Weekend Jolt: Breaking the Ukraine Stalemate

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The week began with a bold display ...

WITH JUDSON BERGER February 25 2023
WITH JUDSON BERGER February 25 2023

Breaking the Ukraine Stalemate

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The week began with a bold display of American power but ended with a reminder of its limits.

Friday marked a year since Vladimir Putin set out on his orgy of revanchism. Ukraine, with eventual assistance from allies, defied expectations by fighting the war to stalemate and deflating the Russian bear's fearsome image. President Biden's surprise visit to Kyiv marked a courageous show of Western solidarity in this cause, as Mark Antonio Wright observes. But the administration still hasn't provided decisive support. Hopefully, it can: The war zone is beginning to resemble a live-fire demonstration of the irresistible force meeting the immovable Zelensky.

What more can be done is a question NR's writers and contributors wrestled with this week, as they will continue to do. Accelerate support is one answer. Jim Geraghty lamented the erratic and plodding pace of assistance to date; NATO now cautions that orders for large-caliber ammunition can take two and a half years to fulfill:

U.S. Special Operations troops could resume surveillance training for Ukrainian forces as soon as 2024, and those U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks are scheduled to arrive by 2025. Good thing those artillery shells will arrive before 2026.

The Hudson Institute's Arthur Herman argues that the West's piecemeal approach has helped Putin and that the longer the war drags on, the better his position. He calls for a clear and organized roadmap for the West's commitment, "instead of making it up as they go along." And as difficult as it may be, he says the U.S. and NATO must press both parties toward a negotiated settlement, while supporting Ukraine.

NR’s editorial elaborates:

The U.S. should pursue an end to the war as soon as is practicable so long as it's on favorable terms to Ukraine. This will almost certainly mean continued and even increased U.S. and allied support through 2023.

While a total Russian defeat and withdrawal from every inch of antebellum Ukrainian territory would be entirely just and morally satisfying, most wars end at the negotiating table on terms that do not provide all parties with full satisfaction. If, however, the U.S. and its allies provide Ukraine with the matériel support necessary to establish a favorable-enough position on the battlefield to begin negotiations from an advantage, the U.S. will have supported its ally prudently and with honor.

The political debate in Washington, meanwhile, will continue to be a challenging one, especially within the Republican Party and as the 2024 presidential field begins to take shape — and to focus more closely on our assistance to Ukraine.

The risks of uncontrollable escalation from further intervention are real and cannot be discounted, as Putin's suspension of a major nuclear treaty with the U.S. makes clear. But the risks of uncontrollable escalation from pulling back could outweigh them. The Biden administration reportedly has intelligence indicating the possibility of arms transfers from China to Russia. AEI's Leon Aron recently warned of a scenario in which Putin expands the battlefield in a bid to turn the tide. Amid all this, Jay Nordlinger has been documenting with dedication Russia's crimes against humanity. "It is important not to get numb," he writes.

Ukraine's survival so far is nothing short of remarkable. Historian Mike Coté writes that the past year shattered Putin's assertion of a mythical Ukrainian nationhood, "as evidenced by Ukrainians' proud and steadfast efforts to protect their country's sovereign borders." But Arthur Herman says that, for all Ukraine's military success, Putin is winning, his position as dictator "more secure than ever":

He has managed to hold his own in the fighting in Ukraine, despite losing some 100,000 Russian soldiers (senior U.S. officials estimate the Russian death toll is closer to 200,000) and, after a series of seesaw gains and losses, has ground the war down to a stalemate. He has also turned Ukraine into a demolition site and shattered its economy; it also looks like Crimea is his for good, including the naval base at Sevastopol — his ultimate goal all along.

*    *    *

Before moving on with the week's linkage, a bit of company news: Noah Rothman officially joined NR this week. You can catch his work on the homepage, which really deserves to be bookmarked, I should add. We also welcome Jeff Zymeri to the news team and (speaking of Jeffs) Jeff Blehar, of Political Beats renown, who is lighting up the Corner on the regular these days.

And one more thing: The NRI Ideas Summit is coming up next month and includes some very big names. Read all about it here.



Once again, the pandemic science has dramatically changed: The Science Blesses ‘Natural Immunity’

That full Ukraine editorial is here: The Ukraine War, One Year Later

The "equity" executive order is . . . something else: Biden's Noxious Decree


Mark Antonio Wright: Biden’s Secret Trip to Kyiv Took Guts

Andrew McCarthy: Will Donald Trump Luck Out Again?

Dan McLaughlin: Abraham Lincoln, the Technology President

Rich Lowry: What Does Pete Buttigieg Have against Hispanic Construction Workers?

Rich Lowry: The Classics — Updated and Improved

Jay Nordlinger: Russian Honor, Exemplified

Charles C. W. Cooke: There's No Excuse for Rewriting Roald Dahl

Noah Rothman: Who Did This to John Fetterman?

Asra Q. Nomani: The War on Merit Turns into Systemic Injustice

Caroline Downey: Meet the Woke Activists behind the Roald Dahl Book Purge

Brittany Bernstein: House Oversight Demands Info on Biden Family Business Dealings from Former U.N. President

Jim Geraghty: What ‘Formal Training’ Is Going to Change Don Lemon?

Jimmy Quinn: China Committee Investigates J. P. Morgan Exec's Hong Kong Propaganda Appearance

John McCormack: Scott Walker Sounds the Alarm about Wisconsin's Supreme Court Election


There was a big Supreme Court hearing this past week. Will Duffield breaks down the significance: Why Gonzalez v. Google Matters

Dominic Pino calls politics on the DOT's response to the Ohio crash: Buttigieg Uses Ohio Train Crash to Push Progressive Priorities


Where in the world is Brian Allen? At last, we answer the question: Prague's Lobkowicz Palace: An Unforgettable Experience 


ICYMI, there was an important development pertaining to the "natural immunity" question, involving yet another set of Covid findings that should cause public officials who would brook no dissent to blush. From NR's editorial:

Go figure, it turns out that natural immunity from a Covid infection is at least as effective at protecting you from reinfection with the virus as two doses of the vaccine.

That's the conclusion of a meta-study that reviewed a total of 65 studies from 19 different countries, comparing how much a Covid-19 infection protected a person from subsequent reinfection and illness, and how that protection compared to getting vaccinated. The study was published in the Lancet and financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

"Although protection from re-infection from all variants wanes over time, our analysis of the available data suggests that the level of protection afforded by previous infection is at least as high, if not higher than that provided by two-dose vaccination using high-quality mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech)," the researchers conclude. . . .

Since early 2021, as the country argued about Covid vaccines, the concept of previous infection was largely ignored, dismissed, or hand-waved away. Those who preferred not to get vaccinated, and who contended that they had sufficient protection because of a previous infection, were often treated as reckless cranks and lunatics. Some lost their jobs. And now, this study indicates, their instincts were right all along. Yes, natural immunity will fade over time, but so does the protection provided by vaccines.

John McCormack snagged an interview with Scott Walker, who explains why Wisconsin's supreme court race is one to watch:

What's at stake in the upcoming Wisconsin state supreme court race? "Everything," former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker tells National Review in an interview. "In a word, it's everything."

What makes the April 4 election so consequential is that it's the first opportunity for progressives to gain a majority on the court in many years. Janet Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee judge and self-described "progressive" who advanced to the April 4 runoff election against former state supreme court justice Dan Kelly, is openly campaigning as a judicial activist. "The appeal she and her allies are making is this is their chance to undo everything that we've done over the past dozen years or so," says Walker. And that's not much of an exaggeration: As the New York Times reported in January, "Judge Protasiewicz argued that abortion should be 'a woman's right to choose'; said that Governor Scott Walker's 2011 law effectively ending collective-bargaining rights for most public employees was unconstitutional; and predicted that, if she won, the court would take up a case seeking to invalidate the Republican-drawn state legislative and congressional maps put in place last year."

After Walker signed Act 10, the law paring back the power of most public-employee unions in 2011, he beat back a Democratic backlash twice by decisive margins at the ballot box. Walker won a 2012 recall election by seven points and won reelection in 2014 by six points. Democrats struggled in both campaigns to point to actual harm done by the law, while Walker and his allies pointed to many success stories, including schools that were able to avoid teacher layoffs, expand curricula, or implement merit pay because of the reform. Walker lost by one point in the "blue wave" of 2018, but his conservative reforms have remained in place because the GOP retained control of the state legislature.

"We've seen something like $15 billion in tax relief since 2011," Walker says. "The most important thing we did with Act 10 was take the power out of the hands of a handful of union bosses and put it into the hands of the taxpayers and the people they duly elect. . . . Those things have saved millions and millions of dollars that schools were then able to reinvest into the classroom — in some cases rewarding exceptional teachers."

Now all that and much more could be undone by the state court. Walker says everything from the state's school-choice program to welfare reform and tax reform could be invalidated if the state supreme court decides to "be activist and just basically impose liberal doctrine."

Asra Nomani brings the receipts to her reporting about Virginia school officials withholding and downplaying student awards:

When the news broke in late December that Ann Bonitatibus, the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), had withheld National Merit commended-student awards from those who had earned them, Fairfax County superintendent Michelle Reid blamed a "one-time human error." After more principals started confessing to the practice of withholding awards — in up to 18 schools in Virginia's Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties — Reid shifted the blame to "staffing" issues. In a recent missive to parents, she insisted that there "is not a war on merit."

However, 2,000 pages of emails obtained in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests — reported here for the first time — reveal that TJ staffers and administrators, seemingly motivated by the pursuit of so-called equity, willfully engaged in a deliberate pattern and practice of withholding awards, devaluing their worth, and deceiving parents in the process. . . .

TJ staff members falsely told parents that the awards have "no financial recognition" when in fact many are attached to scholarships. Staff members have claimed that "no letter" or "formal announcement typically come with the awards" when in fact schools all over America make a big deal of them, and National Merit sends out the awards with the expectation that schools will ceremoniously announce the winners.

But the documents obtained show that, as early as in fall 2020, TJ staffers squirreled away National Merit certificates in the "records room" in "the last aisle farthest from the door on one of the shelves." In fall 2022, a few teachers handed out the certificates surreptitiously "in the hallway" so as not to "make a big production" of their delivery. Some students never received their awards.

A glance at social media over the last week confirms the suspicion that people will defend any action so long as it's taken in the name of inclusiveness. So it is for the extensive rewriting of a dead author's work — in this case Roald Dahl — to fit the modern preferences and tastes of randos. Charles C. W. Cooke dismantles the excuses being made for a literary atrocity (note: in a late-breaking development, the publisher has partly backed down; read more on the backstory from Caroline Downey here):

Already, the excuses are flying. "It's only a few words," say the toadies. "The rest is there!" But that dog won't hunt. If it's "only a few words," then . . . well, it's only a few words. Either those words matter, or they do not. Either they are negligible, or they're not. Either they're worth our attention, or they're not. And besides, those are "only a few words" written by Roald Dahl — the greatest genius in the history of children's books. As a literary yardstick, "only a few words" cannot be divorced from those words' context, because not all words are equal. "Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds" are only a few words. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" are only a few words. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" are only a few words. What matters is whose words they are, and what they convey. And in this case, the answer is that they are Roald Dahl's words. Yes, Dahl changed his own work after the fact at various points in his life. Does that grant other people the license to alter his work after he is dead? No, it bloody well does not.

Ah, but Charles, surely "times have changed"? Yeah, maybe. But Dahl's characters have not. Among the many words that have been excised from Dahl's books are "fat," "ugly," and "crazy" — which is a pretty big problem given that the characters those words are describing are, by design, fat, ugly, and crazy. Those who have defended the revisions like to talk about words as if they are wholly extricable from meaning — as if, in a careless hurry, authors pick them at random, on the understanding that, at some point in the future, they could be jumbled up and stuck back down with no effect on their connotation. This is incorrect. In The Twits, Mrs. Twit has "a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth." She does not, as the new version tells us, merely have "a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and stick-out teeth." Another character might have "a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and stick-out teeth" and no double chin, but that character is not Mrs. Twit; she has "a double chin," too. That is how she was written by the author, and it is how she ought to remain in perpetuity.

And here's the other thing: Objectively, the changes are crap. Where before, The Witches read, "'Don't be foolish,' my grandmother said. 'You can't go round pulling the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just you try it and see what happens,'" now it reads, "'Don't be foolish,' my grandmother said. 'There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.'" Which is crap, isn't it?


A. B. Stoddard, at RealClearPolitics: A Good SOTU Speech Doesn't Mean Biden Should Run Again

Peter Savodnik, at the Free Press: The War in Ukraine in Eight Photos

Matthew Luxmoore, at the Wall Street Journal: Russia's War Machine Tested by Rift Between Military, Wagner Group


Has anybody considered whether the downed UFOs were just your run-of-the-mill cosmic hippos? For the record, they're harmless. But pleasant to listen to.

Have a great weekend, everybody.


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