The ‘jungle rules-based order’

Pennsylvania

Speed limit enforcement

Thomas Fitzgerald, “Speeding tickets and crashes fell after enforcement cameras came to Roosevelt Blvd,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/roosevelt-boulevard-speeding-enforcement-cameras-crashes-deaths-20220510.html


John Fetterman

By all accounts, Mr. [John] Fetterman is leading the race. In a poll by Franklin & Marshall College conducted in late April, his lead over Mr. [Conor] Lamb was registered at 53% to 14% among registered Democrats, with Mr. [Malcolm] Kenyatta coming in third at 4%.[11]

Around Pittsburgh, Conor Lamb is overwhelmingly winning the yard sign race. Usually, I don’t care much about local results in statewide or national races, but this will be a time to watch how John Fetterman does in Allegheny County. As I have understood the electoral imbalance in Pennsylvania, Democrats need to do well in both the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas to prevail against a viciously deep red Trumpist remainder of the state. But I really can’t argue with this:

Mr. [John] Fetterman, the front-runner who is running against U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, said it’s not about turning the reddest counties blue, but about trimming into the margins here and halting the enthusiasm behind the eventual GOP nominee.[12]

The trick is that Pittsburgh suburbs seem to be turning redder; at the very least, it would be a mistake to describe signs and flags declaring support for Donald Trump merely as “lingering.” These signs and flags are numerous and are continually being refreshed with new slogans, including those explicitly offering profane epithets against Joe Biden, who will not be back on the ballot for at least two more years.

Julian Routh, “John Fetterman, Democratic front-runner for Senate, makes blitz through southwestern Pa. ahead of primary,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2022/05/10/us-senate-candidate-john-fetterman-southwestern-pennsylvania-counties-ahead-of-primary/stories/202205100137


Ukraine

“To be honest, we are still not talking about the endgame,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis lamented to the The Associated Press in an interview on Monday. He said any territorial concessions in Ukraine would usher in a world where the “rules-based order” has been replaced by a “jungle rules-based order.”[13]

I hope this will not be understood as a criticism of Gabrielius Landsbergis; on the contrary, I agree with him. The trouble is that that “jungle rules-based order” may be the only order that Vladimir Putin really understands:

The dvor taught Putin many things, lessons that shape his thinking and actions to this day: that might makes right, that existing hierarchies can only be changed through violence, that force is the only language that matters, that power is always a zero-sum game. There are no win-win outcomes in the dvor. [14]

From this, Landsbergis’ other point, that ultimately Putin must go, even if it is seen as escalatory to call for “regime change,” follows.[15] In truth, Joe Biden has seen this, even if only in moral outrage, and even if his aides had to walk back his exclamation.[16]

At the same time, [Ian] Kelly said that no matter how many miscalculations Putin has made about the strength and will of Ukraine to resist or the unity and resolve of the NATO allies, Putin cannot accept defeat or anything short of a scenario that he can claim has achieved success.

“It would be political suicide for Putin to withdraw,” Kelly said. “It’s very difficult to see how you could get a negotiated solution at this point. Neither side is willing to stop fighting and probably the likeliest outcome is a war that lasts a couple of years. Ukraine would be a festering sore in the middle of Europe.”

U.S. officials, starting with President Joe Biden, seem to agree, even after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised eyebrows by saying after a visit to Kyiv last month that Washington’s goal is not only to help Ukraine defend itself but to “weaken” Russia to the point where it does not pose a threat.

[Vladimir] Putin “doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that,” Biden said on Monday even after he signed legislation designed to reboot the World War II-era “lend-lease” program and appealed to Congress to approve a $40 billion package of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

So what to do? French President Emmanuel Macron has placed a premium on a negotiated settlement that saves face for both Russia and Ukraine.

“We will have a peace to build tomorrow, let us never forget that,” Macron said on Monday. “We will have to do this with Ukraine and Russia around the table. The end of the discussion and the negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia. But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.”[17]

I think humiliation is a necessary part of the solution. It is what Putin will understand.

I am, by no means, doing justice to Lawrence Freedman’s article[18] with this passage:

Using nuclear weapons in these circumstances would not solve any military or political problems for Russia in its war against Ukraine and would create many new ones. It would turn the world into an even more hazardous place, including for Russia. Against this is the objection that this analysis is too rational. Putin appears unhinged and capable of anything (although he would still need underlings to carry out the orders to launch). He certainly does not want us to forget that Russia is a great nuclear power and has had missile tests to prove the point.[19]

Freedman offers substantial insight into escalation. Frankly, I’m still thinking about this article, but he juxtaposes two possibilities, the first being escalation as a calculated, rational decision that wins an advantage for the escalating side, even if it compels their opponent to escalate further, and the second being that U.S. strategic theorist Herman Kahn’s “escalation ladder,” which Freedman is exploring in the context of the Ukraine war, is “too mechanistic and too optimistic about the rationality of the decision-makers.”[20]

Those possibilities might be taken in binary, mutually exclusive form, as rational or not rational, with no gradation between the two, no possibility that the two might occur simultaneously. This would surely be a mistake. Remember instead what I’ve said about social theories: While you might find one that offers post hoc explanatory value, they usually do not offer predictive value.

Lawrence Freedman, “A ‘strategic nuclear exchange’ would offer Putin zero military gains,” New Statesman, May 4, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/a-strategic-nuclear-exchange-would-offer-putin-zero-military-gains

Delia Gallagher, “Pope Francis warns pro-war Russian patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy,’” CNN, May 4, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/04/europe/pope-francis-patriarch-kirill-ukraine-invasion-intl/index.html

Times of Israel, “Putin apologizes for Russian FM’s ‘Jewish Hitler’ remarks, Bennett’s office says,” May 5, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/putin-apologizes-for-russian-envoys-hitler-comments-bennetts-office-says/

Christian Esch, Susanne Koelbl, and Fritz Schaap, “Putin’s Disaster and What Could Happen Next,” Spiegel, May 6, 2022, https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/putin-s-disaster-and-what-could-happen-next-a-e8c89bfa-b7a3-4e32-908a-7642a301eda6

Anthony Faiola, “How millions of Russians are tearing holes in the Digital Iron Curtain,” Washington Post, May 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/06/russia-vpn-putin-censorship-disinformation/

Thomas Latschan, “Mysterious series of deaths among Russian oligarchs,” Deutschewelle, May 7, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/mysterious-series-of-deaths-among-russian-oligarchs/a-61719107

Jamie Seidel, “Russia-Ukraine War: Putin’s Plan B is failing as Russian troops ‘pushed out’ of Donbas,” New Zealand Herald, May 7, 2022, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/russia-ukraine-war-putins-plan-b-is-failing-as-russian-troops-pushed-out-of-donbas/H73PJNRK3TJDUIN7YUCMI4DNM4/

Associated Press, “Russia marks WWII victory overshadowed by Ukraine,” May 9, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-world-war-ii-2d4f0f3a1e59cdad92b26c521ed08669

Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/

Julia Ioffe, “About a Boy: The Roots of Putin’s Evil,” Puck News, May 10, 2022, https://puck.news/about-a-boy-the-roots-of-putins-evil/

Matthew Lee, “US, Western Europe fret over uncertain Ukraine war endgame,” Associated Press, May 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-western-nato-a990adcad47a34764d64b03bdcd69f7b


  1. [11]Julian Routh, “John Fetterman, Democratic front-runner for Senate, makes blitz through southwestern Pa. ahead of primary,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2022/05/10/us-senate-candidate-john-fetterman-southwestern-pennsylvania-counties-ahead-of-primary/stories/202205100137
  2. [12]Julian Routh, “John Fetterman, Democratic front-runner for Senate, makes blitz through southwestern Pa. ahead of primary,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2022/05/10/us-senate-candidate-john-fetterman-southwestern-pennsylvania-counties-ahead-of-primary/stories/202205100137
  3. [13]Matthew Lee, “US, Western Europe fret over uncertain Ukraine war endgame,” Associated Press, May 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-western-nato-a990adcad47a34764d64b03bdcd69f7b
  4. [14]Julia Ioffe, “About a Boy: The Roots of Putin’s Evil,” Puck News, May 10, 2022, https://puck.news/about-a-boy-the-roots-of-putins-evil/
  5. [15]Matthew Lee, “US, Western Europe fret over uncertain Ukraine war endgame,” Associated Press, May 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-western-nato-a990adcad47a34764d64b03bdcd69f7b
  6. [16]Tarini Parti and and Drew Hinshaw, “Biden Says Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘Cannot Remain in Power,’” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-and-polands-leader-look-to-boost-support-for-ukraine-11648304117
  7. [17]Matthew Lee, “US, Western Europe fret over uncertain Ukraine war endgame,” Associated Press, May 11, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-western-nato-a990adcad47a34764d64b03bdcd69f7b
  8. [18]Lawrence Freedman, “A ‘strategic nuclear exchange’ would offer Putin zero military gains,” New Statesman, May 4, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/a-strategic-nuclear-exchange-would-offer-putin-zero-military-gains
  9. [19]Lawrence Freedman, “A ‘strategic nuclear exchange’ would offer Putin zero military gains,” New Statesman, May 4, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/a-strategic-nuclear-exchange-would-offer-putin-zero-military-gains
  10. [20]Lawrence Freedman, “A ‘strategic nuclear exchange’ would offer Putin zero military gains,” New Statesman, May 4, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/a-strategic-nuclear-exchange-would-offer-putin-zero-military-gains

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