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

The Sun Sets Slowly—Then Quickly

And there are moments when you realize it is setting:

The people of the mountain have checkmated the people of the sea. As commenter VietnamVet wrote:

The Five-eyes Oceanic Empire is dying before our eyes. UK, Canada, Australia, and the USA (let alone New Zealand) simply do not have armament or manpower to occupy Yemen to push the Houthi back far enough from the Gate of Grief at the mouth of the Red Sea to reopen the Suez Canal to western shipping. A global logistic choke point has closed. The second, the Panama Canal, is limiting ships due to the drought.

The American and UK navies both have manpower shortages. When the aircraft Carrier Gerald Ford left the region, it was already vastly undermanned:

In the face of a massive shortage of Navy sailors, America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), has downsized, cutting the crew aboard by hundreds of sailors.

The cuts appear to be deep and dramatic. Over the past six months to a year, some 500 to 600 sailors have left the USS Ford and not been replaced. In fact, the USS Ford has shed so many crew members that the ship’s company (core crew members that operate the vessel) is now below the Ford-class Carrier Program’s original Acquisition Program Baseline objective of 2,391 billets—a goal set back in 2004 that many observers considered unrealistic.

On top of this, ships can only store so many missiles. Every missile salvo reduces the amount of time before they have to return to base. America and Britain have been sending vast numbers of missiles to Israel and Ukraine and western manufacturing capacity is vastly below what is needed to refill stocks.

Meanwhile the Yemenis live in a mountainous country and their missiles are all mobile. It is impossible to take them out just with naval power: boots on the ground are necessary: a full invasion and occupation, in fact and that just isn’t happening: the US might be able to do it by going all out, but it would have nothing left for anywhere else.

So fundamentally, the US can’t invade and it can’t stop the Yemenis from shooting missiles. It might be able to bomb a lot, but that won’t stop the Yemenis: the endured one of the longest and most brutal bombing campaigns of the last hundred years just recently.

The US — the West, doesn’t have deterrence. We can’t do anything to the Ansar Allah which will make them back down and we don’t have the ability stop them by main force.

Trying to stop them by main force has made the situation worse: now even more vessels can’t enter the Red Sea—commercial cargo lines are not going to chance being shot up.

America is a naval empire. It, like the old British empire, rests on being able to keep the shipping lines open and on using naval power (and air power) to hurt nations while those nations can’t fight back. In the 19th century the Brits would park ironclads off the coast and just pound cities, and there was nothing those cities could do in return.

This is, then, one of the key moments in the end of Western hegemony. The point at which we no longer have deterrence; at which we can no longer “big foot” other nations.

The end of Western dominance is close, very close. I can taste it, like a hint of salt on a sea breeze. The Chinese are only behind in a few technological areas. Once other nations can get everything they need from China/Russia and other lesser nations they will be free to throw off the Western order, because the new and improved missiles make “stand off and bomb” far less effective than it used to be.

They don’t have to be scared of us, and soon they won’t need us.



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How Changing Military Technology Has Contributed To End of Empire


  1. Allison

    Once other nations can get everything they need from China/Russia and other lesser nations they will be free to throw off the Western order

    And shackle themselves with the new China/Russia/”other lesser nation” order!

    The interest rates on the debt will be lower…until they aren’t. A debt slave is a debt slave.

    They don’t have to be scared of us, and soon they won’t need us.

    There isn’t any “us” and there never was. There is only “them” – operating through facades and continually attempting to convince us via pure, unadulterated BS that we are like them and “we” both constitute an agreed-upon, integrated “us” when in fact no such thing exists in reality…nor would they want it to.

  2. Carborundum

    Amazing what seeing the world through the lens of Twitter does for one’s analytical certainty.

    Old IntOp’s saying [#n of _N]: “We’ll see.”

    Old China Hand’s saying[#n of a much larger _N]: “You’ll see.”

  3. Altandmain

    War has fundamentally changed. This is a change on the scale of what happened with industrialization that transformed Napoleonic style “line infantry” war to WW1 style trench warfare.

    Large numbers of cheap drones means that warships now must have enough Anti-Aircraft systems to stop drones, along with Electronic Warfare systems. Otherwise, they become sitting ducks. What I would recommend, if I were giving advice, is cover warships with AA like at the end of WW2 and lots of electronic warfare.

    Cheap drones can overwhelm expensive missiles. Keep in mind that even the US MSM, which spins things as much as possible in favor of US realizes the danger.

    There’s also the mater that the Saudi use of these US provided systems against Ansar Allah have not been effective.

    It’s also important to understand that for missiles, there’s also an assumption of 1 interceptor kills 1 missile. No. The norm is 2 interceptors and often more for harder to intercept targets. This is why Ukraine is running low – Lockheed makes maybe only 600 Patriot missiles per year. Russia according to some figures has launched >4000 missiles and there is no way to intercept the hypersonic weapons.

    It gets even worse. The US Navy no longer has tenders that can replenish these warships at sea anymore. That means a sustained series of drone strikes will force the US to retreat.

    There you have it. Yemen can launch a hundred drones and missiles at U.S. ships and the destroyer escorts will exhaust their supply of air defense missiles. In the 1970s the U.S. Navy had ship tenders that could pull alongside a destroyer and resupply it. Not today. The Vertical Launch Systems have to be reloaded in a port. That means the destroyers will have to sail to Dubai, which means the U.S. aircraft carrier they are accompanying will have to follow because it relies on them for protection from ballistic and cruise missiles.

    That’s a self-inflicted problem that probably happened due to poor US naval decisions and the military industrial complex trying to max out profit.

    The main US asset is now the nuclear submarine fleet. The US is too heavily wedded to other legacy and increasingly obsolete systems.

    Russia and China are ahead of the US when it comes to small drones. The US has overly focused on larger drones that are not likely to be survivable in any real war where the enemy can fight back.

    Also, if the US is struggling against Ansar Allah, what chance does it have versus Russia or China? There was NATO talk about blockading the Baltic Sea as a result of the situation in Ukraine, which will lead to a major loss for NATO. Another is, what kind of missiles and drones will the Chinese send if the US is stupid enough to provoke a war over Taiwan?

    None of these questions have good answers for the US – it would require a major doctrinal change.

  4. Mark Level

    Thanks, Ian. I believe you are entirely correct.

    Well, we lost Tallifer (after losing Hugh) . . . now we get “Allison.” I considered addressing Allison’s claim in the last thread that Julian Assange was only releasing things that were already known, implying that he was a cut-out for some sinister forces. Of course, Occam’s Razor suddenly appeared to me in all its glory & I had to think: hmmn, if Assange wasn’t revealing things TPTB (the Empire, the Atlanticists, the Dem Party genocidal warmongers) didn’t want us knowing, why the effort to gin up 2 fake “rape” cases against him as a prelude to forcing him into asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy, as a prelude to putting him in a Brit. maximum security hellhole & psychologically torturing him, as a prelude to extradition & a “suicide” like their former servitor Mr. Epstein’s? Oh, & when Mike Pompeo was confronted with the crazy plan they had engineered late in the Trump Reich to create a “distraction” & send someone into the embassy outright to murder Julian, he didn’t deny it, he simply said those who were reporting that should be arrested for violating national security, but yeah secretly Assange is pals with those people & is fooling us all.

    It is a tribute to your blog that the trolls hereon went from likely sincere & extremely arrogant (Hugh, who couldn’t argue specific points with any of us, but simply dismissed us as stupid), to Tallifer (who has amazing “alternative” sources of info. who proved unquestioningly that the mighty & shining “democratic” Ukraine would crush the tiny whelp Russia) to the latest version who glibly states: “There isn’t any ‘us’ & never was.”

    This point could certainly be debated, however no evidence is presented. Instead we get an absurd canard, THEY are as evil, arrogant & murderous & exploitive as our Ruling Class is– a ruling class currently aiding Israel by funding the murder of an average nearly 800 Palestinians daily (many others buried under the rubble & not formally counted yet), exterminating civilian men, women & children at a rate higher than the 3rd Reich ever attained against Jews, partisans and other “undesirables.”

    The NYT calmly explains to we proles that “We” (the US populace is culpable in any attacks on Ansar-Allah (“the Houthis”), we are escalating there to prevent escalation!! Yes, deeply logical and rational, just like “We had to destroy the village to save it” in Vietnam half a century ago. Oh yes, the Tuskeegee experiments weren’t directed against “them”, those exposed to syphilis & gonorrhea and never given treatment were a randomly selected, representative group of Mississipians, right? (No.)

    The official propaganda for the plebs is endlessly repeated, “We” are the Exceptional Nation, the Shining City on the Hill that defends the weak (all evidence contradicts this), spreads “freedom” (= Neoliberal Austerity, Income Inequality & Climate destruction) . . . just ask the Native Americans or the Libyans who died in the massive flood a few months back after their central government (which had previously improved Libyan education & the economy by amounts never seen elsewhere in Africa, before becoming calcified & corrupt), or ask the Sub-Saharan Africans being sold in the slave markets there how grateful they are to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the regime change.

    If they’re as bad as our leaders are, why do polls show the evil Putin with 80-85% popularity with “his” people? While Zelensky accd. to US pollsters is liked by between 20-25%? And the senile Biden is now liked by something like 34% of the populace, the dumbest ShitLibs imaginable who will buy logic such as, We’re escalating in Western Asia to stop escalation, or Trump’s locking up migrant children was cruel & disgusting, but our continuing his policies is warm & cuddly! (Coz after all we like LGBTQ people, and fakely affirm solidarity with “minority” populations in a performative manner. Such as Nancy Pelosi & the other gerontocrats wearing Kente Cloth & “taking a knee.” Now that is an attempt (albeit an absurd one) to create a “WE/Us”. Those with room temperature IQs would buy it; most, not so much.

    I can only close by quoting an old newspaper (remember those?) comic strip from my childhood, Walt Kelly’s Pogo: “We have met the enemy & he is us!”

    I may just scan past Allison’s efforts to dialogue here in the future . . . but in the interest of fairness, I will ask respectfully– Please do better in trying to pull the wool over my eyes, Allison. There are some pretty smart people who read & contribute to this blog. (Some far brighter than myself.) Some of us have studied logical fallacies & propaganda, gaslighting, etc. Trying to parse your “argument” all I can come up with is, “There is no us” (good Neoliberal thinking, straight from Maggie Thatcher’s “There is no society & never was” via Ayn Rand), but there is an evil Them lurking and waiting to destroy . . . (not us? then who?) Me & the inchoate mass of others who are called, uhm, “Americans” maybe? Please try harder– you don’t have to respect the views of people here, but if you wish to contribute and debate you should at least plausibly pretend to do so. Best of luck, anyhow. I don’t hate you (advice I got from an old Ian post) but I certainly don’t respect your intellect or take you as an honest interlocutor based on your first two shares here.

  5. mago

    Wow, Allison. That’s astute.

  6. responseTwo

    Good. US – start focusing on your society.

  7. someofparts

    Decades ago, John Galbraith explained in New Industrial State how Americans use the military to guide industrial policy. As Galbraith explained, any large industrial economy needs master plans at a national level. Instead of doing this directly, we chose to use the military.

    So I’m figuring that even as events show that we cannot afford our wildly expensive military complex, we will not be able to simply downshift and redirect our resources to more constructive purposes. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the way we manage national planning will do the job.

    I can’t see such a thing happening coherently, much less peacefully.

  8. mago

    My response to Allison is serious btw, not sarc.
    One feels compelled to practice cover your ass maneuvers everywhere these days lest offense be taken.

  9. bruce wilder

    “Keeping shipping lanes open” sounds like a reasonable goal until you realize that the real goal is enabling a genocide that the Houthis are trying to stop.

  10. Tallifer

    Perhaps the Saudis and the U.S. could strengthen the U.N.-recognized Yemeni government to defeat the Houthis?

  11. Ian Welsh

    None of this is surprising. It is based on a few variables — tech/industry and the current military “meta”. Cheap missiles and drones are not a good meta for the great powers, something I wrote about many years ago.

    Ever piece of the decline puzzle has been obvious for a long time, the question was only when it would “flip”. It hasn’t quite, yet, but I think this particular episode may be seen as the moment. (Ukraine to here, probably as a whole.)

  12. Forecasting intelligence

    Great article Ian.

    So, if the Americans are nearly out, presumably we face around 30 years of a multipolar world without a global naval hegemon.

    What happens to global trade and globalisation? How long can rely on long distance trading? How should your readers adapt and prepare.

    I’m thinking of getting my next laptop by 2026, 2027 or beyond looks likely timeframe for a Chinese takeover of Taiwan which will be disastrous for the global chips industry.

  13. Allison

    9/11 and the big events are the litmus test. All Assange had to say was, “Look, we at wikileaks haven’t come across anything specific regarding the 9/11 event, but given everything I’ve come to know about how the world works I would of course assume foul play. I’m also smart enough to know that an operation like that could not have been pulled (pun intended) off without insider knowledge.”

    Most here know that Wikipedia is not what it purports to be. It is tightly controlled. Ditto Wikileaks.

    So, Sabrina “Sabby Sabs” Salvati MAY be truer to a “citizen’s journalist” than Assange. Or Michael Tracey. But old Julian showing up in very expensive suits is a huge red flag to me, though I admit I am a mere layperson who never even finished my “higher education.”

    Former commenter Hugh was apathetic to atrocities committed by “the west.” I, on the other hand, think the entire Israeli and US political apparatus and the wealthy and elite they serve should be dead and in the ground.

    I just don’t like hero worship and I don’t need to align myself with pathological narcissists like Glenn Greenwald.

    Speaking of whom, whatever happened to the Snowden files? Less than five percent have ever been released:

  14. Mark Level

    Hey Tallifer, the “legitimate” gov’t. of Yemen which rules less than 30% or the country, or the other 70% ruled by Ansar Allah? Btw, the former “legitimate” President of Venezuela, the clown Juan Guaido, is now in exile in Miami in some minor academic job. Even Wikipedia now states Nicolas Maduro is the acting head of state–

    But at least Trump & your heroes Mike Pompeo (“We lied, we cheated, we stole”) & Biden pretended Guaido was the (CIA appointed) “Presidente de la Republica” to steal some $300 million the Venezuelans foolishly left in US banks. Thus more Venezuelans could suffer more hunger, & poverty, & forced migration to the US to be jailed & brutalized. Oh, & to provide fodder for racist Republicans who hate all brown people to get elected to office. Wins all ’round, I guess? Maybe not, even in your eyes? Care to comment?

  15. someofparts

    I saw an interesting video years ago of Guaido trying to have a peaceful lunch in a cafe somewhere in Caracas. Someone in the place spotted him and suddenly a large group of people surrounded him and started attacking. He managed to break free and you could see him running away in panic with a torn shirt.

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