The View From Olympus: A Disastrous Decision–Or Is It?

On the surface, President Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear accord with Iran is a disaster.  If Iran considers the accord null and void without U.S. participation and resumes uranium enrichment on a large scale – Tehran for now says it will stick with the deal – we would be on the road to yet another unnecessary war in the Middle East.  President Trump was elected to get us out of the wars we are in, not start new ones.

Meanwhile, revived and new U.S. economic sanctions on Iran may put us on a collision course with Europe.  Will Europe allow Washington to dictate to European companies and banks whom they can do business with?  If not, American sanctions on European businesses may be met with European sanctions on U.S. firms.  Europe, China, and Russia have already said they will continue to honor the accord, which leaves the U.S. diplomatically isolated.  Couple diplomatic with economic isolation and we will have a problem.

Some supporters of President Trump’s action hope the damage it will bring to Iran’s economy may inspire the Iranian people to revolt and overthrow the clerical regime.  That is a possibility, although most peoples rally around the flag in response to outside pressure.  But it is possible that, in the face of a widespread revolt, the Iranian state could collapse altogether.  That would be a disastrous outcome for all concerned, because it would be a great victory for the Fourth Generation war entities that would fill the vacuum created by yet another American-facilitated state collapse.  If Washington had any understanding of 4GW – which it doesn’t – it would realize a collapse of the Iranian state is far a greater danger than that state can ever pose.

But there is another way to read President Trump’s action.  Both on North Korea and on some trade issues he has gotten good results by using a standard business technique: going in with maximalist demands, threats, etc., then backing off as part of a deal.  In diplomacy, this is known as brinksmanship.  You push a situation to the brink of disaster, then pull a rabbit out of the hat in the form of an agreement that leaves everyone satisfied and the situation more stable than it was before.

If that is the game here – I have no way of knowing – then the President’s action was not a disaster.  But it is still a high risk.  The whole performance may have been coordinated with the Europeans in advance, in which case everyone is just following a script.  Again, that could lead to a renewed and improved accord with Iran.  But if not and our diplomatic isolation is real, the risks go up.  And if Iran responds by tearing up the whole deal and going for the bomb, again, we face another unnecessary war.  In that war, all the American troops in Syria and Iraq and perhaps those in Afghanistan as well will become Iranian hostages.  What then, Mr. President?

President Trump’s brinksmanship with North Korea appears to have worked well, so far at least.  If he comes out of his summit with Kim Jong-Un with an agreement that denuclearizes North Korea, ends the Korean war with a formal peace treaty, allows and helps North Korea to join the world economy and gets U.S. troops out of South Korea, he will indeed deserve, with Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon, the Nobel Peace Prize.  Should he be able to build on that by making a similar deal with Tehran, one allowing Iran to improve its economy while reducing its considerable regional military and diplomatic overreach, he would at least be a candidate for sainthood.  Has the President or anyone around him thought all this through?  God only knows.  And I’m not sure He is paying attention.

The View From Olympus: Israel, Gaza, and 4GW

Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, has traditionally been less competent than Hezbollah at Fourth Generation war.  Its rocket attacks on Israel, although they have frightened Israelis, have done little physical damage while they have created a moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel that hurts the former.  Now, however, it is beginning to look as if Hamas has gotten smarter in a way that poses a real 4GW strategic threat to Israel.

On successive Fridays, Hamas has sponsored demonstrations at the border fence between Gaza and Israel.  On April 27, the demonstrators broke through the fence.  Israel responded, as it has before, with live fire that killed several Gazans.  Anytime that happens, Israel suffers a defeat at the moral level, which in 4GW is the decisive level.

Hamas’s challenge is to push that defeat up from the tactical to the strategic.  Conditions may be ripe for it to do so.  Israel, Egypt, and Fatah have combined their efforts to degrade the quality of life in Gaza to the point where people there feel they have nothing to lose.  When everyday life is hell, risking that life is a modest risk.  Hamas may be able to mobilize, not hundreds of demonstrators, but hundreds of thousands.

The scenario is not hard to envision.  Hamas mobilizes, let us say, 150,000 Gazans to start marching towards the border fence.  If Hamas really understands the moral level of 4GW, it will make sure none are armed.  No one throws stones or firebombs.  People have wire cutters and other equipment to go through or over the fence, but not a single demonstrator takes any action that could hurt an Israeli, soldier or civilian.  Perhaps they carry flags, flowers, or gifts of food from hungry Gaza. 

What does Israel do?  Modern firepower can kill most if not all of the 150,000.  But if Israel does that, its strategic position in the rest of the world collapses.  In a supreme irony, Israel looks like Nazi Germany.  But if Israel does not turn on the firepower, it is invaded by an unarmed army that nonetheless seeks to occupy its land.

It is in Israel’s interest to avoid this strategic dilemma at the moral level of war.  I think it is not too late to do so.  The key is to de-motivate Gazans from risking their lives.  That, in turn, requires improving living conditions and economic opportunities in Gaza.

To pull Hamas’s fangs, Israel, ideally in cooperation with Egypt (Fatah won’t play), should announce a major program to help the people of Gaza.  That should include a steady and adequate supply of electricity, supplies, and so on.  Life in Gaza will never be easy, but it can be made tolerable, as it was not too long ago.

The question is whether a Likud government can bring itself to do this.  Its political base will react negatively.  That base does not grasp 4GW and wants Israel to mow down invading Gazans like wheat.  If Likud does not do that, other parties will seek to go around it on its right.  Critics will point out, correctly, that Hamas may use materials that Israel allows to flow into Gaza to attack Israel.  The fact that this is a tactical, physical threat as opposed to a far more dangerous strategic and moral dilemma will be lost on most of the Israeli public.  So Likud faces another dilemma: does it avert a moral strategic threat to Israel or does it act to please its political base?

I am not optimistic Likud will act for Israel rather than for itself.  Its inability to grasp Fourth Generation war has long been evident.  It sees the problem purely in terms of the physical, tactical level.  It cannot understand John Boyd’s point that this is the weakest level of war, while the most powerful level is the moral, strategic level.  (See “the grid” in Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook for more on this.)

Hamas may blow its opportunity by reverting to violence.  But if it employs the power of weakness effectively, Israel could be on the verge of strategic disaster.  I have been to Israel.  I like the country, I like the people, I have Israeli friends.  I don’t want to see that happen.  But as is so easy in 4GW, if it does happen, Israel will have defeated itself.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: Another Strategic Blunder

The latest cruise missile caracole aimed at Syria was militarily meaningless.  A few empty buildings were destroyed, residents of Damascus and Homs lost a couple hours of sleep and honor was satisfied.  The only thing missing was Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks

What was not trivial was that America once again fell into its besetting policy of sacrificing the strategic level to the tactical.  Strategically, we need an alliance with Russia and we need to restore the state in Syria.  When someone, probably not the Syrian government, launched a minor tactical attack that may or may not have used chemical weapons we immediately forgot our strategic goals and interests and fired off some missiles.  This is the response of a spoiled child, not a serious nation.

As I have pointed out before, a rule of war is that a higher level trumps a lower.  No matter how brilliant your tactical performance, if you lose operationally, you lose.  You can win repeatedly at the tactical and operational levels, as Germany did in both World Wars, but if you lose strategically, you lose.  It follows that one of the most elementary errors in statecraft is sacrificing a higher level to a lower.  And the U.S. does it time and time again.

In this case, part of the reason for the idiocy was the dreaded words, “chemical weapons!”  Chemical weapons, which used to be called poison gas, are now considered a “Weapon of Mass Destruction” like nuclear weapons.  This is historical nonsense.

The last war where poison gas was widely used was World War I.  It proved difficult to deploy, often ineffective, and much less deadly than standard artillery shells.  90% of soldiers gassed in World War I recovered.  While some suffered life-long breathing problems, most did not.  And none lost limbs or suffered massive brain damage from shock waves.

Nor is it likely the gas used in this case, if it was in fact used, was employed by the Syrian government.  Damascus has to be aware of the strategic disadvantages it suffers if it uses gas.  If Mr. Assad is dumb enough to sacrifice the strategic level to the tactical, his Russian advisors are not.

Logic suggests we ask the question, “Who benefits?”  The obvious answer is, those fighting against the Syrian state, i.e. the rebels, some of whom we are supporting.  Are they such monsters that they would gas their own people to provoke an American attack on Damascus?  Absolutely.  When President Trump referred to the Middle East as a “troubled place”, he was being kind.  Every player there is a monster.

The President will best serve this country if he follows through soon on his desire to bring U.S. troops home from Syria, and Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Regrettably, he seems to get buffaloed by the generals; at least he has been on the Afghan mess.  We can stay there another 100 years and nothing will be any different.

But leaving our current quagmires will not fix the underlying problem, our ingrained habit of sacrificing a higher level of war to a lower.  Not only do we do it in reference to the three classic levels of warfare, tactical, operational, and strategic, we also do it with Col. John Boyd’s three levels, physical, mental, and moral.  The reason we lose Fourth Generation wars is that the U.S. military, which seeks to reduce war simply to putting firepower on targets, sacrifices the mental and moral levels to the physical.  Clever Fourth Generation entities focus on the moral levels, which Boyd argued is the highest and most powerful level.  So they win.

Here’s a question for Russian intelligence to work on: to which kindergarten class has Washington contracted out its thinking?

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: The Worst Possible Choice

In selecting John Bolton to be his National Security Advisor, President Trump has made the worst possible choice.  His decision is so bad it is likely to destroy his Presidency and perhaps a good deal more.

I do not know John Bolton personally.  But I do know he is a neo-con, and by reputation neither the best nor the brightest of that loathsome brood.  The neo-cons, in case you have forgotten, pushed another President with limited international experience into the disastrous war with Iraq.  And they are unrepentant.  They still think the war in Iraq was a good idea, despite the enormous boost it gave to 4GW Islamic entities such as al Qaeda and ISIS.  They want more such wars.  John Bolton will now be in just the right position to start them.

From his past statements it appears Mr. Bolton most of all wants wars with North Korea and Iran.  The President does not seem to want the former, although Bolton may try to push him into it.  But the major danger looks to be a war with Iran.  Here, Bolton’s view and the President’s may reinforce each other, with potentially disastrous results.  I have written in other columns about how such a war could go wrong.  Even if we won, the result would likely be a break-up of the Iranian state and another big victory for 4GW.  And a war in the Persian Gulf could be the spark that sets off a global debt crisis, which would mean a long-lasting, world-wide economic depression. 

Given the miserable results of our previous and continuing wars in the Near East, how could anyone want another one?  Why would they expect any outcome other than another failure?  Regrettably, neither the neo-cons nor the President know much about wars or militaries.  That has left them prey to the baloney the U.S. military feeds itself and the American public, and in turn expects the public and federal officeholders to feed back to it.  You have often heard it: “The U.S. military is the greatest in all of human history.  No one can beat it; no one can even fight it.”  Its only problem is that, with a measly trillion-dollar budget, it just doesn’t have enough money. 

It is, as I said, baloney.  The U.S. military is a lavishly-resourced, technically well-trained Second Generation military.  It can win against other Second Generation state armed forces.  Were it to come up against a Third Generation state opponent, it would go down fast, for the same reasons the French did in 1940.  Against Fourth Generation opponents it has a consistent record of failure.

But when speaking of the neo-cons, the consequences to the U.S. of a war with Iran may be unimportant.  Collectively, the neo-cons are agents of a foreign power, and specifically a foreign political party, Israel’s Likud.  They created the war with Iraq as part of a strategy for Israel they helped put together for Likud.  That strategy called for using the U.S. military to destroy any Arab state that could be a threat to Israel.  Iraq was the first target.

Israel’s Likud Prime Minister, “Bibi” Netanyahu, has been described in Israel as a tactical genius and a strategic idiot.  But even he figured out, after the Iraqi state was destroyed and Islamic 4GW spread throughout its ruins, that those 4GW entities were far more dangerous to Israel than were the Arab states they replaced.  Israel now has a quiet alliance with most remaining Arab states against the forces of Fourth Generation war.

But since its founding Likud’s objective has been an Israel stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.  It has carefully sabotaged any and all possible two-state solutions, to the point where that possibility is gone.  But a one-state solution means an Israel with an Arab and a Moslem majority, which Likud also finds unacceptable.  So Likud needs to ethnically cleanse Palestine of Arabs.  And to do that, it needs a big war in the region, big enough that only the U.S. can create it, to give Israel cover.  If the war is big enough, no one will notice the ethnic cleansing until it is done.  Ironically, that’s how the Holocaust happened.

The assignment of American neo-cons is now to start a war with Iran, as their previous assignment was to start the war with Iraq.  And one of their number is now President Trump’s National Security Advisor.

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: Danger Ahead?

President Trump’s acceptance of North Korea’s request for a summit meeting was exactly right.  Summits have their risks, but far better the risks of a summit than the risk of another Korean war. 

But if the Korean situation now appears to be moving the right way, our position on Iran may be doing the opposite.  I do not know why President Trump has such a dislike for Iran.  Iran is leading the Shiites in their war with the Sunnis, but what is that to us?  Our only interest in that war is that they kill each other in the largest numbers possible, so there are fewer of both to fight us.

If the President withdraws the United States from the deal that halted the Iranian nuclear program for a time, as he threatens to do and as the new Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo, may encourage him to do, our position is likely to worsen, not improve.  The other major power signatories to the agreement will not withdraw.  If the Iranians are smart, they will also continue to adhere to the deal.  The effect will be to isolate the United States and put Iran in the morally advantageous “victim” position.

Some in Washington may say, “So what?”  With some skill and a bit of luck, the Iranians may be able to parlay their strengthened position into a major break between the U.S. and Europe.  Presumably, the U.S. will follow its withdrawal from the agreement with new sanctions on Iran.  Those sanctions will punish European banks and firms that do business with or in Iran.  But that is a violation of European states’ sovereignty.  So far, they have gone along with American overreach.  But they will have their backs up and over our pulling out of the nuclear deal.  They might well meet American sanctions with sanctions of their own directed in retaliatory fashion against American companies and banks.  Under international law, they have the right to do so.  Such a major rupture between the U.S. and the other signatories to the nuclear agreement would leave Iran smiling like the Cheshire cat.

If Iran were to do the opposite and meet American withdrawal by denouncing the agreement and resuming its nuclear program, we would be on course to war with Iran.  A war in the Persian Gulf could have disastrous effects on the world economy.  We could again have gas lines as we did in 1973 and 1979.  And we could lose such a war.

The Pentagon may calculate that an American war with Iran would be mostly or entirely a naval and air war.  Iran’s navy and air force are weak, and I suspect would, respond asymmetrically by handing us a ground war we do not want and are in no position to fight. 

The United States now has somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 troops in Iraq and Syria.  They are surrounded by Shiite militias controlled by Iran.  If we think Iraqi state armed forces will protect us, not only are they also Shiite but they are in many places weaker than the Shiite militias.  Iran could quickly capture many if not most of those American troops, all of whom would be used as hostages. 

Similarly, Iran could attempt to capture American troops in Afghanistan.  Iran and the Taliban have been mending, to some degree, their historically bad relations.  The U.S. is in no position to face Iran with the threat of a major ground invasion.  So the bulk of the Iranian army could be sent into Afghanistan to join with the Taliban in defeating the current Afghan government and capturing as many Americans as possible. 

If an American attack on Iran ended with Iranian nuclear facilities bombed, their navy and air force destroyed, and Iran blockaded but with Iran also holding thousands of American troops as hostages, what would our next move be?  Would that count as a win for us?  I don’t think so.

President Trump needs to remind himself that he ran on an anti-war platform.  He denounced our foolish adventures halfway around the world and said it was time for us to come home.  That was and remains a central part of “America First”.  An unnecessary and avoidable war in the Persian Gulf is the sort of blunder we would expect from President Hillary, not President Trump.

The View From Olympus: Setting the Agenda

Both in Europe and in the United States, it looks more and more likely that sometime within the next decade the real Right will come to power.  It did so in part in the U.S. with the election of President Trump.  The past week saw it succeed in the elections in Italy, where real Right parties won a majority (whether they can put a government together is another question), and in Germany, where the Social Democrats voted to commit political suicide by joining the faux-conservative CDU in another grand coalition.  That leaves the real Right party, the AFD, the leader of the opposition in the Bundestag, which positions it well to surpass the Social Democrats in the eastern German States.

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke said, “Before you ask me to congratulate the French on their liberty, let us see what they do with it.”  The same caution applies to the real Right as it moves toward power.  What will it do with it?  Will it have a workable, positive agenda?

That question is particularly acute when it comes to foreign and defense policy.  The right has an unfortunate history of damaging or destroying itself by engaging in unnecessary wars.  France’s participation in the wars surrounding the American Revolution gave us our liberty, but it also left France with such a burden of debt that it eventually brought down the Bourbon monarchy. World War I, an unnecessary war for every participant except Austria-Hungary and Serbia, destroyed the three great conservative, Christian monarchies of Austria, Russia, and Germany, opening the door to Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler.  Mussolini’s unnecessary entry into World War II, over the passionate objections of his Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, destroyed both his government and much of Italy.

From that perspective, the past week’s major event, President Trump’s agreement to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, was good news.  Summits have their risks, and I doubt North Korea will give up all its nukes unless China leaves it no choice in the matter.  But an unnecessary war in Korea could derail the rise of the real Right in the U.S. very quickly, given the likely casualty count.  As Churchill said, “Better ‘jaw jaw’ than ‘war war’.” (It’s a pity he did not take his own advice.  Britain might still have an empire.)

Less reassuring was a report in the March 10 New York Times on Stephen K. Bannon’s European tour.  He is of course right to share his expertise with the European populist parties and movements.  But the Times wrote that:

He [Bannon] said that the reason it was so important to get populist nationalist governments in place was to prepare for a coming great-power clash with an axis of ancient Turkish, Persian, and Chinese civilizations.

If Bannon is warning about Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”, he is correct, although we should make every effort to ally Western and Chinese civilizations.  Islam is an opponent, whether in its Turkish, Persian, or other contexts, and it must remain so until it stops demanding the whole world submit to the Koran.  But to see the coming clash in great power terms, which is to say within the context of wars among states, is outdated.

As I have written many times, Fourth Generation war makes war between states counterproductive.  The danger is high that the losing state will disintegrate, creating a worse threat than existed before the war.  The enemy in the 21st century is disorder itself, and one of disorder’s products: movements of vast numbers of immigrants and refugees, in some cases whole peoples, that threaten to invade and overwhelm the few remaining places of order.  This is what finally brought down the Roman Empire, and unless Europe gets populist, nationalist governments, it will bring today’s European civilization down too.

Why can’t existing European governments defend Europe?  Because they have all either bought into the ideology of cultural Marxism or they are afraid to confront it.  Cultural Marxism allies itself with anything that will help it destroy traditional Christian, western culture, including hordes of immigrants.  The real reason we need genuine conservative governments here and in Europe is to remove the cultural Marxists from power.  They should remain free to believe whatever idiot philosophy they want.  But they should no longer be able to force it down society’s throat.

That’s the game, and it looks like the real Right is going to win it.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: The Lone Shooter and Fourth Generation War

The recent school shooting in Florida raises an interesting question:  are “lone shooters” an aspect of Fourth Generation war?  Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes.  I say “unfortunately” because that suggests we are likely to see more of them as 4GW grows, mutates, and spreads.  At the same time, 4GW theory may help us see the threat more clearly and devise better responses to it.

Writing about the lone shooter problem in the November/December 2015 issue of The American Conservative, I argued for a solution based on this country’s long militia tradition.

We need a militia that ideally includes all male American citizens.  In a world where the state no longer has a monopoly on war, we must return to a pre-state world were every able male is a warrior.  The Latin word “populus” originally meant “army”.

Unlike our colonial militias, however, these new militiamen would have neither weapons nor organizations.  Rather, they would take a pledge that whenever they encounter a “lone shooter”, they will stop him using whatever they have at hand:  throwing rocks or chairs, tackling him, beating him unconscious, running over him with their car.  If they happen to be armed, fine; if not, they attack anyway.

Drawing from Col. John Boyd’s work, Fourth Generation war theory stresses the importance of the moral level.  If all men attack any lone shooter, the shooter loses at the moral level of war.  The fact that some of those attacking him will probably be killed or wounded adds to their moral power.  The narrative shifts from weeping and lighting candles for those killed to celebrating their heroism. The shooter recedes in importance to an evil shadow.  That shift alone may dissuade some potential shooters because part of what they are seeking is importance.

Fourth Generation war theory also offers some insight into the operational level of the lone shooter threat.  As Martin van Creveld has said, war exists because men like to fight and women like fighters.  Young men in particular like to fight, and until recently they could easily find venues for fighting, or at least preparing to fight, by joining state militaries.

But those venues are now disappearing as states feminize their armed services.  The presence of women throughout an armed service, women who are empowered over the men because if they charge a man with “sexual harassment” he is presumed guilty until proven innocent, destroy the masculine culture young men who want to fight are seeking.  How can they validate their manhood if they must obey orders from women, gays, and the “transgendered”?  And most of the women in the military are not there to fight.  As many as twenty years ago a survey done by the U.S. Army found two-thirds of its women and one-third of its men disagreed with the statement, “The Army’s main purpose is to fight.”  An Army of pussycats, indeed!

If young men cannot find what they are seeking by joining the military, they will find other ways to fight.  Some will join gangs.  Many will immerse themselves in violent video games, with dire psychological and social consequences (see David Grossman’s work on this subject).  And some will become lone shooters.

An operational-level response is easy to envision:  create an all-male military service that is the first to fight.  Let it welcome young men who want to fight, validate their masculinity, build their daily lives around training to fight and, when the need arises, cheer them on as they fight, kill, and die.  The obvious choice for such as service is our traditional “first to fight”, the United States Marine Corps.

The only obstacle is political.  The cultural Marxists, especially their feminist wing, will howl to the devil because women are excluded.  Their goal is to make every nook and cranny of our society comfortable for women, which is to say uncomfortable and alienating for men.  What are those alienated men, if they are young and want to fight, to do?  A growing number will find 4GW ways to fight, including acting as lone shooters.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: Building SMS Pinafore

An article in the January 13-14, 2018 issue of The Wall Street Journal, “Germans Engineer Faulty Warship”, reported on the debacle with the lead ship of Germany’s new F125 class frigate.  In December, 2017, the ship failed its sea trials.  The Journal wrote that

The 7000 to Baden-Wurttemberg frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: it doesn’t really work.

Defense experts cite the warship’s buggy software and ill-considered arsenal – as well as what was until recently its noticeable list to starboard – as symptoms of deeper, more intractable problems: Shrinking military expertise and growing confusion among German leaders about what the country’s armed forces are for.

The problem of poor warship design is not limited to Germany.  The United States is currently building the first Fordclass aircraft carrier, which also doesn’t work.  The new-design, hi-tech catapult and arresting gear not only do not work, they cannot be replaced with the tested and proven steam catapults used by other carriers because the ship’s power plant cannot deliver the required steam pressure.  The U.S. Navy bet the ship on an untried system and lost.  Perhaps it’s just as well; the main combat aircraft the Ford is intended to carry, the F-35, has been found “unsuitable for carrier operations” by Navy test pilots.  So we have the perfect Leibnitzian monad: a plane that cannot be flown from carriers for a carrier that cannot launch or recover aircraft.  But don’t worry: Congress has already approved two more Fordclass ships.  The money will keep flowing even if it’s straight down the toilet.

The German F125 class frigate is emblematic of a type of warship built all around the world that is useless for combat.  Its armament is tiny – one gun, a few missile launchers and no torpedo tubes for a 7000 ton ship.  It has essentially no armor and no ability to take hits, especially with its tiny crew of just 120 men, too few for damage control.  It is to cost 650 million Euros, which means only four can be built to replace eight F122 class ships.  It adds up to SMS Pinafore, a comic-opera ship best suited for snapping its fingers at the foeman’s taunts while riding at anchor.  The Kaiserliche Marine would have laughed at such a “warship”.  Today’s German Navy would be better off building Mackensen-class battle cruisers.

As Senator Gary Hart and I argued in the early 1980s in our book America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform, the modern warship is a commercial hull and propulsion plant with modularized weapons and sensors.  Such ships can be large and survivable; merchant tonnage is cheap, and most of it can be filled with something fireproof that floats.  Merchant ship propulsion plants can give you any speed you want.  With modularized weapons and sensors, these ships can fill any role and quickly adapt from one role to another.  The ARAPAHO program showed they can easily serve as aircraft carriers with VSTOL aircraft.

The Wall Street Journal rightly goes on to look beyond ship design to the issue bedeviling not only Germany but all European countries: what are state armed forces now for?: “But experts say military efforts have also been hampered by the lack of a strategic vision for Germany’s armed forces, resulting in vague, hard-to-execute briefs.”

The strategic environment for which Germany’s armed forces and those of the rest of Europe should be designed will be defined by a new era of Volkerwanderung, of the migration of whole peoples.  Germany has already found itself in this new era, and could not have handled it worse.  Thanks to Chancellor Merkel Germany welcomed a million foreign invaders.  It is now paying the price in a million ways, including the loss of safety for Germans in public places.

But Germans, with other Europeans, are rebelling against the cultural Marxism that demands they invite in the new barbarians.  So what should be the mission of the German armed forces when Germany gets a government that wants to defend the country?  Obviously, preventing Volkerwanderung from rolling over Germany.  For the German Navy, that means ships for sinking the migrants’ ships and boats and a strong amphibious capability for sending home those who get through.  The strategic picture could not be more clear, and the tactical capabilities are easily met with adapted merchant ships so far as surface warships are concerned.  Germany will also need long-range U-boats; it will sometimes be useful for migrants’ ships to be spurlos versenkt.

Maybe the F125 class frigates can be sold to China.  The Chinese appear willing to buy anything.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: The Greatest Strategic Danger

Director of National Intelligence and former U.S. Senator Dan Coates recently told Congress that the greatest threat our country faces is our own vast and growing national debt.  During the 2016 Presidential campaign JCS Chairman General Joseph Dunford gave the same message to both candidates.  No one, it seems, is listening. 

When I served on Capitol Hill as a staffer in the 1970s and 1980s, the two parties fought fiercely over whether to fund more domestic programs and cut defense spending or do the opposite.  Now, that fight is over.  Both parties in Congress agree that we will just give everyone whatever they want and borrow the money to pay for it.  The latest budget deal is merely one example.

Nor is the practice of buying whatever anyone wants and piling up debt to pay for it restricted to government or to the United States.  It is a world-wide phenomenon, and it is as marked a practice in the financing of private individuals and households as of governments.  In China, the twin piles of government and private debt have built the two tallest pagodas the world has ever seen.

Apart from a few spoil-sports, everyone agrees we can ignore history’s warnings about the dangers of debt because, well, this time is different.  That is the title of an excellent book on three hundred years of financial crisis.  People always think “this time is different.”  It never is.

Let me offer a quick refresher on debt crises.  They are not mere garden-variety recessions.  A debt crisis usually creates, first, a deep, long-lasting depression.  The depression comes from the fact that lenders are no longer willing to make loans at interest rates anyone can afford.  Consumption, public and private, must shrink to whatever revenues can support.  More, a great deal of what revenue remains must be used to pay interest on the mountain of debt.  In the late 1780s, interest on France’s debt claimed more than half the state’s revenue.  Good King Louis XVI had to call France’s parliament, the Estates General, into session for the first time since the 1600s because only the Estates could raise taxes. The Estates General quickly proclaimed itself the National Assembly, sidelined the King and, well, the rest is history.

Worse, both states and individuals have to cut their consumption below what their revenues can support in order to pay back the debt.  But states have another way out.  They can inflate the currency and pay the debt back in worthless money.  At that point, the unhappy state’s citizens have the worst of both worlds: a depression and hyperinflation that wipes out their savings.  Economists will say you cannot have a depression and inflation at the same time.  History begs to differ.

In the face of looming disaster, the very least states ought to do, along with putting their financial houses in order, is to avoid actions that are likely to set off the crisis.  At the top of the list is war.  War is the most expensive activity in which a state can engage.  War’s outcomes are unpredictable, as are their boundaries: many a war has spread far beyond the place where it began.  If I were betting, I would wager that the two wars most likely to push the world’s financial system over the cliff are wars in east Asia or the Persian Gulf.

Here we see the broadest picture of the folly of those in Washington pushing for war with both North Korea and Iran.  Either war can go wrong militarily.  Neither is likely to improve our strategic position.  But if either were to set off the international debt crisis, we would have put the existence of this state and many others in jeopardy over trivial causes.

For many years, I have warned that what is at stake in the 21st century is the state system itself.  Nothing can more quickly or powerfully sharpen the crisis of legitimacy of the state than an international debt crisis.  Most of the world’s peoples, in rich countries and poor, will find themselves and their families and businesses ruined.  Their anger will run deep.  Who will be to blame other than the state?  What state will then retain its legitimacy?

As the Orthodox Church prays, God curse those who would bring on the apocalypse.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like?  Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

The View From Olympus: More Strategic Blindness

The Washington defense and foreign policy Establishment is once again beating the war drums on North Korea.  In doing so, it is showing a strategic blindness that seems to be its foremost characteristic. 

Most analyses of a potential new Korean War focus on the tactical/technical level.  At that level the dangers are many and apparent.  North Korea could dump massive firepower on Seoul with little or no warning, killing thousands of civilians.  It could plaster the area where American military dependents are concentrated with longer-range fire.  It could strike before South Korea could mobilize.  It could make its operational Schwerpunkt a light infantry advance down Korea’s eastern side with a turning movement south of Seoul, which could catch us mal-deployed in anticipation of an armor thrust down the west coast.  In sum, at the tactical/technical and operational levels there are many ways a Korean War could go badly for us.

But what about the strategic level?  Here the picture, which Washington cannot see, is no better, even if we assume (probably rightly) that North Korea would not be able to destroy an American city with a nuclear strike or fry all the electronics in our homeland with a high-altitude EMP blast.

To see the strategic danger, let’s assume that on the tactical and operational levels the war goes well.  With either a pre-emptive strike (Bismarck described preventive war as committing suicide for fear of being killed) or an immediate and overwhelming response to North Korean action we collapse the North Korean regime, destroy its missiles, quickly end the bombardment of Seoul and win.  The South suffers little damage.  We have few casualties.  North and South Korea reunite.  Birds soar, choirs of children sing, and we all dance around the Maypole.  What then?

At that point, I fear the danger of “catastrophic success” on the strategic level is high.  A reunited Korea would be an immense threat to Japan.  That would be true even if it was de-nuclearized.  As long ago as the 1970s, when I was in Korea with a U.S. Senate delegation, South Korean officials told me openly that the South Korean navy and air force are designed for a war with Japan, not North Korea.  The enmity between the two peoples goes back centuries.  Koreans want revenge for Japan’s occupation early in the 20th century.  They know Japan is militarily weak.  The temptation to attack, or at least dictate to, Japan would be overwhelming.

In response, Japan would have to re-arm.  If a united Korea retained North Korea’s nukes, Japan would have to go nuclear.  If not, she would still have to build up her “self-defense” forces to the point where they became the Imperial Navy and Imperial Army in fact if not in name. 

That in turn would be seen as a major threat by China.  Here too policy is determined at least in part by memory.  China’s nuclear weapons make a Japanese attack on China impossible, even if Japan wanted a war, which it does not.  But Chinese memories of Japanese invasion are recent and vivid.  They are stoked by rising Chinese nationalism.  A Chinese government that did not respond forcefully to Japanese re-armament would lose legitimacy.

Where does all this leave the United States?  We are allied to Japan.  So at the strategic level we would have traded a threat from North Korea brought about by our alliance with South Korea for a threat from China brought about by our alliance with Japan.  China is a far more powerful and potentially dangerous adversary than North Korea.  More, to confront effectively the rising Fourth Generation war threat around the world, we need an alliance with China (and Russia).  So there would be a high strategic opportunity cost.    

This is what catastrophic success looks like.  Even if we win, perhaps especially if we win, we lose.  There can be no greater strategic failure than losing by winning.  It tells us the whole strategy was wrong from the outset.  Which it is.

 

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like?  Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.