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The Future of War in the Developed World

2014 January 23
by Ian Welsh

I’ve been meaning to write about the fact that people don’t understand the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Mexico for some time.

In simple terms: the US military, the most expensive, most powerful military in the world, lost in Iraq (they had to pay bribes to leave). They are losing in Afghanistan.  In Mexico the state has been unable to control drug gangs.  In Lebanon, the IDF, the most powerful military in the Middle East, was defeated by Hezbollah. Hezbollah also won the e-lint war against the IDF.

(Kicking this to the top again, I want more people to see it. – Ian)

Technology is not necessarily on the side of the great powers, of the big armies.  IEDs are cheap, any halfway competent mechanic can make them with materials that are readily available even in Afghanistan.  Weapons are widely available everywhere, and soon it will be trivial to 3D print most of them.  Drones, which people are so scared of (with reason) are essentially remote controlled airplanes, they are not hard to make, and they will spread to guerillas, resistance movements, terrorists and so on.

These are, yes, terror weapons, as the US, in its use of bombing and drones, well understands.  They are also area denial weapons, weapons that prey on the psyche of the opposition, leaving them no peace and quiet.

They are weapons whose widespread use can and will destroy nations by destroying the peace and stability required for prosperity and normal life.

But they are very, very effective.  They will work in virtually any nation if a large enough portion of the population wants them to work.

Do not think that the more intelligent members of current elites don’t know this. They understand what many on the left don’t: that first world militaries can be defeated, have been defeated, and that it can happen in their own countries.

And I suspect they are very very scared.  The surveillance state, routine assassinations by the executive, the loss of habeas corpus, and so on, are their response.  Total surveillance, and the ability to take people out anywhere, any time, is their answer, which is why I keep saying that I will know people are serious about revolution when they take out surveillance systems as a matter of routine, when surveillance becomes ethically anathema.

Be scared, not because those on the left who insist that modern militaries are unbeatable and all anyone can do is supplicate the powerful are right, but because militaries are very fightable, but such fights leave countries in ruins.  If the elites continue on their current course, in many first world countries, Iraq and Afghanistan and Mexico are the future.  People with no future will fight, and too many people now know how this form of war works.

This is the future of war.  If elites continue on their path of unaccountability, their insistence on destroying the future, and their crushing of prosperity, this is what will happen.


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76 Responses
  1. February 23, 2013

    If elites continue on their path of unaccountability, their insistence on destroying the future, and their crushing of prosperity, this is what will happen.

    True dat. I take little comfort from your “If,” but I’m grateful that it is there.

  2. alyosha permalink
    February 23, 2013

    At one time technology favored large states and organizations over individuals. Only a state was rich enough to field an army with cannons, or a naval fleet or an air force. Technology has been increasingly democratized over the last fifty or a hundred years to empower individuals or small groups. It’s been said that Osama bin Laden could never have pulled off 9/11 with the technology of even thirty years ago. The new idea of asymetrical warfare, and how effective it is, is a result.

    It’s no accident that the word “terrorist” – implying an empowered individual or a small group of actors – is a word you hear all the time now. A few decades ago, its usage was infrequent, and more importantly, few people cared. The almighty state could, at that time, easily quash them like one dispatches an annoying mosquito.

    This shift in technological power applies not only to military technology, but to everyday life. The computing power at your disposal rivals anything the Pentagon had fifty years ago. The ability for someone to start a business via the web, and have the entire world at your door, was unimaginable a few decades ago.

    This shift in technology has had the effect of collapsing space – not just for the elites, not just for the military, but for everyone. Whatever you think about Facebook and its ilk, it collapses space between individuals. The ability to direct dial anybody in the world via your cellphone, or to jump on a plane and travel there, collapses space. Think of how difficult long distance travel or communication was, only a hundred years ago. In the blink of an eye, it’s all changed.

    Our current time and the next few decades are about dealing with the immense consequences of this collapse of space – how various cultures and individuals are adjusting to having everyone and everything in your face. As you’ve written, top heavy states are no longer the secure fortress, no longer the guaranteed winner of any particular clash between their massive militaries and some rogue band of terrorists. Soon, their cheaply made drones will threaten our space and terrorize us. As you’ve been writing, it’s becoming a world where there is no place to hide.

    Of some interest to me is how economies have become integrated (for better and for worse) – how resilience is disappearing/has disappeared from our economic system, as space is collapsing. A crash in one area, could at one time be isolated from everywhere else. Not so much today.

    I’m also interested in how the various spiritual traditions are no longer isolated. When the major figures – Jesus, Buddha, and so on – were on the earth, they appeared within cultures that had very little knowledge of anything outside that culture. And of how religions grew up around these figures in the same way – in isolation from each other. It boggles my mind that within my lifetime I’ve seen rare, esoteric texts from this or that religious tradition – formerly only available by traveling to monasteries or select university libraries – are now easily available on the internet or at on-line sellers like Amazon. Likewise, I’ve sat in virtual satsangs with contemporary spiritual teachers who literally reach a real-time audience that stretches around the world, via webinar. I participate daily in a teaching chat room hosted by a futures trading expert, concurrent with other students from all over the planet.

    I was talking with a friend who had a brief, long distance romance with someone in England (she’s in California). They met through a popular dating site, match.com. When I was young, a long distance relationship meant it was generally with someone in the next bigger city or a few states away. With the collapse in space, the scope and scale of the way people think even about mundane things is changing.

    As humans collectively face this shrinking planet, it’s going to mean a major epochal shift in the way we think about everything. Our spirituality is going to shift – it will draw on the roots of all the old traditions, but something new and global is going to emerge. The old, top heavy states are going to disappear and be replaced by something else, but obviously not without a lot of fighting and pain by those unwilling to lose their advantage.

    There are going to be winners and losers in this. Those who understand what’s going on and can position themselves obviously have an edge. Those, like Mark Zuckerberg, who can capitalize on it, will obviously do well. The many, who are trapped inside dying systems, whose elites are doing their best to retain their advantages in the face of all this change, will be bled dry in the service of these elites. Sooner or later they will go after the surveillance cameras.

  3. wowza permalink
    February 23, 2013

    What bribe did the US pay to leave Iraq?

    I don’t think Americans will ever revolt, or at least in our lifetime, for the same reason most Americans think they are temporarily embarrassed millionaires, as Steinbeck would put it.

  4. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 24, 2013

    Americans paid the various militias not to attack them on the way out.

    Collapsing space: communication space has reduced, but interestingly, with the end of the Concorde and with more conservative use of fuel on jets, travel space has gotten larger.

  5. February 24, 2013

    @alyosha, what a great comment and provocative observations.

    I tend to think that this collapse of space, as you put it, will not survive resource depletion, as much of this technology is dependant on the leisure time that cheap energy has given us (because of the specialization of knowledge that must be supported to keep those silicon chips and airplanes.) I could be wrong about this, but if I’m not, my question is how much of the philosophical gain from successfully wrestling with these issues you’ve discussed will remain with us after a generation or two without them (also, assuming that we do successfully come to terms with them in the first place.)

    Thoughts?

    (Ah, I see that Ian foreshadowed this a bit while I was typing it up.)

  6. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2013

    alyosha
    February 23, 2013
    Whatever you think about Facebook and its ilk, it collapses space between individuals.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I absolutely disagree. I don’t use any of the Facebook/Twitter “stuff”.
    I rather see these as giving a sense of collapsed space between individuals; but actually creating huge, shallow chasms of the illusion of connectedness.
    It’s destroying intimate human connections, IMO.

  7. February 24, 2013

    Looks like this is our day to butt heads, @Celsius233 – cause I’m a gonna have to disagree – to a point.

    I’ll have to say that this is probably true for most social media users – though I may be being unkind in saying/thinking that. Certainly anyone (and this seems to be most people) that has thousands or even hundreds of “friends” are probably not experiencing much depth, but I seem to have stabilized at 87 (Facebook) – because I’m pretty contemptuous about the normal twaddle of cat photos and bacon serenades, pos-mo posters and techno-fantasists, etc. (I mostly stick to politics & sociology & feeding my blog posts, and people self-sort away from me if they want to be silly.) And of course 87 makes it mostly acquaintances, not really “friends.”

    But just last night a geographically-estranged friend of mine with whom I maintain a healthy contact with because of the evil FB flew in from Colorado and picked me up and treated me to a night out. The ease with which this occurred was directly enabled by the continuity that FB provided. She’s here for the weekend, and I’m going to a spring training game with her tomorrow. That’s collapsed space for you. :)

    It’s all in how you use it.

  8. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2013

    @ Petro; nothing wrong with disagreeing.
    You seem a bit unsure however. Your anecdotal evidence is apparently true as far as it goes; but, I’ll stay with my original assertion.

  9. David permalink
    February 24, 2013

    Ian,

    Regarding surveillance, what do you think of David Brin’s thoughts
    on this in that he believes that rather than eliminate the surveillance by the government, instead have it so that it works both ways so that ordinary people can have it to watch the government ?

  10. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 24, 2013

    I think government should be very open, I don’t think ordinary people should be surveilled. I think that power differentials mean that if everyone was surveilled it would be much more potent for those who had power than those who didn’t. I think that surveillance has some awful psychological effects on people: you eliminate privacy and people go a little nuts, you also lose a pile of creativity.

    I think we should choose to control this technology, and I think we can.

  11. Scoobydoo permalink
    February 24, 2013

    You refer to “the left” a couple of times here. Who specifically are you referencing? I’m not disagreeing I’d just like to know who they are. Thank you.

  12. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 24, 2013

    @ Ian Welsh
    February 24, 2013

    I think we should choose to control this technology, and I think we can.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Even for you, that is an optimistic statement not supported by facts or actions.
    Americans just don’t seem to be very good at directing their governments direction or behavior.
    Obviously I’m far more pessimistic. IMO, the last chance for “control” was lost on September 11th, 2001 and March 19th, 2003 was the coup de grace.
    It’s been nothing but a digression from that point until the present.
    Obama has snookered all but the most astute; the reactionary right are just hyperbolic and generally full of shit.
    It’s the moderates that are most worrying; what with their complicity and docile attitudes towards the most egregious violations of what has been generally an agreed adherence to constitutional protocol and international law.
    Yes, I know, we have been there before; but were pulled back from the brink . This no longer applies, IMO.

  13. Ronny permalink
    February 24, 2013

    @ alyosha:
    Of some interest to me is how economies have become integrated (for better and for worse) – how resilience is disappearing/has disappeared from our economic system, as space is collapsing. A crash in one area, could at one time be isolated from everywhere else. Not so much today.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This is currently on top of my interest list as well. I read a system engineer’s report on global chain disruption here before and it is not pretty. With pervasive Just In Time models used by logistics company, a small disruption in critical area/connected nodes can cause a breakdown in the system.

    As far as I know, system engineering concepts are one of the best methodologies for analysis on complex systems.

    Personally, I think the collapsing space itself is not a sustainable trend. It is collapsed with the help of an unprecedented usage of energy (i.e. oil, natural gas) in human history. What will happen when energy is no longer cheap or freely available?

    I read another essay before on the lack of “balance” concepts in Western philosophy. In Eastern philosophy, Confucianism is the seed for Taoism. The concept of Yin and Yang helps to sensitize the ancient Chinese to the dualistic nature of many elements in the world. They strive for The Path of the Middle so as to not disturb the balance. This conservatism help to moderate the excesses in the society and build a more resilient society.

    The Western world’s obsession with efficiency left them blind-sided by unintended consequences. Especially now when efficiency is so defined narrowly as producing and profiting more. This efficiency mantra has invaded agriculture, medicine and many other sectors in the world. I think many “alternatives” thoughts for these disciplines such as organic farming and homoeopathy provide the counter-balance to this singular attention to efficiency.

  14. mike permalink
    February 24, 2013

    Interesting post. But the IDF wasn’t defeated by Hezbollah in any way. On the contrary, they achieved a thorough and lasting victory, inflicting enormous damage on Lebanon, and more than achieving their goal of making sure that Hezbollah would not launch any further attacks. And they haven’t. While they have moved in more rockets, Hezbollah is acutely aware that they are militarily overmatched and that any more of their impudence will be severely chastised. The US may be scared but Israel certainly isn’t. They are secure in the knowledge that their enemies have been thoroughly defeated and that there is no power in the region that constitutes any sort of military threat to them. Those who want to destroy Israel may throw their tantrums and make nasty comments, but they are fully aware that Israel has won the war once and for a while. Those who can’t see that are just deluding themselves. And the Israelis also know that they are not dependent on the US for aid, and that even if (when?) the US is finally defeated it won’t impact them much, if at all.

  15. alyosha permalink
    February 24, 2013

    @Ronny and others – you’re absolutely right that “collapsing space” is dependent on energy. In fact, it’s a direct result, an effect, of the harnessing of energy, which began in a big way with the invention of the steam engine. “Collapsing of space” is just one effect of our recent ability to harness energy. By recent, I mean over the last one or two hundred years.

    It’s my opinion that this harnessing of energy is going to continue, despite the significant disruptions coming soon with the end of cheap fossil fuels. I believe that one way or another, humankind is eventually going to solve the energy problem, but it may take decades or even a century to develop something that resembles the fueled-by-cheap-energy, centralized industrial architecture we now live under. Or this could be several centuries into the future, if at all, depending upon how much calamity/destruction lies ahead. I don’t need to tell anyone reading this blog, that the truly sad thing is that America had several choice points since its own peak oil occurred in the 1970s, where we could have gone all out and gotten to work on solving this problem, while fossil fuel was cheap, but we all know what happened.

    By contrast, renewable forms of energy are available now, but they work mostly in a decentralized fashion – again favoring the direction of technology that empowers individuals or small groups, and not large organizations or states. A different kind of society is going to rise up because of this, growing amidst the rubble of the failed centralized state.

    @Celcius wrote: I absolutely disagree. I don’t use any of the Facebook/Twitter “stuff”.
    I rather see these as giving a sense of collapsed space between individuals; but actually creating huge, shallow chasms of the illusion of connectedness.
    It’s destroying intimate human connections, IMO.

    I don’t use any of that stuff either (for a variety of reasons). But consider – you and I are exchanging ideas on this blog, which is a kind of virtual salon. Without this particular bit of cyberspace, it’s highly unlikely that we would ever meet or connect, in any fashion. I’ve often envied the various physical salons that occurred among the intelligentsia of decades past – rare and exclusive gatherings that I have only read about or have seen recreated in movies. Now, anyone can host a salon, of sorts, and the participants can be from anywhere.

    It’s my belief that “telepresence” – the ability to present yourself to others and connect with them via the internet is only in its infancy. This blog is a very primitive, text only, not-real-time form of it. Webinars (or skype-like picture phoning) involving two way real time communication, sometimes with live video and audio between all participants is just getting underway. This technology is going to advance to the point where it will be almost like being with someone physically. With each advance, the bandwidth and amount of information conveyed (from delayed text, to real time text, to real time video and audio) grows, to the point where it comes close to actually being there. But of course, it will never be the same as being there physically.

    And so I’d say that Facebook, this blog, and so on, do collapse space and bring people together who would in all likelihood never meet. Of course the connection is shallow, and will never be the same as being together in person. But whether this is “destroying human connections” has more to do with how its used. There will be those for whom the internet is the primary/only way they will interface with humans – which I would agree with you is terribly limiting. For others, it’s an enabling tool – it can launch relationships and connections that would otherwise never occur, and that could at some point become physical.

  16. Everythings Jake permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Aloysha wrote:

    I believe that one way or another, humankind is eventually going to solve the energy problem, but it may take decades or even a century to develop something that resembles the fueled-by-cheap-energy, centralized industrial architecture we now live under.

    This sounds like the hubris of the elites who must believe this because there is no other explanations for why they do not respond sensibly to the imminent crisis. Auden:

    …and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
    Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
    had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

  17. Leo permalink
    February 25, 2013

    The technologies/techniques that beat first world armies are defensive, they can’t beat modern militaries that are on the defensive. Drones don’t work against technologically competent opponents, see how easily Iran has hacked 2 already. Hezbollah used a defense in depth strategy and 3D printing doesn’t change the availability of weapons that much, any half-way competent terrorist or guerrilla can already acquire weapons.

    What they can do is limit the political influence of first world nations and disrupt supply lines. Modern militaries are losing in Afghanistan and Iraq because they’re fighting a different style of war than they are designed for.

  18. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 25, 2013

    They’re not defensive, they’re area denial. See Mexico. They are perfectly viable at reducing any State’s ability to control its own territory if enough of the population decides to use them.

    Hezbollah got a drone DEEP into Israeli territory a few months back and Israel has most of the best US air defense tech.

  19. Leo permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Concrete bunkers, which is what Hezbollah used, count as defensive. They’re also area denial because defenses do that. But their not area of denial in the same sense a sub is.

    And there is a difference between getting one drone through on a surprise and having the enemy respond, if drones become a threat then they’ll likely copy Iran’s techniques. After all, a drone can’t be closed off from outside influence.

    Modern militaries can win those wars because they’re designed for a war between armies, not for what is a sort of policing operation. Otherwise they wouldn’t have tanks and other such devices.

    The surveillance state is because the US government fears that a foreign power will copy it. And start an insurgency or color revolution, something that if successfully done negates the military.

  20. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 25, 2013

    Huge parts of Iraq and Afghanistan were/are no go zones except in large numbers. It’s not hard, and IEDs are a huge part of it. Drug gangs rule huge parts of Mexico now.

    Drones are nap of the earth, and I highly doubt Iran is stopping more than a small percentage of them. They will also be much cheaper when made by insurgents than they are now.

    Hezbollah has a real army, yes, they are a more advanced stage–they are a government with an army. As a friend of mine quipped during the war “what do you call light infrantry who can do guerilla warfare?”

    “Special Forces”

    Hezbollah built bunkers, an underground tunnel system, its own fiber optic network and over the entire duration of the war they kept most of their missile launchers operation in a country which is not God’s gift to guerilla warfare. They also keep who is in their army secret: many families only found out that a member was in the military when Hezbollah told them they died. The secret state is part of modern counter-insurgency.

    The US is huge. The techniques used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mexico will work fine in America. Western militaries, and especially the US military, suck at counter-insurgency. Absolutely terrible at it. You just don’t fight they straight up.

    As for the paramilitary forces, like the cops, they are beyond a joke. They have become fat and flaccid, and respond in large #s to trivial assaults. Their militarization, has, paradoxically, made them weak. Anyone with half a brain will be able to run them around.

  21. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    February 25, 2013

    @Ian My understanding of Special Forces is that they cannot do guerilla warfare because they lack the ability to blend into and become part of a host population. Therefore they are “counter insurgency”. On the other hand, the secret state of Hizbullah is part of what makes it an insurgent force rather than a counter-insurgency, insurgent against Israel and the authoritarians in Lebanon. On that one you likely meant insurgent rather than counter-insurgent.

    I don’t have an idea where the surveillance state is exactly going myself. I have the feeling that destroying today’s antiquated surveillance technology just speeds up the installation of more up to date technology. I mean if you can tell where it’s located then it is likely out of date. Of course if the real purpose is security theater then yes it needs to be in your face visible. And maybe that is where you are going. It’s the feeling of being watched that is more insidious than the data of being watched.

    On Collapsing Space: I suppose Highs Speed Rail advances also effects some collapse. But maybe there is a trade off. It collapses for the upper middle class but expands for the lower middle class. For the rich the trade off is increased comfort in a private jet during the time spent flying versus the time saved of old by flying super sonic.

    @Various on Energy: Peak oil as a concept needs to be replaced with peak air. It is air that we run out of before we run out of dirty fossil fuel. Anyone imaging that in a future 30 or more years down the road we can begin to have so called alternative energy is thinking too far into the future. We need to be thinking of a collapse of gasoline prices within the next 10 to 15 years because of the rapid advance of clean technologies and not because of the huge expensive of cheap dirty fossil fuels. Notice the juxtaposition of expensive and cheap. Right now in Germany the daily spike of electricity is half supplied by wind and solar. It’s because of how cheaply those sources can supply peak needs. Now don’t misunderstand. I am talking about the part of the usage that used to be supplied by natural gas or diesel at peak usage times. Coal and nuclear are still supplying the bulk. But even they are being rapidly supplanted by wind/solar. So much so that the feed-in tariff system used to rapidly create wind/solar sources of energy is now being shifted to speed up the development of electric storage technologies to begin to absorb the excesses of supplies that are beginning to appear in some locales. That is also a problem the Hawaii is beginning to face as well; too much solar in certain parts of their grid.

    @alyosha Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 technology began to appear during WWII. It is simply a large flying fuel tank and a small group crazy enough to fly it into a building.

  22. February 25, 2013

    As for the paramilitary forces, like the cops, they are beyond a joke. They have become fat and flaccid, and respond in large #s to trivial assaults. Their militarization, has, paradoxically, made them weak. Anyone with half a brain will be able to run them around.

    I think it’s worse than that.

    Failing municipal and state finances have already created areas which are essentially lawless.

    Organized crime based in Mexico is apparently having a field day trading in drugs and weapons in the US. I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen any evidence that US law enforcement is taking them on at all. Every now and then a smuggler’s tunnel gets shut down or a small cache of weapons busted but that’s it.

    And it is apparent that there is some form of organized crime exporting stolen property from the US. I say this because vast quantities of electronics are being stolen (e.g., “Apple picking”) including organized heists of unsold inventory but, looking around, I don’t see much a domestic black market for these goods. Also, at least around here, police have a small number of times followed stolen electronics back to the well-armed fences who buy them in quantity for cash. This ain’t vinny getting you a good deal on some speakers if you don’t ask nosy questions. This is something bigger and more organized.

    That trade in stolen stuff is especially dangerous because it amounts to a full employment jobs guarantee for any down and out tough willing to take the risk of doing a little crime.

    One of the ways that unconventional, “fourth generation” warriors gain power is by offering a tribal loyalty that is alternative to (and incompatible with) the state. So, for example, our government’s social welfare programs are inadequate to the task and, into that gap steps organized crime doing a better job of keeping the kids in shoes and making sure grandma never misses a meal. So not only do you have police departments being hollowed out because of a long history of mismanaged municipal finances — in addition you have an emerging “shadow government” stepping up to replace failing government services. The new (gangster-style) social order and economy starts to grow within the dying state.

    On its face, the militarization of the police is not designed at all to directly challenge the organized crime or the anti-state tribalism it engenders. Again: you don’t see any effort to seriously disrupt the markets for stolen goods or drugs.

    Instead: (a) Police have been recruited into a national surveillance apparatus; (b) The DHS and armed forces appear to be trying to build ties of loyalty by inviting police departments out for fun, secretive, weekends of training and playing with fancy arms; (c) Much of the training we do hear about is about restoring or keeping order in limited areas after some disaster or other disruption — in other words they are being trained with skills suitable to help establish and guard a “green zone” but not much more.

    So I don’t think that the militarization has “made them weak” — they are already weak against the organized crime that’s taking over for a failing state. Instead, the militarization has prepared them to guard a military base and made some of them feel the federal and military guys are their best buds in uniform.

  23. John Puma permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Here’s another request for a definition of “the left.”

  24. February 25, 2013

    I don’t wish to belabor the energy issue because it’s kind of O/T (or at least a bit of a off-road diversion reached because of @alyosha’s excellent introduction of “collapsed space”), but a few things have been said here about alternative energy and I’d like to challenge some of the spoken and unspoken assumptions therein. I promise I won’t beat this into the ground, but…

    Because of simple thermodynamics and the conditions which differentiate between “energy” and “available energy”, there are only three available energy sources here on Earth: Solar, tidal, & geothermal (a fourth, nuclear, I am not going to bother to even entertain because of its obvious filth and toxicity. For those fans of light- or cold-fission/fusion see my thoughts, below, on “introduced” power.) To simplify matters, I am going to dismiss geothermal as an “alternative” source of energy because 1) most reasonably reliable methods of capture are at least as environmentally toxic as fossil (solar) fuels (just ask the Hawaiian activists) and 2) it is a depletable resource – and before anyone makes any jokes about that I’d like to point out that energy is kind of like disk space – double the availability and we’ll damn sure find a way to use it up.

    Likewise, I’m not especially sanguine about messing with tidal (moon gravitation) for similar reasons – this plays a rather vital role in the metabolism of the ecosphere and I don’t want to think about what else we’d be doing to oceanic vitality if we became technically clever in that arena.

    This leaves solar (and wind is ultimately solar.) The bottom line is that there is a more-or-less fixed rate of input of that kind of energy being offered to us. Bear in mind that this energy is also being “used” by Earth’s life systems before we even get into our appetites for transportation, manufacture, and artificial environments. If we were able to become clever enough to satisfy even a fraction of our current appetites (let alone future population projections) with this fixed energy supply it would be at the expense of things already being done – like growing plants, for example, but also in atmospheric circulation, which distributes and re-distributes nutrients along with temperature regulations, much like the major streams of oceanic flow.

    I will take that one step further and entertain the notion of “introduced” power just to give the techno-fantasists something to chew on. There’s a whole lot of solar out there if you think about it, and what if we were to be able to maybe, just maybe, float some sort of capture mechanism out there in the void and beam some of that excess, wasted sunshine back to earth? This is introducing power, but it is also introducing waste heat now matter how much we think we’re “using” it, and any sort of “introduced” power (heat) will bring us back to what we are seeing already today with what greenhouse gases are doing and I think we’re a bit weary of that by now, right?

    My point is that if we are to find an equilibrium of reasonable power usage, we’re going to be facing limitations. Limitations that, I believe, are quite beneath what we are enjoying today. This is why I think that the writing’s on the wall on this whole collapsed space deal.

  25. Brian permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Very astute Thomas – I think America’s future looks more like Russia than Mad Max territory. In Russia, life can go on more or less normally if you are little people, as long as you keep your place in the order of things and your “roof” (the network of people, contacts and influence you have who protect you from harm and do you favours, as you do favours for them) in good repair.
    Meanwhile, DHS = MVD.

  26. amspirnational permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Eliot Engel one of the prototype dual loyalists, disagrees with Mike. He wants Assad out of the way to get Hezbollah (indignantly and nervously demanding that Europe designate it terrorist) to then get at Iran.
    I assume Engel is in touch with Israelis who prompt his actions.

  27. Everythings Jake permalink
    February 25, 2013

    Banks make enormous profits off the drug trade, which is of course why the British forced it upon the Chinese in the late nineteenth century – and HSBC has been hip deep in it ever since. Witness the recent settlement with HSBC concerning, among other crimes, laundering money for Latin American drug cartels. The elite do not seem to care as long as they are getting a substantial cut.

    It does not seem to me that the wars on “ideas” (drugs, terrorism) to replace the Cold War propaganda so effectively propagated by the US government against US citizens for the purpose of transferring enormous sums of taxpayer wealth to the military-finance-industrial complex are meant to be won.

    The guns certainly have no desire to see an end to lawlesness in Mexico – if it really is the Wild West again, everyone will need a gun. The arms manufacturers clean up supplying what hapless forces of justice remain with advanced weaponry as police forces everywhere are being turned into paramilitary occupations; and the banks take substantial fees and interest, in addition to their laundering profits, by arranging and financing the deals.

    Collapse (system, resource, social, economic) is not coming, it is here. We continue to respond irrationally, which is going to significantly increase both the number of lives taken and the misery quotient for those who survive.

    Like others on here, I don’t believe Americans are anywhere near primed to do what is necessary to stave off disaster. It is not just that they are bound up unaware in “The Matrix,” they don’t want to be otherwise, too lonely or scary or bewildering to be outside of it. And among our most sacred myths is that when disaster strikes, Americans will always come together to get through it in that more exceptional than other nationalities do kind of way. So things will have to get much, much worse here before they get better, but at this juncture in time, “much, much worse” is past the ecological point of no return – Hansen’s “game-over” scenario.

  28. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 25, 2013

    @ Everythings Jake
    February 25, 2013
    Collapse (system, resource, social, economic) is not coming, it is here. We continue to respond irrationally, which is going to significantly increase both the number of lives taken and the misery quotient for those who survive.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    This is also what I see/experience.
    We seem to enjoy a myopic vision of the future and then compound it by failing to see it’s already come and gone past.
    ================
    @ Everythings Jake yet again;
    Like others on here, I don’t believe Americans are anywhere near primed to do what is necessary to stave off disaster. It is not just that they are bound up unaware in “The Matrix,” they don’t want to be otherwise, too lonely or scary or bewildering to be outside of it. And among our most sacred myths is that when disaster strikes, Americans will always come together to get through it in that more exceptional than other nationalities do kind of way. So things will have to get much, much worse here before they get better, but at this juncture in time, “much, much worse” is past the ecological point of no return – Hansen’s “game-over” scenario.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Nothing really to add; you covered it. Cheers

  29. alyosha permalink
    February 26, 2013

    @Everythings Jake wrote: This [belief in our ability to solve the energy problem] sounds like the hubris of the elites who must believe this because there is no other explanations for why they do not respond sensibly to the imminent crisis.

    I hope it doesn’t sound like hubris. I don’t know if humankind will really solve the energy problem. I just look at incentives and trajectories. Given the enormous amount of energy in a single atom (the prize), and all the problems associated with fossil fuel (the costs of failure), and the teams of people working to unlock this energy, I’m inclined to believe they eventually will. I don’ t know if it will be in the next decade or the next century. Or in the next millenium, if the present Dark Age really gets going in earnest.

    I imagine how things were five hundred years ago, and how the things we take for granted today would seem like unbelievable magic to people of that time. I wouldn’t stay too locked into the various belief systems that are floating around today. So much is changing, even before our eyes that we could not have foreseen even a few years ago.

  30. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    February 26, 2013

    @John Puma re: definition of “the left”. The easy joke is R. Crumb’s (and others?) famous, “if you don’t know by now, best not mess with it.”

    But seriously my take on it is that when it is used here at this website it is meant as 1:) a shorthand for inclusion in this place’s tribe, and/or 2:) a shorthand for exclusion of so-called members of this site’s tribe. Generally, but not exclusively, people attracted to this site identify as leftish. Generally again, folks here abouts have rarely identified themselves as rightish or right-wingish. Just generally mind you.

    Clearly the hallmark of the folks here-about is that we wish to be independent thinkers willing to challenge our own views of even ourselves, let alone others. If you can put together a string of words that strikes a chord, then regardless of the wider-worlds labeling, folks here will find them of interest. That being some kind of tautology, of course. If you say something interesting then we will find it interesting.

    Perhaps you should explain your view of the word and why you are concerned about how others here view it. Ultimately it becomes a self-defining word by the way it is used here-abouts.

  31. alyosha permalink
    February 26, 2013

    @John Puma re: definition of “the left”.

    I’ll take a stab at it. I just read something by George Lakoff, that reminded me of your question. Although Lakoff uses the word “progressive”, it could refer to most people on the left. Lakoff wrote:

    …Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business. They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

    Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them….They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty….

    ….Moreover, ultra-conservatives do not see all the ways in which they, and other ultra-conservatives, rely all day every day on what other Americans have supplied for them. They actually believe that they built it all by themselves.

    I’ve found through experience, that this last paragraph is the easiest way to stop a conservative in their tracks. They’re completely flummoxed when you point out to them all the simple and obvious ways the community around them helped get them to where they are today.

    My own shorter definition of “the left” is someone who seeks “the greatest good for the greatest number” because when that happens, I personally benefit. It’s for purely selfish reasons that I consider myself on the left, because reality just seems to work that way. Conservatives generally cannot see this operating in their own lives.

  32. February 26, 2013

    Jeff Wegerson On the other hand, the secret state of Hizbullah is part of what makes it an insurgent force rather than a counter-insurgency, insurgent against Israel and the authoritarians in Lebanon. On that one you likely meant insurgent rather than counter-insurgent.

    I wish people would stop bandying around terms such as insurgent and counter-insurgent when they plainly have no idea of what those terms mean.

    Hizbullah are NOT either an insurgency or a counter-insurgency and never have been. They are what they have always been and that is a primarily defensive fighting force aimed at Israel and its allies. The fact that they are defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty against a viciously aggressive neighbouring state that has repeatedly invaded Lebanon in utterly illegal wars of aggression has been recognised repeatedly by the Lebanese government. The same government in which Hizbullah’s political wing is now a partner.

    The attempt to remove their comms network was at the instance of the American government acting at the suggestion of the Israelis. They rightly told everyone who tried it on to get lost. People who win wars can do that …

    mfi

  33. February 26, 2013

    Mike

    Thank you for the hasbara. Alas for you facts are not on your side. On every single occasion on which Israel launched one of its vicious and illegal wars against Lebanon they have been forced by Hizbullah’s military action to engage in that well-known military tactic engaged in exclusively by losers known as “running away”.

    mfi

  34. John Puma permalink
    February 26, 2013

    Thanks Jeff and alyosha.

    I see now that Ian was not casting aspersions on all of “the left” but just on that sub-group still reluctant to embrace the image of their country in (physical) ruins to round out the “quadro-fecta” along with moral, economic and political ruin.

  35. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 26, 2013

    Jeff,

    modern special forces in the US are assassination squads at this point. Tradition Special Forces (like the Green Berets), were trained to do both insurgency and counter-insurgency.

    As scary as modern special forces are, they are in certain respects a joke. Killing leadership is far, far less effective than Westerners think.

    Also the vast expansion of special forces in the West has weakened them. The poor man’s Special Forces (SWAT teams for example) will be easy to deal with when people get serious. They have a playbook and stick to it too rigidly and the playbook is widely known.

  36. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 26, 2013

    Thomas Lord,

    can’t find much to disagree with, except that militarization has made them weak, it’s just that the other things have also made them weak. I’ve written about such things in the past — if the state steps out of welfare, other people will step in.

  37. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    February 28, 2013

    It would do well to recall what Von Clausewitz observed in reflection on the Napoleonic wars: that war (violence) was a continuation of (political or state) policy.

    As long as there are those who make and administer policy, war (violence) will accompany the policy’s existence, whether it is acted upon or not. State violence enforces and is inseparable from state authority and always the prerogative of those who function is to control policy of the state.

    The mater becomes a question of who is to occupy the position of authority, historically answered in several forms of which respublica (commonwealth) is one form in which policy is surrendered by the entitled population to their representatives conducting governance. A democracy is merely where the entitled population directly exercises policy, the extent of suffrage within the population is immaterial to the exercise of policy. In either case, the entitled population ultimately determines policy, and its limitations by their acquiescence to the governmental system in place.

    As long as policy is exercised without limitation, Von Clausewitz’s reflections hold true; it is only by such limitation that state policy may not extend into state violence but at the cost to state power, something seldom if ever recorded.

    As long as there is unlimited state policy there will be war or violence as a means of enforcing policy, that is and will be the future, it is hardwired into exercising power in the species.

  38. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Formerly T-Bear
    February 28, 2013
    As long as there is unlimited state policy there will be war or violence as a means of enforcing policy, that is and will be the future, it is hardwired into exercising power in the species.

    I think that reflects exactly what we’re experiencing today.
    Nouriel Roubini has some interesting comments today likening 1914 to 2014.

  39. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Well, that didn’t work. here’s a link.
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/roubini-doom-scenario-looks-1914-105552501.html

  40. Trevor Groves permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Supposed Western “incompetence”- in the conduct of the wars over the last decade and a half-

    has really been more a feature than a bug (from the POV of the War Biz). Win or lose, it’s all

    about turning over inventory, and moving everyone up a rung in the hierarchy.

    Tactically, you are correct in your implication that easily made IED’s/homemade

    drones/sharpened sticks (etc) will ultimately defeat the Evil Empire (surprise, us!), but for

    “our” side, it’s always been about the Benjamin’s.

  41. Everythings Jake permalink
    January 24, 2014

    I don’t agree. There was no intent to win in Latin America or Afghanistan (and frankly I don’t think they really cared if they won in Iraq either – Bush killed the guy who tried to off his dead, we just supplied the most expensive hitman ever).

    Clearly, in Colombia at least, the war on drugs has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with fundamental capitalist aims, to upend the ab
    ability of the peasantry to provide for itself on their own land. Michael Perelman’s “The Invention of Capitalism” is instructive here.

    Afghanistan is basically a rehash (no pun intended) of the Opium wars. Anyone who believes this is an accident is probably smoking the results much to the elite’s delight (remember the Roosevelts among others made fortunes off Chinese opium): http://publicintelligence.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/AfghanOpiumSurvey2012-1.png. That’s not to mention the bankers, who probably knew before the UN did that laundered drug profits kept enough liquidity in the system in 2008 and 2009 to keep it from crashing entirely.

    Also, too, the U.S. military is not supposed to win. Where is the profit in that? G.B.S screamed that (with too much wit and elegance) in “Arms and the Man.”

  42. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Not mentioned: The future of war became the present in 1973 with the end of the draft.
    That’s had a profound affect on the war machine, propaganda, and ushered in the age of the “hero”. This helped to make the military attractive; especially to the underclass.
    The underclass is the reservoir of young, mostly uneducated, bodies for the killing fields.
    And they are willing participants who believe it’s a path out of poverty or whatever hell they are a part of.
    The standards today are rock bottom; criminals, drug addicts, miscreants, and psychopaths are welcome now. In the recent past they would have been rejected.
    I think it’s pretty obvious this has been by intent and not circumstantial.
    The country is broken, the military is broken, the politicians are broken; however, this works pretty well for those in positions of power.

  43. Sam Adams 1770 permalink
    January 24, 2014

    The wealthy power holders have always made enormous profits off vice. The British and French transported and sold drugs to the Chinese in the 19th century; the ancient Romans purchased sex slaves for the bordellos they ran from the back of the Villa in 19 BCE. Periodically things get bad enough and out arise someone to oppose the powerful wealthy and overturn the status quo. Their children and grandchildren then sell the vice and slaves until they in turn are overthrown. The wheel always turns; they cycle always repeats.

  44. Adam Eran permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Recommended reading in this connection is Jeffrey Race’s work about Vietnam (e.g. War Comes to Long An). Race taught himself Vietnamese and, distressed by the isolation of the American military, interviewed the people of Vietnam. The book is the result of his interviews. He remains connected to Southeast Asia, recently authoring pieces about Thai corruption, and has some surprising observations about insurgency that, as far as I can tell, predate Petreus echoing his conclusions.

    For example: When you’re forced to use violence, you’ve already lost.

    Also interesting: 1491 and 1493, Charles Mann’s accounts of the Americas just before and after Columbus. The alternative to our current ideas of conquest was practiced by the inkas (if memory serves). Rather than clash with conquered people, they made themselves essential for access to trade and technology, so the “subjugated” peoples actually profited by their association… Something Race recommends too.

  45. Jill permalink
    January 24, 2014

    I don’t think the USG wants to win wars, they just want to look like they’re winning so they can keep going. I don’t have this number handy but the US sells more weapons by far (and it is amazing amount more) than the world’s next largest arms dealer, Russia. USG is selling to almost everyone, on every side of almost every conflict. I thinking actual winning would be a bad thing for USG because gobs of money is made in weapons, financing, supply and supposed “rebuilding” of recently devastated parts of the world. Tearing everything down creates a firesale of resources to the rich and connected. Scahill talked about this, how there is only an incentive for more war, the more contractors get into the fray. Janine Wedel also refers to this process/consequence in her book: “Shadow Elite”.

    Surveillance is a toy, a godsend of money, a grandiose power trip and it’s essential to controlling populations who might revolt.

    Yes, these people are scared but I think they are scared of populations who will try to stop their wars, their illegalities, their surveillance and propaganda. I think they are not bothered that much by armed conflict, they likely sold the weapons involved. I don’t know what they plan to do about the massive environmental degradation their work causes on earth. They are already engage in geoengineering so that tells me they are both worried and incredibly stupid.

  46. Neolithic Simulation permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Drones require control of the airwaves, and even moreso, a secure base of operations. They’re next-to-useless useless for anything but counterinsurgency, which is surely why noone even bothered to encrypt the control stream until the Iraqi rebels started hacking them routinely–such an omission would have been insane if they ever really intended to use them against an opposing regular military force. (Note that the first drones were commisioned–without encryption, natch–in the middle of WJC’s tenure, and draw the logical conlcusion about just how anomolous a development GWB’s foreign policy really was.)

    Just how are these drones supposed to be piloted if the control channel is being jammed? How do the operators avoid avoid having their base located via triangulation and bombed? I don’t see how this is supposed to tilt the tactical balance in favor of an insurgent force at all.

  47. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 24, 2014

    It’s simple enough to set up remote transmitters. You can frequency shift to avoid jamming, and if they jam wide spectrum, they start screwing themselves up. This is all relatively low tech stuff.

    Heck, drop the transmitter on top of something you want the army to bomb, for kicks.

    And there are a ton of American techs who don’t work for the army who are capable of jamming airwaves themselves.’

    But even if drones were meaningless, the other area denial technologies work brilliantly.

  48. Compound F permalink
    January 25, 2014

    I love your work. It’s bracing, and bristling with truth.

  49. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Neolithic Simulation January 24, 2014

    They’re next-to-useless useless for anything but counterinsurgency,

    Hizballah – about whom you’ll find plenty to read on this site not least because they have a habit of winning their wars, beg leave to disagree.

    mfi

  50. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Celsius 233 January 24, 2014

    Mostly you’re and I agree but this:

    The standards today are rock bottom; criminals, drug addicts, miscreants, and psychopaths are welcome now.

    is very wrong indeed. During the war of aggression and occupation waged by Government and People of the USA against Irak. The recruitment standards dropped drastically, particularly for the Army, to a lesser extent for the Navy and Airforce, and not at all for the USMC.

    The new recruitment policy came into effect as the Iraki Resistance’s campaign against the hated invaders gathered force and effectiveness. The reasons should be clear enough what had previously been seen as a relatively easy way of poverty suddenly became a very hard option indeed. Particularly once young men started appearing back in the USA minus, limbs, and quite often once the resistance mastered the shrapnel direction techniques pioneered by resistance units in Diyala minus testicles and/or penis too.

    The Pentagon’s response to a dramatic failure to meet even replacement recruitment targets was to consciously chose to drop standards so that things that previously were considered warnings such as gangs and white supremacist tattoos were ignored. [Blatantly obvious gang membership and membership of supremacist organisations was ignored as the Pentagon's policy developed, the SPLC and Chicago City Police and the TBI and GBI all did sterling work in investigating gang and supremacist infiltration of the American armed forces].

    So were ‘minor’ convictions. Minor in this context meaning non-felony offenses that did not involve the use of violence or weapons. Similarly convictions for marijuana possession were overlooked as a matter of policy but convictions for possession of other narcotics weren’t.

    The effects of all of this were predictable, predicted, and long-lasting and it’s fair to say that the backlash both within the Pentagon and from line commanders was intense and wrecked several G.O. careers.

    Standards were slammed back up very quickly and have remained so. It’s a myth beloved of lefties that American enlisted and non-comm ranks are populated by the dregs of American society with a generous sprinkling of sociopaths and psychopaths. But it is a myth the reality is very different.

    mfi

  51. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Adam Eran January 24, 2014

    and has some surprising observations about insurgency that, as far as I can tell, predate Petreus echoing his conclusions

    Wearing my hat beret as a professional military officer with a lifetime’s experience allow me to point out that you Americans LOST your war in South East Asia. You LOST your war in Lebanon before it could even get properly started. You LOST your war in Irak, and you LOST your war in Afghanistan. And it appears that you’ve also LOST your proxy war in Syria.

    You LOST all these wars using the techniques advocated by Petraeus and the LW/COIN merchants.

    Long may you continue to use those tactics.

    As for the Incas how long did it take for their empire to collapse in the face of an enemy not even slightly shy about using overwhelming violence at the drop of a Morion?

    mfi

  52. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Jill January 24, 2014

    I think you need to distinguish between the American State and small ‘g’ government. I don’t agree with you even slightly that as you put it:

    Yes, these people are scared but I think they are scared of populations who will try to stop their wars, their illegalities, their surveillance and propaganda.

    What on earth makes you say that? Why on earth would your ruling class (I’m assuming you’re an American) be afraid of the supine, cowardly, and increasingly atomised American populace?

    mfi

  53. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Via the FAS newsletter comes this very interesting document: Energy-Water Nexus: The Water Sector’s Energy Use

    mfi

  54. Apneaman permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Once the chaos starts, what if instead of the “collateral damage” being some abstract foreign women and her kids, it’s now your neighbor or your cousin or your parents or kids?

    I also wonder how many able bodied Americans have military training, but are no longer serving?
    How many have seen combat?
    How many have been trained in explosives and demolition?
    How many Americans are gun owners?
    How many American soldiers will shoot into a crowd? I’m sure some will, but what happens once their loved ones have been hurt or collateral damaged?

    Whats the track record of the American military/security forces
    after spending 3 trillion dollars?

    “In recent years, however, the unintended consequences of U.S. military operations have helped to sow outrage and discontent, setting whole regions aflame. More than 10 years after America’s “mission accomplished” moment, seven years after its much vaunted surge, the Iraq that America helped make is in flames. A country with no al-Qaeda presence before the U.S. invasion and a government opposed to America’s enemies in Tehran now has a central government aligned with Iran and two cities flying al-Qaeda flags.”

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175794/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_secret_wars_and_black_ops_blowback/

  55. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 25, 2014

    markfromireland
    January 25, 2014
    @ Celsius 233 January 24, 2014
    Mostly you’re and I agree but this:
    The standards today are rock bottom; criminals, drug addicts, miscreants, and psychopaths are welcome now.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I stand corrected. I failed to further qualify my statement and thus, far too broad a brush was applied.
    Your’s is for more to the facts as practiced. I was speaking to the army (and didn’t specify) and also forgot to mention the contractors (Blackwater as an example) . I feel they were not vetted to standards either.
    Cheers (PS, I’m not a leftie ;) )

  56. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Celsius 233 January 25, 2014

    You’re right about the contractors – at least originally. Then, several failures, caused both by having a very short tail, and by the inferiority of the personnel used, impacted not only the bottom line but also made potential clients think twice before issuing new contracts. They’re still not as rigorous about checking as they could be BUT having insurer ratchet their premiums up has concentrated their minds wonderfully. (Granted this is a generalisation as the mercenary industry ranges from highly capitalised and professional outfits like Control Risks or Blackwater under their various noms de guerre to ½ assed Ugandan outfits providing low paid and inexperienced guards for (amongst other clients) the American embassy in Baghdad.

    Noted re leftiness and your personal lack thereof. While we’re at it I’ll veer way off topic and thank you for your kind comments anent Saturday Chorale. I’ll be considerably increasing the number of full opus features during 2014 and am starting to research and write for covering a greater range of music in 2015.

    mfi

  57. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 25, 2014

    markfromireland
    January 25, 2014
    @ Celsius 233 January 25, 2014
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thanks and you’re a great source, “on the ground”, for the real deal, unfiltered (mostly I’d guess).
    As to The Saturday Choral? Where the hell do you find the time for that excellence?
    Cheers.

  58. Pelham permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Pretty much agreed, right down the line.

    I would only say that, in addition to all the awful downsides of this type of conflict, there is the not inconsiderable upside of high adventure, with widespread resistance providing a bracing test and revival of the human spirit of justice, equity and rightly motivated rage.

    The problem I see is the human slag available on the left — thin-wristed, compromised, divided, distracted and diminished as it is even in the midst of economic calamity that should play to its strengths.

    That’s why I think the sharpest leftward thinking should be devoted to formulating ways to reap a wide swath of the common folk currently on the right, those righteous middle- and working-class people so ground down by circumstances. They’re locked and loaded. They just require some honest and heartfelt persuasion.

    And for now and for the most part, forget the current batch of lefties.

  59. markfromireland permalink
    January 25, 2014

    @ Pelham January 25, 2014

    I would only say that, in addition to all the awful downsides of this type of conflict, there is the not inconsiderable upside of high adventure, with widespread resistance providing a bracing test and revival of the human spirit of justice, equity and rightly motivated rage.

    You do realise that this is total complete absolute and utterly unrelieved shite don’t you? I’ve spent my entire adult life as a professional military officer in one of the most violent and war-torn parts of the world (the Middle East). I started my career as a specialist with a more than ordinarily risky specialism (bomb disposal). During nearly four decades of service I’ve come under fire repeatedly and survived a several assassination attempts.

    Adventure my ass. There is nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever, adventurous or glamorous or good for the character about war. It’s squalid and vicious and the stench of dead and decaying humans is absolutely fucking revolting. So is the God-awful faecal stench of a human being whose been gut shot. That unforgettably awful stench is matched in its awfulness only by the animal shrieking of the person who has been shot. With any luck they faint because their nervous system simply can’t cope with that level of pain and shock. Then there’s starving and terrified civilians many of whom have diarrhea because they’re either reduced to eating contaminated food or to drinking contaminated water or more usually both …

    Go and read what Ian has written again here I’ll make it easy for you:

    such fights leave countries in ruins. If the elites continue on their current course, in many first world countries, Iraq and Afghanistan and Mexico are the future. People with no future will fight, and too many people now know how this form of war works

    What Ian is describing is something so close to the Hobbesian state of nature as to be well-nigh indistinguishable from it. I’ve seen it Lebanon, I’ve seen it in Irak, and now I’m seeing it in Syria. There is nothing absolutely fucking nothing of and I quote you directly “a bracing test and revival of the human spirit of justice, equity and rightly motivated rage” about any of it it is one of the most appalling calamities and sources of evil known to man. Go a and ask the Chechens what happens when a modern state unleashes its full power and might against a civilian population.

    Christ preserve us all from dangerous buffoons like you.

    mfi

  60. VietnamVet permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Thanks, for re-posting this. I agree.

    What is left out is the effect nuclear weapons have had on modern warfare. Nuclear armed ICBMs have made wars between States impossible. As soon as Vladimir Putin said “Nyet” on Syria, President Obama backed down.

    The world is now infected with Non Government Organization (NGO) Wars that provide jobs for mercenaries and profit war corporations. The ruling Western ideology is “get it all while you can”.

    The rot in the West is show by the break down of discipline in the nuclear armed forces which is necessary for preservation of the State and the survival of mankind. The Drone War body counts are meaningless. Selective assassination never brings peace. The insurgency has to be eliminated. The Sri Lankan defeat of the Tamil Tigers was the last such “victory”.

    The only valid foreign US strategic goal is to keep the trade routes open which is just as important to China and Japan as it is to Germany and the UK.

    To win wars overwhelming force is necessary to bring peace to the conquered people. Since this requires the draft and a 95% tax rate on the rich, WWII is the last war that the United States will win. The current ethnic NGO Wars need to be defunded and quarantined.

    A positive future for America is dependent on providing jobs for its young men and jailing wealthy law breakers.

  61. guest permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Why on earth would your ruling class (I’m assuming you’re an American) be afraid of the supine, cowardly, and increasingly atomised American populace?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I’m not quite sure what MFI means by atomised or what segments of the US he is describing as supine and cowardly, and it sounds like he has little idea what it is like to live in the various regions of the US. Maybe he is talking about the stereotype of effete urban liberals or the suburban white middle classes that have been in decline for over a generation. But as an American, I can tell you that many segments of the US are armed to the teeth and have some military background and are chomping at the bit to kill (see our stand-your-ground laws). And we already have lots of gun violence every day. It seems like workplace or school rampages happen once or twice a week anymore. Maybe not the kind of violence that could support a coherent political agenda, but for the most part the common man in this country doesn’t have any sort of coherent politics so that would be impossible.
    But liberal Americans do or should fear the day that any of it starts to gel into something more organized, because it will most definitely NOT be workers and the oppressed rising up to demand their fair share that will be the downfall of our society, such as it is. It will be something like the Tea Party where they show up armed at town hall meetings on healthcare reform to demand the government keep its hands off of Medicare. That is: stupid angry Murdoch propagandized idiots full of self contradictory ideas armed and ready to kill libruls, with the military and law enforcement agencies lending support or at least complicitly looking the other way. If liberals or blacks or muslims started buying guns and organizing to protect themselves, the bloodbath would start before it could get off the ground on some manufactured pretext.

  62. Neolithic Simulation permalink
    January 25, 2014

    IW: It’s simple enough to set up remote transmitters.

    And avoid being seen doing do how? And access them with what? If you’re going over the airwaves to reach them, then you’re still detectable.

    MFI: Hizballah – about whom you’ll find plenty to read on this site not least because they have a habit of winning their wars, beg leave to disagree.

    They used one drone. They’ve used ballistic missiles far more often. Are those equalizing weapons too?

  63. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 25, 2014

    A common theme posits that America is awash in guns; that’s true (but in and of itself is meaningless). Then, by extension of faulty logic, this is supposed to equate to ability and power. That there are veterans with combat experience is also true. But again by extension of faulty logic these ones would not represent meaningful numbers or effect.
    And lastly it seems that we think Iraqis and Afghan insurgents ability to fight superior forces is evidence that we in America can do the same. IMO, this is a false assumption. What isn’t taken into account is the character of the individuals and their respective societies and to compare Americans to these people is just evidence of a lack of understanding of the significance of the differences. These are a tough, genuinely tough people/societies who’ve been fighting continuously for generations.
    I have read from those who have been there that Afghans may be the toughest fighters in the world.
    I’ll qualify my comments by saying I am a certified instructor of rifle, pistol, and shotgun and been around firearms for 60 years. I have been an expert in small arms and fail to see how that will benefit an armed insurgency in America; pure fantastical thinking, IMO.
    If there are mass uprisings, sans arms; that will be the effective way to make change; John Wayne is dead.

  64. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 26, 2014

    An (unqualified) 2 cent opinion: The moment whomever pulls a gun for political ideas is the moment there will be no more civilians in the US, martial law will be invoked, and the police state will descend upon the population with a pent up vengeance. Those possessing guns will be hunted down without mercy, gun possession will not be tolerated. Communication will be monitored, curtailed or eliminated altogether, people will be isolated from each other, the ability to conspire will be terminated. Civil liberties will no longer exist, speech under severe edit only, no exception. The rule of law is gone, unavailable for the smallest dispute. All money will be frozen where it is, commerce halted in its tracks, the only goods will come from those in authority and going to only those who obey. So keep your delusion that gun possession will protect you; my opinion may be wrong, lets see if your guns are as good as you believe, or when you pull them -

    YOU MAKE THEIR DAY.

  65. guest permalink
    January 26, 2014

    So keep your delusion that gun possession will protect you; my opinion may be wrong, lets see if your guns are as good as you believe, or when you pull them -
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Does TBear really believe that all those assault weapons and ammo out there will somehow disappear overnight? If so, he is obviously reading right wing delusional lit. Look at Yugoslavia or almost anywhere in Latin America.
    Those guns didn’t just get out there because of an innocent but misguided interpretation of the 2nd amendment. It is and was a deliberate arming of the right, and 99% of those people so armed will be the private death squads used to crush and lynch anyone to the left of Atila the Hun. No government can use atrocities to oppress everyone on the left and right. They always co-opt the right to for their popular support and to do the dirty work that’s even too dirty for them.

    Also, all communication has already been monitored and stored for years and years. Google “snowden”. And a huge number of Americans, maybe most, are good with that. They certainly won’t be raising objections when the “troublemakers” like Code Pink end up tortured and murdered at the local soccer stadium equivalent.

  66. Pelham permalink
    January 26, 2014

    @ markfromireland

    Your self-righteous, tired rant is nothing the least bit new — especially to me but also, I suspect, to anyone capable of reading a newspaper over the past 50 years.

    Submitting to the supposed superior sensibilities of the military is just another way of knuckling under to yet another set of self-proclaimed boffins, in this case the military-industrial complex rather than the corporate-financial complex.

    As I said (and as you quote me, apparently with little comprehension), violent conflict is horrid. But if the powers that be are determined to allow no other respectable alternative, what would you suggest? Continuing to live on our knees?

  67. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 26, 2014

    @ guest

    What you have just excreted is a pile of emotional rubbish. I suppose it makes you feel good, warm and fuzzy. Your level of ignorance is to be expected though, it is obvious from your excrementa consisting solely of your dismal adolescent opinion; and the threats, are you for real? Is it your marvellous ability to discuss and convince that makes such threats necessary? Crush and lynch anybody to the left … – Oh my! isn’t that so sweet.

    No. You are a jejune jerk, stupid, ignorant and filled with yourself. This subject is closed.

  68. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 27, 2014

    Formerly T-Bear
    January 26, 2014
    The moment whomever pulls a gun for political ideas is the moment there will be no more civilians in the US…

    Now, that is well put/said. I hadn’t thought of it (a gun for political ideas) in exactly that way, but that would be the dynamic that ends our life as we know it.

    And then; So keep your delusion that gun possession will protect you; my opinion may be wrong, lets see if your guns are as good as you believe, or when you pull them -
    YOU MAKE THEIR DAY.

    The later is/was exactly my point.
    It’s the height of immature reasoning that the gun makes the difference between freedom and slavery/subservience. When the gun is the weapon of choice we’ve already lost.

  69. Apneaman permalink
    January 31, 2014

    @Celsius 233

    Your right about the Afghans, but having experience is not the only reason they are tough. There is also religion, anger and poverty with almost no chance of escaping it. Fear the man with nothing left to lose. Not enough Americans have got there yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Look at all those tent cities and folks sleeping in cars and under overpasses. Now they are cutting down on food stamps.
    I think you missed my point on collateral damage. Collateral damage creates revolutionaries and terrorist. See, American foreign policy. I would count all the returning soldiers and service personal who are ending their own lives (2 per day) as collateral damage. They were lied to then abandon. Many of their friends and family know this and are pissed. Millions of people have been abandon and there will be millions more to come.
    If any one wanted to bring down TPTB, they can do much of it by targeting infrastructure. For example, one skilled person could severely damage a lot of infrastructure from a keyboard maybe even bring down the grid. What if some group of nut jobs blew up a few sub stations or a bunch of transmission towers? Not a good idea, because it could result in a nuclear power plant meltdown, but crazy people do crazy things.
    As for “meaningful numbers” it often starts with small numbers. Just look at how few there were at beginning of the American revolution.
    Your not the first to claim “pure fantastical thinking”. It’s been said many times before. Like, all around London in 1774-75 and at Versailles in 1789. I find it interesting when people say something can’t happen, when it has already happened thousands of time throughout human history.

    http://energyskeptic.com/category/energy/electric-grid-energy/

  70. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 1, 2014

    @ Apneaman
    January 31, 2014
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Good points. My *fantastical thinking* statement was specifically aimed at those continually touting the number of firearms in citizen’s homes. My attitude is; so what? Armed to the teeth is a small part of the equation; the rest is missing.

    Yes, Americans are not there yet. The only possibility is for massive, nationwide, UNARMED, protests. The moment the guns come out; “…The moment whomever pulls a gun for political ideas is the moment there will be no more civilians in the US,…” T-Bear.

    That was my point.

    There already (over many decades) have been infrastructure attacks; transmission lines and towers, sub-stations, etc., but to little effect.

    Re my above; The only possibility is for massive, nationwide, UNARMED, protests.
    Cheers.

  71. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 1, 2014

    Addendum; I was on the streets protesting Vietnam (more than once) so, this is of course, my considered opinion.
    Our government is broken, our votes are predetermined (worthless), and our rights trampled with impunity.
    I see no other remedy.

  72. Martin Gottlieb permalink
    February 1, 2014

    Ian -

    You’ve left out one major development, the arrival of small, cheap smart weapons. See these

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhd1d2sW_3I

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLsBM4HTcF0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wobG_68P_LE

    Today, lots of companies make these in lots of countries. I don’t think there’s ever been a war between two armies so armed, but sooner or later it will happen.

  73. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 1, 2014

    Martin,

    yeah, add good 3d printing to that, and BOOM.

  74. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 1, 2014

    Martin Gottlieb
    February 1, 2014
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Yes, there is that.
    But how do you explain the success of the Afghan resistance against our technology?

  75. TarheelDem permalink
    February 1, 2014

    Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. When international politics becomes totally defined by war, an arms race occurs that has unpredictable results in destructive power, terror, or comparative economics. The United States through its domineering style of overthrowing governments to suit specific capitalist corporations has place evolutionary pressure that has reduced the cost of weaponry and communications. And then the US has had technology programs like drones and the internet that further reduce the costs of weaponry. And increase the pervasiveness, destructiveness, and persistence of warfare in it destruction of human communities and economic infrastructure. Consider, just for a start, how much land contains unexploded ordnance and how that has gone from the blockbusters of WWII to the millions of mines and cluster munitions since.

    The future of war in the developed world just moves the presence of war in the developing world to just another geography.

  76. Tim permalink
    February 2, 2014

    I’m pretty sick of hearing about how the “American national character” is too weak, to self-satisfied, to rebel. Heard that before about Egypt. Things change.

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