To the editor:
“You’ve ever been in a minefield … not a fun place to be,” General Norman Schwarzkopf said to a reporter who questioned how intense Iraqi fortifications had really been when Desert Storm began. I can tell you it isn’t fun, having walked through a suspected minefield one dark night to join up with a SEAL team at the beginning of the Afghanistan war while head of the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit.
So, it’s good to remain mindful of Schwarzkopf’s comments when measuring Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive: “All there’s got to be is one mine, and that’s intense. There were plenty of mines … barbed wire … fire trenches … booby traps … and consider that while you’re going through it and clearing it, at the same time you’re probably under fire by enemy artillery.”
When media outlets opine Ukraine’s advance is “… not the pace we hoped for,” it’s important to remember the late Schwarzkopf’s words. “… to at- tack a position, you should have a ratio of approximately 3 to 1 in favor of the attacker. And … [if] heavily dug in and barricaded … you should have a ratio of 5 to 1 in the way of troops …” At best, it’s near 1:1 in Ukraine.
As in World War II, America is again the arsenal of democracy providing Ukraine technologically superior weaponry that moderates conventional attacker-defender troop ratios. But we have been slow in providing Patriot air defense missiles and F-16s, unhurried on Abrams tank delivery, and still dawdling on long range strike missiles that, with other expedited advanced weapons, technologically change the 1:1 ratio by smart sophisticated warfare and arguably could have avoided providing cluster munitions.
A greater concern is domestic resilience to stay the course: not Ukraine’s, but America’s. It’s why Ukraine’s president told ours how the storied his- tories of the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of the Bulge embody the meaning of Ukraine’s own battles today – each one was a courageous step in a long war for freedom. It took seven years to win our War of Independence, and then four to protect our freedom in World War II. In each war, it was our citizens’ resilience that mattered most. But we also received outside help, from the French at Yorktown and the Allies in WWII.
The Ukrainians need resilience from us in their own long war. Negotiated peace? Would America have done that in the seven years before Yorktown, or in the Second World War, when our very freedom was at risk?
Putin is a weakened thug, but still dangerous atop a rot- ten, abusive state creation that under him will always threaten American interests and values as he waits hopefully for Western support to tire and fracture.
It’s again up to us, resilient American citizens, to appreciate what we share in common with Ukraine – as others previously did for us – and then stay the course as if it is our own, for it is. At day’s end, it’s our domes- tic resilience that is the bedrock of U.S. statecraft, from foreign policy to war.
-Joe Sestak, former U.S. Congressman, Alexandria