No one is ready for coming conflicts

Modern Warfare began with the American Civil War.  For a long time before then, war was primarily just between armies, with civilians as bystanders.  The American Civil War kind of started out that way, but quickly degenerated into a war where each side targeted civilians and infrastructure as well as the opposing soldiers.

At the start of this civil war, neither side was prepared for what was coming.  In World War One, the next major conflict, both sides’ militaries were prepared for war.  At the start of World War Two, the bad guys were prepared, while the good guys were underprepared.  We are now back to the point where no one is ready for what is coming.

The militaries are unprepared.  Many weapon systems purchased for exorbitant prices just do not work.  The military’s tactics have not kept pace with technology.  Supplies for operations and maintenance of equipment are at dangerously low levels.  Advancement to senior leadership positions is mostly due to political, not military skills.  And many militaries have been sapped of strength and morale through seemingly unending involvement minor wars (although not “minor” to those fighting them) with ambiguous objectives.

The civilian world is complete unprepared.  It’s been so long since it happened last, that few can comprehend the sacrifices and destructions that come with something like a World War.  They have almost no connection with the military and no experience with it.  They have no concept of the privations and sacrifices it will entail, and they are totally unready (and in some cases unwilling) to suffer them.

Political, Cultural and Economic conflicts usually lead to war.  This has always been the case and always will be.  Technology may have changed over time, but human behavior doesn’t.  When bad things happen, people look for others to blame, and that’s when the shooting starts.  It isn’t a question of “if” there is going to be another major war, it is only a question of “when”.

What to Do

At the national level, we must work with our political leaders to ensure that we have military forces that are prepared and equipped to fight.  This doesn’t mean just throwing money at the military.  They will waste most of it (much more on this later).  We have to work to ensure our military can effectively wield a cost effective force of an appropriate strength.

As a people, we need to learn and gain skills in a number of areas.  People should learn more about military affairs.  Learn about military technology and how militaries operate.  You should spend some time and effort preparing yourself for interruptions in how you provide for you and your family’s daily lives.  Think about how prepared you are if there is no electricity for a while, or gas for your vehicles, or food in the grocery store. There is no need to get extreme, but have some level of preparation.  The worst case is not that you never need it, the worst case is that you do, and you don’t have it.



The Culture of Terror

Bloody Religious Schisms

Credit: Reuters

There are two major Religions outside of the Orient, Christianity and Islam.  Both have had some very violent history associated with them.  For the Christians, this happened in two main periods.  The first is after the fall of the Roman Empire, when conversion to Christianity was conducted at sword point.  You either converted from paganism, or the ruler would put you to death.  The second period was during the “reformation” where Catholicism was challenged by Protestantism.  The Catholics and Protestants had numerous wars in the 1600s, the most infamous of which was the Thirty Years War, which literally laid waste to most of central Europe.  Both sides were known for killing the other based on religious preference.  The hatred between the two sides continued into the 20th Century.

Islam has had a similar history.  In its early stages, conversion to Islam was done at the point of weapon.  If you were conquered by an Islamic army, you had to either convert, die, or end up in servitude or slavery.  There was also a schism in Islam.  One branch of Islam became known as Sunni while their opponents were known as Shia (or Shiites).  The separation between the two camps was over who the successors of Mohammed should be in leading Islam.  Shia Muslims are centered in Iran, with sizeable populations in neighboring countries.  Most of the rest of the Muslim world is Sunni.

The Sunni side of Islam is subdivided, similar to the way Protestantism is subdivided into Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Fundamentalists, and so on.  In Sunni Islam, there are Salafists, a subgroup of Fundamentalists Muslims.  A subgroup of Salafist, called Wahhabi’s, exist mainly in Saudi Arabia.  A subgroup of Wahhabis are Jihadi’s, and these are the Sunni terrorists.

The Jihadis hate everyone that does not follow their interpretation of Islam.  Their hatred is most intense against Shiites, as they see them as perverting Islam.  But then they hate everyone else too.  They believe that they have the right to impose their narrow view of their religion on everybody.  And if you don’t like that, they feel justified in killing you.

Wahhabi’s gained power, influence and wealth due to their partnership with the Saudi royal dynasty.  Oil put nearly unimaginable wealth into their formerly impoverished hands since the 1970s.  Many of them donate this money to their religion.  Their clergy use the money to spread the Wahhabi fundamentalist view throughout Sunni Islam.  Many of the clergy are radicalized Jihadis, who foment and incite terror through multiple groups and organizations (Al Qaeda and ISIL to name a couple).

The Shiites have their own terrorist.  Iran overthrew their king (the Shah) and the country was taken over by Shiite clergy.  The head Shiite cleric rules Iran.  The Iranian government funds terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah) with Iran’s money.

The Islamic terrorists attack Jews, Christians, Hindus and Atheists; but mostly they are at war with each other.  All of this is a religious war.  Religious wars do not end when one side wins a battle or even wins a conflict.  It goes on and on until the religions involved make changes to their doctrine and their believers conform to this doctrine.  The only way this ends is when the cultures originating the problem change.

What to Do

Recognize that only a very small minority of Muslims are involved in terrorism.  The vast majority are not.  But many in the Muslim world are funding terrorism.

Terrorism requires funding and proselytizing.  Without the two, it is difficult to convince someone to become a terrorist and then fund their activities.  Efforts to combat terrorism should focus on two primary thrusts.  One is to constricting the funds available to terrorist organizations.  The other is to interfere with (better yet end) the process of converting people to jihadis.

Our Broken System

Speculation vs Investment

We almost instinctively know that a good economy is based on productivity.  In this ideal economy, we earn money based on our productivity. We spend some on what we need or want, and we save what we don’t spend.  The savings are loaned out as investments in enterprises that produce goods and services.  These investments produce additional income, enriching the investor and the economy as a whole.  The entire system is characterized by money, saving and investment.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in such an economic system. Instead we live in a world of speculation.  Speculation means guessing and gambling.  At its foundation is manipulation and fraud.  Our currency once represented real gold and silver.  Now it is backed by nothing but collective faith that it will still be worth something tomorrow.  Much of what we work at is not productive, but bureaucratic.  We don’t save because we are saddled with debts.  We don’t invest, we gamble in the markets, the greatest casinos of all time.  We gamble that someone else will pay more for something we bought without knowing or caring what it produces.  The central banks have manipulated interest rates so that saving actually costs you.  The government taxes us to pay for other’s benefits, which we will probably never see ourselves, while amassing unimaginable national debts that can never be paid down.

Deep down we all know this is wrong.  Most people just don’t’ want to deal with what this will eventually mean.  They wish to “sing and dance” until the party is over.  The rest of us look at what is going on and are terrified of how it will end.

The reason to be terrified is that speculation never ends because people “wise up” and start to take corrective action.  Speculation causes bubbles.  Bubbles burst with a lot of people, companies, and governments suddenly bankrupt.  And nobody wants to take the blame for this when it happens.  People and companies will want the government to fix their problems.  Governments will not accept the blame, especially those that won’t give up power voluntarily.  Instead they will blame other nations.  All of this has frequently happened before.

Too often the result is financial ruin, followed by the even greater calamity of war.

What to Do

Recognize the system we are operating under, but don’t get caught up in it.

Gain the skills to be productive, and do your best to create and produce.  Do your utmost to stay away from speculation and gambling.

The Fundamental Difference

Conservative vs Liberal

Here are two words, pick the one that appeals to you most: Justice or Mercy.  This is a basic question from the exceptional Meyers Briggs personality test.  I’ve used the results of this test to help people understand how they may think quite differently from their work colleges.  But it can just as easily be used to show some of the fundamental differences in viewpoint between Conservatives and Liberals.

In case you were wondering, Conservatives are usually more attracted to the word “Justice”.  From the conservative viewpoint, they want everyone treated the same under the law.  They believe in a system of rewards and punishment, that if you put forth the effort, you should enjoy the rewards, but if you cheat or steal, you should suffer consequences.

Similarly, Liberals are usually more attracted to the word “Mercy”.  From the liberal viewpoint, people should be taken care of if they need help.  They believe that compassion should be the main concern in dealing with others.

The political conflict between the two sides comes from how they each believe Government should operate.  The Liberal believes that Governments exist to help people, to ease their suffering and help them with their problems.  The Conservative believes that Governments should get out of people’s way, and should limit itself to fairness in administering the laws needed to maintain order and security.

The classical views they have of each other is that the Conservative believes the Liberal wants to tax everyone to pay to take care of everybody else, while the Liberal believes that Conservatives are heartless greedy people who care about no-one but themselves.

The ideas of “Justice” and “Mercy” seem to be in conflict.  But they are both valid viewpoints.  Fairness and Equanimity require Justice.  Compassion and Kindness require Mercy.  It is a good thing to want to help other people. Likewise, it is a good thing to strive for rewards based on your efforts.

The real problems come when one side wants to “override” or “cancel out” the other in the operation of Government.  When self-centeredness and greed are taken to extremes, many are left in desperate circumstances they cannot escape on their own.  When taking care of people is taken to extremes, you have to confiscate things from others to do so.  Both extremes lead to very bad outcomes.

What to Do

We need to listen to the viewpoints of each side.  We need to understand why people want to do what they want to do.

The discussions should then be about the HOW of accomplishing things.  The HOW should be done by attempting to provide for both Justice and Mercy.