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I have already written about the Russian government’s blocking of Sputnik i Pogrom, Russia’s foremost nationalist resource.

Two politicians have taken a clear stance on this. Zhirinovsky was one. I have been weighing whether to vote for him or Putin (if only to “reward” him for Crimea) in March 2018. Well, the decision is vastly easier now.

Another supporter is Sergey Shargulin, a Communist deputy, who has sent a letter to the General Prosecutor requesting they provision the materials on the basis of which they were blocked. This is probably connected to Shargulin having been an active supporter of the Donbass resistance, so to hear inanities such as SiP’s support for Ukrainian nationalists must have been especially jarring for him.

The liberals have generally approved of this, since Russian liberalism has little to do with liberal values as such (e.g. freedom of speech) and is more often a respectable fig-leaf for Russophobia and Western cargo cultism. (Alexey Kovalev is a consistently honorable exception).

Perhaps surprising to some – though it shouldn’t be – was the joyous reaction of Stalinists and Eurasianists, such as Israel Shamir. He has not only celebrated the “closure” of that “Vlasovite site,” but believes the authorities haven’t gone far enough; nothing less than a prison term under Article 282 would suffice!

One might think that cheering political prosecution is a rather incongruent position for someone labeled as a Holocaust denier by the Western media, but apparently SiP sinned by not being hard enough on the Jews. Not making this up! “A desperate attempt to set Russians against everyone: Against Armenians, against the Kyrgyz, against Ukrainians. But not against the Jews! They obviously get their money from the CIA, and they wouldn’t give them a penny if they criticized the Jews.

It’s hard to see where to even begin to comment.

I mean, kudos to Shamir for thinking up one of the more… idiosyncratic rationalizations for having a legal system in which obese 90 IQ bureaucrats decide what Russians are allowed to read on Russian taxpayer money (or try to, anyway; Russians are aware of VPN). Hopefully he takes this as a compliment.

So instead I will make just two points. First, this is a good illustration of why Stalinists and Eurasianists are not Russian nationalists (as the Western media almost always clumps them), and why the two factions don’t usually want to have anything to do with each other.

Second, I do want to take the opportunity to specifically address the “Vlasovite” smear that is repeatedly lobbed at Russian nationalists, including SiP, by Stalinists, Eurasianists, and assorted Soviet people.

Vlasov was an exemplary Soviet officer. He did not disappear in the 1937 military purges. Instead, he “faithfully followed the party line” as a member of military tribunals, and enjoyed steady career progression. He so impressed his superiors that he was awarded with a golden watch in 1940. But after going over to the Germans, he suddenly became a resolute enemy of Bolshevik tyranny. The Prague Manifesto, compiled in 1944 under Nazi tutelage, praised the ideals of the February revolution, supported the self-determination of the nations within the USSR (that is, an independent Ukraine, Belarus, etc), and promised to fight against “reactionary forces.”

All of that is in direct opposition to what Russian nationalism stands for. But it is also very congruent with the ideals of the rootless liberal elites who ruled Russia in the 1990s, and continue to exercise significant cultural and economic power today. Who are themselves in large part just the mutant offspring of the late Soviet nomenklatura. (The case of Nobel Peace Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich is particularly instructive: A woman who transitioned seamlessly from writing cringeworthy odes to the ethnic Polish founder of the Soviet secret police Dzerzhinsky to penning Russophobic screeds, she is perhaps the quintessential representative of this “Soviet-liberal” class).

Now here’s the thing. To my knowledge, SiP has never expressed any support or sympathy for Vlasov. (I’ve read a good percentage of everything they’ve written since about 2014, so I am reasonably qualified to make this judgment).

They have, however, pointed out inconvenient facts – including the critical observation that Vlasov was a successful product of the Soviet system and a quintesential Soviet person (as judged by that system itself until 1942).

But for devotees of a tyrant who literally erased people who fell afoul of him from historical record, this might well be more infuriating than if SiP actually were the swastika-toting Vlasovites of their imagination.

 
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The USSR played the leading role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, which the majority of Europeans recognized in 1945 even if half a century of Hollywood propaganda successfully displaced it in the public imagination in favor of the USA. But what about within the USSR itself?

Back in January 2015, during his brief nationalist phase after the return of Crimea, Putin declared that Russians played the leading role in the defeat of Nazism and paid the highest sacrifices. That seems like a dream today. Official rhetoric proclaims that “we achieved victory together” played over footage of Ramzan Kadyrov and Tajik workers wearing St. George’s ribbons (in the meantime, Tajikistan has banned the Immortal Regiments march on the grounds that it is un-Islamic).

So who’s right: Putin 2015, or Putin 2017?

I compiled the following two graphs based on the results of the Soviet Census of 1939 and Grigory Krivosheev’s statistics on military deaths by ethnicity in WW2 (table 122).

soviet-military-deaths-ww2-by-ethnicity

Predictably, Russians bore the highest number of absolute losses – some two thirds of the 8.7 million total.

Together with the Ukrainians and Belorussians that figure rises to 85%.

soviet-military-deaths-ww2-by-percentage-of-ethnicity

Moreover, Russians also bore the highest relative military losses as a percentage of their population, together with the Buryats.

The Ukrainians and Belorussians were somewhat lower, though this is explainable on account of them being occupied for part of the war, and incurring a greater share of civilian deaths as a result. There would have been be a similar dynamic with respect to the Jews, a large percentage of whom unfortunately fell within the Nazi zone of occupation.

I recall reading a history paper (can’t find it at the moment) where it was claimed that the USSR would create ethnic minority units from the Finno-Ugric peoples and intentionally send them to the hottest fronts so as to make them incur heavier casualties and shift the demographic balance in favor of Russins. That is obviously nonsense based on these figures, though that said, they did almost do their fair share.

The Central Asians, especially the Uzbeks and Tajiks, are underrepresented – the latter by a factor of almost three. This is perhaps not that bad a thing, since they had a reputation for technical incompetence; even in the late USSR, conscripts from those regions tended to go into “Class C” rear divisions with simple, obsolete equipment.

Of the major ethnicities, the worst group in terms of its lack of contribution were the restive Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus. Dagestan underdid its fair share by a factor of four, while the Chechens and Ingush as is known pretty much defected to the Germans en masse (hence the deportations).

I didn’t include any figures for the Balts and Moldovans. They were annexed by the USSR after the 1939 Census, so their percentages would be meaningless.

For comparison, the Germans lost approximately 6.1% of their population as military losses in WW2, including: Germany proper: 6.4%; Austria: 3.9%; The German diaspora in Eastern Europe: 7.2%, according to Rüdiger Overmans’s calculations.

***

Nationality Population (1939) WW2 Mil. Deaths % All Mil. Deaths % Deaths Population
Russians 99,591,520 5,756,000 66.40% 5.78%
Ukrainians 28,111,007 1,377,400 15.89% 4.90%
Belorussians 5,275,393 252,900 2.92% 4.79%
Georgians 2,249,636 79,500 0.92% 3.53%
Azeris 2,275,678 58,400 0.67% 2.57%
Armenians 2,152,860 83,700 0.97% 3.89%
Uzbeks 4,845,140 117,900 1.36% 2.43%
Turkmen 812,404 21,300 0.25% 2.62%
Tajiks 1,229,170 22,900 0.26% 1.86%
Kazakhs 3,100,949 125,500 1.45% 4.05%
Kyrgyz 884,615 26,600 0.31% 3.01%
Karelians 252,716 9,500 0.11% 3.76%
Komi 422,317 11,600 0.13% 2.75%
Bashkirs 843,648 31,700 0.37% 3.76%
Udmurts 606,326 23,200 0.27% 3.83%
Tatars 4,313,488 187,700 2.17% 4.35%
Mari 481,587 20,900 0.24% 4.34%
Mordovians 1,456,330 63,300 0.73% 4.35%
Chuvash 1,369,574 63,300 0.73% 4.62%
Kalmyks 134,402 4,000 0.05% 2.98%
Buryats 224,719 13,000 0.15% 5.79%
Jews 3,028,538 142,500 1.64% 4.71%
Kabardians & Balkars 206,870 3,400 0.04% 1.64%
Chechens & Ingush 500,088 2,300 0.03% 0.46%
Ossetians 354,818 10,700 0.12% 3.02%
Dagestanis 857,499 11,100 0.13% 1.29%
Bulgars 113,494 1,100 0.01% 0.97%
Greeks 286,444 2,400 0.03% 0.84%
Chinese 32,023 400 0.00% 1.25%
Poles 630,097 10,100 0.12% 1.60%
Finns 143,437 1,600 0.02% 1.12%
Others 3,770,306 132,500 1.53% 3.51%
TOTAL 170,557,093 8,668,400 100.00% 5.08%
 
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About two thirds of the USSR’s 27 million casualties were civilians – that is, almost 10% of its prewar population. Had those percentages been applied to Nazi Germany, it would lost 8 million people – an order of magnitude than the 400,000 civilians it lost due to Allied strategic bombing, and the 600,000 who died during the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe (the vast majority of which were carried out by local authorities, not the Red Army or the NKVD).

About 3.3 million out of 5.7 million Soviet POWs died in Nazi custody (compared to 15% of German POWs in the half-starved USSR, and low single digit figures for Allied POWs in Nazi Germany). Had the Soviets treated its 4.2 million German POWs as harshly, with a death rate of 60%, the German number of military dead would have risen from 5.3 million to around 7.3 million. That’s not far off the figure of 8.7 million Soviet military deaths (9.2 million taking into account unregistered militia in 1941).

It’s now well known that Nazi long-term plans called for the eventual genocide of about 75% of the Soviet population, and the helotization/expulsion of the rest. If we count probabilities, assuming there was a 50% chance of Nazi victory over the USSR in 1941-42, and a 50% chance of Generalplan Ost being implemented in its full scale, that translates to around 200 million times 25% equals 50 million additional deaths. This means that in the average of all possible timelines, about 75 million Soviet citizens died, or 37.5% of its prewar population. That translates to around 30 million if these percentages are applied to Germany and its East European diaspora.

And yet for some people – for the most part, the most Rusophobic neocons and Cold Warriors, the more Nazi elements of the Alt Right, and deranged Poles and Balts who don’t quite realize what Hitler had in store for them – the Soviet rape of about 2 million women in Eastern Germany at the end of the war is supposed to be a really huge, defining war crime, even something that delegitimizes the overall Soviet victory.*

How many rapes is one death/murder “worth”? My intuition is that murder is quite a lot worse, perhaps by an order of magnitude if I had to quantify it, and I suspect that most people will agree. It just so happens that so do sentencing guidelines. The typical term for murder in the US is 30 years to life (which might functionally translate to an average of 50 years). The average term for rape is 10 years, of which about 5 are served. This is a differential of five. It also happens to be almost exactly the differential between the murder rate in the US (~5 cases / 100,000 anually) and the rate of rape and sexual assault (~30 / 100,000 annually, as per police records and self-victimization surveys). Let us then provisionally estimate that rape is on average 20% as “bad” as murder. (Note: I actually think it’s considerably less, because sentencing for murder is range constricted by biological ageing. And the homicide problem is usually considered to be worse than the sexual violence one, even though there are usually far fewer of them than there are rapes).

Therefore, let’s say 2 million rapes translates to 400,000 deaths. Compare this to 27 million Soviet civilian deaths (of which two thirds were civilians) in a war started by Nazi Germany, or the 75 million or so Soviet deaths across all timelines. Even assuming that the worst estimates of the Red Army rapes are accurate – they were still, at most, equivalent to far less than 1% of the Nazi crimes against Russia.

Now to be sure you can argue that not all “murders” are equal, especially in war. Direct genocide, like the gassings of Jews or the massacres of Belorussian villagers, seems to be worse than deaths incurred by incidental effects of war, such as bombings of industrial facilities or famine incurred due to the stresses of the war effort, which in turn are worse than military deaths, since society tends to consider soldiers as pretty much “fair game” (though it is questionable to what extent this can be applied to conscripts on the Eastern Front, who did not even get the theoretical possibility of opting out by applying for a “conscientious objector” status at the cost of their social reputation, as in the less “total” conflict of World War I). But there are many different types of rapes as well. There were traumatic gang rapes, to military brothels relying on considerable degrees of coercion, to women semi-voluntarily hooking up with one particular soldier in return for security, or just trading their bodies for food.

dyukov-what-soviets-fought-for Furthermore, contrary to the myth of the “clean Wehrmacht” spread by retired Nazi generals and their wehraboo admirers after the war, there was plenty of rape amongst German soldiers in the USSR. For instance, here is a quote from historian Alexander Dyukov’s 2007 book “What the Soviet People Fought For”:

Rape continued, and acquired an organized character. From time to time “hunting groups” ventured out of Wehrmacht positions. “We ventured out to the village near Rozhdestvenno near Gatchina,” said Peter Schuber, a private who was at the Seversky airport, “We had orders to bring girls to the officers. We did the operation successfully, surrounding all the houses. We grabbed a truckload of girls. The officers held the girls all night, and gave them to us soldiers in the morning.”

In the large cities, permanent brothels were organized. This was standard Wehrmacht practice. “There were military brothels, called Puff,” recalls SS officer Avenir Benningsen, “They were present on almost all fronts. Girls from all Europe, all nationalities, gathered up from all camps. By the way, the two condoms regularly handed out to men and officers were indispensable posessions.” But whereas in the European countries the Wehrmacht brothels were staffed more or less voluntarily, in the USSR there were no such considerations. Girls and women were forcibly rounded up, in scenes seared into the memories of people undergoing the occupation. In Smolensk, for instance, women were dragged off by the arms, by the hair, dragged along the pavement, into the officers’ brothel in one of the hotels. Those who refused to remain there were shot.

After Red Army soldiers drove the Germans out of Kerch, they encoutered a terrible sight: “In the courtyard of the prison there was a shapeless heap of naked female bodies, horrifically mutilated by the fascists.”

So even if we are to tally sexual crimes completely separately, the rapes of the Wehrmacht carried an organized, long-term character – similar to the Japanese Army’s abuse of Chinese and Korean comfort women – whereas Red Army rapes happened in a concentrated orgy of violence in the last few months of the war. That fury in turn was fueled by a regrettable but very understandable hatred for the death and devastation the Germans had wreaked in the USSR, made all the more inexplicable by the overwhelming prosperity of the Germans relative to the ramshackle poverty of Soviet life.

Incidentally, soon after the war, as the follow-up to his “toast to the Russian people,” Stalin presided over another famine that took 500,000 Russian lives (more than fifty years after the worst famine of late Imperial Russia, in which a similar number died). Why? Because the USSR was exporting grain to support its new Communist client states, including East Germany. (Functionally, Stalin agreed with the Nazis that German lives were worth more than Russian lives). This one event alone is by utilitarian metrics considerably more horrific than all the Red Army rapes in Germany.

The real “Soviet Story“: Stalin mutilates Russia. Hitler mutilates Russia. Stalin mutilates Hitler, then mutilates Russia some more. Russophobe ideologues conclude that Russia is as bad as Hitler (if not worse).

Just people who insist on questioning the lethality of Zyklon B or how many people the shower rooms in Auschwitz could accomodate tend to have motives that are suspect, to put it mildly, so it is a pretty good bet that anyone who consistently gives primacy to the Red Army rapes and looting in Germany when discussing the moral weightings of the USSR vs. Nazi Germany might sooner be looking to replay Hitler’s/Stalin’s joint genocide against Russia.

* I would note that there are questions about whether there actually were that many Red Army rapes in Germany; for instance, there are arguments that they are based on unrealistic extrapolations from a small sample of abortion statistics. I haven’t studied this issue in any depth myself and will assume that the conventional mass rape narrative is broadly correct. If this is not the case and there actually were much fewer rapes, that makes the main argument even stronger.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Rape, Soviet Union, World War II 
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Here’s a map from the May 16, 1941 edition of the St. Petersburg Times showing the results of a Gallup poll on support for declaring war against Germany:

map-war-sentiment-usa-1941

And here is a map of percentage German ancestry from the 1890 Census:

map-german-ancestry-usa-1890

 

Lingering cultural ties to Germany? Ethnic genetic interests? Something related to the American nations? And/or just the old banal North/South division of US politics?

 
• Category: History • Tags: United States, World War II 
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A few months ago, I wrote the following:

This is a series of polls that took place in France in 1945, 1994, and 2004, respectively, asking which nation was most responsible for the defeat of Germany. Right after France’s liberation, with American and British soldiers walking the streets, a solid majority of 57% nonetheless believed that it had been the Soviet Union. But by 2004, the situation had cardinally reversed itself, with 58% now crediting the Americans and only 20% – the Soviet Union. This even constituted a decline relative to 1994, despite the intervening decade having been one of the best ever for West-Russia relations. The fact that great bulk of German divisions and airpower were destroyed on the Eastern Front pales into insignificance besides the power of Cold War and just plain anti-Russian propaganda acting on the human biomasses over the course of two generations. …

I haven’t seen any similar polls from the US or Britain, but I very much doubt they would be substantially different.

Well, now we do have such polls, not only for the US and Britain but also for some other countries of interest like Germany and Finland, all thanks to two big recent polls by YouGov and ICM Research.

Updated with an additional IFOP poll for France, and some VCIOM polls on the topic that I dug up for Russia, I believe I have assembled what may be the most comprehensive graph on changing Western attitudes towards the Soviet victory in World War 2 anywhere on the Internet.

poll-ussr-usa-contributed-allied-victory-ww2

Differences between the polls from different organizations shouldn’t be overstressed. For instance, the wording differs quite a bit poll to poll. But the general picture is clear and depressing.

As we can see, the percentage of Frenchmen who believe that the Soviet Union made the greatest contribution to Allied victory in World War Two has declined continuously from 1945, reaching an asymptote around 20%-25% from the 1990s on. Germany and the UK aren’t quite as historically illiterate/brainwashed as France on this issue, but the gap isn’t anything to write home about. Well, okay, at least the UK is understandable on some level; they are voting patriotically. Otherwise, they are actually the only modern Western nation to rate the Soviet contribution at a marginally higher level than the American one. But the German responses are completely inexplicable, considering that 75%-80% of Axis manpower and aircraft losses accrued to the Soviets.

But I suppose that so far as modern Germans concerned, just like Westerners in general, the Eastern Front is a place of zerg rushes and Russian rapine, while the real course of the war was decided in North Africa, the Atlantic, and the beaches of Normandy.

The retired Wehrmacht generals and Hollywood did their jobs well.

Date Table/Sources

USSR USA Great Britain Other/Don’t Know
UK 2015 (ICM) 13% 16% 46% 25%
Germany 2015 (ICM) 17% 52% 4% 27%
France 2015 (ICM) 8% 61% 9% 22%
USA 2015 (YouGov) 11% 55% 7% 27%
UK 2015 (YouGov) 15% 14% 50% 21%
Sweden 2015 (YouGov) 16% 33% 22% 29%
Germany 2015 (YouGov) 27% 37% 7% 29%
France 2015 (YouGov) 15% 47% 14% 24%
Finland 2015 (YouGov) 24% 32% 13% 31%
France 2015 (IFOP) 23% 54% 18% 5%
France 2014 (IFOP) 23% 49% 18% 10%
Russia 2010 (VCIOM) 91% 3% 1% 5%
Russian 2009 (VCIOM) 87% 4% 2% 7%
France 2004 (IFOP) 20% 58% 16% 6%
Russian 2002 (VCIOM) 92% 2% 1% 5%
France 1994 (IFOP) 25% 49% 16% 10%
France 1945 (IFOP) 57% 20% 12% 11%

PS. The YouGov poll also included data for Denmark and Norway. I did not bother to include them because they have limited influence on international affairs and their results are similar to Sweden’s anyway.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Opinion Poll, Propaganda, World War II 
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xi-jinping-and-patriarch

Xi Jinping (pictured right, meeting the Patriarch Kirill) penned an op-ed in a Russian newspaper on May 6th in which, in stark contrast to the typical Western bile and hostility, he acknowledges the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazism and warns off against attempts to revise that outcome, be it on paper or in real life.

I am translating it in full for two reasons.

First, it constitutes a first-hand glance at official relations between China and Russia, which – much to the consternation of neocons, Russophobes, Sinophobes, and Western imperialists – are instead of fighting each other for make benefit of the US are instead building strong relations and continuing to ink dozens of deals whose total value now probably stands at close to a trillion dollars.

Second, to explicitly give the lie to Western propaganda that Russia is somehow “isolated” by the fact that none of Washington’s European stooges turned up at the Victory Day parade in Moscow this May 9th. Who cares? Not many Russians, at any rate. China, India, and dozens of other countries did turn up. That’s the world’s second superpower and the representatives of half of humanity. As for Obama, Merkel, Hollande, and Dave – quite frankly, the air is cleaner for their absence.

*Soundtrack – Russians and Chinese are Brothers Forever*

To Remember History, To Open the Future

by Xi Jinping

On May 9th, Victory Day in the world war against fascism, at the invitation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, I will visit Russia and take part in the celebrations in Moscow devoted to the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This sacred day I will celebrate together with the Russian people and the entire world.

Everyone remembers that the aggressive wars begun by the fascists and militarists inflicted unprecedented damage and suffering on the peoples of China, Russia, and the countries of Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. The relentless struggle between justice and evil, light and darkness, freedom and slavery, was joined by the peoples of China, Russia, and more than 50 other countries, as well as by all the other peace-loving peoples of the world, who stood up as one and formed a broad international anti-fascist and anti-militarist front. All these nations fought in bloody battles against the enemy, and in so doing defeated the most evil and brutal aggressors, bringing peace to the world.

I remember, in March 2013, when I first visited Russia on a state visit, I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin walls. There was a depiction of a soldier’s helmet and a red banner on the tomb, and there burned an eternal fire, symbolizing the unbroken life and unwavering fearlessness of our fallen heroes. “Your name is unknown, your deeds are immortal.” They will never be forgotten by the Russian people, the Chinese people, or anyone else.

China was the main theater of military operations in Asia during the Second World War. The Chinese people stood up before anyone else in the struggle against the Japanese militarists, waged the longest war, fought in the hardest conditions, and, like Russia, suffered the most enormous losses. The Chinese army and people fought stoically and persistently, locking down and destroying numerous contingents of the Japanese aggressors. At the cost of a huge national sacrifice – the lives of more than 35 million people – a great victory was finally won and an enormous contribution was made to victory in the world struggle against fascism. The exploits of the Chinese people in the war against the militarists, just like the exploits of the Russian people, will be immortalized forever in history and will never die.

The Chinese and Russian peoples supported each other, helped each other, they were comrades in arms in the war against fascism and militarism, and built a friendship with each other forged with blood and life. In the most difficult times of the Great Patriotic War, many of the best sons and daughters of the Chinese people decisively joined in the battle against German fascism. Mao Anying – the eldest son of Chairman Mao Zedong – fought on many battles as a political officer of a tank company of the 1st Belorussian Front, up to the storming of Berlin. The Chinese fighter pilot Tang Duo, as deputy commander of a fighter company of the Soviet Army, distinguished himself in air battles against the fascist forces. Children of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and descendants of the fallen heroes of the Chinese Revolution, when studying at the Ivanovo international boarding school, despite that they were still only children, nonetheless went off to dig trenches, prepared Molotov cocktails, prepared food and clothes for the fighters, chopped trees, dug out potatoes, and looked after the wounded in hospitals. Apart from that, many of them regularly donated blood – 430 millilitres once per month for the soldiers at the front. The Chinese female journalist Hu Jibang, small and weak, underwent the entire war from the first day to the last, through bullets and fire, writing about the resilience and courage of the Soviet people, the barbarous cruelty of the fascist hordes, and the joy of the Russian soldiers and people in their times of triumph. It emboldened the armies and peoples of both countries, raising their will to fight to the end, to the final victory. Alongside the above heroes there are many other representatives of the Chinese people who contributed to the Great Patriotic War while remaining unknown soldiers.

The Russian people gave the Chinese people valuable political and moral support in their war against Japanese invaders. This included large convoys of arms and war material. More than 2,000 Soviet fighter pilots joined the Chinese air force and helped in the air battles over China. More than 200 of them died in battles over Chinese soil. In the closing phase of the war, Red Army soldiers of the Soviet Union were sent to north-east China. Together with the Chinese army and people they fought against the Japanese militarists, which helped China tremendously in achieving final victory. The Chinese people will always remember the Russians, both soldiers and civilians, who gave their lives for the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation.

xi-jinping-70-anniversary-ww2

The famous Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky said, that, having forgotten history, our soul can get lost in the darkness. To forget history is to commit treason. The Chinese and Russian peoples stand ready, together with all peace-loving countries and peoples, and with the automost determination and decisiveness, to oppose any actions or attempts to deny, distort, and rewrite the history of the Second World War.

This year, China and Russia will hold a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War. There will also be many other events conducted by the UN and other international and regional organizations. The purpose of these events and celebrations is to demonstrate our determination to defend the results of the Second World War, to protect international equality and justice, and to remind out contemporaries that it is necessary to preserve and guard the peace that was won for humanity at too high a price.

The hard lessons of the Second World War tell people, that humanity’s coexistence is not subject to the laws of the jungle; that world politics is diametrically contradictory to belligerent and hegemonic power politics; and that the path of human development is not founded on the principle of “winner takes all” or in games with zero-sum outcomes. Peace – yes, war – no, cooperation – yes, confrontation – no, mutual gains are honored, while zero-sum results – are not: This is what constitutes the unchanging core and essence of peace, progress, and the development of human society.

Today, mankind has unprecedentedly good opportunities for the realization of our goal – peace, development, and the formation of a system of international relations that is ever more strongly based on the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefits. “Unity – is strength, while self-isolation – is weakness.” Cooperation and the win-win principle should be adopted as the basic orientation of all countries in international affairs. We have to unite our own interests with the common interests of all countries, find and expand on the common points of interests of different parties, develop and establish a new conception of multilateral win-win, to always be ready to extend a helping hand to each other at difficult times, to partake together of rights, interests, and responsibilities, and to collectively collaborate to solve growing global problems such as climate change, energy security, cybersecurity, national disasters, and so on. In short, we are in it together on our planet Earth – the homeland of all humanity.

The Chinese people and the Russian people – they are both great peoples. In the years of grief and misery, our indestructible camaraderie was cemented in place with blood. Today the peoples of China and Russian will hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder defend peace, promote development, and make their contributions to lasting world peace and human progress.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia, Translation, World War II, Xi Jinping 
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I do swear this is my last post on Auschwitz this year. But the followup to Putin’s disinvitation is too juicy to resist writing about.

Following in the Polish footsteps, Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatsenyuk has literally claimed that it was the Ukrainians, in particular soldiers from Zhytomyr and Lvov, who liberated Auschwitz. Here is a translation, with my own highlights:

“Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 70 years ago, fighters from Zhytomyr and Lvov, as part of the First Ukrainian Front, liberated from the Nazis one of the most horrific camps, Auschwitz, where millions of our brothers-Jews were tortured,” Yatsenyuk said, emphasizing that it was an important history lesson.

He also expressed his sorrow for victims of the Holocaust – millions of Jews and Ukrainians, who “became victims of Nazism and Stalinism.”

“Once again, we note the valor of the Ukrainian soldiers who freed Auschwitz and fought against Nazism,” Yatsenyuk added.

Note that this comes only a few weeks after Yatsenyuk claimed that he “would not allow the Russians to go through Ukraine and Germany, as they did in World War II,” a historical perversion that is insulting not only towards Russians and the vast majority of Ukrainians outside the most nationalist/historically collaborationist far western provinces, but also to the German audience to whom he was so evidently (and unsuccessfully) trying to suck up to.

Truly cringeworthy stuff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRx30_eM1Kc

In response to these repeated Polish and Kiev regime antics, the Russian Defense Ministry unearthed archives with the precise ethnic composition of the 60th Army soldiers who liberated Auschwitz. Of its nearly 90,000 soldiers, there were 42,000 Russians, 38,000 Ukrainians, and numerous other nationalities. Overrepresented as they were on the Ukrainian Front, it must in these circumstances be emphasized that Ukrainians constituted neither a majority nor even a plurality amongst the liberators of Auschwitz.

Ethnic composition of the 60th Army, liberators of Auschwitz
Russians 42398
Ukrainians 38041
Belorussians 1210
Tatars 1088
Jews 1073
Kazakhs 708
Uzbeks 838
Georgians 555
Armenians 546
Poles 439
Mordvins 393
Chuvash 379
Azeris 304
Tajiks 178
Bashkirs 172
Turkmen 139
Kyrgyz 126
Moldovans 106
Udmurts 100
Mari 97
Ossetians 80
Dagestani peoples 55
Buryats 49
Komi 46
Kabardins and Balkars 31
Czechs and Slovaks 29
Greeks 25
Latvians 12
Estonians 11
Kalmyks 11
Finns 8
Bulgarians 7
Chinese 7
Komi-Permyaks 7
Chechens and Ingush 5
Lithuanians 4
Yugoslavians 1
Other peoples 203
TOTAL 89469

Why does Yatsenyuk insist on pulling stunt after rhetorical stunt like this? Okay, sure, for a Ukrainian of the Maidanist persuasion, sticking it to Russia and Russians is explainable in today’s circumstances. But insodoing, he not only insults largely Russia-friendly third parties (e.g. Belorussians, Kazakhs, Jews outside the Beltway) but also millions of his citizens, not only in Crimea and the Donbass, but in Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and even Kiev. In a 2010 poll, the percentage of Ukrainians (87%) who consider Victory Day on May 9th as a celebration that belongs to everyone was only marginally lower than amongst Russians (91%). At a time when the Donbass is in open revolt, and widespread dissatisfaction wracks the big south-eastern industrial cities of putative Novorossiya – regions where the memory of the Great Patriotic War is hallowed – this cannot be considered in the least wise.

For a long time I have thought of Yatsenyuk as probably the most nationalistic and ideological of the big Maidan players. (Poroshenko is an oligarch and cofounder of the Party of Regions, and Tymoshenko’s primary concern has always been with her wallet; she became a billionaire as a Ukrainian bureaucrat). His mansion is very modest by high-ranking ex-Soviet politician standards. Then I stumbled across this treasure trove of his speeches from just two years ago, whose titles speak for themselves: “You can’t criticize Putin”; “The US dollar is just paper and a financial pyramid”; “Ukrainization was coercive”; “I have no ideology”; “I allow [the idea of] a confederation with Russia”; “Why isn’t NATO buying our airplanes?” So it’s evidently not “svidomy” ideological zealotry at play here either…

So I really don’t know. What do you think?

PS. Somewhat on-topic, here is Julia Ioffe’s (part of the Masha Gessen circle, with whom Sailer readers should be loosely familiar) take on the affair:

Putin visited a Jewish museum [AK: A museum that Putin had personally contributed to building] on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation and said: “Of course, the main burden was borne in the fight against fascism by the Russian people, 70% of the Red Army’s soldiers and officers – were Russians. And Russians constituted most of the victims on the altar of Victory.”

And they say that Putin isn’t an anti-Semite.

In his actual address, as opposed to Ioffe’s cherrypickings, Putin followed this up with an ode to the role of the Jewish people in World War II, noting that more than 500,000 of them fought in the Red Army and more than 40,000 as part of partisan units, that nearly every third of them went to the front as a volunteer, and that 200,000 died in battle.

However, so far as Julia Ioffe is concerned, talking about non-Jewish, and in particular Russian, contributions to the Allied victory is anti-Semitic.

Why should you pay attention to the deranged ramblings of this Sovok Jew, you might ask? Why, because soon, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her. Come this February, she is happy to announce that she will be joining the New York Times as a contributing writer.

A most formidable addition to its talent pool – feel free to send her your felicitations!

 
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Title got your attention? No, it’s not going to be… that. Read on.

While the rest of the world (or a few Europeans, anyway) is obsessed with yet another “Polish death camps” episode, this time on CNN, a somewhat more significant historical scandal brewed between Poland and Russia.

Explaining away Poroshenko’s status as a guest of honor alongside the refusal to invite Putin to mark the 70-year anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which takes places today on January 27th, the Polish FM Grzegorz Schetyna said:

The 1st Ukrainian front and Ukrainians liberated [the concentration camp], as on that January day there were Ukrainian soldiers, so they opened the gates of the camp.

Sure, there were Ukrainian soldiers there. But the majority were Russian. And dozens of other nationalities, including Poles. The “Ukrainian Front” was a mere geographical/military marker that had precisely zilch to do with ethnicity.

If one were really into beans-counting, the purely military contribution of Russians substantially outweighed that of Ukrainians – both in terms of their presence in the Red Army, and their military losses (this is, of course, after adjusting for relative population sizes). There is nothing political about this; it was just a logical consequence of Ukraine being occupied for the first half of the war, and being unable to contribute conscripts.

Mr. Schetyna could just have been honest about it. We don’t like you, Vlad, so why don’t you take a hike. Or simply answered without answering. Foreign Ministers are supposed to be good at that.

But no, he had to snub not only Putin, but the entire Russian people.

(Incidentally, what makes this all the more ironic is that Poroshenko, as the President of the Maidan, represents many of the ideological descendents of Ukraine’s collaborationist forces – the same ones who killed and ethnically cleansed the Poles and Jews who had previously constituted a majority in West Ukraine’s cities during the antebellum period. And who are even now, as they have been these past two decades, busy rewriting Ukrainian history textbooks to whitewash the role of the UPA. But today, that is of scant interest to Israel, and none at all to Poland. While that might not be “nice” or “fair” of them, it certainly isn’t illogical either. So far as they’re concerned, even a Ukraine led by zombie Hitler would be preferable to a Ukraine back in Russia’s orbit, even if Russia was to hold elect Khodorkovsky President and celebrate it with a massive gay parade in Moscow this very day. That is because an independent Ukraine can never be a geopolitical threat to Poland, whereas Russia mostly certainly can).

Does it matter?

While in the short-term it might be a faintly ridiculous spat, in the longterm it might well come to be seen as part of a process of alienation that has already been going on for decades.

For all the fuss made about them, nobody is going to start believing in the existence of “Polish death camps” – as in Polish Polish, not Nazi-occupied Polish – anytime soon; it’s not even an intentional mistake, for crying out loud. Nor is general Holocaust denial going to become a thing outside the danker corners of the Internet. That is because both Poles and Jews are now pretty much integral members of the Western community, so it’s hard to imagine their voices and historical memories ever getting drowned out.

This was not the case with the Soviet Union, and it is not the case with modern Russia.

Today’s popular Western conception of the Eastern Front is quite at odds with reality, heavily based as it is on the embellished reminiscences of Wehrmacht generals and ahistorical visual media fluffpieces, fueled by Cold War emotions, and with no popularly accessible Russian side of the story. So today most Westerners believe all manner of myths about the Soviet Union’s role in the war, from the discredited “two men per rifle” trope to it being the Americans who kicked Nazi ass anyway.

The cold statistics of the balance of Axis casualties between the Western and Eastern fronts – around 75%-80% of their manpower and aircraft losses accrued to the Soviets – fundamentally belie this idea of American preeminence. While you could argue legitimately argue that Lend-Lease provided the thin but critical margin in materiel that averted a Soviet collapse in 1942, as Mark Harrison does, or that a Germany that only had to fight on one front could have eked out a stalement in 1943-44, it is completely ludicrous to argue that the Western Allies could have conquered Germany had it been free to concentrate the bulk of its military assets to the west. Despite a successful deception operation and facing undermanned German divisions, D-Day was a closer call than is commonly appreciated. While history often doesn’t have clear answers, this is not one of those cases: The Soviet Union was the only unequivocally indispensable party in the defeat of Nazi Germany (and, incidentally, bringing an end to the Holocaust).

But most Westerners have no idea. To them, the Eastern Front is a place of zerg rushes and Russian rapine, while the real course of the war was decided in North Africa, the Atlantic, and the beaches of Normandy.

Think I’m exaggerating? If so, then it’s probably because unlike 95% of the population, you’ve just read too many actual history books (there are many very good serious English language historians in this area: Glantz, Overy, Bellamy. Not Antony Beevor, who probably sold ten times as many books as the first three combined. Should tell you something). Normal people don’t read those books, not even Beevor; they watch Enemy at the Gates and play Wolfenstein instead.

And this is what they have come to believe:

sondage-nation-contribue-defaite-nazis

This is a series of polls that took place in France in 1945, 1994, and 2004, respectively, asking which nation was most responsible for the defeat of Germany. Right after France’s liberation, with American and British soldiers walking the streets, a solid majority of 57% nonetheless believed that it had been the Soviet Union. But by 2004, the situation had cardinally reversed itself, with 58% now crediting the Americans and only 20% – the Soviet Union. This even constituted a decline relative to 1994, despite the intervening decade having been one of the best ever for West-Russia relations. The fact that great bulk of German divisions and airpower were destroyed on the Eastern Front pales into insignificance besides the power of Cold War and just plain anti-Russian propaganda acting on the human biomasses over the course of two generations. (Interestingly, the most “pro-Soviet” group in the 2004 poll was not, as you might expect, supporters of the Communist Party – whose 20% was exactly in line with the national average – but the Front National, with 33%. As sovereigntist successors to De Gaulle, who dreamed of a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok and whose only real issue with Russia was its then Communist ideology, this should not be too surprising).

I haven’t seen any similar polls from the US or Britain, but I very much doubt they would be substantially different.

With the West and Russia once again growing estranged from each other, and the level of propaganda and mutual recriminations returning to Cold War levels, one wonders what Americans and Frenchmen in 2104 might answer when asked who they think liberated Auschwitz.

Will it be the Americans? Or maybe even a German-Ukrainian combined joint task force? The latter, at least, is presumably what the Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatsenyuk wants the world to start to believe.

 
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Then you might get something like Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War, which I’ve finally read on the recommendations of Kolya and TG. Ranging from Ermak’s subjugation of the Sibir Khanate to the rise of Rome, Turchin makes the case that the rise and fall of empires is reducible to three basic concepts: 1) Asabiya – social cohesiveness and capacity for collective action, 2) Malthusian dynamics – the tendency for population to outgrow the carrying capacity, and 3) the “Matthew Principle” – the tendency for inequality and social stratification to increase over time. The interplay between these three forces produces the historical patterns of imperial rise and fall, of war and peace and war, that were summarized by Thomas Fenne in 1590 thus:

Warre bringeth ruine, ruine bringeth poverty, poverty procureth peace, and peace in time increaseth riches, riches causeth statelinesse, statelinesse increaseth envie, envie in the end procureth deadly malice, mortall malice proclaimeth open warre and bataille, and from warre again as before is rehearsed.

Turchin, PeterWar and Peace and War (2006)
Category: history, cliodynamics, war; Rating: 4/5
Summary: Amazon reviews

Ibn Khaldun, Malthus, and Saint Matthew meet up for coffee

1) According to the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, empires only form when a tribe, nation, or religious sect attains a high degree of asabiya, – the ability of a group’s members to cooperate with each other, to maintain their identity and discipline in the face of adversity, and to impose their beliefs, values, and control over other groups. Other similar expressions are social cohesion or “social capital”. As Ibn Khaldun wrote, “royal authority and dynastic power are attained only through a group and asabiya. This is because aggressive and defensive strength is obtained only through… mutual affection and willingness to fight and die for each other”. (To put this in context, this is similar to Lev Gumilev’s theories of “passionarity” / пассионарность (willingness to sacrifice oneself for one’s values) or my own ideas on the sobornost’-poshlost’ / rationalism-mysticism belief matrix, in which a state of sobornost’, of course, refers to a high level of asabiya).

This is not surprising – military cooperation and morale is an important factor in military success. See the stunning successes of the early Islamic armies spreading the revelations of Mohammed, or of Nazi Germany. Later in the book, Turchin references the work of Trevor Dupuy, who showed that the Germans had a “combat efficiency” of 1.45, compared to the British 1.0 and American 1.1, in the battles on the western front of 1944 – in other words, excluding equipment and terrain, each Germany soldier was militarily “worth” 20% more than an Anglo-Saxon one.

Now why do some societies have higher asabiya than others? Ibn Khaldun’s analysis covered the dynamics of the desert / settled boundary in the North African Maghreb. Amongst the desert Bedouin tribes, constant inter-tribal warfare exerts group selective pressure favoring the emergence of tribes high in asabiya. These selective pressures are much weaker in settled civilizations with rule of law. Now these defects are more than made up for civilizations’ greater population density and better technologies, which can normally yield much bigger, better-equipped armies than anything the barbarians can muster. However, should civilization fall into a state of internal strife and social dissolution, it becomes “vulnerable to conquest from the desert” by a coalition of Bedouin tribes organized around one group with a particularly high asabiya. However, as soon as the barbarians become ensconced within their new domains, they gradually assimilate into the urban civilization, the high asabiya of the core group dissipates, and the cycle begins anew.

Turchin extends Ibn Khaldun’s beyond the Maghreb into a general theory of the rise of empires, almost all of which arise along “meta-ethnic frontiers” featuring bloody conflicts between starkly alien peoples. The constant military pressure and hatred for the Other binds the borderlanders together, fostering the relative economic equality, social solidarity, and discipline that will in time build an empire. Examples of this include the conflict of the Roman farmer-warriors against the Celtic barbarians of the Po Valley that melded the Latin peoples into the Roman Empire, the centuries-long struggle against the raiding, slave-taking steppe Hordes that incubated Muscovy’s rise, and the violent frontier wars against the Native Americans that formed the “melting pot” identity of the United States. The entire history of Europe from the Roman Empire to Poland-Lithuania has been characterized by the millennial, north-eastern drift of the meta-ethnic frontier between Rome/Christianity and tribal pagans, a frontier which repeatedly spawned new states and empires (Rome itself, the Caroliangian Empire, and the myriad Germanic and Slavic states.

2) The author notes that Ibn Khaldun’s blaming of “luxury” and “senility” for the degeneration of civilizations is an inadequate explanation, being nothing more than a biological metaphor with questionable applicability. Instead, Turchin lays out the theory of cliodynamics, the “mathematized history” that attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation of the “secular cycles” of imperial rise and fall by modeling Malthusian dynamics, i.e., when a great empire arises the resulting stability and prosperity produce overpopulation, which results in dearth, rising inequality (i.e. the old middle-class shrinks, while oligarchs and the landless indigent veer into prominence), and an intensified struggle for scarce resources that undermines social solidarity. Eventually, a severe shock such as a disastrous harvest, peasant uprisings, civil war, or foreign invasion provokes a full-fledged Malthusian crisis that triggers the collapse of the empire. I’ve already written about cliodynamics in detail here.

(Incidentally, I’ve also connected the decline of asabiya (or in my terminology, the transition from sobornost’ to poshlost’) to the socio-demographic cycles of cliodynamics. The theme of The Ages of Man, in which the bounteous Golden Age of the first dynasties (imperial rise) degenerates into the “immorality” and dearth of the Iron Age (social atomization, Malthusian stress, decline), – finally followed by an apocalyptic “cleansing” and start again (Malthusian collapse, barbarian invasions, Dark Ages, etc), is common to all civilizational traditions. See my Musings on the decline and fall of civilizations and explanation of the Malthusian Loop.)

3) Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”. In other words, there is a natural tendency for wealth to become concentrated in the hands of the few, called the Matthew Principle. In other words, if a pre-industrial civilization enjoys socio-political stability, has ineffective redistributive mechanisms, no free land / overpopulation, and a social mentality that accepts (or even glorifies – see “conspicuous consumption”) big levels of wealth inequality, within several generatons it will develop prodigal levels of social stratification. Wealth inequality tends to reach a maximum just before a collapse of the entire system: for instance, the Roman Empire fell for the last time just decades after reaching “peak inequality” in 400AD. Similar things can be said about the end of republican Rome, the decline of medieval France, and even Russia 1917 or Iran 1979.

Why does the Matthew Principle operate so strongly in Malthusian settings? In agrarian societies, private property is the normal way of storing inherited wealth. If a family has lots of children, each one will inherit ever smaller plots. To make ends meet, they will be eventually forced to borrow loans; if they can’t, their land is taken over by their creditors, and they now have to hire themselves out as agricultural laborers or drift into the cities where they can try to join a trade (hence the reason why cities expand so much in times of subsistence stress). Meanwhile, those who have land can 1) rent it out at exorbitant rates (since the demand for it is so high in an overpopulated country) or 2) they can sell the grain their tenants or serfs produce at high prices (again because there are more mouths to feed). The resulting accumulation of drifting unemployed are matchwood for social unrest (e.g. see the role of the sans-culottes in the French Revolution).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the social spectrum, the elites or nobility grow at a faster rate than the commoners because they have better access to food and can afford more children, and die less quickly. Those with land benefit from cheaper labor and the rise in rent prices, while manufactures become easier to afford thanks to the increase in trade and urban artisans. However, intra-elite inequality also increases, and there is increasing tension as some poor nobles see peasant arrivistes rising above them in social status. Because the king depends on the nobles for governing his kingdom, state institutions must be expanded to “feed” all those nobles who are left out of inheritances, fostering corruption, aristocratic intrigues, and social stratification. Those at the very top of the social pyramid engage in the most extravagant conspicuous consumption, provoking envy amongst the have-nots. All these widening social chasms reduce the society’s asabiya.

The plagues, wars, and internal violence unleashed by Malthusian collapse tends to kill off most of the top and bottom of the social period. The landless indigent starve to death, or their weakened immune systems succumb to disease, or they get carried away as the cannon fodder in the uprisings that wrack the failed state. The nobles also die fast, thanks to their status as a military caste. Generational cycles of violence and wars and political purges carry many of them off. After the collapse, land becomes cheaper and labor becomes more expensive. Subsistence stress largely subsides and society becomes much more egalitarian. The cycle begins anew.

Criticisms and Consequences

I think Turchin’s book is a good introductory text to the new science of cliodynamics, one he himself did much to found (along with Nefedov and Korotayev). However, though readable – mostly, I suspect, because I am interested in the subject – it is not well-written. The text was too thick, there were too many awkward grammatical constructions, and the quotes are far, far too long.

More importantly, 1) the theory is not internally well-integrated and 2) there isn’t enough emphasis on the fundamental differences separating agrarian from industrial societies. For instance, Turchin makes a lot of the idea that the Italians’ low level of asabiya (“amoral familism”) was responsible for it’s only becoming politically unified in the late 19th century. But why then was it the same for Germany, the bloody frontline for the religious wars of the 17th century? And why was France able to build a huge empire under Napoleon, when it had lost all its “meta-ethnic frontiers” / marches by 1000 AD? For answers to these questions about the genesis of the modern nation-state, one would be much better off by looking at more conventional explanations by the likes of Benedict Anderson, Charles Tilly, or Gabriel Ardant.

Nowadays, modern political technologies – the history textbook, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the radio and Internet – have long displaced the meta-ethnic frontier as the main drivers behind the formation of asabiya. Which is certainly not to say that meta-ethnic frontiers are unimportant – they are, especially in the case of Dar al-Islam, which feels itself to be under siege on multiple fronts (the “bloody borders” of clash-of-civilizations-speak), which according to Turchin’s theory should promote a stronger Islamic identity. But their intrinsic importance has been diluted by the influence of modern media.

Turchin has an interesting discussion of the future of the US, China, Russia, and the European Union based on the conclusions of War and Peace and War. In particular, one very relevant point he made is that to become a true empire, the EU requires 1) the development of a European-wide loyalty towards it, willing to shed blood for it, and 2) its core state, Germany, must continue to underwrite it financially. None of these conditions, I think it is safe to say, will be met. Germany is most emphatically not prepared to sacrifice its national interests in favor of a European project over which it does not have direct control; the Germans have their own problems, foremost among them the demographic aging of the population. Furthermore, only 37% of Germans are today prepared to fight for their own country, according to the findings of the World Values Survey*; if that is the case, then how many Germans would fight (and risk death) for the Brussels bureaucracy? 5% would probably be generous. Quite simply the EU does not have any foundations for an imperial future, nor the will to create one; it is very fragile and will start unraveling at the smallest shocks.

Another major problem with the book that makes it incomplete is that although Turchin touches and speculates about the modern world and the future – in particular, he notes that the rising inequality, crime rates, slower growth, etc, of the post-1960′s industrialized world is similar to the traditional symptoms of an emerging Malthusian crisis – he does not connect the dots with the Limits to Growth, the theory that explicitly states that we are being swept into a Malthusian crisis due to global overpopulation and resource depletion. This is a far more important development than the techno-hype he devotes much of the last chapter to.

In the end I gave a 4/5 for this book, although it could have potentially gotten 5*/5. Turchin did valuable work in emphasizing how the material (e.g. the Malthusian) interacts with the spiritual (asabiya) in history, whereas many lesser theorists regard the latter as a “mystical” factor unworthy of serious attention. However, the book suffered from 1) poor writing, 2) too many marginal details that should have been edited out, and 3) unsuccessful application of the theory to the current, post-agrarian era. He should either have left it out entirely, or spent a lot more time doing it better.

* From the latest “wave” of the World Values Survey, “Of course, we all hope that there will not be another war, but if it were to come to that, would you be willing to fight for your country?” I think this question is an excellent way of gauging asabiya in a nation, since it directly addresses the issue of life, death, and self-sacrifice. The results are very interesting.

The Scandinavian countries – limp-wristed feminist socialists that they are ;) – all say a resounding “yes” (Sweden 86%, Norway 88%, Finland 84%). Similarly, for all the problems of the post-Communist transition, Eastern European nations also retain high levels of asabiya (Poland 75%, Russia 83%, Georgia 70%), though Serbia 61% is lower (maybe because they’ve already fought) and so is Ukraine 69% (its Russophones aren’t as loyal as West or Central Ukrainians). Most of the Muslim countries say “yes” (Iran 81%, Egypt 80%, Morocco 77%), including a whopping 97% in Turkey. Iraq 37% is the sole outlier. Similarly, the Asian nations also have high levels of patriotism (China 87%, India 81%, South Korea 73%).

The United States 63% isn’t as high as one might think, and curiously close to France 61%, Great Britain 62%, and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world. The nations of Latin America tend to have similar figures. The Mediterranean countries, the old countries, and the countries defeated in World War Two are the last willing to put their lives on the line for their nation (Italy 43%, Spain 45%, Japan 25%, Germany 37%).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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This post is about the future of military technology and war strategy in a world of informatization, resource scarcity, and renewed ideological turbulence. Be forewarned: while some of what I write here corresponds to the conventional wisdom, some is well off the beaten tracks, and some will sound like it’s straight out of a sci-fi dystopia.

The post-Cold War era was, for many, a lovely time. As the Soviet Union imploded, so did the risks of mutual destruction in a global thermonuclear war. At the end of history, the conventional wisdom now regarded rogue states, loose nukes, and transnational terrorists as the main challenges to the brave new world created by globalization. As Thomas P.M. Barnett argued in The Pentagon’s New Map, the primary challenge faced by the US military would no longer consist of planning for a traditional Great Power war with its erstwhile socialist foes, Russia and China. Instead, it would be wiser to focus on policing and “civilizing” the equatorial belt of instability known as the “Gap” – the impoverished, conflicted region stretching roughly from Central America through Africa and the Eurasian Dar al-Islam – in cooperation with fellow stakeholders in stability like Europe, China, India, Russia, and Japan.

However, one of the main assumptions of this blog is that this state of global affairs will not last, if it was ever really valid in the first place. First, many people in the pre-1914 era – an older golden age of globalization and shared international values – also believed that technical progress and increasing interconnectedness had made war obsolete, or at least unbearably damaging if it were to continue for any longer than a few months. They would be disillusioned by the First World War, the genesis of modern total war. Second, the international system today is unstable amidst the shifting winds of change, characterized as it is by a faltering US hegemon beset by challengers such as an expansionist Iran, a resurging Russia, and a robust China intent on returning to its age-old status as the Celestial Empire. Third, peak oil production, probably reached in 2008, is but one of the first harbingers of our Limits to Growth predicament – in the decades to come, the world’s grain belts will begin to dessicate, high-quality energy sources will become depleted, and ever more human effort under the knout of state coercion will have to be requisitioned to sustain industrial civilization against the mounting toll of energetic shortages, climatic disruption, and system instability.

The weak states will fail, while the strong – the US, China, Russia, France, Turkey, Japan, Germany, etc – will bunker down within their new fortress-empires, both physically and psychologically. Facing social pressures, economic decline, and mounting waves of eco-refugees, their philosophers will invent new totalitarian ideologies, defined by a reaction against rationalism. It is not unreasonable to posit that their adherents will take over at least one of the major poles in the future international system, thus creating the specter of the Last War of industrialism. I will look at future war based on these fundamental assumptions: the return of history, the harsh realities of the geopolitics of scarcity industrialism, and the system strains and rising chaos that will form the prelude to global collapse.

Before we start, a few disclaimers. I have no professional or academic knowledge of military affairs, just a sense of curiosity and propensity to look ahead. Hence don’t be surprised if some ideas are totally off the ball to those in the know (though I would like to point out that the two best forecasters of what the next war would be like prior to 1914 happened to be amateurs – Ivan Bloch, a Warsaw financier, and Friedrich Engels, the social theorist). Second, I won’t be making any specific predictions – just a general overlook. Third , I won’t only be considering the low intensity conflicts typical of today, such as the unending war against terrorism or “gunboat” / policing actions like the invasion of Iraq. The prospect of a total war, fought between the leading military-industrial Powers (e.g. the US, China, Russia, etc), is treated as a serious scenario.

Finally, perhaps the most necessary disclaimer is that I do not personally wish for World War Three – although I enjoy perusing weapon system specs and reading historical narratives on the subject as much as the next person, I’m a much bigger fan of All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque) than of Germany and the Next War (Friedrich Von Bernhardi). And now that that’s gotten out of the way, let’s return to the future…

I have no professional or academic knowledge of military
affairs, just a sense of curiosity and propensity to look ahead. Hence don’t be surprised if
some ideas are totally off the ball to those in the know. Secondly, I won’t be making any
specific predictions – just a general overlook.

The Military Balance, Today and Tomorrow

The primary reality of the current military situation is US military dominance – it is the world’s leading superpower possessing a full panoply of military capabilities unmatched by any other Great Power. In particular, it has 75% of the world’s military naval tonnage (including almost all the aircraft carrier groups and amphibious ready groups) backed up by the most advanced space surveillance system and C4ISR capabilities. As such, US power projection capabilities are second to none. The US Navy is one of the three pillars of the the system of “neoliberal internationalism” supported by Pax Americana (the others are cheap oil and the $), whose strategic value was demonstrated by the takeover of Iraq and its relatively little-exploited oil reserves in a likely futile bid to postpone peak oil.

The US is also at the forefront of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) – a theory of future war placing stress on concepts such as robust networking; deep systems integration; precision strikes; high-bandwidth p2p information sharing; shared battlespace awareness; self-synchronization; space-based surveillance; decentralized C&C; swarming, etc (see Power to the Edge by Alberts and Hayes, 2003). The surveillance, precision, and optimization capabilities unlocked by its interconnectedness and dominance of space give the US military a power multiplier unparalleled by that of any other nation, allowing it to defeat non-networked forces fighting on linear principles with ease.

However, US military power is afflicted by a number of problems and adverse trends – a defense death spiral, an uncertain fiscal future, the development of asymmetric and “assassin’s mace” counters, and challenges from the Chinese industrial powerhouse and a resurgent, energy-rich Russia. Thus I am very skeptical as to the US ability to keep its decisive military lead far beyond 2020.

By that time, the US would have very likely been overtaken by China in terms of real GDP, which would by then possess an extremely potent technical-industrial base. China’s mercantile ambitions in a world of “scarcity industrialism” (characterized by aggressive competition for resources), in tandem with the precipitous decline of American power, will give China the impetus to effect a rapid military “breakout” in an attempt to catch up to and surpass US capabilities. China used the 2000′s to build up a “string of pearls” network of naval bases on its offshore islands and friendly nations like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan so as to be able to protect its long, vulnerable coast and energy supply routes. It is now in the midst of a massive naval expansion that could see the PLA Navy surpass the USN by number of military vessels within the decade. Furthermore, the conventional wisdom of Chinese technological inferiority is gradually becoming outdated thanks to its efforts in military R&D and industrial espionage. A recent RAND study indicated that China is already be able to establish air superiority over Taiwan in the event of a hot war over the straits, and elements of the PLA believe they will be able to pose a direct military challenge to the US by 2020.

While Russia’s GDP cannot conceivably approach that of the US on any meaningful timescale, Kremlin dreams of economic modernization may yet be realized, and in any case Russia is fully capable of leveraging its energy wealth to reconstitute and modernize its dormant military-industrial potential. As of today, it is implementing a major military reorganization and modernization, most recently displayed by its demonstration of the PAK-FA “Firefox” prototype, the first 5th-generation fighter produced outside the US. Russia’s fundamental energy and food security, as well as its comparative immunity to the malign effects of climate change (it will actually benefit from AGW, at least for moderate rises in temperature) will enable it to achieve the high per capita surpluses necessary to compete effectively with otherwise larger and wealthier blocs.

India’s socio-economic and human capital lags China’s by several decades. However, it does enjoy better ties with both Russia and the West, which can be and are translated into military-technical cooperation. Assuming it can stave off stagnation and Malthusian crisis, it may evolve into a potent check on Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean, especially if allied with Japan and Korea in the east. Speaking of which, Japan is technologically advanced and is acquiring potent naval, space and ABM capabilities under US patronage. However, the aging of its population and its almost total dependence on imported energy and raw materials severely curtail its ability to play an independent role, and its strategic vulnerability means that Japan will be eclipsed as soon as the PLA Navy equalizes with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The European Union can become a major military power, but only if it acquires a common foreign policy and streamlines military procurement and R&D. However, in the long-term meaningful European integration is unlikely to survive under the strain of economic stagnation, energy insecurity, rapid aging, and collapsing welfare states. Brazil will achieve military hegemony in South America and the South Atlantic, but will remain a regional power with few global ambitions.

Finally, the nuclear weapons sphere is dominated by the US and Russia, both of which maintain a robust nuclear triad with thousands of warheads. Although Russia’s capability degraded after the Soviet collapse, it is now being revamped at an accelerating rate (as is the rest of its military). Though it is decisively outmatched by the US and by now probably also China in conventional terms, as long as Russia retains its vast nuclear arsenal, it also retains full strategic immunity from encroachment by China or other resource-hungry Powers (at least as long as the latter do not have access to effective BMD). After the two nuclear superpowers come France, Britain, China, and Israel, each possessing hundreds of warheads and a more limited set of delivery systems. Finally, although formally against nuclear weapons, there exist “virtual nuclear weapons states” like Japan, Germany and Italy that could, if they embarked on crash programs, build up massive, robust nuclear arsenals within a decade.

The Promise and Peril of BMD

Since the 1950′s, nuclear weapons have been the ultimate guarantors against the resumption of Great Power wars. However, this may cease to be the case a decade or two down the line, when effective ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems are developed. When they become effective and universalized across the world’s Great Powers, the utility of MRBM and ICBM forces – and to a lesser extent, of submarine and strategic bomber nuclear forces – will be severely undermined. The deterrence system based on mutually assured destruction (MAD) that arose during the Cold War will come to its demise, and so will the realist checks on international aggression that emerged out of it.

Today, the US has a commanding lead in BMD technologies, with four mature technologies operational or nearly so (though around two dozen other countries are seriously pursuing BMD programs, with Russia, China, Israel, India, and Japan being particularly advanced). Below I summarize each one, before outlining the course of future developments.

Aegis/Standard Missile-3 (SM-3): Proven anti-satellite system, intercepts ballistic missiles during parts of ascent and descent phases, and is already deployed on 18 USN guided-missiles destroyers and cruisers and 2 Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force warships.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD): Mobile truck-based system capable of ballistic missile interception in the final midcourse descent and in its terminal phase, both endo and exo atmosphere; it has performed successfully in recent tests.

Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3): A terminal-phase intercept system (like the Russian SA-10 / S-300), it has been given the baptism of fire during the Gulf War. It performed poorly, but since then 20 years have passed and it is now far more capable. The system has recently been installed in Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Oman, along with BMD-capable USN warships in the Persian Gulf, in a message to Iran.

Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD): A fixed, silo-based system for the midcourse phase, as implied by the name. It is a mature technology and installations exist in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vanderburg, California – more than enough to contain any ballistic missile threat from North Korea, and by now perhaps even enough to neutralize China’s “minimal” nuclear arsenal. US attempts to expand it to Central Europe have caused major frictions with Russia – not because Russia actually fears it in a military sense, but because it hopes to use it as a bargaining chip with the US elsewhere.

This array of systems gives the US a multi-tiered, overlapping BMD capability. However, there is pressure for developing boost phase intercept capabilities, because midcourse and terminal interception may need to deal with decoys, MIRV, and other countermeasures. One interesting idea is the Airborne Laser (ABL), which is mounted on a modified Boeing-747 airliner. It can be used to shoot down ballistic missiles in boost phase and even satellites in low-earth orbit. It has recently had its first successful test.

Two common objections to BMD are that it is 1) technologically ineffective – along the lines of “you can’t hit a bullet with another bullet”, and 2) far too expensive to be fielded in quantities sufficient to deter anyone but backwards “rogue nations” like North Korea or Iran. Both are invalid.

Calculating an ICBM’s ballistic trajectory is easy, if you understand Newtonian mechanics, so in theory the interceptor missile doesn’t even need an autonomous guidance system to achieve a kill. In principle, a reliable BMD system was possible even from the 1950′s, albeit it was only under Reagan that the US acquired the strategic focus to begin seriously working on it. (The USSR did have a working BMD system from the 1970′s defending Moscow, though the interceptor missile relied on a nuclear blast to ensure reliability). However, following the end of the Cold War the US dropped its “Star Wars” program, and has since focused on ostensibly easier objectives such as guaranteeing itself from attacks by “rogue states” with emerging long-range missile capabilities. In this it has been successful, with each layer of its global BMD system now predicted to have a kill rate of 90%+.

Now about cost. By far the biggest expense, around 90%, is incurred in the construction of the Missile Defense Ground Environment (MDGE) – the sensors, C&C networks, launchers, maintenance depots, supply chains, etc. The missiles themselves are rather cheap, coming in at 10% or less. Therefore, once the MDGE is ready, “thickening” the missile screen is relatively easy and inexpensive. So once the US has established a firm shield against nations like North Korea, it would then, in principle, be able to effect rapid “breakout”, in which it massively increased the numbers of missile interceptors to make itself invulnerable to China or even Russia before they can respond by increasing by increasing their offensive missile forces. (This calculus also applies in reverse: building the Offensive Missile Ground Environment (OMGE), such as airfields for bombers, SSBN’s for SLBM’s, and silos for ICBM’s, is much more expensive than the actual missiles).

This implies that even with today’s BMD technologies, creating a massive, multi-layered missile shield that could render a Russia-sized nuclear arsenal is neither infeasible nor prodigiously expensive for the US. And again, I should emphasize that this is not limited to the US. More than two dozen countries are seriously pursuing missile defense, either directly or as partners. Many of them should start coming online by 2015, and will have proliferated to the extent of making traditional ICBM’s largely obsolete by 2025.

The other two legs of the nuclear tripod, SSBN’s and strategic bombers, will then have to shoulder more of the burden. No wonder that Russia is so desperate to get the advanced Bulava SLBM working, as well as resuming production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber and developing the next-generation PAK DA. The US has much more ambitious goals in mind with the concepts of a “Blackswift” hypersonic global strike bomber… which although repeatedly canceled, refuses to really die. Needless to say, China too is working along similar lines, albeit they yet have major technological hurdles to overcome.

But BMD will continue to evolve too. There’s the rapid developments in laser technology, which are already becoming militarily usable and might become the primary defense system used by warships. Railguns may become operationally deployable by 2020 in the USN. Finally, there are even more exotic concepts such as the Russian “plasma shield“:

[The plasma shield] action is based on focusing beams of electromagnetic energy produced by laser or microwave radiation into the upper layers of the atmosphere… A cloud of highly ionized air arises at the focus of the laser or microwave rays, at an altitude of up to 50 kilometers. Upon entering it, any object – a missile, an airplane, is deflected from its trajectory and disintegrates in response to the fantastic overloads arising due to the abrupt pressure difference… What is fundamental in this case is that the energy aimed by the terrestrial components of the plasma weapon – lasers and antennas – is concentrated not at the target itself but a little ahead of it. Rather than “incinerating” the missile or airplane, it “bumps” it out of trajectory.

This system would have a longer range than the ABL, be much easier to aim, and cost much less per shot. So the following defensive system can be envisioned as 2040 approaches. Pulse lasers mounted on mobile bio-mechanical constructs providing near-perfect point defense powered by space-based solar power and optimally coordinated by an automated ground environment, and further reinforced by an “iron phalanx” of railguns and older GBI missiles to add redundancy.

Now at this point you may be forgiven for thinking that I’m beginning to go crazy, or have read too much sci-fi. But that is inevitable when projecting as much as 30-40 years ahead. I am fairly confident in the earlier predictions that the maturation of BMD technologies will make the ICBM increasingly irrelevant within the next two decades. Obviously, there is no certainty whatsoever over DEW-based missile defense, the plasma shield, or especially the military biomechanical constructs. But neither are they totally out of the pale based on historical experience and the research and technology trends in place today.

The Third RMA

Here is a non-technical, almost philosophical definition of the ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs (Strategy and the RMA From Theory to Policy by Metz & Kievit).

During the “First Wave” of human development, production was primarily agricultural, so war sought to seize and hold territory. During the “Second Wave,” industrial production dominated, so war was often a struggle of attrition where belligerents wore down their enemy’s capacity to feed, clothe, and equip armies. Following this logic, “Third Wave” warfare will seek to erode or destroy the enemy’s means of collecting, processing, storing, and disseminating information. Since the more dependent an enemy is on information the more vulnerable it would be to information warfare, this would seem to have potential as a counter to an advanced, peer threat.

As with most spheres of the human existence – the economic base, the class structure, the status of women, etc – the nature of warfare is intrinsically tied to the environment it is fought in. Back when humanity was one with the biosphere, primitive wars were fought within territorially small spaces for a particular ecological niche and were characterized by incredible levels of per capita violence. In the Malthusian, pre-industrial phase of human civilization, war sought to gain territory because in the absence of long-term industrial growth, controlling land and the taxable peasants it supported were the only means of extracting the wealth to support a ruler’s megalothymia (lavich courts, powerful armies, etc). Industrial warfare was sustained by industrial production, so undercutting its material base while expanding your own lay at the heart of any war-winning grand strategy: blockading Imperial Germany’s access to phosphates, bombing Nazi factories to curb the (late and belated) growth of its total war economy, the US containment strategy of economic pressure on the USSR during the Cold War. However, the principles of the First Wave remained valid – actually conquering territory by putting boots on the ground remained indispensable, whereas industrialism provided the means.

From the 1970′s, the world has been on an exponential runway into the noosphere, embodied in the cyberspace that is overspreading the biosphere, just as the biosphere once overspread the geosphere, the bare rock bones of the Earth. This environment is based on information and its creation, manipulation, and destruction, and it will form the defining environment in which future wars are fought. Below is a summary of the defining features of network-centric warfare.

Contrary to most theoretical writings on the subject, the growing significance of information does not mean that the industrial or territorial phase is diminishing into insignificance. The main reason for the surgical cleanliness with which the US won its wars with Iraq was because of the sheer mismatch between a power at the forefront of RMA exploitation and one still firmly rooted in the older industrial age of centrally-coordinated movement and mass (during the Gulf War, the Iraqi military was cripplied early on by the neutralization of its few C&C nodes) – and US network-centric capabilities continue advancing at a blistering pace. As Lt Gen Harry Raduege of the Defense Information Systems Agency noted:

Net-centric warfare’s effectiveness has greatly improved in 12 years. Desert Storm forces, involving more than 500,000 troops, were supported with 100 Mbit/s of bandwidth. Today, OIF forces, with about 350,000 warfighters, had more than 3,000 Mbit/s of satellite bandwidth, which is 30 times more bandwidth for a force 45 percent smaller. US troops essentially used the same weapon platforms used in Operation Desert Storm with significantly increased effectiveness.

However, a total war between two powers exploiting the RMA will prove to be as much a test of systems resilience as previous total wars – not only of their information systems, but of their industrial systems (their resilience, hardening, dispersion, level of optimization of physical throughput, etc) and their agricultural(-industrial) systems. Furthermore, the coercive means for mobilizing the home front opened up by the emerging possibilities of “cybernetic totalitarianism” (electronic surveillance, universal databases, pattern recognition software, ubiquitous propaganda, sousveillance, ultra high-bandwidth wireless networks, etc) are historically unprecedented in their totality. The total wars fought in the cybernetic age have the potential to be far more total than anything seen before. But more on the social aspects of future war later…

The RMA will continue and possibly accelerate, in particular the network-centric warfare component. To repeat the points made above, this basically involves connecting all components of a modern army so as to improve every component’s situational awareness, optimize decision-making and multiply the effective strength even of small units. This goes in tandem with continuing improvements in precision technology, as striking particularly vulnerable enemy nodes is much more damaging than striking with a bigger tonnage but not aimed at anything in particular. All in all, military forces will become much more robust, resilient and intelligent (thanks to the innate crowd wisdom of a more democratic / dispersed decision-making process). Obviously, as Iraq as early as 1991 showed, traditional conventional “linear” armies that are poorly networked will stand as little chance against a well-supplied networked force as the clumsy feudal armies against the Mongols or the Poles against the Nazis in 1939.

However, there are two counters to a networked force – another good networked force, or rather paradoxically, a technologically retrogade dug-in fighters with just AK’s and RPG’s – as the Chechens showed in 1994-96 and Hezbollah demonstrated in 2006, even relatively small numbers of dedicated fighters armed with old-school weapons can blunt the advance of a modern mechanized force. Indeed, their power can become terminal if they have access to EMP’s or the means of taking out or corrupting networked satellites, drones and other surveillance/information systems. A networked force whose computers no longer work is just another ordinary rifle army, presumably also quite a demoralized one.

As Charles Perrow of the National Defense University noted in May 2003:

Our incipient NCW [network-centric warfare] plans may suffer defeat by [adversaries] using primitive but cagey techniques, inspired by an ideology we can neither match nor understand; or by an enemy who can knock out our vulnerable Global Positioning System or use electromagnetic pulse weapons on a limited scale, removing intelligence as we have construed it and have come to depend upon. Fighting forces accustomed to relying upon downlinks for information and commands would have little to fall back upon.

As such, in the case of absolute war between two technologically advanced blocs, the outcome will be determined by the outcomes between these two elements, the hi-tech NCW / “networked” element and the low-tech 4GW / “guerilla” element. However, these elements will inevitable lose their distinctions. The “guerillas” will themselves become networked, while the “networked” will adopt “guerilla” tactics in search of a new, optimal equilibrium. Those who are slow to find this equilibrium, relying either a) too much on small sized networked forces, which although very robust are vulnerable to attacks on critical nodes which will render them helpless, or b) on very low-tech forces that can be annihilated easily by hi-tech forces, will lose.

Weapons of Network-Centric Warfare

Munitions. Three types of ordinance will increase in importance: EMP’s, precision weapons, and fuel-air bombs. Though military C&C nodes can be (and are) hardened against EMP strikes (though the effectiveness of this hardening hasn’t yet been tested under fire), doing the same for the civilian infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. All it takes is one nuclear explosion high up in the atmosphere, and an entire continent can go black. (Needless to say, this will severely affect the enemy’s military-industrial potential). Precision weapons can be used to destroy key enemy C&C nodes without excessive expenditures of energy and firepower, albeit they are no panacea because of the concurrent trends towards dispersion.

In future wars, soldiers and industry will be digging in to conceal themselves from ever better surveillance and much of the fighting will take place in urban areas; fuel-air bombs, or thermobaric weapons, are near optimal when used against tunnels, bunkers, and enclosed spaces. Using nanotechnology, they will be miniaturized into lighter artillery munitions and grenades, giving even low-level platforms like individual soldiers immense destructive power.

Naval. As of today, the aircraft carrier appears to be going the way of the battleship of the 20th century. It appears to be a huge liability – it’s size and profile are so big that it is simply going to get saturated by enemy firepower (supercavitating torpedoes, hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles), no matter it’s defences – the priority will be to avoid being seen. However, the development of all-electric destroyers and cruisers hosting FEL weapons and railguns – especially if they were to be mated with a source of space-based solar power (and assuming said source can be defended) – may mean that the aircraft carrier will remain viable on some level as long as it is protected by its retooled carrier battle group (CVBG). At the very least, it will remain very useful for the kind of gunboat racketeering we are likely to see the Great Powers employ towards militarily-weak, resource-rich nations in the coming age of scarcity industrialism.

Nonetheless, the dominant trend at sea will be towards smaller, lighter, stealthier craft, – increasingly equipped with advanced weapons, optimized for swarm tactics, and preferably submersible. They will be the bane of maritime supply routes, if not the the retooled aircraft carrier battle groups that will be providing fixed point defense (the “iron phalanx”) and power projection capabilities (via VSTOL scramjet drones).

The ekranoplan, a Soviet chimera combining the sea-hovering effects of a hovercraft and the speed of a conventional plane, is likely to make its debut as a new major component in naval warfare. It is very fast, very suitable for transport and can carry a large amount of missiles and other ordnance. Flying low, just about the water, it is largely invulnerable to radar. It will be able to interdict supply routes and launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from off the coast of a hostile Power.

Space. Due to the spread of satellite-dependent network-centric warfare, control of space will become ever more important: for communications, surveillance, and electronic spying in low-earth orbit (LEO); comms and navigation constellations like GPS, Glonass, and Galileo in medium-earth orbit (MEO); and Beidou and systems like the US global infrared launch-detection capability in geostationary orbit (GEO).

[Source: Space Security 2007].

Furthermore, it is possible that in the coming decades of resource depletion, space will acquire a new strategic significance because of its potential for space-based solar power (SBSP). The specs indicate that though initial investments will have to be very substantial (though even they can be substantially reduced by constructing a space elevator), the payoffs will be tremendous. Since the Sun shines all the time, space-based solar has both much higher flux and can provide base load power, unlike solar photovoltaics on Earth, the system’s ultimate EROEI will be much higher and may constitute the new energy source to which industrial civilization will try to transition to from its current, unsustainable hydrocarbon dependence. From the National Space Society:

The magnitude of the looming energy and environmental problems is significant enough to warrant consideration of all options, to include revisiting a concept called Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) first invented in the United States almost 40 years ago. The basic idea is very straightforward: place very large solar arrays into continuously and intensely sunlit Earth orbit (1,366 watts/m2), collect gigawatts of electrical energy, electromagnetically beam it to Earth, and receive it on the surface for use either as baseload power via direct connection to the existing electrical grid, conversion into manufactured synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, or as low-intensity broadcast power beamed directly to consumers. A single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.

Obviously, this will have great military implications, because armies and navies will be transitioning from fossil fuels to electrical sustenance, because of hydrocarbon depletion, better electric battery technology, and the new emphasis on DEW weapon systems. The energy received by the SBSP installations can be converted to microwave radiation and transmitted down to any military antennas within range.

However, the concurrent proliferation of Earth-based anti-satellite capabilities (blinding by lasers, DEW weapons, etc) will make space denial, in most cases, much easier than space control. The BMD technologies I talked about are essential elements of space denial, since Powers possessing them are capable of blasting satellites out of LEO (the US, Russia, and China have demonstrated the capability) – and with them go the best reconaissance, MASINT, and SIGINT. Furthermore, once you destroy a few satellites, there could be a runaway effect called an ablation cascade which could rapidly clog up the lower-Earth orbits and close it off to human exploitation for a few centuries. Reconaissance would shift towards UAV’s and perhaps more exotic inventions like tiny robotic insects and “nanodust” (not making this up, take a look at DARPA’s plans, the Pentagon’s mad science division that gave us the Internet).

(For now, higher orbits remain safe, such as where GPS resides, though they remain vulnerable to jamming. If successful, the satellite becomes useless. One idea suggested by George Friedman is to construct heavily-defended “Battle Stars” in geosynchronous orbit and move C&C into deep space so that during a war they can continue to direct military forces down below even if (especially if) other satellites and communication networks are incapacitated or destroyed by kinetic kill vehicles, pulsed lasers, EMP’s, particle beam weapons, and whatever other forms of anti-satellite weapons are developed).

There are other exotic avenues of exploration such as wars for the lunar surface, Lagrange points, and over geoengineering projects in space such as a solar sunshade. I do not foresee these becoming overly relevant to military strategy until 2050.

Air Force. The fighter will be displaced by UAV’s, as it limits the range of manoeuvres it can do, and besides, a computer with the appropriate software will execute any operation much better than a human (g forces aren’t an issue with unmanned vehicles). By the 2020′s, we will see the first serious hypersonic scramjet drone prototypes, which will be far more capable of penetrating the thickening air defense shields which will by then be proliferating around the world. Though they will have direct control links, they will also contain autonomous AI programs in case their connection with the human controlled is destroyed or interrupted.

AWACS aircraft will remain essential, providing massively boosted radar coverage and stealth to the friendly aircraft around it. In the case of a big war by the 2040′s, air forces are likely to be made up of: 1) a core of hypersonic strategic bomber drones with advanced armaments including nuclear weapons, 2) a few legacy 5th generation fighters, 3) many cheap, lightly-armed reconaissance UAV’s, and 4) commercial airliners converted to serve as ABL’s, AWACS, and military transports.

Army. Tanks will probably survive in a similar form to today, but they will become smaller, lighter, stealthier, more modular and will lose their human presence. Their overall utility is going to decline in the face of advances in RPG’s; see Chechnya-Russia or Hezbollah-Israel, where small units operating from urban or entrenched positions were surprising successful at checking armored forces.

The biggest changes will occur at the level of the individual soldier. Below is an illustration of US plans for a Future Force Warrior.

They are going to feature: advanced sensors to keep the body comfortable and at homeostasis; helmets showing real-time maps with positions of goodies and baddies (battlespace awareness), excellent networking capabilities, and firearms integration (so you can shoot around corners or over a ditch without exposing your head); an exoskeleton that increases speed and multiplies your strength; advanced body armor and camouflage. In sum, future warriors will experience what is call “augmented reality” and become cyborgs, making them very effective individual weapons platforms. Their “vision” of the battlefield will converge to that of today’s shoot-em-up video gamer, with the major exception that losing HP will have bad, real-life consequences.

The assault rifle will likely remain the standard infantry weapon, because the prospects of developing effective infantry-level laser or “beam” weapons are unrealistic for the foreseeable future. I recommend something along the lines of the innovative Heckler & Koch G11, which uses caseless ammunition, or the FN 2000, which is a pleasure to handle. The lethality of munitions will increase thanks to the likely development of “smart bullets” and munitions of enhanced explosive power (see above).

Medical technology will become much more advanced, including even the regeneration of spinal tissue, which would heal otherwise disabling wounds. This will cause the casualty : KIA ratio to increase further, since so many wounded would be able to rejoin the action.

Finally, one more interesting military development that we may see within twenty years, once 1) bioengineering advances, 2) the costs of DNA sequencing slip further down the Carlson Curve, and 3) artificial womb-like environments are developed (slated to become realizable within the next five years), it may become possible to build bio-mechanical constructs that combine robot endurance and controllability, with biological flexibility and resilience. Cutting edge research is already incorporating the biological features of many lifeforms, which have been optimized for whatever their tasks by evolutionary eons, for commercial exploitation. The military will surely follow suit.

Cybernetic Reprimitivization

What will the numbers be like? Historically, the number of troops in armies has generally increased. This has usually been accompanied by a) increases in state resources and control and b) newer technologies that give a premium effect when diluted amongst the many rather than concentrated amongst a few (e.g. having lots of gunpowder-using units is better than a few elite, cold-steel cavalry units).

For instance, medieval armies were smaller than classical armies, because knights became key actors during the medieval period and as is well known equipping them cost a fortune. On the other hand, improvements in tactics and gunpowder weapons made heavy cavalry no longer economical and it became a better use of resources to equip more with arquebuses than less with warhorses and heavy armor. For all the talk of the death of the nation-state, the flat world, rise of the multinational corporation, etc, the fact remains that historically the state has never been stronger. Some of the European welfare states take more than 50% of GDP in taxes. This is a level that was before only reached during wartime, e.g. the US in WW2. And before the twentieth century even during warfare this percentage fell well short. So, if even today in peacetime and a liberal world order, some states can milk half of a country’s GDP, what can they achieve in conditions of total war?

Some commentators talk about the huge spiral in weapons costs, which will supposedly make total war far too expensive and lead to economic collapse very soon. Firstly, the exact same arguments were made even in the prelude to WW1. Then, few people realized the sheer productive power of a modern industrial complex turned over completely to military purposes. Secondly, with standardization; mass production levels and economies of scale; and optimization between hi-tech and numbers (see above), weapons and networking costs are going to come down a lot, by an order of magnitude.

Other commentators have voiced the opinion that since the US and other advanced industrial nations have in fact become deindustrialized or “hallowed” out, they will not be able to support big production volumes. However, the extent of this deindustrialization should not be exaggerated. US industrial output by physical volume today is no smaller than it was in 1970, the apogee of its industrial phase; it’s just that since then, the main focus of its development has shifted towards services and technological improvements. Much fewer people now work in manufacturing in the developed nations, but this is primarily because labor has been substituted by capital, not because they are producing less. That is actually a positive development from the point of view of waging total war. Less people in the factories equals more people available for service of a more directly military nature, not necessarily in the frontline but also in logistics, transport, construction, etc. In this respect the US is actually in a better position than, say, China. Even better of in this respect are the most capital-intensive nations, like Japan and Germany (though in practice they are weak because they are unable to guarantee their energy supplies).

Now about how the Armed Forces themselves will change. Basically, everything will be about the optimization between quantity and quality. Today, in the US and many other countries, the premium is on quality, since they only expect quick wars against technologically inferior forces like Iraqis or Chechens or Palestinians, and where big losses are politically unacceptable. However, in a total war, even the best networked forces will suffer attritition and rapid annihilation if the systems they rely on are disabled; after that, how do you continue to fight?

This means that future wars will not necessarily be, as imagined by most commentators, affairs involving small, high-tech elite warriors, as was the case in medieval Europe’s focus on knights. To the contrary, they may more resemble a cybernetic “people’s war“, characterized by the networking of hi-tech and guerrilla forces and tactics, strict political control, and cybernetic planning to optimize the resource flows and output of a mobilized war economy.

Women will play much bigger roles. They are physically, on average, perhaps 40-50% weaker than men, so in the age of cold steel they would have been of limited use on a battlefield (plus traditional social mores stood against their active involvement). Today, however, they account for around 10% of the personnel of many of the most advanced armies (albeit mostly in support roles). In WW2, there were around 2 support personnel for every fighter in the US Army in the European theatre. Obviously, there is no reason women cannot be of use in that sphere. They can also participate in the new realm of information war – intelligence analysis, planning, cyberwar, etc.

Another thing is that the premium of physical strength itself is in decline. Equipment is continuously getting lighter. Exoskeletons will make the issue immaterial. Although physically weaker, women are probably no worse and perhaps better than men at aiming and shooting, if Soviet female snipers in WW2 are anything to go by. As such, the next total war will probably see the mass mobilization of women, including for front-line duty. Of course, there remain entrenched social attitudes and men’s proclivity to protecting women. Hence, battalions and lower are unlikely to go mixed. Involving women in such a way will not, of course, guarantee victory; but states which effectively exploit womanpower as well as manpower will somewhat increase their chances of winning.

As noted above, production in a future total war is going to be massive and on a scale dwarfing that seen in the WW2 (when industrial output by volume was about three to four times lower than even today). However, the industrial base is going to become much more vulnerable to hostile disruption and destruction. Massed attacks of hypersonic global nuclear bombers may be able to evade missile defences and drop their deadly nuclear payloads on major industrial concentrations. Ekranoplans can fly close to the enemy coastline and launch cruise missiles at harbors. Likewise, missile defence may not be fully effective against SLBMs.

It is a myth that nuclear war will lead to the extinction of the human race or even the collapse of civilization.

A good civil defense system (blast shelters underneath municipal buildings, grain stockpiles, urban metro systems, widespread EMP hardening, widespread distribution of Geiger counters & potassium iodide pills, prewar planning, dispersed machine tool stockpiles, air raid / missile strike warning sirens, etc) will vastly improve the survivability of a population and enhance the speed and scope of its postwar recovery. A good example of a prepared society is modern Switzerland, which has a nuclear shelter in almost every building, and to a lesser extent the late Soviet Union. In conjunction with an advanced ABM and SAM system, a society with a good civil defense system is probably capable of surviving, and fighting, a prolonged nuclear total war.

In WW2, bombing significantly disrupted Germany’s war production, both by outright destruction and by forcing production to move to underground, dispersed factories. In modern total war, both sides will thus force the other to curtail their war production. Tragically, the distinction between civilians and military will become even more blurred than in WW2. Perhaps it will vanish altogether.

In the prelude to war, special ops will be carried out on enemy territory. WMD may be smuggled into the nation’s major cities and political centers, so as to execute decapitating strikes at the outset of hostilities. Terrorism will whip up an atmosphere of panic and divert attention from real intentions. In general espionage activities and “maskirovka” will play a more important role than in previous conflicts. War will be waged on many fronts – not only conventional and strategic, but informational, psychotronic, assymetric (involving use of WMD), etc.

One of the most intriguing prospects is climate war. By the 2020′s, the nations of the world will realize that there is no way they can prevent runaway climate change through global emissions reductions, and so geoengineering research will be massively stepped up. Many insights as to how the change the weather and climate will be gained, and it will doubtlessly be adaptable to military purposes. Artificial droughts; regional dimming; triggering of submarine slides (causing tsunamis) and catastrophic release of ocean methane hydrates; geo-techtonic disasters; … all these and more may be exploited. From the book Unrestricted Warfare (see here for html excerpts) by PLA colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui:

Ecological war refers to a new type of non-military warfare in which modern technology is employed to influence the natural state of rivers, oceans, the crust of the earth, the polar ice sheets, the air circulating in the atmosphere, and the ozone layer. By methods such as causing earthquakes and altering precipitation patterns, the atmospheric temperature, the composition of the atmosphere, sea level height, and sunshine patterns, the earth’s physical environment is damaged or an alternate local ecology is created. Perhaps before very long, a man-made El Nino or La Nina effect will become yet another kind of superweapon in the hands of certain nations and/or non-state organizations. It is more likely that a non-state organization will become the prime initiator of ecological war, because of its terrorist nature, because it feels it has no responsibility to the people or to the society at large, and because non-state organizations have consistently demonstrated that they unwilling to play by the rules of the game. Moreover, since the global ecological environment will frequently be on the borderline of catastrophe as nations strive for the most rapid development possible, there is a real danger that the slightest increase or decrease in any variable would be enough to touch off an ecological holocaust.

Finally, there’s also chemical and biological warfare. Their effectiveness is very uncertain, since they have not been widely used in anger (especially in recent decades). Chemical munitions have historically been mostly ineffective, mostly just a psychological weapon, though the most recent generations, novichok nerve agents delived by “binary munitions”, are an unknown quantity.

Potentially far more devastating than chemical weapons, maybe even nuclear weapons, are biological weapons. And you no longer even need a large state-funded efforts like Biopreparat to create lethal biological agents; according to Paul Boutin, just a DNA synthesizer and a few spare millions $ will do. Since bioweapons have the annoying quality that they can eventually “blow back” onto your populations and armies, it is thought that the main threat would come from millennarian terrorist movements. At the moment the world is every bit as vulnerable to biowar / bioterror / bioerror, as it is to a new flu pandemic. Not surprisingly, the main state-backed biowar efforts no longer relate to weaponization, but to biodefense.

Visioning Future War

Another way of imaging future war. Linear, infantry wars fought with rifle armies resembled checkers – relatively simple, one-dimensional, almost intuitive. The “combined arms” / 3rd-generation warfare that saw its apogee in WW2 and Cold War planning for WW3 on the plains of Germany resembled chess – one had to know how to use exploit time and space effectively with a variety of different units (infantry, mechanized, armored, air) to effect critical breakthroughts, encircle enemy units to enable for defeat in detail, and to know how to defend in depth. All of these are of course major elements in chess.

Future iWar is going to be like the Chinese game go – which despite the relative uniformity of platforms / pieces, is in practice far, far more complex than chess (computers aren’t advanced enough to “brute force” win in the game of go, unlike in chess, due to the sheer number of possibilities; skill is based on pattern recognition). It is characterized by extreme dispersion and inter-meshing of allied and enemy forces; strong point defences (see “iron phalanx”) with tenuous lines holding them together that are vulnerable to concerted assault; extreme mobility; and catastrophic bouts of attrition when large groups are surrounded and captured (equivalent to asymmetric attacks that disable large networks). No “King” that you have to defend at all costs because of the networked aspects; each unit is its own platform.

Responses to Criticisms

1. But we are in the era of globalization, spreading democracy, and world peace!

This won’t last due to the coming collapse of Pax Americana (the current global order founded on cheap oil, globalization, international rule of law, etc, and guaranteed by the US military / NATO), which will usher in the age of scarcity industrialism / the world without the West (characterized by economic statism, Realpolitik, resource nationalism, mercantile trade relations, etc).

Though on paper Russia’s military spending is only 4% of US GDP, in reality hidden subsidies, “structural militarization”, black budgets, etc, indicate that more like 15-20% of its techno-industrial potential is geared towards defense (20% of manufacturing output are armaments, 75% of Russian R&D has defense applications). In the US, real military spending is closer to 10% rather than the headline 5%. The figure is probably similar for China.

2. Given how much you talk about peak oil and collapse, what makes you think all these cool military technologies will ever be developed?

However, there are still plenty of unconventional gas reserves (coal seam gas, shale gas) and coal that will be able to sustain industrial civilization for another generation. (Of course by the 2030-50 period there will appear incredible stresses on the system if 1) climate change is bad and geoengineering is not attempted or is unsuccessful, and / or 2) if global industrial civilization had not managed to transition to a non-hydrocarbons dependent development regime). So whereas the US global empire will soon go, the global industrial system still has a substantial life ahead of it.

This time period, c.2010-2030/2050, will be characterized by an apolar, anarchic international system based on Realpolitik and resource nationalism. The three most powerful blocs are going to be the China-East Asia bloc, the America-Atlanticist bloc, and the Russia-Eurasian bloc. In times of stress and international competition, resources are diverted to the military sector and the military-industrial complex, including R&D. Since armed forces are the coercive foundations upon which any state is kept together and preserved, they are going to get preferential resources from the state they serve up until the very end of said state. This will be occuring in tandem with the continuation of the explosion in computer power, electronic networks, AI, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics.

BTW, the process of ramping up the share of productive resources dedicated to the military sector has been rising at the global level since around 2000, bringing to an end the post-Cold War “peace dividend”. Despite commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has accelerated the development of BMD under Bush; after 20 years of declining military spending as a percentage of GDP to free up resources for economic development, Chinese military spending began to grow faster than GDP; and Russia has revamped military spending from its post-Soviet nadir, is reforming its army and beginning fifth-generation rearmament, and plans to resurrect high-volume military production from 2011.

3. The range of technological, doctrinal, and social changes you describe as regards a total war is so radical that I cannot imagine it happening.

The citizen, soldier, and general of 1914 could have no way of knowing that in another half-century, the world of frontal infantry advances and quick, clean campaigns would be transformed into battles of industrial production, mass mobilization, “total war”, combined arms tactics, Blitzkrieg (infiltration-envelopment-annihilation), defense in depth, strategic bombers, ICBM and SSBN forces, etc.

Likewise, the early Cold War era strategist would have had to be very imaginative to envision nuclear planning losing its primacy, with the focus shifting from planning for massive tank battles on the Central European Plain, to today’s world of precision-guided munitions, stealth aircraft, the RMA, 4GW, and cyberwar or iWar.

The appearance of limits to growth, together with continuing developments in informatics and military technology, will lead to equally drastic changes in the nature of future war in the next few decades.

4. I’m a bit confused on the chronology, this essay is rather rambling. Can you please clarify?

Yes, I agree it’s rambling. Sorry, lots of ideas, not enough time or discipline. I’ll try to clarify and summarize in chronological order.

2010′s: Just as the US is in the midst of developing next-generation weaponry (scramjets, laser BMD) and finalizing the foundations for its global BMD system, the collapse of Pax Americana, economic crisis, and political instability will bring much of its military-industrial activities into dormancy (as happened in 1990′s Russia). Russia and China continue their military modernizations uninterrupted, reaching the US fifth-generation level of 2005-2010 by 2020. In particular, China will have then acquired a real blue water navy, which will by then be larger and newer than the US Navy. Many middle-rank Great Powers acquire advanced, assymetric, “area denial” weaponry (anti-ship missiles, supercavitating torpedoes, silent diesel submarines, UAV’s, drones). With the global US empire now a shell of its former self, nuclear proliferation will increase.

2020′s: The US will have more or less stabilized from its fall by now, and will resume where it left off in the early 2010′s. Drawing on R&D work it did not have the opportunity to previously actualize for lack of funds, it will resume upgrading its now downsized military forces (Future Force Warrior, all-electric ships, scramjets, laser ABM shields, railguns). However, by now China will be a real peer competitor and increasingly ascendant, even in qualitative terms. The spread of neo-colonialism and resource wars will intensify, the globalized world of yesteryear having dissolved into apolar anarchy and regional blocs centered around Great Powers (e.g. China, the US, Russia, France, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, India). Due to the stagnation of its military-industrial complex, Russia gets “locked in” to the fifth-generation paradigm and does not advance much farther than perfections of what were essentially late-Soviet systems, like the S-500, PAK FA, Borei, and T-90; adequate for dominating the Near Abroad, but no longer enough to go toe-to-toe with China or the US. By this time, both China and the US will have fully brought online mature ABM technologies based on kinetic interception. There are moves to move some C&C functions into deep space, black projects are launched in geowar and psychotronic warfare, and serious research begins on biomechanical, nanotechnological, and autonomous AI applications to military affairs.

2030′s: The increasing power and prevalence of cybernetic technology will enable unprecedented levels of wartime mobilization. The efforts initiated in the 2020′s are beginning to pay off, with the development of very powerful laser ABM systems that drastically reduce the value of nuclear arsenals (by now, only massed swarm attacks of hypersonic bombers have a chance), as well as the perfection of the Future Force Warrior, etc. Perhaps by this time military forces will be transitioning from reliance on hydrocarbons to space-based solar power and electric batteries: certainly China will be capable of an industrial-scale buildup in space, and the US-Atlanticist bloc too if it has the political will. Developments in biodefense will massively decrease the time needed to prepare vaccines against biological agents. The results of the exotic research projects of the 2020′s will begin to be implemented, for instance, biomechanical constructs to serve as resilient, versatile and autonomous platforms for energy and kinetic weapons; “nanodust” sensors; new technologies for waging ecological warfare; enhanced “smart”, EMP, and fuel-air munitions. These may shift the advantage back to the offensive.

2040′s: Probably the make or break decade. By now either humanity has managed to avert collapse (through technological singularity or some kind of “ecotechnic transition“), or it will be approaching collapse with no salvation in sight. Perhaps collapse will be preceded or accompanied by a last war of industrial civilization. One in which the weapons, doctrines, and social constructs of future war will be exploited for the first and last time.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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This is my second follow-up post to The Belief Matrix, in which I attempted to advance a universal model for civilizational responses to subsistence crises (The Malthusian Loop) and the Western challenge (The Sisyphean Loop). This time I will look at Germany, a nation that was always torn between its hard-assimilated Roman / Western identity, and German Romanticism – the nativist reaction against the “Idea of the West” (as previously loosely-defined, a set of concepts like the scientific method, rule of law, economic rationalism, and liberalism).

Before World War One, Germany was a confident, expanding power, but one wracked by insecurity. It was encircled by France and Russia on land, and contained by Great Britain at sea. The increasing cooperation between those three nations reinforced Germany’s suspicions and made it resentful about being denied its rightful place in the sun (all the best colonies had already been snapped up by the time Germany came to the imperialist game). In retrospect, much has been made of the balefulness of the Prussian militarist tradition, the influence of German nationalist groups, and the Kaiser’s bombastic antebellum rhetoric as one of the enabling factors of Germany’s Sonderweg. However, one should also note that in 1900 Germans enjoyed a higher level of adult enfranchisement than the British (22% versus 18% of the population, albeit with the caveat that the Reichstag’s powers were far more circumscribed) and that the anti-war Social Democrats won 34.8% in 1912.

The Teutonic Spirit

That said, imperial Germany was different from the Western liberalisms (Great Britain, France and the US) – not even so much in its political economy, an uneasy fusion of “Western” industrialism and “Eastern” autocracy, but also in its reflection in the psychological make-up of the German people, whose defining trait is a constant internal struggle between “civilized” Roman values (Rationalism / “The Idea of the West”) and “barbarian” Teutonic instinct. From Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler, first published in 1941 (well into WW2):

Almost every major German figure bears within himself both sides of this contrast. That is why German thinkers and bards talk more of “two souls in one breast” than do the thinkers of any national culture. . . . They treat their souls as a fond mother treats an enfant terrible: scolding yet egging on. That may make them “geniuses” and “daemonic,” but this inner conflict over the Roman wall is not always so harmless. Sometimes it is psychologically accompanied by projection, fanaticism, hysteria, instability, delusions of persecution plus persecution of others, and convulsive outbursts of physical violence.

He quotes Gustav Pauli:

Romanticism is Germanic and reached its purest expression in those territories which are freest from Roman colonization. Everything that is regarded as an essential aspect of the romantic spirit, irrationalism, the mystic welding together of subject and object, the tendency to intermingle the arts, the longing for the far-away and the strange, the feeling for the infinite and the continuity of historic development.

There are many more interesting musing on the Teutonic character, particularly in his thesis that the “schizoid polarity in German minds” is not inconsistent with the “German craving for discipline, authority, ruthless order”, since “the excessive and traditional discipline by the German state” is but the “the direct product of the excessive lack of inner discipline of the individual German”, that is, of “their intoxication with chaos, their Faustian romanticism”.

And since “nothing is more typical of the chaotic romantic temperament than this very attempt to escape from itself into the prison of limitless authoritarianism”, this leads to the German “worship [of] a prison-camp type of state with fanatic hysteria so long as it saves each of them, as romantic individuals, from his inner mental and emotional anarchy”. (Hence leading to the rejection of traditional ethics, focused on the individual, in favor of the adulation of the “organic”, all-powerful state. )

Fukuyama on Germany at the start of the war in The End of History:

In Germany, above all, the war was seen by many as a revolt against the materialism of the commercial world created by France and that archetype of bourgeois societies, Britain… But in reading German justifications for the war, one is struck by a consistent emphasis on the need for a kind of objectless struggle, a struggle that would have purifying moral effects quite independently of whether Germany gained colonies or won freedom of the seas…

The Reich Loop within the Belief Matrix

Above is the application of the Belief Matrix model to German history in the 20th C. Note the changes / improvement of terms from the previous model. On the horizontal axis, the Acceptance (of tradition) was replaced by Sobornost – a catch-all term for a deep sense of internal peace and unity between races, religions, sexes, etc, within a society, or in the words of Russian philosopher Nikolai Lossky, “the combination of freedom and unity of many persons on the basis of their common love for the same absolute values”. A good example of such a society would be the 1950′s-1960′s United States, when inequality was (relatively) low, people left the keys in their car doors and there were (as yet) few hippies / feminists / commies / etc to disturb the peace.

Its opposite, formerly Rejection (of tradition), is Poshlost, which according to different commentators is “petty evil or self-satisfied vulgarity”, “triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality”, “not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive”, and “corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature”. This is again a good catch-all term for categorizing declining cultures that had lost their belief in themselves, such as Weimar Germany or 1990′s Russia.

On the vertical axis, I replaced the vague Belief in the West / Anti-West (vague because the “Idea of the West”, which is what I meant by using the “West” in this context in previous posts, is not altogether synonymous with specific “Western” countries such as France or the US) with Rationalism (“The Idea of the West” / liberalism / Mediterranean / Greco-Roman civilization / Enlightenment ideal, – NOT necessarily democracy, which in Aristotle’s original conception is the tyranny of the many, and is if anything closer to sobornost than to rationalism – i.e., democracy is perpendicular to liberalism, the two being rather difficult to reconcile) and Romanticism (“irrationalism, the mystic welding together of subject and object, the tendency to intermingle the arts, the longing for the far-away and the strange, the feeling for the infinite and the continuity of historic development”, the sublime, etc – much like postmodernism, it is very hard to define, for definition is contrary to its very spirit).

The Genesis of the Modern Reich Loop

In 1914, a confident, growing Great Power – albeit one beset by labor unrest, social tensions and an acute sense of strategic weakness – rushed into a world war that it was, by most counts, responsible for (it declared war on Russia first and invaded Belgium). This was the first total war of the modern age and decidedly shaped the destiny of the coming century:

After the failure of the Spring Offensive in 1918 and the introduction of fresh, well-equipped American troops, backed by the world’s first industrial power, Germany’s surrender was probably inevitable; by the end of the year, its home front in collapse. The enemy blockade had cut off vital imports such as phosphates for agriculture, fuelled massive inflation (ersatz substitutes could no longer cope) and stirred social discontent… Nationalists would reinterpret the German request for an armistice in November 1918 as a perfidious “stab in the back” by Jews, socialists and civilian politicians – the so-called “November criminals”, and this myth would later contribute to the rise of Hitler.

This was part of the general post-war disillusionment. Gloomy poems and art… war cripples; veterans unable to adjust to civilian life; socialist agitation and right-wing reaction; Spengler’s The Decline of the West; the feeling that it was all for nothing: these are some of the things characterizing the post-war period.In Germany, the once-high fertility rate fell by half within just a decade from 1914 to the 1920’s; until then, a uniquely rapid demographic transition.

The Treaty of Versailles and resulting political turmoil pushed Germans into the top-left part of the Belief Matrix – the Region of Disillusionment. Yet the lack of belief that characterizes the Region of Disillusionment makes it profoundly unstable. The tortured souls caught up in there cannot resist the Romantic seduction of a Great March back to the right of the Belief Matrix, back to sobornost, to save themselves from their “inner mental and emotional anarchy”.

Though the Weimar Republic temporarily stabilized after 1924 under the stewardship of Gustav Stresemann, who brought about a short bout of economic prosperity and reconciliation with the Western powers, this was cut short by the Depression – which comprehensively discredited the Weimar project for a second time in a decade. Add in the political instability inherent of the Weimar system of democracy, the popular fear of Communism and the underlying Romantic / totalitarian tendencies in German society*, and ultimately it is not that surprising that the Nazis ended up coming to power by 1933. * Again from Viereck:

Mein Kampf was a bestseller long before the German people, voting uncoerced in the free Reichstag election of September 1930, increased the Nazi seats from 12 to 107 and made them the biggest party in Germany. By then, Hitler had said in Mein Kampf (to pick a typical threat at random): “If at the start [of World War I] we had held under poison gas twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew subverters of our people… then the sacrifice of a million Germans at the front would not have been in vain.

The Descent into Nazism – “The Wagnerian Volk-Mysticism of Metapolitics”**

One undeniable achievement of the Nazis was that they restored a sense of self-belief to the German people, but one based on racialist fanaticism on the top-right of the belief matrix, where Romantic mysticism is wedded to sobornost. In the top-right of the Belief Matrix, despotisms arise.

** This summation of the spirit of Nazism comes from Viereck, as does the passage below:

Painfully, over eons, civilization stamps its traditional and conservative values on men. Only within these values, or traffic lights, are freedom and objective justice possible. One by one Hitler efficiently smashes the traffic lights of the “common basis of humanity”. With them, freedom and objective justice effectively vanish in Germany. Nazism scorns personal freedom and objectivity and all universal, unnational values as being the “superficial” civilization of the sunny Mediterranean, in contrast with the “deeper” Kultur of northern fogs, that misty metapolitics, that “queer mixture of mysticism and brutality”.

From Rumor and Reflection, Bernard Berenson – written in February 1942.

Nazism is an attempt on the part of Germany to Asiatize itself completely, destroying and eradicating everything in itself that spells Europe, which Europe is equivalent to Mediterranean. It began with the easiest to accomplish, the wholesale massacre of the Jews, always the spearhead of Mediterranean civilization.

From Goebbels:

National Socialism has understood how to take the soulless framework of technology and fill it with the rhythm and hot impulses of our time.

Götterdämmerung 1945.

As a geopolitical power in its own right, much like the German states after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 – Germany ceased to matter as a sovereign Great Power.

The Rediscovery of Rationalism

During the 1950′s-1970′s, denazification and the re-imposition of rationalism (liberal democracy in the West, socialist democracy in the East) plunged Germany to the bottom-right, the only area on the belief matrix where liberal democracy can effectively thrive in the long-term, kept inside by the centripetal forces of liberty cycles. Both halves found a new prosperity. In the West, there was a Wirtschaftswunder, enabled by the Marshall Plan, economic deregulation, cheap energy and the possibility of rapid convergence to US / British levels of GDP per capita because of the wartime destruction of its industrial base. The return to sobornost, which the Nazis made possible, ironically reinforced Germany’s ultimate reconciliation with rationalism.

[German historical TFR (total fertility rate) on thick line - since children could be considered a rough indicator of confidence in its future, demography may offer an insight into the state of a society's belief in itself. The beginning of the drop from the 1890's is a natural fertility transition due to urbanization and greater female literacy, but the post-WW1 drop is unprecedentedly rapid and corresponds to a period of poshlost. It recovered somewhat during prewar Nazism and postwar democracy, before plunging again from the late 1960's to sub-replacement level rates - where they remain to this date].

However, the situation in West Germany changed radically from the late 1960′s (see Belief Matrix graph) as economic growth slowed, fertility began to decline rapidly and there appeared new concerns like environmentalism and German historical guilt re-the Holocaust. West Germans began to move to the left on the Belief Matrix, losing faith in their nation. This transition took longer to begin in East Germany, but after the collapse of socialism in the late 1980′s, the sense of disillusionment there was vastly greater, as its newly-discovered freedoms were accompanied by demographic collapse, deindustrialization and disrespect from the “Besser-Wessis”. Despite the limitations on political and civil rights under the GDR, significant numbers of East Germans believe life under was it better – and pine for the return of the sobornost it ultimately represented [my emphasis].

Today, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 57 percent, or an absolute majority, of eastern Germans defend the former East Germany. “The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there,” say 49 percent of those polled. Eight percent of eastern Germans flatly oppose all criticism of their former home and agree with the statement: “The GDR had, for the most part, good sides. Life there was happier and better than in reunified Germany today.” …

… “From today’s perspective, I believe that we were driven out of paradise when the Wall came down,” one person writes, and a 38-year-old man “thanks God” that he was able to experience living in the GDR, noting that it wasn’t until after German reunification that he witnessed people who feared for their existence, beggars and homeless people.

… “In the past, a campground was a place where people enjoyed their freedom together,” he says. What he misses most today is “that feeling of companionship and solidarity.” The economy of scarcity, complete with barter transactions, was “more like a hobby.” Does he have a Stasi file? “I’m not interested in that,” says Schön. “Besides, it would be too disappointing.”

… People lie and cheat everywhere today, he says, and today’s injustices are simply perpetrated in a more cunning way than in the GDR, where starvation wages and slashed car tires were unheard of. Schön cannot offer any accounts of his own bad experiences in present-day Germany. “I’m better off today than I was before,” he says, “but I am not more satisfied.”

Schön’s reasoning is less about cool logic than it is about settling scores. What makes him particularly dissatisfied is “the false picture of the East that the West is painting today.” …

In other words, belief is necessary for national survival, whereas freedom is tangential. You don’t even have to ask the East Germans, looking at their fertility rates is enough.

(And in a sense, that describes pretty much all of Europe. In modern societies, it is not individually rational to have more than one or at most two children. The long-term result, barring a technological silver bullet like artificial wombs or robots, is an accelerating national decline and possibly collapse – or the reversal of the very same rational values that made the demographic collapse possible in the first place. Better hope the reversal will not be an overcompensation, e.g. fascism or religious fundamentalism).

Return to the Reich?

Today, Germany is in a strange and unusual position – though it is almost certainly locked into secular decline, it has been unshackled from its long strategic dormancy imposed by the Cold War superpower.

Germany has one of the world’s most advanced industrial economies, but is uncomfortably reliant on manufactured exports to provide the savings needed to sustain its welfare state and rapidly aging population. Speaking of which, its fertility rate has fallen to well below replacement level rates of 2.1 children per woman in the early 1970′s – one of the earliest such fertility transitions (and predating Russia’s by 20 years, which is the reason Russia has some chances of recovery in the next few years). Amazingly, every single year since 1972 saw fewer babies born in West Germany than in 1946, just one year after a crushing defeat and military occupation (the equivalent year for East Germany is 1990).

Furthermore, Germany is the only place in Europe (with the sole exception of culturally-similar Austria), where even the desired TFR is at a sub-replacement level of 1.8 (real TFR is 1.4). Nor is immigration a solution given the sheer scale of the influx needed to maintain current working-age populations and German xenophobia. Projecting to 2050, it would need annual immigration of 487,000 people just to keep the labor size constant and 810,000 to maintain a 3:1 ratio between workers and retirees. This is politically unrealistic. So bearing in mind that Germans have not been reproducing themselves for a full generation now (and have no desire to start doing so) and the infeasibility of large-scale immigration, this means that Germany’s chances of solving its demographic problems in the foreseeable future are next to zero.

Will the world continue to soak up German exports? Probably not as much as before, because of the impending dangers to globalization from peak oil and geopolitical disruptions. (Although one advantage Germany does have is in its strengths in energy efficiency, which constitutes a powerful comparative advantage in a world of soaring energy costs). Even as state revenues drop as the labor force shrinks, welfare demands will increase (e.g. old-age pensions, which already took up 11.8% of the GDP in 2000).

The Bundeswehr is of Cold War vintage, designed to fight a traditional Great Power war on the North European Plain, but with as yet minimal power projection capabilities. (Not that Germany, a mostly land-locked nation with a minimal colonial heritage, would even be able to do much with it). France will lock up the immense energy and fertilizer reservoirs of North Africa, and it will not be interested in sharing its (relative) energy and demographic bounties with a weakening Germany. The world’s major maritime powers will joust in a new scramble for Africa; Sweden looks set to regain its old status as the predominant Baltic Power; and there is little point in surmounting the Alps to expand into Italy.

Facing a subpar energy future, the loss of export markets in a protectionist world, a rapid demographic decline, and an unprecedented fiscal crisis, Berlin will again look east – as it so often has in the past in times of stress. It is in its strategic interests to draw closer to Moscow, given the mutual desirability of setting up a bilateral relationship based on trading Russian commodities (natural gas) for German machine tools and technology, as occurred so often in the past. (For instance, in the Treaty of Rappallo (1922), the two international pariahs signed a peace agreement, forgave each other’s debts and signed a free trade accord. Russia also helped Germany circumvent the Treaty of Versailles by allowing Germany to use its territory to continue military-related R&D and weapons testing, far from the prying eyes of Western spies). Furthermore, Russia could use a neutral-to-friendly Germany as a shield to consolidate its power in the post-Soviet space.

As so often happened in the past, Poland will fall in the way of this Russo-German relationship. Russia is interested in pushing American influence out of East-Central Europe, converting the region into a neutral buffer for its empire. Germany will be interested in furthering its economic penetration of the region, given the losses of some of its other export markets, and in preventively blocking Russia’s further expansion into Europe proper; in addition, there’s also its traditional craving for more Lebensraum.

However, Poland will be supported directly by France, which has a direct interest in guaranteeing its sovereignty in order to prevent the rise of a German-dominated Europe (or a contiguous Russo-German bloc, which would amount to the same thing); and despite its likely retreat from Eurasian power politics in the face of mounting domestic problems, the US too will likely contribute to Polish security (preventing the rise of a Eurasian hegemon will still figure amongst Washington’s priorities). Interestingly, Britain will probably try to maintain neutrality and good relations with all sides: its desire to support France and Poland in order to avoid a united European hegemon, will be counterbalanced by its growing energy dependence on Russia.

The future shape of the post-Pax Americana Europe is already taking shape:

First, Germany is beginning to close ranks at home, and not in terms of political parties. During the past year, rhetoric in the press and among politicians has shifted inexorably away from such modern values as multiculturalism. This is partially due to growing dissatisfaction with Schroeder’s government, but there also are glimpses of something darker. For instance, after state elections in Schleswig-Holstein brought a small ethnic Danish party to power Feb. 20, party leaders found themselves the target of hundreds of threats — some from public figures — of which some of the more polite noted that “what is legal is not always legitimate.”

Countries under stress tend to pull together, and that often can mean identifying outsiders in their midst. The German economy has not performed well for 15 years. It is now in its third recession since 2001, unemployment has reached a 73-year high, and beginning in 2006, changes in social welfare laws mean that literally millions of Germans will cease to receive benefits payments. If these realities do spark some kind of social backlash, it could prove significant that Germany hosts Europe’s largest Turkish population and immigrants from a smattering of many other nationalities. There are plenty of outsiders to choose from.

Second, Berlin is resuscitating relations with Moscow. Germany is Russia’s largest energy and trade customer, and the Schroeder government has gone to great pains to push that relationship even further. Alone among European and NATO states, Germany has kept mum during the recent goings-on in Ukraine, and it alone is standing aside even as the rest of the West is pursuing a broad geopolitical advance throughout all of Russia’s former provinces.

A German-Russian alignment is not only logical in a geopolitical sense, but relations have a long way to grow before hitting any natural constraints. Though the two fought each other bitterly during World War II, it is often forgotten that they cooperated deeply until they actually bordered each other. Right now, there are a dozen countries in the zone of territory between them — broadly the same countries that were there in 1939, when Molotov and Ribbentrop decided to carve out the future.

After 60 years in a geopolitical coma, Germany is not just turning a page, it is beginning to write a new book. This in no way means that Germany is doomed to return to its fascist past, but neither is it a foregone conclusion that the Germany of the future will be an American ally, a British ally or especially a French ally (in fact, the past 60 years are the only period in which Paris and Berlin have seen eye-to-eye).

Where Germany will evolve is anyone’s guess: For all practical purposes, Berlin is only now waking up. A new balance of power must now be crafted. At present, Germany and Russia are both feeling quite unsettled, and some 21st-century version of the Treaty of Rapallo appears to be in the cards. That does not mean war is inevitable.

What is inevitable is change. The least likely result of a major power emerging at the heart of a continent is business as usual. And if history is any guide, Germany’s re-emergence during the next few years will slam into Europe with all the subtlety of, well, the German army.

Germany is a spiritually bifurcated and psychologically tortured nation; though it played a major role in manufacturing the Faustian world of machines, rationalism and the intellect, it is safe to say that a nation which produced the likes of Nietzsche, Spengler and Heidegger possesses a profoundly mystical soul, and secretly yearns to return to its past-and-future despite the ostensible comfort of its material surroundings. The imposition of liberalism on its soil was artificial, not organic, and its social effects have been disastrous of late.

Furthermore, Germany is now facing an unprecedented set of challenges stemming from its economic malaise, demographic collapse and the imminent global energy crisis. The USSR has retreated, NATO is retreating, and the US itself will soon follow; as the last constraint, the EU looks strong, but at its heart it is nothing more than a paper tiger (a very big one, admittedly) that will likely dissolve in the upheavals ahead, leaving behind only a glorified free trade zone, if that.

Germany is now becoming an increasingly free actor in Europe, free to follow its own optimal geopolitical strategy. Although it is now relatively pacifist and militarily weak, but history shows that can metamorphose with unsettling rapidity – just compare the Germany of 1929 with the Germany of 1939. Then as now, momentous change is on its way. This is not to imply that it will become fascist or even abandon its current political system (though those are distinct possibilities), but it will become more a more illiberal, authoritarian and expansionist state.

The return of the Reich is nigh.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.