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

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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  1. Feral Finster

    WWIII will quickly go nuclear. The sociopaths whom Tallifer so rapturously fellates would gladly obliterate 99% of life on earth, if that were the price of dominion over whatever is left.

    Hell, they’d do it just to keep anyone else from being Top Dog.

  2. Keith in Modesto

    In the paragraph beginning “If there is a war, it could explode in any number of areas…” there is this sentence: “Israel recently attacked Israel diplomatically….” There may be a typo in there somewhere.

  3. Curt Kastens

    My comments at for the 13th of March 2024 pertain to this subject.
    A few key points. The hostility of western leaders towards Russia and Russians is not going to go away once the Russians capture Ukraine east of the Dniper or all of Ukraine.
    I then list two strategies that I think that the Russians would persue. And I list which one I would encourage them to persue.
    I got in some hot water with the site owner and moderator for my comments because they were quite incindiary.

  4. Stewart Millen

    Basically, the US is like Japan pre-World War II: powerful military, no way to keep up with losses during a war.

    The legacy of the Cap Weinberger “Be All You Can Be!” military. No draft, no manpower depth, hideously expensive and complicated ‘shock and awe’ weapons meant to overwhelm third-world conventional armies so that our elites can have their Vietnams for the interests of Exxon-Mobil and United Fruit with little manpower risk and thus few body bags (so no Vietnam War domestic backlash).

    Of course, since then we’ve made the hideously expensive weaponry even more hideously expensive because Congress hamstrung the Pentagon in lowering contractor costs (like Medicare was hamstrung in negotiating drug prices). Once a subordinate of mine needed to buy a laser box, which was made expressly for the US military and sold for over $20,000. She was able to talk the vendor down over the phone to $1,500. And I’m sure they made lots of money at $1,500 as it was just a metal box with some electrical connections. That’s why the US spends almost WWII money in real dollars for a military of only a fraction of WWII’s size and power.

    There is no way for the US to field such a force without:

    a) the Pentagon being able to demand the contractor’s cost and force them to sell and manufacture at a reasonable (say, 5 %) profit;

    b) weapons must be made simpler, more robust, less complicated and easier to service. Spare parts must be readily available. This may mean making them less ‘shock and awe’-y but if you can make more of them, quantity has a quality all of its own. It may also mean more body bags but that’s an unpleasant fact about war that we’ve tried to minimize (as I said, to make constant war for at least our side a bit more palatable; we don’t mind how many babies on the other side we kill).

    c) You have to go back to a mass army again. The volunteer force never had enough depth. Native-born youth is out-of-shape and sick, and fewer in number, so you’ll have to use immigrants most likely to help fill the gap.

    I will note that insofar as c) is concerned, neither Russia nor China is in better shape, as both are experiencing demographic issues (though I think their youth populations are healthier than ours). So immigration would be a big asset for the US, if some Americans can get over their fears of brown “Jesus”es coming up from the south. If our history is a guide, the only way we really treat other human beings as potential citizens is after they demonstrate that their bodies too can stop bullets just as well as any white man’s.

  5. Watt4Bob

    WWIII will start with the simultaneous obliteration of London, Washington D.C., and New York City.

    This action will be preceded by a warning announced 30 minutes prior to detonation, calculated to stop any retaliatory response.

    This warning will explain that further violence would be unnecessary, since de-nazification will then, have been adequately accomplished, and, if the west agrees, the nuclear torpedoes currently lying under water adjacent to many other major western cities will be disarmed.

    “War is over, if you want it.”

  6. Purple Library Guy

    I think it’s worth noting that while the US government is currently controlled by Zionist interests, there are significant tensions on the issue in the US political class. Biden’s government is old guard. But there is a strong faction of the bureaucracy that has about had enough, and there seems to be a gradual shift in the Democratic party under way, where AIPAC etc. are no longer capable of reliably ending careers of Democratic politicians they don’t like, while various forces push for non- or less- pro-Zionist politicians to be elected. Some of these forces are about grassroots humanitarian stuff, but I think there is also an increasing perception among many Democrats that Israel is backing the Republicans, and some of the foreign policy elites just want more room to maneuver and are starting to see Israel less as a useful tool and more as locking them into a troublesome position in the region, boxing them into a corner.

    I would not be surprised if by the 2028 election (if it happens) the Democratic party will be so mixed on Zionism as to make their policy positions quite unpredictable, if not actually majority unfriendly to Zionism. The Republicans will still be pro-Zionist because Dominionists and because they are for anything the Democrats are against and because the big Zionist donors will be concentrating their efforts there.

    So yeah, I think the relationship between the US and Israel is going to enter a period of flux. In the only slightly longer term, oil companies are going to lose a lot of political power as everyone starts driving electric cars, and the Middle East will lose foreign policy centrality.

  7. Eric Anderson

    In the Great War context, American leaders’ hubris stems from the same place it always has. Geography. They don’t fear an invasion force. And Russia and China are totally unprepared to field one because they’ve never been concerned with offense.

    The U.S. is solely concerned with offense and still maintains the ability to bring very swift, and very widespread destruction to critical infrastructure. And about those Space Force shuttles flitting about for months on end? Add the destruction of all satellite communications.

    I’ve said this before, both Russia and China combined cannot hold a candle to the air power the western nations can collectively bring to bear in coordinated attacks.

    Yes, the defenses against the air invasion are strong and getting stronger. But as it stands, they’d be utterly overwhelmed. We’re not talking about artillery shells here. They can’t reach the U.S., and the U.S. will not get into a toe to toe slug fest. They will blitzkrieg the infrastructure, then retire to tool up and rebuild armaments while the rubble smolders.

    At least, that is what our leaders depend on. It’s the source of the hubris. Geography and massive overwhelming air power.

  8. Z

    It’ll be Iran and it will probably happen this year.

    The folly in our rulers’ thinking behind it though, IMO, is their assumption that China will sit it out.

    And it’s not only China that our rulers ought to worry about. There’s Russia, of course, though they are pretty tied up in Ukraine, but there’s also North Korea, which is allied with China and Russia and has recently been cozying up to Iran. One of the early responses could very well be NK bombing Samsung. That would place the West’s semiconductor supply one China bombing of TSMC away from an economically damaging shortage of them.

    NK bombing Samsung would be a very loud warning shot to our rulers to back off. Better to try that first before lighting our final cigar and launching nukes at each other.


  9. capelin

    Iran would be the easiest sell domestically for the west. The most other-ed, and the least understood.

    I am curious as to the relative standing depth of the opposing power’s militaries. Sure, the West has been busy fighting irregular forces and _very busy channeling money away from useful things, and thus have become soft and sloppy and arrogant and they “run out of ammunition”.

    Not decisively winning seems to be working out pretty damn well for the powers that be.

    My understanding is that the Russians, in addition to just generally being more reality-based, have invested in actual “defense”, have continued building reliable simple artillery, ammo, as well as cutting edge flying/exploding and electronic stuff.

    A relatively even balance of nukes? if I recall correctly.

    But, in other areas, aren’t the U.S./West like, an order of magnitude more armed up? 20x vs 2x aircraft carriers? 300x air-tanker refuelers for the U.S., vs ?

    Short of whatever intercontinental missiles might make it through, what projection does Russia, or China, have to N America? Well, China will just turn anything with a chip “off”, but besides that.

    Have just seen bits here and there, but not a big picture.

    Sort of a mute point @nuke.

  10. Eric Anderson

    An aside, my argument doesn’t include the nuclear exchange. Obviously, should either side go there, any analysis ends with no future hope of resumption in sight.

  11. Ian Welsh

    The West has more stuff, but little ability to replace it and would quickly run out of munitions: air power is great, but useless when you run out of missiles and bombs.

    In a real war, aircraft carriers are sitting targets in the modern battlefield.

    People think this is still 1990 or 2000. It isn’t.

  12. Eric Anderson

    Not sure it would matter Ian. And I’m not sure anyone has the answer because we’ve never played out a scenario on that scale, with the weapons we currently possess. But, from everything I read, fiction and non, it would largely all be over in about 6 hours.

    The U.S. doesn’t need boots on the ground. It just has to destroy infrastructure. And it can. Whereas, Russia and China can’t amass and project power directly to our shores. Sure, “some” hypersonic might get through, but, so?

    And so what about the aircraft carriers? Collateral damage. All the better if missiles are wasted on them once the planes are in the air. If nobody has noticed, we have the globe encircled with Air Force bases. They land at those while being refueled in the air. At the end of the day (or 6 hours) the opponents infrastructure is decimated and the west has uncontested air superiority. The United States is untouched. However, martial law is declared. Production facilities nationalized for the re-tooling.

    And South America? Yeah, we’d take everything, from everyone, that didn’t align. It’s just too easy and the resources to great. Cuba? Yeah, our new biggest island. Geography.

    And, I’m not saying this is truly how it plays out. Nobody can really know. I’m just conveying the base military assumptions. We don’t hear these arguments a lot traveling on the left. But, my legal partner is a retired top gun instructor. We game these things all the time. I know how they think.
    It’s a war of attrition, where the attrition rate is so high the winner is declared the next day.

  13. Eric Anderson

    One more thing to spice up the discussion.
    My Dad, who was a pretty impressive vietnam era officer has always talked about one simple rule of battle — “be the firstest with the mostest.”
    There’s a reason for the whole space force thing. The U.S. is clearly the firstest with the mostest, entirely dominating that “space” with manned shuttles. We have no clue what their capabilities are, but we can bet they’re well armed with autonomous smart weapons. Who is going to contest that space? What, will China or Russia launch an entire fleet at once? Because, they’re up there, ready to shoot down the first competitor that tries.

    Anyone who’s read any sci-fi should be familiar with the term “tungsten kinetic harpoon.” Or, “Rods from God.” See here:

    Make sense now why Putin is doubling down on hypersonics? Because the U.S. doesn’t care. The U.S. has a monopoly on militarized space, and the rods from god don’t violate the international space treaty. It’s all about manned maneuverable spacecraft these days.

    You’re right, Ian. I fully agree. This isn’t the 1990’s anymore. It’s exponentially nastier.

  14. Ian Welsh

    Kinetic harpoons from space are WMD and would be treated as such, they strike with same force as smaller nukes. You do that, the nukes come out and a nuke can sink fleets just fine. Their main use is for a first strike — if you have enough, go all out and hope you get enough nukes to avoid a counterstrike (since they’re hard to detect.) They’re also decent bunker busters, but again, anything worth bunker busting (say Putin or Xi) will trigger a counterstrike against DC–once you start using strategic weapons against political leaders, the gloves come off.

    If you do use them sparingly, you’ve given away that you have them and will use them, and the response has a good chance to be a nuclear first strike from the other side, because they are first strike weapons. (Reading up on nuclear strategy is a good idea. A great deal of work has gone into ensuring no one has reliable first strike capacity, because if they do, then other powers need to strike first.)

    American officers haven’t won a war against anyone but Grenada and Nicaragua in generations and and much of this is because of overemphasis on air power.

    So, I’ll lay my odds on China. And the longer it goes on the more true it will be. Their space program isn’t a joke, as an aside. If full scale weaponization of space is occuring, they’ll soon be in on the games.

    Space will be determitive when there is a power whose population is primarily in space. (“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is a novelization of this.)

  15. Purple Library Guy

    I’m sure that the US would be able to inflict serious damage with an air attack. But a big country has a lot of damage in it. A day or two of attrition wouldn’t do that much; it would take an extended bombing campaign to really ruin China or Russia. And I don’t think the US can do an extended bombing campaign in the teeth of everything those countries could do to stop them, what with all their missiles and their anti-air capabilities and their smaller but still significant air forces. Many planes would be brought down, and nearby airfields and carriers would get trashed pretty quick.

    So they’d get their one day of damage, which would be what, maybe 1000 bombs dropped? In the scale of China or Russia, that’s insignificant–they’d rebuild whatever it was in nothing flat. And the US wouldn’t be able to repeat it. And then all those hundreds of little US military bases would become targets. And there would be some hypersonic missile strikes on the United States itself–not enough to do much damage, but enough to make people pissed off with the government of the day. I dunno, it might be a tactical victory but I don’t see the strategic point.

    And then there would be the economic war. If China decides that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to crash the US economy, I think the US economy will crash.

  16. Eric Anderson

    I was wrong on the manned part of the X37B. For now.
    Feel like I’ve run my yapper enough. I’ll shut up.

  17. VietnamVet

    The hubris and ineptitude of the western aristocracy is in full flower in Ukraine and Gaza Wars. The delusions are so grand that they appear to be psychopaths playing the Fall of Empires in WWI; all over again. This is built-in since the currently privatized western governments fight wars and pandemics to make money for wealthy individuals. Mercenaries don’t win World Wars. Command and control central governments in the USA and Soviet Union won WWII. When the obvious impact of a nuclear war was recognized in 1953, a UN Armistice was signed and a DMZ built in Korea.

    In 2022, “CIA estimated 50% chance that Russia would nuke Ukraine if it risked losing war” but NATO Generals still pushed for the failed 2023 Ukraine Summer Offensive to retake Crimea which is now part of Russia. They assumed Ukraine would roll through the first line of Russian defenses ignoring a thousand years of history and the likely use of tactical nuclear weapons, if successful. The Mercenary Generals’ only interest is getting a cut of the public money spent on replacement armament and shells, damn the consequences. Money will be printed for more weapons, but the resources, labor and industry won’t be requisitioned to actually build and ship them because this requires WWII level of taxation on the rich. The taxing of wealth is likely the reason why more money for Ukraine weapons has not passed the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump now both have the delegates to replay the 2020 Presidential Election in 2024. Since both Administrations got the world into this dangerous quagmire in the first place, Abrahamic religions’ End of Days keeps approaching; unless, a new Reformation restores secular constitutional sovereign democracies in North America and Europe.

  18. Eric Anderson

    It’s not just the U.S., Purple Library Guy. It’s the combined air power of the western world, estimated at 3 times Russia and China combined, coming at you from every corner of the globe … immediately after all the cruise missiles have exposed and sapped your defenses, throwing crazy electronic warfare measures, which you’re focusing on, when, oh crap, how’d we miss all those stealth bombers? And you can bet the farm the targets have already been triaged to inflict maximum damage to production facilities.

    A scale and speed unfathomable to anything we know from history.

    Meanwhile? Boeing, Lockheed, Bombardier, Dassault, General Dynamics, Saab, Northrop? They’re finishing lunch and going back to work.
    Geography. Firstest with the mostest.

  19. Eric Anderson

    And as a general proposition, I don’t disagree with the declining west narrative.

    But, don’t get carried away with the Ukraine narrative. That war is an aberration due to air power not factoring. It’s the singular reason for Russia’s trench warfare approach.

    The west is still a fearsome foe. And its ability to inflict damage while sustaining virtually none, completely turns the table over on the “industrial might” argument. But oh, they’d rebuild in “nothing flat.” While the West drops bombs on them because they control the skies.

    Magical thinking.

  20. capelin

    “People think this is still 1990 or 2000. It isn’t.”

    Yeah, I get that (I ‘ve been reading Ian Welsh…). And overall what you are saying in this post makes sense to me.

    Times are changin’, but still, “legacy” military starting strength has got to be a significant factor in calculations, more so during any buildup, escalation, or posturing phase.

    The U.S. mainland is pretty hard to get at, has never been militarily invaded(except by the Brits/Canada back in the day) so they don’t have the same skin in the game as say, anyone else. It’s long coloured the thinking of leaders and riff-raff alike.

  21. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, the US is willing to start wars on the assumption that others will suffer.

    With Russia — Europe.

    With China — Taiwan/S.Korea (N. Korea is a pretty solid ally at this point) & Japan.

    America probably needs to lose a war which includes US mainland casualties to make them realize that the heavy hand of war can come home.

  22. UphillBend


    An armistice was signed, and the US promptly reneged on it, by introducing forbidden nuclear weapons into the peninsula.

    I believe NK was the only nation that MAD – mutually assured destruction – was not in effect.

    And this was only a few years after the horrific genocidal bombing of the country by the US. Your “Abrahamic religions’ End of Days” was already experienced by them, courtesy of 600,000 tons of TNT and napalm flown in and dropped by the US air force.

    (I’m guessing profiteering generals were not really a thing back then, so something else besides money must have been driving the US’s hyper-aggressive policies.)

    And then there was the Agreed Framework of 1994, where contrary to misinformation, NK completely abided by its agreement to not process plutonium but the US refused honor even a single item it promised. No light-water reactor, no formal ending of the war, and no lifting of sanctions. NK not processing uranium and not doing missile tests were not a part of the formal agreement but things NK honored in the spirit of the deal. They began doing those things four years into the agreement out of frustration, and as a ploy to get the US back to the negotiating table.
    (Fmr Secretary of Defense William Perry has been a truth-teller on these matters.)

    And another four years later NK finally ran out of patience when Bush declared them a part of the Axis of Evil, from which point plutonium processing began.

    So the “hubris and ineptitude” has a long tradition, and revealed itself multiple times even when dealing with a single country. It just didn’t matter due to the power gap between the US and everyone else.

    Oddly enough, that might be a point of hope, as, other things being equal, the narrowing of that gap might bring some sense to a few of our leaders who might also have some influence.

  23. bruce wilder

    There are plenty of mainland U.S. casualties now in the homeless and it doesn’t bother the governing elites much. And, the mass of voters potential and actual pay little real attention to politics.

    The parallel with 1930s Japan? The U.S. has lodged insane aggressiveness in its allies and dependents. If I had to bet on a locale for igniting WWIII, I would bet on the Baltic, because of the temptation posed by the possibility of choking off Leningrad and Kaliningrad.

  24. Eric Anderson

    Yes, we certainly agree on that. And that’s my point about “how they think,” Ian. Everything is “just collateral damage” to the U.S. military. The reason I write these worst case scenarios is to get people imagining just how different the world has become. How awful in the extreme the carnage would be. People don’t like to think about it until they are staring it in the face. See: the Vietnam war. And see: the modern media blackout of the wages of war.

    Enlightening discussion Ian. Thank you for the post.

  25. Eric Anderson

    The new SpaceX “Starship” is making it’s first test flight re-entry right now as I type.

    Biggest craft to ever launch and return (perhaps).

  26. Stewart Millen

    Ian Welsh

    America probably needs to lose a war which includes US mainland casualties to make them realize that the heavy hand of war can come home.

    Sometimes, I think this would be the best; sometimes I fear we’re like the Weimar Republic (entrenched conservative elites in the bureaucracy, judiciary, business, etc) who do not really believe in democracy and who cannot be thrown out domestically. That’s what the Allies did to Germany and Japan after WWII—we swept all those out of office, putting many on trial for war crimes or crimes against humanity, and put in people who did believe in democracy.

    However, I fear we won’t be so lucky as they. Usually the conquerors are more interested in looting than in rebuilding. In our case you can’t blame them as the last 40 or so years of US foreign policy has been more about looting. One of the condemnations of Soviet foreign policy which says a lot about OUR worldview was that Soviet-allied states were actually a drain on the Soviet economy rather than an asset. This condemnation itself says a lot, as it assumes that the “proper” wealth flow should go from weak nations to stronger ones, right?? That the poor peoples of the world should hand what little wealth they have to the rich?

  27. Bill H.

    We tried to win in Vietnam with air power. How did that turn out?

  28. KT Chong

    Just want to say something about the TikTok ban in the US. This ban is NOT just about protecting America from China. TikTok has global reach OUTSIDE the US. TikTok is a most popular app in over a hundred countries in the world — including in the Global South where China’s influences are steadily rising while US is facing increasing hostility due to the US complicity in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in West Bank. Once the US gets its hands on TikTok, the US government will definitely use it to spread anti-China and pro-US propaganda. That is the true purpose of forcing Chinese to sell TikTok to the US, so that that US can seize/steal a most popular media tool and then use its global influences against China. I would rather TikTok just gives up its US market (i.e., banned in the US) than to hand over its global influence to the US government.

    By laws, the Chinese government can block the forced sale as ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok) has to follow Chinese laws. The CCP should absolutely NOT approve the sales. This is not just business. This is but a battle in the bigger war between the US and China over global influences and the new media. TikTok should NOT be handed over to the US and then be used as tool to expand US influence in the global market. I would rather TikTok just give up on the US market rather than to hand over TikTok influences on all those overseas markets to the US. I hope China is smart enough to realize what is at stake here.

    Ian–leaving this here, but it’s off topic and should have been in the open thread.

  29. DMC

    As the Saudis found in their war on Yemens Houthis, airpower by itself doesn’t hold territory or smash Brigades. And as both sides in Ukraine found, modern air defenses make it dangerous for even the most modern aircraft flying combat missions over hostile territory.

  30. Soredemos

    This doesn’t really undermine the post, but just to be anal:

    Yamamoto’s point wasn’t that Japan couldn’t win; it was that Japan couldn’t win a prolonged war. Which the Japanese leadership was broadly in agreement with.

    The theory of war they’d decided on was that if they dealt a heavy enough blow at the start the US would agree to a negotiated peace. Which they thought would happen for a variety of reasons, chief being a conviction that the US was a soft democracy lacking ‘warrior spirit’. The Japanese were just as racist as the US, in their own way. Officers who had visited America were usually must less confident things would play out that way.

    Also the guy who actually worked out a plan for attacking Pearl Harbor initially came up with something far more robust, that involved deploying two Army divisions to occupy the islands, denying their use to the US if not permanently, then at least for several crucial months. His plan started getting whittled down almost immediately, mainly because the attack was a Navy plan kept secret from the Army, lest the Army veto it entirely as a waste of resources, so no divisions would be available for occupation.

  31. Willy

    Yamamoto famously noted that it was impossible for Japan to win against America, and was ignored.

    He was ignored by his own, his own ‘elite brothers in arms’. So what else is new? We can relate to Yamamoto. We run the numbers, we display these numbers the best we can, striving for clarity and reason, hoping that others will consider these numbers. Or, that they might refute these numbers with clarity and reason to change our minds in case we’ve missed something.

    But they do not. Not usually. Instead, we get a lot of ‘my fief lord is better than your fief lord’ crap. Or something even stupider.

    Hegemonic USA used to rely on Team Red to openly demand big-statist military, while Team Blue tried to appear the skeptic (but usually fell in line because of jobs and economy and votes). Today Team Red only wants to do whatever an obvious megalomaniacal idiot wants them to do, so big-statist military (and jobs/economy) is entirely up to Team Blue now.

    I wonder what Yamamoto would’ve done had he been here today, older and wiser. While he still ranks as one of Japan’s greatest ever navymen, he did carry on with his losing cause to eventually go down with his air-ship, thanks to his brethren’s hubris over their perceptions about the USA’s military intelligence.

    I sure hope that something along those lines doesn’t happen to us.

    Anyways, great power wars will continue to be done via proxy, until an obvious megalomaniacal idiot, or two, gets the power to do so.

  32. Eric Anderson

    Bill H.

    We tried to “hold ground” in Vietnam. Different objectives. Here, the only objective would be to destroy production capabilities in an effort to set Russia and China back 50 years. The western oligarchs win. None of this is about ideology. Both sides are basically fascist. It’s a corporate war, with win vs. lose measured in bank balances.

  33. Smed Butler Blues

    American officers haven’t won a war against anyone but Grenada and Nicaragua in generations and and much of this is because of overemphasis on air power.

    What is the definition of winning the war? Is it even correct to refer to these military operations as wars?

    The plan was to divide the Middle East Arab states into statelets, primarily along ethnic lines – though that needn’t necessarily be the case.

    Are Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Sudan more or less divided than before Israeli/US/NATO ops? Are the countries militarily stronger or weaker? Who controls most of their resources? Are they as ‘economically autonomous’ as they used to be/can be or are they being forced into economic arrangements they otherwise would want no part of?

    I remember reading a blog written by an Iraqi woman shortly after the US invasion in 2003. This was back when you could find all kinds of interesting blogs written by regular people (most even small blogs now seem to be run by operatives of some sort). Anyway, this young Iraqi blogger was imploring anyone capable of understanding that Iraq was a secular state at that point. She wanted people to know that Iraqis largely saw and understood each other first and foremost as just that – Iraqis – as opposed to ‘Shias’ and ‘Sunnis’ and such.

    She knew where things were heading.

    General Wesley Clark is infamous for his ‘warning’ about what the Bush regime was intending to do to the Middle East after 9/11:

    “We’re going to take out seven countries starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off, Iran.”

    Clark knows the game. He was the “Butcher of Yugoslavia” who balkanized that country into statelets via the wholesale bombing of civilian infrastructure, radio and tv, etc. Clark said it was right thing to do, describing it as another in the long line of “humanitarian operations” waged on behalf of an ‘ethnic group’ allegedly on the verge of extermination:

    Here is Clark doing some damage control for his Pentagon buddies by pretending to care about Iraq and the Middle East. More importantly, he solidifies in listeners’ minds the official story of 9/11, OBL, etc:

    Much of the Middle East plan, anyway, goes back to Israel’s Oded Yinon Plan of the early 80’s, which itself was an extension of the entire “War on Terror” operation launched in Israel in the 1970’s:

  34. UphillBend


    Well, the Japanese should just stick to duking it out among themselves to provide material for their great jidaigeki, and showcase their wonderful aesthetics and cool gear. The Genpai War and the Sengoku period are bottomless pots of gold in terms of dramatic potential. And the other periods are almost as rich.

    They step out their boundaries and they get the Battle of Baekgang in the 7th century, defeat in the Imjin Wars in the 16th, and likewise in WW2 – the Sino & Soviet & Pacific Wars.

    But their position is ambiguous. As Germany is too big for Europe but too small for the world, Japan is too potent to be a small-time player but not big enough to go up against continental superpowers. A population a bit less than Russia in a country a bit less than the size of California, 70% of it mountains, and no significant natural resources.

    And the anomalous victories in the first Sino-Japanese and then the Russo-Japanese Wars did not help their acting with prudence and reasonableness. Also, the pride, or hubris, of joining the imperialist club of Britian, France, etc by acquiring Korea and Manchuria. Not to mention the chip on their shoulder from the widespread feeling of being doubled-crossed in negotiations for the spoils from the victory over Russia.

    Maybe the US is in a likewise position. Great national mythology. A unipolar moment under historically unique circumstances. Now it finds itself as having been too big for everybody in the past but currently facing other big boys. Whether the US has more checks and balances than Yamamoto & Co in Imperial Japan, and people who will listen to good advice, remains to be seen.

  35. Z

    Our rulers’ greed has gone unchecked for so long that they don’t think about the consequences of anything because they don’t believe they’ll be the ones suffering them. That’s where we, their subjects come in: we’re the buffer and the fodder all together.

    So, it’s hard to imagine that the U.S. will just take what they deserve … be it an attack on the homeland and/or a military defeat in the Middle East … when our rulers believe they should have whatever they want. In the case of an attack on the mainland, I think it’s more than plausible that the U.S. will respond with nuclear vindictiveness.

    If we get lucky, maybe it will only take an aircraft carrier or two to be sunk by Yemen for them to come to their senses … maybe then the leaders of the armed forces might insist that they come to their senses … but I’d imagine they’d instead fire on Iran as revenge.

    The Federal Reserve has played a large and, I’d say, underappreciated role in the current state of affairs. They were so reckless with their money printer that they have created larger claims of wealth in the Western financial markets than the world’s resources and the U.S. dollar can support. That created the necessity for our rulers to seize assets and resources of other countries in order to back their wealth and sustain their power.

    Been reading that recently Ukrainian forces have supposedly gone on some suicide missions in Russia proper in order to bring the fight to the Russian homeland. Obviously, these excursions, if they’re true, have little hope of building into a force that can conquer Russia. So, the only plausible explanation for them, IMO, is that our rulers have a plan to knock off Putin, most likely with aerial drones launched within Russia, and want to sell his assassination (if they succeed, and I hope they don’t) to their subjects in the West as a Russian internal affair.

    It’s hard to pull fingerprints off of blown up aerial drones …


  36. Curt Kastens

    Russia’s recent gains can be measured in centimeters. This against an Ukrainian Army that is supposed to be short on ammunition and manpower and training and equipment and money and leadership.
    But if the Russians prove that they have only been pretending to fight and they do actually manage to liberate all of the Ukraine east of the Dniper. They can not stop there.
    They have to finish the job that they started. I am not talking about the Ukraine. I am talking about NAT0.
    If I had Putin’s ear. I would twist it until he did what I say. What I would say is that once he has liberated the Ukraine east of the Dniper it is time to use his Kinjal missles to destroy every bridge over the Rhine River, except those in Switzerland, at 3 am to avoid unneccessary deaths. Not that I am overly concerned about deaths of westerners at this point. But the timing would be good for public relations for a day or two.
    Remember at this point westerners have no right to collective self defence. Their societies started a war of aggression. No wait I got that wrong it is one overt war against Palestine, one against Iran, one against Iraq, one against Afghanistan, one against Cuba, one against Venezuela, one against Nicaragua, one aganist Honduris, one against El Salvador, one against Russia, and one against China. Not to mention Vietnam. But that one should not be mentioned.
    We should also not forget that the western leaders wage covert war against everyone.
    That means that the deaths of everyone goes on the tab of those leaders, even if it is other westerners getting killed by those who are trying to defend themselves from the western leaders.
    That should clear the air of smoke and mirrors. But not of CO2 or methane or nitrous oxide.

  37. Z

    I should mention that these recent missions that Ukrainian forces have supposedly been involved in in Russia are being done by Ukrainian groups of fighters that profess to consist of Russian dissidents and these groups are calling for other Russians to join their cause.


  38. Carborundum

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Everyone keeps saying that munitions are dangerously depleted without any sense of what the scale of war stores truly is. The numerator of what’s been shipped to Ukraine and Israel is reasonably well known; the denominator of collective NATO ware stores is not. I have found absolutely zip in the way of credible evidence of anyone who has any concrete sense of what proportion of stores have been consumed. Where I do have solid information, I know what we’ve contributed is a drop in quite a large bucket. So where’s the evidence? Literally the only thing I’ve seen here is generals saying that the expenditure is surprisingly high and they want increased spending for more materiel. Which, if one hasn’t been living underneath a rock for the past three decades, is the same thing they always say. (Seriously, you could give these guys a squadron of F35s gratis and they will talk about the need for more appropriations.) Where’s the evidence that stores are so degraded? Actual evidence, not someone tweeting a statement.

    2) The 1:7 thing should be taken with a big grain of salt. First it’s a bit out of date now – last I saw it was somewhere between 1:5 and 1:4 and indications are that it will continue to drop. (There’s some happythink that parity will be reached, but I’m very doubtful about this – the Russians get a vote and it doesn’t actually make sense for us to ramp this production up to that scale.) Second, and most importantly, this is for the production of 155 vs 152 mm shells – as in one item among hundreds (if not thousands) and about the plainest thing in the arsenal. What does this look like across the spectrum, moving into stuff that isn’t the pinnacle of 1950s technology (ATGMs, aeroweapons, etc.)? I don’t think that 1:7 number is going to be very typical, even if it was a more meaningful indicator.

    As a side note, we do actually think about the amounts of particular munitions we need. How many aim points we’re going to need to be able to hit, how many systems of what types we’re going to need to defeat given adversary TOE, hit rates in given situations, numbers of sorties required, typical exchange ratios, etc. We don’t just say “three dozen sounds great”. I think this has a lot to do with why the Ukrainians are screaming – they know there’s a lot of materiel in the stores that we could fork over but aren’t – because we know how much we’re going to need if things go pear shaped. If we were truly scraping the bottom the of the barrel, their talk wouldn’t focus on transferring systems and ammunition – it’d focus on ramping up production. They want us to embrace more risk and we’re not willing to – which, frankly, I don’t disagree with given how low their competence is and the degree to which they are not acting like a country fighting for their survival. Our forces are designed to move fast and consume modest resources; signing those limited resources over to some guys cosplaying the battle of the Somme is not a smart strategic move.

  39. Carborundum

    Sorry, the last thing I forgot to mention. Yeah, Western elites are prone to fits of dumb-assery. On the other hand, the three named competitors aren’t exactly slam-dunk conventional military giants.

    Russia – look we know from the Ukraine fiasco what their current capacity is; if they’ve been fought to a standstill and then into a battle of attrition by as junior a power as the Ukrainians (and without significant air power), their capacity to succeed in a real battle of maneuver against people who know what they are doing is pretty low. They can fix that, but we’re talking a generational challenge to rebuild their forces – the imperatives of combat could make that markedly faster, but still a massive task.

    Iran is a regional power – they have a lot of third rate toys, but unless we decide that we’re going to do something as stupid as just sit there while they shoot us in the face, I don’t see how we end up going conventional force on force. Last couple of times they did anything at scale in the conventional arena they got their asses handed to them. Good unconventional capabilities, but that does quickly run into real limitations.

    China’s probably the wildest card here, but it is important to remember that their experience with modern warfare – terrestrial or naval – is extremely limited. In terms of large scale combined arms, their experience seems pretty minimal. The exchange ratios in Korea were appalling and the various border clashes they’ve had since with various parties haven’t exactly shouted competence. Definitely a power to take seriously as they are a deeply competent people, but recent real world experience really, really matters in this domain. Without indicators from that, really difficult to know how to evaluate them.

  40. Carborundum

    So I dug through two decades of appropriations documents (boring), using 155mm ammo as the indicator. Based on the numbers therein, I would assess total US Army stockpile of M107 at somewhere between 20 and 25 million rounds.

    I didn’t tabulate the numbers for other types of smarter / extended range 155 ammo, but eyeballing it looks like that would total a few million more rounds. Suffice it to say, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare.

  41. Ian Welsh

    stinger and javelin production and stockpiles.

    “However, in every iteration of the war game, the United States expended its inventory of Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles within the first week of the conflict, creating a critical problem of “empty bins.””

    “It can take roughly two years to produce some types of missiles—such as the PAC-2/PAC-3 air and missile defense system, Tomahawk Block V, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, and Precision Strike Missile.”

    also worth reading:

  42. Carborundum

    Yeah, five years worth of Javelin production – what he doesn’t tell you is that that’s five years of low rate production (i.e., what they do to keep production lines ticking over in case they need to surge them). It’s actually *two* years of FY 2023 production (when they ramped up) and one year of production when it was a new system and they were building stockpile (which I would assess at currently being somewhere between 35 and 38 thousand missiles – I haven’t bothered to tabulate the number of CLUs).

    Stinger is so old that I can’t actually come up with a definitive number for total appropriation – the monies they’re currently spending are for modernization and lifetime extension of the Block I missiles, which I believe were procured back in the 80s. A minimum of 11,000 of these were budgeted for SLEP. There is also an indeterminate number of Block II missiles (I think about the same size as the Block I SLEP, but I don’t have definitive evidence for this) and intermittent production of a very small number of missiles for replenishment. Bottom line, again, not a huge proportion of stockpile.

    I haven’t tabulated figures for the other systems, but I would bet that they’re going to show similar profiles. Current expenditures are significant and we need to have a plan for replacing expenditures, but we’re also a long way from having depleted stockpiles to the point that combat capability is materially degraded.

    If you want to argue that we can’t produce major systems at a rate that would match our likely expenditure in combat, I’m right there with you, but the notion that the cupboard is currently bare just doesn’t seem to be born out in the data. To reiterate, I think the best interpretation is that the cupboard is *finite* and it’s not going to magically get materially bigger if the balloon goes up – which, as I say, likely explains our unwillingness to write blank cheques to Ukraine and influences thinking inside the puzzle palace about Israel.

    Similarly, if you want to argue that the expenditure rate is going to be higher than people expect and that the coming expansion of Chinese forces is likely to require additional / different systems, again, I’m right there with you. But again, that’s a different thing than saying that existing stockpiles have been so depleted they can’t support offensive operations. I don’t see how the data support that, no matter how much engagement people get with their tweets or what CEOs who get paid for selling us these systems say. Could it eventually happen? Sure, but my assessment is that we’re not there yet and my prediction is that we’re not going to get there barring direct involvement in new hostilities.

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