The Russian Damn Cracks

The Prigozhin putsch was a crack in the Russian dam, the dam being the Russian state.  So far, the dam is holding.  But behind it are the swirling, dirty currents of Fourth Generation war, in the form of all the non-state loyalties and entities that will flood over Europe and Asia if the dam falls.

The proximate cause of Wagner Group’s march on Moscow was an ultimatum to submit to the Russian state.  The June 26 Wall Street Journal reported that:

A key trigger was the June 10 defense ministry order that all volunteer detachments would have to sign contracts with the government by July 1, a move to bring Wagner under formal military control.  Prigozhin refused.

This alone shows how the authority of the Russian state has been undermined.  But the WSJ reported further that:

Prigozhin made his move after state support that once flowed to Wagner was diverted to a new private mercenary group established by state-owned companies such as Gazprom.

So now we see the Russian state is so weak that it must turn, not to the state’s armed forces, but to other mercenary units as alternatives to Wagner.

Then, when major elements of the Wagner group advanced on Moscow, covering about 500 miles with only 100 left between them and the Kremlin, they met almost no opposition from any state security forces.  Neither the police nor the Russian army intervened.  They were met with only a few attacks from the air, to which they responded by shooting down some helicopters and a jet, killing 13 Russian airmen.  And for that, President Putin was constrained to grant them amnesty from prosecution.

President Putin’s popularity within Russia is based on his restoration and maintenance of a strong state after the chaos of the Yeltsin years.  The Prigozhin putsch and the state’s weak response to it have undermined his reputation as a guarantor of order.  The June 26 New York Times quoted Sergei Markov, a Russian political expert and advisor, as saying,

What he (Putin) always took pride in is the solidity of Russian statehood and political stability.  That’s what they loved him for.  And it turns out that it doesn’t exist.

The blob and its NATO counterpart can’t wait for President Putin to fall.  But who or what will replace him?  He has no anointed successor waiting in the wings.  Nor does Russia have a political process that is clear, clean and widely accepted by which to find a new leader.  It is quite possible that if the man who has run Russia for almost a quarter-century falls from power, the succession process will bring chaos.  That, in turn, runs a risk of the RUssian state itself failing.  

I cannot emphasize enough how disastrous a failure of the Russian state would be.  We would face nuclear weapons and delivery systems that can reach America in the hands of, well, who?  The answer is anyone who can grab them.  It is not difficult to imagine a criminal enterprise getting hold of ICBMs, lobbing one minus its warhead at American soil, then telling us to hand over all the gold in Ft. Knox or they would take out one American city every week until we complied.  As a gang, they would have no return address.  The U.S. has no reliable missile defense, despite spending more than 100 billion dollars trying to build one, a scandal for which some people in the Pentagon and in the defense industry should go to jail.

To head off the catastrophe of Russia falling into the sort of stateless chaos we see in Syria or Libya, the U.S. and NATO need to act now to support the RUssian state.  What Russia needs most is a golden bridge over which it can retreat from its botched war in Ukraine.  That means Russia has to get something out of it, at least international recognition that Crimea is Russian and probably also the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held by pro-Russian statelets before February of last year.  Stupidly, Washington has said it will not accept any peace terms rejected by Kiev, which itself cannot agree to the loss of any territory.  This faces Russia with two unpalatable choices, continuation of the war or a humiliating peace.  The last time Russia faced this choice, in 1917, the result was civil war and a Bolshevik takeover.

After the war ends, we need to do what should have been done in 1990 after Communism fell in Russia, namely reintegrate Russia into the Concert of Powers.  This is what Metternich did with France after 1815, and it gave Europe a century of relative peace.  It is late in the game to do this with Russia, but perhaps it is not too late.  Henry Kissinger is the right man for the job, and at just 100 years old, I think he would say yes if asked.  No one knows better than he the price state collapse, like that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, can bring.

When Black Swans Mate

As almost everybody knows, a black swan is a new term for an unexpected event that has major consequences.  Like avian black swans, such events are rare.  But when they hit, panic, overreaction, and demands for safety at any price tend to follow.  Think of Wall Street in October of 1929.  

A number of potential black swans have been circling over the last year or so.  One landed: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The consequences of that black swan are still unrolling, but they already include recession in Europe, large refugee flows (refugees from Ukraine are people we should welcome in large numbers), a rising risk of nuclear war, and, if Russia loses, a possible break-up of the Russian Federation and the spread of Fourth Generation war in the vast region between Ukraine and Vladivostok.

But what if black swans mate?  In Ukraine, imagine the consequences if Russia employs nuclear weapons.  What would happen to world markets?  The West has been doing its best to destroy Russia’s economy, without much success.  But Russia could return the favor, with interest, by popping some nukes.  As the possibility of nuclear war, always present in the background since 1950, suddenly became real, it is not hard to imagine a rush for safety in markets of all kinds that would leave only gold and dollars standing, and maybe only gold.

Imagine that happens, and the world’s eyes all turn to the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington.  A story in the June 8 Wall Street Journal illustrates the touching faith in the Fed that was once reserved for pieces of the True Cross.  The article, “Big Influx of T-Bills Threatens Volatility” by Eric Wallerstein, discusses potential market effects from a deluge of Treasury bills soon to be dumped on the market following the raising of the Federal debt limit.  The article states, “But even if banks pull back from short-term funding markets, history suggests Fed officials would quickly extinguish any fires. . . ‘It’s that unintended, unexamined, event that causes a clogging up of the financial plumbing,’ said Joseph Brusuelas, principal and chief economist at RSM US.  ‘That doesn’t mean the doomsayers are right – if a hiccup occurs, the Fed will step in.’

Just a few years ago, when inflation had been low and steady for a decade, the Fed could indeed step in and pump out more liquidity.  But now inflation is running, not at the Fed’s desired 2%, but between 4% and 5%.  If the Fed increases liquidity, it will also increase the rate of inflation.  Imagine the effect on, well, everything if the United States faced even a realistic possibility of hyper-inflation.  That is exactly what can happen when black swans mate, in this case the two birds labeled “worthless dollars” and “nuclear war.”

The Chinese economy is already dealing with at least a gray swan in the form of a collapse in its property market.  Add in the black swan of an attack on Taiwan that fails, coupled with an American distant blockade of raw materials to China.  China’s greatest historic weakness is its own centrifugal tendencies.  Would several catastrophic policy failures by the Chinese Communist Party lead to another break-up of the Chinese state and the rise of new warlords, some with nuclear weapons?

The consequences of black swans mating are potentially so dire that each Great Powers’ leaders, those of the U.S, Russia, and China, should have a joint policy of stability at any price.  Regrettably, at present all three are pursuing adventures at any price.  Those adventures are decoys for black swans, drawing them to land and make themselves at home in ways that suggest mating season is at hand.  Their progeny will be ugly.

The View from Olympus: Ukraine’s “Big Push:” Tactical or Operational?

Ukraine and its allies have been prepping the propaganda battlefield for months about Kiev’s big spring offensive, or counter-offensive if you prefer.  The ghosts of Kursk have been gathering over the scene, warning about attacks which are predictable and made where the Russians have been able to prepare extensive defensive positions.  This time, will the Leopard tank be what the Tiger Elephant was last time?

That is a small question which leads to a big question: will Ukraine’s offensive be of operational or just tactical significance?  The U. S. military has but a small understanding of the operational level of war, which comes between the tactical and strategic levels and connects the two.  In essence, it is deciding what to do tactically in order to strike as powerfully as possible at an enemy strategic “hinge,” something on which the enemy depends and which, if destroyed, collapses him.

The advice Ukraine seems to be getting from the U.S. military reflects the latter’s failure to grasp the operational level.  Most American recommendations suggest terrain objectives, either in the east toward Donbas or south to break the Russian-occupied corridor connecting the Donbas with Crimea.  But even a successful Ukrainian offensive in these places would mean little strategically.  Attacking toward the Donbas would just take back more Ukrainian land, which Russia could retake again later; shoving contests of this sort reflect attrition warfare, not maneuver warfare.  Attacking south towards the Sea of Azov would seem more promising operationally, but this is an illusion.  Even if Ukraine can break the Russian-held corridor and keep it broken, it will be at most a strategic inconvenience for Russia.  Why?  Because Crimea can easily be supplied by water.  In today’s world, people forget that transportation by water is the most efficient and least expensive way to move goods of any sort.  A Ukrainian offensive to cut Russia’s land links with Crimea would only have strategic effect if Ukraine controlled the Black Sea, which it does not and cannot.

What if we look at Ukraine’s situation from a German, not an American, perspective?  The German way of war focused on the operational level.  Ukraine has a strong German heritage in its approach to war, reflecting the facts that Germany and Austria-Hungary gave Ukraine its independence during World War I and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fought alongside Germans to defend their country and people from Stalin in World War II.  As best I can tell at this remove, Ukraine’s army has been fighting German-style maneuver warfare at the tactical level, which is one reason for its surprising successes.

From the German perspective (Kaiserheer and Wehrmacht, not Bundesheer), Russia has a critical strategic hinge Ukraine can attack.  What is it?  The Wagner Group and some allied Russian mercenary forces.  The performance of the Russian Army has been so poor that only these mercenaries have offensive capability.  With a handful of exceptions, Russian Army units seem to be fortress troops, Stellungsdivisionen who can only be expected to fight when defending, not attacking (and sometimes they cannot do that).  So a suitable operational goal for the coming Ukrainian offensive would be destruction of the Wagner Group.  That could be strategically decisive.

Furthermore, it looks to me as if the Wagner Group is wearing a large “kick me” sign on its back.  How so?  By deploying most of its forces in an effort to encircle Bakhmut.  All Ukraine’s spring offensive has to do is encircle the encirclers.  Moreover, because Wagner is attacking, not defending, it is unlikely to have built extensive defensive fortifications.  It appears to be a ripe plum, ready to be picked off.

Ukraine may already grasp this, which may be why it has been so focused on defending Bakhmut.  The city itself has little strategic significance.  But if Bakhmut is grabbing Wagner Group’s nose so Ukraine’s offensive can kick its tail, then Ukraine’s losses in Bakhmut would be worth it.

This is of course all conjecture.  But if Ukraine’s spring offensive is operational it its objective, then its long range prospects, never good, at least get better.  If it squanders its newly-built forces for mere tactical gains, that will tell us to move as quickly as possible towards a negotiated peace before Ukraine’s position deteriorates further.  So, Kiev, who are you going to listen to, Milley or Manstein?

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The Marine Corps Snipes Itself

Over the years I’ve accumulated a large collection of plaques given to me by various military units and schools I have visited.  All but one reside in the attic.  The exception, which has pride of place in the imperial Library, was presented to me by the Marine Corps’ Scout/Sniper School.  Why is it special to me?  Because they didn’t buy it, they made it. 

That typified the Scout/Sniper School and program.  Run entirely by Staff NCOs, it trained Marines to a far higher standard than do other Marine schools for infantry.  That’s not just my opinion.  In Afghanistan the Taliban called the Scout/Snipers, “The Marines who are well trained.”  Those Marines were the closest thing the Corps had to a true light or Jaeger infantry.

Headquarters, Marine Corps just killed the school, the program, and the MOs.

The rationale is that the Scout/Snipers will be replaced with “scouts” who will mostly be drone operators.  Once again, the Corps is being led into quicksand by the foxfire of “hi-tech,” copying our other armed services instead of offering an alternative to them.

This decision is bad on several levels.  First,while drones offer the great advantage of being able to see over the next hill, they do not replace human eyes on the situation at eye level.  The view from above and the view on the ground are different and can show different things.  A scout on the ground can also employ more senses than his eyes; ears and noses can also reveal activities the enemy is trying to conceal.  Example: if a year from now a Russian scout smells jet fuel, he can know his unit is facing Ukrainian M1 Abrams tanks.

Supposedly, the new school to be established for training scouts, mostly in how to operate drones, will also train them in ground scouting.  If that is the case, why did the Corps not just refocus the existing and very effective Scout/Sniper School on less sniping and more scouting?  Because it will be starting from square one, the new scouting school will take a long time to reach the level of the old Scout/Sniper School, if it ever does.  No armed service has so many effective schools that it can afford to disband one with little thought or care.  But that’s what HQMC has done.  In effect, the Marine Corps has sniped itself. 

The immediate driver here, I suspect, is that DOD has drone fever, which means money for any new program that features drones.  Again, drones offer some important advantages.  But those advantages are in degree, not in kind.  Since aerial scouting developed in World War I – I’m proud to say the first case of aerial control of gunfire was by the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy – manned aircraft have given ground commanders that all-important look over the next hill.  Radio contact between the plane and the ground commander can make that information immediate.  If all you have for air recon is F-35s, then yes, you need drones.  But if your recon aircraft is something between a World War L “C” type and an OV-10, then drones are less necessary and you can get the advantage of human eyes on the situation rather than just cameras.  Drones currently have the important advantage of being cheaper, but just as with manned aircraft, their price and complexity will increase because that will justify higher budgets.

There may be something else going on here.  Headquarters, Marine Corps has been stuffing women into every nook and cranny, including places like the infantry where they will be large net disadvantages.  The only type of war women can fight is hi-tech, push-button war.  While the number of women who could graduate from the Scout/Sniper School would have been small, women can operate drones as well as men.  Is the womanizing of the Marine Corps bringing yet another distortion?

In any case, the Scout/Sniper School is gone, and with it the creation of Marines who are well trained.  When the enemy gives one of your own units or commanders a compliment, you can safely believe it is true.

This column is dedicated to Marine Scout/Sniper Ron Danielowski, a friend who died at age 54 from a massive heart attack.  In everything he did in life, he always hit the mark.

News Flash: Pointy-haired Boss Kills Dilbert

Last week, my favorite comic strip, Dilbert, disappeared from my morning paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  In its place was simply a gray box.  Had the Plain Dealer dealt plainly, it would have stamped “Censored” on the box.  Instead, it offered a joke better than those in the banned strip, saying the censorship was not an example of “cancel culture.”  Big Brother himself could not have told a bigger lie.

Other newspapers across the country joined in the auto-da-fe.  Showing the totalitarian impulse behind cultural Marxism, the ideology that demands “Political Correctness” in all things, the cancellations had nothing to do with the strip itself.  Rather, the slaughter was justified by saying the strip’s author, Scott Adams, had said something “racist.”

Here it is useful to remember that words have meaning.  The meaning of words such as “racist” and “sexist,” according to the people who created them, is that the thing itself, in this case race, is a “construct.”  A construct is a castle in the air, something with no basis in reality.  The building blocks of reality, in contrast, are facts.  That makes facts the opposite of a construct, which in turn means that something cannot be both a construct and a fact.  So to test whether a statement is “racist” or “sexist,” we need only ask whether it is factual or not.

I have not seen the whole of Scott Adams’ remarks.  But most of the howling about them seems to focus on two elements.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Adams, commenting on a recent Rasmussen Poll that found a small majority of blacks agreed with the statement “It’s OK to be white, said, 

If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people . . . that’s a hate group. . . I don’t want to have anything to do with them.  And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from black people. . . because there is no fixing this.

In sum, the two elements Mr. Adams is in trouble for are that half of all blacks constitute a “hate group” and whites should avoid blacks.

So what are the facts?  I have not seen the Rasmussen Poll, but it is a respected polling firm.  No news account has disputed Mr. Adam’s claim that a small majority of blacks said whites are OK.  But Mr. Scott infers that the poll means a large minority of blacks are hostile to whites as whites.  Is that valid?

Clearly, a non-trivial percentage of American blacks are hostile to whites simply because they are white.  This is largely a product of cultural Marxism, which keeps telling blacks that all their problems are the fault of whites.  This both feeds black hostility to whites and tells blacks that they cannot help themselves; improving their situation must be done by whites.  The antidote to this is best found in the writings of Booker T. Washington, who argued, contrary to cultural Marxism (itself a product of whites), that blacks can and should depend on their own efforts to rise.  In sum, Mr. Adams’ assertion that a large minority of blacks are hostile to whites as whites is true to some extent, but the poll does not reliably define the size of the minority.

But are these blacks a “hate group?”  Here,Mr. Adams is using the word “group” differently from its usual definition.  In the phrase “hate group,” “group” normally means an organization.  There are certainly black organizations that are hostile to whites and therefore qualify as hate groups, just as those organizations have white counterparts.  But Mr. Adams does seem to be stretching the word “group” beyond its usual meaning, which makes his assertion open to question.

Finally, what about Mr. Adams’ advice to white to avoid blacks?  One powerful fact supports that advice, namely that the black rate of violent crime is twelve times the white rate.  Even though the majority of victims of black crime are also black, black violent crime is a real danger to whites, and everyone in his right mind seeks to avoid danger.  So the facts support Mr. Adams here.

But. . . as a conservative, I reject cultural Marxism’s demand that we see everyone as a member of one or another identity group.  I prefer to judge people as individuals, according to their works.  Black violent crime is almost all the product of young black males.  As the black mayor of Cleveland said recently, 90% of the gun violence in our city is a black male aged 19-29 shooting another black male of the same age group.  Do I avoid young black males?  Absolutely.  Guess what?  So do other blacks.

But I am happy to mix and socialize with older black people, including the black couple who come to my church and the family of black Jehovah’s Witnesses who live in my suburb (all Jehovah’s Witnesses are pacifists).  If I find myself in a crowd of blacks who are coming out of church, I am as comfortable as I am in a crowd of white church-goers.  In other words, I try to discriminate between good black people and possibly dangerous black people, just as I do with whites.  And my discrimination is based on facts.

The crime against facts and reason here is not committed by Scott Adams, even though some of his statements may stretch some facts.  The crime is the banning of my and most people’s favorite comic strip, Dilbert, for statements that never appeared in the strip.  That crime is committed by the cultural Marxists and the moral cowards afraid to challenge them in editorial rooms across America.  Collectively, they are the pointy-haired boss who killed Dilbert.

Airships Triumphant!

Some years ago, I commanded Red in a Marine Corps war game at Quantico.  When I was asked what weapon systems I wanted, I requested Zeppelins, on the grounds that it is impossible to wage modern war without airships.  The CHinese just showed us why.

Like many other airship enthusiasts, I’ve always known these pesky heavier-than-air machines would have their day in the sun and then, like all Mayflies, expire.  They take enormous amounts of power merely to remain in the air, while airships fly with no power at all.  They expend energy to move, not to fly.  Their helium or hydrogen (Zeppelins filled with hydrogen were in fact very safe; even on the Hindenburg two-thirds of the passengers survived, and that was the only time a German passenger-carrying Zeppelin caught fire) can be used over and over.  In terms of air pollution, they emit a small fraction of what a heavier-than-air machine produces.  And they are economical; a pound of lift lighter-than-air costs one-tenth as much as a pound of lift from a heavier-than-air machine.

As the Chinese steerable balloon demonstrated, airships have inherent stealth characteristics; at least three other such balloons traversed the United States without our air defenses detecting them.  They have long loiter time, which makes Zeppelins ideal for anti-submarine work.  And if the engines quit, an airship does not crash.  Flying in an airplane is like taking a train where, if the engine fails, they come through and shoot all the passengers.

The quiet flight of our Chinese interloper makes another, broader point:  high-tech systems often have effective, cheap, low-tech counters.  Had the Chinese built something like the B-70 and flown it over America, we would have tracked it immediately.  The balloon came in over the radar.  In the war with Serbia over Kosovo, the Serbs deflected our home-on-radar missiles aimed at their air defenses by modifying microwave ovens and pointing the skyward.  Recently, some Marines told me the Corps needs a new Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) because ISIS is dropping 40mm anti-vehicle bombs from drones.  Drawing on the “skirts” German tanks had in late World War ll to defend against bazookas, I said “Put an awning up over it; chicken wire should work just fine.”  All we need to do is set off the fuse before the grenade hits the vehicle. 

My favorite low-tech beats hi-tech story comes from an exercise in the Mediterranean in the 1960s that pitted the U.S. Navy against the U.S. Air Force and the Spanish air force.  A report, which proved inaccurate, said the Air Force had spotted the Navy’s aircraft carrier, so our Air Force sent everything it had to attack it.  Too late, an accurate report came in; our Air Force has nothing left.  So we turned to the Spanish, who sent out a Ju-52 as a bomber.  Now the Ju-52 was a fine, tri-motored German World War ll transport.  But it had already become obsolete as a bomber before World War ll began.  Yet the bomber got the carrier, flying the whole length of the flight deck dropping flour bags to simulate bombs.  How did it get through the carrier’s air defenses?  A Ju-52s speed is about 60 mph, so our automated radar systems discounted it as a false target!

When we fight small states or 4th Generation, non-state forces, those enemies will know they cannot defeat us with vastly expensive hi-tech systems of their own.  But poverty stimulates creativity and imagination.  We will frequently find ourselves getting surprised by low-tech approaches that effectively counter our hi-tech systems.  Were we prudent, we would have a “skunk works” trying to identify such low-tech approaches before they block us.  That won’t happen, because it might endanger the money-flow to the hi-tech stuff if word got out that it is easy and cheap to counter.  So we will end up wasting not only money but lives.

Meanwhile, I’ll offer a challenge: an F-22, which shot down the Chinese balloon (making itself the most expensive anti-balloon gun in history), against an L 30 class Zeppelin of the Imperial German Navy.  Our Zeppelin’s mission is to bombard an American coastal city with bratwursts and Bienenstuck; the f-22’s job is to stop us.  No air-to-air refueling is permitted.  Our Zeppelin’s crew may regularly remind the f-22’s pilot that we are eating very, very well.  See you over, well, someplace, flyboy, in your jet propelled bathtub.  We’ll be floating along the breeze.

His Majesty’s Birthday

As regular readers know, on January 27 of every year I telephone my reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to congratulate him on his birthday. I always start with the number for the Neues Palais in Potsdam, but der Reisekaiser is often traveling and my call must set out in hot pursuit of him.  Such was the case again this year, when the first words I heard were, “Verspätet! Verspätet! How can the Imperial Train be later? Are Poles now running the Prussian State Railways?” The voice was Bismarck’s. It was coming from a distance, but there was no problem hearing his words or his mood. 

“Who the hell is this?,said the voice, now directly into the telephone. “If its the head of Prussian Railways calling to apologize, you lost your job 25 minutes ago. 

It is only Oberst i.G. Lind, Herr Foreign Minister, calling to wish His Majesty a happy birthday,” I replied. “I take it his train is late into Friedrichsruh. today’s Bundesbahn that would be the norm, but I share your puzzlement how such a thing could happen in your time.” 

“Wait a minute, I think I hear an engine,” said Bismarck. I’ll take your call with me out onto the platform.  Hey, Guderian, give me more wire on this thing. Yes, you, you’re a communications officer, aren’t you?”

General der Panzertruppe Heinz Guderian muttered something unprintable but he got the wire to play out, so I went with Bismarck out to meet the train. 

To my surprise, not only our Kaiser but Tsar Nicholas II of Russian and Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary off,the/train and from the engine, or so voices in the background suggested. It seemed our Willi enjoyed running steam locomotives and running them fast, so fast that he had caused the last car to jump the track, hence the delay. 

The story of my life,” I heard him mutter. 

“Hallo, is this our poor marooned General Staff Oberst, stuck in a crazy century in an insane country? “His Majesty asked. 

“It is, and happy birthday,” I replied. “But it seems I’ve caught you at an awkward moment. 

“Not at all, ” he replied. “I enjoy making Bismarck wait.  Reminds him who’s boss, well, sort of. As my grandfather said, sometimes it’s a hard thing, being Kaiser under Bismarck. Besides, my guests need to collect themselves.  It seems they’re not accustomed to riding the footplate at 150 kilometers.  Great fun!

“May I ask what’s going on?” 

“You may. The situation in Russia in your time is serious, very serious. 

Bismarck has done what needs to be done, namely call a conference of the relevant Great Powers. It’s something the current German Foreign Minister seems unable to do, so we’ve jumped into the breach.  Remember, we’ve been through this before, and we see the players in your world making the same mistakes we made. We can’t just sit by and watch. Anyway, I’m going to put you on hold until we three kings and Bismarck have washed up and are drinking some good Mosel wine around a table.” 

Time in their world is fluid, so it was only a few minutes before I was on speakerphone and taking part in the meeting. The Tsar kicked it off. 

“Europe and America must both understand that Russia cannot lose this war. I say that in two senses. First, Russia is much stronger than Ukraine. The Russian Army has started the war badly, as it usually does. But it learns, and in a war of attrition it always prevails by sheer numbers.

Second, Russia will do anything it has to in order to win. A defeat by Ukraine could bring down the Russian state, what’s left of it. Moscow will not let that happen again as I let it happen the first time.’ 

Emperor Franz Josef chimed in. “Austria again finds itself representing Europe. How? By remaining neutral. It’s bad enough that your Europe now has a war under way on its own soil. But the lesson of 1914 is if that happens, all diplomacy must focus on keeping it local. Had my own Foreign Ministry worked to keep it just between the Serbs and ourselves, the world order we represented, we three monarchs, would have lived.” 

It was now our Kaiser’s turn. “I knew that and I told my Foreign Minister, when Austria declared war on Serbia, to telegraph Vienna and tell Austria to take Belgrade and then stop. That telegram was not sent, and the situation ran away with us all. That is now happening in your world, which, like ours, will find itself  in a vast, destructive war no one wanted.

It was now up to Bismarck. As always, he saw the solution more clearly than anyone else and knew what to do. “Washington, Berlin and Moscow have made the same fundamental error the three Christian, conservative monarchies, Russia, Germany and Austria, made that brought them all down. They are operating inside an obsoløete paradigm. Then, each was focused on which ruling dynasty, Romanov, Hohenzollern or Hapsburg, would win this latest struggle. They did not see that they all faced a common foe they needed to unite against secular democracy.

So the winners in 1918 were Wilson and Lenin. Now, the winners will be the non-Western world as the West fights its last civil war.” 

“So what does Berlin need to do in my time?” I asked, knowing Washington was a hopeless case. 

Bismarck replied, “Do what I did and call a conference of the Great Powers. Then come up with a solution the Great Powers can live with, and tell Ukraine what it’s going to do. Stop letting the tail wag the dog. My proposal would be that Russia gets Crimea and the Donbass but has to buy them from Ukraine, while Ukraine gets Russian-held East Prussia and a heavy-haul railway connecting itself to the port of Königsberg, giving it two directions from which it can export its grain. But the key is to act now, before Germany is dragged into a final, fatal Western civil war that leaves nothing but ashes. 

And with that he rang off. My voice in today’s Berlin is small, but Bismarck is right.  Berlin’s role is not to be Washington’s dachshund but, with Vienna, to represent Europe. Europe’s most vital interest is peace in Europe. That means de-escalating the war in Ukraine, not fueling it further. Call a conference, decree a cease-fire, and work the Ukraine situation out around a table.

Does Germany want a third disastrous war?  I can say with certainty that its Kaiser does not.

The Greatest Danger

An article in the December 9, 2022 Wall Street Journal brought some rare good strategic news about the war in Ukraine.  It seems that a few of Ukraine’s allies understand that a complete Russian defeat could bring about the dissolution of the Russian state, and that this represents the worst possible outcome.

The Journal article, “Ukraine Minister Urges Bold Support from Western Allies,” reports that:

Ukraine’s foreign minister called on the country’s allies not to fear a possible breakup of the Russian state as a consequence of the war. . .

Though Kyiv’s Western allies are united over the goal of preventing a Ukrainian defeat, not all embrace the objective of a full-blown Ukrainian military victory. . . 

Some of these allies worry that such an outcome could destabilize the nuclear-armed Russian state, potentially leading to its fragmentation and wide-scale unrest, with unpredictable global consequences.

The Journal article does not identify the states that are expressing this concern, but hurrah for them.  They are daring to inject a note of realism into a policy world dominated by Washington’s neo-Wilsonianism, which has already led to the destruction of several states, including Iraq, Syria, and Libya.  These (undoubtedly European) governments expressing their concern about a potential Russian break-up seem to have grasped the central fact of the 21st century strategy, namely that a state collapse is a greater danger than state bad behavior.  Europe would be facing fewer problems today if Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya were all functioning states ruled by tyrants.

As I have written many times, state collapse is the greatest danger we face and it is spreading.  We may be witnessing it in Iran.  I too would be happy to see the fall of Iran’s Islamic theocracy and the return of the young Shah, who’s father it might be remembered, was overthrown because he tried to modernize his country.  But if the result of the ayatollah’s demise is a collapse of the Iranian state, which is a fairly fragile state because much of the population is non-Persian, then we are better off with the theocrats.

China, too, is facing unprecedented disorder, largely because of misgovernment by Xi Jinping.  He botched the coronavirus problem (which probably started in a military lab in Wuhan that was tasked with developing biological weapons), collapsed the Chinese real estate market which is where most middle-class Chinese stashed their savings, and then rewarded himself with an unconstitutional third term.  A more effective assault of the legitimacy of Communist Party rule is difficult to imagine.  But as Washington delights in China’s problems, it forgets that China’s history is one of internal disunion, civil wars, and prolonged periods of warring states.  Mix that with nuclear weapons and, as with Russia, it should be clear that stabilizing the Chinese state is a primary strategic objective.  Of course, all the Wilsonians do is bleat more pathetically about “democracy” and “human rights.”

That is unrealism Washington may pay for heavily.  If Russia or China break up into stateless regions, the world economy will tank the way it did in the 1930s, or worse.  America will not escape a second Great Depression.  If Washington’s folly results in nuclear weapons hitting American cities, the Blob (the foreign policy establishment) will find itself out of work if not hanging from lampposts.  

America is deeply riven over irreconcilable cultural differences, to the point where all that holds it together is a seeming prosperity – seeming because it is built on ever-increasing levels of private and public debt.  When the inevitable debt/financial crisis hits, that alone may endanger the American union.  Add a weakening or vanishing of states around the globe and the 21st century could end up a repeat of the 14th century.  

Let us hope those European states worrying about the potential break-up of the Russian Federation don’t lose their nerve.

Addendum:  The recent “coup attempt” in Germany will go down in history as the “Clown Putsch.”  Not only did the idiots behind it think a couple dozen men could overthrow the German state, they imagined they could put Prince Henry of Reuss on the Imperial German Throne.  Every legitimist, monarchist and Reichsburger knows that the throne belongs to the head of the House of Hohenzollern and no one else.  When Germany again becomes a monarchy, it will be through constitutional means and it will reflect a broad consensus among the German people that they want a Kaiser.