I thought Kevin Corcoran’s recent post “Military Experience and Moral Authority” was excellent. I started to write a comment, which turned out to be too long. So instead it’s this post.

Overall, I agreed with Kevin’s post. I have four comments, only one of which is a disagreement.

First, unless I misunderstand the term, what Kevin discussed is not “moral authority” but intellectual authority. There are moral issues in war–big time–but he didn’t discuss those. He discussed the positive issues: what will happen? what’s true? what’s false? etc.

Second, the post reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my students who came back to visit about 16 or 17 years ago. I had taught him 22 years ago. He had been to Iraq and had come back in one piece. He said that some of his long-time friends told him that they would defer to him on whether the war was right or wrong because he had been there. That IS a moral issue. He told me that he had said in response, “No, I believe in America and I believe in freedom of speech and in people’s right to judge for themselves. So please do judge.”

Third, Omar Bradley is often quoted as saying “Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics.” A colleague of mine who taught logistics (naturally) had that saying on his door. Logistics can explain and predict a lot.

Fourth, Kevin wrote:

Prior to the invasion, there was a widespread consensus that the Russian military would quickly plow over the Ukrainian armed forces leading to a swift capture of Kyiv. Outside observers drastically underestimated both the resilience of the Ukrainian military and the ineptitude of the Russian military.

I was one of the people who didn’t say that. A UCLA law professor friend on Facebook said the first day, “I give Kyiv 4 days. Does anyone disagree?” I said that I did. He asked, quite reasonably, how long I gave them. I think I answered “Many weeks at least.” What was I thinking? Three things: (1) the substantial size of Ukraine’s military; (2) the Ukrainians “local knowledge” a la Hayek; (3) the Ukrainians’ incentives versus the incentives of the Russian military. Notice what I left out but shouldn’t have: logistics.