is an army that never managed to win anything since the war with Mexico in the 19th century. O don’t count the war of 1892 because Spain was unable to put up any real resistance.
Saw in Israeli press:
// Weak, hungry and begging for water, Holocaust survivor passes away in besieged Mariupol
In her final two weeks, 91-year-old Wanda hid in a damp cellar in the Ukrainian city, surrounded by incessant shelling, scared like the little girl whose family were murdered by the Nazis; ‘She did not deserve to die like this,’ says grief-stricken daughter
The daughter says her mother “was hastily buried, under fire. She was buried in a park near the house, not in a proper cemetery.”
Larissa and her family were finally evacuated to safety this week, but she says she intends to return to Mariupol as soon as possible to bury her mother in an orderly fashion.
It’s devastating. I saw a photograph of a grave with a sign saying “безымянная бабушка” (a nameless babushka). My heart breaks for the elderly who survived the Nazis and the Soviets and are now dying at the hands of the Russian animals.
“This is an army that never managed to win anything since the war with Mexico in the 19th century.”
The U.S. Civil War was, per capita, by far the deadliest war in all of American history. The North won it from 1861 to 1865 — one generation after the Mexican War.
The American parts of World War I (1918) and World War II (1942-1945) were waged as part of large alliances, but there was serious fighting by the American armed forces, which they won handily from Midway onward. The 1991 Gulf War was won in 100 hours of fighting; I understand that this may not impress you, but it shocked the world at the time (and probably inspired China to start working hard on upgrading its military, which may end up being lethal if Taiwan is invaded).
I agree that the current U.S. military is in increasingly bad shape, but I don’t think that can be simplistically explained by simply denying that the U.S. army has been able to win serious wars. Over the last half century, American military effectiveness plummeted (1970s), soared (1980s), coasted (1990s), wavered (2000s), and then dropped again (2010s). Clearly something’s changed for the worse, but simple inability of American soldiers to fight well is not what’s going on here.
I would have to disagree with your assertion that the United States military doesn’t know how to fight or that American soldiers wouldn’t be an aid to Ukrainians. Remember, the Ukrainian military is itself a reflection of the U.S. military. How the Ukrainians fight is how the U.S. fights, as the U.S. gave the Ukrainians a lot of training since 2014. Also, the war in Iraq actually was won by U.S. forces, pretty solidly. The major failures that were made were political in nature. The U.S. had little problem taking out Saddam’s forces. The idiocy shown was by the U.S. government in thinking that all would remain well and that chaos wouldn’t immediately ensue after having toppled the government of a country that wasn’t really a country. They also failed to see the problems of the terrorist forces pouring in.
The U.S. then in 2007 changed strategy and defeated the terrorist forces, and by the time Obama was elected, it pretty much had become a won war. But then Obama prematurely withdrew and allowed the rise of ISIS and did not take them seriously either. Trump destroyed ISIS, but by then a lot of additional damage had been done. As for Afghanistan, that war was never winnable as it wasn’t a conventional war. But in no way did the U.S. Army get “creamed” by cave dwellers.
As for the current state of the American military, yes it has its faults with wokeness but it also is far more professional today then it used to be. Back in the 1970s, for example, it was in a really decrepit state, and even during WWII, it was far less professional than today. For example, in the past, lots of soldiers couldn’t read or barely could. Today, pretty much all soldiers are literate. Also, the non-commissioned officer corps mostly learned their trade on the job, whereas now, we have professional schools for the NCO corps. They’re as professional as the officer corps.