2017/10/28

Smedley Butler: "War is a Racket"

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"War is a racket" by Major General Smedley D. Butler is an antiwar classic by a highly decorated U.S. Marine Cops officer. There's still a USMC base in Japan named for this officer.

One quote of this remarkable officer sums his experience up, but isn't from his "War is a racket" text itself:

MG Smedley D. Butler, USMC, 1920's
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and 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 benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
The horrors of war, the unjustified profits of the war industry, the suffering at home, mutilated soldiers and especially his experience in many needless and corrupt small wars convinced MG Butler that war is a racket and evil. I read his book several times, and it's obviously applicable to our time as well as to the early and late 20th century.

He judged by his personal experience of his lifetime - the "Great War" and many small interventions against sovereign nations in Latin America.

He wrote "War is a racket" in 1935, in hindsight probably one of the worst times ever if you want to have lasting impact and fame for an anti-war work . The axis powers didn't allow peace for long any more (he warned only about Italy in his book) and showed that there are two kinds of war; those you can avoid and those you cannot avoid without submission.

This distinction is very important if we try to apply lessons learned from history for a better future.
Patriotism is a good thing if used to mobilize for unavoidable wars, and it's evil if it gets exploited to reinforce support for needless wars.
Furthermore, the arguments of pacifists should not be dismissed completely, but considered for each and every war in detail - they apply to some wars and not so much to others.

Not only the understanding of patriotism should be influenced by past experiences - the whole approach to war needs to be checked. Are our societies really prepared to repel attempts to lure us into needless small or major wars in the future? Or will we fall prey to such attempts as the British did in 2003, when their head of government was able to participate in a war that the majority of the British didn't even want and that turned into a disaster?



P.S.: It's worth repeating.
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2017/10/27

The truth is never offensive

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"It's weird because America is the kind of place where someone can get more offended at you calling them a racist than at the fact that they are racist. And that's become like a new thing that I stumbled across. How dare you call me a racist? How dare you be a racist? And that's the world that Donald Trump is in. People try to trap you into being afraid of saying what the person is doing as opposed to them acknowledging the world that they're living in"

I noticed this in American-dominated internet forums as well. So moderator thinks I was offensive by calling someone a liar? Does Moderator pretend that the exposed lie in itself wasn't offensive? The truth is never offensive where I live.

This twisting of (quasi)political discourse may be an important ingredient in at least one path towards destruction of a liberal society, destruction of democracy. It may be the path that leads to policy based on fake news.

S O
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2017/10/23

Brutes in warfare

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This is another attempt to draw on military history to provide insights for military theory.


Every now and then - often spaced by centuries - some "new" way of doing war proves disastrously superior, often creating empires or destroying existing ones. Not all such innovations (or revivals of long-known ways) have been coined by superior finesse. Sometimes the secret of success is rather that a brutish, savage approach to warfare proves superior to cautious, limited if not ritualised forms of warfare.

One such example was the success of probably the greatest warlord of all times*, Shaka Zulu. The paradigm that he faced emphasised javelins and long spears. The changed this by emphasising bigger shield and shorter spear, waiting for the javelin hail to end and then charging to a merciless melée. There was no mercy for the defeated; they either joined him or died, which enabled him to grow his army through victories.

Alexander the Great's** extremism in warfare came as a shock to existing realms and his savage treatment of Tyre ensured that hardly any other walled settlement dared to resist him later. His heavy cavalry charges aimed to slay the opposing king instead of defeating his army came as quite a shock, too.

There are more examples, but covering the whole facet of the history of war would go towards a history Ph.d. so, here's instead my suspicion:

There may be a systemic possibility that a new paradigm appears once warfare becomes too ritualised, too focused on avoiding close-up brutality, too focused on limiting the devastating effects of warfare. This new paradigm may change power balances and destroy realms.

The obvious question for a concerned observer is thus whether we might be in such a vulnerable, probably doomed paradigm.

The potential is certainly present if the entire pattern holds true:
  1. the dominance of cabinet wars with minor mobilisation. As a militarist he was unsurpassed, even
  2. the refusal to use nukes***
  3. the casualty aversion
  4. the idea that support fires can do the job before one is overrun by a more aggressively manoeuvering opponent****

Humans are used to expect a continuation of the past, not a repeat of sudden changes that occurred in the distant past. It's all-natural to not expect dictatorships that lasted for generations to suddenly disintegrate, to not expect a financial market boom to end tomorrow - or to expect a paradigm change in warfare that's not a mere jump forward on the road that's been taken for generations.


S O

*: That's no compliment. The guy turned nuts. He's also one of the greatest militarists in history, along with Lycurgus of Sparta.
**: What a fag. ;-)
***: And this was no criticism.
****: There are no support fires if there are no sufficient radio comms. How would a 90% indoctrinated infantry & 10% radio jammers army fare in East-Central Europe against a 15% combat troops & 85% support troops army?
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2017/10/04

"NATO in Europe needs 'military Schengen' to rival Russian mobility"

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dw.com

When Hodges, on the other hand, wants to move tanks or other heavy vehicles and weaponry across Europe, he needs to stop at every national - sometimes regional - border and deal with unique controls.
"I think most people would be astounded to find out what we have to do," he said, "to submit a list of all the vehicles, the drivers, what's in every truck - which they don't do with gigantic commercial trucks moving back and forth across borders."
He says in many European countries, it takes weeks to get the permission to move through. In Germany every state requires its own procedure.


I think I wrote this myself (and had someone else mocking me because he thought that there's no such red tape), but I don't know when or where.

S O
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2017/10/01

Overlapping territorial sovereignty

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There are two secession referendums almost at the same time, a good opportunity to finally write about an old idea of mine.

The core problem with a secession is in my opinion the instinct of the central government that loses power. It loses power over its supposedly own people, which makes its insistence unsympathetic.

It would be most desirable to find a way how poorly-devised borders could be redrawn peacefully and how to govern areas with very much fractured population effectively, peacefully and well.

example: Bosnia ethnic map in 1991. There was no obvious right way of drawing a border.
(c) Milan1237

another example: linguistic map of Iran
One way how people in a fractured region can live together is that one group or a coalition of groups dominates the region, with undesirable oppression of one or several other groups. That's a powder keg if the oppressed minorities are large enough, as can be seen in former Yugoslavia, in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another way is proportionate representation. One group always gets the head of state office, another group always gets the head of government office, another group always gets the head of parliament office and so on. Minorities could also have political privileges, such as the Danish minority in Germany close to the Danish border.

I'd like propose a different way, one that might ease it for the central government to give up (some) control:

The classic idea of a state includes the concept of well-determined borders. These may be in dispute or poorly marked, but there's always the claim of unlimited sovereignty over a certain area on this planet. It's sometimes simply not possible to draw "correct" borders on a map without previous ethnic cleansing. So we need to give up this exclusive sovereignty concept if we want sustainable political order without oppression and without ethnic cleansing in the very ethnically fragmented areas of this world.

Think about a simple model: There are the countries A, B and C with corresponding ethnicities a, b and c. The ethnicity c lives in state C, but the states A and B have a dispute about a region where a and b live intermingled.

Now my proposal is to create a shared sovereignty over this area of intermingled ethnicities. The a people pay taxes to A and have an A passport, b do the same with B. Affairs between a and a would be settled by A (civil and criminal) law, affairs between b and b would be settled by B law. Affairs between a and b, a and c or b and c in the intermingled area would be settled by AB consensus law (devised by the political system of the population in the intermingled AB area with veto right for both A and B).
An attack of C against A would lead to A defending itself with a resources. An attack of C on B would lead to B defending itself with b resources. An attack of C on the intermingled AB territory would lead to A and B fighting back with a and b resources respectively.

Additionally, there should be an effort to emphasise programmatic politics in the AB area; the people should be divided in politics by left/right or other ideologies, not by ethnic divisions.
This model can be applied in regard to a secession as well. A secession  of a region would only happen if the regional majority ethnicity isn't the same as the ethnicity that dominates the central government. Thus there would be no veto necessary to protect that regional majority ethnicity, while the region's minority ethnicity would still enjoy minority protection through the former central government's veto right.

This is far from the traditional idea of how states work, but that traditional idea serves poorly in areas with intermingled populations. So mankind should keep looking for better ways of governance.

S O
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