We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Military Lessons from Syrian Civil War

It is still too early to say whether the alliance of Western, Turk, Saudi, Qatar funded mercenaries and foreign Al-Qaeda fighters will "liberate" Syria the way they did Libya. 

But 2 years gives us some time for observation on modern civil wars.

Observers trying to be neutral in seeing what is happening in Syria start off with a customary disclaimer. "Assad regime is rather shady and vicious, we don't support it but perhaps chaos that will replace it will be worse".

We will do the same. By all means, Assad government is a lot less benign than was the genuinely popular government of Gaddafi. Libya, a country of 6 million (with half of it lasting and maintaining military operations for 7 months under constant NATO bombardment), demonstrates this fact along with the objectively high social/infrastructural spending on the population. Without direct NATO bombardment of Western Libyan infrastructure, Gaddafi's forces would have easily occupied and pacified eastern Libya within 1-2 months and neutralized destabilizing foreign mercenary, special forces, and terrorist elements. In fact, during battle for Misurata, Gaddafi's troops attempted precision targeting of hostile elements rather than current Assad strategy of neighborhood isolation and blanket bombardment. That show of humanitarian tactics ultimately hastened Libya's slide into current sectarian decentralized chaos.

Assad father's semi-reactionary coup within the Baath party in the 1960s greatly moderated socialist factions and allowed current batch of corrupt business elites to ultimately emerge. Assad dynasty has also mismanaged its influx of funds from recent partial opening to globalism and neoliberal theory. Libya mismanaged funds as well but to a lesser degree. History shows us that cold war attempts to find a third way between socialism and capitalism (such as Baath party's fusionistic ideology of socialism, nationalism, pan-Arabism, state capitalism) gradually degrades towards something blatantly fascistic, stagnant, and opportunist due to lack of ideological clarity.

One constant in secular nationalist modernizing Arab republics appears to be strong state and military apparatus that inevitably partially "sells out"/merges with the Western-phile business classes. To be fair, occasionally they genuinely do create social progress via emulating parts of previous experiments (ex: Nasserist, Peronist, Kemalist, Leninist, and FDRist practices).

Another constant is that due to strong nationalist military tradition of these ungodly "third way" hybrid regimes, they prove difficult for the neighborhood. They are just too willful, independent, too sovereign for current process of globalization. Thus we see today's opportunism of neighboring states (local hereditary mafia monarchies, neoliberal Turkey, and Western governments) to ride/redirect the protest wave and overthrow third way regimes to better exploit them. A pattern emerges that when a third way state tries to create a peaceful outreach and make new friends, they get stabbed in the back (watch the interview of Assad by Charlie Rose and note the experience of Libya giving up chemical weapons and becoming more normal only to be stomped).

But it isn't easy. If you fear you may be targeted by ambitious vultures who want to use social unrest in your country to forment regime changing unrest, then you should keep some lessons in mind. Because there is nothing worse than an artificial civil war that doesn't follow the will of the majority (think about alternate history outrage of UK intervening on the side of the Confederacy during American civil war and having Confederates win and occupy the north, makes the blood boil don't it? Or if China was stirring secession unrest among American tea party types with generous funding and advanced weapons, unthinkable!).

However if you got a genuine civil war on your hands that is strictly indigenous and if you got the support of Western capital and weapons and you still don't seem to be winning, then you're definitely on the wrong side of history. You may want to call on French/Saudi/etc military to help you out and take chances with that.

Lesson 1: Outcome depends not on domestic factors but either interference or non-interference of global and regional powers.

The global media bubble of disinformation that Western governments can achieve around a targeted country is monstrously powerful and very difficult to breech. If you are on the wrong side of the transnational slander campaign, you best get powerful friends.

UN is split into faction A) [US, France, UK] that disregards basic UN premise of national sovereignty in favor of corporate transnational neo-feudal police state and faction B) [China, Russia] that fight to protect UN status quo and thus perhaps even UN's legitimacy with a statement of  "what happens inside a country's borders is not NATO's/UN's business". Eventually of course, during UN's evolution we may first see some global police apparatus develop but it'll be more along lines of multilateral government agreements, continental security/economic blocks, and not just one security block arbitrarily browbeating UN to cater to its needs. It may even be possible to have various large security alliances have their own representation in UN as a collection of global gendarmes with their own respective neighborhoods to patrol.

Lesson 2: Military installations deep inside a country need to be better defended since many don't plan on being attacked by well armed civilians or foreign mercenaries/adventure seekers pretending to be civilians.

Many military bases are located in dangerous zones such as by forests or by hills that allows them to be bombarded. This applies to all military bases including the ones inside powerful states like France, UK, US as well. The bases are not civilian proof (due to expectation of civilian areas being safe) and thus could be rapidly surprised and looted. A country fearing attack by NATO pirates and their proxies (Algeria you're next considering France is picking up the war on terror torch) best double cement wall their bases, clear nearby brush, and prevent construction of residential areas in the vicinity. Even a large big name base is ridiculously vulnerable to 100-200 well armed people storming it to grab even bigger guns. Thus installations in countries vulnerable to civil war should copy base protection methodology employed in Afghanistan.

Lesson 3: Give in to protester demands early. :)

Now not just any protester demands (not the demands of the bourgeois children who want free flow of capital, privatization, and "free speech" for their capital) but those demands concerning economic freedom of the poor. Thus, any government in fear of "being next" should make overtures to the local communist party apparatus, secular/socialist community organizers, etc to co-opt them and then use these connections to route out foreign infiltrators and create community support. Rationing should occur immediately to create popular dependence of the poor sectors of society on government for subsistence. This means, bread, sugar, petrol, basic children supplies, etc. Make an economic outreach to Cuba, they may send some help over.

Lesson 4: Determine early whether it genuinely is a civilian protest that can be handled by combination of political outreach and police action or whether it's total national security threat requiring major mobilization to secure strategic areas with triple rings of defenses. Do not gradually escalate and allow insurgents to adjust. If threat is serious and Western hyenas/neighboring government jackals are beginning to side with protesters go to Lesson 5.

Lesson 5: Protect the main cities first to maintain illusion of normalcy, maintain popular support, and create large safe havens from those fleeing the countryside. Gradual isolation of enemy infected neighborhoods in the city of Homs was a success but it shouldn't have come to that. An ounce of prevention (military quarantine of a city) is better than a pound of cure.

As tempting as it is to use all your might to chase a bunch of dangerous religious rednecks across the country and attempt to maintain security across the whole country, that is often is simply not possible. Major cities (and substantial buffer zones around the cities) should be first priority in order to prevent emergence of a center of power for an alternative government (that can then rely on drawing educated cadres within the city). Military installations, borders, arms factories, and energy supplies should obviously come second.

Create rural pockets where insurgents can operate and herd them into those pockets. If some cities developed an infection already, isolate the neighborhoods and starve them out. Religious extremists are similar to zombies from a bad Hollywood movie only they feed off people's broken hopes and their radicalization once infrastructure and the economy have been destroyed.

Lesson 6: Pay large amounts of money to PR firms of a neutral country so they run ads on news channels of Western countries if possible, wage prolific Internet campaigns. In the era of declining American empire, even a monolithic media offensive will have cracks in it.

Lesson 7: Maintain refugee camps within areas of government control and use the dispossessed males for recruitment. It is not helpful to have them sitting in a neighboring country without supervision or being indoctrinated into the opposing camp. Plan for creation of refugee camps on your own territory in advance, preferably in urban areas where they can provided with physical needs, security, and propaganda umbrella of the government.

Lesson 8: Invest in cheap decoy tanks, airplanes, helicopters which have their own heat signature. Western governments may be feeding satellite information to insurgents and decoy tanks used by Serbs during NATO Yugoslav bombardment were very effective at confusing the enemy. Set up fake targets to attack as traps. Religious insurgents are not too bright to begin with considering their devotion to self-sacrifice and superstition so tricking them will be easier than secular insurgents.

Lesson 9: Maintain illusion that all government facilities are functioning normally but store all vital records underground or in other locations to prevent fire damage from car bombs. Record keeping is essential to maintain food/supplies rationing mechanisms running in a hearts and minds campaign. Relocate some essential government offices to more secure military bases if possible.

Lesson 10: Set up a transnational intelligence sharing center on potential threats from Western powers and their lackeys. Create a database of known mercenary networks. Set up a multi-billion dollar assistance fund in faction B country to use for aid if a foreign backed civil war should happen to you. Don't allow New York Times, BBC, or any Western media agents into your country, they are affiliated with intelligence services. Use Chinese or Russian media channels from Faction B.

Any country may find themselves in danger even if so much time has passed that they think they're safe. Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria, Iran, and every strategic willful country in Africa/Central Asia/Middle East should collaborate on how to prevent humanitarian catastrophe from foreign physical and informational infiltration and NATO bombs from falling on their territory.

P.S. Having said all of this, not all civil wars are created equal. Some governments simply have a more difficult time accommodating opposition due to their feudal structure. Entities such as Saudi Arabia perhaps deserve to be destabilized as these feudal theocratic absolutist monarchies are not a force for human progress by any objective measure. Neither are the other vicious caste based monarchies. Karma will have their way with them when their "subjects" wake up and turn republican or when Saudi extremists refuse to go abroad and turn their attention inwards. Considering that the entire region is similar to pre-WW1 Europe, it is better for all nations in the region to be on the same republican level of understanding and progressing towards greater secularization, fertility lowering education, and modernization. Secular educated people are less likely to sign up to fight in wars and more likely to demand socialist leaning style of development.

And here is an interview with Assad just a couple years ago after he was visited by senator John Kerry and after he made outreaches to Turkey, Qatar, and the West.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Converting Military-Industrial Complex for Civilian Use

Large military contractors can continue to make a killing (no pun intended) for their shareholders if half of their military hardware and development was converted towards social benefit.

Previously, The Pragmatist covered the need to utilize the high tech assembly lines, research and development labs, and sophisticated blue collar job creation potential of the current American military-corporate behemoth. Reasons were given.

Now perhaps it is time to look at a few general things that can be accomplished by the declining American empire to avoid the mistakes that Soviet military-industrial complex experienced. This means setting certain long term civilian procurement goals for the American complex that:

1) keep current technical/industrial personnel in place and employed
2) gently push the personnel towards reorientation and training of others
3) make use of existing assets and existing assembly lines
4) require minimal retooling of assembly lines
5) take advantage of economies of scale and export opportunities
6) create new interesting synergies with civilian corporations and civilian personnel
7) create opportunities for technology transfers from abroad
8) require merger with domestic and foreign civilian corporations to aid in economy of scale creation
9) ultimately improve national infrastructure through raising electrical output, transport efficiency, etc
10) maintain/increase employment within R&D departments so as not to lose scientists abroad yet systematically refocus them towards greater civilian purpose
11) ultimately assist in transfer of non-sensitive scientific research and prototypes to civilian corporations, universities, and start ups with minimal red tape

In other words, the 600 billion a year high tech sword maker is partially remade into a high tech plow maker and assistant/trainer of additional plow makers. Every military branch up as well as exotic weapons development can  be made useful. Ultimately a DARPA equivalent for infrastructure should come into existence to complement and work together with DARPA itself. Some examples:

A fleet of floating federally owned nuclear reactors to power coastal cities and those regions hit by near future super-hurricanes

Large government orders (from companies responsible for design and construction of small fission reactors for nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers) for 30-100 floating nuclear reactors and Alaska bound icebreakers. This ensures not just a continual development of small (and hopefully modular) fission reactors but a way to compete with Russians in this area when it comes to exploiting the north pole. A big export opportunity is of course also created. When the inevitable second wave of the financial crisis arrives, it is vital that key fission reactor core companies are locked into long term contracts of concrete social use (since construction of most submarines, aircraft carriers, battlecruisers, and destroyers will be cancelled/halted). This will preserve the essential core within the physical assembly and nuclear research workforce. Electrical energy will always be needed especially if it is clean and relatively portable the way modular 50-250 MW range fission is. There are of course more uses other than energy such as nuclear desalination and floating material processing.

Older cruisers and destroyers can be converted into floating power plants rather than decommissioned, sold, and/or scrapped. They are well protected and armored. Unfortunately, older aircraft carriers are too function specific and are better off sold.

When it comes to airplanes, Lockheed-Martin's converted C-130J Super Hercules airplane can even be a flying power plant that lands to serve emergency hit areas. In case of plane failure, the bathtub fission reactor can disengage and land by parachute. Once again, the assembly lines have been there for decades, retooling will be minimal. Joining corporate forces with makers of the enormous Antonov transport planes is a good idea.

Using General Dynamics built tanks as high speed rural workhorses to keep the plants from shutting down

It is possible to create giant small fission reactor powered tracked transport platforms by splicing multiple M1-Abrams tank platforms into one. Transport of ore from mines or of very large objects such as additional fission reactors and infrastructure parts comes to mind. General Dynamics need not stop mass production of their war machines, just retool for speedy rural tracked platform development in coordination with John Deere company. Conversion of tanks into heartland workhorses will be psychologically pleasing to large segment of the American population. In fact, synergy can be created in terms of tracked platform production between military and civilian assembly lines, each adding its own unique capabilities.

Clothing and accessories

The unfortunate and corrupt trend of police militarization has already created a tendency for the military to equip local police, even when it is ridiculous overkill. With eventual end of the tyrannical drug prohibition and dramatic scaling down of American empire, the military oriented corporations can still continue to mass produce uniforms, bulletproof vests/ceramic armor, helmets, and gear for police units of the North American continent and of those around the world. Russia has recently began a process of large scale conversion of uniforms to meet American standards and there is no reason for American companies to not make money off that. There is also the issue of eventually equipping of international police forces. No other government spends (wastes) as many resources per soldier as US and all that needs to happen is to take advantage of economies of scale for anything ranging from boots to shovels to wearable computer systems. Nothing stops United States from becoming a companion to China in terms of being a "factory of the world" in certain areas. Equipping the entire world's police with cheap, quality, cutting edge equipment also goes further towards standardizing policing practices and making US the global gendarme than current crude aggression. A high tech police state of 310 million people can also flood the market with such mundane things as latest civilian construction helmets, firefighter attire, mining equipment, etc.

Army Corps of Engineers to aid in deconstruction of suburbia, jump starting infrastructure development, and rapid training of civilian cadres for domestic nation building

The current government tendency to reduce youth unemployment and civil unrest through AmeriCorps will take on an intensified desperate form as robotic automation and national rot speeds up. Use of military engineers for crack training serves to empower civilians and provide a real sense of "nation building" while power boosting  infrastructure development. Although it is tempting to hire cheap Chinese labor, rural American peasants have shown an amazing tendency to tirelessly work patrolling streets of Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. They exert themselves again gladly if given actual domestic programs and empowering teaching/work positions as an "elite" labor class. Army Corps of Engineers should be dramatically expanded with those in the army retrained for it.

Systems Engineering for national renewal

Just the way a map of an occupied country can be broken up into problem areas and stable areas, North America can be broken up into areas needing additional electrification/water supplies/employment/terraforming. A corrupt to the bone declining rotting oligarchic society needs a systems approach for tangible rebirth to start occurring. Only this approach will reduce span of renewal by 1-2 decades rather than extend it into the 2040s. All efforts must be made to prevent Chinese style fascist model from becoming a role model for the world. As noted, US military is the last bastion of national elites that are the most technically competent and that are the least parasitic on the whole social body (surprising as this may sound considering they are also the biggest budgetary burden and physical protector of the banking establishment). Instead of gutting and starving them, making use of them and their functional abilities stands to make the transition period a lot more pleasant.

These are some of the examples that come to mind. We will return to more uses for this gargantuan death machine in the future (over 50 countries killed in the last half a century making US government biggest serial killer in the world since WW2).

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