Then there's the bloody slog that Ukraine's summer offensive has turned out to be, in part because the Biden administration keeps dithering on its strategy, if it has one, and slow-walking military aid. At the rate we're going, Ukrainian pilots will at last be flying the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon some time around June or July next year, when the war will be well into its third year. Below from left: the head of the Dutch air force, President Zelensky, the Dutch prime minister, and the sleek nose and gaping air intake of the world's best multi-role fighter:
American "experts" (what would we do without experts?) believe that Putin has killed "close to 70,000" Ukrainian soldiers and wounded 100,000-120,000, often horrendously. That's more casualties than the US has suffered in any war since 1945. I take some comfort in the fact that Russian casualties are worse -- "as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000-180,000 wounded."
Comic relief of a sort arrived on August 23 when the jet carrying Wagner chieftain Yevgeny Prigoszhin, six of his pals, and three crew members turned into a fireball over Russia. Wagner's social media attributed the deaths to a Russian anti-aircraft missile, while those inevitable American experts think it was caused by an explosive device on board. Nathan Rothman on National Review summed the whole thing up in an article whose best part was its title: "When falling out the window is too subtle."
Finally, we're faced with an election campaign that threatens to be 2020 Redux, save that Joe Biden is more senescent and probably facing impeachment, while any President Trump might find himself governing from a prison cell, like Boston's James Michael Curley in the 1950s. (Or worse, Mr Biden might turn out to be a placeholder for President Kamala Harris, whom I find scarier than either of the male alternatives.) As for Republican alternatives, I've acquired a couple of bumper stickers -- Tim Scott's to begin with, now replaced by Nikki Haley's -- but my secret hope is that No Labels comes up with something better than Trump v. Biden, which shouldn't be difficult.
As always, I find comfort in reading. The first third of The Russo-Ukrainian War is a bit of a slog, as Serhii Plokhy (born in Russia, reared in Ukraine, and educated in both places), explains exactly how the Soviet Union flew apart in 1990-91, mostly because of Ukraine, the USSR's second-largest republic. (Even Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea Fleet, voted to get out from under Moscow's rule. What it one thing and another, we're halfway through the book before we get to February 2022 and Putin's "special military operation" to murder Zelensky and reclaim Ukraine and 40 million Ukrainians. Though it's hard going at times, the detour is worthwhile, and I heartily recommend the book. More on War in the Modern World.
Also worth reading: Goodbye Eastern Europe, a delightful book that explains why Russia's war on Ukraine was inevitable; and The Blitz 1940-41, a handsomely illustrated campaign history from Osprey Books. More about both in the Warbird's Book Club.
Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings: