Category Archives: Politics: International

Ukraine Aid in Perspective

2023 Aid to Ukraine Through Aug 3. This year the US promises about six times more than last year.

The Ukraine Aid bill appropriates $61 billion, a very large portion of which will actually be spent in the US to pay US arms makers to replace the stockpiled weapons we will be sending abroad.  That number, however is both too large for me to grasp, and lacks context.  So here goes.

There are about 340 million US persons, making each person’s share of the bill for Ukraine aid about $170.41.  But maybe you don’t want to count babies?  The IRS processes about 169 million income tax returns last year. That makes the individual taxpayer’s share about $360.95. Or, if you prefer, there are 127 million households in the U.S., making each household’s share about $480.31.

Those are numbers I can comprehend.  But compared to what?  The US federal government spent $6.1 trillion last year, so the Ukraine aid amounts to a tidy 1% of than number.  The entire overt US military budget for 2024 is $825 billion, so the Ukraine aid appears substantial–almost 7.4% of the (overt) Pentagon spending (there’s also a large ‘black budget’ that is thought to well exceed $50 billion).

Ukraine aid is also about 50% more than the US spent on agricultural price supports last year.  And, although it’s a little harder to calculate, it’s probably about double what the federal government spent on disaster relief.

Working through these numbers didn’t change my view that the aid bill was important and necessary, but it helped me understand this is a genuinely significant commitment (Trump insurance?).  As the late Senator Everett Dirksen (really) said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Posted in Econ & Money, Ukraine | 5 Comments

Aid for Ukraine

Today’s long-delayed House vote on aid to Ukraine reminds me of a line that I was sorry to discover Churchill may not have said, “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possiblities have been exhausted.”

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I’m Surprised to be Saying This…

Gaza and Israel

Copyright © 2023 Ecrusized, influenced by user Rr016., Some rights reserved: CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But this column by Thomas L. Friedman, I Have Never Been to This Israel Before  (dated Nov. 9, but appeared in my Sunday paper today), is actually quite good.

A few bits:

After traveling around Israel and the West Bank, I now understand why so much has changed. It is crystal clear to me that Israel is in real danger — more danger than at any other time since its War of Independence in 1948. And it’s for three key reasons:

First, Israel is facing threats from a set of enemies who combine medieval theocratic worldviews with 21st-century weaponry — and are no longer organized as small bands of militiamen but as modern armies with brigades, battalions, cybercapabilities, long-range rockets, drones and technical support. […]

I am stunned by how many Israelis now feel this danger personally, no matter where they live — starting with a friend who lives in Jerusalem telling me that she and her husband just got gun licenses to have pistols at home. No one is going to snatch their children and take them into a tunnel. Hamas, alas, has tunneled fear into many, many Israeli heads far from the Gaza border.

The second danger I see is that the only conceivable way that Israel can generate the legitimacy, resources, time and allies to fight such a difficult war with so many enemies is if it has unwavering partners abroad, led by the United States. […]

But Biden can sustainably generate the support Israel needs only if Israel is ready to engage in some kind of a wartime diplomatic initiative directed at the Palestinians in the West Bank — and hopefully in a post-Hamas Gaza — that indicates Israel will discuss some kind of two-state solutions if Palestinian officials can get their political house unified and in order.

This leads directly to my third, deep concern.

Israel has the worst leader in its history — maybe in all of Jewish history — who has no will or ability to produce such an initiative.

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There Was a Seventh Child

For Americans of my generation–a little too young to be drafted into it–there are three iconic photos of the Vietnam War. One is of Saigon’s Chief of Police conducting a summary execution of a Viet Cong officer. A second is of a naked child fleeing down a road after being napalmed, aka the ‘Napalm Girl’ photo. And the third is the famous picture of people clinging to a helicopter’s landing gear as it took off, overladen, from the US’s Saigon embassy as the war effort collapsed.

That third picture, we now know, was to be only the first of a series of photos of ignominious retreat from ill-considered colonial Great Power maneuvers, with the latest coming out of Afghanistan.

That second photo has a subsequent history too, although it is more inspiring, as the victim not only survived, but surmounted the trauma caused by her injuries and also the injuries caused by the world-wide publicity of the photo; eventually she founded an international charity.

Huan Nguyen, being sworn in as a Vice-Admiral in 2019.

It turns out, however, that the subsequent history of the first photo is perhaps the most amazing. The man executed had killed a South Vietnamese Colonel and six of his children. The seventh, then nine, survived and after the fall of Saigon, managed to reach the US. He later joined the US Navy. Yesterday he was promoted to the rank of Admiral.

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Not Getting It

Via Daily Kos, Ukraine Update: Putin suffers yet another diplomatic humiliation; fog of war envelopes Kherson, wherein you will find an interesting account of how the smaller ex-Soviet “stans” are getting all bolshie with Putin.

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Ukrainian Government Continues Media Dominance

This superior piece of trolling is by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, and ostensibly aimed at Russians in danger of being called up for service in the war.

Spotted via Crooks & Liars, Ukraine’s Ministry Of Defense Trolls Fleeing Russians.

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