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“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.” – James Mattis
We are seeing an application of this in real-time as the war in Ukraine unwinds. Certainly, Russia has learned the enemy gets a vote. Their three-day war has turned into a month-long quagmire (literally in the north, with its Rasputitsa “mud season”). Now the Russians are declaring victory in Ukraine, claiming their goal was to liberate the Donbas and that has been achieved. Of course, the enemy, Ukraine, gets a vote. They have begun limited counteroffensives, and Russia may not find it easy to end the war by declaration as Russia hopes.
It is important to realize Mattis’s aphorism applies as much to Ukraine as it does to Russia. Should Ukraine take the offensive, even if it proves initially successful and Ukraine achieves its objectives, it may find itself as unable to end the war as it hopes. Russia gets a vote in that. It may choose to double-down, reinforce and counterattack. Or even go nuclear.
I suspect the final outcome will be determined by the side more determined to win. Obviously, when one side has a clear military superiority over another will to fight becomes secondary to military might. But when neither side has clear military superiority over the other, the size of the “fight in the dog” really does become more important than the size of the “dog in the fight.”Published in