FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Tag Archives: military

On A Post Labor Scarcity Economy

Traditional economies assume that everyone always has a job they could and should be doing and if that’s ever not the case, you have the government tweak a dial here or there.
However, the industrial revolution has made production so efficient that it’s no longer necessary or desirable to try to mobilize all available labor at once.  This is a good thing.

An economic system with no way to preserve surplus labor is like a worker living paycheck-to-paycheck.
It’s like a plant that gets only just enough sunlight through a thick forest canopy.
Or a bear that is still lean in the autumn months when the demands of hibernation are nigh.
Surplus is a key part of strategy throughout the natural world so a model that assumes surplus must not exist is incomplete.

We can see the silliness of total employment even in the present scope of human societies by looking at militaries. Armies go decades at a time without anyone to shoot at.  They mostly deter conflict, like nukes, by simply existing.  There’s no demand in peacetime for skilled soldiers yet every year thousands of troops are trained to fight and kill in combat they may never experience.
Surely free-market advocates have never dreamed of a greater and dumber display of waste.  If the all-knowing and all-wise market had its way, there would be no soldiers, tanks, nukes, or jet fighters in peace time because there would be no demand for them. 

We can also consider how “free-market” states like the USA have generous agricultural subsidies.  Without a state safety net, farms might start to go out of business after a few bad harvests, leaving good ground fallow, spiralling needlessly into famine.  

A die-hard laissez faire capitalist might disapprove, but no matter a state’s rhetoric, security and food supply are two things rulers can’t screw up.  Mesopotamian kings in charge of the very first states thousands of years ago still had to successfully manage the army and the granary.  Even the Soviet Union had to swallow its pride and quietly privatize just enough of its farms to get by when ideology didn’t work in the real world. 

By reducing to basics we see the obvious place of a state as the brain that dictates the survival strategy of the group.  Without a central nervous system, the group is driven abruptly extinct by the first shock it encounters.  A population of millions left to its own devices behaves like bacteria in a petri dish.  
Enlightenment thought, obsessed with the individual, forgets how the society itself loses consciousness and individual agency if no one can agree to work towards common goals. 

How the French Became “Surrender Monkeys”

For centuries, the French had one of the largest and most effective militaries on the Continent.

Yet script writers give us this moment of comedy gold in Last of the Mohicans

“the French haven’t the nature for war. They would rather eat and make love with their faces than fight. *officers in the room all chuckle smugly*”

In 1753, when the movie takes place, this sentiment would have been absurd.

If anything, the British army was pathetically small and weak compared to the great armies of the Continent.

Over a century later Bismarck would say:

“If the British Army landed in Europe, I’d get the Belgian police to arrest them.”

Bismarck on the other hand certainly saw France as a real threat. As a German statesman, his ultimate nightmare was being crushed between a Franco-Russian alliance.
And, of course, he knew all too well the Prussian army had been crushed by Napoleon.

The French were a world class terror. So what the hell happened to the Anglo-American image of the French?

Our story begins when France lost Alsace and Lorraine to the Prussians thanks to the machinations of none other than Bismarck.

Though many people in that region were culturally German and spoke German anyway, this loss became an intolerable affront to France’s long military tradition and fanatically nationalist spirit.
From that point on, the French were determined to regain their losses and take their revenge, whatever the cost.

This atmosphere resulted in the rise of a breed of generals and officers who were haunted by the French defeat by the Prussians and were determined to learn the lessons of history.
At the decisive battle of Sedan, the French had lost the initiative and had been on the defensive until forced to agree to humiliating peace terms.

The solution: Never lose the initiative in the first place. Always attack.

It was with this attitude that the French military establishment approached WWI.

Far from being effete or absorbed in luxurious pleasures, the French were hyper-aggressive, often suffering twice the casualties as the Germans.
Hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions were killed often for no strategic gain whatsoever.

The generals on both sides ended up consciously designing strategies so that the other side would run out of men first rather than trying to achieve decisive strategic objectives.
It was Mutually Assured Destruction without nukes.

And guess what? The French won. Their political and military leaders got Alsace and Lorraine back. French National spirit had been avenged! Hooray!

Naturally, the belligerence that had characterized French sentiment seemed less of a good idea than it used to.

When the Great War promptly started up again after everyone took a 20 year break to grow more soldiers, the French were for some reason less than enthusiastic.
For nearly a year after war was declared there was “phoney war” where life pretty much went on as it had before. For some odd reason, no one, least of all the French, really felt like fighting.

When French defenses collapsed underneath the first German assault France promptly made its separate peace with Germany.

From this moment they’ve been characterized as effete “surrender monkeys” in the anglosphere.

The French however, truly had learned from history this time.

They could maybe still have spent years throwing away millions of lives defending abstractions such as national pride or lines on a map.

Instead they made their peace and consequently suffered very little compared to most nations in WWII.
Their cities and land stayed largely intact and they even got their own region of home rule under the Nazis.

The Vichy government was of course a puppet state, but the Nazis generally had other stuff to deal with. They preferred to let the French take care of their own internal affairs rather than having to waste their own energy on administration. For the most part the partnership worked great.

Our Surrender Monkey in chief who signed the surrender terms and headed the Vichy state was Marshal Petain.
A total wimp and a pushover, he routinely had seen more men die in a single day than the Americans lost in all of WWII.

Petain had been one of the few WWI French generals who seemed to actually give a shit about his men. He made sure his troops got rotated in and out of the trenches rather than being stuck there for months until being driven insane or having their feet rotted off.
Unmanly as he was, he was hesitant to throw away lives on suicide charges.

Given a treaty that could save millions of French lives, he signed it and then worked to sustain the peace as head of government.

His reward?
Petain was sentenced to death as a traitor after the war when he was almost 90 years old. Only on account of his age and service in WWI was he given a life sentence instead. He still managed to serve a surprising amount of his sentence dying at age 95.

After WWII, a humiliated French military establishment wasn’t satisfied with peace. They were anxious to re-establish French grandeur through more fighting.

Europe was broke many times over after the two world wars.

To even begin to put it in perspective:
The British had spent a quarter of their national wealth by the end of the war.
If the US did the same thing, that would be the equivalent of 50 trillion dollars or 10 Iraqs a year for 5 years straight.

Yet the French military tradition was old and it wasn’t going to die easy. They ended up spending huge amounts of American money trying to re-assert authority in their colonies.

The French military elites started where they had left off after WWI making notoriously disastrous moves such as parachuting an entire army into a hopelessly indefensible and unsuppliable position at Dien Bien Phu that was surrounded by Vietnamese artillery.

The average French person hadn’t too much reason to care any more about distant colonies that had never benefited them or about the military brass who were pretty thoroughly discredited by this point.

After even DeGaulle, himself a general, realized trying to hold on to the colonies was not going to work and that it didn’t have sufficient public support, he finally started to pull the plug.
Ancient militaristic strains in French culture decided they were going to go down kicking and screaming, especially after French colonists were expelled from Algeria.
DeGaulle had to survive multiple assassination attempts after finally calling it quits.

Thus, the development of the concept of the militarily inept, surrender loving French that we see in modern American culture and entertainment was a work in development not quite complete until at least the 1960s.

What The Hanseatic League Tells Us About The Present

When governments grow weak, commercial organizations tend to fill the void.

Across a vast region along the Baltic Sea with few strong central authorities in the middle ages, merchant guilds banded together for strength and security until they were effectively their own state with their own military.

Indeed, they clashed with actual kings and princes and because they monopolized trade through the entire region, they usually won.

It was only when centralized government became strong again and the modern concept of a nation-state began to form that the Hanseatic league went into decline.

In our own time:

If I were to ask “Who is the most powerful man in this room?” The answer is not necessarily obvious.

Jobs obama zuckerberg silicon valley dinnger

Presently, we see a weakening of both the physical powers and legitimacy of the state. And predictably, we see a corresponding rise of commercial entities as they increasingly exert control over the state itself or take over functions (i.e. space exploration, education) that were previously the preserves of central state power.

China Plans to Open Military Bases Worldwide

Dated 2010:

“It is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad,” an article published on Thursday at a Chinese government website said. “It is our right,” the article said and went on to suggest that it would be done in the neighborhood, possibly Pakistan.

http://antemedius.com/content/game-changer-china-plans-open-military-bases-worldwide

Dated 2011:

China is weighing up whether to open an Indian Ocean naval base in the Seychelles in a move which will heighten tensions with India amid fears of a regional arms race.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/seychelles/8953319/China-considers-Seychelles-military-base-plan.html

Dated 2012:

China plans military base in Pakistan
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/china-military-base-in-pakistan-naval-base-at-gwadar/1/167084.html

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