"Milk-Bar Clausewitzes, Bean Curd Napoleons: In the Reign of Kaiser Don"
by Fred Reed
"Why do those inadequate little men in Washington and New York dream of new wars? Because the empire is near a tipping point. Washington must either either start a war in Korea, or gets faced down by the North, its carriers ignored, its bombers “sending signals” and making “shows of force” without result. For the empire this is a loss of face and credibility, and an example to others that America can be challenged.
Iran has not caved to Washington’s threats and sanctions and clearly isn’t going to. Another strategic loss, a big one, unless - the hawks seem to think - remedied by a war. Iran wants to trade with Europe and Europe likes the idea. Worse, Iran is becoming a vital part of China’s aim to integrate Europe and Asia economically. To the empire this smells of death. The frightened grow desperate.
China shows no signs of backing down in the South China Sea. For Washington, it is either war now, when it thinks it might win, or be overshadowed as China grows.
Russia has irrevocably gotten the Crimea, is quietly absorbing part of Ukraine, and looks as if its side is going to win in Syria. Three humiliating setbacks for the empire. Loss of control of the Mideast would be a strategic disaster for Washington.
Continued control of Europe is absolutely vital. European governments have groveled but now even they grow restless with Washington’s sanction against Russia, and European businessmen want more trade eastward. Growing trade with Asia threatens to loosen Europe’s shackles. Washington cannot allow this.
When you have militarily stupid politicians listening to pathologically confident soldiers, trouble is likely. All of these people might reflect how seldom wars turn out as those starting them expect. Wars are always going to be quick and easy. Generals not infrequently advise against a war but, once it begins, they bark in unison. They seldom know what they are getting into. Note:
The American Civil War was expected to be over in an afternoon at First Manassas. Wrong, by four years and some 650,000 dead.
Germans thought that World War I would be be a quick war of movement, over in a few weeks. Wrong by four years and fantastic slaughter, and was an entirely unexpected trench war of attrition ending in unconditional surrender. Not in the Powerpoint presentation.
When the Japanese Army urged attacking Pearl Harbor, their war aims did not include two cities in radioactive rubble and GIs in the bars of Tokyo. That is what they got.
When the Wehrmacht invaded Poland, having GIs and the Red Army in Berlin must have been an undocumented feature. Very undocumented.
When the French re-invaded Vietnam after WWII, they did not expect les jaunes to crush them at Dien Bien Phu, end of war. Les Jaunes did.
When the Americans invaded Vietnam, having seen what had happened to the French, the thought did not occur that it might happen to them too. It did.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, having seen what happened to the US in a war against peasants, they did not expect to lose. They did.
When the Americans attacked Afghanistan, having seen what happened to the Soviets there, they did not expect to be fought to a slowly losing draw. They were.
When the Americans attacked Iraq, they did not expect to be bogged down in an interminable conflagration in the whole region. They are.
Is there a pattern here?
From the foregoing one might conclude that when grrr-bowwow-woofs start wars, they seldom foresee the nature of the war or its outcome. This is particularly true of military men, who seem to have little grasp of their profession. Whether anyone else could better predict does not matter. The generals do not.
Why? One reason is that war by its nature is not very predictable. Often the other side proves uncooperative, imaginative, and resourceful. Another reason is that militaries inculcate unreasonable confidence in their own powers. Troops cannot be told that they are mediocre soldiers, and may lose, that their publics may not support the war, that the other side may prove superior. Consequently they are told, and tell themselves, that they are the best trained, best armed, most lethal force imaginable. They tell themselves that they have great fighting spirit–cran, bushido, oorah. If this is so, they think, how can they not win?
Just now, the usual damned fools in Washington and New York contemplate wars against Russia in Syria, China in the South China Sea, North Korea, Russia in the Ukraine, and Iran. All of these offer superb chances for disastrous and unexpected consequences.
An attack on North Korea will be called a “surgical strike.” “Surgical” is a PR phrase implying that no civilians will be killed, that the war will be quick and cheap. You know, like Iraq, a cakewalk. This idea has little relation to military reality. The assumptions will be that American intelligence actually knows where the North’s missiles and nukes are, that North Korea is too stupid to put them deep underground, that Kim Jong Un won’t respond with a massive attack on the South, that he doesn’t have aircraft that can carry a nuke for a short distance - to Seoul, say, or a carrier-battle group, or to the barracks of the 28,000 GIs in South Korea, that the North Korean infantry could not get into Seoul, thirty-five miles away, forcing the US to bomb the South Korean capital into rubble.
Them is a lot of assumptions.
Similarly, we hear that the US military could devastate Iran. Today, “US military” means airplanes. American ground forces are small, not rapidly deployable and - if I may lapse into rural accuracy - pussified, obsessed with homosexuality, girls in combat, trans this and trans that, and racial and sexual quotas in the officer corps. The Pentagon has trouble finding recruits physically fit enough for combat arms.
Pregnant-and-girl simulator, forced on American troops by feminists. The intention obviously is to humiliate, and they have succeeded. The problem is, first, that we have troops willing to put up with this and second, and far worse, is that the generals, who know perfectly well the effects of this sort of thing, have let the military become the playground of feminists, homosexuals, transvestites, transgenders, single mothers, and so on. They value their careers over the military.
Iranians are Muslims, not pansies and not afraid to die. They might not - I would say definitely will not - cave in to bombing. They might close the Straits of Hormuz (“Damn, sir! I was sure we could blow up all those missiles they have on pickup trucks.”) They might launch dispersed infantry attacks into various surrounding countries. Getting them out would be a hell of lot harder than letting them in.
In all of these contemplated wars, there is the belief in the Last Move: that is, that after the US defeats the Russian Air Force over Syria, which it could, Russia would throw up its hands, go home and do nothing - instead of, say, occupying the Caucasus, which it could. Always, always, the assumption is that the other side will behave as the bow-wow-woofs think it will.
People tend to think of countries as suprahuman entities with rational minds. We say, “Russia did this” or "The US decided that…” Countries don’t decide anything. Men (usually) do. You know, McCain, Hillary, generals, delusional Neocons, and Trump, who is eerily similar to Kaiser Wilhelm, another stochastic military naif with a codpiece need. These massive egos are not well suited to backing down or conceding that they have made a mistake.
This egotism is important. Washington’s vanities could not accept being humiliated, not allow any country to show that resistance to America is possible.
Suppose that the Navy fired on a Chinese ship in the South China Sea, expecting Beijing to roll over as it would have thirty years ago - but it didn’t, instead leaving a carrier in flaming ruin. This is far from impossible. Carriers can be surprisingly fragile, and China has has focused resources specifically of defeating the American Navy in what it regards as its home waters. The American fleet has not fought a war since 1945. It doesn’t really know how well its weapons will work against their weapons.
The carrier Forrestal, 1967. A single Zuni ground-attack missile was fired accidentally, hitting a plane. A huge fire ensued, bombs cooked off, 134 men were killed, and the ship was devastated, out of service for a very long time. One five-inch missile.
Times have changed. Carriers today are useful only for bombing defenseless countries. Against serious opposition - Russia and China for example - they serve only as trip wires. The carrier itself does not amount to much, but if you cripple one, you are at war with the US. This is less scary than it used to be, which is dangerous in itself, but still not something one undertakes casually.
The following news story is worth reflection: Surprise! Boo! “The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced. American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board. By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier. According to senior NATO officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy." The story clearly was not written by a student of submarines or carriers, but the incident occurred, ten years ago - and Chinese submarines are getting rapidly better.
Emotionally unable to walk away from a local defeat, Washington would have to double down, likely by bombing China. The consequences would be disastrous, unpredictable, perhaps nuclear. Things soldiers do not think about: revolution when the United States, already deeply divided with the middle and lower classes pushed to the wall financially, suffer the depression that would follow on ending commerce with America’s largest trading partner - China. The lower middle class, already pushed to the wall, having no savings, finds prices going way up at Walmart. Apple stores have no iPhones. Boeing loses Chinese orders, laying off thousands. This list could go on for many pages. The elderly will remember the civil unrest during Vietnam.
If the war remained conventional, the outcome might boil down to which population could best survive privation - the Chinese, only a generation or so removed from living hard, or America’s squealing millennials, looking for safe spaces. If the Pentagon destroyed the Three Gorges Dam, and killed several million people, China might go nuclear. Note that if a few well-placed nuclear bombs shut down food distribution in the US for even a month, people in the cities would be fighting for food on the third day, and eating each other on the fifth.
This, those absurd vanities and overgrown children in New York are playing with.”