Is Everything Going Swimmingly?

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As Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has been saying recently, “Everything is going swimmingly.”

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has 100,000 troops massed on the border of Ukraine.

Will he invade?

Joe Biden, the U.S. president, seems to think a “minor incursion” would be OK.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, is less enthusiastic about the prospect, but perhaps that is because, according to some reports, Biden warned him that Russian troops might “sack” Kyiv.

Some sources dispute that the U.S. president said that, but we don’t really know one way or the other since the White House refuses to release the transcript of the call and there are no double-dealers like Alexander Vindman in place to leak the details as he did when Donald Trump spoke to Zelensky.

Vindman—pardon, I mean “Lt. Col. Vindman”—was happy to be a cog in the great Impeach Trump Follies of 2020.

Now, however, he seems scared, warning that “we are about to have the largest war in Europe since World War II.”

If we had some competent leadership in Washington, I would say that was a hysterical over-reaction.


In any event, I would not be surprised if it was pretty chilly in Europe this winter.

Quite apart from the massive Russian troop deployment on the Ukrainian border, there’s also the massive Russian intimidation of Europe over the question of energy in the form of natural gas.

Europe needs it. Russia has it. Did you really want to suggest Ukraine join NATO, Comrade?

This is one of the things that Glenn Reynolds cites when he says things are going swimmingly.

What if Russia turns off the gas?

It’s a thorny and multi-faceted situation.

“50% of Russians,” Brad Templeton notes, “get their income from the government, which gets 43% of its revenue from oil and gas and is 1/3rd of the GDP.”

In other words, both sides hold some powerful cards.

Russia has gas, but Europe has money.

“What,” Templeton asks, “if Europe stops paying, not now, but in the spring, when it has 6 months before winter to reconfigure to use imported LNG and other sources, re-boot their shuttered nukes, install more renewables and turn up all the non-Russian fossil fuel it can get its hands on?”

The scenarios run from depressing to scary to apocalyptic.

Fun fact: Russia has about 4,500 nuclear warheads.

But of course, it’s not only in around Ukraine that things are going swimmingly.

Remember ISIS? Donald Trump all-but destroyed it.

But now Joe Biden is president. It took only about a year before we started getting headlines like this: “Islamic State Strikes From Shadows in Vulnerable Syria, Iraq.”

Trump also put a muzzle on the Courvoisier-swilling Kim Jong-Un. But a year later, we get headlines like this: “North Korea Missile Tests: Biggest Launch Since 2017.”

There are other day-brighteners, like the fact that retail sales tanked in December as a new wage-price spiral was underway.

“Inflation is eroding buying power,” Hot Air reported, “even accounting for wage gains, a point that Joe Biden keeps avoiding while touting the nominal numbers.”

Remember, Biden was supposed to restore a sense of “normalcy.”

As Reynolds commented, “It’s only a ‘return to normalcy’ if you consider the Carter years normal.”

Meanwhile, by October 2021, there were a record number of container ships parked off the coast of Los Angeles.

Like “The Little Engine that Could,” those ships had all the toys for the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain, and if they couldn’t make port, get unloaded, and have their wares distributed, there would be many unhappy people waiting for their cars, dishwashers, televisions, and computer chips.

It’s not clear, however, that the people who service the giant maw of the American consumer are quite so determined as that little engine.

“Supply chain” seems like such an abstract concept.

Until you go to your local grocery store and encounter bare shelves.

Where is that laundry detergent you favor?

How about those paper towels? The sports drinks? The beef?

Things are going so swimmingly in so many areas of life that it’s time to dust off that famous observation from the science-fiction writer Robert A Heinlein.

“Throughout history,” Heinlein wrote in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” “poverty is the normal condition of man.”

“Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.”

“This,” Heinlein remarks, and you can see the knife twisting, “is known as ‘bad luck.’”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Roger Kimball


Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the 21st Century.”

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