Epistemic Status: Very speculative.  Attempting to put vague notions into words.

Disclaimer: I'm no expert on geopolitics, nor am I particularly well versed in military matters.  That being said, I have some thoughts on current events.  My aim is to keep this mostly apolitical, focusing on the organizational challenges of this era of economic, social, and cultural warfare, particularly on the notion of whose responsibility it is to declare victory, and the consequences of lacking such an individual.

 

I. On The Word 'War'

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War (What is it good for) by Edwin Starr

Russia is now at war with Ukraine.[1]

This is, at the risk of understating things, Very Bad.  I won't belabor the point further - consider this to be my general Statement of Moral Condemnation, if we need such a thing.  The Ukrainian people are absolutely in the right to defend their homeland, and what I'm discussing doesn't compare to their struggle and suffering.

As an American, I have to ask: hasn't America been waging the War on Terror for the past 20 years?

Even putting aside America's actions in the Middle East, haven't we been having a War on Drugs for, apparently, a very long time?

There's also:

I could probably find more if I looked.  Apparently we Americans really like declaring war on things.

And yet, when I look up the definition of war online, most of the results define it as some kind of armed conflict between groups.

The War on Cancer is not an armed conflict between groups.[3]

The word 'war' is used metaphorically in the above; this is rhetoric, not fact.  But as the US and many other western countries impose sanctions and other sorts of penalties to the Russian government and people, I'd like to point out that if we can have a War on Poverty that doesn't involve armed conflict between the government and the poor, it follows that we can have a War on Russia without firing a shot.

To be clear, none of my arguments here depend on the word "war", but I will use it as a shorthand in the spirit of the rhetorical uses above.

 

II. Economic, Social, And Cultural Warfare

The word processor is mightier than the particle beam weapon.

George Carlin

Economic sanctions are nothing new, and have been one of the primary means that the west has responded to Russia's attack.

I see these sanctions - a targeted response to military aggression, with the aim of achieving a military goal (presumably the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine) as a form of warfare.

But sanctions aren't the only tool deployed by those against Russia's invasion.  While propaganda has always been an important part of warfare, the internet and social media have enabled a level of targeted social and cultural warfare hitherto unseen in history.

Individual Russian citizens who oppose the war are being cancelled.  Russian and Ukrainian business in the US are facing threats and vandalism.  Vodka is being dumped out, even when it isn't actually made in Russia.

This could be described in a variety of ways, but I think the terms Social Warfare and Cultural Warfare apply as well as any others.

However, there exists an important difference between traditional warfare and economic, social, and cultural warfare: in the former, someone is in charge.  In the latter, no one is.

And that can cause problems.

 

III. An Army or a Mob?

The only difference between a mob and a trained army is organization

Calvin Coolidge

When a group of people engage in warfare with structure, organization, and leaders, we call them an army.

When a group of people engage in warfare without any of those things, we call them a mob.

Without a leader, how is a mob supposed to stop?  Even if the condition for victory is clear and shared across the mob, if no one can credibly declare it met, what then ends the mob?

I don't have a clear understanding of why mobs, riots, and other such spontaneous assemblies end, but my current guess is that they end for the same reason everything else does - entropy.

Humans only have so much energy, and so long a span of attention, to fuel a mob; a fire will, left to burn, eventually consume all available fuel and burn out.  But how much suffering lies between any reasonable definition of victory, and the fire burning everything until even the ashes have ceased to smolder?

 

IV. On the Necessity of Someone Able To Declare Victory in Warfare

Exercitus sine duce corpus est sine spiritu.

(an army without a leader is a body without a spirit)

On a plaque at the former military staff building of the Swedish Armed Forces.

Traditional (Violent) Warfare

In a traditional war, deciding the conditions for victory is generally a task with a clear owner [4]- whoever the highest military authority is. It is a task with a long history and measurable outcomes.

The conditions for victory in traditional warfare may be a surrender of the enemy forces or their annihilation. If could be the destruction of an enemy's ability to wage war through the elimination of their industrial capacity.

Whatever the victory condition is in a traditional war, there is someone to declare it met (or unmet/unmeetable).

In other words, there is someone whose responsibility it is to judge the carnage sufficient, and to declare, "Enough". To state, "The war is over. We have won. Let us now return to peace, that war does not become a part of who we are."

When no such person exists - when there isn't anyone with the authority and the social credibility to speak to:

  • Their own side, to convince them that the war is over and must no longer be waged

 and

  • Their enemy, to convince them that they will no longer be warred against, so long as the conditions of peace are respected

then how is the war supposed to end?

 

Non-Traditional (Economic, Social, and Cultural) Warfare

In non-traditional warfare, there is no existing military structure, which means that there is no one in command.

For economic warfare, each polity determines its own level of response and/or sanctions, leaving no individual responsible for ending the campaign.  Different countries have imposed different levels and kinds of sanctions, from banning Russian oil imports to aircraft sanctions.  Different corporations have also imposed punishments upon Russia, from McDonald's closing its Russian stores to Visa and MasterCard suspending operations within the country.

For social and cultural warfare, the structure is even looser - at least in economic warfare the relevant entities are organizations themselves.  In social and cultural warfare, especially in the internet age, the relevant unit can be the individual - Reddit communities and Twitter accounts.

There's a concept I really like from Duncan's Dragon Army, about closing the loop when it comes to transgressions against the community, quoted in the footnotes[5].  The short version is that if a transgression has a known, explicit cost, and that cost is paid (and everyone knows that it is paid), then the matter can truly be laid to rest (and not left to fester).

But that ability to close the loop - to establish the cost of a transgression explicitly and the norm that, once the cost is paid, the transgression is forgiven - is only possible due to  the existence of an authority to create and enforce that norm.

That authority is what is lacking in economic, social, and cultural warfare.  And without it, how is the cost of the transgression supposed to be paid?  How is the war supposed to end?

If Russia were to pull out of Ukraine tomorrow, do you think that the sanctions would end?  Would the tarring of all things Russian cease?  

Traditional wars end because someone declares them over.  Who can declare this war by economic, social, and cultural means over?  Who can stand up and say, "Enough"?

 

V. Towards Victory

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun Tzu (2005). “The Art of War”, p.57, Shambhala Publications

What Victory Looks Like

What is victory supposed to look like, in a non-traditional war?

  • Is the War on Cancer supposed to be over when we've cured cancer?  What if we've cured most cancer, but not every kind?  Does "victory" mean that everyone can survive getting cancer, or that no one gets cancer in the first place (think scurvy or polio)?
  • What does victory even look like, in the War on Drugs?  Who has the authority to declare it?  Does anyone?  How is the War on Drugs supposed to end?  Can Drugs surrender?

Moving our focus back to Russia and Ukraine, a logical response might be that it is Russia pulling out of Ukraine, or some form of peace terms being met.  And yet, no matter what ending this war has, Russia still broke agreements and invaded a sovereign state.  Bullets no longer flying won't undo the damage done.

I suspect that the discourse may turn to punishment and reparation, the same way that it did after World War I.  Only this time it won't be a discussion between nations, but a crowd of individuals, each with their own sense of what justice looks like.

Must this fire burn itself out, absent anyone with the power to extinguish it?

 

Proportionate Response

Our criminal justice system has the concept of proportionate retribution - that the punishment ought to fit the crime; that worse crimes deserve harsher punishments, and lesser crimes should receive more lenient sentences.

How can a war be proportionate, if there is no one to measure out proportions? How can Russia be punished proportionally, if no one can stop the punishment when it is sufficient?

Perhaps no amount of cultural or economic warfare could possibly be out of proportion to the military war Russia wages on Ukraine.  I don't claim to know what justice looks like here.  Only that, in iterated prisoner's dilemmas, tit-for-two-tats out-competes tit-for-tat.[6]

 

VI. Graciousness In Victory

The war is over, the Rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.

Ulysses S. Grant, Upon stopping his men from cheering after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865)

History adds its lessons here as well. The end of WWI directly led to WWII. The humiliation and reparation forced upon the losers made them bitter and vulnerable to a madman who promised them a restored pride.

The end of WWII, in contrast, turned the great enemies of the past into staunch allies, and it did so by letting the retribution be proportionate and targeted. Those guilty of war crimes were punished, but the societies were respected and rebuilt.

So yes - we can and should take every non-military step to make Russia regret invading Ukraine, and to make them withdraw. But should we succeed - should we wake up tomorrow with Ukraine's sovereignty restored - we need someone to declare victory, and we need to end (or at least scale down) the social, cultural, and economic retaliation.

Wars without a clear condition for victory and a clear authority to declare that victory risk becoming endemic, infecting daily life in a persistent and inescapable miasma of misery and cynicism.

We can do better than that.

We need to do better than that.

  1. ^

    Apparently there is a live Wikipedia article for this.  I probably should have expected it, but kudos to them.

  2. ^

    This has also been phrased as "The War on the Homeless".  See e.g. hostile architecture.

  3. ^

    Not between groups of humans, anyway.  Groups of cells perhaps, although one would have to stretch the definition of "armed" to an implausible degree, especially because cells don't have arms.

  4. ^

    While the link is oriented towards business and management, the point of needing a single person to "have the D" - the power to make an actual decision across various teams/organizations - is well made.  Much organizational failure can be traced to "...a lack of clarity about who has the D".

  5. ^

    Problem 3: Saving Face

    If any of you have been to a martial arts academy in the United States, you’re probably familiar with the norm whereby a tardy student purchases entry into the class by first doing some pushups.  The standard explanation here is that the student is doing the pushups not as a punishment, but rather as a sign of respect for the instructor, the other students, and the academy as a whole.

    I posit that what’s actually going on includes that, but is somewhat more subtle/complex.  I think the real benefit of the pushup system is that it closes the loop.

    Imagine you’re a ten year old kid, and your parent picked you up late from school, and you’re stuck in traffic on your way to the dojo.  You’re sitting there, jittering, wondering whether you’re going to get yelled at, wondering whether the master or the other students will think you’re lazy, imagining stuttering as you try to explain that it wasn’t your fault—

    Nope, none of that.  Because it’s already clearly established that if you fail to show up on time, you do some pushups, and then it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  Like somebody sneezed and somebody else said “bless you,” and now we can all move on with our lives.  Doing the pushups creates common knowledge around the questions “does this person know what they did wrong?” and “do we still have faith in their core character?”  You take your lumps, everyone sees you taking your lumps, and there’s no dangling suspicion that you were just being lazy, or that other people are secretly judging you.  You’ve paid the price in public, and everyone knows it, and this is a good thing.

    I quoted this from Zvi's response, because the original post seems to be a 404.

  6. ^

    I'm aware that tit-for-two-tats is itself out-competed by more aggressive strategies.  I'm just making the point that there can be game-theoretic reasons to be forgiving.

5

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20 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:44 PM

I absolutely love the ending of WWII - the dangerous enemy totally defeated, their government dismantled, nuclear program halted, and then given ample help to restore the economy. This is how friends are made I suppose? :-/ But this won't happen with Russia. People of Russia won't feel defeated, no-one's going to dismantle their government from outside or halt their nuclear program, and their public will keep supporting the governments efforts to restore the country's greatness and glory. So should we give them ample help to restore their economy and army, knowing that we won't go through those first steps? 

I don't know what the right decision would be in this case, but I notice that whatever it will be, it won't be similar to WWII.

I absolutely love the ending of WWII—the dangerous enemy totally defeated, their government dismantled, nuclear program halted, and then given ample help to restore the economy. This is how friends are made I suppose?

Note, however, whom this did not include. At the end of WWII, what dangerous opponent was not defeated, their (oppressive, totalitarian) government not dismantled, nuclear program not halted, “war criminals” not “prosecuted”, ample help to restore economy not given, not made into a friend?

Exactly.

One of the sentences I cut from the draft:

"Treat someone like a monster for long enough, and they become one in truth."

or similarly: 

"There's only so long you can treat someone as an enemy before they become one."

Which isn't to imply responsibility, necessarily; just that how a person or society behaves in victory matters.

That is one perspective, yes.

There is another, however—namely: what happens if we map that distribution of policies, and of outcomes, to the current situation?

Suppose we give Russia the “Germany & Japan in WWII” treatment. We may hope to thereby ensure that Russia ends up as did Germany and Japan. Fine and well.

But the obvious question is: if Russia is the new Germany/Japan, then who is the new Russia? (Or, more properly, the new Soviet Union?)

If such a player exists, then to what extent will the game proceed as it did before, with all the old roles mapped onto the new players?

But the obvious question is: if Russia is the new Germany/Japan, then who is the new Russia?

A hypothetical country that attacked Ukraine together with Russia, but later got backstabbed by Russia, then with NATO support helped defeat Russia, got control over a part of Russian territory + a part of Ukraine territory + for some weird reason also a part of Finland territory, then three years later developed its own nukes and decided that NATO is actually its true enemy (but also everyone else)...

Dunno, does Lukashenko have any ambitions of this kind?

Not that I'm particularly fluent in history or geopolitics, but I'd image the natural course of events would have Russia's old role taken up by the other communist superpower in the world.  It'd be super strange if Russia wound up being a member of NATO, wouldn't it?

I'm also not necessarily advocating for the full "Germany & Japan in WWII" treatment (nor am I advocating against it, just using it to think about what happens when wars end).

Rather, I'm advocating for thinking of Russia as villains only so long as they are actually playing the role, as they currently are.  If they stop being bad guys, it'd be nice to have a coordination mechanism to stop treating them like bad guys.

Granted, they have to stop being bad guys first, but sometimes defeat can mean friendship!

I wonder how North Korea became what it is - would it still be the same if others didn't treat them like a monster? What they probably still would have is the iron curtain keeping the population from fleeing to wealthier lands and from seeing that there are better places. Though they might be slightly wealthier themselves so the curtain would be somewhat less strict.

I'm trying to imagine how people in Russia would feel after the war if Western countries kept or raised the sanctions. And I cannot find a strong difference. What they will know is that all the demolishing of tower blocks in Ukrainian cities was done by the Ukrainian army to massacre Ukrainian Russians, and that Western countries helped them do it. They'll probably want revenge and taking back Ukraine plus all the Eastern European territories where there are Russians being harrassed by the local Nazi governments.    

I don't know the relevant history to comment on North Korea, but I do think there's something of a self-reinforcing cycle going on there: the "west" disapproves/punishes the country, which makes the leadership despise them, which drives them further away from western values.

As for how the Russian people feel, I can only hope that the internet is sufficiently unblockable that they'll figure out the truth eventually.  It just won't help if, after the war, all they see on the internet is how awful everything Russian is.

That's fair - I don't expect this to look like the end of WWII either.  The conditions and the world are completely different.

I bring up the end of WWII as a comparison to the end of WWI, which sowed the seeds for its successor.

My position is that we need to think carefully about how this conflict ends, such that we don't plant the seeds of the next conflict in a myopic attempt at punishment.  That must be balanced, of course, against what measures we need to take to ensure that this doesn't happen again, to the best of our ability to compel such an outcome.

And in this era of politics/warfare by other means, are there consensus mechanisms to coordinate such an effort?  Contrast with the end of WWII, which was a clear military declaration - will there be such a clear declaration on Reddit and Twitter?  Will the economic sanctions from a variety of sources, both countries and companies, be lifted together or at all?

Who's this "we" that you say can and needs to do better?  Does it include Putin and/or Russian elites?  I do agree that the rhetoric of "war on everything" is harmful, but it's intentional harm, which actual people are using to get attention and funding.  And actual wars are ALSO intentional.  Real people are making decisions that they believe are correct (or at least best for them in the situation they find themselves).

Some things cannot cooperatively be solved, as many participants aren't cooperating.  All of this is the sum of individual human actions.  SOMEONE believes they'll benefit (or at least think they'll benefit, even if they're wrong) for every single thing you mention.  

Read and re-read Discordianism's A Sermon on Ethics and Love - https://principiadiscordia.com/book/45.php .  It's all well and good to talk about equilibria and mechanisms, but underneath it all is individual people, and they violently disagree on valuation of different world-states.  I prefer mistake theory as a baseline for things that surprise me, but conflict is real and pervasive, and ignoring it means your map is consistently wrong.

We = me and the mouse in my pocket :)

More seriously, "we" refers to the general "west" (US + Europe, mostly) that has reacted to the war.  My thinking is about what happens after the armed conflict ends - the nature of traditional warfare means that when a war is over, it's over.  

Economic sanctions, social and cultural blacklisting, and so on are (as you say) the actions of individuals.  

When the armed conflict ends, how are those actions coordinated, and what happens if they aren't?  Does society (international organizations) suddenly let Russian chess players compete again?  Does culture (Reddit, Twitter, etc.) go back to whatever it was doing before?  Do companies (McDonald's, Visa/Mastercard, etc.) suddenly all resume service in Russia?

Are these things that coordinate themselves, or will the lack of coordination leave us with a half-hearted punishment scheme that fails to achieve anything?

 

To be clear:  I completely agree that there is real, violent conflict in valuation of world-states here, and that Putin & co. are not cooperating.  They are not included in the aforementioned "we".  I'm questioning what constitutes victory for either side in this conflict, and who can credibly declare it.

I don't see these as questions with clear answers.

I think a lot will depend on HOW it ends and the framing that takes hold in the public consciousness.

There will be quite a bit of coordination in that governments will modify or relax the official sanctions.  And a lot of the same coordination among individual actors we saw in imposing the limits, in media and corporate behavior.  

But I think it's a feature, not a bug, that we can't tell Putin what the actual tests are that would let the sanctions go away completely.  If it were planned and coordinated, Russia would do the minimum to get the sanctions lifted.  To the extent that it's cultural and diffuse, they have to figure out what apologies, reparations, and changes in behavior will be sufficient to get McDonalds to re-open, and how that differs from getting re-admitted to sporting events.  

I think you're right that there's no clear victory possible - this war and the sanctions have done incredible damage, both directly in Ukraine, and indirectly in disruption of trade and markets.  That damage can never be undone - it's a permanent loss in value.  The wind-down of conflict will be as complex as the ramp-up was, and will be a new equilibrium for how willing people are to trade with Russia, based on their perceived willingness to do similar crimes in the future.

Agreed - how the conflict ends is super important.  I was mostly thinking about it ending in Ukraine's (relative) favor, whatever that looks like, but were Russia/Putin to "win" (not just propaganda win, but actually win), considerations would be markedly different.

I didn't think of the decentralized nature of the punishments on Russia as a feature instead of a bug - it's a good frame I'll have to mull over.  

I will say that if there was some clear condition for all the sanctions and such to end (withdraw from Ukraine entirely tomorrow, or something else I haven't thought of), would that change Putin's calculus or Russian opinion?  I don't know.

Is the lack of knowledge of the actual tests and its effect on Putin's decisions worth the possible additional damage done during a complex wind-down (as opposed to a single, organized wind-down)?

No idea.

I understand why this post is so largely unupvoted.

Firstly, it looks like it suggests the idea that individual politicians who represent countries don't make any significant special impact, which if of course wrong. Also people might say that you are mixing two different things: war on cancer is not a war while war in Ukraine is very real, even though it happens to be not on the grounds of America or EU. But your post explains that this is a totally different kind of comparison.

Secondly, most lesswrongers don't seem to care about Russia and Ukraine anymore since nuclear war is obviously delayed.

In any case, I some ideas in the post and in the comments interesting.

Nobody's in charge, and still things somehow get going. Things that happen because many people think they will actually happen.

Let's take Russian political system, for example. Many people in the West think that Russian political system is an incredibly terrible dictatorship that inherits directly from USSR.

This is true in general, but not true in particular.

First of all, modern Russian political system does not inherit from the Soviet one.

After the fall of USSR in 1992, many Russian people got caught in a false dichotomy which stated that only one of the 2 scenarios can happen:

  1. Russia is a strong mighty dictatorship, feared and respected by the rest of the world. It also has great science, art and culture.
  2. Russia is an anarchist piece of nothing, powered by "democratic" values, despised by everyone. It has no science, no art and no culture.

It's a false dichotomy, of course. The 1990s weren't such a bad time, too, though it obviously was a time of chaos, anarchy and destruction of moral values which used to be proclaimed widely (including altruism and progressivism, too). Business developed, and there were attempts of building a democracy (good ones, too). But many people do live in the paradigm of viewing the destruction of USSR as a tragedy, and this thinking pattern is important.

Putinism was born on the verge of the millenium as a drastic attempt to "undo the damage". Therefore it is not based on any certain ideology. The core of it is grabbing on every "strong-looking" and "patriotic-looking" idea since ever. Communism? Let's take some! Monarchy? Why, that's good! Christianity? Looks fancy, give me more of this shit! Soviet Marxism, Atheism and Progressivism? We got a corner for those! Ancient pagan traditions? Why, they'll fit somewhere too!

Putinism is pure conservatism for the sake of conservatism itself. Unlike other forms of conservative, it is not spoiled by any actual system of beliefs. I'll put it this way: putinism is not a belief-in belief, it was born as belief in the belief-in-belief. Putin himself is not the inspirator of this but a product. Try to imagine that in your head, then go on.

But dressing up as a dictatorship is not the same thing as being a dictatorship. This is the key point. Putin started by selling an image of dictatorship to people who were tired of democracy which turned out to be anarchy. That's it.

Putin did start his career by closing down the independent media which was mocking him agressively. But then he didn't proceed with this policy. The dressing-up was done, he could get to business now.

Apart from this Russia still did have some democratic institutions ready for application. They still existed for sure until February 24th, though in a limited way. It is just the majority knows nothing of them. The majority expects Putin to be a dictator, and so he behaves like a dictator, making majority even more sure that he is one. Same way the West used to grab on old Soviet paradigms, calling Russia "an aggressor", therefore Russian government tries to behave like that, making Western media even more confident.

By the way, the "aggressor-like" pretense was primarily directed at the Russian population - probably because a Strong Dictatorship would behave like that.

There's nothing so "special" or "inhumane" in that which has to be explained by genetical/cultural impatience and aggressiveness of Russian people - this one is a statement especially funny to see on a website like Lesswrong. Just normal development of a country in specific conditions which has lead to... this.

All the role-play lead to the war which is a huge role-play too. Nations are putting on their century-old clothes (it's just that Russia took the German costume this time).

And eventually - I strongly agree with you - this has to stop. It has to stop right now. There must be a way for de-escalation.

God damn it, I'm always forgetting that "there must be a way" doesn't necessarily mean "there is a way".

Apart from this Russia still did have some democratic institutions ready for application. They still existed for sure until February 24th, though in a limited way. It is just the majority knows nothing of them.

Could you be more specific? When journalists are getting shot and political opponents poisoned, how specifically does this "image of dictatorship" differ from true dictatorship, and where are the "democratic institutions" hiding?

About the things that you've mentioned - yes, he's been doing that since the very beginning. I see that as a part of keeping his image.

As far as I know, even though in the modern world democracy often goes along with human rights and freedom of public speech and other things, it isn't necessarily defined by them.

When I mentioned democratic institutions, I meant the institutions through which the government can reply to the needs of the people, like the administrative (!!!) courts, or local small town and neighbourhood parlaments, or special development programs. Some oppositioners do use them as a way to influence the government and make the lives of ordinary people better. They target mostly economical questions and public services improvement (like the "CityProjects") and other things. I do respect those people, they've made a lot of good impact.

By democracy I mean the fact when people can discuss questions which are really important to them, like the wage sizes or the public services or education or other things like that with the government and work out solutions for those problems together.

But you are right, at a certain point the image of dictatorship becomes indistinguishable from the real thing. It's probably happened now.

History adds its lessons here as well. The end of WWI directly led to WWII. The humiliation and reparation forced upon the losers made them bitter and vulnerable to a madman who promised them a restored pride.

This is the popular position, but it is a wrong one. The central example of the consequences of the treaty, hyperinflation, was a deliberate strategy by the German government in order to avoid any type of austerity measures domestically. The Treaty of Versailles was not even comprehensively enforced; it had been almost completely dismantled by follow-on treaties, including the indefinite postponement of reparations, by 1932.

It is a simplification, but not an oversimplification, to say that modern public opinion is fundamentally down to propagandists going to work in the wake of the treaty (which they would have done regardless what the treaty contained), and the American and British tending to take them at their word.

The problem with the treaty was that it was ineffective, not that it was cruel or excessive.

Thanks - I'll have to do some more research; apparently high school lied to me!  Who knew.

Of course, that simply begs the question of what sort of measures are effective, after the end of a conflict.

Regardless, the main point I'm attempting to give voice to here is that economic, social, and cultural warfare lack the centralized control of traditional organized warfare, and thus lack methods of uniformly ending.

For all its failures, the Treaty of Versailles did end the war, at least. (So far as I know.)

I agree it doesn't change the main point at all - I pointed it out more as a public service, because this is the first time a lot of people are looking at geopolitics, rather than as a criticism of the post.

I also reiterate the popularity of the belief - I strongly expect a majority of the non-specialists in the President's office, or the Prime Minister's office, along with the overwhelming majority of both Senate and Parliament, share it. So it is completely fair to treat it that story as the social reality underlying any decisions about treaties for those two countries, at least.

Of course, that simply begs the question of what sort of measures are effective, after the end of a conflict.

This is a woefully neglected question, in my mind; but I do think we are going to learn a lot based on how the sanctions situation shakes out. At least I hope. Very hard.

I'm definitely grateful for the update - it really makes me want to do a deep dive into how conflicts end, at the very least to better contextualize current events.

It also makes me wonder just how much history I "know" is the result of successful propaganda.  Or how much culture is the result of successful marketing.

Yikes.