Fellow Travelers

Monday, March 4, 2019

War, what is it good for?

Born out of a Twitter argument over the heavy pro-military propaganda that permeates the US military, and my belief that our offensive military is wholly unnecessary and even self-defeating.
"We would still be attacked by North Korea, and possibly other countries without having such defense"
"I mean, this is very basic logic that a child knows, going to school"
It's circular logic.

"We need a powerful military to defend ourselves against countries that we only have hostile relationships with because we have a powerful military."

The United States spends far more on the military than any other country in the world, 37% of the global total military expenditure.

In order to justify this military spending, we are subjected to intense propaganda and indoctrination from childhood (with the upcoming Captain Marvel movie being just one of the latest examples of this) to never even question the money spent on this military. It's no wonder that "a child...going to school" would know this, they've been indoctrinated to worship the military unquestioningly since birth.

Other developed countries with actually defensive militaries are also able to afford universal health care, education that is low or no cost to the student, and a variety of other social safety nets that don't exist in the US. They don't exist here because we spend so much money on the military.
Our military expenditures cost us in a variety of areas including but not limited to life expectancy, literacy, income equality, infant mortality, on and on.

President Dwight Eisenhower, who was also a leading US general during WW2, said in his "A Chance For Peace" speech that:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?
Something that Ike and I have in common that you apparently lack is military service in war.
"But seriously, it is just simple.  Also, what do you even mean by this. It means that other countries would know how much of a risk it is to attack us,if they ever wanted to attack a US state, but you really would like it if we were just defenseless, huh?"
80 million gun owners aren't defenseless.

I support the right of every US resident to be armed. I also support the right of every human being in the world to also be armed. And I support ending all organized militaries worldwide.
"If a country was to attack us, how should we defend ourselves without a military? You seem like you would have an idea."
Let me introduce you to the concept of 4th generation warfare:
Fourth-generation warfare has often involved an insurgent group or other violent non-state actor trying to implement their own government or reestablish an old government over the current ruling power. However, a non-state entity tends to be more successful when it does not attempt, at least in the short term, to impose its own rule, but tries simply to disorganize and delegitimize the state in which the warfare takes place. The aim is to force the state adversary to expend manpower and money in an attempt to establish order, ideally in such a highhanded way that it merely increases disorder, until the state surrenders or withdraws.\
Here's a list of the military numbers for all the militaries of the world  

North Korea has a total military strength of 7.7 million people. South Korea has 6.7 million. Vietnam has 5.5 million (and experience beating the US military). India has 5 million. Russia has 3.4 million. China has 3.2 million. Then you get down to the US with military manpower of 2.2 million.
So, your premise is that one of these states will attack the US. Why? What's their goal? Countries fight wars for a limited number of reasons. Is it

  • Destruction?
  • Occupation?
  • Exploitation of our natural resources?

This is all going to be back of the envelope math.

During WW2, 2 million US enlistees fought in Europe. A total of 16 million enlistees served in the US military during WW2.

This was a massive undertaking that required almost all our industrial productivity to be directed towards producing arms and armor for equipping and transporting all those people to Europe. And literally the only reason we were able to do this is because we didn't fear ground invasion of the US by Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany because of the difficulty involved in getting enough troops across the ocean.

Nazi Germany had a 1939 population of 79 million and a postwar population of 65 million. The Western Front featured from 1944 to 1945 a total of 5.4 million troops that served, while Nazi Germany had 8 million that served. On the Eastern Front, there was around 4 million Nazi troops and close to 7 million Soviet troops.

It took an invasion force of roughly 12.4 million, fighting Nazi forces of roughly 12 million, to defeat Nazi Germany. It took an invasion force the size of roughly 15% of the 1939 German population to successfully overthrow and subsequently pacify Nazi Germany. And all they had to do was effectively cut off the dictatorial head of the country. A majority of the personnel were from countries with a land border with Germany (chiefly Russia).

I bring all that up because the US has a population of 330 million. An invasion force totalling 15% of our population would have to be 51 million people. If the entire military strength of North Korea somehow took to the ocean and managed to transport 7.7 million people to the shores of the US, they would constitute 2.3% of our population, and only 9.6% of our civilian gunowners.

What I'm trying to give you an idea of here is the sheer incredible difficulty involved in pacifying the US in any meaningful way. And that's using WW2 numbers and methods, and 3GW warfare styles.

What's the purpose of these invaders in invading the US? Do they just want to nuke and destroy the US? Why? Not only is there not much reason to just haul off and nuke a country, there's also almost no way to defend against it. And it's not like our entire military might is oriented towards defending against or even retaliating against a nuclear strike.

Maybe they don't want to destroy the US. Maybe the US is nationalizing its oil supply for our own sole use and no longer participating in the global military market and for some reason that leads Russia or something to come in and overthrow our government and secure access to our oil fields.

USMC Smedley Butler, an individual that I feel a great deal of kinship with, said in his "War is a Racket" speech in 1933:
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
The whole speech is worth a read

So that's a reason we might be invaded. Capitalism is always a popular reason to invade and overthrow sovereign governments, and if the US wasn't doing it, somebody else might do it to us. Maybe we have oil, maybe we have a suddenly discovered supply of unobtainium under the Rockies, who knows.

How do we defend ourselves?

Let's go back to 4th Generation Warfare. Cutting off the head of our government will be the easier part. It was the easiest part of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, being completed in both cases in just a few weeks. The Iraq War "ended" and effectively transitioned into the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the Afghanistan War continues today with the US poised to hand power back to the Taliban.

The Taliban has effectively won the 4GW conflict in Afghanistan. Did they do it through military might? superior strategy? No, they've simply outlasted our will to fight. Afghanistan has an estimated $3 trillion in natural resources, so if the US was interested in conquering it to exploit its mineral wealth we would stand a chance of turning a profit. But not much of one, the war so far has cost over $1 trillion and it looks like that could rise. The Taliban refused to stop fighting.

"But...you don't even know if these 80 million will even fight together?  It does matter. I am sure all these gun owners will not team up to form strategies. What if they are all scattered? What if most of them want nothing to do with the battle? LOTs of factors to think about."

Well, here's the thing about 4GW. You don't want those 80 million to fight together. Our current military methods favor decapitation strikes, take out the C&C (command and control) capabilities and you disorient the lower echelons. A military without a leader can't be decapitated. You don't want all those gun owners to team up to form strategies. You do want them to all be scattered. This is a strength in 4GW, this gives resilience to the resistance.

From the wikipedia on 4GW:
A 4GW enemy has the following characteristics: lack of hierarchical authority, lack of formal structure, patience and flexibility, ability to keep a low profile when needed, and small size. A 4GW adversary might use the tactics of an insurgent, terrorist, or guerrilla in order to wage war against a nation's infrastructure. Fourth generation warfare takes place on all fronts: economical, political, the media, military, and civilian. Conventional military forces often have to adapt tactics to fight a 4GW enemy.
So, don't think of a block of 80 million combatants (and again there's a total of 500 million privately owned firearms, so that 80 million can rise), think of 10 million cells of 8 people apiece. 8 people carrying out a VBIED on an Occupier convoy or ECP. 8 people disrupting a supply shipment to a Forward Operating Base. 8 people carrying out electronic disruption activities. On and on. Another benefit to 4GW is that every one of those combatants looks like everybody else in the country. Combatants blend easily back into the civilian populace at large. Retailiatory actions against the larger community only serve to radicalize even more combatants - exactly what happened in Afghanistan.

You turn the civilian population of the home country against their continuing occupation. Why are their family members going across the sea to the US to die trying to occupy us? What do they have to gain from it? This is one of the ways that the Bolshevik revolutionaries came to power in the Russian Revolution against the backdrop of  WW1; the Tsar chose to fight in WW1, with no clear benefit to the Russian people and plenty of disadvantage. You also see this in the Vietnamese victory against the US in the Vietnam War. The US left because there was no longer civilian support in the US for the war.

You make the war economically expensive. Their occupying military vehicles cost more than, say, a beater dump truck or cement truck. Load it up with cement, armor up the engine block, drive it at the ECP, and have combatants or more VbiEDs blasting in behind it. A Tet Offensive kind of attack. Make it expensive. One of the weaknesses of the US military is how much money we spend per combatant, in training, equipment, infrastructure, and so on. This gives groups like the Taliban a significant economic advantage.

These constant low intensity attacks that require non stop readiness and caution by the occupying military, and I can tell you this based on first hand experience in multiple US war zones, takes a huge psychological toll on the occupying military. You have to always have your eyes open. You have to always be careful and cautious and ready. It wears you down, it makes you less effective. The stress and PTSD and the traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from explosions make suicides more frequent both in-country and after their return. The US military has a suicide rate double that of the civilian population. In 2012, 6500 former US military personnel died by suicide, and more active duty members died from suicide than were killed in combat. This is a side effect of US military imperialism, and supporting US military actions worldwide means supporting this increased suicide rate.

Any occupying force that invades the US with the goal of controlling it would be doomed from day one to fail. It's a simply practical reality, borne out by numerous real world examples, including by the US military itself. Most powerful in the world. Defeated repeatedly by insurgencies.
Any invader would also have to deal with the internal and external risks they would be taking on by mobilizing the necessary military might to conquer the United States. China has bigger problems nearby than the US, like the Uighur insurgency, tensions with India and Russia, and the economic reality that the US is their biggest customer. India has to worry about Pakistan, with both of them nuclear powers, and with a disputed region in Kashmir that they're currently actively fighting over. North Korea invades the US? Then they'd get invaded by South Korea. North Korea invades South Korea? They'd have to deal with the fact that South Korea has a military nearly as large as North Korea and with better nutrition and more technology. Russia invades the US? They don't have the manpower, and they have plenty of internal and regional conflicts to worry about already, like the Ukraine, Georgia, Chechnya, and more. Any invader would face economic sanctions from the other countries of the world, and would also face political isolation.

Or maybe this is a scenario in which a foreign power is systematically conquering other neighboring countries, building up their strength, and then, once they have an empire spanning the entire rest of the globe, they turn their eyes towards the US. And Mexico. And Canada. And central and South America. We would have plenty of time to recreate and remobilize a military, along the lines of WW2, to address such a threat. "We did it before and we can do it again".

You should read the Blowback series by Chalmers Johnson, it does a great job of explaining and contextualizing the costs and problems with our US military. I read it while deployed to Afghanistan and it was a real eye opener.

1 comment:

  1. What a thoughtful, fact-filled, interesting blog! You need to publicize its existence among your fellow Leftists. And you need to get onto some forum websites where other intelligent people argue politics, and take part. In fact, you need to get onto some 'right-wing' websites and make some arguments there (I don't mean 'far-right' racists, but, for example, militia websites. Your realistic attitude to gun-control would give you a hearing.) More importantly, you could contribute positively to the deep 'sea-change' going on among the base of the Right, regarding America's interventionist foreign policy -- the reflexive patriotism which automatically lined these folks up behind every foreign invasion, and which told them that the world is full of enemies, is rapidly fading away. You ought to be a part of this discussion. (Here's a datum for you: about half the conservatives I know like Tulsi Gabbard.) I don't see a way to contact you directly, but if you reply to my comment, I'll be notified.