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

Ukraine Is The First Major War Of The “Age of War and Revolution”

There are periods that tend relatively peaceful, and there are eras of war and revolution.

Back in 2016 I added a new category, “The Age of War and Revolution”. It’s now 10 pages long. I added it because it was clear we were transitioning, and we’ve now hit a marker point: the first major war in the Age.

It’s the first, but it won’t be the last.

Sri Lanka was the first collapse of the Age (related “The Twilight of Neoliberalism“, a sub-category).

There will be more of those. My money is currently on England (good chance it won’t be the UK by then) being the first formerly 1st world nation to collapse.

I was talking to a friend about the “get out of the US” advice I’ve been giving for years. People have (rightly) often asked, “but where?” The obvious answer used to be somewhere in Europe, but Europe has chosen decline, and if they don’t manage it well, collapse. Many European countries are going to wind up in 2nd and 3rd world status (many are already 2nd world, and the UK, if you aren’t in the top 10% or so, is already a 3rd world nation, as is America, outside of Europe.)

I’m seeing two interesting trends:

  1. The US is losing its allure to the best and brightest technocrats;
  2. Though anecdotal, for the first time in my life, I know multiple people who want to, are, or have moved to China.

A lot of what made America “special” and led to it being a tech, science and engineering leader for so long is just that so many of the smartest people would emigrate there.

For a long time now I’ve told Americans that Canada is heading in the same direction as the US, we just started in a better place.

But that still matters. If I had gotten cancer in the US, I’d be planning my funeral and considering suicide to avoid the last months of hell. I’d be dead, even if still walking. In 10 years, I’m not sure that wouldn’t be true in Canada, in 20 years, I figure it’s likely.

Some countries will pull together and take care of their populations. Some won’t. Many won’t be able to, no matter how much they want to.

Wars will rage: there will be less resources; food and water will be scarce and per-capita food consumption is going to drop for at least 70 or so years, maybe longer. If you’re young, you’ll see the end of 1st world obesity, though that will be partially driven, at first by countries needing their citizens to be in fighting shape. (Most Americans are too wide to fit thru the hole into an Abrams tank, for example.)

Revolution will be common and so will civil unrest. The idea that non-violence is superior will fade. It will be used some places and times, but the hard ideological commitment to it among the left will die.

I’m unsure how technology will play into it. The obvious play for the rich was always autonomous robots, to overcome the “Who will watch the watchers” problem of police, military and paramilitary forces. But most countries probably won’t have the resources to create and maintain large numbers of armed robots and even the rich ones may find it’s beyond reach outside of certain protected zones.

But for now, just understand, the world has changed. This is a new historical era, we’re now solidly at its start, and Ukraine is only the first of the major wars, not the last.



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  1. Texas Nate

    Thank you, Ian. You’ve been a candle in the darkness lo these 20 awful years.

  2. marku52

    I think with resource wars, and the century of what I call “The Bugs Fight Back”, (maybe using so much antibiotics wasn’t wise…) we have probably hit Peak People. Not a bad thing from the ecosystem’s point of view, but going to be a mess to live through.

    William Gibson calls it “The Jackpot”, and it looks like we are well into Chapter One.

  3. different clue

    We could also call it the Age of Decline and Decay. The Age of Decline, Decay, War and Revolution.

    Civilizations have begun their long slide down the far side of Hubbert’s Peak and will come to their final resting place at the bottom of Hubbert’s Pit.

    China might survive better than most. Japan will survive if it can keep China rigidly out of Japan. America might survive if it goes more “Indian”.

  4. StewartM

    While there is no really good place to go if you leave the US, I do agree with those who chose China (or at least Asia). Not that they won’t have problems too, but they seem much more competent about addressing them and also their governments (be they democratic or not) seem to have much greater genuine concern over the welfare of their peoples.

    Our leadership, who spent all their youth drooling over Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead sees the rest of us as mere “useless eaters” even though it’s them, not us, who really lack any tangible or meaningful skills.

  5. Mark Level

    Ian, I fully agree, the writing is clearly on the wall for those of us “one-eyed” men & women living in the land of the blind, who refuse to see . . . I can trace my own existence to a time of war and counter-revolution in Europe back in the mid- to late-19th century when my progressive German ancestors were victims of “the Metternich system” to the point that they were forced to emigrate to the Northern Midwest US; similarly others (both on dad’s side, the Northern Euro one) in Ireland were starved out by the Brits in deliberate famine and also forced to move . . . Since the US became a global superpower in 1945, it has behaved as “Prince” Metternich did after his former ally Napoleon was defeated, globally supporting the wealthiest, most right-wing and predatory with networks of spies and informers (in Metternich’s day, the Church, Catholic or Protestant, Monarchism, and the wealthy boozhies), in the US case at an accelerated rate once Russia was handed over to “the Chicago Boys” who previously engineered so much misery to Chile, & quickly engineered a decade + shortening of the Russian male’s lifespan . . .Today’s Royalists are of course Ayn Randians, banksters, corporations and other soulless scammers. Just today I took Vol. 1 of derek jensen’s End Game down off my library shelf & started in on it. It really goes deep into the pathology that is “Western Civilization” & the insanity & misery it creates in practically everyone . . . very glad to see the Kali Yuga cracking and turning into something else, & so happy that even in my early 60s I have lived to see it breaking down, perhaps future folks will have some alternative to “the Black Iron Prison” that PK Dick foresaw. Rome wasn’t destroyed in a day, but the trend lines are obvious, and when you are in Hell you can always hope something better will follow all the endless worse.

  6. capelin

    The Neo-Liberal/pillage/resource outstripping/inequality clearly couldn’t hold. Good to see this overview for perspective, because when you’re in it it seems like it will go on forever.

    I would suggest that understanding the story of C19 is critical to understanding a key aspect of these brave new days.

    “Wars will rage: there will be less resources; food and water will be scarce and per-capita food consumption is going to drop for at least 70 or so years, maybe longer.”

    70 years. Woof. I don’t think humans will last that long in a large-scale anarchistic scenario. We have created so many letho-toxic toys, and minds, and it’s such a little planet.

  7. Soredemos

    @different clue

    In what world does China want anything to do with the island barbarians to its east? History has shown that the hostile interaction invariably goes in the opposite direction. You have to go back 800 years to find China attacking Japan, and even then it was under the order of the Mongols.

  8. Tallifer

    Here is what the progressive press is writing concerning the latest Russian missile attacks against civilians.

  9. Ian Welsh

    The Guardian’s coverage was significantly anti-Corbyn, they haven’t been progressive on anything the establishment cares about since around 2014 or so.

  10. Ché Pasa

    “The Age of Wars and Revolutions”

    Huh. Another paradigm shift so soon after the last one. Well, but that’s how it goes. Relatively long periods of stability then bam-bam-bam, one quick forced change after another. Chaos reigns. And then… well, things settle down again for however long on a new foundation.

    The wars have been part of our nonstop reality for the last 20 years and more. Whole regions of the globe have been broken by them, and none so far as I know have recovered. The wars have been the impetus for the reconstitution of some version of the Anglo-American Empire, or maybe that has been the impetus for the many wars, I don’t know.

    Revolution though, I don’t know. Where is it? Uprisings there have been many, practically nonstop, but they don’t seem to coalesce into a Revolution unless you want to count the numerous rightist uprisings (color revolutions and such) leading to coups, overthrows and sometimes electoral victories for proto-and-post-fascist regimes.

    The People have rarely chosen to take matters into their own hands except under extreme duress, or the wide perception of it whether real or not, and their ability or desire to persist beyond the moment is very limited. How many “monster demonstrations” of millions taking to the streets and rallying have we seen dissipate almost immediately once the last speaker finishes? Even the Trumpist MAGAs are fading out.

    I think about China’s predicted population crash (halved by the end of the century) and the lifespan declines in more than the US. The cull is well under way. Partly deliberate, partly happenstance. At some point the decline becomes precipitous. Maybe within 20-30 years or so. By then, it will be a different world, no? And our tech bros will have achieved their fondest desires. Full spectrum dominance.

    The desire for nuclear holocaust among some of our rulers has an upside you know. All out nuclear annihilation, so the thinking runs, not only reduces population quickly and in places thoroughly (and who can be against that, right?) but when done properly, it blankets the earth and skies in ash causing something we used to know as Nuclear Winter, actually reversing Catastrophic Global Warming — temporarily or permanently, hard to say — at least in the Northern Hemisphere, probably world wide, and who could be against that, also?

    The Age of Chaos is a net good?

  11. Astrid

    Not surprising and I don’t think it will really work unless they simply ban skilled people from leaving US borders, which is probably coming. Would it be ironic if soon in the future we have engineers and scientists paying coyotes to smuggle them across the border?

  12. Harry Haller

    The Guardian changed into a dedicated establishment mouthpiece after GCHQ agents showed up at its offices in 2013 demanding the hard drives containing the Snowden files which they took into the basement where staff were directed to degauss them and destroy them with angle-grinders. A symbolic (and bizarre) act as the Guardian surely had backup copies stashed away elsewhere, but the message was clear.

    Soon after this incident longtime chief editor Alan Rusbridger resigned and was replaced by Katherine Viner who has faithfully toed the neoliberal, Atlanticist and Zionist lines ever since.

  13. different clue


    You know how unfortunate disemployed people stand by roadsides holding ” will work for food” signs?

    I get delicious thrills of high-octane spite just imagining the spectacle of unemployable Randroids and Libertardians standing by roadsides holding ” will explain Logical Positivism for food” signs.

    Is my schadenfreudian slip showing?

  14. different clue

    You know what? My aging brain just realized that the phrase I wanted was probably ” Philosophical Objectivism” rather than ” Logical Positivism”.

    So I should have typed . . . ” will explain Philosophical Objectivism for food”. Oh well . . .

  15. different clue

    Engineers and scientists are probably smart enough to invent a better way out than paying a coyote to smuggle them out. They could learn Spanish with a credible Mexican accent, carefully die their skin a semi-dark brown, go to near the border, and then pretend to be illegal alien migrants, and get themselves thrown out of the country.

  16. different clue


    I remember reading somewhere that in the very latest 1800’s, China invaded the “Eastern-ish” zone of Turkestan and killed about a million Eastern-ish Turkestanians as part of that conquest effort. But today’s search obstruction engines prevent me from finding specific links to that invasion. The best I can do is this . . .

    By the way, its a New China now. The whole Chinese Leadership says so. Part of the New China goal is to secure enough access to survival resources from everywhere to keep surviving at the level to which the Leadership would like to remain accustomed.
    That will mean “stealth-colonization” of many places beyond China’s borders to keep the raw materials flowing. You don’t have to believe me now. You can watch the process unfold over the next few decades. I will repeat my prediction that China will make itself the most hated country in all of Southeast and South Asia by pre-empting all the water that falls on the Chinese side of the border on the headwaters of all the great rivers, so that the rivers cease to function as viable river ecosystems downstream from China . . . . and then cease to even deliver enough water for the downstreamers to even survive. Perhaps the ChinaGov will deign to sell the Downstream Barbarians enough river water flow to just barely survive . . . for a price.
    That’s a prediction too. And the next few decades will prove me right or wrong.

    I realize that technically-speaking, none of these examples cover the Island Barbarians to China’s East in the narrowest technical sense. But the New China has that covered too. Claiming the entirety of the China Sea from the Island Barbarian nations to the East who mistakenly think they own some of it too is motivated by a deep survival interest in all the lootable resources in and under the entirety of the China Sea. After the New China has strip-pumped the very last barrel of oil and gas from under the China Sea . . . and has strip-mined the very last fish from the waters of the China Sea, then China might lower its interest in owning the China Sea. And maybe not even then. And the Eastern Island Barbarians will join Southeast and South Asia in holding China close to their hearts as the most hated nation in Asia.

    By that time, America should be so deeply declined as to be not even a factor at all.
    Except perhaps as the New China’s Great Overseas Tibet, its Great Eastern Golden Mountain Treasure House, its Water Tower Number Two.

    ” So long, its been good to know ya “

  17. capelin

    Che Pasa – “Revolution though, I don’t know. Where is it? Uprisings there have been many, practically nonstop, but they don’t seem to coalesce into a Revolution…”

    Good point. And what better way to prevent said coalescence (always a tall task) at this critical, connected time, than a big oh-my-fk hyped-up and divisive global pandemic and “cure”, which not only makes the masses sicker and poorer, but also delivers a massive body blow to normal, functioning society – literally outlawing vast swathes of non-screen interpersonal activity – all the while whipping up fear, scapegoating, and othering.

    Concurrently, throw in massive amounts of official disinformation, tracking, and censorship.

    Voila, instead of global civil society coalescing, we’re arguing amonst ourselves over mask effectiveness; or not even bothering to argue or talk with the “others” anymore.

  18. Trinity

    Well, the wars have been ongoing forever, more or less. There was a brief quiet period in the 1980s. The frequency of occurrence has increased, but that’s because they are easier to start. Everything has sped up.

    Wars are always about resources, always have been, no matter what they say. From refilling the royal coffers to stealing land, to now oil, profits, political power in order to grab foreign resources, and especially land for polluting small countries so as to extract maximum profit. Nothing much has changed except they learned how to profit from the wars themselves (selling arms and intel), too. So here we are. Or maybe they always did, and no one recorded it.

    Resource shrinkage is what’s happening which means even more wars over anything from potable water to the rare earth minerals necessary for the surveillance network. Might even be over food sooner rather than later.

    Their activities aren’t sustainable, but who knows who will last the longest and keep the deprivation going for the rest of us.

  19. Stirling S Newberry

    We are borrowing from the future. Any “growth” that comes from fracking is really money that is spent from the future. Then there is the Russo-Ukrainian War, there is no profit from it. In a recent paper, I pointed out that Sri Lanka was bringing in fuel and would collapse. It happened while the paper was being graded.

  20. Jan Wiklund

    Concerning non-violence: Hopefully people will be less ideological, more pragmatical. But the question of violence is highly pragmatical. It’s a matter of who will gain from violence and who will loose.

    And the direct producers mostly loose from violence because violence is what states are best at.

    Sure, there will always be those who gain from violence because they aim not at raising poor people, but at organizing mafias. But mafias mostly live from plundering the direct producers; states may loose some taxes if mafias abound, but they can live with that.

  21. Ché Pasa


    Exactly. Apropos of masking arguments, I’ve long thought they’ve been energized and sustained in large part because they are one of the few areas of life many people feel they have some kind of power over, everything else being so controlled. When masking requirements were first imposed widely, I recall some of the protests led to the immediate lifting of the requirements. Wha-lah! Power!

    Sad to say. When people feel they can’t do anything else, they have absurd fights over stuff like that.

  22. Jessica

    @DifferentClue and @Soredemos
    What you are looking for is the Dzungarian Genocide by the Qing in the 1700s.

    China suffered the century of humiliation from the 1840s until 1949, but a major cause of this was the century of conquest to the west. About half of China’s land mass (but the far less populated half) was conquered by the Qing in the 1700s. But to do so, they ignored clear signs of vulnerability along their coast.
    Important to know about the Century of Humiliation because it is central to contemporary China’s sense of itself. Important to know about the Century of Conquest to the West because it isn’t.

  23. Astrid

    Incidentally, ETIM advocates expelling all non-Uyghurs from Xinjiang, even though Northern Xinjiang is historically Mongol. There are also significant Kazak, Turkmen, and other non-Han populations there.

    Not that anyone should be attributing the motives of the regimes that died centuries ago to the government regimes today. But attributing policies of the Qing dynasty to Chinese cultural propensity is particularly problematic. Although significantly Sinicized after their conquest, the Manchus and their allies constitutes only a few million in population and are culturally very different from Han majority. They engaged much more, both positively (trade, intermarriage) and negatively (wars) with people’s on their borders, compared to the isolationist Ming dynasty that built the Great Wall to keep barbarians out.

    To focus on Qing history to identify some sort of Chinese “essentialism” is like assuming modern Venezuela would behave like the Spanish Empire because it was once part of that empire. Or that Mongolia, which was part of Qing empire, continues to behave like it. Sure, there are lots of similarities and a shared past, but it’s also very far and in many ways in opposition to that past.

    Anyone with reasonable understanding of modern Chinese history would know that Chinese modernisers were far more influenced by Japan and German and later the USSR and the USA, than their imperial history and particularly the decrepit Qing dynasty. This isn’t necessarily better, though the CPC regime has always been very careful. The two times when they deviated from their non-interference foreign policy (Korea and Vietnam) they paid a very heavy price.

  24. Soredemos


    Show me any evidence that China has demonstrated any desire to (attempt to) invade and occupy an island of 125 million people. Further, show me any evidence that they remotely have the capability of doing so. It’s not clear China could even take and hold Taiwan, an island with about a sixth of the population.

    Claims that Japan itself has any reasons whatsoever to worry about annexation by China are the height of absurdity. The two countries will continue to have their insipid nationalism fueled spats over inconsequential islands, but I will buy and eat a hat if anything remotely like Japan becoming the newest province of Wa or similar ever happens.

    Japan will ultimately have to resign itself to becoming a kind of periphery state to a resurgent middle kingdom that has resumed its role as the center of gravity in the far east, instesd of a US client state, but that’s far different from conquest or control. Traditionally Japan managed to avoid even becoming a Chinese tributary client state, instead doing things like arrogantly claiming to have its own parallel Emperor.

  25. Astrid

    Jessica, the Manchus controlled all of China by about 1650. It was a pretty quick conquest because Ming was destabilized by internal revolts and key Ming generals opened the gates to the Manchus.

    Are you confusing it with the situation in the Southern Song.

  26. UphillBend

    I’m not familiar with the view of the Qing relaxing its vigilance against the West because of its expansions into Inner Asia.

    For example, the earlier Ming expended a great deal of financial resources fighting the Japanese to help the Koreans, as well as relaxing its focus from the northern borders, and I guess different viewpoints can be had about how that related to the loss of the Central Plains about a half century later. It would be natural to see links, but not as obviously a direct cause as the Byzantines and Sassanids knocking each other out over centuries and leaving themselves open to the Arab conquests. Especially when there were other more important conditions for decline.

    About Han Chinese diplomacy –

    I concur with some of the others here about China’s expansions. Speaking as a Korean, it is quite remarkable that the last time Korea had a war with a Chinese dynasty – that was founded by Confucian ethnic Hans – was 1,300 years ago. And even then one can argue that it was border settling between a Korean nation undergoing ethnogenesis and a revitalized Chinese empire led by a vigorous Han-Xianbei mixed elite that was (aggressively) defining its place in the world after centuries of existential ruin and absolute chaos.

    After the 7th century there have not been wars between Han Chinese and Koreans for over a millennium. Not discounting shrewd Korean diplomacy, but it is still remarkable given their proximity to each other and the power disparity. The only cases that come close would be incursions by the Red Turban rebels (a non-state group), and the Chinese coming to the aid of their North Korean allies to fight South Korea and her allies.

    (All the numerous invasions from the north after the Silla-Tang War were by steppe peoples at very early stages of Sinicization, or not even that. And even those peoples mellowed out once they became culturally Chinese.)

    One can argue the Song period does not count for Chinese non-aggressiveness, since the Song and Koryo did not share a border, blocked off from each other by the “barbarian” kingdoms in Manchuria and northern China. That is a fair point, but it also leads to another remarkable fact of (Han) Chinese foreign relations. The near complete lack of interference in domestic affairs.

    The Chinese did play barbarians vs barbarians games with real threats like the Mongol tribes, but once a dependable tributary relationship was established with fulfillment of required displays of respect, it was basically hands off.

    This was remarkable in the case of the Song since it needed and explicitly asked for help from the Koreans to fight as civilizational brothers against the northern hordes. Yet it stopped short at asking and did not push its tributary privileges to the point of coercion.

    It was even more remarkable in the case of the Ming since, 1) it was a powerful dynasty, 2) it shared a border with Korea, and 3) the Chosun dynasty was constantly wracked by ideological and factional conflicts (i.e. susceptible to foreign manipulation). Yet it never played off one Korean faction against another. Even when it looked 50/50 between the Ming and the Manchus, the Ming’s request for help from Korea was more in the form of reminding them of their debts to the Ming during the Japanese invasions rather than outright coercion.

    Contrast this with the current coercion of Korea by the US into the chip alliance, and the recent shameless export controls which affect Korean companies. Or the earlier coercion of Korea to participate in the laughable-were-it-not-so-sad “Coalition of the Willing” in invading Iraq.

    By the way, the tributary relationship, though problematic by modern standards, was not exploitative. Chosun Korea successfully negotiated INCREASED number of tributary missions, to the ire of the Chinese, because the give-and-take terms were so profitable. (Caveats that early Ming-Chosun relationships did have quite a bit of tensions, extending to some exploitative tribute requests; but the overall point stands.)

    A note about the Qing conquests. Aside from the salient points that they do not quite reflect Han Chinese tendencies, they can also be viewed as an early-modern Chinese state solidifying its hinterlands (via the leadership of an aggressive steppe people). As the US expanded westward and Russia to Siberia, so China into Inner Asia earlier than either of the two. All three had to give up some holdings in the modern era. The British, on the other hand and to name a few, failed to keep their near hinterland in Ireland and far-off one in India. So the US supporting Xinjiang independence or dreaming of partitioning Russia reeks of hypocrisy to the high heavens.

    (Especially given Xinjiang is a geographically and demographically complex region with the Han Chinese, after the various and few Pamiri peoples, as the second oldest ethnic group to continually be involved there, albeit intermittently, for over 2,000 years. The Eurasian Turks, Uyghurs, in southern Xinjiang descend from older-than-Chinese Indo-Europeans mixing with more-recent-than-Chinese Asiatic Turks.)

    PS My opinions about China actually diverge a lot from other South Korean, who are now comfortable with membership in the West and have adopted much of its attitudes. West-identifying Asians – such as South Koreans, Japanese, anti-communist Garden Grove Vietnamese, or Shah supporting and Aryan identifying Westwood Persians – will have narratives much more pleasing to Western ears. Sad that the great millennium-old amity between Korea and China has been replaced by the satisfaction of becoming first world and accepted by the conventional civilizational standard.

  27. Astrid


    Thank you very much for this.

  28. UphillBend


    I’m flattered someone whose postings I enjoy reading liked it.

    I rushed the reply while at work and can see now that it has quite a bit of rough spots.

    If you’re interested, I’ve recently begun putting up stuff in a similar vein on Twitter, under the same handle as my name for the posting here. I only post replies – accessible under “Tweets & replies”. If you don’t have an account, you can just search under “from:uphillbend” in the search bar.

    It’s pretty weak material w/ no technical insights and often teetering towards frustrated moralizing via short threads. My bi-cultural background seems to give them some interest, but only by going against the grain of both.

    Working full-time self-employed in a wholesale business, the tweets have the same rough flaws as the above. And after only 200 plus tweets, I’m already thinking I should spend much less time on it.

    Anyway, I just posted to this site on a spur of the moment motivation. I’m experiencing such unpleasant excitement often these days, as both my Korean and American backgrounds leave me open to similar US / West triumphalism and Sinophobia. So much bigotry dressed up in respectable outfits.

    And gratitude to Ian for running a fine website for reasoned and illuminating discourse in these difficult times.

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