Category Archives: War

The Great Illusion

The GREAT ILLUSION, published 1910 republished 1933

It is widely accepted that war between modern super-power countries is impossible.  The reasoning is that the economies of the great nations are so interdependent that war would damage everyone as a result.  Funny thing, the exact same reasoning was accepted just prior to both World Wars. 

Around 1900 Germany started a great naval arms race with Britain.  At that time, Germany was a relatively new great power.  It had really only entered the world stage a couple of decades before, when it unified and then defeated France.  Germany was jealous of Britain’s seeming control of international commerce and was working hard to gain parity with Britain in terms of naval power.  Many were fearful of a great war that could result from this military competition. 

British journalist Norman Angell published a book in 1909 explaining why a war between the great nations would never happen.  Originally titled “Europe’s Optical Illusion” then renamed “The Great Illusion” for its 1910 and subsequent reprints.  The book made the strong argument that countries had become interdependent, and, as a result, a big war would result in ruin for all involved.  It postulated that no one could possibly benefit from a modern industrial war between the major powers, and therefore none of them would be enticed to start one.  And if one should start “by accident”, it would quickly be over, as that is what, logically, would be in everyone’s best interest.

“The Great Illusion” enjoyed popular success and was accepted by intellectuals and even prominent high-ranking military figures (such as the British First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher) as the truth.  Of course, the logic was, no great power would possibly think starting a war would be a good idea, so none of them would ever start one again.

Obviously, World War One started anyway.  And instead of a quick resolution, it went on for years, leaving almost all the participant’s economies in ruins or shambles.

Amazingly, the book was republished in the 1930’s to even greater acclaim.  So much so that the author was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.  Most of the world, still reeling from the effects of World War One, and desperate to avoid another such conflict, deeply wanted everyone to accept the arguments of the book.  Peace loving peoples wanted their leaders to follow Angell’s logic and avoid a war that would only result in additional destruction and ruin.

And once again, within a few years of the republication of “The Great Illusion”, another World War started.  This time resulting in even greater destruction, ruin, and death.  It was apparent then, that wars do not necessarily start for “logical” reasons, and that many leaders are not guided by the “best interest” of the nations they control.

Today most of the world operates under the exact same Grand Illusion; not that war is a bad idea, but that another big war, one between superpowers, is impossible.  Of course, it is logical that such a war would be in no-one’s interest, and that it would result in death, ruin, and destruction on a now almost unimaginable scale.  Yet that was exactly the case and accepted logic just prior to each of the two previous World Wars.  Nationalism, International Jealousy, Revanchism, and desires to avenge perceived historic wrongs, trump such logic, usually every 80 years or so.  And that is why we find ourselves again at the precipice.

What to Do

Recognize that it is only a short matter of time before we find ourselves again embroiled in a great worldwide war.  Most of this don’t want this to be true, but it will shortly happen again.  We can’t let our desires for this not to happen to overwhelm our need to prudently prepare for what is coming.

We need to prepare ourselves individually, prepare our families, and attempt to prepare our communities and nations.

This means making lifestyle and economic choices that might appear silly to others.  Yet these preparations, if unneeded, will do us no harm.  When they are needed, they will save our lives and those of our loved ones.  And they will strengthen our communities and countries as we collectively suffer through the calamity.

“Little Crappy Ships”

USS Coronado, a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

The United States Navy has, in the past decade, made a major shift in its shipbuilding program.  The Navy has to continually build new ships to replace older ones that wear out.  In the past, the Navy built both surface combat vessels and nuclear submarines.  The surface craft include the Aircraft Carrier, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Frigates.  The submarines include both Ballistic Missile Submarines and Attack Submarines.  And, of course, to project land power, the Navy also builds a number of Amphibious Warfare ships.  But now, this has changed.

In the last decade the Navy has built two Aircraft Carriers, one of which, the Gerald Ford, doesn’t work (see earlier post on this debacle).  It also built 12 Destroyers, 12 Attack Subs, and 10 Amphibious Warfare Ships.  It completely stopped building Frigates, building 11 “Littoral Combat Ships” (LCS) instead.  The LCS now represent about a quarter of the decade’s new US Navy ships.  And since the Navy has only built four Destroyers since 2011, the LCS will be an even greater percentage of the Navy’s new ships.

The “L” stands for “Littoral” which means “along the shore”.  For hundreds of years, navies have known to stay away from any part of the land where fortress guns could shoot at them.  Forts were made of stone on land, whereas ships were made of wood and could sink into the sea.  Now the US Navy thinks that sending ships along the coast is somehow a good idea.  The problem is the land is even more dangerous nowadays.  An average tank could shoot at and sink an LCS with ease.  The LCS’s don’t have the weapons to adequately defend themselves against missiles launched from trucks.  Plus coastlines are great places to set up minefields.

Not only is the LCS improperly armed to defend itself, it is inadequately armed to attack anything on land.  Its single gun fires a six pound shell, whereas a tank typically fires a fifty pound shell.  The LCS is too small to incorporate the Vertical Launch System (VLS) found on Cruisers, Destroyers, and even Subs.  The VLS is how ships fire cruise missiles.  Instead, the LCS is armed with a number of very short ranged anti tank missiles.  I cannot tell you how lop-sided the battle between a $4 million tank (which doesn’t sink) and a $400 million LCS would be.  Let’s just say that it’s a laughable waste of money for the LCS builder/owner.

Unfortunately, the LCS has other problems as well.  They break all the time.  And not minor things either.  I am talking about major engine failures and damage to propeller shafts and the like.  These kinds of problems can take up to a year to repair.

Half the LCS are built as triple hulled catamarans (see the picture for an example).  They are actually too wide to operate in restricted waters.  They can’t carry enough fuel to cross the ocean without refueling, so would have difficulty escorting convoys or a Carrier on patrol.

In short the US Navy has wasted BILLIONS on ships that have no realistic mission, and cannot possibly take over the missions now performed by aging Destroyers and Frigates.  The Navy had already put too many eggs in the Carrier group basket.  Now it is literally building worthless lemons.  LCS is a “Little Crappy Ship”

What to Do

The Navy needs to make a major change to its ship construction program NOW.  Frankly, it should abandon the LCS’s that are even partially built and throw them on the scrap heap.

Naval warfare radically changed with the development of increasingly sophisticated anti ship missiles.  The future of naval warfare in now UNDER the sea, not on it.  The Navy should greatly expand its submarine building program.  It should also look into building Destroyers/Frigates with greatly improved anti missile capability.

As for warfare against enemy coastlines, the answer is drones, both in the air and underwater.  They can go after fast and lightly armed enemy patrol boats and the like.  And at a fraction of the cost of an LCS.

Peace in our Time

Prime Minister Chamberlain holding Treaty with Hitler, 1938

It now seems as though the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, is ready to make peace and set aside his nuclear and ICBM ambitions.  I hope this is true.  But, given the history of negotiations and agreements with North Korea, I fear that this is just another ploy.

Adolf Hitler was an expert at international diplomacy.  He knew his potential adversaries wanted to avoid a repeat of World War One at almost any cost.  By being belligerent and then signing a treaty promising to “back off”, Hitler was able to grab foreign territory, rearm his military, and become an even greater threat.

The apex of Hitler’s international diplomatic career came when he got the leaders of the United Kingdom and France to let him take over large portions of Czechoslovakia in 1938.  They did this in return for a paper promise from Hitler that he would stop there.  This treaty was proclaimed by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as securing “Peace in Our Time”.  Less than two years later, a much stronger Germany invaded Poland and the war Chamberlain was trying to avert started anyway.

We have had agreements with North Korea before.  As recently as 2008 they agreed to “De-Nuclearize”.  And now we have a North Korea with even more nuclear weapons and even better and longer range rockets to mount them on.  Personally, I don’t think we can trust Kim Jong-un any more than Hitler.

I do, however, believe that every diplomatic means should be used to avert conflict.  But in the case of powers with a history of not keeping their agreements, we have to ensure that there is teeth any agreement.  There must be concrete PROOF of De-Nuclearization.  This proof must exist prior to providing North Korea with any of the “benefits” they seek in return.  The same kinds of things need to happen with their ICBM program.

There also need to be concrete consequences for North Korea not abiding by the conditions of any such treaty.  These should include the resumption of any threatened sanctions, or even by action to physically remove what the North Koreans have promised to remove, but have not.

I am hoping for the best, but I am rather skeptical.  Frankly, I think that talk with North Korea is cheap, and this is all just a ploy to buy more time while getting additional concessions from South Korea, Japan, and the United States.  I also think the Chinese are pressuring the North Koreans to tone things down, not because they want the world to be a safer place, but because they don’t want war to start unexpectedly and throw off their own time tables.

What to Do

We should negotiate to avert potential conflict whenever possible.  Military force, especially entering into an actual war, should be the last resort.

As I explained above, any negotiated deal with a regime of North Korea’s history, must have TEETH.  There must be concrete proof, as in unfettered on site inspections and destruction of development and manufacturing facilities, before we can even begin to trust that they are keeping their end of the agreement.

There must also be consequences if they fail to keep the bargain.  Consequences that we actually carry out.  All too often, we just let the bad guys get away with it, just like Hitler in Czechoslovakia.  And this leads to the bad guys getting stronger, and becoming even bolder.  And then we have a real war.

 

Lethality

Graveyard at Verdun – WW I Battle

Modern war really begins with the American Civil War.  This is the first war in which the both sides drafted the masses into their armies to expand them and then refill the ranks.  They had to “refill the ranks” due to the massive casualties they suffered in every campaign and battle.  Both sides were initially shocked and mortified at how incredibly high the losses were during major battles.

The same thing happened again during the World Wars.  At the start of World War One, the casualty rates were far higher than anyone expected.  And by now it was accepted practice by all countries that when you are in a major war that you draft everyone possible into the Armed Forces.

In both eras, leaders and common people alike were shocked at the numbers of dead and wounded.  Nothing in their prior experience had prepared them for what actually happened.  In both eras this was due to advances in technology that made it much easier and more efficient to kill human beings.

In the American Civil War, this was due to rifled bullets.  Prior to that war, a musket ball had only a remote chance of hitting someone, so armies of old packed together in tight formations so some musket balls would actually hit the enemy.  With rifled bullets, the bullets trajectory was no longer random, and an aimed shot could accurately hit something almost as far away as you could see.  Unfortunately, the armies still continued to use tight formations, as this is what armies then were taught to do.  It wasn’t uncommon in the war for units to take 50% (or more) casualties in a single day long battle.

In the World Wars, machine guns, rapid fire artillery, then tanks and airplanes added new levels of lethality to the battlefield.  Again, no one was really prepared for what the new technology could do.  And again, casualty rates were so high that the wars, in the end, were decided by who ran out of replacement Soldiers first.

In all of these wars, the lion’s share of the casualties are taken by the infantry.  These are the foot soldiers literally on the front line.  They have a rifle or a machine gun.  These days they wear a helmet and maybe some body armor covering their chest and back to protect themselves from some of the dangers they face.  They still have an incredibly short life expectancy once put on the front line in a major war.  In the World Wars, about 80% of the casualties were infantrymen.  Let this sink in.  Eight out of Ten who are injured or die in a major war are the front line foot soldiers.

It has been as long now since the World Wars as it was between the American Civil War and World War Two.  The pace of technological change has only accelerated.  Neither military leaders nor the citizens that could be called to arms have any personal experience with what would happen in a major war when all of the new technology is applied to killing humans on a mass scale.  Losses again will be horrific and the masses will be drafted to expand the armies and replace the fallen.  And there will be countless millions who will fall.

What to Do

The last place you want to be in a major war is in the infantry.  Especially if you have little to no prior military experience.  Your odds of dying or suffering serious injury would be almost 100%.  So you and your loved ones probably want to avoid this experience if possible.

The best way to avoid being drafted into the military as an infantry replacement is to already be in or associated with the military.  Have a military skill OTHER than being a foot soldier.  Join the Reserve Forces and learn how to work radios or repair trucks for example.  It is a decent way to pay for college and learn a backup trade skill.  And it will most probably keep you from being an infantry replacement when they start drafting people off of the streets.

It won’t work if you (or your loved ones) wait until the war starts.  You’ll just be changed to infantry in basic training as the casualty lists grow by the minute.  It’s too late then.

 

 

Crossing the RED Line

Syrian Gas Victims

Since World War Two there seems to have been as good a blur between the lines of diplomacy and warfare as has ever existed.  There have been numerous “low intensity conflicts”, widespread terrorism (much of it state sponsored), and recurring saber rattling.  Sometimes, actual Acts of War have been committed, and the offended party has failed to respond, usually out of fear of the damage and consequences of a real war.  Few want a “Real War”.  By “Real War” I mean the modern version of a World War or the American Civil War.

Most wars, including the big “Real” ones, are started due to diplomatic and military miscalculation and lack of clear and level thinking.  Even the little ones are the result of this.  It is important to have clear and reasonably achievable objectives to both your diplomacy and to your use of military force (which, as Clausewitz correctly stated, is an extension of diplomacy).  America’s interventions in Vietnam and more recently Iraq were doomed because the objectives were either unclear (Vietnam) or not reasonable (turning Iraq into a democracy).

American foreign policy (its diplomatic strategy) has had serious problems since the end of the Cold War.  The objectives remain rather fuzzy and often unachievable even if they are clear.  One such objective seems to be the American desire to protect everyone, everywhere, from bad things.  “Bad Things” have included genocide, famine, terror, and repression.  America has in many ways attempted to be the world’s policeman, although what it polices and how it carries this out changes from administration to administration.  The most recent issue is that of the use of poison gas by the Syrian government.

Any country’s main objective should always be the protection of itself and its citizens, territory, and commerce.  These are clear and reasonable objectives.  A country can quickly get caught up in quagmires when it moves beyond these to unclear or unreasonable objective, and that can easily happen when it decides to intervene due to “Bad Things” happening somewhere.

“Bad Things” happen on a frequent basis in the world.  Pol Pot killed millions (as did other dictators like Stalin and Mao).  Famine is frequent, and often caused by civil wars.  Terrorism and Anarchy also regularly occur.  Some countries even use “bad weapons” in civil wars.

So when should a country intervene, especially militarily?  If it is not to protect its citizens, territory, and/or its commerce, it probably shouldn’t.  Getting involved militarily in somebody else’s civil war is, and always has been, a recipe for international and internal disaster.  I feel sorry for foreign civilians who are subjected to famine, torture, poison gas, and so on, but do I think that we should go to war to try and stop such things?  The answer is no.  Acts of War committed by one country against another are different, that IS the RED LINE, and does call for military action.

A grey area is actively working to prevent others from similarly intervening.  Peoples do have a right to self determination and self defense against repression.  Those oppressing them should not be allowed to bring in outsiders to do so.

The other grey area is supporting uprisings.  When people rise up against oppression and denial of their right to self determination, I believe that we can aid and assist such people.  But we should NOT do so with our own forces.

What to Do

We should not be going to war, or even putting ourselves on track to do so, because some dictator is committing atrocities against his own people.  We should help those people however we can, but NOT through direct military action.

The mess in Syria is far greater than it should be because the United States allowed,under the Obama administration, Foreign Powers, namely Russia and Iran, to directly intervene.  This could have been prevented, but was not.

I cannot believe that getting into a direct confrontation with the Russians over Syrian chemical weapon use is a wise course of action at this point.  Do we really want to risk a “Real War” over this?  I certainly don’t.  I feel bad for the Syrian civilians, but I am not going to risk my life or my family’s lives over them.

Redundant Nuclear Redundancy

The supreme military might of the United States is provided by its Strategic Nuclear Forces.  This force is based on three kinds of nuclear delivery systems, the so called “Nuclear Triad”.  The delivery systems include large ballistic missiles (ICBMs) based in missile silos in the ground, the US Air Forces strategic bombers (like the B-52 and new B-2), and the Navy’s submarine launched ballistic missiles.  The three different strategic nuclear deterrents come from a combination of evolving weapons technology and inter-service rivalry.  The end result is a lot of costly and obsolete weaponry, and even unnecessary danger to the American homeland.

Let’s first look at how each of the “legs” of the Nuclear Triad came to be.  First up is the first that existed, strategic bombers.  In World War Two, the US Army Air Corps (predecessor of the current Air Force) used large four engine bombers to flatten every city in Germany and Japan.  At the end of the war, they even used such planes to drop the only nuclear weapons ever used in combat on Japan.  The creation of a large bomber force was the actual reason for the creation of the Air Force.  Immediately after the war, the only viable way to use city killing nuclear weapons was to drop them from bombers, so the Air Force built even bigger bombers to carry bigger bombs at ever increasing ranges.  The apex of this development was the B-52, developed in the early 1950s and still in use today.

The next leg came out of the rocket developments pioneered by the Germans during the war.  Larger and more sophisticated rockets were developed, not primarily for the space race as is popularly imagined, but to deliver nuclear warheads to distant targets by a means that could not be shot down.  These missiles initially were based on very fragile outdoor launch pads, but by the early 1960s the Air Force had missiles in protected underground silos.  And we still have such missiles in silos today at Air Bases around the country.

Last developed were submarine launched missiles.  This took longer to develop, as missiles we had to develop missiles small enough to get into a submarine with long enough range to hit a distant target, and powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead.  The first of these were deployed in the 1960s, but submarine launched missiles didn’t really have global reach until the development of the Trident missile in the 1970s.

We still spend oodles of defense dollars on each of these parts of the Nuclear Triad.  The issue is that two of them are completely obsolete, and are therefore a waste of money.  The wasted money should be put into other places where it would actually improve our defenses and deterrent.

The most obviously obsolete part of the triad are nuclear bombers, the latest of which is the B-2, the strategic “stealth” bomber.  These cost $2 Billion apiece.  The question is, why would you send in a bomber to drop a nuke when you can fire a missile?  A bomber can be shot down.  A missile can’t.  Sure, we still need bombers to drop bombs on bad people like ISIS, but old B-52s do a fine job of this.

Also obsolete are land based ICBMs.  The first part of a nuclear war involves trying to destroy the other side’s nuclear weapons.  This is made a whole lot easier if you know where they are.  And everyone knows where they are.  Precisely.  It may not even take enemy nuclear warheads to take them out.

Submarine launched nuclear missiles provide the best of everything.  No one knows where they are.  They are underwater and move around.  They don’t make the US more of a target; they make it less of one.  And they can’t be shot down like bombers.

What to Do

The United States wastes billions of dollars a year on obsolete nuclear weapons.  We don’t need strategic stealth bombers.  We don’t even need land based nuclear missiles.  We should put nuclear weapons into submarines.  And we should put the saved money into defense equipment we actually need.

Our Achilles Heel

In war, the best approach to take is to go after your enemy’s “Achilles Heel”.  In World War Two, Germany’s Achilles Heel was oil.  They had very limited fuel production, most of it being synthetic.  Once we started bombing their fuel production facilities, they could fly their planes or get very far with their Panzers.  For the Japanese, the Achilles Heel was imports.  So sinking their merchant fleet basically ended their weapons production, plus starved their population.  So when the next big war starts, it is only logical to assume that our enemies will attack our Achilles Heel.

The modern West has an Achilles Heel.  It’s blindingly obvious when it is pointed out.  Our entire society, our entire way of life is dependent on a single commodity; Electricity.  Without it, just about everything that we do comes screeching to a halt.

Electrical power generation is concentrated at a few sites.  The electrical grid itself is extremely vulnerable and is virtually unprotected.  On top of that, repairing any kind of major damage to the power distribution system takes a lot longer than we would like, even when the cause was just a major storm.  And this is only when the only damage is broken power lines.

Much worse is when a power plant itself is damaged.  The problem isn’t that it would take time to repair it, the problem is the scarcity of repair parts.  No one is really making generators or any of the equipment needed to replace major electrical systems.  This is because there is little ongoing demand for this stuff.  So if a lot if it is suddenly damaged, it could be quite a while until power is restored.

Our enemies know this.  There are sleeper cells of enemy agents in our country.  Our enemies would be pretty daft not to have them here.  And when the time comes, the electrical grid is probably their primary target.

When war breaks out, the government is not going to worry about your home not having power.  It is going to concentrate on restoring power to those systems necessary for the war.  Things like war industries and military bases.  Your TV or refrigerator not having power is way way down on the list of things for the government to fix under such circumstances.  And the vast majority of us will endure extreme personal hardship as a result.

What To Do

Recognize that we cannot always take electricity for granted.  And recognize how much we are dependent on it.  The realization of our personal dependency on electricity can help us to prepare for it not being there.

The most important need for electricity is not our smart phones.  It’s the refrigerator.  Most of us will have to deal with not having refrigeration for quite a while.  This means that we need to know how to feed ourselves without things that require a working fridge.

Next is communication.  We should have a portable radio; better yet, one that can be powered by a hand crank or solar power.  There aren’t going to be a lot of batteries available for very long.

Last is light.  We should have backups for light.  The best option is some kind of solar power collection and storage.  You don’t have to put giant panels on your roof, but have a solar collector that you can get for camping.  It’s not going to power your fridge or your big screen TV, but it will allow you to have light.

WW III = Nuclear Armageddon?

Most people think that any outbreak of war between major nuclear powers (USA, Russia, and China) would almost immediately degenerate into a massive thermonuclear exchange, and that mankind would be wiped out, or near to it.  While this is indeed possible, it is not probable.  The reason is that any sane and rational person understands that you don’t get to enjoy your wealth, power, and status if you are living in a nuclear wasteland.  Even Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, two of the most evil and murderous power mad people that ever lived, and who had thermonuclear weapons, understood this.  Neither of them was willing to cross that line, even though their armies were engaged in shooting at us (either directly, as in Korea, or clandestinely, as in Vietnam).  Even Hitler, who could have put nerve gas into aerosol form and unleashed clouds of it over England from Submarines upwind in the Irish Sea, didn’t want to do that, as that would result in a response of the same thing happening to Germany.  The point is that no one seeking power actually wants the world to end.

When war starts, we will all be panicked that nuclear Armageddon is about to begin.  But it won’t.  The British were completely freaked out at the beginning of World War Two that the Nazis were going to drop gas bombs on London.  They never did.  Although both sides in that last major war carpet and fire bombed each other’s cities, they didn’t use the “weapons of mass destruction” of the time, poison and nerve gases.  We will have the same experience regarding ICBMs and Thermonuclear detonations over cities.

Nuclear weapons will probably be used in World War III, but I believe they will be limited to tactical nuclear weapons.  These are atomic bombs (much less powerful than thermonuclear hydrogen bombs) used to destroy enemy troop concentrations.  Such weapons would be used early on against targets that while militarily significant, are not inside major cities.  This would still be inconceivably bad.  But it won’t be the end of the world.

The one wrinkle with this is that crazy nut jobs, like Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, or the Ayatollahs in Iran, do not necessarily have the same thinking.  They may very well use nuclear weapons against major cities.  North Korea could very well nuke Seoul South Korea, a city of about 10 Million, with the atomic weapons they now have.  Iran could do the same against Saudi capitol, or against an Israeli city like Tel-Av iv.  My belief is that WW III happens well before these wackos have hydrogen bombs, but they will still do a lot of damage with what we have allowed them to acquire.

World War III will be the next level of escalation in modern warfare.  The first modern war was the American Civil War, the bloodshed in which was unfathomable while it was going on.  Close to 700,000 died (about 2% of total population).  The First and Second World War, which were very connected, were the next level.  About 40 million died in the First and another 60-70 million in the Second.  World War III could be another jump in the level of magnitude.  With the technology we now have, plus nukes, we could easily experience a war with Hundreds of Millions, if not Billions are killed, either directly by weapons, or indirectly through famine and disease.

Each and every time, war is predicted to be short, as no one thinks the armies or countries can deal with the advances in killing technology.  Or the cost, both in human and financial terms.  And then they do, and they get used to it, until one side or the other literally runs out of Soldiers.  Unfortunately for us all, this takes years, even with killing on an industrial scale.

What to Do

World War III will not be the end of the world.  There are now about 7.6 BILLION people in the world.  If a billion or two died in the course five to ten years, it would be a disaster of currently unimaginable proportions, the worst thing that has ever happened.  But it would NOT be the end of the world or even of society as we know it.

But what you do need to do is prepare for what is coming; prepare Physically, Materially, Financially, and Emotionally.

You also need to know what advice to give to your family regarding military service and what you should do if you are at an age where you might be called upon, whether you want to go or not.  Because if you are in the military age group (17 to 50), you ARE going to be involved.

China is NOT our Friend

China is our largest trading partner.  Most of our stuff is now made in China.  You can go there on vacation.  There are lots of Chinese visiting and studying in the USA.  But China is not like the United States.  The people there are not free.  While the communist states of Eastern Europe and Russia could not bring themselves to shoot their own people when they demanded more freedoms almost 30 years ago, the Chinese had no problem doing so (as in Tiananmen Square).

Regardless of all the outward appearances, we have to recognize that China is run by the Chinese Communist Party.  Not everyone is a member.  In fact, only about 1% of Chinese are in the party, and the only real way to get in is to be the child of a member.  But the concentration of power is even worse.

Right now, Xi Jinping is in the final stages of consolidating almost absolute power.  The currently ongoing communist party congress is in the processes of formally giving him complete control.  He will run the government, the communist party, and control the Chinese military.  There are no “checks and balances” on his power, and there are no prospects of any.

The Chinese have a long term plan.  They started this under Deng Xiaoping back in the 1980’s.  He replaced the failed communist economic system with one that appears capitalist.  He recognized that China could not compete with the West if it continued as a backward economy.  This goal has certainly been achieved, as China is now a powerhouse of manufacturing.  We have seen the Chinese rapidly expand and upgrade their military capability.  And now we are watching them as they begin to project their military power outward.  Their man-made island fortresses in the “South China Sea” (which is actually between Vietnam, the Philippines and Borneo – look it up on a map), are nowhere near Chinese territory.  In another 30-40 years they intend to be the dominant world superpower.

The problem for the Chinese is that their economy is more fragile than ours.  While they may look like they are capitalist and engaging in free market economics, they are not.  They are in a very precarious position due to much higher levels of debt than in the west.  The majority of their economy is fueled by WMPs (Wealth Management Products) that promise returns of 10 to 20% per year.  Unfortunately, most of these WMPs are Ponzi Schemes that rely on incoming money to pay off earlier investors.  Most scenarios of economic disaster start with the implosion of these instruments.

When things go bad, the Chinese communist Party is not going to take responsibility.  Instead, for starters, they will blame others.  During the 2008 crisis, when exports plunged, they didn’t say that Americans had stopped buying things; instead they said that Americans were not paying the Chinese for what they had bought.  So during the next crisis, they will blame us for their own mess.  And if it gets bad enough economically, they are going to use the ultimate tool to distract their population from finding out what really happened and holding them accountable.  This tool is War.  It provides the rulers with the ability to stamp out any kind of dissent, and to focus public hatred due to crumbling finances on foreigners.

What to Do

Recognize that while we focus mainly on our wallets and our economic well-being, there are other even more ominous threats.  The worse thing is not that you lose your possessions.  It is that you and your family can lose their lives.

The Chinese Communists will do anything to retain power.  This includes going to war.  This is even more likely with a leader who has total control.  Here’s a short list of rulers with total power: Stalin, Hitler, Mao, the Kims of North Korea.  Benevolent dictators are few and far between.

This should be an incentive to prepare.  An economic downturn would be a major disruption to our lives.  A war would be orders of magnitude worse.  So prepare for things not being available the instant you need them.  Things like food and water.  A month’s supply of food and a way to filter water is a good place to start.

The Korean Military Options

US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile

Wars are rarely the result of someone having an evil master plan to take over the world.  They are much more frequently the result of serious miscalculations regarding how the other side will respond to extremely aggressive actions.  Militaries and Governments, not just people, have a tendency to over-react and NOT passively stand by when they are threatened.  This is what makes the situation in North Korea so dangerous.

As I have previously noted, the North Koreans have committed numerous Acts of War, and the affected democracies (South Korea, the US, and Japan) have done little if anything about them.  The new and naive leader of North Korean had dangerously accelerated the frequency of outrageous acts, and thinks that no-one will do anything about it.  In the past, his father might do something outrageous every year or two.  He is now doing such things about once a month.  In the past, the tension caused by such acts was allowed to dissipate, and this in large measure allowed North Korea to “get away with it”.  But now, the democracies are figuring out that this isn’t going to go away, and will only get worse.

There is a very strong likelihood of a military response from the US and its allies.  At which point, the North Koreans will over-react in turn, probably to the point of doing something tantamount to invading South Korea.  Hopefully they understand the implications of “mutually assured destruction” and don’t actually use a nuclear weapon.

Here is a realistic example of what the democracies might do.  They might send missiles against North Korean missile factories and nuclear weapon construction sites.  In addition, since neither the Chinese nor Russians want to stop sending supplies and resources to their ally, the democracies also strike to take out infrastructure like bridges and rail lines just inside North Korea.  Maybe they even mine the ports of North Korea.  They could even hit some command bunkers to show Kim he isn’t safe anywhere.

In response the North Koreans might fire missiles at South Korea and Japan.  Worse yet, they might have their submarines torpedo South Korean or Japanese shipping.  Or, they could indeed start shelling Seoul.  Any of these North Korean responses would then result in all out war with South Korea and America, and maybe even Japan.  And Russia and China could easily get dragged in, just like in the original Korean War of the 1950’s.

Such responses would mean the end of the North Korean regime.  The problem is, Kim just doesn’t get this.  And God help us all if someone decides to use a nuke.

What to Do

It’s more a question of what NOT to do.  Being rational about the whole situation is best.  And that means not over-reacting.  The North Koreans under the latest Kim have yet to commit an Act of War.  Yet we are in a dangerous situation because of the bad decisions made up to decades ago.  Now, because of the nuclear threat, we have to wait for a flagrant Act of War by North Korea before we should do anything severe.

We should, however, bolster defenses in the region and increase military capability in the area.  We need to be able to take out the entire North Korean navy in very short order if we needed to.  We need to be able to take out North Korean transportation and military infrastructure quickly.  And this means moving our own medium and short range missiles, some of them nuclear tipped, into the region.

The North’s objective is to get the US to abandon its allies in the region.  Kim’s path of doing this is backfiring, as Japan and South Korea will now redouble their own efforts to arm and protect themselves.  This means that both democratic governments are probably already working on their own nuclear weapon plans.  At this point they would be naïve not to.

Floating Targets

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)

The Aircraft Carrier (or just Carrier) has been the American Navy’s preeminent weapon since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War Two.  The Carrier allowed the Navy to project ship sinking power out to the limits of the range of its ship borne bomber and torpedo carrying aircraft.  Instead of needing to be within sight of each other, opposing navies could now strike at each other from hundreds of miles away.

Carriers were instrumental in defeating Japan and winning World War Two.  Ever since then, the Navy has continued to rely on the Carrier as its means of projecting combat power into a military theater of operations.  Carrier aircraft have flown combat missions in Korea, Vietnam, and all of the modern conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

There are two big differences regarding Carriers between World War Two and now.  The first is that air to air refueling wasn’t practical until the 1960s.  Prior to then, aircraft had to rely on the fuel they carried internally on takeoff.  Carriers were the only platforms that could provide both air cover and striking power to fleets operating in the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.  Land based aircraft, particularly fighter planes, could not fly that far away from their airbases.  So only Carrier aircraft could operate far out to sea, or attack Japanese installations like those on islands located hundreds of miles from our nearest land bases.  But since the 1960’s, due to air to air refueling, land based aircraft can reach anywhere.  There may be some short term difficulty in getting the logistics set up for the Air Force to operate in a specific geographic area, but once this temporary issue is solved, the land based Air Force can operate anywhere we want it to.

The other big difference is what exists to potentially sink a Carrier.  In World War Two, the only things really capable were dive and torpedo bombers (which usually operated off of other Carriers) and submarines.  The submarines of World War Two were very slow, had to be within sight of the Carrier, and then had to hit the Carrier with “straight shot” dumb torpedoes.  Still, while the American Navy sank twenty different Japanese Carriers during the war, eight of those were sunk by submarines, not aircraft.  Today’s submarines are vast improvements over their WW II ancestors.  They are super fast, never have to surface, and carry both anti-ship missiles and wire guided torpedoes that can be steered to the target. Since the 1960’s, submarines have repeatedly gotten embarrassingly close to carriers during naval maneuvers.  It would be worse in a real war.

Submarines aren’t the only serious threat to Aircraft Carriers today.  The most serious threat is probably long range anti-ship missiles.  These include weapons that fly at something like a thousand miles an hour a few feet above the waves, while carrying a multi-ton conventional or, worse yet, nuclear warheads, and track the massive Carrier through a combination of active and passive radar with infrared and other backups.  Even more dangerous are ballistic missiles with “steerable” re-entry warheads.

What I’ve outlined here is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the arguments against the continued reliance on $10-15 billion Aircraft Carriers.  But the end result for Carriers in a war with a real enemy like Russia or China is that they will most likely end up like the Battleships in Pearl Harbor, obsolete and near defenseless targets of more modern weapons.

What to Do

We need to stop building these extremely expensive massive floating targets that have marginal usefulness.  To add to the arguments against the Aircraft Carrier, the most recent, the USS Gerald Ford, which has new “electronic” catapults and aircraft landing capture gear, is both a model of cost overruns and “high tech” equipment that doesn’t work.  The ship is has already had $5 Billion in cost overruns and its new equipment for launching and retrieving aircraft is not working.  So this now $17.5 Billion floating island is currently completely useless.

We need a strong Navy to protect the sea lanes and the shipping operating in them.  Both for commerce and for the supply lines we would have to defend in a major war.  That Navy should be equipped for the modern war it will have to fight, not a war with Imperial Japan that just involves bigger ships and jet aircraft.

Most of the money we are now spending on our Navy (not unlike much of it spent for the Army and Air Force) is being wasted on weapon systems designed not for battlefield efficiency but for maximizing the profit of defense contractors.  We need to pressure our representatives in Congress and the appointees in the Defense Department to push for truly cost effective weapons, ships and aircraft.  Our Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen need effective modern weapons.  The key word being “effective”.

Losing the Air War

F-35

In the late 1950’s, the US Air Force (and Naval Aviation) and the companies designing their planes decided that the new technology coming out at the time was the solution for the future.  The designed a common plane that was to be a platform for firing long range radar guided missiles that would destroy enemy aircraft well before coming into visual range.  This was the F-4 Phantom program.

Then it actually had to fight enemy aircraft over Vietnam.  The radar guided missiles didn’t work out the way they were supposed to.  Less than 10% of kills were with them.  Luckily the Air Force and Navy also had a short range infrared guided missile (that cost a fraction of the radar guided ones) that did most of the work.  Our pilots were also disadvantaged by the bulkiness of the F-4, which could not turn with enemy planes (a basic need in dogfighting).  This was exacerbated by the reduction in dogfight training, and by the fact that the F-4 was built without a gun, so it couldn’t shoot at the enemy at close range.

After the experiences of Vietnam, the Air Force demanded that its newly developed planes could dogfight.  The result was the excellent F-16, developed in the late 1970’s, which has been the backbone of the Air Force since the 1980s.  This plane has served long and well, but is now outclassed by newer Russian aircraft like the Su-27 and Mig-29 (and now the improved Su-35 and Mig-35).

Unfortunately, the Air Force (along with Naval and Marine Aviation) has reverted to the pre-Vietnam thinking.  The F-16 (and Naval F-18) replacement is the F-35.  It is very high tech.  It is supposed to shoot down enemy planes with its two missiles, while being next to invisible on radar.  The big problem is that it can’t dogfight at all, plus the pilot can’t see to the rear.  This will be deadly, to our own pilots, when they actually have to fight enemy aircraft, something the US hasn’t really had to do since Vietnam.

There are a host of other issues.  Enemy aircraft carry 8 missiles, not just two like the F-35.  The F-35 has a very short range, and therefore is incredibly dependent on air-air refueling.  It is a maintenance nightmare and can only fly once every couple of days, unlike F-16s that can fly a couple of combat missions each day.

The value of stealth technology is questionable, and that is the F-35s main feature.  Today, turning on a radar system is like turning on a flashlight in a dark arena.  You can see a few feet ahead of you with the flashlight, but EVERYONE can see you (and shoot at you).  Anti-radar missiles lock onto radar emissions, so turning on radar is VERY dangerous.  So you leave them off when facing competent foes.  So paying a fortune for stealth capability is rather pointless.

This “fortune” is the main point.  The F-35 program has cost more than a Trillion dollars.  To develop a plane that is worse than what it is supposed to replace.  And each F-35 will cost $90 Million.  The F-35 is so bad, that when we fight competent foes with it, our military will lose Air Superiority.  This means losing the war in the Air, and that will be an unmitigated DISASTER.  The last time we were in that situation was in the Pacific in early World War Two when the Japanese Zero ruled the skies.

What to Do

The money spent developing the F-35 is lost.  We can’t get it back.  But we need to NOT throw good money after bad.  Cancel the program.  Stop building these flying gold-plated turkeys.  Keep the F-16s flying until we have a viable replacement (something like the Swedish JAS-39; they cost about $30 Million apiece).  We need to start the development of something that can actually dogfight NOW.

If we want to help our military, we need to stop wasting money on failures like the F-35.  We need to develop weapons that will actually work on the battlefield or in the skies above it.  The defense industry is no help here.  They want to develop costly “state of the art technology” that won’t work in real combat conditions.  This is because they want us to pay them the most they can get out of us.  And this is why President Eisenhower railed against them (the military-industrial complex) in his final speech.

Paperwork’s Cost

The Power of the American Army is in its Combat Battalions.  The battalions of Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Cavalry, Engineers, Special Forces and Attack Helicopters project the force to defeat America’s enemies.  Everything else in the Army is in a support role to the combat Soldiers in these battalions.  If you count all of the Soldiers in all of the Active Duty combat battalions, there are roughly 60,000 of them.  The number of Soldiers doing “everything else” is about 480,000.  In addition, the Army employs about 300,000 full time civilians.

In World War Two, the German Army had a ratio of four support personnel for every Soldier in a combat unit.  This was barely adequate, but the Germans had serious manpower problems, as they were basically fighting everyone else.  The Russian Army had a ratio of two to one, and, due to this inadequate support base, they had to periodically stop their forward movement against the Germans in order to restock supplies close the front line, a process that took months.  The American Army at the time was comparatively lavishly supplied, and had about eight support Soldiers for every combat Soldier.

So currently, the American Army has a ratio of about 13 support personnel (Soldiers and civilians doing jobs Soldiers mostly did in the past) for every combat Soldier.  Now a lot of that support is crucial.  It does take a good sized logistical and administrative chain to keep an Army supplied and its equipment maintained.  The issue is whether or not it takes 13 people to support a single combat Soldier.

What I need to point out next is that most of the Army’s budget is for personnel.  Modern Soldiers and civilian workers are not cheap.  The pay is relatively good, and the benefits are fantastic.  So it costs a lot of money to employ a Soldier or a Department of the Army civilian.  This is money that is not going towards equipment, training, or increasing the number of combat Soldiers.  In addition, the Army also employs quite a number of third party contractors whenever it deploys units outside of the USA, and this is also a significant cost.

So what are the 13 support people doing?  Many of them are indeed performing needed maintenance and administrative functions.  But many of them are performing what in business are routinely described as “non-value added” functions.  Anyone with any military experience knows what a nightmare the paperwork is.  This is because the bureaucracy has grown to the point that it has overwhelmed everyone.  It seems impossible, even for Generals in senior leadership positions, to change archaic and byzantine processes.  To say that the bureaucracy is entrenched is to put it mildly.  In the Department of Defense, it is fortified in permanent positions!

Our Army’s readiness is below what it should be, in large part because of what we have asked of our Soldiers over the last fifteen years or so.  But throwing money at the Army will not necessarily improve it.  Most of that money will go into a bureaucratic black hole.

What To Do

The Army (for that matter all services) is in dire need of bureaucratic overhaul.  Administrative and support staffs need to be drastically trimmed.  But this can only happen by drastically improving the administrative processes within the Army.  The Army needs to go through the same processes used to save failing businesses.  Personnel need to be re-aligned to be in jobs where they can add the most to the true combat power of the Army.

The Army isn’t going to do this by itself without being forced to do so.  The only entity that can impose this mammoth, yet desperately needed reform on the Army is Congress.  Tell your Representative and your Senator that you support the military, but that you want to see your dollars well spent.  Ask them what they are doing to force bureaucratic reform on the military and how they are doing it.  And if they aren’t doing it, point out why it is so urgently needed.

Unprepared

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.