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The fog of war sometimes envelops the reporting of it.

Such was the case with Walter Isaacson's new biography of Elon Musk, which was released this week. Exclusive excerpts in the Washington Post included an account of Musk preventing a Ukrainian attack on Russian naval vessels by disabling the satellite system used to guide unmanned sea drones. The system, called Starlink, is part of SpaceX, a Musk company. Through some 42,000 terminals throughout the country, Starlink has been connecting Ukraine since Russia disabled much of the existing internet infrastructure after their full-scale invasion in 2022.

In Isaacson's initial account, Musk — fearful of Kremlin threats to use nuclear weapons — switched off the system within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast, costing Ukraine a drone attack on the ships. While Isaacson was accurate about Musk "geofencing" the area, he was wrong about the timing. As Musk himself explained on X (Twitter, when he bought it): "At no point did I or anyone at SpaceX promise coverage over Crimea" to the government of Ukraine. "Our terms of service," Musk added, "clearly prohibit Starlink for offensive military action, as we are a civilian system."

And yet the same "civilian" system has been used for military means, and in fact has become essential to the Ukrainian — and Western — war effort.

"Starlink really is mission critical for Ukraine," said John Hardie, deputy director of the Russia Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "It's often said that there's no one miracle weapon or one system that just completely changes the game. But Starlink, I think, is pretty close."

The satellite system isn't "something that is often seen in the public eye. There aren't many videos of Starlink. You see a lot of Western tanks and you don't really see these systems humming along in the background, so it can be easy to lose sight over how important they are."

In some senses, continued Hardie, "Ukraine's warfare really does hang by this thread of this mercurial billionaire. It's kind of a scary place to be, and you'd almost laugh if it wasn't such a scary situation."

Those key to Kyiv's war effort certainly aren't laughing.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, took to Musk's social media site to write about the decision to limit Starlink near Crimea and other occupied Ukrainian territory. "As a result, civilians, children, are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego," Podolyak wrote. "However, the question still remains: Why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?"

Podolyak's post was likely an indirect reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has officially been accused with war crimes. Though this week it was Putin defending — or at least flattering — Musk, calling him "an outstanding person" and an "active, talented businessman."

Putin made his comments in Vladivostok, en route to meeting fellow despot Kim Jong un, who pledged his "full support" for Russia's "just fight" in Ukraine. The Biden administration anticipates arms sales to follow the handshakes, as North Korea joins Iran in exporting lethal means to be used against a U.S. and NATO ally, all while another authoritarian in this gathering axis, Chinese President Xi Jinping, provides political support.

Soon, the compliments could be coming from Beijing, not just Moscow. In a virtual appearance at the All-In Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Musk appeared to be at least somewhat in on China's claim to Taiwan, saying, in part, that "From this standpoint, maybe it's analogous to, like, Hawaii or something like that: an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China, mainly because the U.S. Pacific Fleet has stopped any reunification effort by force."

This and other comments led Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Taiwan's foreign minister, to take to X — which unlike in China, is not banned in Taiwan — to say: "Hope @elonmusk can also ask the #CCP [Chinese Communist Party] to open @X to its people. Perhaps he thinks banning it is a good policy, like turning off @Starlink to thwart #Ukraine's counterstrike against #Russia. Listen up, #Taiwan is not part of the #PRC [People's Republic of China] & certainly not for sale! JW"

The diplomatic diminution didn't end there. On Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk decried "the current trolling campaign of one online platform against the Anti-Defamation League, after it called for action to limit its volume of hate speech."

Turk didn't name names, but he meant Musk, who has caused controversy once again by seemingly blaming the organization for X's collapsing business model, claiming, without evidence, that the 60% plunge in the site's revenue is "primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ADL." Musk's missive resulted in even more antisemitic speech on X, the very thing ADL should stand up to.

The multiple, concurrent controversies highlight the risk that Musk's manic antics and business interests could intersect with his decisions regarding Starlink. And the threat isn't limited to Musk's companies, but other multinationals operating geopolitically. "It seems like this sort of engagement, in which companies begin to act like states, seems at some level inevitable in the absence of a good framework for regulating large multinational corporations," said Jane Sumner, a University of Minnesota professor of political science whose research focuses on the interactions between governments, companies and the public.

In a virtual event held by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Isaacson acknowledged, again, his mistake on the chronology on Crimea and Starlink. He then added: "But that leads to the broader question of what gives him the power to decide whether a sneak attack on Crimea is something that should be allowed and whether or not it would lead to a wider war?"

It's a question the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee is set to ask, too. In a statement, Sen. Jack Reed, D.-R.I., said that "serious national security liability issues have been exposed and the committee is engaged on this issue." Neither "Musk, nor any private citizen," wrote Reed, "can have the last word when it comes to U.S. national security."

Indeed, while the committee should consider many issues — including whether the government can provide commensurate systems, or whether it will soon rely on the Musk-developed "Starshield," and why it delayed providing more oversight and funding for Musk's "mission-critical" service — the fog of war as well as Isaacson's initial account shouldn't shroud this fundamental truth: National security decisions should be made by government officials, accountable to the public through elections, and not by individual citizens. That much, at least, should be clear.