A Doolittle for Ukraine

What Ukraine could use is a Jimmy Doolittle. James (Jimmy) Doolittle was a pilot, a Lieutenant Colonel in 1942, when he led a bombing raid on Tokyo. It was just five months after Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese struck the American Naval base in a surprise attack.

Doolittle led sixteen stripped-down B-25 bombers carrying extra fuel and a reduced bombload taking off from the U.S.S. Hornet – a feat never attempted – and struck Tokyo. Fifteen of the planes then flew to the Chinese coast where they ditched and the crews were recovered by Chinese nationalist allies, while the other bomber landed in the Soviet Union.

The Doolittle raid had no real military value. A handful of bombs distributed over 16 industrial targets were never going to do any significant damage, and the planners knew it would cost all 16 aircraft at a time when America needed every aircraft it could get. But the raid was a huge morale-booster for the U.S., and a real blow to Japan. The threat of air raids on Tokyo had been dismissed as ridiculous, and the raid forced the Japanese to shift military resources to defending their homeland.

Ukraine’s Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have proven so effective at destroying Russian vehicles, could be laden with explosives and sent on a one-way mission like Doolittle’s B-25s. The Bayraktars radio control system only works to about two hundred miles, but with a flight endurance of 20 hours and a cruising speed of 80 mph, they could clearly get to Moscow on autopilot.

The downside is that a drone Doolittle Raid risks escalation and might hamper peace negotiations — if we can still talk of such things – as well as diverting resources from the immediate defense effort. Any long-range capability should be aimed at high-value military targets. But few would argue that the Doolittle Raid was a wasted effort. Its 80th anniversary fell on April 18, and a modern drone version would send a strong message to Russia and the world.

The West might need that message most.

President Emmanuel Macron of France’s recent assertion that Ukraine and its allies should refrain from humiliating Moscow to improve the possibility of a negotiated settlement touched off a fiery response from Kyiv. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that such statements “can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it.”

Kyiv wasn’t thrilled with the opinion of Henry Kissinger either. The 98-year-old Secretary of State during the Richard Nixon administration turned up at Davos. That’s the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where rich people and the leaders of the world’s biggest countries and companies gather to tell the rest of the world what they think ought to be done about anything and everything.

Henry Kissinger told the Davos elite that Ukraine must concede territory to Russia to end the war and warned the West that a humiliating defeat for Russia could result in wider destabilization. Ukrainian officials have opposed the idea that they should give up any territory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine would only accept Russia giving up all claims to land in Ukraine and staging a total withdrawal.

Kissinger’s comments echo a New York Times editorial which argued that Ukraine should accept that it would have to make territorial concessions for a peace deal. It insisted a “negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions.”

The Kyiv Independent newspaper shot back:

“Dark times have always shed light on those willing to compromise their values to preserve their daily comforts. Neither a French president, a German intellectual, nor an award-winning American newspaper are exempt from being wrong.

“As a newsroom witnessing the war from inside Ukraine, we want to set the record straight. Ukraine winning the war with Russia isn’t “unrealistic” or even “likely.” If we want the world to be anything like what we know it to be, then Ukraine winning is the only option.

“And Western financial and military support for Ukraine is the only way to establish “long-term peace and security on the European continent” that the New York Times editorial board is rooting for.

“Ukraine’s belief in its victory isn’t based on overconfidence. It’s based on necessity. Any concession to Russia now will lead to another war sooner or later, while Ukrainians stuck in any region occupied by Russia will be tortured, raped, or killed. The New York Times is running story after story about the living hell through which Russia puts Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories. Meanwhile, its editorial board is suggesting that Ukraine should cede territories to Russia, where more atrocities will undoubtedly happen.”

Slate wonders if the West is suffering from Ukraine fatigue.

Not more than the Ukrainians, I surmise.


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