Bluffers Assume Everyone Else is Also Bluffing

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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There’s a consistent pattern to these events and they begin with the assumption that the other side must be bluffing about the use of force because they couldn’t possibly be willing to disrupt the peace and risk war.

A day after U.S. intelligence said there would be no Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s troops started coming over the border.

There was good reason to think Putin wouldn’t do it. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia respected the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. U.S. intelligence assessments concluded that the 150,000-man Russian military exercises announced by Putin on Wednesday were not preparations for an invasion of Ukraine because no medical units accompanied the troops. And Russian and U.S. diplomats were still working on Iran and Syrian diplomacy. All of this followed a successful Winter Olympic games for Putin’s Russia.

Until Friday, no one anticipated a Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory.”Nobody thought Putin was going to invade last night,” one Senate aide who works closely on the Ukraine crisis. “He has the G8 summit in Sochi coming up, no one really saw this kind of thing coming.”

Really? Because Putin is worried about the G8 summit. US intelligence assumed Saddam was bluffing. He wasn’t. Then it assumed he was bluffing again and turned that into the narrative. Now the assumption is that Iran is bluffing.

And Russia? Obviously bluffing. So long as we don’t pressure it and force it to bluff harder.

We have a very weak hand,” Paul Saunders, the executive director of the Center for the National Interest, tells The Daily Beast.

If anything, Saunders added, President Obama’s warning to Putin that “there will be costs” to the incursion might force Putin to dig in to his position, lest he be seen as caving to American pressure.

“It’s a mistake of the administration coming out I the way that it has trying to discourage Russian military action because they are in essence waving a red cloth in front of a bull,” Saunders said.

So far the red flag has consisted of a mild condemnation of the invasion of a sovereign country that the US has security agreements with.

The thinking here is the essence of the problem. Saunders still doesn’t get it. He’s thinking that Putin is reacting to us when we’re reacting to Putin. Putin doesn’t care what Obama says or about G8. He’s following national interests in the most direct path possible.

The thinking that Putin is still bluffing and that he didn’t really mean to invade and that he will leave if we don’t upset him. That is how we ended up in WW2 because the assumption was that Hitler didn’t mean it, he wasn’t really going to go all the way. Not after doing so well on the world stage.

The point isn’t to compare Putin to Hitler, but to point out that we’ve never gotten over those fallacies. Bluffers assume that everyone else is bluffing too. Pacifists assume that everyone else is really a pacifist and is faking hostility.

There’s a high price to pay for forgetting history and human nature.

  • DogmaelJones1

    Putin is a land-hungry tyrant, and Obama is a joke. He’d do better by keeping his obscene trap shut.

    • A Z

      A poster in PJ Media laid out a case for Putin annexing all of Ukraine. I do not believe he will do so. I only expect him to take 1/2 of it and make Ukraine a rump state. I expect plenty of ethnic cleansing as well. Maybe not so much kiIIing, but Russian moving east and Ukrainians moving west.

      • Drakken

        Putin is a lot of things, but the Ukrainians and Russians aren’t going to slaughter each other.

        • A Z

          Ukrainians and Russians are about as close as you can get without being the same exact ethnic group.

          Ethnic cleansing could be that you are just nudged to move. I guess it is how long tensions simmer. It was pretty bad in Abkhazia, but those were just Georgians and no one seemed to care.

          I heard reports that ethnic Russians were disarmed in Ukraine nearer to the Polish border. One can read that in a positive way. They were not interned and they remained living.

  • jimmy

    Cameras are the russian’s greatest enemy here. This stuff looks like it’s from the 1980′s. This could get very embarrassing very quickly. Planes can crash and wheels can throw bearings without proper maintenance. Has anyone actually seen a plane ?

    • A Z

      The French actually had better tanks and more tanks in 1940. Properly used they will be good enough in the early stages.

      Zerohedge has a rundown the forces involved

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-01/invasion-so-far-visual-summary-russian-forces-and-movements

      • blert

        It’s a mixed picture: they failed to provide their tanks with RADIOS.
        Guderian was a radio (intercept/ cyberwarrior) officer in WWI.
        If you read his book he goes into some specifics on the matter, taking particular pride in having the best tank radios of the war — right through to the end of the conflict. (FM, too)
        Because the popular histories omit/ lie about signals warfare, even now most do NOT understand which battles were important — or why.
        The pivotal battle of North Africa has been actively expunged from the Internet. This took active measures. (Read GCHQ and NSA)
        It’s the First Battle of Tel el Issa. If you google this term — now — you get directed to the Second Battle of Tel el Issa — now renominated as the First Battle. The critical battle has been faded out of modern knowledge.
        In the key battle, the British, reading German signals, realized that Rommel’s B’Dienst unit was stationed near the front — and directly behind a totally exhausted Italian infantry division that had force-marched up to the front. Naturally, they fell asleep.
        The British walked right through the Italians and attacked the B’Dienst company — with great success.
        This was the First Battle of Tel el Issa.

        It was the single most important battle of WWII.
        The entire remainder of the European campaigns hinged on this one battle. So, you never read about it. Officially, it is not supposed to have happened.
        Why?
        The British wiped out Rommel’s B’Dienst unit. They recovered all of its records. They were unable to save its genius commander.

        (A mere captain, his correct rank s/b major general.)
        In those records the British discovered just how profoundly the Germans were reading ALL of their signals. They found that British signals security was so staggeringly bad that it needed a total reformation.
        These discoveries cost F.M. Auchinleck his command — and most of his subordinates. The big talkers were canned. This has been buried by folding this debacle into Mongomery’s revamp of the 8th Army.
        Monty’s first act was to lay down land-lines and to turn off the radio sets. From there after, Rommel could no longer win. ALL of his prior successes had been due — SOLELY — to signals intercepts.
        Tobruk fell because South Africans had been spoofed by Dutch speaking B’Dienst signals into leaving their postions to assist in a counter-attack. Then Rommel rolled through the open door to take the port. This success led directly to the First Battle of Tel el Issa. The spoofing was exposed by survivors.

        The Red Army learned about all of the above. Consequently, during the very first hours of Uranus, NKVD Spetstatz troops seized the Enigma machine stationed — against Adolf’s explicit orders — with the Hungarian Army to the north of German 6th Army — and during a white out no less!
        Next, the NKVD spoofed Adolf’s personal instructions — to override the deployment of the 29th Motorized Division against the southern flank of the Soviet advance. ALL German accounts point to this OKW command as being the source of their undoing.

        Subsequently, the Germans upgraded their Enigmas with an extra rotor and wheel. (This was an Enigma originally deployed with the U-boats.) It was by playing Enigma games that Von Manstein duped Stalin and regained Karkov. (Ironic, no?)
        %%%
        With the above in mind, you can see how damaging Snowden has been. Our number one defense has always been reading the other guys mail — and keeping our own secret.
        Snowden’s gambit is directly linked to the latest Ukraine fiasco. No-one is commenting on it.
        NATO is tearing their collective hair out.

        • A Z

          butterfly effect.

          And yet Demnoncats want us to operate on a shoestring.

    • A Z

      Once Ukraine becomes a rump state its’ military will be smaller.

      Chamberlain handed Herr H_tler the Skoda Arms Factory.

      Obama handed Putin 1/2 if Ukraine’s military might.

    • Guest

      Ever notice how many German tanks looked distinctly un-German?

      They looked positively Czech-ish?

      “The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was originally a Czech tank of pre-World War II design. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, it was adopted by the German Army, seeing service in the invasions of Poland, France and Russia.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_38(t)

    • Guest

      Ever notice how some German WW2 tanks look distinctly un-German?

      They look positively … Czechish?

      “The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was originally a Czech tank of pre-World War II design. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, it was adopted by the German Army, seeing service in the invasions of Poland, France and Russia.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_38(t)

      • blert

        Adolf could not have succeded in France without these Skoda Works products.
        Also picked up: 149mm howitzers… and much else. This artillery became the basis for the original SS Divisional field artillery. They, the Waffen SS, stole them!

        • A Z

          I think the material was enough to outfit 39 divisions.

          But the people watching football, free cell phones, and everything else don’t care

  • kasandra

    A lot of the same people (e.g., our foreign policy “team”) believe that all human conflict is a result of misunderstanding which can be cured by discussion. They don’t give credit to other people for having their own ambitions, interests, or just being evil. Thus, they think conflict can be resolved by talking and conferences, and “confidence building” measures. And that’s one of the many reasons we’re at this sorry pass.

    • truebearing

      “They don’t give credit to other people for having their own ambitions, interests, or just being evil.”

      It seems that the more dependent an adherent is on his ideology, the greater the tendency for him to project his own motives, feelings, and objectives onto others. The American Left is a wellspring of dishonesty, so they think everyone else is lying. They are obsessed with totalitarian power, so they accuse the Right of the same. When they bluff, the other side must be bluffing. This lack of objectivity serves them exceedingly poorly when it comes to situations where they try to bluff someone like Putin, who comes from the Bolshevik school of brutal power grabbing. I guess Gramsci has been one-upped by Lenin on this one.

  • republicc

    After the Soviet Union broke up, the Ukraine had become a nuclear power. Hundreds of nuclear warheads were stored on its territory, ready for use.
    In a quick diplomatic move, the US and Britain signed an agreement with Ukraine for the disarming of all its nuclear weapons, in exchange for a signed contract that said that the two powers would guarantee Ukraine’s unity and security, and are committed to intervening if and when it is threatened. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it, but we did.

    • Gee

      The US is a lousy ally – they are willing to throw anybody under the bus for a fast buck

    • blert

      Those Soviet weapons had PALs that made them yet ever controlled by Moscow.

      Ukraine was not then an atomic power.
      Hence, her desire to get rid of the baggage.
      &&&
      Chernobyl consisted of (4) four cloned atomic reactors. Only one became infamous. The other three were shut down and abandoned.

      Their fundamental design was, and is, based upon the Hanford reactor complex in Washington State. Harry Hopkins gave Stalin the blueprints, sample graphite blocks, neutron shim, control rod metals (very exotic) and more during 1945. This truth became evident only in the 21st Century when Russian Internet buffs published the actual LendLease database to the Web. At the tail end of their posting they listed the atomic materials. While digital savvy, they didn’t even understand the significance of the materials they were detailing held for history. They were listing items that they didn’t even know the purpose of. (neutron shim)
      %%%
      The absolute essence of the Hanford design is that it converts U235 neutrons into promoting U238 up into Pu239 WITHOUT poisoning it….
      Towards that end, the scheme permits virtually continous materials swap-outs. (the original hot-swapping) The irradiated materials are then available for chemical processing to recover the Pu239, otherwise recycling the material.
      ALL of the Soviet era ‘peaceful’ atomic plants have this character. This is why — even now — Ukraine can jump directly into the production of weapons grade Plutonium — this very day.

      This is why Russia had so much excess Pu239 stockpiled. The Soviets had been running ‘Hanfords’ all over that nation ever since 1947. It’s still happening. All time, Russia is producing atomic explosive in amounts beyond any other atomic power on Earth.
      For safety reasons, the Hanford plant never ran hot enough to raise steam and produce power. Instead, it heats the Columbia river.
      Chernobyl blew up and caught fire because the Soviets were running the scheme hot enough to raise steam. That also means that the graphite blocks (think charcoal brickettes) are at ignition temperature. All that they need is exposure to the outside air. The steam blast created by the system operator during a low coolant test did exactly that.

      The offender made a death-bed confession: that he’d been ‘revving’ the atomic pile (like a motorcycle engine at a stop light) to see the neutron flux spike. Carbon pile reactors have a positive neutron capture dynamic — so it ‘ran-away’ on him. The extra power flashed the trivial amount of water left in the pile, killing him and many another.
      $$$
      In sum, Putin is very likely to invade the entire nation because half measures don’t stop Kiev from going atomic… and quickly, too. They could have a couple of bombs in less than six weeks.

      • republicc

        The point was, if they hadn’t given up their nuclear warheads Putin wouldn’t have dared attack them. But they trusted the United States and see where it got them. Try to respond to the point. Keep it simple. If you insist on including a lot of verbiage at least say off the bat what your point is and then write all the verbiage you want.

        • blert

          Apparently you’re not familiar with PALs. They entirely prevent the use of the warhead. It’s just a load of junk, useless.
          In sum: such warheads were provacative while offering Kiev absolutely no clout at all. — your thesis is not sustained.

          The future is another matter entirely.
          As I laid out, Ukraine is — without breaking a sweat — already in the business of producing weapons grade plutonium. That’s the hardest part of making the bomb. Just ask Tehran.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “They entirely prevent the use of the warhead. It’s just a load of junk, useless.”

            That’s a valid and salient point, but I wouldn’t say the warheads were useless junk. They just could not be easily used directly against Moscow. They were still a powerful political weapon.

        • A Z

          “A modern arming device, called a Permissive Action Link or PAL, was developed in the mid-1960s. The first PALs were manually-operated multiple-digit combination electromechanical locks which had to be opened before weapons could be armed.”

          http://cryptome.org/nuke-fuze.htm

          I am beginning to wonder about blert. Either he has had more than 1 career and is well read or … who the F knows.

          Supposedly, we gave the tech for PALs or something like ti to the Russians to ensure rogue elements in the Soviet Union did not launch without authorization.

          The authors of the book Red Star Rogue allege just such an incident.

          http://www.submarinebooks.com/RedStar.htm

          http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/red-star-rogue-kenneth-sewell/1007883276?ean=9781416527336

      • A Z

        Blert you are killing me.

        I have to go verify this now. And the Democrats pay no price.

        “Their fundamental design was, and is, based upon the Hanford reactor complex in Washington State. Harry Hopkins gave Stalin the blueprints, sample graphite blocks, neutron shim, control rod metals (very exotic) and more during 1945. “

        • objectivefactsmatter

          They were still in theory a threat if they decided to sell that stuff to our enemies. But they probably didn’t have ICBMs under their control.

          • A Z

            What does a nuclear plant design have to do with a n ICBM?

            Granted the plant can produce material for one and feed it to the centrifuges.

            This was back in 1946 and that is before they exploded a bomb in 1949, so there was no weapon that needed to be under control

  • objectivefactsmatter

    This is a lot worse than people realize. We’re heading down a slippery slope. 2016 might not come soon enough.