It’s screamingly obvious to anyone save perhaps the most gullible in a present-day university history program, that attempting to research the events and conduct of a war – and figuring out what is happening while the war is still ongoing is an impossibility. Were the defenders of Snake Island all killed in a Russian barrage … or are they alive, and prisoners of war? Is the Russian advance going as clockwork towards their goals … or are they being turned back? Have Ukrainian fighter aircraft shot down a Russian transport aircraft? Successfully ambushed a Russian column on an unspecified mission here or there in the conflict zone? Who is coming out ahead, dead or alive, on the ground or in the struggle for the eyeballs and sympathies of the outside world, watching with unswerving attention? What are we being told, and what is there to gain from us believing it?
The grim truth is – really, we can’t really believe much of what we see or hear about the war in the Ukraine at present. No armchair generals at this group blog, merely a collection of somewhat well-informed amateur (and perhaps a sprinkling of professional) analysists trying to make sense of what we can see, dimly through the fog. Truth is a nugget of pure gold somewhere in that fog and dirt; finding it may be more a matter of pure luck.
As Winston Churchill so cogently observed – the truth is protected with a bodyguard of lies. What’s in the headlines of the established media outlets certainly can’t be taken for that truth, and perhaps it never did, as the established media themselves are certainly not immune to being manipulated by clever and convincing operatives with an agenda. Social media like Twitter are not be all that credible, either, being as much given to repeating disinformation produced by a calculated campaign as the established news media. The best that we might have to go on is brief communications from people whom we have previously known and trusted, who – for reasons of profession and family – might be on the scene or adjacent. Anecdote is not data– but at this moment, it’s all that we have. The search for that golden truth nugget may be easier once all the dust is settled, the memoirs written and the official archives declassified … but then those historians on the search will have their own firmly held, hotly-defended theories, which will be good for a different kind of wrangling, when the fog of battle has cleared and the dust has settled. Discuss as you feel fit and qualified to observe.