On April 11, 2022, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. In what was presumably an intensive conversation, about which nothing was initially disclosed, Nehammer wanted to draw Vladimir Putin's attention to how the Ukraine war - which in Russia must be called a "special military operation" - is being received in the West. As a representative of a neutral country, without ties to a military alliance, Nehammer was able to speak plainly and at the same time try to mediate. In the process, Nehammer also got an impression of how Putin himself sees this war, in which all responsibility is being shifted to the West in the Russian media.
As is to be expected in a democracy, Nehammer was criticized for his efforts; for according to extremists and other know-it-alls, one must not negotiate with a "war criminal."
But sooner or later it will be necessary to negotiate to end the war! -
Personally, I think such talks are valuable and necessary. After all, Vladimir Putin cannot be relied upon to receive objective information from his entourage, because autocrats are not infrequently downright "prisoners" of their "court".
Is Putin aware of the mood among his troops, the situation at the front with an astonishing number of Russians killed, the supply problems, the many civilians killed, some of whom were probably murdered intentionally? Did he recklessly trigger a conflict whose consequences could not yet be foreseen?
Does he also see the hatred and anger with which the Ukrainians defend themselves and their country against the invaders? Is he aware of the horror that this criminal war, and the genocide that went with it, has caused worldwide?
The Vietnam Effect
In large organizations - whether military or civilian - one encounters a phenomenon referred to here as the "Vietnam effect," which may even sit alongside "Parkinson's Laws" [[i]] can be seen.
Large organizations suffer from the fact that their managers happily and promptly report successes to the "top," but are very reluctant and hesitant to admit failures; even when they cannot be held personally responsible for these failures. Anyone who brings bad news is not welcome anywhere.
In the case of ancient tyrants, the messengers of misfortune often felt the tyrant's wrath. For example, the tyrant would summarily slay the messenger of misfortune in his first outburst of rage.
Afterwards, the tyrant then had to compose himself and think about how to meet the "completely surprising" misfortune - completely surprising for the tyrant, who until then had been incompletely or even wrongly informed by loud, only apparently good news.
Nothing fundamental has changed in human behavior since then. Those who have to report defeats in dictatorships or authoritarian systems, even in democracies, continue to make themselves unpopular and often still feel the effects today - although hardly as drastically as in ancient times.
A large organization has many levels. The same considerations apply to each stage in this context, namely that no one likes to be a disaster warner. For example, a bad piece of information can be softened or twisted from stage to stage that, at last, a total debacle in the jungle has become an acceptable success.
In a corresponding way, it became possible that between 1964 and 1975, three presidents of the USA in succession were convinced during the Vietnam War that the Viet Cong were close to collapse and that the war would soon be won.
Observers, including journalists, who took a more realistic view were defamed. Because politics is above the facts and admits mistakes only very reluctantly!
Thus, more bombs were dropped by the U.S. over North and South Vietnam than in all of World War II. About 6 million people, including 58,000 U.S. soldiers, were killed. The destruction of buildings, goods and the environment can hardly be estimated. Finally, it could no longer be suppressed that this war could not be won with any, even remotely justifiable effort.
The USA suffered an embarrassing defeat.
To this day, managers and politicians have probably not learned much from the "Vietnam effect," which, since 2021 at the latest, could just as well be called the "Afghanistan effect. After all, a comparable debacle was repeated in Afghanistan for similar reasons.
As before, unpleasant facts - unfortunately also in democracies - are suppressed, played down, negated. Warners are defamed, and a lot of media and political chatter is supposed to replace the analysis of the unpleasant facts. After all, one must not unsettle the voters!
Many still don't want to accept that an embellished or manipulated message is fake news, and a half-truth can be a whole lie.
The apprenticeship money then to be paid can become ruinous. -
Read for example "Farewell to the (Social) Market Economy?" under "Economy and social affairs. The reckless handling of central bank money criticized there has since been dramatically exacerbated by the Crimean War.
[[i]] "Parkinson's Laws": The much quoted laws, published in humorous form, that C. N. Parkinson discovered in economics. In the meantime Parkinson has found quite a few imitators, for example in the book "The Peter Principle". Despite all the sometimes almost whimsical humor, there is a serious core to these publications.