The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Military Page 1 of 10

Israel’s Ground Forces Are Even Worse Than I Believed

Long time readers will know I’ve considered the Israeli army to be garbage, in terms of quality, for a long time—certainly since their last invasion of Lebanon, where Hezbollah cleaned their clock for them.

But this last invasion of Gaza has been absolutely humiliating. Hamas has forced Israel to retreat after losing at least one straight up battle. We’re not taking “guerilla hit and run” we’re talking losing a battle when you have air and artillery supremacy.

Generally speaking, they’re getting themselves ripped up: they can’t take and hold ground. They can’t clear out Hamas. Every time Hamas forces them to retreat, Hamas takes over administration again.

Meanwhile Iran and Hezbollah have proved that their anti-missile defenses are insufficient. The entire north has been denuded of civilians, and everyone knows that threats to invade Lebanon are baseless and delusional: they can’t even beat Hamas, and Hezbollah is far stronger. If they invade, they’ll be crushed.

It isn’t just that no one thinks that Israel has the best army in the world any more, no one with sense believes their army is even competent. It’s garbage. They can’t take losses, they don’t even infantry screen tanks properly (or, often, at all), they’re scared of clearing Hamas tunnels because of the casualties. It’s so pathetic it’d almost be sad, if they weren’t the ground troops for a genocidal power whose evil is so comic-book level it rivals the Star Wars empire.

Now Hamas obviously isn’t as strong as it would like to be: it can’t reopen Rafah, for example. But that’s the point, Hamas is a militia. Many of their weapons are literally home-made, where the Israelis are using the best American equipment and the Israelis still can’t win.

That’s one reason why Israel has to commit a genocide—they can’t win on the field, so all they can do is try to make sure as many people die of hunger, thirst and bombs as possible. Ethnic cleansing is off the table. Egypt isn’t scared of them any more, so they aren’t going to allow Israel to to push Palestinians into Egypt. They were considering it before, but not any more.

We’re in a race between Israel’s genocide and the Resistance’s pressure on Israel—Hezbollah’s clearing of the north. Yemen’s naval blockade and Hamas’s bloody war against Israeli ground forces. Israel’s losing the military part of this and being absolutely hammered economically, with a huge internal refugee problem, but as long as they can keep food and water out of Gaza, they stand a chance of completing their genocide.

America, if it’s serious about bringing in aid through the northern pier they’ve built, might, ironically, seal Israel’s defeat. (Update: yeah, maybe not. Turns out Israel inspects the aid and decides if it is to continue on.)

No matter what happens, however, Israel is screwed beyond belief. The only thing they have left that anyone in the region is seriously scared of is their nukes. Israeli regional military dominance is SHATTERED.

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And Iran Retaliates For the Embassy Attack

It’s on!

Looks like Iran wasn’t a paper tiger wimp who wouldn’t strike back.

Waves of drones right now, as I understand it the idea is to degrade air defenses, then send in the missiles. Some suggestions this will go on for at least three days.

American naval and air assets are helping Israel defend. I wonder if Iran will hit American bases too? Or, perhaps, tell its allies in Iraqi militias to do so, and stop playing around with small drone attacks: really hit them.

To my mind this attack is 100% justified. Embassy immunity is no joke, and Iran really had no choice but to strike, or nowhere would be safe.

Hezbollah is also hitting Northern Israel hard with missile attacks.

There’s some chance of this escalating into a large regional war if Israel counter-strikes, then Iran counter-counter-strikes and so on. Israel wants to draw the US in.

Remember, though, that war games tend to show the US losing a war with Iran. And if it goes that far, they WILL lose their bases in Iraq and the Persian Gulf WILL be shut down. Wouldn’t be surprised if they lose an aircraft carrier if they get stupid and try for too close support, as far as that goes.

Stay tuned. Slight chance this will turn into WWIII–remember, Russia is a close ally of Iran, and China has good ties as well. If Iran starts losing, they will help, especially Russia, who remembers that Iran was one of the only countries to step up and help them in a big way against Ukraine. At the very least, if Israel uses nukes on Iran, Russia is likely to respond, only possibly held back by the presence of Palestinians.

Interesting times to live in!

Update: And Iran apparently also seized a ship near the Straight of Hormuz. A warning that they can, indeed, play Yemen and shut down even more maritime traffic.

Update 2: Israeli air base Nevatem being hit:

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When And Where Will A Great Power War Happen?

I was asked this question by a friend today and I found myself uncertain if there would be a great power war or not.

My thoughts were roughly five:

  1. The US can’t win a war with China or Russia, in my estimation. Russia by itself is outproducing all of NATO by about 7:1 in terms of munitions. China has so much more industrial capacity that it’s insane. China won’t let Russia be taken out, if it has to it will intervene, in my estimation, because if Russia falls, it’s next. Russia provides the feed, fuel and mineral reserve it needs, in a form which can’t be interdicted by naval power.
  2. If there is going to be a war, the sooner it happens the better America’s chances, but right now, munitions are so depleted by Ukraine and Israel, that a war is essentially impossible. Since NATO can’t restore its munitions at current rates without years of effort, and has shown little ability to ramp up production, that means by the time the US/NATO is read for war, it’ll be even weaker comparatively.
  3. Western elites are incompetent idiots at anything but keeping power and accumulating wealth in their own nations. They continually blunder into wars they lose, they’ve shipped their industry to China, they’ve spent three generations systematically weakening their nations in pursuit of profit and power.
  4. Western elites also display breathtaking arrogance and assurance of their power and their ability push other people and nations around. They believe in their superiority and are isolated from any feedback which proves otherwise.
  5. Historically, great power transitions usually include large wars. Not always, but about two-thirds of the time. (Thucydides Trap, by Graham Allison goes into this in detail.)

Basically, the US is like Japan pre-World War II: powerful military, no way to keep up with losses during a war. Yamamoto famously noted that it was impossible for Japan to win against America, and was ignored. So the tiny island nation went to war with a continental power with far more manpower and industry than it had, and lost. America today is comparatively stronger than Japan was, but by less than people think, especially if China gets involved.

If there is a war, it could explode in any number of areas: Taiwan and the Lithuania/Estonia are possibilities, but if I had to lay a single bet I’d bet on Iran. Russia, China and Iran are currently conducting naval exercises together. Iran came to Russia’s aid in a big way during their war with Ukraine. Israel recently attacked Russia diplomatically, burning the good will there and Russia is hosting meetings between Palestinian factions to help them get over their differences so they are stronger. Iran has substantial industry, since it was blessed by American sanctions and is large enough to develop anyway. America is currently showing that its government is completely controlled by Zionist interests.

Iran is powerful, but it may look like a target America can win against.

Except that Russia and China aren’t likely to let that happen. If Iran looks like it will really lose, Russia might even intervene militarily.

But truthfully I don’t know. Americans would be insane to pick a great power war: the odds against them are way too high, even now.

But American elites are insane: completely out of touch with reality beyond their own inbred elite circle. They’ve been the world’s greatest power for as long as they can remember, feel entitled to the spot, and may not give it up without a fight.

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The Coming Draft And The Future Of Coercion

So, the American military can’t make its enlistment quotas:

According to widely-reported leaks the US Army missed its recruiting target by an enormous amount in FY23 and will shrink by some 24,000 people going into 2024 – over 5% of its end strength. Apparently most of the positions being cut are already empty.

It’s no mystery why this is happening – most of the recruiting crisis is attributable to a catastrophic drop in accessions among white men. This is a huge demographic which disproportionately seeks to join the combat arms, so the impact to the Army’s combat power is disproportionately large even in comparison to those bleak numbers.

The usual explanation given for this is the one given at the link: it’s primarily about woke politics.

I’ve spent some time hanging around where US veterans talk, and there’s something to it. The people who aren’t enlisting seem to be disproportionately the children of previous veterans: those veterans used to encourage their children to enlist, now they are telling them not to. These are often families where members have served for generations.

But it’s not all culture war, and I’m not sure it’s even primarily culture war: complaints about under-pay, terrible base housing (including black mold) and forever-war abound. The only really good thing the army has going it for it now is that it still pays for college— or that’s the consensus. And enlistment issues were developing under Trump, even before Biden, it’s not primarily a partisan issue.

None of these problems can be easily fixed. The US military budget is already huge, but raising pay would require paying less for equipment and to contractors, and that’s how politicians, important donors and ex-generals get rich. Fixing bases might be slightly easier, since it can be done by contractors, but it’s not as high return to the political donor class as vastly over-priced equipment and shitty weapons. As for Forever War, well, the neoliberal and neoconservative factions are united in support.

There are two obvious solutions. The first is a draft and there has been floating of the idea. I think it will happen. Among the veterans and military hangers-on there’s a lot of doubt about it for a variety of reasons. It would require the army to organize to work with a draft, among other things, but one criticism is that it would be hard to enforce the draft because America is full of dangerous men with lots of guns and seizing people off the street the way the Ukrainians do wouldn’t go well.

I tend to agree, but that’s not how it will be done. Instead, if you don’t report, they’ll freeze all your accounts and forbid all financial institutions, including credit card companies, paypal and crypto exchanges from doing any business with you, including transferring money or even cashing endorsed checks (though checks are barely a thing any more.)

If your family aids and abets you, well, the same thing can be done to them.

This was pioneered en-masse during the Canadian truckers protest. I didn’t like the protest, but the way it was shut down was absolute totalitarian garbage. It worked, though. People can’t survive without money in this economy, and the cash economy is miniscule. Back in the late 80s I lived in it for a while, and it was easily do-able with very minor sacrifices, at least at the lower-class level. Tons of businesses would accept endorsed checks and checks were the main way wages were paid, for example. Landlords would take cash and didn’t sneer at it, nor did they check your credit rating. Full time jobs even existed which would pay in cash, and tons of part time jobs and casual labor paid cash, plus every business accepted it.

Now, not so much. No need to go into details, we all live in our near-post-cash shitty economy.

The reduction of the cash economy is the hall mark off all semi-totalitarian systems: systems which want to enforce how you spend your money and how you get paid. Much as I like them in other ways, this includes Scandinavian systems and much of Europe. Almost the first thing Modi in India did was remove all large bills from circulation, this was part of his authoritarian bent, and was economically disastrous.

Paper cash is freedom. Centralized electronic exchange is tyranny. As with all tyranny, it’s great for strop crime, but “crime” is defined by politicians and judges owned by oligarchs. Not sending your child to die for your country? Crime.

Now the second way around this is still not quite possible, but it will be very soon: autonomous killer robots. I remember reading that in the invasion of Armenia some people were killed by them, but they’ll soon be mainline because they are resistant to jamming and they don’t require operators.

Internally this is great: you don’t have the “will they fire?” issue that troops and even cops sometimes have when faced with dissent. All you need is techies to maintain and program them and someone to give the orders, none of whom have to be right there doing the killed and hearing the screams of the people they’re killing, right up and personal. Plus there’ll be lots of profit opportunities for the oligarch class, retired generals and politicians and their families.

Externally it’s great too. Who cares if your population won’t sign up for forever war killing gooks who never did anything to you?

Welcome to the future of war. Join the military or starve, and, increasingly, be killed by a robot.

(This will be a brief era, though it will seem long to live thru. Civilization collapse will deal with it, though not as fast as we’d like. Now that they’re perfected, drones/robots are not that hard to build. Rescue from them will probably require collapse of the semiconductor or battery industry.)

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The Terminator Future (The End of Meat)

This is my third piece this week on how the world is changing and why. The first handled the geopolitical, the second the military tech at this moment and how that is making empire difficult.

This one is about the future.

There’s going to be a period of war which is all about autonomous robots. Drones, missiles, robodogs with guns, tiny swarms, etc…

Humans are a stupid and inefficient way to apply force: most of the human body is not designed for combat: we are slow, clumsy and easily damaged and destroyed compared to what we can build.

As the cost of autonomous robots (and they will be autonomous because remote control is a weakness) continues to plummet and as the knowledge of how to build them spreads, they will replace humans on the front lines. Humans will be victims, but not primary combatants.

At the state level this means that states which can produce the most robots will win: the robots will be expendable and used in vast numbers. The chain of resources to manufacturing and the ability protect that chain will be what matters.

For smaller groups, robots will offer cheap violence against soft targets (and sometimes hard targets.) A militia can be people who build drones then use them to attack a governor or an activist they hate.

Let’s give one concrete example. Say it’s twenty years from now, you’re China and some piss–ant country like Yemen is causing problems hitting your ships with drones and missiles. You warn them and they don’t stop.

Fine. Release a few million autonomous hunter-killer drones. They will crawl over every single inch of land, not even in the mountains will it be possible to hide. No matter how  many robots Yemen has,  you’re China, you have magnitudes more. You can’t lose.

In time there will be, as the gamers say, a “meta”–we’ll figure out how autonomous robots work, and how to fight with them and defeat them and so on. But during the adoption period (and remember, that period is usually 30-40 years and sometimes longer) those who figure out how to use robots best will punch far higher than their apparent weight, and if anyone can obtain a monopoly on some for of advanced weaponized robot which is effective (like European ironclads when no one else had any), well, they will do very well and may be able to parlay that into a long period of dominance.

Don’t be sure you know exactly how this will play out. For example, a decentralized model where every citizen builds and contributes drones may turn out to be very strong versus a centralized model. Or it may not. We don’t know yet.

But the time of meat as the right way to fight is coming to an end.

(Or has it? We’ll come to that in the next article in this series.)


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How Changing Military Technology Has Contributed To End of Empire

Before WWI, strategically, machine guns were offensive weapons. They were used to expand the European empires against opponents who didn’t have them.

Come WWI, it turned out that they were defensive weapons which made offensive operations very hard if both sides had them.

Armor and air made fast offensive operations possible in WWII, and aircraft carriers made air the queen of the ocean and the king of force projection against nations without large air forces.

Over the past twenty years two major things have changed in military technology. I’ve written about both in the past.

The first is the spread of cheap and effective drones and missiles. It was always clear that drones were not going to be weapons of the powerful. What matters for weapons systems is who can afford them. If you need aircraft carriers and you’re not a major country, you’re shit outta luck. The end of medieval nobility arrived with gunpowder weapons, specifically cannons. King could afford them, nobles couldn’t, and old style castles couldn’t stand against them.

Another thing about drones and missiles right now is that defenses against them aren’t very good. Hit missile defenses with a large enough wave of attack and some will get thru, and if you have decent intelligence, some will get thru and destroy some of the air defenses.

In the old days if you wanted to bomb, bomb away and inflict terrific damage on someone without them being able to strike back, you had to have a lot of aircraft and either basing rights or aircraft carriers. Now they just have to be in missile and drone range. And often the missiles and drones are way cheaper than the defenses.

This means it’s easy to hurt the other guy. No more Israel pounding Lebanon and Lebanon can’t strike back, even though Israel’s military budget is way more than Hezbollah’s. Likewise missiles and drones are great at shutting down naval traffic, as the US, UK and Israel are discovering.

But what has happened at the same time is increased strategic ability to defend. Improvised explosive devices, cheap drones and missiles, and the way that armor (tanks, etc…) has become almost worthless. You can’t punch thru, anymore, if you don’t exhaust the defender first or take them by surprise. We’ve seen that in Afghanistan, but we saw lesser version in Iraq and Afghanistan; the US could take the cities, but everywhere else they were in danger: take out a convoy and get hit by IEDs and guerilla attacks.

It’s easy to hurt the other guy, but it’s very had to take and keep territory. “Big Arrow” war requires massive overmatch in forces.

To put it crudely, any pint-sized country or reasonable sized militia is in the game: they have weapons that can threaten anyone near them. There’s no “stand off and bomb”, not even for the US, unless it wants to withdraw from its overseas bases. The enemy can almost always hit back. If Israel goes to war with Hezbollah, Hezbollah, with at least 150k missiles can and will flatten Tel Aviv if Israel decides to flatten Beiruit.

One-sided deterrence is broken. “You win on the ground quickly and you can’t hit us from the air without us being able to retaliate.”

That the new military technology status quo.  There are exceptions, and there are particular cases (many people think that navies are essentially obsolete except for submarines in any real war, and submarine detection technology is advancing so quickly that even subs may be useless soon.) But basically, it’s hard to conquer someone who’s properly prepared (Armenia was not, Ukraine was, Hezbollah is, Hamas is.) And it’s hard to shut down drone and missile based retaliation, so you can’t have nice little colonial wars like Gulf I where you hit them and hit them and all they can do is take it.

War, war always changes.

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The Entire West’s Military Is Weak

This has been lifted from comments and made into a post. It is by Altandmain.

The US hasn’t fought a serious opponent since WW2. Even then, the US vastly overstates it role and understates the USSR’s role in defeating Germany.

Likewise, the UK had this problem. The UK was not prepared for WW1. It also suffered from that problem in WW2. The reason is because it was focused on imperialist colonial wars. It’s military in early parts of WW1 and WW2 didn’t do so well at first and had to undergo a very steep learning curve.

The US has this problem now as well.

The first problem is that industrial warfare is fundamentally different than guerilla warfare. It means that the US doesn’t have overwhelming industrial strength. US troops and mercenaries that have served in Ukraine didn’t do so well. They aren’t used to fighting in an environment without total US air and artillery supremacy. That’s a huge shock. One fear is what the US will do if the US gets into a war and they take losses of carriers and the like. The main risk, in other words, is that it would go nuclear after the US ruling class panics.

A second problem is doctrine. Early WW1 era fighting was built around fighting a war in the 19th century. If one looks at the tactics that the European powers used in the opening phases of WW1, it was almost like they were fighting the Napoleonic Wars again. They ignored the trends that had developed during the Industrial Revolution, along wars like the US Civil Wars and the Crimean War about the implications. Similarly, the US and NATO doctrine is built around the Gulf War, with a very limited appreciation of what had changed and how it affected war.

The US is in a similar position, having waged wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. These were mostly Neo-colonial wars meant to enforce US hegemony and steal the natural resources of the nation they were invading. In other words, they were like the wars the British Empire waged.

A third problem is greed. The US military industrial complex is not built around weapons made for best combat effectiveness, but corporate profit maximization of companies like Lockheed Martin. Western governments are all corrupted by the rich, who act through intermediaries like lobbyists to corrupt any pretensions of democracy and accountability.

A fourth problem is declining Western innovation relative to the rest of the world. Russia for example has more advanced electronic warfare and hypersonic missiles, which the West doesn’t have.

This will be an even bigger problem if the US is stupid enough to go to war with China.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/02/china-leading-us-in-technology-race-in-all-but-a-few-fields-thinktank-finds

As for who has more manufacturing, China has more manufacturing than the US and EU combined. Most of China’s military is closer in structure to Russia’s, with large state owned enterprises that do both military and civilian products.

It’s not just Israel which is weak, it’s all of the Western armed forces.

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Why Israel Is Performing So Badly Against Hamas

It has become clear that Israeli forces are not succeeding at taking out Hamas. Israel’s own estimate of Hamas casualties from October 7th to the ceasefire was one to two thousand Hamas deaths. This is almost certainly an overstatement, for obvious reasons.

Maps of the Israeli invasion show control of a fair chunk of Northern Gaza, but it isn’t full control: they still get attacked by Hamas in most of these areas. Videos of Hamas attacks often show amazing levels of Israeli incompetence, most often lack of infantry screens for tanks.

The reason is simple. For decades the Israeli army has primarily been used as a paramilitary occupation force: they shoot, bomb and beat up civilians who can’t fight back. You become good at what you do, and when it comes to terrorizing civilians, the Israelis are top-notch. It’s why they train police forces and paramilitary forces around the world, including in America and India.

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But if you specialize in beating up people who can’t fight back: in sniping civilians, bulldozing houses, raiding civilians homes and so on, well, you aren’t going to be good at fighting military forces.

On top of this Hamas’s military wing has only one real job: to fight Israel. So a force optimized for beating up civilians (the IDF) is fighting a force which while woefully under-equipped, is optimized for fighting them.

Israel’s main reason for damn near indiscriminate bombing is because they want to ethnic cleanse and/or genocide Palestinians. But another reason is that they suck at fighting Hamas, and so “mowing the grass” is all they really can do: it’s all they really know how to do. For a couple generations now, the IDF’s main strategies against enemies in areas they don’t control has been bomb, bomb away and their strategy in areas they do control has been raids, beatings, snipers, bulldozers and so on.

The IDF is just hyper-optimized for fighting people who can’t fight back effectively, and unfortunately for them, Hamas is optimized for fighting the IDF.

It should be added that this is a specific example of a general rule: occupation armies become weak (they also become brutal and stupid). It’s one of the reasons why you should never use your army as an occupation force for any significant length of time.

If you must occupy for long periods, you should have a separate organization which is not under the same command. And your military should despise that organization and consider them dishonorable scum. If it’s any other way, your military will be useless when you face a real enemy.

Update:

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