Quotulatiousness

June 9, 2017

QotD: The post-war world and (relative) peace

Filed under: History, Military, Quotations, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Between 1945 and about 1965, atom bombs and then hydrogen bombs were devised and demonstrated by the two biggest Great Powers, and then manufactured and attached to rockets in sufficient numbers to cause any all-out war between these two superpowers very probably to be a catastrophic defeat for both, to say nothing of being a similar catastrophe for all other humans, within a few hours. This new kind of destructive power also spread to a small club of lesser Great Powers.

This did not happen overnight. It didn’t all come about in 1945. But it happened pretty quickly, historically in the blink of an eye. It changed the world from a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be prepared for, at all costs, to a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be avoided, again, at all costs. That is a very big change.

I do not assert that all wars have ended. Clearly they have not, as one glance through a newspaper or news website will tell you. Small powers still have small wars, and Great Powers regularly join in, in small ways. Sometimes, Great Powers start small wars, like the one in the Ukraine now. But even these small wars have been getting less numerous and smaller in recent decades. Small wars can get big, so even small wars are now discouraged by Great Powers.

Nor do I assert that all preparations for war by Great Powers have ceased, or that they should. But more than ever, the purpose of such preparations is to enable mere confrontations to be emerged from victoriously or failing that satisfactorily, rather than for such preparations — such weapons — constantly to be “used”, in the sense of being fired, fought with, and so on. The purpose of weapons is to scare, as well as to win fights, and they are being “used” whenever anyone is scared by them. Great Powers will still spend lots of money on weaponry.

But what has not happened, for many decades now, and what still shows no sign of happening despite all kinds of diplomatic, ideological and financial turbulence, is an all-out fire-every-weapon-we-have war involving two or more Great — by which I of course mean nuclear — Powers. In this sense, countries like mine, and almost certainly yours too given that you are reading this, have become peaceful in a way that they have never experienced before in all of human history before 1945.

Brian Micklethwait, “From the Great Peace … to the ordeal of Adam Lyth at the Oval cricket ground”, Samizdata, 2015-08-20.

June 10, 2016

The Brusilov Offensive – The Arab Revolt I THE GREAT WAR Week 98

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 9 Jun 2016

The Brusilov Offensive is unleashed on the Eastern Front this week 100 years ago. General Aleksei Brusilov wants to crush the Austro-Hungarian Army and uses a variety of new tactics for his plan. At the same time, the Germans take Fort Vaux during the Battle of Verdun and in the Middle East, the Arab Revolt is declared.

April 22, 2016

The Muddy Graves of Russia and Kut I THE GREAT WAR Week 91

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 21 Apr 2016

With the spring in Russia and the Caucasus came the thaws on the Eastern Front and all the way down to Mesopotamia. The soldiers had to adapt to survive let alone fight. The Battle of Verdun still rages on though the French are not moving more airplanes to the area to break the German air superiority.

April 3, 2016

QotD: What might trigger a new war in Europe

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I have said on a few occasions that, in my opinion, based on my reading of history, wars are, as often as not, caused by fear. Even Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression is, I think, a result of his fear of what is happening to Russia: a steady decline back into political and strategic irrelevance. It is not at all unreasonable to suppose that fear of the societal changes that very large scale migrations will bring cannot and will not provoke people into electing governments that will, out of fear of the unknown, attack their neighbours in a misguided effort to sauve qui peut in their own societies.

I think Sir Max [Hastings]’s “think-tank friend in Washington,” was (still is) wrong when he “observed last week: ‘Democracy only works where there is a broad consensus about the distribution of wealth and power.’ And it is because this consensus faces unprecedented stresses in consequence of migration in Europe, that he believes some factions may resort to violence, even outright war.” The “broad consensus” is not about wealth or power, it is about respecting the rules, living with and within the “institutions” which make democracy work. Those institutions are strong in e.g. Britain, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries; they are weaker in e.g. France, which, for example, tossed out a democratic government and constitution in 1958 when the Algerian war went sour.; they are weaker still, in my opinion, in the entire “Southern tier” of Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and the Balkans and in the Eastern European states that only recently tossed off the yoke of Russian/communist rule. If trouble is going to start it will happen, I think, in those weaker states. A European war is likely to start when one of the countries with weaker institutions decides, our of fear, that it must break the rules that hold Europe together.

Ted Campbell, “Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Europe(2)”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-03-22.

February 19, 2016

The Ghost Of The Lusitania – Russia Takes Erzurum I THE GREAT WAR – Week 82

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Feb 2016

The sinking of the Lusitania is still causing diplomatic tensions between Germany and the USA. While the Germans insist they were forced by the British blockade to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare, the Americans think otherwise. In the meantime the Russian Army is taking Erzurum in the Caucasus and the big offensive at Verdun is delayed for a week.

February 12, 2016

The Generalissimo Goes Forth I THE GREAT WAR – Week 81

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Feb 2016

The situation for the Italian soldiers was dire during the winter battles, but even though Luigi “The Generalissimo” Cadorna maintained a tight grip on the strategy used, the equipment of the Italian soldiers was greatly improved. At the same time, the Russians were advancing on Erzurum in the Turkish Caucasus and war at sea counted a few more casualties on all sides.

February 6, 2016

Germany Aims For Verdun – Russia Goes South I THE GREAT WAR Week 80

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 4 Feb 2016

The preparations for the huge German offensive at Verdun are almost complete. Thousands of artillery pieces are moved, millions shells brought to the front. Erich von Falkenhayn would soon unleash is offensive on the Western Front. At the same time, Russia headed south to the Caucasus once more in search for a desperately needed victory against the Ottomans.

January 18, 2016

The craft beer movement infiltrates the land of vodka

Filed under: Business, Europe — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Guardian, Alec Luhn reports on the rise of craft brewing in the heart of vodka-swilling Russia:

It is a drizzly Monday night, but Craft rePUBlic is boisterous with the chatter of brewers and beer aficionados. Those just walking in are greeted with a half pint of Red Nelson, a saison beer made with hibiscus tea and orange peel by local brewer Alexei Sazonov, who is celebrating his birthday at the craft beer bar.

Sazonov works at Bottle Share, one of a growing number of microbreweries driving what has been dubbed the “craft revolution” here, but he created Red Nelson at home under his nickname, Big Hedgehog. Sazonov says of the major Russian beer brands, whose bland lagers dominate store shelves and taps: “They boil it quickly, ferment it quickly and sell it quickly. A microbrewer brews beer he wants to drink himself.”

Russia, of course, is known for vodka rather than beer, and a popular saying holds that “beer without vodka is throwing money to the wind”. According to the latest World Health Organisation data from 2010, 51% of alcohol consumed in Russia was spirits and only 38% was beer. This vodka culture has had deadly consequences for Russian men, whose average life expectancy of just 64 years lags behind that in European countries due mainly to heavy drinking and tobacco use.

Now a new generation of “beer geeks”, as they dub themselves, is working to change Russians’ approach to beer – and to drinking in general. With a focus on savouring the taste rather than drinking to get drunk, at least two dozen craft bars have opened in Moscow since the summer of 2014, serving Russian and foreign microbrews. They’re getting so numerous that the cultural magazine Afisha declared in August that it was “refusing to write reviews of the craft beer bars that are opening every week”.

Few expect beer to displace vodka as the national drink, especially after the government reduced the minimum price of the spirit in 2015 amid economic troubles. But there’s a long tradition of homebrewing in Russia, and the growth potential of craft beer is huge thanks to its relative affordablity; local craft brews typically sell for between 200 and 300 roubles (£2-3) a pint. Moreover, it’s easy to start a craft bar: no liquor licence is required if an establishment serves only beer, and startup costs are minimal, since a large staff, kitchen and lavish interiors aren’t typically necessary. As a result, craft bars are spreading from Moscow and St Petersburg to the regions.

November 26, 2015

Tom Kratman’s “Dear Russia” letter

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tom Kratman looks at what is known about the Turkish military’s attack on a Russian aircraft earlier this week:

Firstly, my condolences on the recent murder of your two pilots. While one might argue that shooting descending parachutists (as opposed to paratroopers) would be permissible in some circumstances, as when there is no reasonable possibility of capture, in this case there was such a possibility. Obviously, you’ll want revenge. I – and I think most Americans, at least such as are not in favor of a large and viciously fundamentalist Islamic state in the Middle East – understand and, generally speaking, approve of things like that, where called for. The situation, however, is more complex than that. Because of that complexity, I strongly encourage you to dispense with emotion, to the utmost of your ability, and reason carefully before acting.

I can’t offer condolences on the initial shoot down of your Sukhoi-24, because I really don’t know what happened. If it drifted into Turkish airspace, and the Turks shot it down, even if they pursued it out of Turkish airspace…well, you’re in an unenviable moral position to complain about any of that, given the conduct your predecessor in interest, the USSR, with regard to KAL 007. If, however, it never violated Turkish airspace, and the Turks crossed over to attack it, you may well have a casus belli against Turkey.

If the Turks are offering war I strongly advise you to decline the invitation. They are very nearly a peer competitor, having similarly sized armed forces, quite possibly better trained, an economy almost as strong as your own, and likely rather stronger when you count out export of raw materials. They’re not as technologically sophisticated as you are, but they have friends who are more so. And you just wouldn’t believe the long-standing love affair between the US Army and the Turkish Army, based on their performance in Korea in the early fifties.

*****

A little aside is in order at this point. I’m not really so concerned about the incident that just took place, with one of your planes shot down by the Turks, and the ejected pilots murdered on the way down. What’s really bugging me is the almost instantaneous assumption of people over here that this was the first set of shots in World War V, World War III having been the Cold War, and World War IV the on-again, off-again, fiasco with the Islamics. On its own, this should not be capable of doing that. Add in paranoia, self-fulfilling prophecy, idiotic foreign policy on many fronts, from many fonts, a fairly inscrutable Turkey…I’m a little concerned that things might spiral out of control.

*****

Earlier in this missive I said I don’t know what happened. Nonetheless, here’s what I think happened. I think that Sukhoi was on a strike mission against the Turkmen Brigades in Syria. I think you’ve been occasionally bombing the crap out of the Turkmen Brigades in Syria for a while now. That would tend to explain the vindictiveness of the folks on the ground who shot at your descending pilots. I think because of that bombing, the Turks, or at least one of the Turks, north of the border decided to help his or their close cousins in Syria. I think it made not a bit of difference whether or not you crossed the border; the Turks wanted to set an example and instill a little fear and friction on you, so would have crossed themselves even if you hadn’t. I suspect the order to do this came from the highest levels in Turkey, probably Erdogan, himself.

No, that doesn’t mean that whipping out the Polonium 210 dispensers would be a good idea.

October 4, 2015

The new new world order

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren gives us a handy run-down of the aspects of the “new” new world order (not that icky Bush NWO, but the shiny new Obama NWO):

The “neocons” are exaggerating when they say that Barack Obama has handed over all United States interests in the Middle East to Vladimir Putin. Only half of the region has been surrendered, so far. The rest he has merely abandoned.

[…]

What has suddenly emerged, or rather been confirmed, is a Russian/Iranian “axis” that extends from the domain of the Ayatollahs, across Iraq and Syria, to the Hezbollah domain in what was once Christian Lebanon. The murderous Assad regime now enjoys not passive but active and aggressive Russian support, and the Western powers are now outmanoeuvred in advance of any attempt to retrieve their interests in Iraq.

Those who believe Putin’s armed intervention will stop the Camp-of-Saints flow of “migrants” to Europe are extremely naive. This can only increase. From the outset, the targets for the Russian air strikes in Syria are the very territories that were free of the ministrations of both Assad, and the Daesh. By reconquering this essentially neutral territory for the Assad regime (Iranian troops are pouring in for this purpose), huge numbers with reason to fear retribution must certainly flee for their lives. Their route is through Turkey, which will happily assist their passage via dinghies to Greece, thus into the European Welfare Union.

Putin and company have no immediate interest in stifling the Daesh. Neither has Erdogan of Turkey, who uses the same ludicrously false claim to be bombing the Daesh, while directing Turkish strikes against Kurdish forces. The Daesh itself is useful to both. They serve as poison snakes within the Sunni Arab tent — masters in the spread of Islamist terrorism not only within the Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria, but of its export from Afghanistan right across North Africa. As the Sunni terrorist force of Hamas — supplied today mostly from Iran — they will prove an invaluable resource for destabilizing Iran’s Arab enemies. The case is complicated only by Putin’s interest in maintaining Iranian dependency on Russia.

September 30, 2015

Russia’s “bounty” on TOR

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Strategy Page on the less-than-perfect result of Russia’s attempt to get hackers to crack The Onion Router for a medium-sized monetary prize:

Back in mid-2014 Russia offered a prize of $111,000 for whoever could deliver, by August 20th 2014, software that would allow Russian security services to identify people on the Internet using Tor (The Onion Router), a system that enables users to access the Internet anonymously. On August 22nd Russia announced that an unnamed Russian contractor, with a top security clearance, had received the $111,000 prize. No other details were provided at the time. A year later is was revealed that the winner of the Tor prize is now spending even more on lawyers to try and get out of the contract to crack Tor’s security. It seems the winners found that their theoretical solution was too difficult to implement effectively. In part this was because the worldwide community of programmers and software engineers that developed Tor is constantly upgrading it. Cracking Tor security is firing at a moving target and one that constantly changes shape and is quite resistant to damage. Tor is not perfect but it has proved very resistant to attack. A lot of people are trying to crack Tor, which is also used by criminals and Islamic terrorists was well as people trying to avoid government surveillance. This is a matter of life and death in many countries, including Russia.

Similar to anonymizer software, Tor was even more untraceable. Unlike anonymizer software, Tor relies on thousands of people running the Tor software, and acting as nodes for email (and attachments) to be sent through so many Tor nodes that it was believed virtually impossible to track down the identity of the sender. Tor was developed as part of an American government program to create software that people living in dictatorships could use to avoid arrest for saying things on the Internet that their government did not like. Tor also enabled Internet users in dictatorships to communicate safely with the outside world. Tor first appeared in 2002 and has since then defied most attempts to defeat it. The Tor developers were also quick to modify their software when a vulnerability was detected.

But by 2014 it was believed that NSA had cracked TOR and others may have done so as well but were keeping quiet about it so that the Tor support community did not fix whatever aspect of the software that made it vulnerable. At the same time there were alternatives to Tor, as well as supplemental software that were apparently uncracked by anyone.

September 25, 2015

The German Occupation of Lithuania – Unrest in Russia I THE GREAT WAR – Week 61

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 24 Sep 2015

When the Germans take Vilnius, they set their plans of “germanizing” the whole area into motion. Erich Ludendorff believes that Courland and other areas near East Prussia are culturally German and that he’s returning them to the Fatherland. While the Russian Army is now in a much better defensive position after their Great Retreat, civil unrest across the country is becoming a problem. Huge losses and the difficult supply situation are making it difficult to maintain order. At the same time, Bulgaria is mobilizing her troops, foreshadowing yet another front in this World War.

September 18, 2015

The State Of World War 1 – As Reported by A Newspaper 100 Years Ago I THE GREAT WAR – Week 60

Filed under: Australia, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 17 Sep 2015

This week Indy dissects a contemporary source from autumn 1915 – the Hobart Mercury newspaper from Australia. You can find the whole newspaper right here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/10429329

While the French and British prepare a new offensive on the Western Front, their Entente ally Russia is still suffering in the East when Germany is moving on the last big Russian city of Vilnius. Even though the propaganda says otherwise, the situation for the ANZACs in Gallipoli still looks grim.

September 11, 2015

The Socialists Call for Peace – But the Plans Do Not I THE GREAT WAR – Week 59

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 10 Sep 2015

While the Socialist movement gathers in Switzerland and calls for peace on the Western Front, on the Eastern Front and the Balkans the signs are set for the opposite: An escalation with new offensives. The French and British want to attack near Artois and in the Champagne, Germany wants to finish the war weary Russian Army. At the same time Bulgaria agrees to attack Serbia within the next 30 days. Even in London the war can still be felt when German Zeppelins continue to drop bombs on the British capital.

September 4, 2015

The Western Front Awakens – The Tsar Takes Over I THE GREAT WAR – Week 58

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 Sep 2015

The Western Front has been relatively quiet the whole summer while the Russians were on their Big Retreat. The French and British generals have been busy trying to find a new strategy to overcome the stalemate. The Germans weren’t sitting idle while awaiting the next big French offensive, they fortified their positions even using concrete. At the same time in the East, Tsar Nicholas II personally takes over military command and fires Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich for the catastrophic casualties the Russian Army faced this summer. But his timing could not be worse.

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