We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Another reason why I would not advise Ukraine to negotiate

“Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny dead, says prison service”, reports the BBC.

August 2023 – Navalny’s sentence is increased to nine years after a conviction on new charges of embezzlement and contempt of court. An additional 19 years at a “special regime” facility are added on charges of extremism.

December 2023 – After going missing for two weeks, the opposition leader is located in a penal colony in the North Arctic.

February 2024 – Alexei Navalny dies in prison.

That is how Vladimir Putin treats his own people. It is a safe prediction that he will be as or more cruel to those Ukrainians who fall into his power. If he gets the chance, I would not put it past him to do as his exemplar Stalin did to the captured Poles at Katyn.

I have seen some strange commentary from both the left and the right regarding Tucker Carlson’s visit to Russia to interview Putin. For instance Mehdi Hasan and James Lindsay both seemed to think there was something wrong with Carlson observing that the Moscow subway is clean, orderly and free of aggressive drug addicts. The historian and journalist William Dalrymple reposted a tweet from Edward Luce of the Financial Times that blasted Carlton for interviewing Putin, but I remember Dalrymple gushing over the valuable insights gained by those who interviewed Osama Bin Laden:

Writers such as Robert Fisk and the former CNN journalist Peter Bergen, both of whom have interviewed Osama bin Laden, and scholars such as Gilles Kepel, Malise Ruthven and John L Esposito, have proved to be more reliable guides to what is going on in al-Qaeda than any number of Downing Streets dossiers or CIA briefing papers.

To that list should now be added the name of The Observer’s Middle East expert, Jason Burke. His new study, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror is possibly the most reliable and perceptive guide yet published to the rise of militant Islam, the threat it poses and the best way to tackle it.

The more we know about how Putin thinks, the better the chances of defeating him and saving many lives, both Ukrainian and Russian.

Why the Ukraine War is not actually a stalemate

A useful perspective for people who just read headlines.

Denys schools Vivek

I like Vivek Ramaswamy. He says a lot of things that need to be said. But on Ukraine he is absolutely clueless. Actually, it’s a bit worse than that; he has negative knowledge. Denys Davydov explains:

Update Well, I did try to get it to start at the good bit but without success. The fun starts at ≈ 14:27.

Update II And now it’s working as intended! Grrr!

Samizdata quote of the day – Do we want Ukraine to Win?

Its in many ways the crucial question that needs to be answered honestly now. Do we want Ukraine to win the war and liberate all its territory? or Do we want Ukraine to be forced to accept a deal which hands over parts of the country to Putin? The rhetoric of western leaders is the former, though to be frank the policy looks more and more like the latter. We armed Ukraine this year specifically not to give it range, air superiority, etc. We forced it to launch direct assaults on defended Russian lines. Zaluzhnyi is saying that cannot continue. Either Ukraine is armed properly to win a modern war, or the technological imperatives will necessitate the continuation of this attritional war we have seen.

Western leaders must therefore answer that question now, and act accordingly.

– Phillips OBrien

The lever wasn’t long enough

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”, the great mathematician Archimedes is supposed to have said.

Maybe it was their company name that led Anglo-Dutch consumer packaged goods company Unilever to briefly decide that their real mission was not making shampoo, soap, washing power and assorted packaged food products but to take it upon themselves to move the world. The world moved all right, away from these irritating people who were trying to shove it around.

“Unilever to tone down social purpose after ‘virtue-signalling’ backlash”, reports the Telegraph.

Unilever will no longer seek to “force-fit” all of its brands with a social purpose, its new chief executive said, following a backlash over the company’s “virtue-signalling”.

Hein Schumacher, who took over from Alan Jope in July, said for some of its brands, giving them a social or environmental purpose “simply won’t be relevant or it will be an unwelcome distraction”.

He added: “I believe that a social and environmental purpose is not something that we should force-fit on every brand.”

It marks a change in position from Mr Jope, who placed social purpose at the centre of his strategy for Unilever. In 2019, he pledged to sell off brands that “are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier”.

Can anyone tell me if this pledge was fulfilled, and if so which brands were sold to other companies? I like the sound of products whose makers feel that there is nothing more important than manufacturing them to perform their functions well.

The stance prompted a backlash from the City, amid growing frustration at blue chip companies for prioritising fashionable causes over profits.

Terry Smith, one of Britain’s best-known investors, has criticised Unilever for becoming “obsessed” with its public image and accused the company of “virtue signalling” rather than focusing on financial performance.

He said in January last year: “A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has, in our view, clearly lost the plot.”

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Schumacher said Unilever was not “giving up on purpose-led brands” altogether. He said for some brands such as Dove, giving them a social or environmental purpose was “logical”, as it made them more attractive for shoppers. Dove uses the idea of “real beauty” in its marketing campaigns, featuring women with different body types.

The Unilever chief said Ben & Jerry’s was another of its brands which has a “clear purpose”.

The ice cream brand is known for adopting stances on political issues, championing causes including protecting the environment and defending LGTBQ+ and refugee rights.

However, Unilever has clashed with Ben & Jerry’s over its activism in the past. Mr Jope told the ice cream company in July last year it should steer clear of “straying into geopolitics” after the brand attempted to boycott the Palestinian occupied territories. Unilever later sold Ben & Jerry’s Israeli operations.

Ben & Jerry’s has not spoken publicly about the Israel-Hamas conflict since the war broke out.

Mr Schumacher said on Thursday: “They’ve been vocal indeed before because of the social mission that Ben and Jerry’s definitely has. On the conflict, I just have no comment at the moment. It’s not a topic of discussion.”

Tellingly, the Telegraph article adds that the “social mission” to boycott the Palestinian occupied territories did not apply to occupied territories nearer home where Unilever’s profits were at stake:

Mr Schumacher has also come under pressure to address Unilever’s decision to keep selling its products in Russia since taking over as chief executive.

The Telegraph revealed earlier this year that Ukrainian veterans had written directly to Mr Schumacher, urging him to quit Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. They warned Unilever staff risked being conscripted into the war.

Schumacher’s response was to emit words:

On Thursday, Mr Schumacher said Unilever would continue to look at its options, adding: “It is clear that the containment actions that we have taken minimise Unilever’s economic contribution to the Russian state.”

An appraisal of the Ukrainian offensive

Yet another interesting chat by Perun.

People expected Zaluzhnyi to be channelling Heinz Guderian, whereas he is actually channelling John Monash.

Lin Biao welcomes Prigozhin to the club

From the Wikipedia entry for Lin Biao:

Lin became instrumental in creating the foundations for Mao Zedong’s cult of personality in the early 1960s, and was rewarded for his service in the Cultural Revolution by being named Mao’s designated successor as the sole Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, from 1966 until his death.

Lin died on 13 September 1971, when a Hawker Siddeley Trident he was aboard crashed in Öndörkhaan in Mongolia. The exact events of this “Lin Biao incident” have been a source of speculation ever since. The Chinese government’s official explanation is that Lin and his family attempted to flee following a botched coup against Mao.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash – BBC

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a jet which crashed killing all on board, Russia’s civil aviation authority has said.

Earlier, Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone reported that the private plane, which belonged to the 62-year-old, was shot down by air defences.

Grey Zone posted later on Wednesday that Prigozhin died “as a result of actions of traitors of Russia”.

Prigozhin led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June.

How Putin fooled the Western Left… & influenced some US Republicans

Well worth watching…

Why is there such a fuss about F-16s?

Since Day One of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine and others have been demanding F-16s. Rare is the day that Garry Kasparov does not take to Twitter to condemn Joe Biden for withholding these supposedly war-winning weapons.

But are they potential war winners?

Many years ago I asked a military man why air superiority was so important. “Because you can see.” he said. Except in this war – where drones are ubiquitous – you don’t need fighters to see.

So, what can an F-16 do for you? To answer that question I have done quite a lot of binging and duckduckgoing and come up with very little. The best I could find was Ryan McBeth’s video. It’s not a long video but if even that is too long the TL;DR version is that an F-16 fires missiles that hit fighters, ships, radars and the ground.

Great. Except that it’s all missiles. Why not fire those missiles – or their equivalents – from the ground? I can imagine a couple of objections. I suspect that converting an air-launched missile into a ground-launched missile is not easy even if the Argies did pull off the trick in the Falklands. Also, physics would suggest that – all things being equal – an air-launched missile has a greater range than a ground-launched one.

Fine. So why do you need an F-16 to do this? Why not any aircraft that can get up to the right height? I suspect there are satisfactory answers to all these questions and that when F-16s do start appearing they will make a big difference. But I would prefer to rely on something better than suspicion. And there’s also the observation that big and expensive stuff i.e. planes, tanks and ships, have done almost nothing in this war apart from getting blown up. If the F-16 proved effective it would be something of an exception.

Update 1700. I said that it was a rare day that Kasparov fails to condemn Joe Biden and today was not one of them. Also, Ian recommended Justin Bronk. Here he is in The Spectator. F-16s are not easy.

Understanding Turkish geopolitics

Highly recommended…

Samizdata quote of the day – ESG hypocrisy edition

“Arms contractors get lumped in with tobacco, oil, alcohol and other so-called `sin stocks’ that are regarded as a threat to society. Yet, Ukraine’s predicament has shown that the biggest threat to Western freedom is Putin himself and without the West’s support for Kyiv, Russia may have been able to continue its imperial march beyond Ukrainian territory, further into Europe. City minister Andrew Griffith and defence procurement minister James Cartilidge have warned perfectly reasonably that the UK’s long-term security is being put at risk by the Square Mile’s growing aversion to defence stocks.”

Ben Marlow, Daily Telegraph (£)

Dropped to a ten-rupee jezail

A scrimmage in a Border Station —
A canter down some dark defile —
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

I thought of Kipling’s poem Arithmetic on the Frontier when I saw this picture:

“Russian navy ship appears to be heavily damaged in Ukrainian sea drone attack”Sky News.

Here and now, I am glad to see an expensive defeat inflicted upon one of Putin’s warships at little cost to the Ukrainians. But the new arithmetic of war will not always give results that I like.