Fifth Wednesday Post

Deindustrial Warfare: A First Reconaissance

This January has five Wednesdays, and in the usual way of this blog, the fifth Wednesday gets an essay on whatever topic the readers select by vote. As usual, it was a lively contest, but this time one of the perennial underdogs—warfare in the deindustrial age—came out on top.

That didn’t surprise me greatly.  The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have been on many minds recently, not least because neither of them has been working out the way that our politicians and pundits insisted they would. A genuine revolution in military affairs is taking place right now, and no, it’s not the one that was so loudly ballyhooed in intellectual circles a couple of decades back. The claim in the 1990s was that computer technology had opened the way to a new kind of war, in which information would flow from the battlefield to headquarters and back, giving commanders total control over hypercomplex, hugely expensive militaries that would overwhelm more poorly equipped forces with ease.

The new warfare we were supposed to get.

That’s not what happened. On the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the single most effective force the Ukrainian army has consists of little independent units huddled in bunkers just behind the lines, equipped with cheap drones.  Right now Russia has the upper hand by every conventional measure; it has more troops, more tanks, more artillery, more ammunition and other expendables, and a vastly superior air force; its missiles pound Ukrainian targets hundreds of miles behind the lines—and yet it’s restricted to slow, grueling, trench-by-trench advances, because any attempt at a general assault in open country gets swarmed by drones and chopped to pieces.  That’s a big part of what happened to the Ukrainian offensive on the southern front last year, too.  The drone revolution has made defense more powerful than offense on both sides.

The same thing mediated by a different set of technologies is going on in the Gaza Strip right now.  The Israeli military is so much larger and better armed than the Hamas forces that in a conventional struggle there would be no contest at all, but the Hamas commanders aren’t stupid enough to meet the Israelis in a conventional struggle.  Instead, a network of tunnels running all through the Gaza Strip allows Hamas forces to pop up, ambush Israeli detachments, and vanish again. It’s the same strategy Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon used against the Israeli army in 2006, and it’s proving just as effective this time around.

The new warfare we actually got.

Then there’s the Ansarullah militia in Yemen, drawn mostly from the Houthi ethnic group. Their approach to messing with the industrial West is just as cheap and just as effective. You don’t need a permanent installation to launch a drone against a ship passing through the Red Sea—the back of a truck is quite adequate—and so the US and British forces on the scene have nothing useful to bomb. Yes, some Ansarullah drones get shot down.  So? It takes a missile costing US$2 million to down a drone that only costs US$2000, and the US factories that make the missiles don’t have the facilities or resources to ramp up production to wartime levels.

The Ansarullah strategy is particularly clever because they don’t have to defeat the US and British navies. All they have to do is make the Red Sea too costly for commercial shipping to Israel and its allies, and they can do that by adding the risk of a drone strike (and the insurance premiums that follow from that risk) to the other costs and dangers shipping companies have to face. If Israel and its allies produced most of their goods and services at home, that wouldn’t be any kind of problem, but it turns out that one of the many downsides to economic globalization is that it holds every nation’s economy hostage to shipping disruptions in the major sea lanes.

What has happened can be described very simply:  the spectacularly overpriced armed services of the industrial world have passed their pull date. They no longer yield military power commensurate with their overwhelming expense: quite the contrary, cheaper ways of fighting wars can now overwhelm them.  That’s something that happens routinely in the declining years of a civilization. A glance at an earlier example will help show how it plays out.

Roman legionaries. The world’s best army, until it wasn’t.

The example I have in mind is the battle of Adrianople in 378.  Some battles have outsized implications in history, and this was one of them. Seven Roman legions led by Valens, emperor of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, faced a somewhat smaller force of barbarians led by the Gothic king Fritigern.  The Romans lost catastrophically—two-thirds of the Roman force was slaughtered on the battlefield and the rest fled.  Valens was among the dead.  Before Adrianople, there was still some hope that the Empire could recover from its fourth-century crisis; afterwards, the barbarians had the upper hand and kept it.

There has been a vast amount of speculation about just what happened on the battlefield at Adrianople. None of it matters for our present purpose, however. The point that’s relevant is the crucial difference between the two armies, which defined the consequences once one of them lost. The difference in question?  The cost of fielding an army.

The late Roman military was a sprawling, topheavy bureaucratic structure divided into many specialized units. Training, equipping, supplying, and commanding the ordinary Roman legionary was a complex process demanding huge amounts of money and resources.  Much of that cost came from the pervasive corruption and bureaucratization of late Roman society, in which all economic activity was loaded to the breaking point with fees and regulations and a vast amount of graft also bled every economic sector white, but there was also the simple fact that a complex, specialized, and hierarchically structured army is always going to cost a lot.

The barbarians didn’t worry about bureaucracy. It seems to have worked.

The barbarian force Fritigern led, by contrast, wasn’t even an army.  It was simply all the able-bodied men of a couple of Gothic tribes and a few other allied barbarian peoples.  Every man in Fritigern’s force provided his own weapons and armor and had learned how to fight beginning in early childhood.  This armed mob was flexible and resilient because it was utterly unspecialized—the difference between Gothic infantry and cavalry was merely that the latter could afford (or had stolen) a horse and the former hadn’t managed that yet.

The Roman army was appallingly brittle by contrast. Until Adrianople, the tremendous costs of maintaining the military (and now and then replacing armies destroyed in battle) had been met by raising taxes to sky-high levels, but by 378 the tax burden in the empire was so crushing that economc activity was breaking down under the strain.  Thus the destruction of two-thirds of Valens’ army, and an even larger fraction of its officers and staff, was a financial blow from which Rome never really recovered. The barbarians didn’t have that problem, because Fritigern didn’t have to raise money to train, equip, pay, and manage his force—he just had to lead it to plunder and be reasonably successful as a general. This was well within his abilities, and equally within the reach of later barbarian kings. The fall of Rome followed in just under a century.

We haven’t yet had an equivalent of the battle of Adrianople this time around.  The fighting in Ukraine and the Middle East echoes the struggles of the decades before Adrianople, when Roman politicians and military officers could still convince themselves that the military machine they had inherited from their ancestors was still the most powerful armed force in the known world, even though it wasn’t accomplishing its missions. The US military is in that condition now, lumbering around the planet with its aircraft carriers and high-tech weapons systems, flailing helplessly at drone strikes and trying to pretend that the carnage in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip hasn’t just shown that the entire American way of war is hopelessly obsolete.

The Romans also neglected their border defenses.

Is there an alternative to Adrianople?  Of course. The United States could withdraw its troops from the hundred-odd foreign countries where it has military bases, focus on defending its own borders, and retool its military to adapt to the ongoing revolution in military affairs. That would, among other things, save billions of dollars a year the US no longer has.  Since those billions would no longer be flowing into the pockets of defense corporations, with a good bit sticking to various fingers on the way, such a change would be massively unpopular with some exceedingly well-connected individuals, so it probably won’t get put into place until some ghastly military debacle forces it. Still, the option’s worth mentioning.

One way or another, over the next half century, the massive military forces and hugely expensive defense technologies that have ruled the world’s battlefields since 1939 will be replaced by leaner, less expensive, and less centralized forces.  Then that process will go further. There are two principal forces driving the broader process, and they both need to be understood.

The first of those forces is the economic impact of resource depletion.  Today’s high-tech weapons systems require fantastically complex and precise inputs of energy and materials, many of which have to be sourced from abroad and then processed in extraordinarily complex ways. Consider the microprocessors that make an ordinary drone capable of doing its job.  Silicon is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust, but silicon pure enough to make into computer chips has to be refined at considerable cost, and then doped with monoatomic layers of rare earth elements and  etched in almost unimaginably fine patterns. Huge factories full of expensive gear, using gargantuan amounts of energy and an equally huge list of raw materials, have to be built, powered, and maintained so that microprocessors can be produced.

All this, for one of many ingredients that go into your computer.

So complex a system won’t be sustainable indefinitely. More to the point, so complex a system won’t be affordable indefinitely.  As easily accessible deposits of the raw materials get used up, the price of chips will rise; rising energy costs will have the same effect; as microprocessors get more expensive, the economies of scale that briefly made them cheap will work in reverse, and simpler technologies will outcompete them. If it costs less to hire a file clerk than it does to buy and operate a computer, most businesses will hire the file clerk—and as this same equation works through society as a whole, the economic basis for computer industries will shrivel away.

That’s one factor. The other, closely related to it, is the economic impact of population decline. Right now every continent but Africa is producing children at a rate too slow to sustain its current population, and African population curves are moving in the same direction.  There’s still a little population increase in the pipeline, in the form of young people who haven’t yet reached reproductive age, but somewhere in the next decade or two the earth will reach its peak human population and begin to see sustained demographic contraction.

The future of American retailing. Oh, and most other forms of economic activity.

Next to nobody seems to have thought through what this implies. Economic growth depends ultimately on population growth; it’s because nobody alive today has ever experienced sustained demographic contraction that we all assume as a matter of course that businesses will increase their sales, real estate prices will go up, and investments will earn profits. In an era of population contraction, none of this is true.  Once demographic decline sets in, each business will on average have fewer customers than the year before, each property will have fewer people to bid on it, each investment vehicle will have fewer people investing in it.  Thus the average business, the average asset, and the average investment vehicle will all lose money over time.

This is one of the unnoticed factors driving the decline of civilizations.  If businesses, assets, and investments yield losses rather than profits, few people will be interested in owning them, and economic activity will contract even faster than the population.  You can see this dynamic play out in the history of every falling civilization.  A radical simplification of the economy sets in.  Market-based economies collapse and are replaced by customary economies, in which money drops out of use and the basis for economic activity is a handful of productive assets that meet real human needs:  above all else, farmland capable of raising food crops.

A feudal European army: every able-bodied man in the vicinity, led by a guy on a horse.

All this makes a complex military establishment impossible to sustain. That’s why feudalism is the default setting for human society after the collapse of complex societies.  In a feudal system,  productive farmland is parceled out among local warlords, who pass it on to their vassals in exchange for military service.  It’s the same system Fritigern knew, adapted to the needs of a settled population:  every able-bodied man in a feudal society is a warrior, and can expect to be called out to defend his village from the warriors of rival communities at any moment.  It’s only when a feudal system becomes decadent that peasants no longer fight in the infantry.

Some similar system is likely to play a significant role in the deindustrial age. It won’t be identical to the feudal systems of the last three thousand years, though, for a simple reason. Those systems were all shaped profoundly by the revolution in military affairs that followed the domestication of the horse by Indo-European tribes on the sweeping plains where Russian and Ukrainian troops are currently doing battle. From that point on, the feudal aristocrat was a master of horses—on a chariot early on, before horses had been bred large enough to carry riders in battle, and mounted on horseback thereafter. That gave warlords immense advantages over the people they ruled, resulting in a deep schism dividing society into noble and peasant classes.

The lord of the battlefield, until gunpowder changed the equation.

That age is over, because a different revolution in military affairs swept the planet in the sixteenth century. Gunpowder is as overwhelming a force in military affairs as horses were, not least because an armored warrior on horseback is dead meat in a pitched battle involving firearms; a spray of bullets fired by half-trained peasants can easily kill his horse and punch holes in his armor. That’s why cavalry after the sixteenth century ended up repurposed as a force for scouting and raiding, while infantry took over the hard work of winning pitched battles.  It’s also why aristocrats turned into a disposable commodity in most societies.

Yes, archery can also limit the effectiveness of cavalry—the French found that out the hard way at Crecy and Agincourt—but it takes many years of practice to master the longbow, and even so it’s not as lethal as a gun.  An untrained recruit can learn to use a firearm effectively in a matter of weeks. Firearms are also no great challenge to make with hand tools; the famous Kentucky rifle of the early American frontier was made by hand. Doubtless famous gunsmiths in the deindustrial future will be just as legendary as famous swordsmiths in the past, but most guns in the future will be turned out by ordinary craftspeople, just as most swords were back in the day.

With this in mind, it’s not hard to glimpse the warriors of the deindustrial dark ages three or four hundred years from now. They’ll be armed with guns, probably bolt-action rifles like the ones carried in the two world wars, and if they have any armor at all it’ll be steel helmets. Some of them will ride horses, but most won’t, for the reasons just described. They’ll be a good deal less subservient to the local warlord than their equivalents a thousand years previously, because of the equalizing effect of firearms, but they’ll doubtless have some version of the classic feudal ethic of loyalty and courage to guide them in the rough-and-tumble of an age of chaos.

Well within reach of our descendants, even in an era of resource scarcity.

They may have some unexpected technologies to help them out. Shortwave radios aren’t hard to make by hand—there’s a whole subculture of amateur radio enthusiasts these days who make their own vacuum tubes from mason jars and the like—and having the ability to communicate at a distance is worth an extra army in wartime. It’s also far from impossible that ultralight aircraft made of wood and fabric, powered by alcohol-burning engines, will be available in at least a few of the more prosperous areas for aerial scouting. (Larger and more complex aircraft will probably be off limits for centuries due to hard limits on resources.)

Thus I imagine an army on the march somewhere in the Ohio valley in 2400 or so, a long column of infantry with little detachments of cavalry scouting ahead and on the flanks, using bulky but functional radios to keep in touch with their commanders, while a couple of ultralights circle overhead to scout at a greater distance. There will doubtless be cannon drawn by horses in the column, too, and just possibly a few simple machine guns as well, but most of the fighting power will consist of young men shouldering rifles. Aside from a few bits of technology, it’s not that different from the armies that marched through that same region six centuries earlier.

All in all, not so different from this.

That’s the army of a relatively large and stable dark age state, of course. Far more common will be smaller and poorer communities, in which warfare is carried out by relatively small groups of young men without benefit of cavalry, cannon, or ultralight planes. In mountainous areas they’ll be all but unconquerable—firearms make guerilla warfare far more powerful than other weapons systems—so we can expect the political structures of the deindustrial dark ages to feature relatively large states in the lowland river basins and small, defiantly independent communities up in the hills. It’s an old song, given new verses by gunpowder.

Naval power is another matter. Wooden ships became instantly obsolete once explosive shells replaced solid shot in naval cannon, but steel armor in any quantity is only an option if you’ve got ample supplies of cheap coal to turn into coke; our descendants won’t have that. (For the same reason, they won’t have railroads, since you can’t make steel in sufficient volume for rails without coke, and we’re burning the last scraps of the necessary coal reserves right now.) Since shells aren’t difficult to make, and rockets with explosive warheads are even easier, naval fleets of any size may be a thing of the past until some other form of naval armor becomes possible.  Piracy will doubtless flourish on the high seas of the deindustrial future, and it will be very hard for maritime nations to control it the way the British navy did.

A Roman steam turbine, invented by Hero of Alexandria. To the Romans, it was just a toy.

And beyond the deindustrial dark ages?  That’s impossible to predict, because the successor cultures that build on our ruins will have their own ideals, goals, and dreams, which will not be ours.  They will favor some technologies and reject others for reasons we can’t anticipate and probably can’t even understand.  Our civilization invented clockwork and steam power and used them to reshape the planet, while the Roman world also invented both these things and did essentially nothing with them. Why?  Because there is no one route to the future. Every civilization follows its own path, and what we call “progress” is simply the temporary trajectory that our civilization took in pursuit of its dreams.

That trajectory is winding up around us right now, having gone as far as it can. It’s a safe bet that future civilizations will choose their own paths instead. What goals they will seek, and how those will shape their ways of making war, we cannot know.

* * * * *

In other news, I’m delighted to announce that the four para-Lovecraftian tentacle novels of mine that aren’t part of the The Weird of Hali heptalogy—The Shoggoth Concerto, The Nyogtha Variations, A Voyage to Hyperborea, and The Seal of Yueh Lao—are now available for preorder from Sphinx Books. As with the Weird, these new editions have had typos and continuity errors cleaned up, but are otherwise the same rugose, squamous stories you know and, hopefully, love. If you’re in the United States, you can order copies here; elsewhere, here’s the place to go.


  1. A somewhat subtle sign of ongoing collapse, from today’s Washington Post (on the back page of the C “Style” section): Shop that inspired Toy Story movies to close, citing ‘perils’ of San Francisco.” Of course, old businesses close all the time, and this is far from the first business in San Francisco to close in recent months. But I want to highlight one, easily overlooked, sentence: “In December, Luhn told SFGate that the rent on the family’s 45 Kearny St. store had risen to $20,000 per month.”

    What was the landlord thinking? “Oh, my peers are losing tenants, so I need to squeeze this family as hard as I can, before they throw in the towel””? “If I can just get this silly toy store out of the way, I can redevelop the property into office space for the free-spending financial industry!” (The story explains that the popularity of remote work has cut down on foot traffic in the area, which sounds to me as though there’s not much market for new office space.)

    I think they’re just expecting this current “cloud” over business conditions to blow over soon, and THEN they’ll make some serious money on this empty building.

  2. Huzzah! Delighted to see this topic make it to a post – thank you as always for your thoughts.

    Until some of your comments in the last open post, I hadn’t considered that rail depends on access to coke, nor that explosive shells would likely render tall ships militarily untenable, without the compensation of steel armor and steam engines big enough to push all that armor around. Both present interesting problems to speculate on solutions for, though: how to move men and materiel quickly over long distances and how might you mass combat power on the seas?

    One question: do you know if any country/army has made semi-automatic firearms with hand tools in the past? Maybe the Prussian needle gun was more reliant on craftsmen? Curious if you happen to know, but if not, no worries.

    I ask because the historical examples I’m familiar with were all industrially produced, as far as I know, or at least key components were. Besides baseline “can it be done,” there are also, of course, questions about how many how quickly and to what tolerances. A force equipped with high-tolerance, very accurate semi-automatic rifles is likely going to be doing a lot of either trench warfare or fire-and-maneuver, whereas a force with single-shot weapons and/or rather inaccurate semi-autos might favor the kind of massed fire tactics that dominated the first few centuries of firearms battles.

    Anyhow, thanks again, this is all great fodder for thought experiments, fiction ideas, and possible wargames.


  3. Hi JMG: Thank you so much for that article. It really gives you something to think about. As a fiber crafts person, I always wonder about the future of clothing and cloth in general. And I think you’re right, we can’t predict what these civilizations will want or value. Kathy Halton

  4. Communications, the great weak spot. I watched Zulu Dawn not long ago and the various British units not knowing what was going on with the other units was well portrayed. Riders had to be sent to relay messages, officers dispatched to hilltops to see what they could see, and one reports back that he watched heavy fighting for twenty minutes but the tents are still up so he thinks they are all right.

    And even with radio in WWII the Japanese were fanatics about radio silence and that bit them more than once. But if they had transmitted then everyone would know where they were.

    Why do submarines with wonderful sonar equipment run into mountains? Because you don’t dare transmit because everyone will know where you are.

    The scenario in Tom Clancy’s The Bear and the Dragon is already obsolete. If anything goes wrong in any supply chain it’s completely impossible.

  5. The Marine Corps is currently restructuring, doing away with tank units and artillery. They’re going to units with high mobility, lots of recon (including drones) and intel gathering, lots of lightly-armored manpower with precision weapons and improved optics. They’re replacing the tanks and artillery with mortars, HIMARS, lighter-weight Javelins and long-range missile systems (faster-moving, longer-range and more punch than tanks or artillery could ever muster). Plenty of former Commandants are predicting doom and gloom as this goes forward. The leaders making the changes saw what drones could accomplish, along with lightweight missile launchers, long before Russia invaded Ukraine and the rest of the world saw these things, too. The current Commandant is pushing hard for these changes, as he realizes that the next conflict is likely with China and likely to occur in coastal / littoral regions (in / near Taiwan). He wants units which can scout, report in, and hit targets, at longer ranges, with lighter-weight equipment and deny the enemy the ability to get anywhere close to land. The units need to be fast and light, with high precision.

    Meanwhile, the Army is perfectly happy to absorb the tanks and artillery, before they realize the tanks are older M1-A1 models and will need most of $2 billion to upgrade them all to the newest standards. Much of our military leadership is fighting the last war, but not all of it.

    One of my favorite fiction authors was Anne McCaffrey. Her books were a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. The Pern series seemed mostly fantasy until she published “Dragonsdawn,” the prequel which turned the Pernese into colonists from Earth. One of their shuttle pilots was very careful to conserve fuel so much as possible, because he brought with him a design for an ultralight aircraft. Refined fuel, which would make the lightweight engine possible, which would make an ultralight aircraft possible, was going to be scarce in the retro-feudal world they would be building so the only way to ensure he could fly for the rest of his life was to ensure there was plenty of fuel leftover. Ten liters here, 20 liters there, chump change when you’re bringing people down from orbit and going back up to retrieve more. But 10 liters was enough for hours of flight time. His careful, skillful conservation ensured he would be able to continue flying long after everyone else was back to beasts and carts.

    I’m not entirely sure that alcohol would fill the bill; it has about 2/3 the energy content of gasoline but it does allow for higher compression ratios ‘cuz higher octane rating. Even if alcohol is sufficient, the refined metals needed to make an ultralight’s engine possible may be harder to come by in the future you’re envisioning. Sure, you can go buy a Rotax off-the-shelf today but the refined metals from which they are made, and the precision with which they are machined, may be rather scarce in the future. Not impossible, but rare and expensive. A Rotax today can only take about 10% ethanol; something which can tolerate E100 AND provide that kind of power density is rare, even today.

  6. Excellent essay! It could just be that industrial civilization is reaching a level of maximum complexity, fueled by rare earth elements that are by no means abundant, while the Western population is gradually losing its ability to comprehend such complexity…Meanwhile, as in all declining civilizations I have looked at, the condition and fertility of farmland, and the availability of water for it, continues to decline….A century from now, things will look a whole lot different from today…..

  7. Great and very informative article!
    I have a few questions. As Europe is currently losing big parts of its industrial capacity due to a lack of resources, I assume that we should expect a significant contraction in the size, equipment and capabilities of European armies in the near future? This would make it an easier target for nations that still can afford modern armies (Russia). But Europe has not much resources left that would be of interest for potential invaders. So I assume it will mostly be Europeans themselves fighting each other for the resources that are left. If that assumption is correct, where do you see future hot spots that will see a lot of fighting in Europe?

  8. Re: tunnels in Gaza – the Vietcong used that strategy, too. And, yes, those little guys in black pajamas cleaned our clocks.
    OT: the one continuity error not picked up in Dreamlands is referring to Jane Dyer, Phil’s daughter in Voyage, as “Mrs.” That would be Phil’s ex-wife, who divorced him and sold their house out from under his nose while he was on an earlier expedition. Or else a daughter-in-law.
    If you ever reprint Witch of Criswell, check out “Earl” instead of “Glen” for Olive’s late husband in the final showdown.
    The Grey Badger, nitpick nazi.

  9. JMG,
    One of my take-aways from watching the videos that Hamas posts on you tube is that the real revolution in urban warfare ( in addition to tunnels) is cheap and plentiful rocket propelled grenades ( RPG’s). Hamas seems to be able to make these in underground workshops using pipe, and smuggled explosives. They even have the double war-head ones the Russians developed that can penetrate all but the thickest tank armor.
    This type of weapon has existed since WWII , but before it was always a specialist weapon to be carried by one member of a squad to deal with enemy armor. Hamas seems to make these in bulk and they are used by most of their fighters for many purposes. Tanks, bulldozers, and jeeps are prey when they are within range of a hiding spot. But they seem to also use them in place of rifles when engaging IDF infantry. Instead of a pitched gun battle between two groups of fighter in opposing apartment blocks, just fire a couple of anti-personal RPG’s in through the windows of your opponent.
    These things are low tech, and need no computer chips when used at short ranges. Since the world of the near de-industrial future will have many more urban battle grounds than in the days of Valens, Napoleon or Rommel these will be increasingly useful. I predict that in the ” barbarian” tribes of the future young men will begin training to launch these from such a young age that they will be able to hit a paint can at 150 yards without the aid of electronics.

  10. Thank you JMG,
    On your point about the demise of electronics. I should think the internet would be vulnerable long before weapons systems. How vulnerable do you think the internet is to the simplification process, and what sort of timescales? Our infrastructure generally seems to be failing already.

  11. What about super soaker water guns loaded with a homemade pepper spray type substance? As someone who has never been into guns (though I have shot & handled them) I thought this might be a useful home defense weapon for myself.

    & I guess whatever kind of monastic groups arise in the dark ages will have some martial art or physical practice to keep them busy, and able to bash a marauders head in, when they come calling.

    John -I am now in a position to read your two novels that have music as theme (based on something of a promise I made to myself) so I’ve pre-ordered them. I’ll look forward to reading them and picking up the other two Hali books later on.

    @Jeff Russell: I’m glad you got your wish this month!

  12. Thanks John, thought provoking as usual.

    Below is a link to a paper I wrote in 2010 and was published in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Journal titled ‘Lasers or Longbows: A Paradox of Military Technology’ largely inspired by your thinking at the Archdruid Report and pointing out many of the issues raised in this post.

    Of course the paper was ignored, and the ADF has continued increasing its complexity, and vulnerability, which is and will no doubt cost Australia dearly in the decades ahead (aspiring to nuclear submarines comes to mind…)

  13. Those sky-high taxes also contributed to the rise of proto-feudalism within the Roman world. Magnates with large estates in the hinterlands of the empire were able to make these estates largely self-sufficient, so they could simply decline to pay taxes. And the imperial government couldn’t very well send out that very expensive army of theirs to force these magnates to pay their taxes, simply because the expense of doing so what cancel out whatever was gained by squeezing out that tax-money. And the more the Roman economy crumbled under the weight of taxes, unsustainable hyper-complexity, over-regulation, and corruption, the more estates there would be that became self-sufficient and declined to pay any taxes.

  14. JMG, just great. If defense is now on par or stronger than offense – specially in economic terms – that means large states will be much more easily repelled by smaller, yet determined peoples or nations. Thus, we can expect a multitude of successful separationist groups and the breakup of large, imperial states in the years to come, no?

  15. Just as the Roman steam engine was just a toy, so was the model R/C airplane and the little drone you fly around the living room. Interesting post, Thanks .

  16. Great post. It’s interesting to think about how the future will resemble the past in some ways but also be totally different in other ways. To me, it seems like in the deep future, any aspiring empires will have a hard time because of a lack of resources and a more even playing field, especially in forested/hilly terrain. 10,000 years and civilization still can’t climb uphill.

    As far as the immediate future goes, do you think that rebels in the United States could have a chance? The population in the United States is heavily armed and there are already loose networks of militias. When I see online discussions between liberals and militia type people, the liberals usually declare that unorganized militiamen would have no chance against the federal government. A common quote I hear is “Your AR-15 won’t work when you’re fighting drones!” I don’t know who is correct today, but give it a few decades and my money’s on the rebel militias.

  17. I see a lot of parallels between the barbarian hordes of the 5th century Western Empire and the Central and South American cartels of the 20th and 21st century. In both cases significant chunks of land are de facto controlled by well-armed militants who have uneasy arrangements with the official ruling powers. And if they follow that script I would expect that we see those cartels take more land until the US winds up with a noble class descended from erstwhile smugglers and bandits. Ultimate the area winds up speaking a bastardized Spanish dialect that ultimately becomes the several different languages of the Americano family.

  18. Hello Mr. Greer,

    I’ve said this before, but it seems appropriate to bring up again. I am very active in the miniature wargame community, in particular the rank and flank style games. If you ever build a rule set for deindustrialize warfare and want playtesters just let me know.

    As far as feudalism goes… do you think this time the militia/republic/minutemen heritage of the U.S. will endure? From what you wrote it sounds like large swaths of our culture are well positioned to survive and even thrive in the coming centuries. I can’t picture Americans ever kneeling before warlords but local militias that elect their leader sounds pretty close to a gunpowder reworked version of feudalism. Heck, we just about have that now in many branches of the sub culture.

  19. Well, this is the post that armchair warriors were expecting since some time ago…It will be exciting the kommentariat comments this week, too. thank you JMG and kommentariat…

  20. Mr. Greer,

    I have been doing a bit more research into the steel issue. I imagine the majority of steel made in the future will be made from scrap metal. You could use hydroelectric power to generate electricity for an electric arc furnace to melt scrap into new steel. Electric arc furnaces are not new technology; they were invented in the late 19th century with William Siemens filing a patent for one in 1878. Currently 70 percent of steel production in the United States made using electric arc furnaces to melt scrap steel.

    I imagine with the global population contraction there would be quite a bit of scrap metal available. It wouldn’t be enough to supply the needs of our world as is – no more skyscrapers – but it could generate enough steel to build and maintain some railroad lines connecting key cities and areas along with a limited number of warships and armored vehicles.

  21. Just thinking about less powerful states with modern militaries, like say, much of non-USA NATO states. They’re going to have to modify what they’re doing, just as much as the USA is.

    I live in Canada. Canada has a small modern military. We generally buy most of the larger pieces of equipment from other countries rather than making it ourselves, and what we have is often a bit rickety, and there’s not a huge amount of anything. Our military works pretty well as part of a larger force, but I don’t think it would do very well on its own, or fighting a long war against drones/cheap missiles in large numbers, or in an environment where we can’t buy replacements abroad. The small numbers of bought-from-elsewhere helicopters, ships etc. are really vulnerable to attrition in a long war. There aren’t a huge number of soldiers, either. The war in Afghanistan was apparently quite hard on the Canadian Armed Forces, and they needed a significant amount of rebuilding afterwards.

    One asset Canada does have if it can find/needs to use it is that a significant amount of the population outside the cities is into hunting and both has and knows how to use weapons. But that requires that they be willing to fight, and there is money to arm and train them specifically for war. And the Canadian government does seem to be angering this demographic lately.

  22. Yes, it does seem that the advantage has again tipped to the defense. Barbed wire, minefields and machine guns, as of old. Oh wait, things are different:

    Old and busted:
    Whatever happens, we have got
    The Maxim gun, and they have not.

    New and working quite well:
    Whatever happens, we have got
    Swarms of drones, and they have not.

  23. 2400 is _slightly_ past the timeframe I need to concern myself with, personally, and none of us will be here to check your predictions. Any thoughts to the more near term (20 years?)

    I am not so sure body armor will be limited to helmets – some form of ceramic plate armor for the torso seems likely to persist IMO. Mortars too – man-portable indirect fire is useful and mortars are not complicated. I would also expect grenades to be of use and no harder than rifles to make.

  24. Don’t be so sure they won’t have rail. Leaving aside the large quantities of already refined steel we have, rail doesn’t have to be heavy rail — or use two rails. The use of one rail and stabilising wheels makes construction far simpler, since you’re not having to keep two rails aligned.

    So, they might not be carrying massive loads like the first railways, but a dark age civilisation probably doesn’t have massive loads to carry. For small loads and passenger travel very light rail will suffice. For temporary railroad, it could be assembled on A frames:

    A problem with gunpowder though is sourcing it. You need a lot of saltpetre. Without nitric acid production, you’ll need a lot of excrement… Oxidiser is essential for explosives and difficult to make, and perhaps the weirdest thing about Hamas is how they’ve managed to amass so much of it under blockade conditions. It’s almost as if someone has been *allowing* them to get hold of it, for inscrutable reasons of their own… But that’s none of my business.

  25. @ JMG – excellent read! I’m glad this topic finally won the vote.

    I believe Thomas Carlyle said “The true purpose of gunpowder is to make all men tall” and that will certainly be the case going forward. If feudalism does reemerge in the coming dark age, I would think the widespread use of gunpowder would preclude the rise of an aristocracy, so long as the farmers would band together to prevent some warlord from coming in and confiscating 10% of the harvest. But that may be a BIG ‘if’.

    On the topic of the guns themselves, I wonder how viable semi-auto rifles will remain. Based on my limited experience reloading .38 rounds, I can say that brass shell casings are reusable many times, but eventually wear out and deform. To say nothing of needing high-conversion propellant, precisely machined bullets, and primers. I’m not saying they won’t be available in 2400, but I suspect they may fall victim to supply chain problems in many times and places. Maybe lever or bolt action guns like the Spencer carbine or the needle gun would be more prevalent or widely used?

    As for naval rockets, they were certainly in use by the early 19th century, but I can’t think of an occasion where they played a significant role in naval warfare (as distinct from shore bombardment). Can you (or anyone else) point me to a historical instance of the use of rockets in ship-to-ship combat?

  26. Deindustrialization visions like these give me hope.
    There will still be laugher. There will still be love. There will still be wonder.
    Today, that is enough.
    And if we could keep an open mind about queer people and other ethnicities as we enter the fall, I’d take it a personal favor. Thanks 🙂
    Now on to researching how to become a gunsmithing priestess.

  27. Jeff: if you have ever field-stripped a Kalashnikov rifle (AK-47, being the original full auto version), you would be astounded at their utter simplicity. Production of that rifle would be well within the capabilities of a very modest workshop. I have zero doubts that design will endure well into the future.

  28. “Some of them will ride horses, but most won’t, for the reasons just described.”
    It’s true that old style chivalry was over with the dawn of gunpowder era, but indeed it could exist in the deindustrial future, in addition to the scout cavalry forces, some type of future “dragoons” or mounted infantry. They could be using the horses as “Battle taxis” and dismount soon before the battles or skirmishes, using rifles or simple rudimentaries RPGs…

  29. I’m reminded of all the complaints of British officers that “Those dammed Colonials won’t stand and fight” as their men were picked off by seemingly invisible rebels with their squirrel rifles. Course by time the Nepoloniac Wars rolled around, the Brits had several rifle companies, and the French commanders made the same complaints.
    Modern firearms can last a long long time, especially simpler ones such as revolvers, bolt action rifles, and double barrel shot guns. It’s the ammo that will be the problem in the future. Though a number of us have those squirrel rifles, new made.
    Living across the harbor from wheer the US Navy makes it’s “Super Carriers” I head a lot of the problems that dont get out. Such as replacing the decades old proven steam catapults with electro magenetic ones. Which ofte ndont work in bad weather, especially is they get wet. Same goes for the F35 “Penguin” squadrons at the AF base. Yes, all their problems are real, and much much worse than reported.
    With a drone it dosnt need to be armed, just fly one from WalMart into an air intake on a plane or helio, or even its windshield.

  30. This book may be germane to the discussion: The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power Our Lives by Ernest Scheyder

    “Tough choices loom if the world wants to go green. The United States and other countries must decide where and how to procure the materials that make our renewable energy economy possible. To build electric vehicles, solar panels, cell phones, and millions of other devices means the world must dig more mines to extract lithium, copper, cobalt, rare earths, and nickel. But mines are deeply unpopular, even as they have a role to play in fighting climate change. These tensions have sparked a worldwide reckoning over the sourcing of these critical minerals, and no one understands the complexities of these issues better than Ernest Scheyder, whose exclusive access has allowed him to report from the front lines on the key players in this global battle to power our future.”

    It does have a progress oriented slant, but it is at least grappling with the issue of mining and where this stuff comes from.

  31. I found this essay to be especially stimulating.

    It got my mind racing in several different directions. Lol

    Does anyone else have the feeling that stories of post industrial warfare could be the next big genre, the one to eclipses super heroes, zombies, star trek and wizards?

    Because I really do. The Pi-War genre has the potential to combine the familiar with the strange in new and interesting ways.
    (Anyone else have a name for this genre? I have a strong preference for a term that does not use the word “punk” )

    Anyone else want to open a new front far upstream from todays political fights to inject some new ideas and new thinking into our collective imagination?

    It might just be time for a new writing contest???

  32. “Every man in Fritigern’s force provided his own weapons and armor and had learned how to fight beginning in early childhood.”

    Essentially what the Roman legion was until Marius. So interesting how everything always comes full circle.

  33. The digital chip space. The most advanced ones have 9000 suppliers (many without competition ) that converge in a single point of assembly in Taiwan. If just one supplier goes down then the supply of high end chips goes with it.

  34. You can’t get much more deindustrial than these drones…

    Ukraine’s flat-pack cardboard drones destroying Russian jets
    A fleet of drones made out of cardboard and held together with elastic bands and tape are thought to have destroyed or damaged at least five Russian jets in the Ukraine war.
    The drones arrive flat-packed like some well-known Swedish furniture.
    A bit of sticky tape and a few elastic bands later, and what you get is a military-grade UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that is able to carry several kilos of explosives over 75 miles.

  35. I have often wondered if people would pay more attention to the idea of the deindustrial future over the two usual extremes if the deindustrial future makes its way into culture. New Maps does this well, but your article gives me some snide ideas.

    For instance, there is a considerable craze around the genre of video games where the players click on ‘military units’ to select them and move them, in order to win wars by strategy. The genre is called Real Time Strategy, or RTS for short. Age of Empires, Total War, Command and Conquer, etc. all fall into this category. I wonder if a prominent deindustrial RTS game can draw some attention to the deindustrial future.

    Of course, a war movie set in 2400 – or something more like They Call Me Trinity – can spread the idea of sustained, steady economic contraction like wildfire.

  36. Hello JMG, what do you think the role of nuclear weapons, as they presently exist, will play in our deindustrial future?

  37. Lathechuck, we’ll be discussing that mode of economic failure in an upcoming post. Notice that under current conditions the owner of the building faces no market pressure to set reasonable rents.

    Jeff, naval power will be all but impossible, except in special cases, until some bright person figures out a way to protect ships against shells and rockets. When will that happen and how will it work? I have no idea. As for repeating firearms, early revolvers were all handmade; even Colt’s legendary firearms, while they came out of a factory, were made mostly by craftsmen using hand tools on an assembly line. So was the Spencer rifle, the first breechloading repeating rifle in US military use. So it should be possible for the same thing to be done on a smaller scale by a gunsmith.

    Kathy, it’s a worthwhile question! During the dark ages to come, certainly, I’d expect wool, cotton, hemp, and the like to play a large role in all forms of fabric, and of course it’ll be handspun and handwoven.

    Siliconguy, yep. The downside of having radios is that unless the enemy lacks radio direction finders, they’ll be able to track your transmissions. So the fog of war becomes a lot less opaque for both sides.

    Randal, you managed it.

    Meower69, I’m glad to hear that. Somebody among the leathernecks has a brain in good working order. As for Pern, hmm — I read the first six or seven books back in the day and I took it as SF. (It was acceptable to include telepathy in SF back before the rationalists seized power.) The fact that the Pernese were getting rid of Thread with HNO3, ahem, “agenothree,” aka nitric acid, rather than with incantations put it out of the fantasy category. With regard to alcohol engines, it’s quite possible that some other liquid fuel will do; one of the reasons I specified ultralights is precisely that you don’t need a very powerful engine to get one of those off the ground.

    Pyrrhus, exactly. We may well have gone as far along the trajectory of technological complexity as it’s possible to get.

    Bergente, history’s a good guide to that. Can you name a part of Europe that wasn’t swept by war every half century or so from the Dark Ages to 1700? Neither can I. Thus I think you can probably expect, wherever you are, there will be wars.

    Patricia M, thanks for these.

    Clay, that’s an excellent point, and one I should have included.

    Kendo, the internet is already beginning to unravel — the steady crapification of internet services is the canary in the mine here. I expect internet service in rural areas to start breaking down in the years immediately ahead, and over the next fifty years or so. I discussed that in the old blog most of a decade ago:

    Thomique, that depends on whether the US or any of the European governments push things far enough to trigger a domestic insurgency. If the farmers who are protesting in Europe right now decide that it’s time to say it with drones, you could see quite a bit of trouble very, very soon.

    Justin, I have no idea; you’d have to experiment! Glad to hear about the novels — I hope you enjoy them.

    Cameron, long time no see! Many thanks for the paper; I’ll look forward to reading it.

    Mister N, and the peasants flocked to such estates because that meant they would be protected from crushing taxes as well — thus the origins of the compact between the lord and his vassals, founded on mutual protection.

    Bruno, that’s a very real possibility, yes.

    Arch, exactly. One person’s toy is another’s worldchanging technology.

    Enjoyer, I’d bet good money that the militias are busy snapping up cheap quadcopter drones by the case lot and rigging them to carry grenades.

    Kenaz, we’re well on our way through the usual imperial border debacle. Do you recall this arrticle of mine from 2012?

    I see nothing in this analysis that needs changing…

    Stephen, I don’t know enough about miniature wargaming to make the attempt — at least not yet. Can you point me to some online resources? It would be a fun project. As for the militia heritage, I expect that to thrive outside of the big river valley regions, where it’s already practically dead. In the Appalachians and a hundred other hilly or mountainous areas, though, I’d expect some sort of rough-and-tumble democracy to remain in place, while the more prosperous lowlands settle into some suitably reconfigured form of feudal monarchy. That will feed the conflicts between those regions, of course.

    Chuaquin, it certainly seems to be starting out colorfully.

    Karl, during the era of salvage societies, sure. It occurs to me that I haven’t talked for a while about salvage societies; here’s an essay of mine from 2007:

    The short form is that we’ve got anything up to a couple of centuries in which salvage will be the single most important source of raw materials. Eventually that’ll run out, but while it’s still in process, sure, steel armor will be an option.

    Pygmycory, thanks for this. I wonder if your conservative hunters and outdoorsmen are tinkering with drones…

    Bird, exactly — and that, too, will pass away in due time.

    Isaac, while you’re alive, drones and other cheap nasty technological tricks will be at the cutting edge of warfare.

    Alice, I recommend you take some time to crunch the numbers — and ask yourself how long it will take all our current refined steel to turn into rust. Steel manufacture was a thriving technology before coke came on the scene; it was used for small-scale production — blades, tools, armor, and the like.

    Ben, my guess is that the quasifeudalism of the gunpowder ages to come will look rather more like chieftainship than anything else — a charismatic, competent leader will win the support of enough people to set up as a chief, and people will follow him loyally because he returns their loyalty. As for weapons, I don’t expect semiautomatic weapons to be common, because they waste too much ammo. Bolt- or lever-action repeaters are much more useful when each soldier has to carry his own bullets. With regard to rockets, they haven’t done so yet, but cheap rocket-propelled grenades would make hamburger of any ship that didn’t have steel armor; once steel stops being available in sufficient quantity, I expect that to become a major issue.

    Allie, good luck on your research! As for sexual minorities, are you at all familiar with the Sacred Band, the elite military force of the Greek city of Thebes? It was made up entirely of gay male couples, and it was the toughest fighting force in Greece. (I bet they’d fit in at some of the leather bars I used to walk past when I lived on Capitol Hill in Seattle…) The point being that the prejudices of our current society needn’t be those of any future society.

    Chuaquin, a valid point.

    Peter, that’s like asking if human beings will ever do without sex. We’re a tough, bellicose species. As long as there’s something to gain by going to war — whether that be liberty from an oppressor or plunder from a richer and less military society — there will be war.

    Marlena13, brass is easy to work and the raw materials are pretty readily available, so I’d expect cartridges to be made as well as repeatedly reloaded. As for our current excuse for a military, I’m embarrassed about one thing in my novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming — I made the F-35 perform considerably better than it actually did.

    Justin, thanks for this.

    Dobbs, hmm! That’s an interesting idea — though I no longer have a publisher for any future anthology.

    Mr. House, of course. Every empire eventually meets its younger self, and shatters.

    Ken, exactly. And our entire economy depends on those chips.

    Martin, oh, but you can. The electronics aren’t made of cardboard…

    Rajarshi, see what you can do!

    Terry, I discussed this in a post back in 2012:

    The short form is that nuclear weapons are extraordinarily complex, expensive, and brittle. You literally have to re-machine the surfaces every six months or so — the Pantex plant in northern Texas does this night and day — to keep them viable, and many other components break down due to radioactive decay and the like. That is to say, relatively soon in the arc of deindustrialization, it will no longer be possible to maintain a nuclear arsenal.

    Mac, you’re most welcome.

    Aurelien, delighted to see this! I’ll read it as soon as time permits.

  38. @Terry (#40) and JMG (#43):

    Not too long after the breakup of the Soviet Union I was at a University function and fell in with a experienced professional diplomat whose father had been a colleague of mine. I had recently heard through the grapevine that not all of the Soviet arsenal of nuclear weapons had succeassfully been divided up among Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but that a certain number of pieces had gone missing and were unaccounted for. I mentioned this to him and asked casually what he had heard. His answer, summarized, was (1) of course some had, (2) it could not possibly have been otherwise, and (3) it doesn’t matter much now, and soon it wont matter at all, since whoever has them almost certainly doesn’t know how to keep them in working order.

  39. “The drone revolution has made defense more powerful than offense on both sides.”
    Yes indeed, and what we’re seeing in Ukraine is truly an echo of what happened in WWI. Machine guns made trench defense more powerful than infantry charge offense, and as a result we had nearly four years of trench-bound stalemate. Talk about history rhyming!

    Then effective fire-and-maneuver was developed by both sides as a way out of this trap, what we now call Third Generation Warfare (or Blitzkrieg, in German). It’s going to be a bloody decade or two before an effective offense against a drone-using defense gets sorted out – if it can be at all.

    Thanks for a very insightful Wednesday essay, JMG. Lots to think through on this one.

  40. @ Jeff, RE Firearms
    It depends on what you mean by hand tools. This is a popular topic here at Tower 440 of the Green Wizard’s Benevolent and Protective Association. While there are plenty of books on early American firearms, Foxfire 5 is a good peek at the fine art of gunsmithing. As far as building a shop and the appliances thereof, the collected works of Roy Underhill are particularly enlightening. Also, a look at the build it yourself kits any of the better muzzleloading suppliers like Track of the Wolf will illustrate how complex a “primitive” weapon is. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing early twentieth century manufacturing (the one on the M1917 is particularly good) where machinists do all the thinking for the machines, so there is still quite a bit of hand work.
    BUT – being able to draw metal into tube form to make cartridges is requisite for any repeater.
    After that, late Civil War cover-and-move tactics become practical, and a faster repeater starts appearing on wish lists and drawing boards. The Mannlicher 1885 is the earliest working semi-auto I know of, so super-deluxe manufacturing facilities are not required for a modern design. However, I suspect the simpler turn-bolt will be more common than self-loaders, and that volley sights and range stakes might be popular accessories.

  41. @Jeff (#2) and JMG (#43):

    My maternal grandfather, a fairly nasty piece of work and very much a lone wolf, worked most of his life as a boilermaker and machinist. He had a simple machine shop of his own in a rented garage, where he made his own rifles and sold them as he pleased. (This was in the days before gun-makers had to put serial numbers on their guns and keep a registry. If he were still alive, today he would be machining “ghost guns” and selling them on the low down to shady customers.) He also knew how to make stills for brewing illegal hootch during Prohibition. So I can personally attest that it’s well within the capacity of a one-man small machine shop to make quality guns. (The two of his that I saw were both bolt-action .22s.) — Somewhat out of the character I have given him here, he was also a gifted wood-carver. Each of the two rifles that I saw had a wooden stock with gorgeous hand-carved hunting scenes on each side. People are complex. — He hailed from Wolfsville, MD, a very small town in Frederick County which one local historian has characterized as sorough-and-tumble that “State Troopers had to be on duty at the Sunday-school picnic” to keep things relatively peaceful.

    As for potassium nitrate, I know it can be made from bird poop (and from mammalian excreta) by fairly simple processes. Those are natural resources that are renewed daily.

  42. The conflict in Gaza has another good example of technology gone Awry. After getting their tanks blown up by Hezbollah’s anti-tank missiles back in 2006 the Israeli’s decided the answer was to equip their tanks with anti-missle technology called “Trophy”. To the best of my knowledge these are big panel shaped charges ( like a claymore mine) with shrapnel in them that can be trigged by sophisticated radar when an incoming missile is detected. This might work pretty well if deployed in the open hill country of south Lebanon with Hezbollah firing Kornet missiles from a mile away.
    But in the crowded urban rubble of Gaza Hamas is able to fire their RPG’s from very close, and often down alleys, or out of doorways where detection comes much to late to matter. But the real rub is that the Trophy system represents a real risk to infantry deployed near the tank in question.
    So the IDF is faced with a dilemma. Deploy tanks with the Trophy system active and accompanied by infantry and then Hamas can fire a bottle rocket at the tank and the system will go off killing multiple nearby friendly troops with shrapnel. Send the tank in without active protection but with infantry. Or break the cardinal rule of Tanks in urban combat and send them in without infantry and allow Hamas to get close easy shots or even hand planted mines due to the poor visibility of most tanks.
    From what I have seen on video, they seem to be sending in the tanks without infantry close by , and giving Hamas a golden opportunity to damage or kill IDF tanks on a grand scale.
    File this under the heading of fighting the last war.

  43. Two thoughts:
    One, the Amish. As much as many of us admire their ability to choose or reject modern technology, I can’t imagine a group of pacifist yet prosperous farmers is going to last long in the ages to come.
    Second, atomic warfare. There are many nasty things you can do with nucleotides besides slam them together. (Ask Trey!) An airburst of plutonium powder could kill a lot of people. (I shudder to think what would have happened if the commandeered aircraft on 2001-09-11 had been crashed into strategically chosen spent fuel pools rather than the symbolic targets actually attacked…)

  44. @Selkirk Astronmer #30 re: AK-47 Parts

    Alas, I have not – most of my experience is with far more heavily (some would say “overly”) engineered weapons like ARs and Glock-style firing-pin pistols. I knew that the parts were simple, and more often stamped than machined, but I didn’t know how that shook out when it came to hand tools vs industrial tools. As JMG pointed out in one of his responses though, I don’t know how widespread use of automatic weapons will be since it will be much slower and more expensive to produce ammo, but a weapon with an automatic option and a doctrine of “fire single shots except in special circumstances” might be a combination that could work in the right culture.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  45. Here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.
    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery.

    May the surgery for Yuccaglauca’s mother Monica‘s malignant mass be safe, successful, and conclusive of the matter.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May Audrey’s nephew Jon, who is now in a wheelchair due to ALS, have peace and comfort during this difficult time, and be healed of his condition to the greatest degree possible.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.
    * * *
    Old guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  46. Hi John Michael,

    I agree, it’s a mess out there. At any moment, we as a society could accept the loss and do something more productive with the remaining resources and energy our civilisation has available. This will not be the option chosen.

    The other thing worth mentioning is that in a globalised civilisation, the targets are biggerer and more lumberinger. If the ships in the Red Sea were smaller, they’d be harder to hit and possibly there would be more ships. Having all your eggs in one basket may be efficient (whatever that means), but it is also risky. Also, if production was more evenly distributed across the land, the loss of any one manufacturing plant would have little impact on the whole. Our elites don’t get that message. It’s hard not to notice that cruise ships are now avoiding that area. In the past those things have made for great troop ships, I dunno about how the current behemoths would work in that role.

    It’s a mess out there. And if I may add, on a personal note I experienced a hard lesson that under the present arrangements, long term loyalty was neither acknowledged nor respected. I’d made assumptions about this matter. Hmm. I can rapidly adjust my world view to new information.



  47. In upstate New York there is a functioning sawmill which is powered by a water wheel. This is naturally quite a small scale sawmill. I wonder if looms and thread spinning machines could not be powered by water wheels. That would be on a fairly small scale, of course, production to meet local needs.

  48. Pygmycory, indeed they are.

    Robert, exactly. Nuclear weapons are delicate, brittle, fragile objects.

    Dr. Coyote, my guess is that the trench stalemate will begin breaking down when drones stop being affordable — say, fifty or seventy-five years from now.

    Dashui, and that’s also an option, of course.

    Robert, thanks for this. That certainly corresponds to what I know. Saltpeter will be very little problem as petroleum sunsets out and horses, oxen, etc. become important for transport and traction — stables used to sell the urine-soaked dirt from their floors to saltpeter makers, who would boil it and extract saltpeter from it.

    Clay, hmm! Thanks for this.

    Roldy, (1) it’ll be interesting to see what happens once they no longer live in a nation that can guarantee public safety. (2) Sure, but then you’re up against the great problem with weapons of mass destruction — once you cross that line, the other side will retaliate. That’s why neither side used nerve gases in the Second World War — both side had them, nobody wanted to deal with the blowback — and nuclear weapons only got used because the US was good and sure that nobody else had one.

    Quin, thanks for this as always. If you could add to the list prayers for my wife Sara, who is recovering from a serious illness, I’d be most grateful; my prayer is that she recover fully and be restored to health.

    Chris, empires are lumberinger things. (I like that word!) It’s harder for them to turn aside from their course than it is for a container ship to pass through the eye of a needle, or something like that. 😉 So we can expect plenty of shopworn stupidity for a while yet. Sorry to hear about your discovery; ouch.

    Mary, the first wave of the industrial revolution was entirely powered by waterwheels — it wasn’t until the second wave that steam engines came in. Waterwheels and windmills are good solid sources of motive power and our descendants will make much use of them.

  49. I got hit with a completely debilitating flu in the last third of the previous comment cycle and I wasn’t able to respond to the prayer updates that appeared in the open post. JMG, if I may, I’ll do so here.

    Alvin in Singapore, I’m delighted to hear of your daughter’s safe delivery. In the past in this prayer list we have gone on to pray for blessings for the child on their new life and for healing for mother and child. If you like, I would be happy to add such an entry for your family as well.

    Merle Langlois, I am happy to hear that you succeeded in your financial goals. Of course the gods help those who help themselves, so I can’t say we can take too much of the credit in this case!

    Oilman2, it is good to hear that your cancer is well behind you. If you would like prayers on behalf of improving or healing your condition of neuropathy, I would be glad to put an entry on the list toward that end. Please let me know, if you see this.

  50. Justin Patrick Moore @ 45, I am posting a question about your Death Spiral peppers over on Frugal Fridays.

  51. Hi John Michael,

    Just remembered something. You may recall that many years ago, cheap drones were used to shut down major airports. Sends a strong message don’t you reckon?



  52. Hi John Michael,

    Please extend my thoughts and best wishes to your lady in that she recovers speedily from her bout of illness. Positive energy coming your way! 🙂



    (~37 minutes mark):
    Tucker: “So the things that the people in charge hate include nature . . .and the class of people who are most useful to your nation . . . Why do they hate those things?”
    Russell Brand “It terrifies me to contemplate . . .”
    John: Is it possible for powerful egregores to conflict to the “death”? If so, what would happen, and what might it look like to us humans (who supposedly birthed them to begin with, if I understand the concept), and what would you expect to see on the higher planes? I think it was in the last open post someone asked if there might be some sort of demonic force afoot. And you responded — if I understood correctly — that you see/sense no evidence of that.
    I think this is a deep exchange between Tucker and Russell Brand, with so much hanging between the lines.
    I also think it ties to the question of future warfare. Why bother using guns and “high ground” in a future war, when you know you can take out the whole bedrock-spirit of a civilization, and IMO a species, without using either?
    I hope you view my question as on-topic enough to “future warfare” to justify an answer? When you look through the history of war, do you see anything very comparable? If you don’t think my question fits here (and it may not), maybe you can shunt this question to the next open post?

  54. A seemingly all male society you have painted; with no food production in sight! Do all the “women folk” roll over and acquiesce – back to sweeping dirt floors, etc.?

  55. This is an interesting vision of the future. I’ve given some thought to de-industrial warfare as well and while I generally agree with your assessment there’s a few things I would perhaps question from your own predictions.

    Firstly, you suggest that guns in warfare of the future would be semi-automatic/bolt action and even the occasional machine gun. These require self-contained, precision manufactured, rigid brass cartridges, both of which may be an absolute bitch to manufacture in a de-industrial future. I would think that some of them may be available to elites as really expensive status symbols, but in general the kind of guns people use (assuming trade routes are viable for the saltpetre and sulphur necessary to make gunpowder in large quantities – if it isn’t then it’s back to clubs, swords and poleaxes) would surely be at best of the kind used in the US Civil War: muzzle-loaders with the powder and ball contained in a cartridge.

    Secondly, regarding the dearth of naval armour – while it will be impossible to manufacture virgin steel the main source of steel for ship armour – as for everything else – will come from the abundant steel available in old skyscrapers and the other ruins of our modern cities. Melting down a few streetlights and cars dug out from the ruins should provide enough steel to put an inch of steel armour over a wooden ship that is sufficient to stop most basic shells fired from naval cannons. Or even steel plates from modern ships, melted together. It might not be the precise grades of steel used to build HMS Dreadnought or USS Iowa, but I suspect for those people, in many applications steel will just be steel and relatively abundant compared to the lower levels of use they will have for it.

    On a slightly darker note: I have often considered the possibility of future warfare making use of the remains of nuclear power stations: spent fuel rods, retrieved by slaves under threat of taking a bath in a cauldron of boiling water, or perhaps by religious fanatics, could easily be flung or dropped over the walls of an enemy city to irradiate those inside. Maybe the ‘rocks that burn’ will become a notorious and feared weapon centuries into the future.

  56. The conflict in the middle-east seems to be spreading. It’s certainly a good place to watch the evolution of warfare into the deindustrial future, and that’s only likely to get more true the longer it goes on. The cat is out of the bag; but it’s not entirely clear on what it will do now it’s free.

    Any idea how big the Israel-Hamas plus an increasing number of other actors war is going to get, to go on for, and how it will turn out?

    Possibilities (note: these are things that I think could potentially happen, not that I want to happen or I am certain will happen)
    -it occurs to me there’s a fair chance its going to cause another pulse of migration towards Europe. Not of Gazans unless they get a way out of Gaza, though. They’re trapped for now.
    -we could end up with over 10% of the palestinian population dead, possibly a lot more, if they can’t get out and a lot more food doesn’t start coming in fairly soon.
    -the expulsion of large numbers of palestinians from their homes in the West Bank
    -there’s a possibility this could end in the destruction of Israel, with a very large number of refugees and a lot of dead israelis.
    -the houthis end up fully in charge of Yemen and recognized as such by most arab nations
    -the USA and Iran go to war with each other directly. This costs the USA a lot more than the warhawks anticipate, and the USA barely squeaks out a ‘win’ that is cost far more than it is worth.
    -the USA gets kicked out of most of its bases in the Middle-east by Iran et al. maybe all of them, and loses the ability to project power in the Middle-east permanently.
    -the US fighting a war directly with Iran is likely to embolden its enemies elsewhere, some of whom are likely to start acting up in major ways. Russia may well take advantage of the USA’s distraction in Ukraine.
    -a large, unambiguous famine in Gaza and/or Yemen which NGOs fail to avert or ameliorate to ambiguous status.
    -Israel survives but loses its democracy and much that makes it likeable to the west to the war.
    -an american aircraft carrier or more gets sunk by cheap missiles or drones, and winds up front-page news all round the world.
    -aircraft carriers are recognized as very hard to defend, and navies worldwide start moving away from them as fast as they can. Also tanks are de-emphasized compared to other modalities.
    -the USA drops out of the war due to trouble at home, withdrawing all troops from its bases in the middle east without being defeated abroad.

  57. #2 Jeff Russell – with regards to the handmade semiautomatic guns – look up Khyber Pass copies – there are workshops in the Khyber Pass dedicated to churning out sophisticated copies of British, Russian and American firearms including relatively modern semiautomatic and bolt action rifles.

  58. JMG, yes!! Been reloading for decades! I have a number of odd calibers, so reloading them helps. Heck, I even know how to knapp flint for the muzzleloading hand made squirrel rifles!!

  59. #2 Jeff, #20 Stephen, #35 dobbs, and #39 Rajarshi:
    In the spirit of appropriate technology, the concepts in Mr. Greer’s essay could be easily handled in a minis game or a hex and counter game. Something like the old SPI Rifle and Saber could be adapted. It’s on late 19th Cent. tactical warfare. Having a nice accompanying story would be an interesting package to socialize this among wargamers. An electronic version could also be developed.

    Dear JMG, am very sorry to hear about Sara and will add her to my prayer list.

  60. Chris, I do indeed remember that. If one of those had been carrying a grenade, like the drones flying over Ukraine right now, that would have sent an even stronger message. Thank you for the positive energy!

    Gnat, ah, but it’s nothing like so easy as that. Magic can be blocked by magic, and there are also beings above the human level who insert themselves into such matters. Maybe you can ask about that next Magic Monday.

    Quin, thank you.

    Bruce, what a nastily dishonest bit of trolling from you! As you know perfectly well, I neither said nor implied anything of the kind. That being the case, don’t bother trying to comment here again.

    Sam, brass cartridges can be made quite well with early 19th century technology — look up the Spencer rifle sometime; it saw plenty of use in the Civil War. It’s quite possible that bolt or lever action rifles will be more common than actual semiautomatic rifles, for reasons discussed earlier in the comment thread, but those are still effective repeating weapons. Salvaged steel will of course be an option in the near term, during the period I’ve called the era of salvage societies, but that has hard limits; once the salvage runs out, as of course it will, we’ll be in the conditions I’ve described. As for fuel rods, are you forgetting that they’ll catch fire and burn if not kept constantly cooled with circulating water? There’ll be a certain number of dead zones downwind from current nuclear power plants for a century or so, until the radionuclides get washed into the sea and buried in sediments.

    Pygmycory, if I could predict that I could make a fortune! The current mess in the Middle East could go any number of ways, resulting in anything from a continuation of the status quo to a disastrous military defeat for the US and its allies and a period of chaos in worldwide international affairs.

    Marlena13, you’re a good person to know in rough times. 😉

  61. Mary Bennet #57-

    When I was a young girl in New Hampshire in the 70s, there was still a small water-powered factory that made lace. I’m certain all phases of fabric production, from spinning the thread to weaving the fabric, have been water powered in the past.

    I have a passion for the beautiful clothing styles of the past, for men and women both. The mantua and sack gowns of the 1700s make my heart sing. And men didn’t used to be afraid of lace, or the color pink. This love of historical clothing led me to learn about fabric, and what it takes to make it. There’s a reason clothing was once a *primary* marker of wealth and status.

    The professor at acoup normally discusses preindustrial warfare type topics, but he also has in-depth series on other aspects of preindustrial life. Here is one that goes into great detail on what it takes to make clothes:

    The absolute crap quality fabric that passes for clothing today is somewhat horrifying. Its all t-shirt material, so thin and loose-woven it can’t survive more than a couple wash-and-dry cycles. You can’t even find decent quality at thrift stores anymore. Not just clothes either- the towels, blankets, curtains and such are just as bad. We are in an Age of Shoddy.

    And its all polyester too. Cotton isn’t too bad, but the other natural fibers are all sky-high in price, when you can find them at all. I think people are in for a shock when crude oil becomes scarce enough, that using it to make cheap polyester clothes drops off the bottom of the priority list.

    And to tie this back to the subject of this post, soldiers need uniforms, socks, winter coats, blankets, tents… the military consumes surprisingly large amounts of textiles.

  62. JMG,
    I copy-pasted my comment in, and it looked fine; but when I hit Post, all the paragraph breaks disappeared. Any idea why?
    I couldn’t find any way to try to edit it either.

  63. Mr. Greer,
    On a lark, I typed in on the intertubes for ‘wrist rocket’. Holymoly! I had the impression that that Whamo product of old (60s/70s used of course..) would be where said search begins .. and ends. Little did I grok that new versions were out there to be had .. Even Wallyworld purportedly stocks them. I could envision future platoons equipped with such, as part of their lo-tech arsenal. Think of possibilities..

  64. JMG,
    Add my hope that Sara makes a complete recovery.
    If there is another Providence potluck this Summer, may both of you be able to attend.

  65. Expensive armies are an age-old problem. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in his poem, “Arithmetic on the Frontier”,

    “Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail…

    The ‘captives of our bow and spear’
    Are cheap, alas! As we are dear.”

  66. I haven’t read all the comments yet, so maybe someone already asked this, but what about stabilized hunting slingshots with homemade explosive rounds? One would not do much, but if all the little old ladies & kids in a neighborhood had them, we could certainly harry any strangers in the neighborhood. During urban combat. I know people make custom fireworks in their garages, why not marble-sized explosive or incendiary slingshot pellets?

  67. Thanks for the laugh Bruce. To go on a bit of a tangent off this comment though.
    What about the the softening of concrete gender roles we have seen in North America. What happens if this deconstrucrion survives the second religiosity? If Abrahamic gender categories are reinforced, the concept could very well be thrown out again anyway by the time we get 400 years deeper into the Aquarian age. So What will be the role of female fighters in future? Women can certainly handle rifles. Also i think there is evidence females make excellent snipers. If the future is gender fluid, and firearms are in service, the potential for more women being involved in fighting might be more of a coin toss than an absurdity.

  68. Hello JMG,
    Thank you for the post – thought-provoking as usual. I don’t have much to contribute to the topic of warfare. However, one of your comments made me jump in my chair – I would spill my coffee if I had one: “the internet is already beginning to unravel — the steady crapification of internet services is the canary in the mine here. I expect internet service in rural areas to start breaking down in the years immediately ahead, and over the next fifty years or so.” Rural? 50 years from now? How about right now in Silicon Valley? That’s where I am. I work in healthcare. 20 years ago I used to come in the morning, look at my schedule on a blackboard, and get to work. Now I have to make 23 clicks just to print out the list of my patients. The internet disconnects constantly and I get the message, “Your internet connection is being disrupted”. I get thrown out of the system and have to do the 23 clicks again (and they are SLOW) to get back to where I was. It’s a very special kind of torture and there is much less time for the patients than it was 20 years ago.
    Best wishes to your wife – may she recover fully and be restored to health!

  69. Well, this reminds me of a book: “The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia” is a book-length anthropological and historical study of the Zomia highlands of Southeast Asia written by James C. Scott published in 2009 Wherein people in the Naga Mountains make their muzzleloading muskets and gunpowder. The way of life has a longer tradition than black powder though. Goes back to the beginning of lowland rice farming. Cycles through time and kingdoms and escape from the worst of the kingdoms.

    It’s not the firearms technology that is crucial though. It’s root crops that don’t need to be harvested every year. They abandoned books and writing and carry their culture within. Fundamentally, they reject hierarchy and government.

  70. Mother B, as you see, it came through just fine. For some reason the preview function shows no paragraph breaks on some browsers.

    Polecat, given access to natural rubber — and the northward shift of climate bands makes that very likely — fancy slingshots may well be a significant weapon in the future. I imagine a regiment of grenadiers using some such device to fling grenades at their enemies.

    John, thank you.

    Kfish, it’s something that’s afflicted every empire in history, especially in its latter years.

    Pat, it’s certainly possible.

    Ian, it’s a matter of simple demographics: young men are expendable. If half of them die, the other half can still father the next generation. If half the women die, your next generation is half the size of the previous generation. That’s why in warrior societies, women tend to be trained to defend the homestead/village/fortress while men form the expeditionary force. The women of the samurai class in Japan are a good example:

    The naginata, which is what these two ladies are practicing with, is a fearsome weapon but it’s cumbersome to carry on the march. For defending a fixed location, though, it’s superb.

    A Reader, nope. They’ll have their choice of weapons; dark age societies tend to be good at that.

    Kirsten, good heavens. I didn’t realize it was that bad where you are — here in urban Rhode Island, I still have decent service for a not especially exorbitant fee. Thank you, btw.

    Mark, it’s a fine book! Some distant descendant of Scott may just write a similar book in the year 3000 or so about the Aplash Mountains, or whatever Appalachia is called then; given climate change, some of those root crops might be very well suited to the mountains in question…

  71. Mary at #57 asks about waterwheels. As JMG noted, they were a big part of the first industrial revolution – all the way back to the middle ages! In fact, I thought of them as I read the comments about the Romans and the steam engine. One of the reasons they never did anything with their toy was that for a steam engine to be useful, you need a boiler. Clay or wood won’t do, you need something that can withstand high temperatures and pressures – steel! And more than horseshoes or spearheads, but great sheets of the stuff. This was actually produced in the late middle ages by water wheel-powered mills smashing it – they used it to make plate armour – all of this some 1,700 years after the Romans played with steam engine toys.

    And when you look into it, that’s often the way with many inventions. Something is just a toy or interesting discovery, until decades or centuries later someone thinks to combine it with something else – and voila, we have something useful. I have absolutely no doubt that there is some innocuous thing floating around today which we think nothing of, and which can be made in someone’s home workshop, which will in coming decades or centuries be combined with something else and prove to be useful. That’s not a belief in endless technological progress, since over that same time period we are going to lose a lot, lot more than we gain.

    If this topic interests you, you’ll enjoy the book Medieval Machine: the Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages, by Jean Gimpel. I’m trying to get out of the habit of linking people to online booksellers, instead encouraging them to look locally, first at their library and then their local booksellers and printers. So here’s a review site.

  72. JMG,

    Not only are demographics and issue for force size and projection its an issue of skill sets.

    The largest cohort of aircraft mechanics (the boomers) is well over 60, and the young men (which are fewer in number) are spread thin in the labor market not concentrated in blue collar work.

  73. @Ôl-ffitio Rhydlyd #48, @Robert Mathiesen #51, and @Sam Salzman #68 re: Hand-Tooled Weapons

    Thanks for these data points, that gives me quite a bit to go on! I had also wondered about the viability of brass cartridges in quantities to matter once industrial-era ones have been reloaded for the last time, but it sounds like there might be an ability to make that happen with deindustrial tech.


  74. JMG, if naval power will soon be an impossibility, one probable outcome is the re-separation of the Americas from the Eurasian continent. If the Atlantic becomes once again a no-go zone…well, then intercontinental trade will be toast.

    Oh, and my best wishes for your wife! I’ll pray she recovers well and soon.

  75. @Daniel #70 re: De-Industrial Wargames

    Agreed! I haven’t had a chance to play a game yet, but a few months ago, I discovered a game called Pub Battles, which is so named because it’s made to be playable on a bar table in an hour or two. For the “board” you have a period-appropriate map (either paper or canvas, depending on what you want to pay), and for pieces, you have blocks of wood about 1/4″ in cross section and about 1″ wide to represent ranks of units. It handles fog of war and initiative in what look like pretty clever ways, and puts more emphasis on the players’s strategic and decision-making skills than on nitty-gritty distinctions between units and equipment. So far, it’s mostly used for the muzzle-loading era (Napoleonic and Civil War, mainly), but they are playtesting a WWII scenario for the Battle of the Bulge. Between these, I suspect it’d be pretty easy to put together a de-industrial battle along the lines spelled out in this post and the comments.


  76. @Jeff, JMG,
    I think the conclusion that railroads and armored ships will disappear after the depletion of coal is overblown. People were making steel with charcoal (rather than coke) for hundreds of years before the industrial revolution, and when coke finally replaced charcoal in most steel mills (the last US charcoal foundry didn’t close until 1945!) it was primarily for economic reasons (coal was cheap) not because charcoal presented big technical hurdles.

    Even today there is a thriving industry in Brazil of growing eucalyptus to make charcoal for steelmaking, as described in this report:

    The plantations in just the state of Minas Gerais send about 3.4 million cubic meters of wood each year to the steel mills, which (at a one-cord-of-wood to one-half-ton-of-charcoal rate) gives you 470,000 tons of charcoal, which can make about the same amount of steel. So, given the obvious advantages of railroads and ironclad ships, I expect that most mature ecotechnic societies will have these things.

  77. How do you see crossbows fitting into this? In many ways they were the firearms revolution before firearms – easy to use, reloaded about as fast as early guns and could penetrate armor about as well. They are also quiet and smokeless – something that might be relevant when smokeless powder becomes too expensive and black powder starts being used again.

  78. @Ian #78: “Abrahamic gender roles” is a very strange thing to say. Married women were curtailed at home in the city that takes its name from the goddess Athena, when they weren’t in Jerusalem. Female feet were bound in China, and widows were incinerated in India, when neither act was allowed in monotheistic religions.

    To say this more clearly, and also in response to Bruce’s comment above: traditional gender roles regarding war had to do with the hard realities of high childbed mortality and the upper-body strength necessary to wield spears and swords. If notions of hygiene can maintain lower childbed mortality than in preindustrial times, and if firearms stay in use, then women may well participate in war. If not, not (or very rarely).

  79. JMG,
    It is very infrequent that I ever get the urge to correct or add important details to your well considered words.

    Just to say that 2, 2 $million missiles are launched for every 2 $thousand drone. Interception is difficult at best and so doctrine dictates 2 interceptors are used for every incoming threat. The equation is more lopsided than your writing suggests.

    Otherwise, brilliant as always! Thank you for giving this important topic your consideration.

  80. I’m not prone to argue, but I have a couple of experiential and research comments to add. To be sure, my thoughts are definitely influenced by ten years in uniform and a lifetime of horse experience.

    (1) The Pakistanis have been building AK and Glock clones in reasonably primitive workshops for several decades. In fact, in the early days of Iraq, Blackwater was actually issuing locally procured Glock 19 clones to contractors working on DoS contracts even. It doesn’t actually require industrial level production to produce a reasonably effective modern semi-auto or auto firearm. After all, the 1911 was developed in the first decade of the last century, and it was based on several older models of autoloading pistol.

    (2) Assuming the ability to manufacture some semblance of synthetic/non-metallic body armor rifle plates, body armor probably isn’t going anywhere for decades, of not centuries. The benefits, when incorporated correctly into doctrine, are just too great. The early GWOT issues with the IPTV being too bulky and too heavy have largely been remedied for at least 15+ years with plate carriers and stand-alone plates. I’m not up on the manufacturing processes, but there’s a lot of research out there and experimentation going on with people home manufacturing rifle plates on the cheap, that seem to be effective.

    (3) Modern repeating firearms didn’t lead to the demise of horse cavalry, contrary to common mythology. In the Boer War, the British utilized boot-to-boot mass charges on horseback on several occasions, with success, against Maxim machine guns and modern repeating Mausers, wielded by some of the finest riflemen in the world at the time.

    In one instance that remains at the forefront of my mind, on the march to relieve Mafeking, a brigade of cavalry charged across a quarter (or half?) Mile into Boer trenches. They routed the Boers and didn’t lose a single man or horse until AFTER the Boers were routed and on the run, and most of those were due to exhaustion rather than enemy fires. The expeditionary nature of western warfare had more to do with the demise of cavalry (couple of course with the internal combustion engine and all terrain/4WD vehicles). You simply cannot ship enough horses across oceans, to mount a brigade, let alone a division, or an army, and have them arrive fit to march and fight, and buying horses on the local economy doesn’t work because of cost and training issues.

    There is a reason the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare School at Bridgeport went from one relatively unknown animal packing course to doing multiple rotations of that class annually, plus adding a SOF Advanced Horsemanship course over a decade ago. One thing Afghanistan taught….at least the SOF forces of the US military….was that equines definitely have a place in modern warfare. I would argue that small local forces such as described are far more likely to be mounted than not….much like the 1860s example cited.

    A mounted rider charging at you, even across a plain, is actually no larger a target than a man afoot charging at you….it just closes the distance a LOT faster. More important (remember, through most of US horse mounted cavalry existence, the cavalry fought as Dragoons rather than traditional cavalry, even though trained to do either), a horse can deliver a fighter to the fight at the same speed a man afoot can travel (an average of 4mph over the long haul), but with the rider much more fit to fight on arrival, and a pack horse can carry 4-6x what an individual man can carry in terms of equipment.
    (4) The drone thing is, I suspect, highly overestimated. They’re certainly having an impact in Ukraine on both sides, but people seem to forget that (a) the Ukrainian army has been trained by NATO for a decade now, and nobody in NATO or Russia has fought a near peer competitor in 70 years. Nobody in the West (incl Russia, though they’re hardly “Western”–or “Asiatic” for that matter) has dealt with an aerial threat since WW2. It’s not that “we” don’t know how to counter aerial threats. It’s just that nobody has bothered looking back at the WW2 doctrine to begin refiguring it out. I suspect the drone issue is an arms race that’s going to reach a stalemate in a hurry.

  81. Regarding microelectronics… the economics is indeed very fragile. There are enormous fixed expenses that are amortized because of the huge volume. The system has thrived on the self-amplifying feedback loop: the cheaper the chips, the more the technology can be pushed to make fancier chips; the more new chips can be pumped out, the higher the sales volume; the higher the sales volume, the lower the unit price.

    But once the corner is turned, the feedback loop accelerates in the opposite direction: lower volumes cause increased prices which drive volumes down even further; decreased revenue stunts technological advances, which pushes volume down even more.

    The thing with these multi-billion dollar chip fabs: things are always going awry. Keeping the thing running, keeping the yield up at a manageable level, requires constant tinkering. There is an awful lot of fancy equipment and highly specialized expertise required to diagnose problems and bring the system back in line.

  82. @Ian #78, I figure it would be easier to keep those spotter planes in the air if the pilots weighed closer to 100 pounds than to 180. I suppose it’s not safe to assume everyone in active service in future armies will be full-grown fully-nourished adults, but if they are, it’s clear which sex will have the advantage in the ultralight Air Force.

  83. Am I the only person who thinks that human animals can provide much of the guano needed to make gunpowder? We’re big, so we make lots of humanure, and we have to keep it from contaminating our water sources if we want to avoid many nasty water-borne diseases. If it were me in our Dark Age future looking to both fertilize the fields and make gunpowder for homegrown defense, I’d figure out the easiest way to separate human pee from poo, use the former on the fields, and the latter to make gunpowder. It wouldn’t be difficult in principle; train people to pee into a bottle or bucket and poop in a latrine, collecting each one on whatever schedule makes sense for the purpose. Joseph Jenkins in The Humanure Handbook suggested the idea of collecting humanure on a weekly basis in 1999, but he didn’t separate pee from poo. Since I have used pee to fertilize my own backyard garden successfully (, I think it makes more sense to separate the two and use them as I have suggested.

    JMG, thanks for a post that is so sensible and well-written that even a war-phobe like me found it valuable.

  84. Thank you for this. For some reason, the simplification of warfare was exactly what I needed to hear to cheer me up, even though there’s every chance in future lives I could wind up in one of those armies.

    I am wondering about future sources of iron etc, because I still struggle to see how railways, etc can make a return. I suspect if they do they’ll need a particular reason, just maintaining a network won’t do it. It’ll be short distances across natural barriers, like between two waterways, around a difficult naval chokepoint etc. As for the source of iron, it’d have to be bog iron – and that’s a lot of bog iron smithed by craftsmen – or perhaps wooden rails. If iron will be as scarce as I think it will be, I see it saved for essentials like boilers, and railways might be on wooden rails.

    Or they really aren’t needed at all, given how local trade becomes.

  85. “Nuclear weapons are delicate, brittle, fragile objects.”

    Yes they are. Many of them require tritium, and that has a 12 year half life. The tritium is a source for extra neutrons, but it decays to helium 3 which absorbs neutrons, exactly what you don’t want. So the warheads soak up a lot of maintenance.

    As for throwing nuclear fuel rods over the city walls. You could. Most of them are in dry cask storage. If the decline is controlled the cooling pools will be empty after three tears or so. After that the fuel rods are cool enough to put in dry casks.

  86. Oh, I should have added you can make steel without coke. The direct reduction process can take titomagnetic ironsand (and other types of beach or ocean sand), reduces them in a rotary kiln, along with coal (or another source of carbon) added, and then they can be fired in an electric arc furnace. Or any other source of heat.

    New Zealand, with no traditional iron ore sources, but extensive ironsands, has operated its one mill on this process for over fifty years, although it took decades of effort to get the process right prior to that. A scaled down version of that process could be useful for the future.

  87. Hey JMG

    I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting for this essay “for yonks”, such a fascinating subject to ponder. I’ve been having my own thoughts on the subject for awhile and I may as well share them now.

    As you have already written, rockets are going to be a likely long-distance weapon of the future, since I doubt amateur rocket enthusiasts are going to let their art fade and be forgotten. The techniques they have developed can create rockets for superior to the crude prototypes of the pre-industrial era. Something that occurred to me is that though the traditional mounted rocket will be used, there’s no reason that a simple RPG like device could not be developed, and also though it would be very expensive a deindustrialised army could still have some type of radio-guided missile that could be used sparingly in certain circumstances.

  88. JMG, rest assured that Sara is on my daily prayer list.

    Through most of my life, I was not particularly interested in current warfare, other than making note of the war crimes committed by the US military against civilians in various conflicts. However, ever since Russia’s special military operation started, I have paid great attention as I felt that it would be a good opportunity to see how two quasi-peers adapt to each other as well as to find out how far out-of-touch with reality the Western military-political machine has become. I certainly have not been disappointed in that regard…

    I’m not much of a military historian, either, but the strategies being used by Hamas and the Houthis against militarily superior powers reminds me a bit about a piece of Canadian history. As anyone who has even passing familiarity with Canadian history knows, the battle on the Plains of Abraham (which was actually just a field owned by a farmer named Abraham) in Québec City (in 1759) was a turning point in the balance of powers between the French and British in North America. From what I have read, before the battle the British were far from certain of victory. One of the keys to the British victory was the element of surprise – in particular, scaling the steep flinty cliffs that separate the elevated city from the banks of the St. Lawrence River. And the ‘secret weapon’ to accomplish this surprise was the newly recruited Scottish Highlanders. In the final entries of his journal, General Wolfe wrote admiringly of the Highlanders’ rare combination of self-discipline, daring, and an ability to work almost spontaneously in small groups. I sometimes wonder if these ‘savage’ people — hardened by a life in a rough and often violent society where every boy was expected to be competent in the use of a weapon from an early age, and accustomed to using guerilla tactics — helped to raise the fortunes of the British militarily during the latter half of the 18th century, considering that military service was one of the few means of avoiding starvation among the post-Jacobite Highlander families.

  89. GlassHammer, yes, that’s also an important factor.

    Bruno, thank you. I suspect that there will be some transatlantic travel, but it’ll be risky because of piracy, and high-volume trade? Almost certainly not.

    Sandwiches, I cited the coke simply because that’s the most obvious bottleneck. The extremely high fuel consumption needed to run the Bessemer process is another bottleneck — and there are others. That’s why, until coal was widely available, steel could only be made in very modest quantities.

    Justin, crossbows are quite a bit less effective than firearms; a good steel breastplate that will stop a crossbow bolt won’t usually stop a bullet. Thus I see them as a niche market at best.

    Donkey, so noted!

    Horseman, interesting. I note, however, that pitched battles in the Revolutionary War and Civil War rarely had cavalry as a central combat arm. It was invaluable for scouting, raiding, and a range of other uses — Col. Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry raid down the Mississippi valley, which caused so much disruption to the Confederate forces and helped Grant get across the river at Vicksburg, is a great example. — but massed cavalry charges against infantry backed by artillery didn’t happen much. I recall one such charge in the Crimean War, but the charge of the Light Brigade wasn’t exactly a success…

    Jim, thanks for this. Yes, those were the kinds of things I have in mind.

    Saintswitness, funny.

    SLClaire, you’re welcome and thank you. Yes, that would be a real possibility; old-fashioned nitraries (factories for making saltpeter) used all sorts of manure for raw material.

    Peter, I expect railroads to play a role during the salvage era, but once that winds down canals are a much better investment.

    Siliconguy, fair enough!

    Peter, of course you can. People have been making steel using charcoal and iron sand for more than a millennium — the Japanese process for tamahagane (sword steel) is very well documented, and that’s what it uses. It’s purely a matter of the quantities in which you can make it.

    J.L.Mc12, Clay Dennis at #52 pointed out that Hamas has gotten very good at making cheap RPGs out of pipe and explosive, so you’ll likely be correct there. I’m less sure about radio-guided missiles, as that requires quite a bit of technical expertise. But it’s possible.

    Ron, thank you. As for the Highlanders, yes, very much so — there’s a good reason why Highland regiments were central to most British victories for two centuries after Culloden.

    Llewellyn, it is indeed.

  90. JMG,
    I will add my best wishes for Sara.
    On ammunition. My ex was raised in Yuma, Arizona. His father had tales of the Old West and of hunting as a young man. Said his dad would give him a couple of shells and send him out for deer. Return with one deer, “where’s the other shell?” My ex thought the least realistic bits of Western films and tv shows was scenes of ranch hands riding into town shooting off their pistols on their way to the saloon. He pointed out that few would be so stupid as to blow off several days’ pay in ammo just for the heck of it.

    I agree about the shoddy nature of current textiles. Shoddy workmanship as well; facings not tacked down, raw edges exposed, erratic sizing, etc. But it is no longer really economical to sew one’s own or family clothing–the cost of yardage is such that a homemade blouse, including purchase of pattern, thread, buttons or zippers, etc. will cost more that store bought. And that is without putting value on one’s time. This, of course, will change when shipping costs make imports less competitive.

    On women in battle. If modern medicine breaks down, as it probably will in embattled areas, it will be even more important to keep women of childbearing age safe as there will be a higher infant and maternal mortality rate. We tend to forget that birth is the most dangerous period of life for both infant and mother. Infant only goes through it once, but women usually several times in their lifetime.

    I recently read Thomas Sowell’s _Conquest and Civilization_. He points out that conquest by less civilized groups, i.e. Roman territories by Germans, leads to generations long decline in living standards because of loss of knowledge and technology. OTH conquest by a more civilized group, even if conquest is cruel and exploitative, can lead to improved living standards–especially if new rulers suppress intertribal warfare, feuds, banditry, etc., stabilize property rights and enable trade. A graphic example of this is a tour of Acoma Pueblo, the oldest continually inhabited place in N. America. The Acoma guide points out the change in building materials. Small rocks when they were carried up steep trails by the people. Larger stones after the Spanish brought in horses and mules, Concrete blocks now that there is a road and pickup trucks.
    Not much hope for Europe and US, unless those friendly advanced aliens of Science Fiction fantasy show up.


  91. I am glad to see The Art of Not Being Governed by James Scott added to the conversation. Some may find that book more generally interesting for its detailed description of how societies in the hills (or other hinterlands) kept themselves out of the claws of more powerful civilizations and their hunger for slaves and serfs. It wasn’t just weaponry or even primarily weaponry but a full array of techniques for keeping their societies resilient and hard to govern from the outside. They also had an interesting technique for would-be dictators who arose in their own midst. They killed them.
    It is one thing to be able to conquer a society. It is another to be able to hold it and extract wealth from it for less than the expense of holding it down. (Afghanistan in recent centuries, Germania (in contrast with Gaul) during the Roman Empire, Tibet until after WW2)
    Of course, if those receiving the extracted wealth are different from those bearing the costs of holding down the conquered in order to extract it, a civilization can go a while with non-profitable imperialism. In this case, the real cost to the civilization is often paid in the coin of social problems at home.
    Perhaps a good subject for a future fifth Wednesday (next one is May) would be what we gain/recover thanks to the decline of civilization. I don’t mean to go all hobbit romantic and this is covered here and there on this blog and implied by much that we talk about. However, it is easy to focus on what will be lost, so one week focused on the benefits of this phase might be good for many of us. I would enjoy it for sure.

  92. Hi JMG,
    Something I’ve been musing on given the lack of vast quantities of steel in the future. Will bicycle infantry be a possibility? For those who don’t know, the idea is similar to that of mounted infantry. Wherein the soldiers ride horses to the edge of the battle area and then dismount to fight on foot, rather than get cut down in calvary charges. Bicycle infantry works the same way but with bicycles instead of horses. Bikes, even off road capable ones take a lot less steel to make than a warship or railways but I’m not sure if the precision gearing would be beyond the reach of a dark age civilization.


  93. Great essay! Was it true that military age Roman men took to cutting off various appendages (toes? hands?) in order to avoid service? Why? This seems either stupid or desperate — wouldn’t it make more sense to quietly go AWOL on the frontier/borderland with nobody the wiser? Any insights you can provide would be deeply appreciated.

  94. Regarding steel, the Chinese produced artisan steel in backyard furnaces during the Great Leap Forward in the early 1960s. Most of it was apparently unusable rubbish because the peasants didn’t know what they were doing, and the mountains were so denuded of forests to make charcoal that flooding resulted, a contributor to the famine that cost millions of lives.

    Although decent steel can be made by melting existing scrap, it needs a knowledgeable person to supervise. Steel quality is very sensitive to the precise mix of ingredients. Incidentally, although the traditional Japanese katana swords are justly admired, someone commented that any supermarket knife today is made of better steel, simply because we know so much more about steel. For economic reasons there has been an enormous amount of research into steel.

    Although you could produce good steel from scrap in a deindustrial world, making usable products like rails and I-beams is a different matter. You have to run red-hot ingots repeatedly between rollers to squeeze them into shape, and the rolling mills consume enormous amounts of power, not to mention needing huge machines and skilled operators.

  95. Greetings all
    (1) Best wishes to Mrs Sarah Greer and to people on Quinn’s list for prompt and full recoveries.

    (2) Fascinating essay into probable warfare futures. As some people may recall, I live in a far away land called Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean. The French and the British fought a lot over this island during the late 18th and early 19th century as it was a gateway to India then. I have been thinking for some years about defense of Mauritius once peak oil and resource depletion would be well under way. The rise of piracy is unavoidable, it was prevalent during and before the 18th century until the British quelled it during the 19th century. I would not be surprised if Mauritius becomes once more either a prey to pirates or become a base of piracy itself. We have no source of any metals here, so we’ll rely either on salvage or piracy to get those. However for gunpowder, it might interest some of our readers that the French built here in 1774 one of their largest gun powder mills outside of France. It operated till 1810 when the British invaded the place. Some info on this here:
    Local historians I consulted do not seem to know how the French got the saltpeter and sulfur needed for manufacture of gunpowder here. Wood was probably the main source of the carbon required however. My guess is that if the French managed it in the 18th century, we could do so too in the coming decades and for centuries ahead!

    (3) I wonder sometimes whether wooden catapults with explosive warheads or Napoleonic era artillery and fire arms might just do the trick and scare away pirates and other potential invaders .


  96. Most-enterprising and perceptive Archdruid, your mention of ultralight aircraft in future confrontations caught my particular attention, as I have worked in that field of aviation in the past. Even flew some TV stunts; for vid-heads, see links at end.

    I’m only partially convinced that fixed-wing piloted ultralights will be useful in any form of warfare. For “eye in the sky” reconnaisance, quad copters with cameras and waypoint navigation capabilities seem REALLY good, and have several advantages: smaller, lower cost, more expendable. Need more range? Go fixed wing and scale up size to suit. This is being done now!

    Speaking of nowadays, ultralight aircraft WERE used in the October 7th attacks on Israel, specifically powered paragliders (paramotors.) Those are especially suited, due to storage compactness, ease of flight, ease of manufacture, and low radar cross-section. Turns out Lebanon, Egypt, and the USA have all used paramotors in military maneuvers & operations. So I’d vote for paramotors as being the most-likely future military human-carrying ultralights. More info, including mention of military usage, at:

    Iran has a LOT of drone variations! Wikipedia has a list of many of them (nearly 40 in the list!):

    Some drones Iran is producing are more in the size and capability category of General Atomics’ drones (Predator and so forth) the USA has been using to shoot missiles at insurgents/wedding parties, but lower cost, less bloated, and lower (but still quite adequate) comm range.

    The navigation of, and communication to/from, drones is problematic. Many of them depend on one or more of the (jammable) sat-nav constellations like GPS or GLONASS. No idea how long those constellations will be operational; deindustrialization would seem likely to have space flight as an early casualty. You could navigate as post-WWII military aircraft navigated, with gyros and radio beacons, I suppose, and use shortwave for comms.

    All my best to Sara for her recovery and return to full health!

    The mentioned ultralight videos : (with machine guns! (Uzi & Mac-10) (start at 21:16 and go to 25:33.)

  97. To be fair, it’s i.portant to remember that, until the start of the war, the US Army only had two mounted brigades, both Dragoons. While the Confederacy had a large gentleman farmer/planter population of accomplished horsemen who regularly rode to the hounds, the North did not share the same demographic, and it took until about ’63 for the Union to gain some parity of mounted units with the Confederacy, and even then, they mostly fought as Dragoons…i.e. the horse was commuter car to the fight. This was despite attempts by some in the cavalry to emphasize training newly minted cavalrymen along European lines, for the mounted charge. The terrain of the Southeast over which most of the war was fought simply didn’t suffice for the mass boot to boot charge….on the contrary, the veldt did, apparently, despite the superiority of the Mauser over anything either side had in the ACW.

    By the time the Cavalry was fighting in some degree of earnest in the Western US, the doctrine of Dragoons was pretty well established, and even then the vast majority of recruits for the cavalry had never sat a horse before the left Jefferson Barracks or other recruit depots. As the Confederacy recognized (as I recall RE Lee actually commented on it once), the type of horsemanship it takes to be a REALLY good cavalryman, as opposed to a dragoon, require being raised in the saddle (my kids will be much greater horsemen than I will ever achieve, despite my having been riding for 30 years now, since I started at 19, and they started before grade school! And I’m pretty good myself!).

    The charge of the Light Brigade is a poor example. Between the idiocy of Cardigan and Raglan and Nolan’s terrible performance as a courier (despite his contribution to equestrianism by introducing Baucher’s methods to the English and American militaries!), it was a charge that never should have happened. Nolan–the first casualty of the charge no less–was so glory hungry that he’d have convinced them to charge Hell horseback with a pail of water instead of sabers, given the option. He wasn’t even supposed to join the charge, but return for more dispatches.

    Again, recognizing my own biases, I’d argue that horses are inline for a large return to post-industrial warfare. I don’t disagree with you that it’ll be a few centuries before the mass charge probably makes a comeback, but for raiding parties and alpine (or desert) regions, as transport if nothing else (the dragoon model) the advantages simply can’t be overlooked by a conscientious commander.

    In order for that to happen though, there would have to be a steep departure from the traditional US cavalry doctrine of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as modern recreational horse ownership, especially in reference to the care of the horse, with the emphasis on iron shoes (Whomever wrote “for want of a nail, the kingdom was lost” never knew of Genghis and his horses, apparently….) and grain as a staple in the equine diet, to the idea of blanketing and stabling in inclement weather (they’re steppe animals, for crying out loud!!!!), while I’m not suggesting abusing the animals, most modern horse owners’ “care” and the traditional 19th US cavalry approach to “care” was arguably abusive in it’s own way to the physiology of the horse.

    (Interesting side note…it was well recognized in the Indian Wars cavalry that a grain fed cavalry horse would catch a grass fed indian pony…if it managed it
    Inside the first quarter mile. If not, the cavalry horse would be wind blown and heaving while the Indian pony kept going and going and going.)

  98. @JMG,

    About population contraction: on this side of the pond, demographics has been front and center of the political debate for decades (since the 1970s at least; in France, since the early 1900s). And while maybe you do not read about it in the US media, your business and political leaders will have thought through the implications for the US a long time ago. Your demographics is still relatively healthy, but the writing is on the wall.

    In the medium term, the problem for Europe is that the old need to be taken care of: according to Dutch official statistics, healthcare will employ 1/3rd of the workforce by 2050, which is not very far in the future. I do not really see a way to make that work.

    More immediately, we have huge labour shortages everywhere: there are not enough teachers, policemen, judges, nurses, doctors, construction workers, plumbers, waiters, artisans of all kinds, child minders, factory workers, soldiers, farmers, engineers, technicians, bus drivers. In the Netherlands, there is even a shortage of paper boys, so teenagers get a 1000 EUR starting bonus to deliver newspapers. With the workforce spread out so thinly, only minor accidents need to happen for the whole of society to crumble (e.g. not enough technicians to maintain the power network and we are toast).

    I agree that armies will shift from large, bureaucratic, specialized organizations to small bands of generalists. In a way, European politicians that call for less reliance on NATO mean exactly a reduction in the complexity of our armies. But in Europe, such generalists will not be our descendants: they will come from Africa and the Middle East. “Traditional” Europeans are dying out.

  99. Sam Salzman #66 wrote:
    “in general the kind of guns people use (assuming trade routes are viable for the saltpetre and sulphur necessary to make gunpowder in large quantities – if it isn’t then it’s back to clubs, swords and poleaxes) would surely be at best of the kind used in the US Civil War: muzzle-loaders with the powder and ball contained in a cartridge.”
    I agree, but don’t forget adding to these guns a very useful tool (err. I mean “weapon”) in troubled times to gather a lot of ammonition…a bayonet.

  100. (Apologies for pedantry)

    As you note, the Roman army defeated at Adrianople were the Eastern Romans, based out of Constantinople. But the Eastern Roman Empire endured for another full millennium after the battle – it was noted for its bureaucracy, yes, but also for its uncanny ability to survive. The Western Empire, presided over by the teenage muppet Gratian, was the part that collapsed. So why did the East survive when the West collapsed? Countless historians have offered ideas, but it wasn’t mere bureaucracy.

    The elaborate Roman bureaucracy was put in place by Diocletian at the end of the third century, to make sure that the Romans could properly fund their defence. Without it? Well, see the entire middle of the Third Century.

  101. @Bruce Turton #65: check out the sagas and the Eddas, and Roman authors like Tacitus, and then move on to medieval literature and records. Women had a very strong place in Icelandic society, for example, and according to a visiting professor from Iceland, did not fight, but were also immune from the violence of the many feuds. They had more rights in those days than in the “enlightened” 18th and “modern” 19th centuries. Now, medieval literature is full of “women should…..” and “…but, they don’t.” Mama was in charge of the cook-pot, and there’s considerable evidence that the old hillbilly saying “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” was in full play. Check out records of the village Manor Courts. Of course, they had a lot of steady hard work in their lives, plus child-bearing, and working in the fields, and yes, wife-beating was acceptable in the Middle Ages. It all depended on which tribe or culture, too: my studies were all about the northern barbarians. Also, check out the laws of pre-Christian Ireland.
    In the northern Germanic cultures, women – daughters – of the nobility were sent to diplomatic marriages as “peace-weavers” – essentially, as their family’s ambassadors. This often put them in no-win situations, but it was far from the stereotype mentioned

  102. Dear JMG:

    First, my thoughts, prayers, and wishes for a speedy and complete recovery for Sara!

    Overall, I think the powers that be will retain as much technology as they can for military uses for as long as they can. I would guess the idea of the expensive, complex weapon system that can’t be built in large numbers will go away (think Sherman tank versus M-1 Abrahams).

    My suspicion is that at the patterns and of deindustrial warfare will also start to show regional divergences fairly quickly, based on terrain, population talents/constraints, local threats, etc.. For instance, cavalry in the Russo-Polish War of 1919-1920 was extremely important; the Soviets had an entire cavalry army (the Konarmiya). Cavalry charges, use as dragoons, mounted infantry, scouting, outflanking static positions, everything. I’d also bet that while railroads are an option, the rebirth of the armored train could be a thing. And as an editorial note, if the Israeli Army is relearning that unsupported armor in city fighting is a losing proposition, wow! Armor unsupported by infantry was bad idea in World War I!

    Regarding firearms and industrialization, the concept of interchangeable parts came from the Springfield Armory in the early-mid 19th C. Brass cartridges were standard by the 1880s. The Prussian needle gun, a rifled breach loader introduced for service use around 1848, used a paper cartridge initially, as did the slightly later French Chassepot..

    For wargaming deindustrial wars, there are plenty of old hex-based wargames or miniatures rules that could be adopted. I would guess Nineteenth C through the Interwar period would work. Obviously, things will change over time. Chinese-style warlordism? I agree with Daniel, #70 “Having a nice accompanying story” would be a great idea.

    I’ve got to get to work, but I’d like to point out a final point that disturbs me.

    Spare a thought for the poor dragoon! Hundreds of years of social climbing from a dirty arquebusier on a cheap nag, through being used to convince French Protestants of the error of their ways (the dragonnades), until at last they finally rank with the regiments of horse, cuirassiers, horse guards, etc. (or at least just behind them in precedence)! Only to start sliding back down the social scale as deindustrialization progresses!

    To quote the last words of Kurtz (in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness): “The horror! The horror!”


  103. I don’t have much to add to the discussion. But it occurred tom e, when reading the news about the conflicts of the last wo years, that tanks may be in the process of becoming obsoltet, if they haven’t already become so. It is, as usual, a matter of becoming able to neutralize their advantages in battles, additionally, design flaws of tanks of Western militaries are a further factor, like the fact, that there are Western tanks, which were sent to Ukraine, where the ventilation is near the bottom of the tank, so that the street dirt and the mud of the mud season gets blown into the tank.

  104. @Sam #66 & @Siliconguy #99, the problem with chucking fuel rods at siege armies is much the same problem as with neutron bombs. They may be, for the most part, lethal over several days, but they don’t stop the immediate attack. Worse yet, when the attackers find that they’ve been poisoned and are doomed to die a horrible death in the near future, yet feel mostly OK for the moment, their best course of action is to go full-on berserker. Far better to get revenge and die quickly in battle than to die of radiation poisoning in a few days.

    Ugh, any sort of radiation-based weapon, whether radiological or direct radiation, is just a bad, bad idea for all sides. In comparison, they make poison gas seem clean.

  105. @John, I wish Sara a full recovery and good health. She has been in my prayers.

    @Mary, I posted a reply over on the Frugal Fridays thread.

    @Pat #77: I also think slingshots are a good option for those of us who may not be into firearms, but want to have something, just in case.

    @Mark Grable: Thanks for mentioning that book. It sounds very interesting. The library where I work doesn’t have that specific title, but we have seven other books by him that all look interesting such as The Moral Economy of the Peasant and Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance

    With regards to gender roles in battle, shield maidens, anyone? Amazons? Female gang bangers? I guess these are exceptions to the rule, due to what JMG said above about women mostly being trained to defend the home & not go out on expeditions.

    On the other hand I’m sure women will continue to play a role in spy craft. Maybe with a stealth slingshot and squirt gun of homemade pepper spray for defense.

  106. Some parallel questions regarding this topic could be asked:

    What does the future of diplomacy look like? What roll will peaceniks play in deindustrial times?
    Will conscientious objectors be forced to conscript? What happens to Amish, Quakers and people of other faiths who have moral objections to killing and war when they refuse a draft?

    I’ve long been inspired by people like Peace Pilgrim who devoted her life to walking and praying for peace, even if at the same time, I can hold in my mind the idea that war is a part of our human experience, part of the human condition.

  107. This is slightly but not completely off topic as it encompasses modern worldviews attempting to interpret past ones.

    In your response to Allie001 you mention the sacred band of homosexual warriors and the concept comes across as a woke movie idea.

    I came across a video recently that attempted to debunk the view of Greece as uber gay calling it a modern western projection. The video’s author specifically leans on a scholarly book reviewing pottery art that pushes the premise that the bulk of ancient Greek pottery art depicted homosexual themes. The book is largely unread but widely sited as with most scholarly output. When someone bothered to read it they found that the author stretched the truth beyond breaking point relying on “implied homoeroticism” rather than any actual depictions it.

    Along with documented cases of people being charged with sodomy and a robust penal code for such acts the author made a good case for the tired trope of gay Greeks being one of modern manufacture.

    Where did this view originate? If this is too far off topic I’ll stow it away for a monthly AMA.

    Thansk for creating such a thriving community for thinking folks! There are fewer and fewer available.

  108. @JMG
    Thanks for your response and picture! My son informed me he thinks that naginata would be useful in bottlenecks which supports the idea of defending a fortress, defending a gate breach scenario. Your explanation of women’s role in fight referencing population demographics makes sense. So that leads me to Siliconguy #97 comment. Thank you for taking the time to provide the link to evidence Silicon. I was on a dinner break when writing the comment and had to return to work. I know the singer Kiesza was a sniper and have heard this fact repeated to me by friends. I do not have a military background so I wonder what the equivalent of a naginata would be in 400 years. A sniper rifle made by traditional blacksmithing would be bigger and heavier then an infantry rifle I think after doing some research online and blacksmithing a bit myself. I struggle just to make an socketed axe head at this point so I cannot even think to say I know anything about drawing out a sniper barrel. But would it be a better weapon to defend a homestead? I assume it would be if the homestead had fields around it, not dense forest, and the occupants knew raiders etc were coming.

    @Walt F; The idea of gliders in future is a very hopeful image for me. I guess in part that it provides an image of humans still having capacity for flight in the future. I would not be be able to fit in one myself currently. There does seem to be an ongoing debate online relating to whether males or females make better pilots; ranging from the differing responses to stress, to hormonal driven behavior in the pilot seat. An Indian pilot broke a world record flying an ultralight across the Atlantic to land in Nunavut in 2019…

    @Aldarion; I indicated several years back something similar, in referencing Greek culture at least, to a poster on an AODA forum. He noted to me that “Doing a search on Indigenous Gender roles, will show a rich legacy of gender fluidity, non binary, cisgender and non-cisgender acceptance, and of people moving between Western definitions of Gender and Sex in many non-Western nations prior to colonization and Christianization.” He also said Gender has only been a concrete idea and a binary until very recently in our human history – and is almost entirely a Western imposition. But that Wester lens has tried its best to be all encompassing.
    I tend to agree with this view and would again indicate an origin point for this type of thinking and that concretion of strict gender roles can be traced back to historical origins of Abrahamic religions to the Patriarchs in Judaism.
    That is more of an response than you deserve though. Please do not co-opt my comments moving forward. I appreciate feedback and criticism but maybe try harder next time to come up with your own response.

  109. I don’t suppose you see a role for pike and shot? Also, if you were ever to do a fiction contest again, an anthology of postindustrial warfare would be a lot of fun to read.

    Regarding the possible future social organization in places like Appalachia, if I may–

    A few years ago I attended a friend’s funeral in rural, Western PA. Geographically, the region is West Virginia. My friend’s father is a Charismatic preacher, and the church he leads is very well-attended. About half the congregation, I’d guess, are actually former Roman Catholics of the “white ethnic” variety; this is actually common among many formerly Catholic populations. In any case, as I observed the crowd– I’d never been to their church before, or seen them in action– it was very clear that the pracher, my friend’s dad, fulfilled exactly the role in the community that a “Big Man” does in a traditional tribe-level society in a place like New Guinea. The church effectively functions as a tribe, with members supporting each other in times of poverty. These are Charismatics, and so no strangers to working with magic and spiritual powers, even if they use other words for it. And the Big Man, the Preacher, leads precisely by the combination of charisma in both senses of the word: magical power and personal magnetism. To be sure, they all techncially participate in the larger American society, working jobs in coal mines are at Walmart. But they all have the resources to support themselves, should the need arise– there are cattle herds, farms, orchards, all the men and half the women hunt and fish. At one point I watched a girl bring a basket of apples from her tree to the preacher like a peasant bringing an offering to a king. It was very clear to me that these people only needed a very slight push, and they’d not be very different from bedouins or tribal villagers in the New Guinea Highlands.

    Last thing, I don’t want to email-bomb her, but if you wouldn’t mind, please send Sara my best wishes for her recovery; I’ll keep her in my prayers.

  110. JMG,

    In the short term, there is no amount of money, training, or resources that can replicate the skill sets developed over the long careers of the baby boomers. And as you know, many things can fall apart in the short term.

    This is even worse when you realize that On the Job Training (OJT) has been greatly diminished over the past few decades as companies and governments have largely preferred certifictaions instead. To say “the pass down of knowledge has been degraded” is a massive understatement. (Credentialing is just more capital intensive and time consuming vs. carving out part of the work day for a bit of OJT. Learn by doing is about as efficient as it gets which is why it’s been with us for a long time.)

  111. Oilman2,
    an emergency comment (if that’s allowed; I hope he sees this):
    If you’re experiencing neurological symptoms, and always depending on your enthusiasm/crop size, please read up on neurotoxins in pawpaw. Hope this helps.

  112. Mark Grable shared, “It’s not the firearms technology that is crucial though. It’s root crops that don’t need to be harvested every year.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I am hoping to start a perennial victory garden this year at the family cabin.

    Arrowhead—Sagittaria latifolia
    Egyptian Walking Onion—Allium x proliferum
    Skirret—Sium sisarum
    Sunchokes—Helianthus tuberosus
    Springbank Clover—Trifolium wormskioldii
    Achira—Canna discolor
    American Groundnut—Apios americana
    Chinese Artichoke—Stachys affinis
    Common Camas—Camassia quamash
    Oca—Oxalis tuberosa
    Pacific Waterleaf—Hydrophyllum tenuipes

  113. I see a lot of talk in the comments about brass shells– well, friends, just because our repeating rifles need cartridge shells doesn’t mean all repeating rifles need brass cartridges. Look back at the Kalthoff repeater from the 1600s. It had issues, sure and those made sure it did not catch on, but! If brass is a problem, it could very well be something not-unlike the Kalthoff could emerge that also automatically pours a charge of gunpowder behind a ball. It would be an interesting challenge to pose a modern gunsmith; I have no doubt if someone put forth a prize purse, however, a gunsmith would come forth to claim it.

    Could a semiautomatic rifle be made along the same lines? I don’t know. I am not a gunsmith. Even if not, Gatling Guns started out with paper cartridges, not brass. Even if paper is for some reason not good enough for semiautomatic weapons, maybe you skip the semiauto. An army with heavy machine guns and repeating rifles gets you to Boer-War level technology, which is a potent force. Depending on the economic and tactical calculus, it might be more than good enough to beat a force with equipped with semiautomatic weapons who have to obsessively police their brass due to cartridge hunger.

    As our fine host has said before, war is not just the continuation of politics by other means– it is also the continuation of economics. The future will be local as well, of course, so one might see either or both in different regions at different times as resource availability changes.

  114. What an interesting post about war.
    “Thus I imagine an army on the march somewhere in the Ohio valley in 2400 or so, a long column of infantry with little detachments of cavalry scouting ahead and on the flanks, using bulky but functional radios to keep in touch with their commanders, while a couple of ultralights circle overhead to scout at a greater distance. ”

    As an capable clairvoyant, I wonder if you have actually seen this in the “future”? As you know we are able to train our psychic vision to achieve multilevel consciousness. It is not quite a version of lucid dreaming, but there are established protocols for what some call “remote cross dimensional viewing”

    Your imagined future of 2400 sounds exciting to imagine for present day gamers around here who delight in Warhammer play.

  115. I’ll just leave this here.

    TL;DR – howitzers welded into pickup truck beds proved more effective than the standard mix of tanks and artillery. It seems you can win with fast maneuverable glass cannons, when played with some skill. And – they are dirt cheap to make and maintain.

    Also motorbikes are proving to be cheap and effective for “barbarian” type military units. They are popular in the middle east. Even plain old bicycles have had their dubious day in the overcast. See: Volksgrenadier

    My take on aircraft – you’ll see a lot more Texan type warplanes. They are cheap to make and cheap to maintain. And they’ll probably run on biodiesel. I don’t know if ultralights can loiter effectively, my guess is they can’t but nobody’s tried yet, so far as I know.

    I think you are right in the broad strokes – everything is going towards cheap, fast, expendable. Call it the Zerg Future.

  116. Just A Horseman, can cavalry horses subsist by grazing off the land, or must food be transported for them? Or stored in advance along the marching route, as Xerxes did in anticipation of his invasion of Greece?

  117. Also relevant to this discussion is the Federal Yugloslavian army of the late 20th century. having evolved from Tito’s partisan army of WWII they were an all infantry force. adept at hiding themselves in the terrain and moving about without being spotted from the air. Their main artillery was 12 man, 120mm mortar teams. The gun and ammo were moved on 4 handcarts. Once decorated with foliage they were practically impossible to spot from the air. Tactically their plan was to concentrate in a good firing position, shoot, scoot and scatter.

    It easy to imagine future armies exploiting the tactical possibilities of handcart artillery based on mortars and rockets. Handcarts are not only easier to conceal that horse artillery, they are much cheaper to create and run. Horses are expensive and will probably be reserved for elite scouting, raiding and dragoon units in post industrial wars, except in open country where Boer style horse armies may again reign supreme.

    Mules are a much cheaper than horses, tough, hardy and able to subsist on poor fodder. They will play an important role in the logistics of future armies.

    On the question of railways future viability in a post industrial world. It’s important to remember that railway technology proceeded the industrial revolution. Invented by German miners in what is now Austria in the 1400s. In the worst case post industrial scenario we are reduced to wooden wheels running on wooden rails, powered by humans, draught animals, gravity or hydro. But even this primitive railway technology offers massive mechanical advantage over road transport for moving freight. No matter what your motive power, it is more efficient on rails, even wooden rails, than it is on road. Future railways will be very different to modern ones but railways tech in some form is likely to still be around in some form.

    Also likely to play a major role in future logistics is the Chukudu, the wood bicycle of Africa

    A post industrial logistics system might involve, mule powered trains hauling supplies to a railhead, the supplies being transferred to a forward supply depot by Chukudu convoy, and brought on handcarts to the frontline. Protecting railways from cavalry raiders may be a headache for future generals.

    The one thing I think we can say for certain about post industrial war, is that it will be fought by much smaller armies than in the industrial age.

  118. JMG,

    Just a data point on internet service—we’re in rural Texas a couple miles outside the county seat, about halfway between Houston and Austin. We haven’t any home internet because all that’s available is spotty satellite internet which, when we tried it, worked maybe 70% of the time (and not at all when it rained). Even when it worked it was too slow to stream video, and it cost about triple the going rate in Austin. I didn’t want home wifi and was overruled by other household members, but prevailed in the end due to the sheer crumminess.

  119. Best wishes for Mrs. Greer’s full recovery.

    If I may, a bit OT, today’s essay at oftwominds should be read and pondered upon:

    Possibly Smith’s essay is not altogether OT as it suggests some of the difficulties of directing remaining resources where they need to go.

    I think what peaceniks will need to do during difficult time is make sure they have skill or skills which their communities need.

  120. For any of you who are interested in less-industrial gun-making, a visit to Springfield MA might be well worth your time. The Springfield Armory made guns from the time Washington was President until the 1960’s, and they have a lot of good displays of the technology in use at various times.

    On steel-making – this piece from Construction Physics on the development of the blast furnace was fascinating to me – I didn’t realize how old that technology was.

    On the Amish: the Amish and other Plain groups are just not resilient to armed attacks–I knew people who had attempted to start settlements in Guatemala and gave up in the face of persistent banditry. But they’ve historically been somewhat like monastic communities – they are enough of an asset to be worth protecting, and impartial enough that if the sides in a conflict are stable they are often left alone.

  121. @Martin Beck,
    thus far biological warfare has several achilles heels as a weapon of war.
    1) diseases tend not to discriminate as to which side of a conflict they hit. Better use something that everybody on your side is vaccinated against, with a vaccine that actually works and that your opponents aren’t.
    2) a lot of diseases evolve once they’re out in the wild. Be careful to use a disease where this doesn’t happen quickly, or your side will get hit as well.
    3) a weaponized disease will likely hit a lot of countries you are allied to or are neutral with. They won’t be allied or neutral after they find out you intentionally let out a disease that killed large numbers of their citizens. (Probably. I know there is significant evidence that COVID-19 was a lab leak and no one’s gone to war with China or the USA over the issue)

    4) if you cause a pandemic disease that wrecks the world economy, that will probably wreck yours too.
    BIological weapons are imprecise, hard to aim, tend to make everyone else hate the wielder, and are potentially dangerous to the wielder. I think this is why they have not been used often or on a large scale in warfare thus far. It’s like using gas, only worse.

  122. Extreme weather will also likely play a role in our future skirmishes and battles. Tantalizing “what if’s” from the past resonate with future dreams of what may come. Cold winters like in Valley Forge may transform into wet winters where people are dealing with trench foot long before being in the trench. 9/11 might not have happened if the hurricanes that were brewing out in the Atlantic had interfered with the flight paths of the planes. Other weather events, and of an extreme nature, may help or hinder, future combat. Even with training, many soldiers coming from the Midwest had a hard time adapting to conditions in Vietnam. Massive electrical storms, F-6 tornadoes (As predicted by Bruce Sterling in Heavy Weather -caused by tornadoes getting amplified by Jet Stream) and never ending hurricanes (as predicted by John Shirley in his novel Stormland -about the Carolinas) will all have impacts.

  123. re dragoons in the mid-term future:
    I’m thinking the role of dragoons may actually go to bicycles and motorbikes in the nearer term. There’s not that many horses available yet, and you don’t have to feed, rest, and water a bicycle, which makes logistics massively easier. Even motorbikes use relatively small amounts of fuel or electicity, which is a lot easier to carry than food and water in horse quantities.

    They have been used this way in the past, including during both world wars. They also got used by the viet cong in the vietnam war to carry supplies, and electric bikes are being used in the current war in ukraine in an antitank role. I’m not sure how they are used against tanks, but according to wikipedia, this is happening.

    Eventually, horses will probably have the advantage in the long-term due to being self-replicating without requiring electricity and non-renewable resources etc to make, but I’d expect bikes of various sorts to be used to speed up troop transportation compared to infantry for a fairly long period between now and then, as well as for scouts and messengers.

  124. Karl Grant #22: I suspect scavenging will be THE game in town in a future with a smaller population and the enormous physical infrastructure of the Industrial era littering the landscape. Some communities are already good at this: traditional Mennonites in South America who have a lot of rules around technology are funnily enough really, really, really crafty collectors and repurposers of old machine parts. I look forward to reading JMG’s linked essay on the subject.

    MotherBalance #72: thanks for that link, fibre technologies are so overlooked in discussions of the evolution and future of human technologies!!!!!

  125. Dear Archdruid:

    Firstly, my best wishes for the recovering of the healthy of your wife.

    Your post induces me to express one time more that I consider you a genius.

    Please, could you give us your opinion about the sustitution of profesional soldiers by conscription soldiers ?

  126. Ron and JMG,
    Those traits that were praised in the Highlanders ( and perhaps Gurkhas) during the British Empire are said to also be found in the Chechens and Hezbollah’s best forces. Raised from a young age for a life of hardship ,battle ,fearlessness and discipline.
    It is ironic that the now failing UK/American Empire is very short of this type of troops and the modern ones I just mentioned are on the other side. To some degree this might have been the case in recent years with the Scots/Irish hill folk of The SE U.S. who had a long tradition of military service.
    I expect the future conscripts from the suburbs of Long Island or the Bay Area will be thin gruel when facing the Chechens on the battlefield of the future.

  127. JMG
    I hadn’t realized Sara was ill. May she have a swift and complete recovery.
    As to cavalry charges against fortified positions, I wouldn’t have thought there would be many after Villa’s defeat at Celaya in April 1915. His previously undefeated division del norte with the famous dorados cavalry attacked Obregon’s dug in ,barbed wire protected and machine gun equipped positions and were slaughtered

  128. re: the internet getting worse and going away spottily.

    A lot of the methods people used to do various things before the internet have gotten worse too, or gone away. The mail in Canada is less reliable and more expensive than it used to be, and some areas that had home mail service lost it. This means that sending your cat pictures by mail is slower, more expensive and less convenient than it was pre-internet. Some people have mentioned landline service becoming way more expensive or not available in their area when it used to be.

    I’ve noticed it’s harder to get in touch with government income assistance/disability stuff without the net than it used to be, and they tend to just assume you have easy access and can wait on hold for an hour.

    Some of the people losing the internet don’t actually have access to functional alternative methods. While if this happens to a large enough portion of those with influence/money functional alternatives will spring up to meet the need, if it’s just the relatively poor things can get pretty dysfunctional.

    One thing I see with computer stuff is people not having internet or printer or whatever at home, and coming in and using the library computers to do the things they consider essential.

  129. @JMG, re: ships,
    Agreed on insufficient steel for armor. That will make naval combat the inverse of land combat in terms of offense/defense, I suppose. On land, if you hunker down and get into the defensive, wrinkling men out of trenches is and will be HARD. On the water, he who strikes first wins. That will work just as well for anti-pirate patrols and Q-ships as it does the pirates, though! Armed merchantmen may make a comeback, and I see no reason they could not easily hold their own… as long as they’re willing to shoot first. Keep in mind, the pirate CAN’T shoot first, not to sink. A sunken ship nets you no profit, unless I suppose the water is shallow and the pirates are also salvagers. So, say your pirate comes along and says “Avast, ye scurvy dogs! Heave to, or we’ll blow you to smithereens” — and given the explosive shells on RPGs or what-have-you that’s not an empty threat– but knowing that, doesn’t the merchantman blow said pirates out of the water, as soon as they’re in range? For that matter, the merchants probably won’t wait for the threat to be uttered. What possible business would an honest vessel have getting that close, anyway? Any good seaman should know to keep their distance if they don’t want to contract a bad case of explosions.

    All that to say, I’m more sanguine about piracy than you are, JMG.

    OTH, if we assume wooden ships, where are we getting the wood? The forests that made the tall ships are gone, and human pressure on regrowth is only going to get worse, even as the population goes down, as we rely on them more and more for fuel. I don’t see many oaken giants in our future. Maybe there are fast-growing species that make good boats, but fast-growing usually means fast-rotting, too. That’s no bueno for boats, especially in warm water– and waters are getting warmer all over. Even if we assume a good offense is the best defense against pirates, trade may shut down for lack of ships!

    Also– I, too, will remember Sara in my prayers tonight. My best to you both.

    @ Meower68,
    I recall in the 70s someone had a biplane– I think it was a Pitts Special– running on E100. It must have had an old Lycoming or Continental on the nose, and he claimed in interviews that it ran great. Is that heavier than a two-stroke Rotax? You bet! Deal breaker? I don’t see why it should be. As I said to Bryan above, there will be no FAA to enforce Part 103 in 2400 (probably not even in 2100), so you’ll gain a lot of leeway in power-to-weight in terms of “ultralights” vs the current American conception. Look at a Peitenpol Air Camper flying 2 humans behind a stock, cast-iron-block Model A Ford engine* (~40HP and 350lbs!) — a small aircraft can get away with much, much lower power-to-weight ratios than anyone would dream of with a Part 103 ultralight, once the 254lb straightjacket has been shed.

    *For readers at home, the Ford engine puts out 40HP and weighs something like 350lbs. The Rotax 447 that powers many part-103 Ultralights is also able to produce 40HP… but only weighs 100lbs in its heaviest configuration (big gearbox and electric start).

  130. In an age of long-term economic decline, it would seem rational for states to be in general less willing to go to war, because any losses and damage from war would be harder to be made up, compared to an expectation of a growing economy.

    I suppose this would only be a generality, either because not all states will have rational governments, and some may at certain times think they have the opportunity to damage their enemies more than the war will cost them.

  131. Clearly, to fight the Houthis, what we need is some war looting.
    Also, maybe bringing back that Wood Pulp and Ice plan for drones?
    And possibly a way to do a little bit of a “establishing colonies” or something similar, to keep insurgencies suppressed? If we could get the locals to incriminate themselves with us, that would be nice.
    We probably also owe the House of Saud an apology.

  132. Because of the complete game-changer that firearms are for warefare, I expect production modern-ish firearms to be one of the last examples of some manufacturing techiques that we take for granted today. A good example is milling (especially digital cnc milling) which is a behemoth of a technology but can produce parts of extraordinary precision.
    In a day and age when watches, bike parts and kitchen tools are made by significantly simpler means, I expect there to be a few facilities in particularly high-tech nations that maintain some version of a toolchain that can perform something similar to cnc milling, making parts for simplified full-auto rifles for the military.

  133. Rita, thanks for this! That’s a good point — ammo will be expensive by the standards of the time.

    Jessica, it’s a good book. As for your suggestion, bring it up in May and we’ll vote on it.

    John, a good question. Wooden bicycles are quite common in Africa these days, so it’s by no means impossible that some form of bicycle will see plenty of military use.

    Kimberly, in the latter days of the Roman Empire, yes. Here are your choices: a) join the Roman army and get killed in battle fighting the barbarians. b) cross the border into barbarian country and be enslaved. c) chop off a foot and be able to stay more or less safe where you are. Which sounds like the best plan to you?

    Martin, yes, exactly. This is why I expect steel to once again be a material for tools, weapons, and other relatively small-scale uses.

    Karim, thank you. Back in the early 18th century, the American colonies worked out a very comfortable rapprochement with pirates. The pirates could come ashore at any colonial port, buy what they needed and wanted, and turn their plunder into cash, so long as they behaved themselves. They were fine with that. Half the reason the colonies thrived the way they did was the piracy trade. Madagascar had a similar arrangement for many years around that same time. It’s quite possible that Mauritius will prosper in some similar way.

    Bryan, sure, but you may have missed one of the things I noted in my post. Quadcopters and other drones are only viable given computer technology, and that’s not likely to survive long into the deindustrial future. Once microprocessor chips are too expensive to waste on drones, and even more when they are no longer available at all, having a human observer up there in the sky becomes the logical replacement. You may be right that powered paragliders will see plenty of use, but it’ll depend on the fine details; if a fixed wing and tail assembly give better maneuverability and fuel efficiency, as I suspect they do, those will likely win out.

    Martin, ah, but the problem then becomes keeping your own side from dying of the same organism…

    Horseman, we’re agreed that horses will be coming back into military use in a very big way. You’ll notice the cavalry scouts and the horsedrawn artillery I mentioned in my post! I could also see dragoons playing a significant role, and in fact they play a bit part in my novel Retrotopia. Whether or not there will be cavalry charges can, I think, be left to the generals of the far future.

    Disc_writes, thanks for this. Spengler talked a century ago about the sterility of aging civilizations, and predicted that it would grip Europe soon enough.

    Dermot, I read that — if the Houthis ever describe to launch a volley of missiles all at once to overwhelm the defenses (the tactic the Chinese used in Twilight’s Last Gleaming), the US may well lose at least one ship, along with the last shreds of its reputation for invincibility.

    Patricia M, thank you.

    DS, granted, since this was a 3000-word essay and not a book the size of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, it’s true that I didn’t include the complex concatenation of factors that led to the collapse of the Western empire and the survival of Byzantium.

    Cugel, thank you. Do you happen to know of any reasonable good set of miniature wargame rules of that type that are either out of copyright or available on a creative commons license? I can certainly provide the story and the other details, it’s the game mechanics I’d want to get from somebody who knows about the subject.

    Booklover, partly, yes, the tank is becoming obsolete, and partly the standard Western tanks were designed to make money, not to fight wars. The Ukrainians apparently haven’t used the Abrams tanks in battle because they break down so quickly.

    Justin, thank you. As for your parallel issues, those are all good questions to which I don’t have answers.

    DBB, both sides in the current culture wars have tried to drag the ancient Greeks over onto their side, with the usual disregard for the facts. The Greeks weren’t “uber gay,” but they also didn’t have the sexual taboos that came in with Christianity, and so ancient Greek homosexuals didn’t hide their proclivities. If you’re interested I recommend Plato’s Symposium, especially the speech by Aristophanes, which makes it clear that the ancient Greeks recognized the concept of sexual orientation and didn’t see anything wrong about same-sex desire; for an evenhanded modern view of the subject, James N. Davidson’s Courtesans and Fishcakes does a good job of tracing the classic Greek attitude toward desires, sexual and otherwise.

    Ian, there are stories of one woman with a naginata holding a gate against a decent sized army, so I think your son is probably right. 😉

    Steve, pike and shot was a useful adaptation back in the days when reloading a firearm was a very slow process. Once it got down to a matter of a couple of minutes, the two were combined — a bayonet, after all, is a spearhead on the end of a gun! I don’t expect guns to revert to the arquebus level, so probably pikes won’t be needed. Thank you for the story about Appalachia — that makes perfect sense — and I’ll pass on your wishes to Sara.

    GlassHammer, that’s so significant a factor just now that I’m wondering whether it generally plays a role in the collapse of knowledge and technique that accompanies the fall of a civilization…

    Luke, many thanks.

    Sobopla, yes, I’ve foreseen that. You’re right that it would make a great wargame!

    Other Owen, ultralights can loiter exceedingly well. They have very modest fuel usage and so the pilot can ride thermals and circle for hours. As for Toyotas, sure, as long as they’re available!

    Kevin, that sounds very much like the Chinese forces in the Korean War: light, fast, maneuverable, and relentless.

    Jen, many thanks for the data point. Here we go…

    Mary, thanks for this.

    Justin, granted.

    Anselmo, thank you. As for conscription, that’s a hugely complex issue. Both have their advantages and their downsides.

    Clay, depends on how soon we’re talking about. Give it fifty years and Long Island and the Bay Area may be desperately poor and hardscrabble, the kind of environment that breeds tough young men.

    Stephen, thank you. Another good example!

    Pygmycory, of course. I expect things to get very dysfunctional indeed as we go on.

    Tyler, oh, it’s going to be a while before ships become an option. Once population contraction sets in hard, forests will start to regrow, just as they did in Europe after the fall of Rome; since the aftermath of most civilizations sees population drop to 5-10% of peak, there will be plenty of wood in a few hundred years.

    Mawkernewek, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? And yet history shows the opposite. I’m not sure why.

    Lain, it’s way too late in the day for that.

    Falk, it all depends on economics and on the relative advantages gained by different levels of technology. Full auto has its advantages, but it also means a lot of wasted ammo and a great deal of strain on transport networks. A less complex technology that’s good enough might be a better choice.

  134. Hi John Michael and GlassHammer,

    I’ve long been wondering about this aspect of our civilisation as well. I’m a Gen X, but when I was a much younger bloke (pre-adult), a University education was free (I however paid all the way for that barrier to entry). But also there were vast apprenticeship, not to mention other general take up training programs. The cost of those were fielded by the employer, with mutual benefits going to both the employer and employee. There was an element of mutual obligations to that sort of employment arrangement, which I saw the very tail end of before being made redundant in the recession of the early 1990’s. Which I should also note was a cost thrust upon the youngest employees, in this case my peers and I!

    Fast forward a couple of decades, and now the burden of training is fielded solely by the employees at an extraordinary cost of time and resources. It’s hard to ignore the possibly predatory financial practices supporting that cost. And basically, the question you have to ask yourself is: What’s the return on investment?

    As a general observation from the trenches, the effect of those policies is that a general level of mercenary attitudes have crept into some of the arrangements, and fair enough, I can see how that came to be. As I’ve remarked elsewhere: If they’re doing that, they aren’t your mates. What’s also interesting is that there is an underlying disengagement with the system, and I’m guessing that may be due to people coming to the conclusion that the odds are stacked against them, but dunno really.

    The system looks like a total mess to me. And I believe that University enrolments are down this year. With that sort of business model, possibly that particular industry will be facing a contraction sooner or later. I’m guessing that industry has already begun to feel a bit of backlash and reduced support, possibly due to its support for some unpopular social programs. It was difficult to ignore the unusual behaviour of some individuals representing that sector during the recent referendum.



  135. Regarding whether today’s Latin American drug cartels are the historical analog of Fritigern or Odoacer, I am picturing something more in the direction of Spartacus, but I’m not sure Spartacus is a perfect analog either. Anyone who knows more Roman history of the top of your head have a better suggestion?

  136. CNC milling is not needed for precision machining. It just speeds up the process. Both world wars were fought without it.

    “In 1952, Richard Kegg, in collaboration with MIT, developed the first CNC milling machine: the Cincinnati Milacron Hydrotel. Five years later, in 1958, he filed a patent for a “Motor Controlled Apparatus for Positioning Machine Tool”. This was the commercial birth of this technology.”

    The Mack of CNC milling was less of a problem for guns than for ships. Mating gears on reduction gear sets had to be built by the same person. The escort carriers used uniflow reciprocating steam engines because there was a shortage of gear cutting specialists.

    The BAR from 1918 did not need CNC, nor did the M1 Garand, nor the M1 carbine which was specifically intended to be cheap to build. In fact it was cheaper than the 1911 semi-auto pistol which took several more machining steps.

    PS, I own an M1 carbine. The receiver was built by IBM, the barrel is from Underwood. Yes, typewriter companies can build semiautomatic rifles. Singer built a bunch too, rifles are easier than sewing machines.

  137. @Mawkernewek #149 and @JMG #152 re: War in Times of Decline

    As perplexing as it seems from an outside viewpoint, I think fairly standard game theory offers a decent starting point: when it comes to survival-level stakes, there’s a hard cap on downside (you die), and a potentially unlimited upside. In situations with a fixed downside and an open up side, risky behavior becomes favorable in a general way, even if it’s individually a bad move (same logic drives young men to act recklessly – successful demonstration of bravery and skill gets you admiration and loyalty from other guys and interest from women, failing gets you dead, which is similar enough to to ridicule and being ignored from those groups). So, when times get bad, groups of people of whatever size sticks firmly together (state, tribe, whatever) might feel they might be destroyed, and war offers the opportunity to not only avert destruction, but possibly thrive, and if it goes poorly, well, that was what was coming anyway. The real trouble comes from the fact that the positive upside to avoiding war relies on others making the same choice (if you act peaceful and open to trade and your neighbor surprise invades you, it can go very badly for you and very valuably for them) – Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action highlights some of the dynamics here, though in terms of money-making cartels rather than violence-threatening states, primarily.


  138. JMG and Chris,

    I won’t lie, the looming crisis of dead skill sets and dead techniques across multiple professions once the Boomers retire is going to hurt badly. We didn’t even emphasize capturing those skills and techniques in written form all that much. Worse still, there is a massive chasm between the written instructions and hands on direct instruction from the author.

  139. One other comment, you don’t need brass to have cartridges for firearms. The old 7.62 x 39 and 7.65 x 54 R cartridges are usually steel with a lacquer coating. There are aluminum pistol cases too, but aluminum will go away quick during deindustrialization.

    A quick Google search found this.

    More variants than I expected. I don’t think you can reload them though. Not sure on that score.

  140. A couple things are baked in the cake and are unlikely to get unbaked.

    The first is that you need a robust manufacturing base to produce fighting equipment and munitions to conduct a war as we’re finding out courtesy of Mr Putin and the festivities on the Ukrainian border. Somehow artillery shells in short supply. At least that’s what I’ve heard. But how can this be?

    Which brings up the second point. Much industrial capacity has been lost via offshoring to China and Mexico, the first a hostile power with ambitions that don’t include taking orders from Wall Street and Washington, the second a monumentally corrupt narco state whose cutthroat leaders are likewise uninclined to take direction.

    As far as China goes, their leadership seems aware that their political legitimacy depends on the existence of those offshored factory jobs.

    Those billionaire communists in Beijing know they’re vastly outnumbered by their subjects and therefore vulnerable. The Head Honcho even recently said in public and out loud that Chinese workers need to make more money. If I was a Chinese or American oligarch with factories in China I would have taken note; give the workers a pay raise. Do it now. So what this means is that those factories are not likely getting re-shored.

    That was a long way of saying that it sure does look like the US trajectory points downward. It could happen that military ultralight aircraft are in the future, or maybe the gas-filled zeppelin or maybe hot air balloons. Maybe in the not too farther distant future, it’ll be phalanxes of soldiers armed with sharpened sticks.

    But maybe between now and then there’s a way down that doesn’t look so precipitous, maybe managed decline or an organized dismantling instead of an uncontrolled collapse.

    Other Owen suggested the Texan. Good idea. Brazil produced the Tucano, a turboprop fighter plane. Argentina used to make the Pucara, a two-engine, turboprop fighter-bomber. Both cost a small fraction of the uncounted bazillions of a 1,200 mph jet. The US employed jet-powered Cessna fighters in Vietnam. also a much less complicated and lower cost alternative.

    I’m not shilling, I’m just agreeing that you get what you can afford and can easily produce. Instead of spavined, make-believe militaries with a few dozen working tanks and jet planes that nonetheless cost billions annually (ie Canada and western Europe), maybe it’s time now (and not later) to smell the coffee. The clock is ticking and time is always against us.

  141. Dear JMG:

    Yr. Welcome.! don’t know off the top of my head of any rules out of copyright or under Creative Commons. I will do some more looking on the internet.

    However, a group called the Perfect Captain has designed (among many rules for less “popular” wars) “Red Actions!” (Russian Civil Wars): they allowed free download on the honor system, that the downloader donate to a charity of their choice. They are “defunct” (the base website still exists and the rules can be downloaded from other sites). I assume these are copyrighted; I will check (I have a legitimate copy). and can provide the download site addresses if desired. I have played them once; they are interesting and should be a good basis.

    I also own and have played miniatures rules for the period before WW I, by Warfare in Miniature, Late 19th Century Rules. They had four sets running to the end of WW II from the late 19th C. I’ve played several of these rules and thought them to be very good (easy to play, realistic, and reasonable outcomes). I have no idea if they’re still in business; the latest copyright I see is 1997 (I have have periodically looked for them, because as a simple twist of fate, I couldn’t buy their WW I rules at the time; I’ve never found them anywhere since). I will see if I can find anything further; i think they would work well as a basis.

    Finally, every wargamer I know modifies rules, sometimes heavily. Every designer “borrows” from everyone else, and a lot of gamers have “house modifications”. If you are interested, I could probably come up with a (prototype) set that would work (gratis). One thing to note, the rules will vary based on the level (a squad vs a platoon/ company/battalion, etc.) because the problems, decisions, and knowledge of the commander are different. higher level command is a totally different thing.

    As a postscript; everything important in modern war is from WW I (editorial comment)!

    And finally, please spare a thought for the poor dragoon (a lot of the commentariat thoughts are really reasonable on the future of the troop type), but the SOCIAL STIGMA! (bicycle infantry! mounted infantry! dirt bikes! Again, I can only quote Conrad: “The horror! The Horror!”).

    Again if you or other commentators are interested, I’d be happy to help!

    Cugel (The Clever: the going to bed: and the sorely distressed!)

  142. I read somewhere that the Aristocrats who live in country estates among the people in France like the Vendee have more respect than the posh men who dwelt at the Versailles Palace.

    When the Warrior Aristocracy is defanged because the French King wanted to centralise power. He also disconnected them from the people along with much of the Military Capabilities and Ethos that ensured that they had the respect of the people and hence their loyalty.

    It’s similar to the Samurai mythos. Wearing silks and holding court like at the Heian Court yet being hard men with faces like lions who rode out into battle. There is an Aura that causes people to treat them with respect.

  143. On the subject of the Internet:

    I live in a western part of Germany and a municipal IT service provider was hacked here about 4 months ago. Basic security requirements, such as two-factor authentication, were disregarded. As a result, the IT systems of 72 authorities went down. People were unable to register their cars for months and other hoaxes. Employees had to be sent on vacation because there was nothing more to do. The outages have still not been resolved. The city where I live can no longer even collect taxes and fees from its citizens and local businesses, which is why the cash register is really low. Cautious estimates assume that everything will not work as it did before the hacker attack until the end of this year. The entire IT system will probably have to be rebuilt. Negotiations with the hackers are out of the question, as politicians do not want to attract free riders.

    The authorities are having great difficulty protecting themselves against outages and attacks as they lack IT security experts. They can only pay a joke wage and therefore hardly anyone goes into the public sector.

    I wonder how many attacks of this kind it will take before someone comes up with the idea of switching everything back to paper.

  144. “War, humph! What is it good for?”
    It must not be “absolutely nothing” but I wonder if you think there is any higher purpose than material gain? Maybe something to do with karma? Maybe initiation for newly-human souls to human suffering to set them on the spiritual path?

  145. Hey JMG

    Some of the comments on archery and crossbows have me thinking, if guns are likely to be used more and more in the far future and are also superior in many ways to bows, is it possible that archery may become a lost technology? Could the gun be so ubiquitous that archery gradually succumbs until it’s totally forgotten, at least until something makes guns unsustainable for some reason?

  146. >Yes, typewriter companies can build semiautomatic rifles

    Something that I think got lost in the mad rush to outsource and offshore – factories of all kinds can be repurposed during war to make other things, many of which are necessary to win. Or at least keep the wolf at the door.

    Now? Those factories are gone, highly unlikely to ever come back.

  147. To Kevin #136:
    You wrote… “It’s important to remember that railway technology proceeded the industrial revolution. Invented by German miners in what is now Austria in the 1400s. In the worst case post industrial scenario we are reduced to wooden wheels running on wooden rails, powered by humans, draught animals, gravity or hydro.”
    I agree, even human powered vehicles are valuable in the after-oil era. Please, look at these Portuguese vehicles:
    Well, rail-bikes exist nowadays, so this technology could be in the next centuries (war and peace times), if the decline isn’t too sharp, of course.
    I want to say to JMG that I hope your wife Sara gets better and recovers well.

  148. To Stephen #146:
    You have said
    “As to cavalry charges against fortified positions, I wouldn’t have thought there would be many after Villa’s defeat at Celaya in April 1915.”
    Ypu’re right, but it wasn’t th sharp end of cavalry in the continent. In South America, cavalry kept being an operational war force, but of course as a not main force and avoiding charges against fortifications… Look at this article about Chaco War in the 30s:
    Cavalry forces
    “Both armies deployed a significant number of cavalry regiments, but they actually served as infantry since it was soon learned that the dry Chaco could not provide enough water and forage for horses. Only a relatively few mounted squadrons carried out reconnaissance missions at the divisional level”
    It’s interesting that big cavalry forces aren’t suitable for very dry war zones, so this it’s going to be important with the Climate. Maybe camels instead of horses in some future wars??

  149. In a somewhat related vein in the deindustrialization of the military, a U.S. Space Force campus in Massachusetts recently reached out to the regional electric utility to explore the feasibility of powering and heating the entire facility with wood harvested onsite in the event of grid-down situations. The irony of Space Force cadets huddled around a woodstove is striking…

  150. @Christ at Fernglade:

    I think a lot of peoples brains have been zapped unfortunately.

    My uncle was a genuine (pronounce that jen-you-wine, with a bit of a southern drawl) schizophrenic. A schizophrenic’s schizophrenic. I have to say, I think he was better off on lithium and some of his other meds than not (as I was close to him and saw what happened when he got off his meds). Most people don’t need that though. I’d say most people don’t need anything.

    What would happen if we took the feelings of anxiety and ennui so commonly produced in our general current ways of living -and acted on those feelings? They are there because they tell us something. Anxiety has been good for me. It has kept me from doing some things that would have been really dumb. On the other hand it has also made me work hard on things that made me anxious -and working and doing something else, learning to use willpower to shift my focus, has gotten rid of a lot of the anxiety and melancholia I have felt.

    I think the overmedication of so much of the industrial world is due to the fact that in order to not reject its values, and to keep the blinders on, and to sit in front of Bradbury’s parlor wall so long, day in and day out, without doing anything, you have to be drugged.

    But they don’t have any side effects, oh no, none at all. They don’t actually make people worse off than if they hadn’t taken them.

    Music, art, literature, physical work, time in nature and “wholesome discipline” are much better anti-depressants.

    I found this guide to be helpful when I needed it most:

    I was able to come out the other side of a major dip and I think others can too. Big Pharma would have us believe otherwise however.

  151. There are some definite places where the deindustrial future ( at least the near one) will diverge from history. Some of this will be due to bits of skill and technology that will persist for a long time, like the aeronautical engineering required to make a good ultra-light. But one of the most significant will be the use of aluminum ( thanks for bringing this up Siliconguy).
    Aluminum was fantastically difficult to refine from mined elements ( Bauxite) in preindustrial times as it essentially requires huge quantities of electricity. But it is one of the easiest to recycle by melting down old aluminum items ( beverage cans, car wheels, etc.). It can be done with a very low tech furnace because the melt temperatures are low.
    I went to an auto wreaking yard once where a guy was in a corner shed with a gas fired crucible melting down old intake manifolds and such and pouring the aluminum in to bars in a rudimentary mold so they could get the much higher ” raw aluminum” price.
    I think that in the near future ( next 500 years) this recycled aluminum will serve many of the purposes that steel served in the past because of the ease of reusing it. Once a scavenger society sets in its value will be well known and it will be carefully husbanded with relatively little lost to be buried or burned.

  152. A few years ago, I was wondering about all the paraphernalia of warfare, and not just in the 20th and 21st centuries. I found some piece online that explained how one country had an orchestra perform on the side-lines for their soldiers while a battle was pitched. This was sometime in the 1800s, I believe. Is this true? I’ve been unable to find the reference again. Can anybody help?

  153. Slightly off topic: the question about textiles caught my eye. I suspect textile production during the collapse of the west might be the equivalent to the Roman pottery. According to EchoLive there are enough clothes on the planet to dress the next 6 generations.
    It’s true that much of it is poor quality but synthetic fibres are very durable. Acrylic wears like iron as does nylon. Even polyester is long lasting. I’m not sure how long the clothing supply can be maintained but mending and altering is much more viable when resources are limited than producing new cloth. In the west the skills needed to produce cloth currently exist as art-forms and as hobbies for the leisure classes. That doesn’t bode well for maintaining the skills during bottlenecks and crisis periods.
    Producing fine cloth for ultra lights and for sails is a significant investment of labour even if the skills do survive. Textiles were very valuable in the pre-industrial world. In The Adventures of Huckberry Finn, Twain describes small children as just wearing tow linen shirts (ie not wearing much) and at one point when the boys have been stealing laundry off the clothesline for their shenanigans Tom’s aunt tells her husband “I can only make you one shirt in a year.” She is talking about processing the cotton, spinning, weaving, cutting and sewing the shirt in addition to producing all the other cloth needed by the family and managing all the other tasks needed to run the household.

    Rita Rippletoes #105 I wrote a long piece on my low cost approach to home sewing but decided to save it for Fugal Friday. If you are interested look for it there.

  154. @batstrel, et al… Music has long had a role in warfare. Field musicians are a thing. Bagpipes were originally intended to scare enemies, IIRC.

    This article looks like a good overview of the topic:

    More recently music has been used in psyops.

    I am sure sound will be used in future warfare.

    Something I recently learned about in the course of some of my own research was the Ghost Army of WWII and how they used sonic deception as part of their tactics, trying to make the Axis powers think an army was over here, with sound effects and the like, when it was really somewhere else, playing recordings of other battles and blasting them over loudspeakers.

    On the higher tech level there has been considerable research into acoustics. The human body and its organs resonate at certain frequency and their have been well known frequencies that induce vomiting, pooing, or physical pain.

    LRAD’s (Long Range Acoustic Device) with some of the above properties have been used by police to counter protests for example.

    The heavy sound of bass used in cars by some people, some of them in gangs, I see as a kind of sonic weapon. When the bass is so loud, it can really cause people to be on edge.

    The book Sonic Warfare by Steve Goodman has been on my wishlist.

    Maybe some of those leads will help!

    (Ear plugs can be a good thing, but from some of the low-frequency response music it will still be traveling through your body anyway.)

  155. @batstrel #173. You may well be thinking of the Ottoman Janissary corps, who had their own bands which played for them during battle. The direct descendant of these are the exuberant Balkan Brass bands of Serbia. The Janissaries may also have inspired Welsh pirate Barti Ddu (Black Bart), who kept a band on board to play as the ship went into action (the ship’s articles specifically provided that the musicians were to have Sundays off).

  156. For people who like videos, here’s one on the impact of drones in modern warfare:

    This particular presenter often has really interesting and detailed videos on war and conflict related news stories, including ones that often get ignored by the modern media, like info on stuff happening in the sahel or the congo or the horn of Africa or Myanmar. He has some establishment-type biases, but he’s also honest enough to mention that just because he wants Ukraine to win doesn’t mean that that’s going to happen, and that he has to work with the facts as they stand.

  157. OT: not war, but – for anyone who resents being scolded by a man in a suit and tie, The Gainesville Sun front page has a big color photo of DeSantis, with his mouth open, looking angry, a raised finger coming out of a clenched fist, and the village idiot (that’s me, fellows) could supply a number of captions, starting with “You Kids Get Off My Lawn!” or “You sinners are all goin’ to HAY-ELL!” or “Sit Down And Shut Up – NOW! Or I’ll take a stick to you.”
    JMG, I’ll send you a copy, and ask the commentariat: “How many of you want to be led by the boss in a bad mood?”

  158. Mary #135, during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902 the British had to import feed for the horses because the veldt could not support many animals. A lot of the feed came from Mexico, and with it the seeds of a pungent-smelling Mexican weed which has become endemic to South Africa and we know as kakibos after the khaki of the British uniforms.

    I read somewhere that the best use of cavalry was after the enemy line had been broken and they were fleeing. A man on horseback can move much faster than a running man, and the cavalry would gallop among the retreating troops and cut down as many as they could with their sabers.

  159. About the Highlanders as troops – I’m trying to remember the source of a quote from long ago, to the effect that clans like the MacLeods etc rose high in, and I quote, “Britain’s warrior aristocracy.” I’m thinking that would be 19th Century, possibly 18th – I remember the Highlanders took a heavy hit at the Battle of Waterloo.

  160. Thank you for those very informative links about war and music, Justin and Bogatyr.

    When the Falklands war broke out in 1982, I’d just been reading Hardy’s “The Trumpet Major”. So I cobbled together a regiment of musical ranks and went forth into battle. The regiment included a clarinet corporal, a kazoo captain, a French horn field-marshal, a lute lieutenant, a mandolin major, and a piccolo private, to name but a few.

    I joined up as a synthesiser sergeant. I played my synthesiser atop a motorised platform, while advancing at speed towards the Argentinian soldiers. They were dazzled by my ethereal playing. They dropped their weapons and wept with ecstasy. It was then a simple matter to take them prisoner. On my return to England, the Queen made me Synthesiser Sergeantry Laureate, and the Bank of England printed a commemorative fifteen pound note with a picture of me playing my synthesiser on the back. There will be no synthesisers in our deindustrialised future, of course.

  161. Thanks for this article, the most interesting point is the extreme projected asymmetry of offense and defense. The balance of offensive and defensive technology is already extremely lopsided – that is, the ability to inflict damage far outstrips the ability to withstand it given modern military technology. In a world of wooden boats and wagons travel will be extremely dangerous in any area not under complete control by one faction, since rudimentary gunpowder weapons can tear them to shreds.

    “any attempt at a general assault in open country gets swarmed by drones and chopped to pieces”

    Do you have a source for this? My understanding of the “stalemate” is that it’s heavily in Russia’s favor with a large kill/death ratio over Ukraine. If they decided to charge at Kiev they would take heavier losses. The NATO toys are least useful when there’s a long defensive line but they can do significant damage when the enemy forms up and moves for a specific location. As it stands, Ukraine is a hollowed-out ruin whose soldiers have a fortysomething average age. It only functions at all due to constant infusions of Western cash, so the current situation does more harm to NATO than if Russia were to press the issue and take over completely. They’re officially not at war and not trying to conquer all of Ukraine, and if they did so they would be on the hook for rebuilding it rather than the Western leaders who have promised the country their unconditional support.

    The conclusion I take from this isn’t that “conventional armies are obsolete” but rather that to conduct war, a country needs a large conventional force. Moreover, a country needs a culture that values duty, sacrifice and patriotism lest its people be unwilling to fight. Under the Pax Americana there was a short-lived fantasy that the future of conflict would be small-scale “police actions” pitting highly trained special ops forces against desert tribes armed with rusty Soviet hand-me-downs. This was tremendously profitable for defense contractors and moved the military in the direction of being a small subculture in Western countries without much connection to the general population. The Russia/Ukraine was has shown that you can’t solve every conflict with a few special forces brigades and some laser-guided missiles. Having a large number of people to hold ground with cheap reliable weapons is more important than fancy toys that can only be manufactured in small numbers.

    re: Sam Salzman #66

    If resources start to run out you can be sure that brass cartridge manufacture will be the absolute highest priority technology to preserve. The metallic cartridge is one of the most important inventions in the history of war, on par with Rome inventing the professional military. Possessing them grants a near-insurmountable advantage over anyone without them.

  162. Chris, one of the crucial things that will be needed in all the developed countries once the global economy finishes falling apart is a massive revival of paid apprenticeship programs. Whether we’ll get that or not is quite another matter…

    Chicory, nah, Spartacus wasn’t outside the frontiers.

    Chris, of course. Those have been pushed very, very heavily by the medical industry for years now, despite their nasty side effects.

    GlassHammer, yep. I really do wonder how often this sort of thing plays a central role in the decline of civilizations and the loss of knowledge.

    Smith, any unbaking is going to have to happen really fracking fast…

    Cugel, thank you for this! If you could look around, ask around, and see what you can turn up, that would be very helpful indeed. My guess, though I’m open to discussion here, is that something on the company scale would be best suited for this purpose. As for the poor dragoons, okay, you’ve convinced me; I’ll give them an honored place in deindustrial Ohio c. 2400 AD.

    Info, that’s one of the timeless realities of any society with an aristocracy: there are the aristocrats who work and fight, and there are the aristocrats who lounge about at court. Which one gets general respect never changes.

    Executed, ouch! Back to paper, definitely.

    J.L.Mc12, good question. It depends on whether there will continue to be enough niche situations where a bow really is better suited than a gun.

    Chuaquin, thank you.

    Woods Hippie, “striking” is one way to put it. “Delightfully absurd” also comes to mind.

    Clay, a good point!

    Batstrel, most regiments in the Civil War had their own bands. Here’s an article on them:

    Claire58, that’s an excellent point. H.G. Wells predicted that, interestingly enough, in his novel The War in the Air.

    Logo Dau, I don’t have a nice convenient source for the drones; I’m basing that on close reading of reports from both sides of the fighting. You’re right, of course, that the Russians are killing an outsized number of Ukrainians, largely via artillery and rockets, but I’ve seen repeated reports from the Russian side indicating that they have to keep their advances slow and well guarded because otherwise they get swarmed by drones.

  163. Chuaquin 168
    For sure cavalry has continued to play ,and will again in the future, a major role in warfare as reconnaissance and as dragoons.. Both the Japanese and Russians used it against each other in Manchuria in the 1930s and 40s, the Chinese in their civil war in the 1940s, and perhaps even in the Korean war.
    During the foreign incursions into Russia in support of the whites during the civil war following the Russian revolution, my father was part of the British Expeditionary Force to Archangel and the Dvina River in 1919. He was decorated for leading a mounted patrol hundreds of miles behind the red lines. ” Lines” is probably a misnomer as there really weren’t any, just armies wandering around attacking each other when they found each other. They saw some of the enemy, but never engaged them. One more reason the Russians are distrustful of the west.

  164. @ Ian:

    If I may, and without wishing to divert this discussion away from the fascinating topic of future military history, Aldarion’s comment struck me as in good faith, and actually deserving of a more in-depth response. The quote from your friend at the AODA forum was very heavy on highly-questionable buzzwords, and very light on actual evidence.

  165. I’ve seen quite a few videos of the fighting in Ukraine taken by a drone looking down at some hapless saps in a trench or a foxhole. Sometimes they try to shoot the drone down but then it drops a grenade on them and that’s the end of that. The time it takes for the grenade to fall is typically just a couple of seconds so the drone is only a few hundred feet away at most, yet hitting and sufficiently damaging a drone using a rifle is pretty difficult especially if you’re stressed, so I ask myself why they don’t use a shotgun. I think that would be a game-changer for this kind of attack.

  166. This is why I don’t worry too much about CBDCs, or cryptocurrencies, or AI. They all depend very heavily on enormously complex and energy-intense global information systems. Knowing that such things have a shelf life brings me a lot of peace actually.

    The fact that Tiktok et al will disappear one day relatively soon also makes me smile.

    “Welcome to the real world, Neo…”
    “Why do my eyes hurt?”
    “Because you’ve never used them before.”

  167. I am going to go with The Pneu World as my name for this genre.
    Because I think that pneumatic technology could be the middle ground between industrial technology and feudal technology.

    Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, Pneumatic is compressed air. (and hey didn’t the grand mutation move us from earth to air? lol)

    It is really an intermediate technology for storing and releasing mechanical power ( but also can generate heat during the compression of air and cooling with the expansion of the air)
    Air compressor tanks could last a very long time (hundreds of years?).
    Pneumatic tools are fairly simple.
    Compressors can be powered by wind, water, and/ or muscles.
    You can have pneumatic systems that scale down to the household level and scale up to city level.
    The materials pneumatic systems need are not that complex. ( seals and hoses look like they will benefit greatly from more research on sustainable methods for manufacturing.)
    Weirdly enough you can also make computer circuits out of pneumatic parts.
    Pneumatic guns can fire projectiles faster than cross bows but not as fast as gunpowder can. (getting a pneumatic weapon to fire faster than the speed of sound is difficult)

    And as we transition from our fossil fuel powered industrial system to that weird transitional period of a scavenging system, the benefits of going with pneumatics systems should be obvious and needed sustainable techniques and designs for pneumatic systems can be worked out.

    On a slightly different topic,
    What products of our high tech industrial system could last a very long time, be very useful and very difficult for them to make?
    High quality lenses made out of gorilla glass?
    Ceramic ball bearings?
    Suer hard cutting tools?
    Output of very difficult calculations?

  168. The scottish regiments became one of the main elements of the British army. I don’t know how long after Cullodon it was before this happened, but certainly by the American revolution.
    In WWI the Germans called the highland regiments : the ladies from hell.

  169. Techniques currently being used by commercial vessels to deal with piracy:
    -water cannons and hoses to make boarding difficult
    -LRAD sound production devices and communicate with the pirates at a distance
    -lasers to mess with the pirates optics
    -rolls of razor wire at the railing to make climbing on board harder
    -devices to produce a big overhang at the railing to make boarding harder
    -hiring security with guns
    -calling on a friendly navy for help
    -using a different route

    Most of these are designed to deal with pirates in small boats. Pirates in a helicopter, or ones who want to sink ships with missiles for political reasons rather than capture them for money are a different animal.

  170. @J.L.Mc12 (#165)

    Archery is unlikely to become a lost art, as it has two very distinct economic advantages over firearms.

    One advantage is stealth. Hit an animal with an arrow or dart and there’ll just be a rustle in the bush, inaudible to all but the closest neighbors – who may or may not take notice of it even if they do hear it; discharge a rifle and half the county knows somebody is shooting at something. Or someone. As the economy unravels and poverty spreads, poached game will become an essential food source in many areas, and governments being the way they are will not react well to that. Those who can hunt silently will be better off than those who cannot.

    The other advantage is that the ammunition is often reusable. Miss your target with a bullet and it’s just too bad, you wasted your shot. An arrow can be retrieved again for later use (if you can find it and get to it), even if it hit the target. Those who can hunt at a lower cost will be better off than others who spend more.

  171. J.L.Mc12: I suspect that the increasing cost of ammunition may mean that bows become a weapon of choice for hunting in areas where the environment allows stalking within bow range. (Though many bow hunters these days use carbon fibre arrow shafts – will that technology last or is it dependent on petroleum by products? I do not know.) I know already of some hunters who have switched to bows precisely because of the extra skill element it adds to stalking deer. The sound advantage also makes it a good weapon for poachers or other situations where you do not want the sound of gunfire alerting others to your presence (especially where silencers are hard to obtain). And in some jurisdictions there is no licensing requirement for bows whereas firearms require a licence and hence centralised tracking of individuals with such weaponry.

  172. So any mountainous region with a wide array of huge and small hydropower will have some huge advantage. After all they built hydro stations back in the 1860.

  173. Mawkernewek – Jeff had some good points, to which we could maybe add prospect theory – the idea that we fear loss more than we hunger for gain. A government presiding over decline will tend to be unpopular, so if things are bad, why not roll the dice and hope it pans out. And maybe send your most vociferous domestic critics to the front line while you’re at it.

  174. Justin Patrick Moore @ 174
    Regarding ‘sonic noise’..

    Back in the day – 30 plus years ago – my then wife and I bought our first house in what was considered a getto neighborhood, which at the time, was the ONLY area we could afford to buy into. We had several young persons who thought nothing of blaring their rap music dialed waaaaaay beyond 11 .. often after say 11pm, the bass cranked up so high that the walls, the pictures hanging on the walls .. and well, virtually everything else hummed in sequence. Talk about being on edge. When confronted, said ‘boors’ showed no sympathy what-so-ever! Am so glad we sold that property, even at a loss..
    I’ve dealt with similar past situations .. with at least SOME understanding from the sonic wafters, but this was waaaay beyond the pale. The city popo could only do so much, and my city council person, when confronted.. thought I, and ONLY I, was the problem.

  175. Thank you for the link, JMG. Which instruments do you play, incidentally? Imagine having to concentrate on playing your instrument while worrying about getting shot.

    While thinking about the subject of music and warfare a few years ago, I fantasised about a trumpet that could fire bullets. I vaguely remember searching YouTube and finding a film that showed such an escapade. But no, I cannot remember which film, nor have I been able to find that scene again. Can anybody help?

  176. Carbon fiber is made from oil, as is the resin used to bind it together. Maybe they can make the stuff from coal tar maybe not.

    You don’t need that big of mountains for hydropower. The Fall Line of the southeast US where the Piedmont drops down to the coastal plain had quite a few factories all along it.

  177. Reloaded,

    I hope I’m not giving anything away here by mentioning that that’s one of the approaches they used in our host’s novel Retrotopia: a large shotgun shell filled with 1/2″ “grapeshot” loaded into a 75mm howitzer.

    Made sense to me…

  178. I read somewhere that the big truck tractors which pull the huge 18 wheelers along our interstates have motors which can last “a million years”. Not that long, but apparently, excellent, durable motors, which do need fuel of course. I wonder how such fine motors could be repurposed someday.

  179. If we’re talking about sling-shots and pneumatic devices, let’s not forget the blowgun. I believe there is one on the market in some states in the US that at close range will fire a projectile through a 3/4 inch thick piece of plywood. The range isn’t great, but talk about cheap and easy!

  180. Reloaded, shotguns might be effective. So would sniper rifles with scopes from longer range — in my novel Retrotopia, as Grover mentioned, there’s an annual drone-shooting contest, where the standard weapon is a .50 caliber rifle with scope that can knock a drone out of the air from a mile away. (There are also plenty of nonstandard weapons in that part of the story — and dragoons.)

    Grover, that’s basically my take, too. Too few people think of the fantastic energy and resource inputs that have to go into maintaining the internet.

    Dobbs, there’s plenty of room between those two endpoints, but yes, pneumatic technology might turn out to be important.

    Michael, and waterwheels were in use, and very lucrative, long before then. So, yes, that’s quite correct.

    J.L.Mc12, thanks for this.

    Batstrel, I play mountain dulcimer and keyboard — I recently upgraded from a 1970s vintage electric organ to a piano. As for trumpets firing bullets, that’s a new one for me!

    Siliconguy, nice! I trust primitive-skills types are taking note.

  181. @May Benet #135

    “Just A Horseman, can cavalry horses subsist by grazing off the land, or must food be transported for them? Or stored in advance along the marching route, as Xerxes did in anticipation of his invasion of Greece?”

    It depends, sounds like a cop out answer, but … depends.

    Arguably “the finest light cavalry in history” i.e. the Comanche, rode horses that subsisted entirely on foraged grass, even in hard winters on the Staked Plains.

    Likewise the Sioux and Cheyenne and Shoshone, etc …unlike the Comanche, of course, the northern tribes faces much more severe winters. One of the contributing causes (because it certainly wasn’t superior tactical acumen) to the defeat of the northern plains tribes was the fact that US Army horses had grain transported with them, to maintain condition in the winter campaigns when the Indian horses were struggling to paw for grass beneath the snow….or we’re even being fed laboriously harvested armloads of shredded cottonwood and willow bark each day.

    The Mongols, to the best of my knowledge (finding good, accessible information on medieval Mongol horsemanship and individual tactical skills is remarkably challenging, I’ve found) didn’t transport much feed for their horses, relying on graze. Some breeds of modern horses are renowned for their ability to forage even in snowy winters, usually indigenous equines or (in the case of US mustangs) long adapted feral horse populations.

    Historically, in the western US (I live in western Wyoming) nobody bothered much with harvesting hay until after the winter of 1886/87, when millions of range cattle and horses died off after a mid- winter Chinook and subsequent refreezes crusted over feet deep snows and the stock couldn’t paw through the crust effectively.

    The biggest issue with not stockpiling hay is not that your horses will starve, most winters, but that they’ll lose so much condition by spring that you’ll spend half the summer fattening them back up.

    I suspect the climate of the operational area, combined with the adaptability of the chosen breed of horses (we ride exclusively “grade” or non-registered horses of largely unknown parentage, although most of ours are heavily QH and Thoroughbred stock. I’m 6’1″ tall, so I prefer a tall, long legged horse, although the best mountain horse I own is a Tennessee Walking horse cross that’s a mere 14.1 hands tall. I just look like an idiot riding him!).

    I’ve been discussing it with a few friends recently, of various backgrounds, although we all share a combat arms military background and experience in the GWOT (which is both good and bad in this context). Our consensus is, in our region post-industrial warfare will, in large part feature a combination of Dragoons and ski troops, probably in the same individuals. Horseback in spring through fall, and then skiing in winter, when the snow and cold is too tough on the horses.

    It’s certainly been an interesting intellectual exercise (my family is learning to XC and Backcountry Ski this year, after I’ve spent thirty years on snowshoes….so there’s an interesting level of immediacy to the mental exercise of the discussion, with lots of back and forth sharing of videos on different modern military units specializing in skiing and horses….), with a lot of very interesting details of various skill sets coming to light based on our collective experiences.

  182. Do we know of cities or maybe small kingdoms which successfully defended themselves from warbands in the past? There was a Count of Paris, the first Capet, I think, and Alfred of Wessex. Any others? Has any historian done a study of how successfully to defend a city or kingdom. I guess rule #1 would be don’t invite them in in the first place.

  183. Clay (#145) and JMG,
    Regarding those Appalachian Scots/Irish hill folk who have gone into military service generation after generation for who knows how long: I just recently heard from US veterans that the tradition is quickly dying. The present generation are forbidding their sons from enlisting because they are utterly disgusted with the wokification of the military. Good luck finding the likes of these men among the new recruits! Videos abound these days of new recruits being asked why the joined the US forces and every imaginable explanation was given except “to defend my homeland with my life – if it comes to it.”

  184. @grover

    I have a baby and I’m personally hoping that the internet becomes unreliable enough and expensive enough to be unfashionable where we are over the next decade and a half so that I don’t have to deal with trying to keep him away from the part that chews up and indoctrinates teenagers – platforms like social media, YouTube and tiktok.

    I know it’s coming, and that brings me some peace, but I think it’ll be later than I’m hoping for unfortunately.

  185. Slightly OT. Alliances were very important in the days when winning depended more on the number of men at arms rather than technology. Alliances were often cemented by marriage. Maybe a leader with a comely daughter was preferable to one without a daughter, because she could be a valuable bargaining chip. (Not saying it’s a good thing, just noting that’s how things were done back in the day.)

    In today’s real world, and mindful of Kissinger’s dictum, “America doesn’t have friends, only interests,” it struck me that if America was planning to bomb someone in the Middle East, their most advantageous course would be to bomb Israel. It would earn the undying gratitude of the Arab nations and continuing access to their massive oil and gas reserves. Many other advantages as well, like geostrategic and reputational, too many to go into.

    What does Israel bring to the table? It’s like a sick baby, expensive and demanding and irritating, not to mention that the way Netanyahu ignores American wishes is humiliating to America’s prestige. Domestically of course the Jews are an important voting bloc, but at only 3% of the population they are easily swamped by the immigrant vote.

  186. JMG wrote: “Batstrel, I play mountain dulcimer and keyboard”

    Mountain dulcimer? Trying to attract sasquatches, obviously. You do the wrangling and Sara cooks them. Essential during a time of warfare, when the nearest supermarkets are hundreds of miles away.

    The military and music. I do enjoy a few military marches. And you could say that the theme music to Westerns is a by-product of warfare. “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” are my favourite themes, though I don’t enjoy Westerns as a genre.

    The military and technology. Did you realise that the telephone was around during General Custer’s time? Fat lot of good it did him.

    41 second video of Custer’s last stand.

  187. About trumpets firing bullets – that’s iffy. But as a blowgun? Recently I was reading a murder mystery in which the weapon was a dart the size of an embroidery needle, tucked into a trombone’s mute, “A special tube with its own valve,” powered by the player’s breath. Sneaky, that one.

    Blowguns are so simple, even small children can use them (though it takes practice to use them well.)

  188. This has been a fascinating post in one way, while not leaving much room for someone like myself to contribute. That said, I suspect no battlefield will ever be without opportunities for healers to serve.

    My ruminations centre not so much on what people will fight WITH , but what people will fight FOR.

    Anyway, thanks to all for an interesting thread, with much to think on, as always.

  189. You left off dirty bombs. Right now, materials are easy to come by. With the advent of drones, they can be deployed from miles away. Looking to bomb NYC? Just rent a speed boat and chill out in the East River. Launch at your earliest convenience. And what are we going to do? Shoot it down? It’s like getting d*ck slapped. What are you going to do, block it with your hand? You’re still getting slapped by a d*ck.

  190. Sam,

    For my part, I think YouTube is the website I’ll miss most! (And this one, of course, but I know JMG has a backup plan in place to launch as soon as the time comes. YouTube? Not so much.) But I totally understand what you’re driving at, and might even make a relevant case-study. We raised our two children off-grid, and off-line, until we moved into town when they were 10 and 8. Since then they’ve definitely developed a taste for online media…the influence of which has not been so great. I find myself pining for “the good ol’ days” sometimes. But I don’t do cell phone, and won’t be buying them one either, so at least there’s that. If they choose to go there when they’re adults, well, I won’t like it, but it won’t be my choice anymore.

    As for unfashionable, I have apparently acquired a reputation at my favorite watering hole as “that guy who doesn’t cell phone.” Surprisingly, though, a fair number of folks who bring the subject up think it’s a great idea. (Not for them, of course…but still.)

    Best wishes for handling this messed-up aspect of modern life with your little one!

  191. Dear JMG:

    Happy to do so! I agree; I think company/battalion would be the best bet.

    I did some looking around this AM (Google search free wargames rules), and I found the following website:

    The website notes: “Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.” I assume that this would allow some kind of open use or distribution, but I am not a lawyer, or familiar with copyright law., so i don’t know if this does what is needed.

    They have a lot of rules there, arranged by time period. If you or other knowledgeable folks think that their content availability would work, I will poke around some more. It looks like there are some sets that would work. as a basis, from my initial looking around. I will also see what else I can find.


  192. Best wishes to Sara, and you/other family as well.

    Farming, at least for the small scale, offers internships for those seeking hands-on learning – good for all of us.

    Surveillance will succumb eventually to energy decline, but for now is concerning for many. Bolsonaro govt. partnership with Israeli companies to spy on 30,000 political enemies…espionage software from 11 Israeli companies including Cognyte and Cellebrite…parallel social media operation … for the purpose of character assassination; and for the personal use of then President Jair Bolsonaro to protect his children from ongoing corruption investigations. Low tech looks increasingly attractive.

    Martin @ 208, thanks for “sick baby”
    Ron M @206 On informal survey, about half of my physician colleagues actively discourage their children from entering the field. Yes, the institutional medical system is failing and full of graft, but many frontline MD’s have valuable knowledge and experience.

  193. @ Ron M. #206 Yes, the wokification of the USA military will drive away the type of men pictured in this YouTube, done a number of years ago, of Marines exultantly singing with hand motions and near dancing the worship song “The Days of Elijah”.

  194. Looking for my prewar community in the upcoming travails. In the southwest US. Recently displaced by circumstance.
    JMG I watched probably a few too many war videos from Syria and Ukraine and absolute same conclusions: tunnels and cheapish drones. Playing first person shooters as some kind of training is an utter backwards waste of time. It would be better to play a game of detecting and hiding from drones. Took me a couple sittings to read the whole article but what an awesome topic and well handled. The post apocalypse reality has a few caveats. 1) if you are prepping with guns now and staging yourself into the anticipated breach rhetorically, there’s a really good chance you may go suddenly, and once it slips this applies to whatever LEOs wish to fight and die to keep the old order going.
    After this initial spasm, there will be a moment of freedom where people realize power is what we believe not what other people hold over us. Peace is what everyone will want more than anything so where hands are stayed (and it is a mosaic, ) survival and flourishing become possible. Those areas will get to adapt past a second stage of being attractive to the displaced but under resourced to handle significant influx. People like to imagine endless violence however the people embracing that will die shortly after launching into the great retribution and zombie apocalypse programming. Human life will again begin to hold some profound meaning and value as that value begins to shift back into position.

  195. Mary, we certainly do. For one good source of examples, look at the wars fought by various western European kingdoms against the Vikings, who were a classic warband culture.

    Ron, what that means is that if the current elite loses power and a radically unwoke faction takes it, they’ll have all the strapping young recruits they could want…

    Martin, that may be why the US is busy hedging its bets in the Middle East right now.

    Batstrel, I must have missed the memo that you can call sasquatches with a mountain dulcimer! As for Custer, nah, the Lakota chopped down the cell towers. 😉

    Grover, you could do worse.

    Scotlyn, you’re most welcome.

    Mark, so? The point of warfare in any nonindustrial setting is to capture valuable cities and territory, not to make them uninhabitable for hundreds of years.

    Cugel, thanks for this. CC-BY-SA is an option, but it means that rules based on that system can’t be placed with a game publisher, which I’d kind of like to do if possible. Still, if that’s the only available source, we can go for it.

    Lazy, thanks for this.

    Mackenzie, well, we’ll see!

  196. > If they choose to go there when they’re adults, well, I won’t like it, but it won’t be my choice anymore

    All you can do is give them a fighting chance, the rest is up to them. So many kids don’t even get a fighting chance. I cringe when I see a 6 year old child, pawing away on their phone. Might as well give them a crack pipe or a pack of cigarettes too, if you’re really going to mess them up, mess them up. Teach them how to mix their own drinks and provide them with liquor whenever they want it, right?

  197. >18 wheelers along our interstates have motors which can last “a million years”

    They were designed for reliability and repair-ability. Those big truck engines are significantly easier to rebuild, by design. Car engines could be designed as such too, but they want you buying a new car, not fixing your old one. At some point that’s going to end and all that will be left are cars that are easy to diagnose, easy to repair. Everything and I mean everything else will go away.

  198. Hmm. So the image at is the frontier you’re talking about? But the United States is a country founded by European colonizers too. Both sides of the border are democracies that originated from a rebellion against European control, that speak primarily a European languages and more commonly practice a religion that they got from Europe. All their music sounds just like U.S. music from the 1950s. But I guess because the Latin American countries have all escalated to the most violent in the world, they are “lost territory” or something and the spirit of the people is “barbaric and intent on destruction” or something, or else always turned against the U.S. or Europe or so forth. I’ve never been to Latin America, but only met Hispanics in the United States, so I could be missing some things.
    I don’t want to see the Mexican drug cartels as equivalent to the Gothic invaders, because they are not currently knocking city after city off the grid, but maybe the Mexicans will do that later. I really hope that they are not literally the present day “drug cartels”, because they seem so depressingly uninspiring to me. They just seem like a more violent parody of a corporation, but maybe I don’t know enough about them either.
    Spartacus made sense to me because he came from a remote colony and might have been trying to re-establish a presence in his or his followers’ places of origin. But Spartacus was also more soundly defeated than the present day drug cartels, and, as you pointed out, most of the action was in Central Italy.

  199. @Aldarion @Luke Dobson

    I apologize first, and am accountable to reading Aldarion’s comment in a negative tone that may not have been there at all. My response was perhaps more reflective of my mood that day unfortunately.
    As for the more nuanced response I will try and keep the response short and focused on North America. After absorbing the posters response I quoted, I followed up with the suggestion and found evidence, for example notably in discourses on history of two spirited indigenous people during colonization.
    I agree the language quoted in my comment is unhelpful and signalling political bias.
    I have also seen the concept noted previously as monotheistic gender roles. I understand Abrahamic religions profess the creation and existence of specific genders in their creation stories. The prevalence of these religions, their widespread adoption, and categorization of gender into a binary system restricts other potentials. Human response to this identification also restricts behavior and tolerance accordingly. I am not trying to make a case for all ‘Abrahamic religions bad’, I am using that term to explain the process of categorizing human characteristics and behaviours into two strict and separated dimensions. The prohibition of homosexuality, “The importance of family reinforced through the marriage ritual (making it sacred – a sacrament), and the couple was bound for life.” Could make the argument that in certain times, like Victorian England the categories became even more rigid. That said this is a topic for a book and much more research. I am aware of the weaponization of this process; the relaxation of ‘traditional’ gender categories being identified by western institutions and politicians and plugged into the rescue game.
    In the early 2000s my university was exploring this concept to raise awareness but i believe intentions have very much changed since then.

  200. Grover – If you ever want to know more about ham radio, just contact me directly. I have a gmail account of which you can guess user name (with high probability of success). As a hobby, ham radio is a lot like photography used to be (before (almost!) everyone has a pretty good camera built into their mobile phone): you can spend as much as you want, for diminishing returns, but you can do a lot with inexpensive used gear. There is a $35 license fee due to the FCC when you pass your first exam (and every ten years after that), so that’s the bare minimum entry point. After that, if you get to know the right people, you may get gear “on loan” from a generous hoarder, or for cheap (especially at estate sales). Personally, I have no interest in vacuum-tube technology (because it consumes too much power), but if the price is right, you can still do good stuff with it.

  201. JMG – Are you familiar with “Project Appleseed”? (If not, it has a Wikipedia page.) It’s not totally off-topic for a post on post-industrial warfare, and I thought of your Johnny Appleseed project when my son told me about his enthusiasm for this program.


  202. Thank you, Beard Tree, for “The Days of Elijah” dancing Marines video. Quite the spectacle! Patriotism and religious fervour are a heady combination and when the elite among the ‘boots on the ground’ share it, it is something to behold. Of course, in Canada these days if our Special Forces (equivalent to Marines) were to do something like this, they’d likely be arrested for displaying loyalty to an “evil, backward, colonialist, hate-filled ideology” – i.e., Christianity. Then again, our federal politicians, as a body, gave two standing ovations to a real-life ‘knot-sea’ WW2 veteran this past September, so, go figure. Let’s hope that the US warrior culture can make its way at least somewhat intact into the wars of the de-industrialized future. I’m sad to say that Canada’s military is hopelessly lost and will need to be burned to the ground and resurrected from the ashes, phoenix-like.

  203. @Pygmycory 67: when speaking of Israel’s options, don’t forget the so-called “Samson Option.” (A term coined, I believe, by Seymour Hersh in his 1991 book of that name.) I believe the only president who firmly opposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program was JFK. Aside from that there’s nothing Israel would like more than to drag the US into this war, and it appears, alas, that they are succeeding.

    @Martin 208: you’re a brave man to say some of those things.

  204. Chicory, there’s a huge difference you’re missing. The US is a global hegemon; Mexico is not. Thus we’ve put ourselves into the imperial role. The Roman and Germanic peoples had equally significant similarities — both practiced polytheist religions, absorbed a lot of influence from Hellenistic culture, etc. — but one of them became an empire and the others were outside its borders.

    Lathechuck, no, I wasn’t familiar with it at all! Thank you; that’s good to know about.

  205. @Lathechuck (#226):

    Thank you for alerting me to this. It takes me back, and in a very good way.

    Back in the 1950s, when I was in High School, and long before the National Rifle Association was captured by grifters and would-be political influencers, there was an NRA-sponsored program just like Project Appleseed available to interested youth in San Francisco Bay Area high schools, and I participated. We met in the arsenal and rifle-range of a neighboring high school just across the city line in Oakland once a week, and I earned all the various badges up to Sharpshooter. We could bring our own .22s and ammo to school in those days, or we could use the rifles and ammo available in the club’s arsenal. (Many high schools had in-building rifle ranges and arsenals back in far-off those days.)

    How times have changed!

  206. I think most flavours of feminism have their problems but at the same time I’d hate for my future many great grand daughters to be relegated to purdah or otherwise stripped of personhood. I’ve noted that once things start to build beyond warband culture, societies in which women could access and effectively use the available weapons technology tended to also be societies in which women had more ability to influence domestic decision making, gain education, gain wealth outside the home and hold property. Thinking early feudal Japan, Viking era Scandinavia, Old Swiss Confederacy, Scottish Highlands, US Old West etc. These also seem to have been more equal societies in general compared to their contemporaries with less of a gulf between a class of aristocratic male military specialists and the class of hapless unarmed peasants. The incentives towards predation and seeking of protection just seem to work differently if a class can mostly protect themselves. In this context, I think maintaining access to guns as a very equalising weapons technology will be important to maintaining many other social ‘nice to haves’.

  207. @Ron M #227, Yeah, the Marine YouTube is fun. A substantial portion of the American working class white, Hispanic and African-American population is quite content with that “old time religion” and/or warrior ethos. The millions of Mormons also fall into that category and much of the general population across broad swathes of the USA with smaller components even in more liberal areas. Of course the liberal elite sees them as a “threat to democracy” or actually a threat to their control of things. It may get ugly as they strive to keep a grip on the levers of Federal government control this year.

  208. Healings to Sara
    If I may, though the telephone had been in vented befor Little Bighorn, the first rudementsay exchange didnt exist til several years later. The main point being the Euros has much more tech and population than the Natives. They had no chance at all
    Andas t oshotguns vs drones, the effective range of about 50 yards for bird shot. They are designed to shoot down flying things. The unknown would be what would be the range of the drones explosives, if any, when hit by a shot blast? Though it seems are several real world sites where this info could be gathered

  209. @Ian: I also apologize for misquoting you – it was accidental. You may well be right that “gender categories” were more fluid in North America before the arrival of the Europeans (though I hesitate in applying even the word “gender” to the past). What I thought you were referring to were “gender roles”, that is the social roles given to a certain group of persons. It seems to me that the reasons for mostly excluding from warfare those human beings capable of bearing children (whether we group them as “women of child-bearing age” or classify them in any other way) were fundamentally practical, not just religious or cultural.

  210. A couple of random thoughts
    One thing we are already seeing throughout the west is that more and more military equipment is out of service for maintenance. or is mothballed. I am sure this trend will only increase as the decline progresses. It will probably be still counted as part of a country’s total strength, but will be useless.I suppose it can ultimately be cannibalized, for instance making one functional tank out of three junk ones. i think we are already seeing that with tanks that were meant to be sent to Ukraine, though I think they are often just not sending them at all. So much of the equipment is so high tech and the bits come from all over the place or are no longer available. Of course the money for the arms merchants comes from making fancy new stuff not spare parts.
    In an entirely different direction, when the Australian forces first went to Vietnam in 1965 they had the standard SLR semi automatic rifle. An Australian patrol could go off into the jungle for two weeks with just the gear they carried. They had a very high kill ratio and freaked the Viiet cong out. They later switched to the American m16, which could fire full automatic. Because of this and other american gear, they ended up having to be resupplied by helicopter during an operation, thereby losing much of the element of surprise, taking higher casualties and having a lower kill rratio.. So much for the American high tech way of war. I am not saying that any of them should have been there in the first place, but if you are.

  211. Hey JMG

    There’s another thing that I’ve wondered about in regard to Deindustrialized warfare, which is how “Fantasy weapons” will feature in it.
    There is a Youtuber I occasionally watch called ‘Skallagrim” who does a lot of reviews and commentary on melee weapons and fighting, with a particular focus on testing if “Fantasy weapons” from movies, games and novels could practically be used, and while he usually finds that the answer is “No” there are occasions where he finds it plausible for them to have some niche use. For example, he tested out fighting with a “Bat’leth” from the ‘Star trek” series, and found it to be a moderately decent weapon, though still inferior to a longsword or spear, that could really be used in the way it was depicted in the show, as a specialized weapon for dueling or fighting in confined spaces.
    It is possible that with some experimentation other such fantasy weapons such as the retractable wrist mounted daggers from “Assassin’s creed” could be used for niche purposes like concealable weapons for assassination or self-defense, or just some fancy toy for a rich aristocrat.

  212. JMG
    A very interesting and (sadly) timely post.
    I am adding Sara to my prayer list.
    All the best to you both

  213. Patricia Mathews wrote: “Recently I was reading a murder mystery in which the weapon was a dart the size of an embroidery needle, tucked into a trombone’s mute. Sneaky, that one.”

    Indeed. Good for an deindustrialised future. Panamanian Manuel Noriega’s method of kidnapping enemies by helicopter and dropping them down a volcano would not be so suitable. I do like the idea, but we have no volcanoes in England. President Niyazov of Turkmenistan preferred to boil his enemies alive. Much more suitable.

    Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond stories, actually worked for British intelligence during World War 2. His gloriously melodramatic and campy Bond stories were a satire on what went on, with all the gadgetry and foreign spies. Espionage is an intrinsic part of warfare, of course, and it evolves with technology. Modern computers mean that we are vulnerable to cyber attacks. But there will be no such problem in our deindustrialised future.

  214. @ Ian @ Aldarion

    First of all, thanks for your response Ian. As regards the ‘berdache/two-spirit’ in indigenous North American societies; that’s a complex topic. The archaeologist known as Stone Age Herbalist has written a fascinating and highly nuanced piece on this subject, which can be found here:

    To summarize, the terms ‘berdache’ and ‘two-spirit’ originate from outside Native American cultures, being first used by early French colonists and American gay-rights activists respectively. It is true that some tribes recognized the something along the lines of a ‘berdache’ as a distinct category, but by no means all, and even where they were recognized, they were not necessarily viewed or treated with respect. The huge diversity of cultures, even within North America let alone the rest of the world, makes it highly problematic to assume that such condescension can only have originated from Christianization; a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, as the original Abrahamic founders must have got it from somewhere themselves!

    As regards the gender-binary originating from Abrahamic religion; I wouldn’t agree with this proposal myself. “Gender”, as the term has developed within academia, has jumped from linguistics (where it signifies whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter) to fields such as anthropology, where it has come to refer to the distinct roles and expectations assigned to men and women, as a basis of their biological sex. As such, it cannot help but *refer* to the fundamental and inescapable binary of masculine/feminine, *even when* in practice there is some mutability or exceptions granted. For instance, SAH quotes Epple as writing, with respect to the Navajo: “Everything, as any Navajo will tell you, can be divided into male and female…. Kluckhohn points out that chants, rivers, plants, and other items are arranged as male and female…” and remarks that “even the ‘nadleehi’ third-gender cannot ‘queer’ or deviate from this”.

    To return to the topic at hand: some commentators, including Camille Paglia and John Glubb, have noticed that a certain gender-fluidity emerges shortly before an advanced culture collapses, when it is generally taken over by cultures in which gender-roles are more defined, and strength and aggression are valued in men. As such, while I’m sure that women will continue to participate in warfare as they always have, I think Aldarion points stands: that certain inescapable biological facts will probably ensure that the bulk of active combatants in warfare will generally be men, as they always have been.

  215. Tamhob, I don’t think you have to worry much. Firearms are such a huge advantage in combat that I don’t expect them to go away any time in the next couple of millennia.

    Stephen, the way in which military equipment in the West is being allowed to fall apart is a very good sign that the nations of the West, at least under current management, are not long for this world. Societies that do this go under, and they rarely take long about it.

    J.L.Mc12, my martial arts teacher in Seattle, Sifu Andrew Dale, had a student whose mom was one of the inner circle of Star Trek fandom, on a first name basis with the cast and production staff of the movies. One time when he was down in LA, his student’s mom invited him to the set of the movie then in production. One of the prop people, finding out that Andy was a martial artist, handed him a bat’leth. Andy’s really good at weapons forms, and he proceeded to improvise a bagua bat’leth form on the spot. It impressed the crew so much they gave him the bat’leth. He used to take it out of the closet at the school sometimes and demonstrate; he said it’s a little clumsy but workable.

    Lurksalong, many thanks.

  216. JMG (and all) – An often-overlooked aspect of warfare is the information space (modern terminology), or propaganda. The American revolutionaries had their handbills and posters; and plenty of artwork from WW-1 and WW-2 was produced to encourage morale and military production at home. Radio messages were sent behind the lines to enemy troops to reduce their morale and confidence in their leadership (e.g, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, Lord Haw-haw). In the de-industrial phase, I suppose that ink-on-paper pamphlets will once again remind both sides why they should, or shouldn’t, keep fighting. “On a Field of Red”, by Anthony Cave Brown, explains how Communist propaganda undercut morale within French forces between the wars, making them famously un-resistant to German advances.

    Assuming that any form of radio technology survives, it will probably be used in the same way. A transistor-based receiver can be simple, efficient, cheap, and robust (if so-designed), and a single transmitter could “inform” a vast area of the population. A lot of the complexity in a high-quality radio receiver is designed at allowing many transmitters to operate in the same spectrum (“the selectivity problem”), but if only a few transmitters exist, simpler circuits suffice.

  217. Hi JMG, many thanks for the post!

    As you know, central to the theory of rise and fall of civlizations of Ibn Jaldun is the concept of Asabiyyah, the social solidarity of the group, the concept of unity, of purpose; this concept is even deeper than any religious form, and this, for Jaldun, is the final force that make the nomads defeat and end up destroying the civilizations in their last phases of decadence, when thay have lost, from longtime any trace of Asabiyyah.
    We can start to see this in our times with the fight between the western “mercenary” (professional) armies against the Taliban, or Hezbollah or any group with a sense of purpose and an extreme will to fight at any cost;.
    In general in the late phase of civilization the urban citizens are fundamentally against any risk, and all revolve around “safety”, and an absolute negation of death, that imply a negation of life. So they use money to buy “proxy” forces and “barbarians” inside their armies and this is the last path to their destruction.

    It is not a matter of technology or resources, at the end it will revolve around will and solidarity.

    The recent wars have changed a lot, but not only is technology that have changed them, but the way the developed states “negate” the situation of wars, like Russia and his SMO or US in many places and now in the Red Sea or in general in the ME. Nobody seems to want to use the term “war” anymore
    For example if the Russian Army now use the same “apocaliptic” way of war of the Red Army in WWII, they would have destroyed the Ukranian Army in some months. In the WWII the Red Army lost around 85.000 tanks and won; only in the batlle for Berlin, between the Oder and the center of Berlin, they lost more than 3.000 tanks, of course this huge losses did not stop the Red Army for a second, and if today the First Belorussian Front, with the same weapons of WWII (with their 17.000 cannons), were in front of the Ukranian Army, with all their drones, and Himars, and Abrams and Leopard, and NATO IRS and AI’s, etc…they will crush them and drive them to the Polish border, of course also with huge losses no doubt.

    The case is that nobody conducts a war now in this way, and it is not even a problem of resources, it is an ideological/cultural issue; as Ibn Jaldun explained.


  218. Stephen #235, when I did my national service in the 1960s our rifle was the R1, a close cousin of the Australian SLR semi automatic rifle since they were both descended from the Belgian FN. It had a fully automatic setting but you couldn’t actually select it because a steel pin limited the selector lever movement.

    After two weeks in the veldt on maneuvers our section happened to be traveling back to camp on the same truck that held the leftover ammunition. Boxes and boxes of brass cartridge blank rounds crying to be fired off.

    We tried knocking the steel pin out to put the rifles on automatic but no dice. Then someone discovered that if you put a matchstick in a certain place in the mechanism, it broke the link between the trigger and the firing pin so once you pulled the trigger it kept firing on automatic until the whole 20-round magazine was empty.

    We soon got a production line going with guys filling magazines with blanks and passing on to other guys with rifles blasting them into the air for the sheer joy of wasting ammo. The BRRRRRRRRP! sounded like a battle in a Hollywood movie, and the graceful arc formed by a tumbling stream of 20 brass cartridges ejected from the rifle was a joy to behold. Alas the more cautious among us decided we’d better stop after firing off a couple of hundred rounds.

  219. Dear JMG:

    I may have found some possibilities for free rules that could be used:

    Ross Macfarlane had published them in The Courier (now defunct). His email address is in the blog page, so it would be easy to contact him.

    These, as far as I know, have not been published. I see no mention of copyright., although I think it would be good form to ask Mr. Macfarlane.

    These are a wargames club (Jackson MS) rules. this web page hasn’t been updated since 2012. The club is a going concern, and has contact info on their main webpage.

    Another option would be to publish as a “Deindustrial Wars” sourcebook, that is, describe probable troop and weapon types, available technologies, overall conditions, period-specific rules or modifications, suggest what time periods would likely be most similar, and let prospective gamers use their favorite rules. Yet another alternative is to put some simple rules together as part of the package. To quote from the description of the Jackson Wargamers Red and White rules: “Heavily plagarized from many sources” … That is more work, and would involve playtesting, but I don’t think is that big a deal. If interested, I could put something together. As long as they are not copied verbatim from other rules, there should not be a problem.

    I have found some other free rules from appropriate periods, but these specify they are only for personal use, unless granted written permission by the author. They do have the author’s contact information, so if you are interested, i can send you the rules and contact info.

    All of these rules would need some amount of modification, but ought to work.
    Please let me know if you would like me to do some more legwork.

  220. Re: gender roles and warfare. Firearms are a great equalizer, but mass combat as we understand it will probably be a male preserve in times to come. OTH, there have always been cases of women dressing as men and taking on men’s roles, either individually as in 19th Century California’s Mountain Charlie, or as a special, separate caste such as the Albanian Virgins: women who, IIRC, took on the role of the son of the family where there was none. Yesterday’s sports column in the daily paper drew a hard line against men – including transwomen – competing in boxing and martial arts against women on the grounds that men hitting women is beyond the pale. I have to agree. at least in general. I think in general, people will do what’s most practical. Frex, Women in Iceland, a pioneer society, did not fight. On the continent, some of them did, if you believe the literature.
    About Klingon weapons – I think they’d make excellent polearms, attached to a long stick.

  221. Lathechuck,

    Many thanks for reaching out. I’ve sent you an email. If you don’t get it let me know.

  222. Lathechuck, and the transmitter’s the only bottleneck here. Did you ever make a crystal radio receiver? Those used to be very common in the early days of radio, since they require no power source — just some wire, an earphone, a ground, and a few simple components. My guess is that the larger deindustrial nations, at least, will have radio stations, well-to-do people will have powered receivers with loudspeakers, and a lot of poor people will have crystal sets to listen in. (I put that detail into my novel Star’s Reach, for whatever that’s worth.)

    DFC, and of course that’s another element that has to be factored into the equation.

    Cugel, thanks for this! Let me take a look at these as time permits, and get back to you in a later post — probably a dedicated post on my Dreamwidth journal.

  223. Speaking of hi-tech wonders that don’t work,

    “The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter still suffers at least 65 basic deficiencies where it continues to fail to meet basic testing specifications, the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) said in a report. The JPO [F-35 Joint Project Office] completed the readiness review for JSE [joint simulation environment] trials in September 2023, and certified it as ready for testing, despite 65 deficiencies against the baseline JSE requirements, the report said on Friday. The F-35 program development cycle continues to experience delays due to immature and deficient Block 4 mission systems software and avionics stability problems with the new Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) hardware going into Lot 15 production aircraft, the report said.

    “As a result, deliveries of production Lot 15 aircraft in the TR-3 configuration are on hold until more testing can be completed and the avionics issues resolved.”

  224. J.L.Mc12, JMG,

    On the topic of archery, as someone who knows both how to shoot a gun and use a bow and arrow, I think there are at least two reasons why the bow and arrow is likely to survive for an extended period of time.

    The first reason why archery is likely to survive is the massive tactical advantage that it provides to have small skilled teams using them: it’s a lot easier to be stealthy with an arrow than with guns; and so battlefield scouts, and anyone who wants to try to avoid giving away their location (such as soldiers sneaking behind enemy lines) is likely to find the bow and arrow to be a useful weapon. There are ways to reduce the sounds guns make, but no known way to make it silent, and all of the ways to make the aim better, a must if you have a specific target in mind and can only make a small number of shots before being discovered, involve various advanced techniques, such as the lenses of a sniper rifle’s scope, which will become vastly more expensive without fossil fuels; thus limiting their availability. Add to this that snipers require fairly intense training as well, and the much cheaper bow and arrow is likely to win out anyway. Due to this factor, I find it quite easy to imagine the pitched battles of the future, with most of the armies using guns, but equipped with small teams of people skilled with the bow and arrow sneaking behind enemy lines and harassing them and their supply lines.

    The second reason bows and arrows are likely to survive is that given the speed that bullets move, they do a lot more damage on impact than arrows do. This is a problem with hunting: the bullets damage meat when they impact animals. As long as the cost of meat remains low, this is not a problem: but in a society where the cost of food relative to incomes is much higher, this is a major drawback. As a result, I expect that the bow and arrow will remain in common use among hunters, because it’s more effective to train hunters to use the bow and arrow than to lose decent amounts of meat from each animal killed.

  225. “In a post on social media platform X, the Royal Navy said an issue with a coupling on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s starboard propeller shaft was identified and “will not sail on Sunday.” Instead, the sister ship HMS Prince of Wales (keep in mind, UK only has two carriers in service) will take her place on the Steadfast Defender drills off Norway’s Arctic coast in March. ”

    It’s not just the US having issues. Should I feel better or not? From the Wikipedia article on the ship it uses a combined gas turbine and diesel drive train, the same sort that has proven so problematic on the Littoral Combat ship, the Navy’s version of the F-35. Those have never worked right either.

  226. Regarding bows/guns and noise.

    I dunno a subsonic low calibre round with a suppressor is deathly quiet, and is far easier to use than a bow and arrow. Suppressors can be machined very simply at the home scale and subsonic rounds are easy to make. A bow might have a larger effective range but then you’re talking bigger bows and are difficult to carry around.

    Although it’s nice to keep archery going guns can do everything bows can easier and more powerfully. It’s when the manufacturing of guns becomes more difficult (sourcing metals and gunpowder etc) that I think bows will find more widespread use.

  227. JMG,
    Off late, I am seeing a number of debates in these comments section that go like this: Someone talks about how a particular thing, service, custom or behavior that’s a mainstay of present life will somehow continue to be so on the deindustrial future. Then they trot out an isolated example from anywhere between the distant preindustrial past and the last century, hold that up and say, “See! we used to do it that time. So we will definitely do it a couple of centuries later!”.

    The future has no obligation to cater to every one of our needs that we developed in an age of excess resources. First, just because something “can” be done in a deindustrial age does not mean it “will” be done. Second, there are some things the wealthy elite enjoyed in the pre-industrial age, and may very well continue to enjoy in the deindustrial age. But that does not mean they will be available to everyone. Third, the bland monoculture that’s the defining feature of peak industrial world will splinter messily into a multitude of diverse ones, each of which will have evolve in unique way. This holds good for the internet and fossil fuels as well as it does for cheap food shipped from thousands of miles away, shiny gadgets or (ahem, ahem) what roles different types of people play in the society.

  228. Martin Back 243
    I was in the US army in the late 50s. We had the M1 Garand with an 8 round clip. It was advisable to bang the bullet end against your chest or something when loading to make sure the bullets hadn’t shifted in the clip when you removed it from the pouch: great weapon and very simple. I could literally disassemble and reassemble it blindfolded, for which one got extra points, but no way to make it be anything but what it was.

  229. Anyway seeing some of the comments here. Gives me the thought. “Why should women be able to do anything a man can?”.

    Men can do things women cannot do and vice versa. Now imagine clamouring for men to be able to give birth? To be pretty and graceful. To be attractive and gentle?

    Why can’t men do anything a woman can?

    Certainly seems like a destruction of what entails a man. By definition. Since he cannot give birth or nurse a child with his breasts and bond with his child in such a close way. We see this with the trans movement.

    Yet if women imitate men it seems relatively fine. But it is somehow worse when men try to imitate women.

    At the end of the day. Killing is a bloody gory business. Is it great that women get to be brutalized as part of war especially if they are the ones in the firing line?

    Limbs blown off. Screaming in pain. Missing eyes or hands or feet? Or if they are combatants then the enemy must kill them if they are defeated. It certainly guarantees a more complete genocide in order to neutralize military threat. The civilian category shrunk by definition.

    But I suppose in regards to certain views. Sharing that fate with the men could be preferable.

    The ultimate equality is in the end being like yeast or death. And not at all like the hierarchical complex organism that animals like lions and humans are.

    I apologize to the host if my comment is inappropriate.

  230. Regarding the use of drones and Russian logistics in general, I recommend Kamil Gazani’s Twitter page. He is an ethnic Tartar who is quite anti-Putin, but at this point he believes Russia will win the war purely due to the logistics — the sanctions don’t work as European suppliers of manufacturing equipment continue to supply Russia. Chinese manufacturers of cheap drones even not-so-subtly advertised the payloads of their drones on Alibaba.

  231. Hey other commentators

    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed all the responses I got for my Archery question, and my faith has been restored in its indefinite existence.

    Hey JMG

    So, it is settled then. The closest we are getting to the Star Trek future is Bat’leth duels fought amongst Deindustrial-age barbarians.
    Do you know of other ”Fantasy Weapons” that you think may have a Deindustrial future?

  232. DFC – On social solidarity: I’ve heard a tale that a Taliban representative spoke to a member of the US occupation, and said “You may have all the clocks, but we have all the time.” In some conflicts, one side needs only to survive, and can regroup after the outsiders lose interest and depart. I suppose that the countermeasure to this position is to populate and colonize territory, rather than simply taking and occupying it. Genocide of the indigenous population may be an option, alas.

  233. @ JMG -yes, something like a tribal/chieftain/strongman situation does make sense for how a quasi-feudal society would develop when gunpowder is involved. Add in a healthy does of religion, and hopefully some at least semi-democratic checks on power, and we’ve got a sketch of human post dark age world.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the bottoming out sees more muzzle loaders than repeaters or bolt action long guns, but that depends a lot on what machine tools and raw materials are available in any given location.

    I’m having trouble imaging the kinds of naval rockets you’re talking about. It sounds like you’re describing what are essentially modern RPGs. Is that accurate?

  234. re: wargaming,
    One thing the old 19th century “war games” that our modern tabletop games evolved from did much better was the “fog of war” — because you could have the opposing sides in different rooms, with some privates or corporals running betwixt to place the opposing force markers you could actually “see”. That’s not practical for hobbyists, and I don’t know of a modern tabletop game that comes close. I mention this because it seems like the biggest differences identified in post-industrial vs. pre-industrial land warfare is the use of spotting aircraft and radio. If you don’t have a ruleset that really makes that difference clear, I’m not sure it’s going to play unlike a standard Boer-war or Civil-War era wargame.

    I hate to say it, but this is one area where computer games really do have tabletop beat: the computer takes the place of the bevy of underlings and keeps track of everything for you, bringing back that “fog of war” and not letting you see the whole map. I think some modern games can even let units operate semi-independently, played by the computer, and simulate time for orders to get to them… though I confess I don’t know of one that really leans into this.

    It’s deeply ironic, I suppose, that I’m saying, “Hey, the late-stage industrial computer game is the best way to simulate post-industrial combat!” — but I do believe its true.

    To all: Do you think real-time-strategy (like Starcraft) or Turn-based-strategy (like Civilization) would be the better framework to explore the dark age? I’m leaning towards turned-based, but that might just be because I’m pretty sure it will be easier to code. Obviously turn-based is much closer to tabletop, but real-time is (debatably) closer to real life. I see some folks here very interested in working on tabletop rules — would anyone be interested in helping with a computer version?

    To JMG,
    Would you consider letting the setting you’re brewing for tabletop rules be put to use in a computer game? I’ve been ruminating a bit now on starting such a project, but for one man doing all of setting/rules/art/programming becomes a bit much. If it becomes a virtual-space piggybacking on this existing project, why, that starts to look somewhat more doable! (And my cut of sales revenue becomes much smaller, but oh well. A fraction of something is better than all of nothing, which is looking likely based on how much progress I’ve made by myself.)

  235. Someone else already dropped the link to the Low Tech Magazine article, but parts of a comment I made there seem relevant, concerning crossbows:

    “If nothing else, arrows grow on trees and lead does not. I suspect bows and crossbows are where we’ll end up in the end. Maybe black powder will continue for a millennium or two, but if humanity chugs along another million years or so before going extinct, then the Firearm Era will have barely been a fad. […] Crossbows provide cheap (if not free) and easy-entry recreational shooting, pest control, hunting, and also home defense in a pinch. More likely, they’ll increasingly be used for the first three, with firearms saved for the last.”

    Even in our oil-wealthy society, shooting is an expensive hobby. As we’re all dragged, kicking and screaming, into frugality, a lot of very nice guns will never leave the safe, losing resale value as no one can afford to fire them.

    My current solution is to mostly shoot .22s (fifty rounds for 5-7 dollars) in a session, and ten-fifteen rounds of the bigger, more expensive calibers (.38/.357 are 25$ per fifty at best, though 9mm is often 15$ per fifty).

  236. Regarding the death of the internet and data centers, our data center in Sacramento is offline due to flooding from the atmospheric river. We’re lucky, we’ve always been aware of the “low probability, high impact” nature of potential outages and adopted a ‘resilient’ approach to I.T., so the impact to us is minor. Other clients who had ‘all their data in one basket’ are currently dead in the water until service is restored.

  237. @ Latechuk #258
    “I suppose that the countermeasure to this position is to populate and colonize territory”.
    Yes that was the way, for example, the Roman Republic finally won the Second Samnite War after the humiliating defeat at the Caudine Forks Battle. The word “colonize” derive from Latin “colonus”, a person dedicated to work in the land (a peasant), and they understood (as many others before and after) that the only way to win a total guerrilla war in a foreign land is to settle a lot of your own citizens, preferably army vets ready to use the sword, with a good communication system to the center of power (Roman roads), to control the remaining indigenous people after inflicting a huge demographic blow to them.
    Of course, as you know, this is also the script Israel have been using with the Palestinians from 1948 : occupy, settle, terrorize, kill or expell (your choice), a “technology” as old as the world.


  238. Given that the ability of naval power to protect sea lanes will be much constrained in a deindustrial future, this suggests some big changes for those nations that rely on exports (and imports) transported over the oceans. Not to mention their ability to police their fishing grounds. New Zealand for instance may feature in some survivalist fantasies as a great place to be, but it is heavily reliant on exporting food over long distances and importing manufactured goods (and oil) in return (over 90% of the dairy products produced in NZ are exported and meat and fruit are similarly dominated by exports). This partly explains why New Zealand remains aligned with the US from a foreign policy perspective. Whilst the US is not the biggest market for NZ, it is still seen as a guarantor of trade routes. This is where the current turmoil in the Red Sea becomes of great importance for such countries as NZ. If such ‘piracy’ is seen as effective, then what are the chances of other important shipping lanes being subject to the same? In the 19th century the British spent resources on combatting piracy on the South East Asian trade routes. I don’t expect land powers such as Russia, India, and China to take up the slack in this area unless they see the trade on those routes as vitally important – e.g. mineral resources from Australia – and I expect the resulting protection will be more selective. Without those trade routes the NZ economy would be radically different (and would probably have far lower immigration – at the last census over 40% of the population of the largest city, Auckland, were born overseas, and the most common family name for new-borns was Singh). Note: Australia has slightly different foreign policy issues in that Australians still remember the boat people from Vietnam and Cambodia in the early 80s and so value stability to their immediate north given that they are more accessible to the sort of immigration Southern Europe has been subject to recently. (Whether their current foreign policy is ideal for those goals is another matter altogether.)

  239. A couple of random thoughts
    On hunting with bows versus guns: I have hunted with guns in the past. I know plenty of people who hunt with both. The greatest disadvantage, I think, with bow hunting is that it is very easy to give an animal a fatal wound where they will still run quite a long distance before ultimately dying.Unless the hunter is a good tracker, it is very easy to lose a fatally wounded animal.
    This might be less of a disadvantage in warfare. If you kill someone, the enemy loses one person. If you seriously wound someone in the legs or lower body, it also takes two more people to carry them to the rear, plus all the medical personnel at the aid station, hospital, etc.
    As for automatic, semi-automatic, and repeating rifles, the latter might be the better option if ammunition is at a premium. Unless the rifleman is very well trained, there is a tendency to just point the weapon in the general direction of the enemy and pull the trigger. I have seen videos of Ukrainian soldiers just holding the weapon above their heads and firing over the top of a trench, so as to not expose themselves. With a bolt or lever action rifle you have to manually advance and cock it between shots. The peak age of excess is as obvious in warfare as anywhere else.

  240. Tyler A #260, I agree, it is “the 500 foot high general problem”. The players know far more than their real time counterparts could hope to. There are some ways to try to simulate the limited information and limited control of the situation in a miniatures game, but they aren’t perfect by any means. Computer games can provide some of the fog of war, but even then not all. For example, Confederate generals complained about their lack of knowledge of the terrain during the Seven Days battles (fought just outside of Richmond – one general said they had as muck knowledge about it as for that of central Africa), how far is that unit’s morale from giving way, etc.

    Unfortunately I don’t have the programming skills to do a computer wargame. I did once play the old Avalon Hill Squad Leader with a wargame club, three identical sets of maps, one for each side and the third for the umpire. Lot of fun and very interesting game!

    JMG; I’ll keep an eye out on your Dreamwidth account!


    I would love to see a simultaneous move computer game where you have to plan out moves, then your units execute them as the enemy is doing his thing and your plans are getting messed up and you are trying to get sorted out.

  241. All – Re: bow and arrow technology. While it is true that arrow shafts “grow on trees”, that’s both a plus and a minus. If you don’t have the trees you need to grow arrows, it’ll take years to get the first one into production. And if you do have them, you’ll still be limited by their natural growth rate to a certain number of relatively straight shafts. How many of us have ever seen a tree branch straight enough to make an arrow out of? Or do we expect to cut the whole tree down and saw/split it into arrow shafts, to be shaved round and smooth? Somewhere, I read that primitive societies knew that they could knap a flint arrow head any time they wanted to. It was better to lose the head than the shaft, so better to have the head come off and disappear with a wounded prey, than have the prey take off with the shaft, too. Arrow shafts will be salvaged from the battlefields.

  242. The mention of crystal sets reminded me: I think JMG may have mentioned this in another post, but the Ukrainians (and the article is pro-Ukrainian so doesn’t mention it, but Russians too) are going back to a WWI communications technology: the wind-up telephone. Why? Because unless you physically tap the cable, it can’t be intercepted by the enemy. Nor can it be jammed without physically cutting the cable.

    In some respects. communications are more important than weapons in war. You’d rather have a bunch of guys with bolt-action rifles, each unit of which can talk to each-other, than the same number of guys with automatic weapons, each unit of which is just doing its own thing.

    Every time I see these stories I think: “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly-distributed yet.”

  243. * Righteous = Winner!

    I’m glad someone else already mentioned Tom Clancy’s books. He had the U.S. win the war for two reasons. Inter-Vehicle Communication Systems, that showed all good guys where all good guys are, and of course none of these systems ever fall into the hands of bad guys. Just as important, as discussed in recent JMG essays, Jack’s Team were motivated by all that’s righteous and good. The evilly evil bad guys couldn’t strategize because of course being evil makes you unfit for global strategizing!

    * Military kites

    Didn’t the Chinese send up spies in big kites hundreds of years ago?

    * Computer hardware

    Computer chips: Many people don’t realize the fully interlocking set of exponential increases here. New generations of manufacturing tend to cost twice as much to set up. It’s now tens of billions of dollars, so only a few companies in the world can do it.
    With the new generation of fabrication technology, chips that perform as well as ever, doing the same things as prior-gen chips, are much smaller, cheaper, and run faster, than the same functionality made with previous generation manufacturing process. And you can put more of them on each silicon wafer.
    Or, for the same amount of price, area, or power consumption, the new chips can do a lot more.

    These two improvements are what makes the return on the huge investment, because exponentially more of the lower cost chips with last year’s features can be sold into markets where a bigger, power hungry, expensive chip wasn’t as useful. And this year’s new features appeal to new markets, and to the high end buyers who need (or want) the most capability.

    Meanwhile, if you don’t mind a comparatively big, slow, electricity gulping chip, you can get one made on an older process for dirt cheap. The production equipment’s paid off by now. And availability is excellent, compared to getting your order in for the very latest fabrication technology. (If you can’t afford to buy out the entire initial run of the new factory, like Apple’s doing with Taiwan’s TMSC.)

    * Computer software

    A lot of computer programming now is very wasteful of computer capacity, on the assumption that better hardware’s always cheaper than programmers who write efficient code, and that bringing a software feature to market fast matters more than precision or efficiency.

    It would be possible to throw away a lot of wastefulness and still accomplish tasks. For example, 1980s technology could be used today for a writer to type a book, just like many writers wrote a lot of books back then using word processors of the day. That computer cost a few thousand dollars back then. The technology could now be matched for ten bucks using “obsolete” manufacturing nodes. You just couldn’t also have an “always online dancing image-based AI assistant” in another window, copying and pasting plagiarized snippets for you.

    Same thing for the work of a file clerk. A database that tracked a few million items for a company within a few minutes, on a 1990s rack-mount computer, could do so within seconds today, on a deck of cards sized computer costing only a few day’s pay for a fast food worker. That is, if you didn’t need to have it also spam ten of today’s social media networks at the same time.

    There’s nothing about Internet connection that REQUIRES we all communicate on one of five surveillance and advertising platforms that enrich billionaires and require huge worldwide data centers. Those mega-platforms could all collapse, and this blog and comment system could still stay up completely unaffected. David’s still standing when Goliath topples over.

    * What the military does

    The U.S. Military branches have published their Task Lists, and the Joint Chiefs have a list for when more than one service is involved. These are huge, hierarchical list of tasks they should be ready to do, at different levels, along with how to measure performance.

    For example, let’s take chaplains.

    Strategic category 4, Logistics. “PERFORM LOGISTICS AND COMBAT SERVICE SUPPORT. To sustain forces in the combat zone by arming, fueling, fixing equipment, moving, supplying, manning, maintaining visibility over, and by providing personnel and health services.”
    “4.6 Provide Services (Nonmateriel and Support Activities) To provide services or those activities that are necessary for the effective administration, management, and employment of military organizations.”
    “4.6.2 Provide Command Services. To provide command service relationships in the area of logistics support.”
    “ Provide Religious Ministries Support.”

    The 20 measurements of effectiveness of start with:
    “M1 Percent Of deviation from criteria for assignment of RPs and/or Chaplain’s Assistants.
    M2 Percent Of major military locations with services for all major denominations available on
    weekly basis.
    M3 Percent Of authorized chaplains assigned and present for duty.
    M4 Percent Of chaplains’ time spent with military personnel in work areas.”
    And so on.

    The same breakdown is used with all the top level categories:
    “1 Conduct Movement and Maneuver.
    2 Provide Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.
    3 Employ Firepower.
    4 Provide Logistics and Personnel Support.
    5 Provide Command and Control.
    6 Provide Force Protection.
    7 Counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-yield Explosives
    (CBRNE) Weapons in JOA.”

    Civilians can use the Task List to identify what you want to predict, plan, simulate, or wargame about the military. There’s your complete breakdown, for beauracracy and analysis, or for your game engine.
    You could figure for yourself how much money could be saved if soldiers were assumed to be responsible for their own souls, with no help from a chaplain.
    Or if the mission was “deter and destroy any attempt to invade the homeland,” rather than “protect worldwide shipping lanes from any and all threats.”

  244. JMG, yeah, with steel body armor in the picture, the crossbow is for poachers, now that I think more. That being said, they are a non-industrial technology that is only slightly harder to shoot than a gun – I built one almost entirely out of wood as a teenager, and at about 120 pounds draw at 9″, it couldn’t hold a candle to a gun or a longbow, but it was a “point and click” weapon made mostly from plants using hand tools. Despite a clueless artisan and operator it was pretty accurate. A more powerful version could easily be executed by scaling up the design as I limited myself to a relatively practical 36″ unlaminated prod.

    I should add that the crossbow in question no longer exists, and was (and still would be) legal in my jurisdiction when it existed.

  245. Another factor that I think will affect post industrial warfare greatly will be the treatment of wounded. Care of the wounded in modern western warfare from Vietnam through the present and Russian in the Ukraine war is without historical precedent, especially because of the ability to evacuate the wounded quickly by helicopter.This level of care can not be expected to continue in post industrial warfare. I have heard of Ukrainian casualties just being left on the battlefield because of no way to evacuate them, and the Russians evacuating them when they can. The americans suffered more dead and less wounded in Korea than Vietnam, I assume primarily because of being able to air evac them in the latter war.

  246. JMG
    Another excellent article today on the honest sorcerer on the impossibility of mining with renewable energy

  247. Crossbows are entirely legal here, but for hunting purposes they count as modern firearms. You can’t use them during archery season, nor muzzleloader season. A draw weight of 125 lb is required for big game.

    The fish and game people are afraid of their usefulness to poachers so they discourage their use.

  248. Oops, meant to put this at the end of the previous post.

    In regard to computer programs, in 1995 I first got on the internet with a 100 MHz CPU with a 650 nm process, the line width of the traces inside the CPU. Intel is currently at 7 nm, TSMC is at 3 nm. I did my dissertation on that machine, it ran Excel and Word and photoshop.

    And way back the Apple II ran AppleWorks. Specs were

    There were expansion options too if you added memory expansion cards.

    The Apple IIe ran a CPU with only 22000 transistors with a 5000 micron line width that eventually worked down to 4000. It had 128 kilobytes of memory.

    So 4K streaming video may end, but computers capable of doing quite a lot will remain.

    I have an Apple IIe, it still runs after 40 years.

  249. I agree with you JMG, that drones have changed strategies in the Russo-Ukrainian war. Russkies have more artillery and aerial supremacy, but Ukries have a slight advantage in drones over the Russians…This situation could explain that Putin infantry prefer the fight between forests, ruins and buildings, meanwhile Zelensky’s are doing a bit better in open field.
    This is a subjective sensation when I read something about the war, of course maybe I am deceived by the propaganda from both sides.
    What do you think about it, JMG and kommentariat?

  250. >I have an Apple IIe, it still runs after 40 years.

    Computer chips rarely go bad. Radiation can chew them up but not much else. Old electrolytic capacitors are usually the first to go on a board.

  251. >In some respects. communications are more important than weapons in war

    Did you know that at the start of WW2, German artillery and tanks were inferior to the French? What they had though was the radio and a revolutionary new way of using it called Blitzkrieg.

    You see that all the time with video game matches – you can tell if the other side is all talking to each other in real time, because they are so much more effective.

    I’d say communications are the only thing, unless everyone is fighting with nukes.

  252. Lathechuck,

    Re: arrow shafts

    In my experience, pruned fruit trees are awfully good at sending up arrow-straight water sprouts. Especially when you don’t want them to! I have an ‘Ayers’ European pear that’s great at it. Succulent fruit and arrow shafts that you prune back every year – win/win! Something to keep in mind perhaps…

  253. In response to, “Stephen, I don’t know enough about miniature wargaming to make the attempt — at least not yet. Can you point me to some online resources? It would be a fun project.”

    Sure thing. As with all intellectual systems they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The best rank and flank style rule set for rule balance and competitive playability is Mantic Games Kings of War. You can get their rules for free as an e book here This is a fantasy game so you’ll have to remove the magical elements (unless you want to keep that and throw in your Cthulhu mythos) but this game has been used for historical purposes as well.

    A less competitive but more historically accurate rule set would be Warlord Game’s Pike and Shot. Here is a quick reference of the rules. This rule set also ranks models up but it also puts them into groups of regiments that work together… at least until discipline breaks down and things get chaotic.

    However, you might prefer something that includes vehicles. In which case you should take a look at Bolt Action. Check that game out here, Pike and shotte will not have any planes or trucks in it, so this might fill that gap for you.

    Also, check out the leading dark age setting game called SAGA. Get started here, This is about small warbands doing their thing 1,000 years ago in old Britannia and such.

    One thing you will have to think about is do you want a regiment based game or a skirmish based one. The first two uses squares, the second two uses unranked individual models. The old Warhammer 6th edition tried to gel the two systems together. You can find the text from that rulebook posted here, They are releasing a version of that game, which has been out of print, probably sometime this year.

    Another thing to keep in mind is what scale do you want the game to function at. Smaller battles with less armies usually implement unranked deployments, whereas once you get past 50 models or so most rules sets start putting guys into rectangular regiments, lest the game bog down and take way to long to play.

    Also, consider showing up at a historical wargaming convention where you can try several different games. They have them all over the country. The largest of which is Adepticon, held yearly at Chicago. You probably also have a local comic book/gaming store where you can find someone to teach you a few different games.

    Finally, there are other better known games such as Warhammer 40,000. That’s a great game but hard to fit into what you sketched out in this article. The big advantage there is you can easily find someone to teach you how to play. Also, the Game of Throne wargame as an interesting mechanic for allowing non combat orientated politician models to sit on the sideline and provide an overall buff/theme to your army. If you want to incorporate lots of political intrigue consider that.

    I hope that was helpful.

  254. Regarding wood for the making of arrow shafts, here in the PNW we have as a native tree/shrub
    – Holodiscus discolor .. commonly referred to as ‘Oceanspray’. The plant often produces very strait vertical stems, in fact multiple suckers of them! I know of which I speak, as I annually pruned them out to better shape the specimens we had growing in the yard. The wood is tough and quite flexible, which allowed the regional indigenous tribes to produce spear shafts, as well as bows and arrow shafts. And added plus is that when in bloom the bees and wasps in all their variety .. as well as syrphid flies and other beneficials go crazy in their quest for nectar or pollen or what have you.

  255. Ramaraj @ 253 I think many of us here who participate in the discussions on this website are trying to figure out a. what can be preserved into an increasingly impoverished and chaotic future, and b. what each of us, individually, can help to preserve. I, for one, am not willing to leave those decisions up to gangs of testosterone addled goofballs, of any religion or ethnicity. Nor do I place any faith at all in the self-serving pieties of PMC functionaries, again, of any religion or ethnicity.

    Many of us have come to the painful realization that we are alone here. No other parts of society even think there is a problem, or else they do see the coming scarcity and are busy figuring out ways to either profit from it or end up on top. The sentiment, Now is my time to Be Important., can be a powerful motivator.

  256. @ JPM #13
    John, why would you put yourself at risk by not having the best defense available? Remember, in a battle for your life there’s no second place.

    Beyond ultralights, gyrocopters would be useful for higher speed and maneuverability.

    Jim’s point (#93) is one I’ve stressed before. The semiconductor tech underlying the internet, smartphones, drones, etc. entirely depends upon a mass market. These things simply aren’t economically feasible at low volumes, so no, even the richest won’t have them.

    Ukraine doesn’t have a superiority in any area other than ISR. Otherwise theirs are available in lower quantities, have shorter range, carry smaller payloads and are increasingly subject to jamming. The sea drones have only been successful against older sidelined vessels and not anything of consequence and are attacked strictly for bragging rights.

  257. Re: bow and arrow technology
    For those in the temperate areas Viburnum dentatum, common name is arrow wood viburnum, grows fine strait stems. Plant it now.

  258. re arrowshafts: I have a hybrid hazelnut bush. It sends up a lot of rather straight shoots from a common root system, and I read that it benefits from being cut back to the root system periodically. It also produces edible nuts if you can get them before the backyard critters do.

  259. Hi John Michael,

    Thought you might find this to be interesting for your forthcoming post on economics: Are short-term rentals like Airbnb fueling the rental crisis? It depends on where you live

    What’s interesting about the entire story is that for rural areas, it appears that the needs of the tourists are being prioritised over that of the locals. I’ve read accounts that some rural areas now have difficulty fielding a football or netball team, let alone getting enough volunteers to man the local fire brigade or rescue service. Hmm.

    And also, it is worth noting that the short term stay tech platforms allow the potentially absentee owner to occasionally access the accommodation, whereas in a more usual rental arrangement with tenants, they would be unable to do so. I recall talking to a lady many years ago who operated a fish and chip shop (not a client) who casually mentioned the difficulty of making money when the tech platforms take a hefty cut of each sale they facilitate even when the people were long term former customers. Afterwards, I arrived at the unsubstantiated opinion that these sorts of arrangements are possible only when the losses can be offset against an external income. How else could it be done, other than maybe using up existing capital? They ain’t free.

    Dunno, but it’s weird don’t you reckon? I do wonder at what point new comers to the country will report back to the folks at home words along the following lines: Sure, you can earn an income, but the basic costs are almost the same as what you earn. Don’t bother coming, and I’ll see you soon.



  260. Info wonders about women in combat. As I see it, it’s a fairly simple process.

    In preindustrial times, you might have two tribes of 10 men and 10 women each. Tribe A sends 10 men to war, and 5 come back; the 5 men and 10 women can make 10 babies for the next generation. Tribe B sends 10 women to war, and 5 come back; the 10 men and 5 women can make 5 babies for the next generation. Thus, evolution favours the tribes who send men to war, not women.

    In industrial times what we see is that many women never have children anyway, and if they do the average age of first birth is 30 – so the women going to war doesn’t impact the numbers in the next generation that much, those numbers were declining anyway. In 1950 some 80-85% of Western women under 30 had at least one children, by 2020 this was down to 45%. So as well as being able to send 80-90% of the men to war, in industrial times you can send 30-35% of women to war without impacting the birth rate.

    Deindustrial times are a bit of a toss-up, we don’t have a lot of clear demographic records of civilisations post-collapse (by definition, really), we know their population drops to 5-10% of peak, but how much is that because of lower birth rates and how much because of increased death rates? Probably both. And there’ll be cultural factors, too.

    What cultures will emerge from the collapse of our civilisation we don’t know. Some may promote fighting, some peace, some lots of children, some few. Some of their culture may be rational responses to the conditions of the times (eg dealing with declining resources), some may be irrational responses, denying the limits (what did the man who chopped down the last tree on Easter Island say as he did it?)

  261. @J.L.Mc12 #257
    There’s not really any need for ‘fantasy’ weapons: the real world suffices. In the Chinese martial art of baguazhang alone, there are – apart from the usual weapons of sword, sabre, spear and staff – unique weapons such as the rooster knife, the deerhorn knife. the wind-wheel sword, and the judge’s pen. See here and here for discussions. There are many, many more weird and wonderful weapons in Asian martial arts. All – of course – are designed for a particular setting and purpose; baguazhang, for example, primarily evolved for solitary fighters facing groups of opponents in an urban setting, often requiring concealable weapons, and was much used by bodyguards etc.

    @lathechuck #267 Re arrows and straightness: wood can be shaped by steaming it, I believe, so presumably non-straight lengths of wood can be made straight. If I recall correctly, it can in any case be grown naturally straight via coppicing (or am I thinking of pollarding?) in which closely spaced new branches grow vertically upwards in a race for light.

  262. Siliconguy, yep. That’s what happens when you load a military procurement project with every possible gosh-wow technological gimmick, without first making sure that all of them (or any of them) work.

    Anonymous, so noted — but I’m going to disagree with you about sniper scopes. Lens grinding by hand isn’t that costly, and simple mechanical devices to speed the process were in use long before our current high-tech arrangements.

    Siliconguy, the competition for Biggest NATO Defense Turkey is lively indeed!

    Ramaraj, it’s not just lately that arguments like that have been in my comments section. I started getting those as soon as I started blogging. The number of people who literally can’t accept the idea that technologies can go away is — well, it shouldn’t surprise me any more, but it does.

    Info, that kind of thinking is probably the wave of the future at this point.

    Alvin, thanks for this.

    J.L.Mc12, nothing much comes to mind — and I doubt we’ll actually see anybody making bat’lethmey, since it’s a waste of good steel to use that much to get a cutting edge near the opponent. Swords and polearms make more efficient use of the resource.

    Ben, repeater guns are so useful that any region that can make them will have a lucrative income source selling them to those who can’t. Long distance trade in specialty items thrived during the Stone Age — there’s a particular kind of stone that makes excellent axes, found only in one volcanic deposit in Ireland, that shows up in archeological digs as far away as Russia — so in the deindustrial dark ages we can expect to see guns made by gunsmiths in, let’s say, the Hudson valley traded as far as Alaska and central America. As for naval rockets, the examples I have in mind are specifically the homemade rockets built and launched by Hamas, which are made from pieces of pipe and cheap explosives, and a volley of them would mess over a wooden ship very badly indeed.

    Tyler, so noted, but I have zero knowledge of (or, really, interest in) computer game design; I do know a certain amount about tabletop wargames, having played them back in the day. If you want to create a computer game along these lines, however, by all means — and borrow what works for you.

    Joshua, lead ores are very common in the earth’s crust, and the amount of lead is increasing over time as lead is the endpoint of quite a few decay sequences of radioactive elements. Gunpowder is made from two renewable resources — saltpeter (which can be extracted from animal excrement) and charcoal — and sulfur, which is an extremely common element (the most common lead ore, galena, is a compound of lead and sulfur, and there’s also fool’s gold and many other sulfur sources). So it’s going to be a long, long time before lead and gunpowder will run out. You’re right that there will be much less recreational shooting, but we’re not talking about that, of course.

    Harry, a useful reminder! I recall that much of Sacramento is so low-lying that meteorologists have noted the risk of long-lasting catastrophic floods there.

    KAN, that’s a very good point. Economic autarky is normal in dark ages, of course, precisely because trade routes stop being safe. New Zealand in particular is so isolated that it’s going to have to depend almost entirely on its own resources, supplemented to a limited extent by whatever trade with Australia can get past the pirates.

    Stephen, two good points.

    Hackenschmidt, that’s the wave of the future in a big way. I’ve read that several national intelligence agencies have gone back to typewriters and filing cabinets for similar reasons — any computer, even if it’s not hooked up to the internet, radiates signals that can be decoded.

    Christopher, your point about lower-tech computers is a good one. I wrote my first two published books on a Sanyo MBC-550 with two 5.25″ floppy drives and no hard drive; it worked just fine. The question is whether the chips needed to make those work can still be manufactured as technology unravels.

    Justin, I’ve shot with a crossbow, and yes, it’s a pretty straightforward, easy-to-use weapon. Did you know the imperial Chinese military had repeating crossbows?

    Stephen, another good point. Thank you for the reference!

    Chuaquin, that’s certainly my read on things.

    Stephen, thanks for this. As I mentioned to Cugel up above, I’m planning on taking the wargame discussion to an entry on my Dreamwidth journal. I’ve downloaded a copy of Bolt Action, as it sounds very much along the right lines.

    Chris, that’s just it. Real estate is one of the places where there’s been a vast bubble inflated using various gimmicks to drive up prices at everyone else’s expense. How long can the bubble stay inflated? I don’t know — but every bubble sooner or later pops.

  263. JMG, yes, I did. My crossbow was about as powerful as the Chinese repeating crossbows, and was functionally similar to a type of crossbow that existed alongside the bow in the European dark ages. Of course, mine was a one-shot model, but the draw weight was light enough that it could be cocked with both hands, so it was not *that* slow to fire. Even back then, when making things was considerably more work, there was a use case for a weapon that was more expensive and less dangerous than a normal bow, but was incredibly easy to use.

  264. Mr. Greer et al ….

    What of Greek fire?? Michael Crichton makes reference to it in his historical-based fiction ‘TIMELINE’.. as per in the storyline re. such, twas saltpeter that was ground with, I believe, poplar charcoal thus encorporating both so fine as to increase explosiveness. Mixed with resin – probably of coniferous origin – would truly make a fomidable offensive medieval version of napalm.
    What say you-

  265. To add to my above comment .. also, Greek fire had the uncanny trait of spreading ignition via ANY close moisture present to react with..

  266. re: weapons of the deindustial age

    The bottleneck may prove to be viable sulfur reserves which may be depleted No commercially viable sulfur reserves no black powder

    If that is not the case and we don’t still use smokeless powder (its 19th century tech) I’d expect to see big bore weapons with looser tolerances . Black powder (not Pyrodex) enthusiasts have shot a number of modern firearms and some semi auto shotguns, .45 pistols and various Submachineguns all work

    Some modern weapons like the M16 can fire but are intolerant of this kind of ammo so won’t be in use.

    The issue will be proving enough ammo for large battles as production will be limited. I’s expect in modern terms say a two cents a around with a dollar a day pay. 50 rounds a day vs 120+ so maybe 5x current price

    This suggests bolt action rifles (lever guns are too fiddly for combat) as standard military and revolver for self defense as they work better with dicey ammo

    Guns are fairly easy to make in small shops but metallurgy and quality control can be dicey

    Also automatic weapons will probably still be around as crew served weapons at least

    Basically 1920 warfare with less ammo

  267. Also re: vehicles

    The wont be as common in the future but I’d fully expect to see scouting vehicles and aircraft and the like . Alcohol fueled aircraft exist now and jets can be run on biofuel

    The later are far too complex to keep running though I could see a wealthy nation trying it.

    Unless there is a lot of food surplus to convert into this fuel , few vehicles

    Also since explosives can be made in small batches expect things like bazookas as well.

    Broad guess 1920-1950 tech but resources starved

    again scizotech 1920

  268. Well, for those of you interested in brass cased ammunition, there was a book titled “Ammunition making” by Frost, published 1990. It tells you pretty much EVERYTHING you need to know about manufacturing ammunition. The chapter on primers is the only place I have seen this subject discussed. I took a look on the web for paper copies and was stunned to find that there was one copy for $150 and a handful of others for $400 to $600 WTF? has a scan
    Interested parties might want to grab this.

  269. Re sulfur: It’s also an unwanted constituent of sour crude. There’s literally piles of it. Google “Great Sulfur Pyramids of Alberta.”

    Many mechanisms require gears. Modern steel gears with properly-designed tooth profiles are so much more efficient than older wooden varieties. Mostert’s Mill is a historic windmill with a wooden cage and peg gear converting the horizontal drive from the sail to the vertical drive for the mill stone. I’ve been up there with the wind blowing at a decent clip, and the gear is quite scary. It doesn’t work smoothly, it’s sort of GROAN-SPROINNG-GROAN-SPROINNG and you keep waiting for something to break.

    My survival plan is to stock up on something small that won’t spoil or degrade, that is difficult to manufacture to the required standard, that is highly desired by the elite of society, and that they keep losing — golf balls.

  270. Comment correction. In my comment of #212, my first sentence might have been put more clearly.

    “This has been a fascinating post in one way, while not leaving much room for someone like myself [who have never handled any kind of weapon] to contribute.”

    That said, there are exceptions. I have driven cars, and they are occasionally used as deadly weapons, and are certainly dangerous. I have handled many different styles of kitchen knives and gardening tools, and am accustomed to keeping each of them sharp. Which is to say that, from a different point of view, anything can probably be used AS a weapon, much depends on your personal orientation and purposes.

    And, THAT said, at least in this life, I will absolutely refrain from using guns. My thinking is as follows. To bring a gun into a situation is to add a gun to that situation, and this makes the situation more dangerous than it otherwise would be UNLESS a) you are 100% certain the gun will remain in your posession AND b) you are 100% that you will be willing to use it promptlly and without hesitation. I lack confidence on both scores, and so, I will not bring guns into situations where they may end up being anybody’s. For self-defence I will have to rely instead on things like staying below the radar, camouflage, social skills, and so on. The weapons of the weak and the small. Which have their place.

  271. Scotlyn,
    Again, why would you voluntarily put yourself at such a disadvantage? You can be certain that anyone that would want to do you or your’s harm and/or take things from you would take every possible advantage without compunction. Misplaced principles don’t mean a damn thing when you’re dead. Your confidence can be easily addressed by getting training which I always recommend to everyone.

  272. I have been slowly chewing over this post (which was everything I hoped for when I voted) and the comments. I’m not sure that I have that much to add, except that I agree with those who see a promising genre here, and also with those who find this a curiously hopeful vision. Expanding on the latter: I have no love for war… I suppose it would be more honest to say that I enjoy reading about it sometimes, or playing at it (strategy games), but I do not relish the reality of it, which it seems to me is mainly that of mass violence constantly running out of control and destroying even that which no leader particularly wanted to destroy. And yet as I thought about my reaction to this post, something occurred to me: “where there is war, there is life”. Or: “where there is war, there is human life”. If there are wars, or certainly the kind described for us here, that means there are still people recognisable as human beings there to fight them, and that implies many better things as well. Conversely, the most likely and hardest to refute scenario for Eternal World Peace that I can think of that of a lifeless Earth. Maybe that’s why this seems hopeful, despite all.

  273. “that kind of thinking is probably the wave of the future at this point.”

    Agreed. The only way Traditions endures is if they survive selection pressure. Women being Warriors may work up to a certain point like dice rolls do give those with generally inferior athletic stats wins.

    But compared to all-male groups. The differences will add up. In my opinion anyway. In addition to the fact of women being limiting factors of reproduction.

    But I think biology advantages men in face to face combat still. Even with gunpowder giving women more of an edge. But combat will be more intense in regards to selecting for smarts in regards to an individual soldier than before.

    Firing gun takes more cognitive load than thrusting with pointy stick after all.

  274. @Hackenschmidt

    Interesting thoughts. I do think that in Medieval Europe. In the absence of abortion and infanticide. There developed a practice of late marriage compared to other cultures where Men married often from 25-30 years of age(or even later). Courtesy of the Manorial system. And the farm only passing to men and their wives after some time has passed when the previous owners have passed away.

    Those who married or coupled too early with the opposite sex informally didn’t get that benefit as HBD chick would say:

    “those individuals who could hold off on reproducing too early would’ve been rewarded with farms, those that did not would’ve been shunned and would lose the opportunity to reproduce further; and compliancy — you didn’t rail (too much) against the man in the manor, and anyone that did wouldn’t have gotten a farm and may have, if they caused too much trouble, been shipped off to a monastery for life”

    In this way they lived more easily within limits in Medieval Europe compared to elsewhere. Where earlier and more universal marriage was the norm.

  275. “They’ll be armed with guns, probably semiautomatic rifles like the ones carried in the two world wars,”

    Most military rifles of the World Wars were in fact bolt action. The US started with the ’03 Springfield in World War I and was still using it at the start of World War II but switched to the semiautomatic M-1 Garand. If you ever examine one of these up close, you’ll realize very quickly that this weapon took a lot of machining operation to make, and that it took a rich country with a massive industrial base to issue something like this to troops.

    You can today find gunsmiths in Afghanistan and Pakistan who will make you a bolt action .303 caliber Lee-Enfield rifle of the type the British army issued to its infantry troops in both World Wars and for some time thereafter. The Afghans were killing Russian soldiers with these things in the 80s and they probably killed some Americans too.

Comments are closed.