The Utter Banality of Putin’s Kabuki Campaign in Ukraine
Same old, same old in all the bad ways from Russia in a totally avoidable crisis wholly manufactured by the Kremlin
By Brian E. Frydenborg
Great Russia: [i.e., Russia]
Do you know with whom you are speaking, or have you forgotten? I am Russia, after all: do you ignore me?
Little Russia: [i.e., Ukraine]
I know that you are Russia; that is my name as well.
Why do you intimidate me? I myself am trying to put on a brave face.
I did not submit to you but to your sovereign,
Under whose auspices you were born of your ancestors.
Do not think that you are my master:
Your sovereign and mine is our common ruler.
by Semen Divovych, Ukrainian Cossack scribe and poet
The extremely-likely-to-be-pending invasion of Ukraine by Russia would likely be the largest invasion in Europe in over half a century (since the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and, before that, the final years of World War II) and the largest European war since WWII (since Ukraine’s army today seems quite willing to fight along with many civilians, but the Czechoslovak People’s Army did not resist at all in 1968). Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing apart from the scale of all this is the predictable, soporific banality of Putin’s game plan, one visible from many miles and many years away.
And perhaps nothing besides Ukrainian icy steeliness better explains the hitherto nonchalant, yet still defiant refusal of Ukrainians to panic, with others seeming to be more worried than Ukrainians themselves. After all, they experienced a smaller Russian troop buildup on their border early last year and this current one has been going on for months, so they shrug their shoulders and live their lives, with Ukraine’s government in recent weeks even launching a “Keep calm and visit Ukraine” tourism campaign that hearkens back to the famous domestic British morale campaign from WWII.
Public relations aside, the situation is dire, with proxy conventional attacks by rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine and Russian cyberattacks already underway (in addition to de facto economic warfare as Russia’s troop buildup and naval “exercises” are already causing major damage to the Ukrainian economy). Even worse, it is incredibly difficult to imagine Russian President Vladimir Putin amassing some 150,000-and-growing ground troops along with heavy military equipment, vehicles, and additional air and naval forces just for a failed intimidation campaign that yields no substantial positive results for him; just tucking his tail in between his legs and sending his forces home while losing face after a costly military buildup throughout harsh winter months is simply not in his nature. And if he thought when he began this buildup that any major concessions would be forthcoming from the by-far-stronger U.S. or NATO as a result of reckless Russian military provocations, U.S. President Joe Biden—unlike his unfit predecessor—has made it crystal clear Putin will get nothing of the sort from a Western alliance now invigorated by Russia’s own acts, acts that have united Europe against Russia in tandem with Biden’s firm leadership in the face of Russian aggression, aggressively countering every move and statement by the Kremlin.
It was only several months ago when many a pundit pundited that NATO and the Western and other U.S.-led alliances were somehow in “tatters,” along with Biden’s credibility, because of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan that, taken out of larger military, humanitarian, and historical contexts, was proclaimed by said punditry as a “disaster” and a “fiasco,” pronunciamentos that may very well been a major factor in Putin’s decision to vastly overplay his hand on Ukraine, a hand far weaker than he seems to realize. I discussed the reality of the larger picture of Afghanistan and the U.S. war there several times during and after the withdrawal, with one key takeaway that, despite the tragic crises in Taliban-run Afghanistan itself, to read any tectonic shifts in the global balance of power or U.S. relationships was to overreach one’s mental and predictive limits (hardly a concern for so many “experts” and the press, more myopic and short-term focused than ever).
This would actually help precipitate the current drama in Ukraine.
Leading into 2021, Putin and his top advisors’ hubris only was only growing in recent years with the spectacular success of Russian cyberwarfare/hybrid warfare against the West—especially the U.S. and the UK (and why I have called for NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision to explicitly add cyberwarfare in writing, including disinformation). In the wake of the January 6 Trump Capitol insurrection, this hubris only greatly intensified, Trump serving his Kremlin enablers’ purposes even when he managed to lose. And during the summer’s Afghanistan withdrawal, the aforementioned typical Western media coverage that oversold divisions within the Western alliance would only significantly add to Putin’s sense of American and Western fragility and disunity (never mind that the coverage blew entirely out of proportion a few tragic days at the very end of an otherwise nearly bloodless, remarkably successful withdrawal from Afghanistan—including the Kabul Airlift that evacuated some 124,000 people, the vast majority Afghan civilians, in just 17 days under incredibly chaotic and fraught conditions).
All these factors combined as 2021 dragged on with Biden’s flagging poll numbers, a brand-new and untested German chancellor in Olaf Scholz saddled by the pressures of Nord Stream 2 (the massive gas pipeline project that would connect Russian gas directly to Germany and behind which Russia’s massive state-owned Gazprom is the main force), a U.K under a Boris Johnson beset by scandal, an upcoming (and uncertain) French national election, and a general level of protest-inspiring dissatisfaction (justified or otherwise) with COVID-19 policies in the West to give Putin the impression that Biden, the U.S., and the West in general were weak and ripe for division.
For Putin, his inner circle, and Russian intelligence, the caricature of a hapless West—which, admittedly, the West had been playing into for years with its generally weak responses to Russia’s unabated aggression, hostility, gaslighting, and general bad-faith behavior—that was appearing to Russia with this unique combination of recent issues and events effectively fed into their confirmation bias and hubris and, thus, has led Putin to make his big gamble now.
Yet, as already noted, Biden has stood strong and rallied NATO and the West quite well and quite rapidly, proving that the doom-and-gloom assessments of the health of NATO after Afghanistan were way off; even Germany, often regarded as the weakest NATO link when it comes to Russia, just Friday indicated Nord Stream 2 is “on the table” to be involved in German economic retaliation for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
And part of the reason, again, is just how pathetically predictable Putin’s screen of smoke and mirrors here has been, unable to hide over 150,000 Russian troops amassing on Ukraine’s border along with their planes, helicopters, tanks, artillery, naval warships, and other heavy equipment.
A Pathetically Predictable Playbook
Also pathetically predictable are both the rationales Putin regularly spews along with his army of propagandists and his methods, containing absolutely nothing new and going back centuries.
In my graduate studies and again in my journalism, I have researched and noted that the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union made it a decided policy to play with, keep simmering under the surface, and manipulate one way or another whenever convenient various nationalisms both within Russia and the Soviet Union and in their peripheries and near-peripheries. At some times, it would be convenient to heat to a boiling point the majority ethnonationalism, at other instances, the minority ethnonationalisms in any given part of Russia or a (post-)Soviet Republic, sometimes playing one against the other in one era only to switch sides in the future. As one scholar I quoted in a graduate school paper noted, the
system of ethnic autonomies [in Russia/the Soviet Union] was ostensibly a means of protecting national minorities, but in reality it was a time bomb that Moscow could blow up at its leisure by pushing the “protected” minorities towards separatism. Thus, this situation gave Moscow a means to weaken and destabilize republics whose nationalistic feelings ran high. (Areshidze 2007, 22)
To be absolutely clear, this a tradition in both the Soviet and Russian historical tradition, going back centuries, and is Putin’s favorite playbook among very few.
Within this context, it is just basic reality that many people of many ethnicities all over the world live outside the boundaries of their ethnicity’s nation-state(s) (if that ethnicity is lucky enough to have a full nation state; Kurds, Uighurs, and Palestinians, just to name three, are not). Therefore, Russia extending Russian citizenship to ethnic Russians and others in regions with ethnic tensions or regions it has occupied in Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk, together in eastern Ukraine forming the Donbas area, as well as Crimea) in the cause of ethnonationalist solidarity is absolutely not a legal justification for interference in a sovereign country’s territory, let alone military invasion, occupation, and annexation, regardless of Russia’s and Putin’s longtime policy to award citizenship—complete with Russian passports—to such people in these countries and others, including the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia long wary of Russian schemes to dominate them and undermine their sovereignty. This Russian policy is part of a longtime strategy to use ethnic Russians and other separatist minorities within the states of the former Soviet Union and that were once part of the Russian Empire at its height to serve the Kremlin’s interests, destabilize any of these states that do not fall in line with Russia’s wishes, and to create a potential fifth column for Putin to incite when convenient for him (just as he is doing with the separatists in Eastern Ukraine).
While I will not dismiss the idea of genuine concern on the part of Russia and even Putin for their ethnic brethren, it is worth noting that one of Hitler’s main aims in the runup to and also during WWII was to unite ethnic Germans living outside Germany under a “Greater Germany” into which Hitler’s Germany would expand through war, conquest, and annexation (and no, I am not saying Putin is Hitler but it is worth noting what company he keeps in using war for similar ethnonationalist dreams).
Though such tactics have not been very effective in, say, the Baltic states, they have worked extremely well in Georgia and have been key to Putin’s Ukraine policy; indeed, the U.S., UK, Ukraine, and researchers have warned of and called out “false flag” staged or falsely-claimed “attacks” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine or attacks across the border into Russia as a very possible pretext for a Russian invasion.
But one key difference from the days the czars and Soviets used these tactics is that, in the age of the internet, Russia’s use of hybrid warfare and cyberwarfare enable Putin to use these tactics in an effective and penetrating way far beyond Russia’s periphery in ways of which the czars and Soviets could only dream. In this way, manipulating nationalism has become Russia’s weapon of choice against the West. And while this is a multifront war, with cyberwarfare ranging from the U.S. to the UK, Germany, and, indeed, all over Europe, Ukraine is undoubtedly the hottest current front, combining hybrid/cyberwarfare with the kinetic physical warfare of guns, bombs, separatist rebels, and regular Russian forces: the main battlefield of the New Cold War, as I have noted before.
As such, Putin’s current machinations in Ukraine are not only wholly formulaic and predictable, but are so to the tune of a playbook going back hundreds of years, the basic mechanics of which were never terribly original to begin with but quite predictable and hardly unique to Russia (rather common to all nationalistic bullies). And, to be clear, Ukrainians have endured within living memory such machinations to the degree of a Soviet-made, weaponized famine—the infamous Holodomor (the genocidal nature of which the Kremlin actively and vigorously now denies)—that killed millions of Ukrainians literally by design. Ukraine also suffered some of the highest casualties of any country both per capita (more than both the Soviet Union overall and Russia specifically) and in absolute numbers during WWII.
Whether the invasion and annexation of Crimea, the intervention in eastern Ukraine, the repeated attempts to corrupt and dominate the Ukrainian political system (to which Ukrainians responded with the 2004-2005 Orange and 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolutions and the subsequent election of two presidents who have refused to bend the knee to the Kremlin), spasmodic cyberattacks (sometimes devastating like NotPetya, the most damaging cyberattack in history), or the current threat of a Russian invasion coupled with very likely further dismemberment of their nation, then, Ukrainians have endured far worse Russian meddling before and essentially live constantly with the prospect and/or the actuality of Russia intervention in one form or another, sometimes in a given period on a daily basis. Ukraine’s surprising comedian turned president, Volodymyr Zelensky, eloquently said as much in his Saturday interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
In fact, Russia’s imperialist and colonialist adventures, whether overt or the more recently sometimes-covert, have rarely waned in the past several centuries, but just because Ukrainians are used to it does not mean they have not also have found ways, even sometimes in the incredibly repressive Soviet era, of also daily asserting their national character and independence, sometimes more symbolically, sometime with rebellions or even, as today, in short eras of Ukraine being independent from an oppressive empire.
Ukrainians know their history, after all, despite the Kremlin’s attempts to rewrite it: as the selection from 1762 poem that introduced this article shows, Ukrainians have been protesting Russia’s trying to have their way with them for centuries and this quarrel is nothing new.
The Western media and leadership class should also know proper history, specifically, Putin’s and Russia’s (as well as their own history of dropping the ball on handling Russia), so while we may be alarmed at Putin’s warmongering towards Ukraine, we should never be surprised. Rather, we should call out how blatantly banal, predictable, and repetitive it is. Putin may think his utterly uninteresting, hackneyed callbacks to an antiquated, zombie brand of pan-Slavic and/or aggressive, imposed Russian ethnonationalism are exciting and inspiring, but they are the most overused playbook coming out of Moscow for the past three centuries and find little appeal outside Russia and some ethnic Russians in former Soviet states.
How to Lose Nations and Alienate People, by Vladimir Putin
Most Ukrainians are not falling for it.
Instead, they are emphatically rejecting Putin’s bankrupt ethnonationalist chauvinism, with Putin’s and Russia’s standing among Ukrainians falling sharply in recent years. There is a drop in enthusiasm for this program even among the ethnic Russians of Ukraine. Ultimately, in the face of Putin’s boring bluster (and that of his stooge, the now-overthrown and disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych), Ukrainians over the past decade have only moved more towards a Ukrainian and European identity after years of intense Kremlin hostility towards Ukraine.
Putin has few others to blame but himself for this with all his interfering in and treating Ukraine horribly for far too long: instead of years ago building on his then-higher support and higher levels of pro-Russian sentiment with good-faith, mutually beneficial policies that would prove Russia a true friend to Ukraine (as I argued he should years ago), it is war, corruption, and lies that have characterized Putin’s Ukraine policy and his foreign policy in general, carried out using a trifecta of government, oligarchs, and the Russian mafia that can be hard to separate into its component parts, so deep is the corruption.
When those efforts fail for Putin, he has not been shy in using his military or, it seems, in attempting assassination: Russia is a prime suspect in a poisoning attempt that almost succeeded in late 2004 against then-soon-to-be-President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, the hero of the Orange Revolution that prevented the corrupt Yanukovych from being corruptly imposed on Ukraine per Putin’s plan, at least until Yanukovych’s 2010 comeback at the direction of Trump’s future campaign manager, Paul Manafort; it was Yanukovych’s betrayal of the Ukrainian people to Putin—who still harbors him in Russia from Ukrainian prosecution and jail—that sparked the 2013-2014 (Euro)Maidan revolution that saw Yanukovych driven from power, precipitating the hostilities in Crimea and Ukraine’s east, the latter of which are still ongoing.
In essence, Russia’s outstretched hand progressively offers corruption, submission, intimidation, and brute force, but nothing better.
All this is now only too painfully obvious to most Ukrainians, more and more of whom are turning away from Russia and toward the West, including the EU and NATO. This shift is dramatically accelerated further by Putin also in that by illegally annexing Crimea and promoting a separatist war in Ukraine’s far east, he has essentially removed parts of two of the most ethnically Russian, pro-Russian parts of Ukraine out of the country’s political equation, helping Ukraine to move even more forcefully than it already was in a Ukrainian nationalist, anti-Russian, pro-Western/NATO direction.
This all may even be prompting a shift in thinking in non-NATO states like Sweden and Finland, both near (and the latter on the border of) Russia, about their non-membership. A new invasion by Russia would, at the very least, increase their current security relationships with the Alliance, and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö even just said on Sunday that the thinking on this in Finland has already changed for some and that Russia invading Ukraine would further increase sentiment for joining NATO.
Putin’s standing in the world even before this crisis was at something of a nadir, and this will further damage his reputation and the Russia he is leading, especially in Eastern Europe where he hope to gain, not lose influence. In short, Putin’s murderous bullying has driven those he seeks to dominate into the arms of his enemies, counterproductive to Russian interests.
Putin is certainly a crafty leader, but we must stop assuming that everything he does is some kind of genius move and part of a coherent master plan. Yes, his cyberwarfare has been incredibly effective, but he is also perfectly capable of making bad decisions that set him and Russia back, as his actions toward Ukraine amply demonstrate.
Framing the NATO “Issues”
Indeed, it was such mistreatment in the Soviet era that led most of Eastern Europe to vigorously pursue NATO membership. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, many Eastern European states lined up for NATO about as fast as they could; they came to NATO asking for membership, not the other way around; NATO was not imposing anything on any of these countries against their wills, let alone even pressuring or pushing them in any direction they had not firmly decided to pursue because they wanted to or were very much willing to pursue in exchange for NATO membership. Other than the special case of East Germany, NATO did not rush states into the Alliance; it did not rapidly surround Russia or come to its border. Instead, NATO considered membership slowly for these countries, waiting, drawing out, even delaying that process over many years; some countries even had their bids for membership rejected at first. The process was transparent and contingent on each country establishing civilian control over the military and, along with requirements for joining the European Union, involved becoming a stable democracy that respected human rights and made lasting legal and economic reforms. These states made it a top priority to join the NATO Alliance and organized their national priorities for years to meet these obligations before any were admitted, each country having a decent democracy and having its voters and leaders clearly choose this path as sovereign nations before becoming members.
We will not include East Germany in the coming list because of the special case of German reunification in 1990, but aside from it, before the fall of the Soviet Empire in Europe, with East Germany there were five additional communist Soviet satellite states that formed, with the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact (the Soviet-led communist counteralliance to NATO) and would eventually become NATO members along with three European republics within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union). One of the Warsaw Pact countries, Czechoslovakia, would become two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, so that means that were eight countries (five Warsaw Pact states and three former Soviet republics) that were dominated by the Soviet Union that would become nine NATO members after the end of the Cold War.
These countries joyfully threw off Soviet and communist party control from 1988-1991, but it was not until 1999 that any were granted NATO membership (just three: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) and it was only in 2004, close to a decade-and-a-half after these countries had achieved independence, that the former Soviet socialist republics that would join NATO (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) did along with the rest of the Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia). Each one of these countries and peoples made clear national long-term choices of their own free will to do this, only too happy to turn away from Russian oppression and towards being a part of Europe and the West, NATO giving them the security of being able to preserve their new democratic gains free from Russian invasions (two that did not, Georgia and our topical Ukraine, have proven the need for NATO after being attacked militarily and dismembered by Russia). And quality, repeated polling shows these new NATO members are generally very confident today that their nations’ prior decisions to abandon Russia for the West and a Western democratic system were the right ones.
Other NATO expansion has been with countries that were independent actors and not in the Soviets’ sphere of influence when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
Another dimension to this is that Russia in this case believes—as an article of faith of Russian grievance victimhood mythology because of a “misunderstood” (or misrepresented) comment made decades ago—that it was “betrayed” by the West, stabbed in the back by a U.S. that “promised” NATO would not expand to the east after German reunification, even though this was based on one informal exchange in early 1990 throwing ideas around and not making any guarantees between then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, but the topic was about deployments of troops in the territory then comprising Eastern Germany, not NATO expansion to other states.
Remove Russian rhetoric and take in reality and you realize that NATO was not part of the discussion around Ukraine at this particular moment in time until Russia forced this issue, Ukraine has not been extended any kind of a formal invitation to NATO, this is not even being seriously discussed as a present or near-future option, and NATO—including, specifically and most importantly, the U.S. and Biden—has made clear Ukraine does not currently meet NATO’s qualifications for membership and is not even close. Keep in mind, too, as you are asked to understand the Russian “perspective,” that it is millions of Ukrainians and their legitimately elected leaders who have expressed a clear preference for the West over Russia and a desire to join NATO along with that: this is what they want, so much so they enshrined that goal formally into their constitution in early 2019.
Russia, that Abusive Ex Who Will Not Let Go
It should be no surprise that it turns out when Russia treats countries horribly, they do not want to enter in alliances with it and will, instead, eagerly break away from Russian domination when they can and just as eagerly join with NATO, as is their right as free and independent nations (the natural consequences of imperial collapse all throughout history, from which Russia is not immune).
Yet this concept seems unable to enter Putin’s understanding of the world such that he refuses to accept Ukraine became an independent country decades ago. This makes him much like an abusive ex-husband who somehow feels entitled to control his fully-divorced-from-him, now-dating-someone-else ex-wife. Here, that ex-wife is Ukraine and is dating the West, and Putin thinks that in showing up at his ex’s house, smashing things up, and slapping and hitting her, he will somehow reimpose his control. Instead, having agency as a free woman, she will seek the protection of her far more powerful new boyfriend, seek engagement and marriage. And yet, the new boyfriend will feel nervous about this crazy ex. Here, Ukraine is hoping this new love interest and his family, who all treat her better than her ex, can perhaps just gang up and say “Bruh, she’s moved on. You’re yesterday’s news. You and her, it’s over. Move on!” and to some degree, that is happening, but also to some degree, Russia is scaring this boyfriend away from getting more serious with Ukraine and entering into a more firm and meaningful commitment.
That is because, contrary to Russia’s claims, the West does not want confrontation, let alone war, with Russia. NATO is a defensive alliance and in its entire history has never attacked Russia. They are holding up on getting more serious with Ukraine precisely because of this crazy ex-boyfriend routine Putin is pulling.
And if you are wondering why I am using this analogy, I am not trying to be funny or treat violence against women or spousal abuse lightly: Putin even earlier this month crassly addressed Ukraine as a woman in a relationship who should submit to her man (“Like it or don’t like it, it’s your duty, my beauty,” he said aloud). And a stalker-abusive relationship that is long past divorce in which the abusive party has no authority over or right to demand anything from the victim is a very apt comparison to the situation at hand.
“Make Russia Great Again” Without Ukraine
Self-determination for a sovereign Ukraine does not have mean war with Russia, and only Russia will initiate that war of choice and only if it chooses. Its reasoning for war rests upon the most empty, banal, overused tropes from czarist Imperial Russia that claim Russians are an ethnicity above and apart from others, superior and blessed by Orthodox Christian God while destined to rule over the other Slavs and, at the lowest point in the hierarchy, other groups of people that surround the Slavs. What any of those people want is irrelevant, for it is Russia’s birthright destiny.
Without the free will and agency of these various peoples who had endured decades, sometimes centuries of oppression under Russian and/or Soviet rule, nothing NATO did would have resulted in countries formerly under Moscow’s sway becoming NATO members. But those peoples chose for themselves, and, in the case of Ukraine, Ukrainians actually have a say. And while the West will not die for their right to have that say, it can still support it all the same as they are now by supporting Ukraine in other ways and teaching Putin and Russians that a united West will not let Russia get away with literal murder (among other things) without paying a steeply heavy price, as seriously harmful to Russia as its rationales for its Ukraine mischief are mindlessly tedious.
Either we live in a world where the idea that a democratic nation has a right to freely choose to enter into alliances and partnerships its leaders and people deem desirable without having to face military attacks as a result or sovereignty with the legitimacy of the consent of the governed has no real meaning and war will become an increasingly preferred political tool.
One thing is for certain: Russia’s resoundingly unoriginal appeals to ethnonationalism, whether beyond its borders or within, whether specifically to Russians or more broadly pan-Slavic, have resulted in centuries of bloody war and conquests, most of which have come undone, rendering these struggles mostly pointless. The people living under the bloody heel of the czarist and Soviet boots were only too eager to throw off Russian and Soviet imperialism the first opportunity they had, sometimes (as in Ukraine’s case) repeatedly, affirming the shallowness of such aggressive Russian ethnonationalism. The historically blood-soaked lands of Eastern Europe, and Ukraine in particular—all the way through to today—embody this sad, failed history. It was such pan-ethnic nationalism that propelled Russia into World War I, to utter disaster and a collapse of the Imperial Russian state along with the deaths of millions. Unlike then, today, as noted, Russia is facing a united West supporting Eastern Europeans that have resolutely rejected Russian hegemony and influence to align themselves or clearly want to align with the West, choosing freely in democratic systems to do so from an informed position knowing full well what the West offers and what Putin offers.
That man would be far better off focusing on building Russia up at home (its economy is still a relic dependent on fossil fuels), for this misadventure might end up hurting Russia—and even Putin himself—far more than Putin was anticipating and, unlike NATO and the West, his friends are few and far between, chief among the them the dictators Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (perhaps Xi Jinping of China, too, but I am not so sure they are that close yet: on Saturday, at the same Munich Security Conference at which U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met Zelensky and at which Zelensky spoke and was interviewed by Amanpour, China’s foreign minister reaffirmed his country’s longstanding position on respecting the territorial integrity of all nations, then specifically added “Ukraine is no exception.”).
Putin’s effort to revive this repeatedly failed, absurdly outdated ethnonationalist campaign may be laughably banal, then, but we must also take it deadly seriously since the size and power of the military force involved in supporting that campaign unfortunately force us to do so.