Not the Monthly Post

Notes on Stormtrooper Syndrome

For some time now I’ve been looking for a way to talk about one of the most common bad habits of thought in the modern industrial world.  Habits like this are far more important that a casual glance might suggest.  Plenty of pragmatic factors are piling up crises for our civilization just now, but many of those could be solved—or at least faced in a more constructive way—if our government and business elites could think clearly about them. It’s the fact that they don’t seem to be able to do this that makes the crisis of our time so overwhelming.

Another overpriced round of vacuous drivel laced with bad policies.

It’s really quite remarkable, when you think of it. These days, if a government bureaucracy or one of those dreary panels of multibillionaires get together to try to solve some problem, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll either do nothing or make the problem worse. It’s not that the people in question aren’t educated—they have the best education you can get in a modern Western society. It’s not that they lack  resources—for example, the money and energy that go into those climate conferences each year, put to some productive use, could have contributed considerably to mitigating the effects of climate change. No, the problem is that the people in question are stuck in habits of thought that make it impossible for them to do anything useful in a crisis.

I know that this is a controversial claim these days. Quite a few people have become convinced that our government and corporate elites can’t possibly be as stupid as they seem.  No, it’s got to be a sinister conspiracy! It’s easy to understand why that sort of thinking has become popular. It certainly makes more sense than the claims being pushed by government and corporate media, which basically amount to saying that the world’s smartest people are making our lives steadily better, and the mere fact that our lives are getting steadily worse doesn’t matter.

Yet I’d like to suggest that it makes even more sense to suggest that “the world’s smartest people” aren’t as smart as they like to think they are.  In particular, they suffer from habits of thought that make them pursue policies that are doomed to fail. Worse still, those same habits keep them from learning from their mistakes, and guarantee that the only thing they can think of when one of their gambits fails is to make the same mistake over again on an even larger scale.

There are a fair number of these wellsprings of total failure. The one I want to talk about today is a bad habit I call Stormtrooper Syndrome.

The worst shots in the galaxy.

Do you remember, dear reader, the Imperial Storm Troopers from the Star Wars movies, lurching around in their white plastic armor?  When Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original movie said that no one else was as precise as Imperial Storm Troopers, he was clearly making a joke that Luke Skywalker was too wet behind the ears to catch.  The one thing those movies make plain about Imperial Storm Troopers is that they couldn’t hit the broad side of a Death Star even if they were standing the length of one womp-rat away from it. Their job is to fill the air with blaster fire and miss. They do that job very effectively.

Those of my readers who know anything about actual firefights involving professional soldiers know that this isn’t what happens. (First-timers in combat, sure, but Imperial Storm Troopers are supposed to be competent.) In other words, Imperial Storm Troopers aren’t there to do anything useful. They’re there to provide the illusion of deadly peril so that the fake heroics of the protagonists look a little less unconvincing to movie audiences.

There’s a reason for this kind of absurdity, of course. Popular entertainment in Western industrial nations today is as thickly larded with moral posturing as anything Victorian parents inflicted on their children. In most popular genres, the Good People always win, and the Bad People always lose. Oh, there’s often a Good Person who dies heroically so the other Good People can emote on camera, and there’s often a Bad Person who turns out to have a heart of gold, but the basic principle remains:  Good People win because they’re good, Bad People lose because they’re baaaaad.

J.R.R. Tolkien. He can’t be blamed for the stupidities of his imitators.

That colossus of the modern imagination, J.R.R. Tolkien, has some responsibility for all this. In his programmatic essay “On Fairy-Stories” he discussed one of the central plot schemes of fairy tales, which he called “eucatastrophe:”  in plainer English, a sudden improbable turn for the better that saves the day when all is lost. As you’d expect from a devout conservative Christian like Tolkien, this theme is ultimately religious in nature—he described the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate eucatastrophe—and it provided the frame he used for his two gargantuan fairy tales, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

To give him due credit, Tolkien went out of his way to make his eucatastrophes as plausible as he could. Most of the ninth-rate Tolkien imitators whose fetid output bathes the brains of today’s mass media consumers stopped worrying about such petty concerns a long time ago. It doesn’t matter how much stronger and smarter and better armed the Bad People are, they have to lose because they’re the Bad People.  Nor does it matter how idiotic the plan the Good People decide on, the Bad People are required to make the mistakes that will enable it to succeed. When the chips are down, you know that Harry Potter will infallibly drop the One Ring from his X-wing into the cooling port of Mount Doom and bring the reign of Emperor Palpasauronvoldemortine crashing down, because he’s a Good Person and the Good People always win.

This sort of silliness makes for dreary storytelling, but I’m convinced that it can also cause serious cognitive disabilities. Children who are raised a steady diet of this kind of schlock are apt to end up thinking that this is how the world works. If they get out into the real world and bloody their noses a few times, they generally learn better, but if they live in a society that doesn’t let them fail, they may well reach adulthood without ever encountering that salutary lesson.

Notice that he’s not even looking at his target. Talk about phoning it in…

Furthermore, if they belong to a social class in which the most ironclad rule is that nobody must ever suffer the consequences of their own choices, no matter how cretinous those choices might be, they can end up in important positions in government and business without ever realizing that the universe is not set up to hand them victory just because they think of themselves as the Good People. That’s Stormtrooper Syndrome: the conviction that no matter what, you’ll inevitably win because you think you’re morally superior to your enemies.

There’s no shortage of examples of Stormtrooper Syndrome these days, but I’m going to focus on the most important of the lot, the one that bids fair to transform the world’s political and economic landscape in the years immediately ahead. Yes, we need to talk about Ukraine.

That emphatically does not mean we need to talk about who gets to claim the roles of Good People and Bad People in the Russo-Ukrainian war.  May I whisper an unwelcome truth in your ear, dear reader?  The outcome of this war does not depend on which side is morally better than the other. In the real world, in terms of military victory and defeat, who’s right and who’s wrong don’t matter two weak farts in a Cat-5 hurricane once the cannon start to roar. That being the case, let’s set aside moral posturing for a bit and talk about something more relevant.

The roots of the Russo-Ukrainian war go back a very long ways, but for present purposes we can begin in 2014. That’s when the US and its European allies sponsored a coup d’etat in Ukraine, overthrowing the elected pro-Russian government and replacing it with a pro-NATO one. Once the new regime settled into place, the US and its allies began funding a military buildup that gave Ukraine the second largest army in Europe. That army was armed and trained with an eye toward a massive shift in military affairs that was then underway.

Somehow, that time, it didn’t work so well.

In 2006 the Israelis launched one of their periodic incursions into Lebanon. To the surprise of many people, the Hezbollah militia dealt the Israelis a bloody nose and forced them to withdraw with their main goals unachieved. The Israelis, like every other modern army at that time, used the tactics that had been pioneered by the Wehrmacht in 1939 and 1940, and perfected by Soviet and US militaries in the years immediately following:  massive assaults by tanks and mobile infantry supported by air superiority, driving deep into enemy territory to get behind the defenders’ lines, disrupt their supply and communication routes, and cripple their ability to resist.

What Hezbollah demonstrated is that those tactics had passed their pull date. Having built a network of underground shelters and urban strongholds, they lay low while the Israeli vanguard moved past, then popped up and started clobbering Israeli units with sudden ambushes using state-of-the-art weapons. The Pentagon watched the whole business closely, and planned on using the same tactics against an eventual Russian incursion into Ukraine. That’s why the Ukrainian military built a massive network of defensive works just west of the Russian-held areas of the Donbass, the easternmost, ethnically Russian part of Ukraine.

In retrospect, it’s clear what the Ukrainian government and its NATO allies had in mind. Once war with Russia came, the Ukrainian army would draw the Russians into a grueling stalemate that would deny them an easy victory and cost them more than the Russian economy could afford. Meanwhile sweeping economic sanctions would finish wrecking Russia’s economy and force Russia into a humiliating withdrawal and an internal political crisis. The long-range endpoint was regime change, leading to the often-stated Western goal of breaking up the Russian Federation into a gaggle of weak, unstable states. These could then be absorbed by the EU, in the run-up to the final confrontation with China a few decades further down the line.

“We’ll just have Harry Potter fly his X-Wing to Mount Doom. That’ll take care of it.”

As grand strategies go, this was fairly good, but it had two serious weak points. The first was that the sanctions had to have the effect on the Russian economy that Western economists predicted.  The second was that the Russians had to stick to pre-2006 military doctrine no matter how badly things went. That’s where Stormtrooper Syndrome first showed up.  The decisionmakers in Washington, Brussels, and Kiev convinced themselves that those weak points didn’t matter because the Ukrainians were the Good People and the Russians were the Bad People.

Then war broke out last February. Those of my readers who watched the news will recall how closely things followed the script, at first. The Russians launched a classic blitzkrieg operation, driving deep into Ukrainian territory, only to find that the Ukrainians fell back on prepared defenses and urban strongholds. Some Russian units suffered embarrassing defeats; others found themselves overextended in hostile territory and retreated. Meanwhile the US and the EU slapped sanctions on the Russian economy…and that’s when the plan ran straight off the rails.

The first difficulty was that most of the world’s nations didn’t cooperate with the sanctions. There were several reasons for that. Nations such as Iran and China that are hostile to the US saw the situation as an opportunity to extend a middle finger to their enemies. Nations such as India and Brazil that are nonaligned powers saw the situation as a chance to demonstrate their independence. Still other nations wanted Russian oil and grain and weren’t willing to forgo them, so they acted in accordance with their interests rather than ours.

This used to be a McDonalds. All the profits are now staying in Russia. How exactly did that help Ukraine?

Yet there was another difficulty with the sanctions. Do you remember all those big corporations that loudly announced that they were leaving the Russian market?  They couldn’t take their outlets and infrastructure with them, and so the Russians simply rebranded those and kept going.  The Russian subsidiary of Coca-Cola, for example, now produces something called Dobry-Cola. Yes, it tastes just like Coca-Cola, and it’s in a very slightly different red can. The crucial point is that the profits from sales of Dobry-Cola and similar products and services aren’t flowing out to stockholders in the US, they’re staying in Russia, where they’ve given a timely boost to the Russian economy. This presumably wasn’t what US and NATO elites had in mind.

But the worst news for NATO came from the battlefields. What happened there has an odd personal dimension for me  Some years ago I wrote a paper, “Asymmetric tactical shock: a first reconnaissance,” about what happens when an army becomes too dependent on complex technologies and its enemies figure out how to monkeywrench those. The example I used came from the end of the Bronze Age, but the lesson applies more broadly: the monkeywrenched army faces total disaster unless it does something most people these days can’t even conceive of doing.

My essay circulated quietly among people interested in such things, and finally saw print in my 2020 collection Beyond the Narratives. I have no reason to think that anybody in Stavka (the Russian General Staff) pays the least attention to obscure American fringe intellectuals like me. The fact remains that when the Ukrainians monkeywrenched the Russian version of blitzkrieg, the Russians did exactly what I suggested an army in that situation had to do: they fell back on an older form of warfighting that wasn’t vulnerable to the monkeywrenching tactics.

How the ancient Egyptians defeated the Sea Peoples. Massed spearmen were considered obsolete in 1300 BC, but they did the job.

That was why the Russians abandoned their deep thrusts into Ukrainian territory, retreated from vulnerable areas around Kharkov and Kherson, launched a mass mobilization of troops and a major expansion of their already large munitions industry, and got to work building entrenched defensive lines to guard the territory they’d seized. Meanwhile the Russian government got very friendly with Iran and North Korea. Why?  Because both nations have large munitions industries that don’t depend on access to Western technology and capital, and both are eager to sell weapons and ammunition to their Russian friends.

That is to say, since the new Ukrainian tactics made it impossible for the Russians to refight the Second World War, the Russians switched to First World War tactics instead, . The defensive lines and urban strongholds on which the Ukrainians relied to defeat Russian tank columns didn’t provide anything like the same defense against massed Russian artillery bombardment. While the Russian Army was retooling for the new (or rather old) mode of war, mercenary units—Wagner PMC, most famously, but there were others—took over the brunt of the fighting, tested out First World War tactics against entrenched Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, and won.

That put Ukraine and its NATO backers into a very difficult position. In First World War-style combat, the winner is the side with the largest munitions industry and the biggest pool of recruits to draw on. Russia has a huge advantage on both counts. First, NATO countries no longer have a political consensus supporting mass military conscription, while Russia does. Second, while the US and its allies dismantled most of their munitions factories at the end of the Cold War, Russia didn’t, and it also has those good friends in Tehran and Pyongyang. All these give the Russians an edge the NATO nations can’t match in the near term.

This wasn’t the kind of battle NATO was expecting.

This wasn’t a message that NATO was willing to hear. To a very real extent, it was a message they weren’t capable of hearing. It’s been 70 years—since the end of the Korean War, in fact—since the United States and its allies last fought a land war against a major power. The entire NATO officer corps got its training and experience in an era when they had overwhelming superiority over their enemies, and they have no idea how to fight without it. (Even with that—cough, cough, Afghanistan, cough, cough—they aren’t too good at winning.)  That’s when Stormtrooper Syndrome really came into play, because it never occurred to NATO that Ukraine could lose—after all, our government shills and corporate media have defined them as the Good People!

That’s why the elites in Washington, Brussels, and Kiev convinced themselves that the Russians couldn’t possibly ramp up their munitions industry to a pitch that would permit them to carry on trench warfare for years at a time. (Remember all those confident news stories that insisted the Russians were about to run out of shells and rockets?) They convinced themselves that the Russians were using mercenaries because the Russian army was too demoralized and brittle to stand up to the rigors of combat. They drew up plans for a grand Ukrainian offensive to turn the tide of the war, and funneled more arms to Ukraine, along with big contingents of NATO mercenaries to fill out the ranks of the depleted Ukrainian army.

Meanwhile, European politicians made public statements admitting that the previous ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia had been a sham, none of the Western nations that signed onto it ever intended to fulfill their parts of the bargain, and the whole point was to give Ukraine time to build up an army that could take on the Russians. Those statements weren’t made by accident. Their purpose was to convince the Russians that negotiation was a waste of time, thus making it impossible for a peace faction in Ukraine to go behind NATO’s back and negotiate with the Russians. So NATO got the grand Ukrainian counteroffensive it wanted.

Those armored vehicles used to be full of Ukrainian soldiers. You don’t want to think too much about what happened to them.

The counteroffensive began on June 4th. Two months on, it’s clear that it has failed. A successful assault against fortified positions in modern war requires a three-to-one advantage in soldiers on that region of the battlefield, a large advantage in artillery, and air superiority. Ukraine has none of these things, and somehow or other no eucatastrophe showed up to save the day. That’s why tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers lie dead in the mud of Zaporhizhzhye amid the charred remains of hundreds of NATO armored vehicles, and the Russian defensive lines remain unbroken.  One of the defining battles of the 21st century has just been fought in southern Ukraine. The short version? NATO lost.

Now of course the Russo-Ukraine war isn’t over yet, and the fortunes of war may yet favor the Ukrainian side—though this looks very improbable just now.  Meanwhile, history is not waiting around for the details to be settled. Last week the heads of state of 40 African nations gathered in St. Petersburg to sign agreements giving Russia a leading position in the economic and military affairs of the world’s second largest continent, while Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu was in North Korea negotiating further arms deals. The Russians know better than to wait for miracles to save them from the consequences of their own actions. Only our leaders are that stupid.

The mess in Ukraine isn’t the only way that Stormtrooper Syndrome has shaped recent history. It’s because of Stormtrooper Syndrome that so many people suffered nervous breakdowns when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016—their reaction amounted to “he’s a Bad Person, he’s not supposed to win!”—and the same factor also kept them from wondering why so many people had lost so much faith in the political establishment that they were willing to settle for Trump, of all people, as an alternative. Nor, to be fair, is Stormtrooper Syndrome in short supply on the right, where shrill moral dualism is far more common than thoughtful discussions of how to deal constructively with the cascading crises overwhelming America today.

Meanwhile in Russia, they’re tipping back Dobry-Colas.

Really, it’s hard to name anything in contemporary life in the Western industrial nations that hasn’t been twisted bizarrely out of shape by the efforts of our privileged classes to pretend to be the heroes of their own Star Wars sequels, posturing nobly while the Imperial Storm Troopers fill the air around them with harmless faux-blaster fire. Yet the lesson being whispered by the winds from Ukraine is that nobody and nothing else is required to play along.  That lesson may end up costing a great many people bitterly in the not too distant future.


  1. At this link is a full list of 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 or at the first link at the beginning of this post.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    Steve T’s brother Matt is currently in the hospital after a sudden violent seizure, and his daughter is having extreme panic attacks; they were both in a terrible car accident last fall. Steve asks for prayers for Matt’s recovery of health; for the emotional and psychological well-being of the rest of the family, including his wife Megan, his daughter Diana, and his young son Jake; and for the lifting of any spiritual harm afflicting the family.

    Freddy, Ganeshling’s neighbor’s 10 year old son, hasn’t spoken since a traumatic hospital stay a few years ago; for Freddy to start speaking again and to help him develop into a functional adult.

    Tamanous’s friend’s brother David got in a terrible motorcycle accident and has been diagnosed as a quadriplegic given the resultant spinal damage; for healing and the positive outcomes of upcoming surgeries and rehabilitation, specifically towards him being able to walk and live a normal life once more.

    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. The reasonable possibility exists that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. (Lp9 gives updates here and also here.)

    * * *

    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 now 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.

  2. Hi JMG and Fellow Readers,
    I mentioned the American failure in Ukraine in an article I wrote for the local tiny newspaper. People lost their tempers because if the Good Guys lose, you are not supposed to mention it. If you are not taking flack, you are not over the target!

  3. I realized a long time ago that if Imperial Stormtroopers received the same kind of marksmanship training that US Marines receive, the first Star Wars movie would have been very short indeed, and the only sequels possible would have been something along the lines of The Adventures Of Darth Vader And The Stormtroopers as they rooted out the various pockets of resistance put up by the Rebel Alliance. Though it also occurred to me that it became part of Darth Vader’s ultimate plan to follow the Millennium Falcon once it escaped the Death Star to the rebel base, therefore one could “fan-wank” that the incompetence of the Empire’s best soldiers in the first movie was something they were ordered by Vader to feign!

    Now if a guy who works at a grocery store can figure all this out, it really makes you worry about the future of this country that our so-called leaders and social betters probably couldn’t even if an Angel of the Spirit materialized in front of them and told them what was what!

  4. There is much in this with which I can agree.

    But I think there’s a central point which needs to be brought up. Yes, Obi Wan made a comment about how Stormtroopers fire with precision. And when we see them on the Death Star, they seem almost comically inept. Guess those vaunted Stormtroopers weren’t so competent after all, right?

    After we see the Millennium Falcon “escape,” we see Darth Vader discussing the fact that a tracking beacon was placed on-board while Luke, Han et al were sneaking around. That tracking beacon led the Death Star to the Rebel base on Yavin (well, one of the moons of Yavin, anyway; if I didn’t clarify, I’m sure some pedant would feel the need to correct me).

    Vader wanted them to “free” Leia so he could track her to the Rebel base. If the Stormtroopers were ruthlessly competent, Luke, Han et al would not have survived, Leia would not be freed and they’d still be searching for that blasted Rebel base.

    Thus quoth Admiral Ackbar, a couple movies later: “It’s a trap!”

    Luke, Han et al were playing checkers. Vader was playing chess.

    The ineptitude was bogus; it was an act. If they made it TOO easy, Leia et al would be suspicious, which is why a bunch of Stormtroopers, and a couple TIE Fighter pilots, were killed in the escape. And yes, Vader is exactly the kind of leader who would sacrifice a bunch of pawns for that purpose.

    So I think the whole “Stormtrooper Syndrome” thing is badly overblown. Too many people seem to miss the “trap” aspect, which is why that meme continues.

    While we would agree that Vader’s plan didn’t work out the way he expected, the defenses on the Death Star exacted a pretty heavy toll on the Rebel fighters. The blaster tower gunners and TIE Fighter pilots were decidedly not inept. All of which fits with “trap.” But we remember the movie, with such a halo, because the Bad Guys lost and the Good Guys won. It’s a fairy tale; it just happens to have a sci-fi setting.

    Beyond that, I have little argument with the premises of your post.

    It’s hard to believe that COP23, etc. is all about power-brokers playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. If anything, the power-brokers are playing checkers and the climate is playing chess. If humanity is going to survive, we seriously need to get our (chess) game on.


    Everybody knows the dice is loaded.
    Everybody knows that the Good Guys lost.

    Agreeing with you and Tolkien, that’s not how fairy tales go.

    But, to quote the always-smooth Anita Baker:

    My fantasy is over, my life must now begin.
    My story ends, as stories do.
    Reality steps into view.
    No longer living life in paradise – no fairy tales.

  5. One other thing that went wrong for the west was that they failed in several of the essential run-up steps to the Russian Invasion. Their first move was to try and turn Syria in to a client state ( or failed state at the least) so that a natural gas pipeline could be run from the gulf to Europe to mitigate the economic effects from losing Russian gas in a war. That failed thanks to Russian assistance to Syria. Then came coups or color revolutions in Turkey, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, also foiled by Russia. They even tried to get rid or Eurdogan in Turkey twice. That would have give Nato control of the entrance to the Black Sea ( Turkey) and countries on both sides of the Ukraine to base military forces and air assets.
    You would have thought with the failure of all these key steps in the plan they would have given up and tried some kind of plan B. But of course they were the good guys and were destined to win even when losing rounds 1 and 2.

  6. Much as I love Tolkien, I think some new stories are needed -and Fantasy fiction could certainly go back down to the fork and take some different roads.

    I’ll raise a can of Moxie to Bored of the Rings however:

    “In his hand he carried an ancient and trustworthy weapon, called by the elves a Browning semi-automatic.”

    “It was the next morning that the armies of Twodor marched east laden with long lances, sharp swords, and death-dealing hangovers. The thousands were led by Arrowroot, who sat limply in his sidesaddle, nursing a whopper. Goodgulf, Gimlet, and the rest rode by him, praying for their fate to be quick, painless, and if possible, someone else’s.
    Many an hour the armies forged ahead, the war-merinos bleating under their heavy burdens and the soldiers bleating under their melting icepacks.”

    “This ring, no other, is made by the Elves
    Who’d pawn their own mother to get it themselves.
    Ruler of creeper, mortal and scallop,
    This is a sleeper that packs quite a wallop.
    If broken or busted it cannot be remade.
    If found, send to Sorhed. (The postage is prepaid.)”

    This one may be apocryphal, “Not all who are lost, wonder.”

  7. To what degree is the conservative sense that “the pendulum must swing back” on social issues our own way of anticipating eucatestrophe? Not everything that swings is a pendulum; sometimes it is the lid of Pandora’s box.
    (For that matter, for issues that are pendular, the returning pendulum cannot set things back as they were and we may not enjoy the fruits of reaction one bit.)

  8. I’ve been watching the situation around Bakhmut with some interest. The Ukrainians were slowly driven out last year fighting for every inch. This year they slowly regained much of the lost ground but not Bakhmut itself. I recall asking why there was not much evidence of any kind of advanced weapon use by the Russians at the time. This is good as good an explanation as any I’ve read. In fact it’s the only explanation I’ve read.

    Presumably there are two paths forward. NATO finds a handy pretext to fully engage, or there’s a stalemate and the borders remain more of less where they are now. In either case it looks like the era of globalisation has ended. Loss of dollar reserve status is inevitable?

  9. Fittingly, the most well-received of the new Star Wars movies — the most well-received since at least the original trilogy — was Rogue One, in which no miracle showed up at the end to save the heroes. They accomplished their mission only by painting themselves into a corner they couldn’t get out of, and so they were killed in the end.

    On Ukraine, what has stood out to me is the sheer mental rigidity of those obsessed with the war: they swallow whole blatant propaganda that fits their narrative and reject as propaganda any information that doesn’t no matter how well-sourced.

    I’ve seen this on both sides but most of my experience is with the pro-Ukraine side so I can speak best to that one: for all their crowing about Russian disinformation and propaganda it never crosses their minds when listening to “leaked” statement about how badly the war is going for Russia that those statements could be Russian disinformation. I doubt this thought has crossed the minds of NATO leaders, either.

    I have adopted from the start the policy of treating all “news” about the war as propaganda from one side or the other. To the extent I follow it at all, I’m more interested in what neither side wants to talk about.

  10. JMG, thank you for remembering that business is as culpable for our present wretchedness as is government.

    Commentator Aurelian has a post up today on his substack which ties neatly into your own. What I am wondering is when these PMC fools do crash and burn how are the rest of us going to deal with them? One thing those guys are good at is infiltrating.

    I would like to read your essay about end of the Bronze Age. Is it available anywhere online?

  11. This is one of your best ever, JMG.

    As I’ve mentioned here now and then in the past, my father’s step-father worked as a carnival sharper in a traveling carnival for much of his 20s, and he knew a lot about how con-artists ply their trade. One of the maxims in con-artistry is that the easiest people to con are the most highly educated. That’s simply because the more highly educated people are, the more they overestimate their own intelligence and virtue.

    Conversely, the hardest person to con is the street-smart kid from the slums, who makes no pretensions to goodness, but is an expert on survival under adverse conditions, and knows how to spot a predatory fellow human on sight.

    That’s why the so-called smart people running the military in the USA and NATO will inevitable lose the current war in Ukraine. The only person less competent than the average self-proclaimed “good person” is the highly educated self-proclaimed “good person.”

  12. I’ve always been of the opinion that the Star Wars blasters were deliberately designed by their makers (probably droid slave labor) to miss. Remember the garbage compactor scene in the original movie? Han Solo squeezes off a shot which ricochets madly through the chamber, and NOBODY GETS HIT! If these are laser beams which travel at the speed of light, then nobody would have time to duck before they get perforated by the laser. But…nobody….gets…hit……
    Honestly, I don’t think these movies have aged very well. They were great fun to watch at the time they were made, but CGI was new and dazzling then. Now that we’re jaded and can look past the glitzy special effects, the movie’s flaws become painfully apparent.

    I wonder how long before the dog and pony show about the Ukraine war breaks down and the bitter truth stands revealed?

  13. Without accountability, we’re in for a decidedly non-Hollywood ending.
    Too stupid to be held accountable? Perish the thought. And enjoy your promotion.
    Too late to be held accountable for trashing the planet? Mother Nature doesn’t think so. But she has a bad habit of letting everything ride. So until then, enjoy your ticket.

  14. Insightful. I would admit that incompetence and wishful thinking combined have led to a great many disasters, but one should never forget Churchill saying “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The cleanup from the Stormtrooper Syndrome often lets bad players capitalize on the chaos.

  15. Hi JMG,

    Great article. There has been so much noise, and propaganda, and psychological projection surrounding the reporting on the Ukraine war. It has been very difficult for an average person to get a clear picture of what is going on. I really appreciate the distillation here.

    This article came out a while ago, and it has a lot of interesting photos of a US artillery shell factory:

    The upshot is that the shell casings are made in the midatlantic region on creaky WW2 era tools, then sent by train to Iowa to have the explosive caps attached.

    My impression is that while the US has a very robust small arms manufacturing base, it is very supply constrained for basic items like artillery shells, mortars, and light military vehicles. It is frustrating when one considers that the cost of a couple of fighter aircraft could go a long way towards shoring up the manufacturing need.

  16. Brilliant as usual! Another contributor might be suggested by the phrase, “A patient cured is a customer lost.” Many of these people must be aware at some level that if they solve the problem they’re out of a job. Hence, “solutions” that solve nothing.

  17. This is disgraceful, JMG. Haven’t you heard of the Patriot Act? Your life will never be the same now. You will have to go on Celebrity Big Brother, emote, cry, apologise, and take a fifteen dollar bill out of your pocket and promise to donate it to the war effort. If you don’t, your Wikipedia entry will be changed to: “John Michael Greer is an American author, druid, and conspiracy theorist”. You have been warned!

    Meanwhile, your post reminded me of this delicious piece of English humour, and it’s just a bit under 3 minutes long. As for the trope, it’s a recognisable one whose name eludes me – not quite “breaking the third wall” but along those lines.


    That Mitchell & Webb Look – Nazi Sketch.

  18. Monkeywrenching is an important idea and may become the most important thing that most of us can do to ensure our survival. I have an example:

    Two years ago my employer of over 20 years announced a vaccine mandate. They said they would consider religious exemptions, but they would “be tough.” I did research and considered arguments for exemption like aborted fetal cells used in testing, constitutional protections, all the usual things. But luckily, I just happened on a comment over on where the commenter must have been someone in the know. The commenter said that all those usual arguments had been gamed out and, “they” had responses to every argument, e.g., “Well have you ever taken Tylenol? They tested Tylenol on aborted fetal cells…” All the major companies had those gamed out responses and would ensure that those usual arguments would not succeed. The commenter said that to succeed at a religious exemption, you had to find an argument sufficiently obscure that “they” could not have gamed it out and then you had to provide evidence that you actually believed in that obscure argument. A certain amount of creativity was required. The commenter also warned that if you managed to get the exemption, understand that you were still dead meat at that employer; they would use any excuse going forward to fire your non-compliant a**. So, the commenter said, be creative, apply for the exemption, and look for a new job.

    I followed the commenter’s advice. I got the exemption, put my resume on the street, and seven months later moved to a new job with no vaccine mandate. I heard from coworkers at my old company who tried the aborted fetal cell argument that sure enough, they were asked, “Well have you ever taken Tylenol?” And then they were fired.

    How else can we monkeywrench going forward? We have to do exactly what “they” don’t expect. Not using the medical industry is unexpected. Recognizing and guarding against nudging is unexpected. Anyone else have good ideas or resources? I am very aware that if I had not happened on that comment on and some creative ideas over here on Ecosophia, I would probably have been fired two years ago. So please share any ideas for monkeywrenching to survive!

  19. So fair warning: I have a syndrome that causes me to itch furiously at the whole “stormtroopers can’t aim” comment until I post this.

    I know it’s a stale joke, but the whole reason the stormtroopers – at least in Episode IV – couldn’t hit anything was due to the fact that they were specifically ordered to let the heroes escape, thus bringing the Falcon’s tracking device to Yavin and revealing the location of the Rebel base.

    Also, modern firefights can use a hell of a lot of ammunition to take down individual combatants. The YouTube channel EC Henry actually has a great analysis of the effectiveness of Imperial Stormtroopers compared to modern militaries – and the comparison is favorable.

    Sadly, as time wore on, writers bought into the joke, and now it’s basically accepted as fact that stormtroopers are the bargain-bin, can’t-aim cannon fodder of the Empire. Hence why the much less well-equipped Imperial Army basically never shows up. That, and marketing.

  20. You just nailed one of the main characteristics, and dilemmas, of a lot of Christian thinking about problems in the world today.

    “We’re Christian. We know how this movie ends – it’s right there in Revelation. Therefore, no matter how bad things get in the world today, God (and we Christians) will triumph in the end.”

    That’s causing serious problems in the Catholic Church today, with (anti)Pope Francis and his minions doing their best to dismantle and decay the traditional church rites and teachings. Many, many Catholics tell themselves that, no matter how corrupt the Church gets, they must hang in there and never lose hope because the Good Guys will prevail in the end. It says so right in the Bible, in Revelation.

    Many devout Catholics are banking on the eucatastrophe of a Divine Intervention, in the form of a Warning of Conscience (best-selling on Amazon) or an end-time type Divine retribution just around the corner.

    Yes, the Catholic Church as institution can fail and die. Yes, it can get that corrupt. That is all but unthinkable to a devout Catholic, and coming to terms with that can be devastating psychically and spiritually. But, failing to come to terms with that can be paralyzing.

  21. The Russia-Africa summit took place last week in St. Petersburg, far away from the rampant meddling of the Europhilic factions of Moscow’s intelligentsia.

  22. It seems this ‘stormtrooper’ fallacy has been around – and been a fundamental part of judicial reasoning – for rather a long time:

    Trump Derangement Syndrome is a textbook-quality example of just how assinine that kind of thinking is. Trump’s opponents are attempting to defeat him by exposing to the American public just what a Horribly Bad Person he is. Really?? The American public already knows what kind of person Donald Trump is; in fact, that’s got rather a lot to do with why they voted for him. Rational, thinking opponents would instead take note of that and go looking for what it is about his campaign that appealed to voters to the intent of incorporating what they can of it into their own platform. The ad-homenim attack is nothing more than confession that: (a) their own platform is inadequate or inappropriate; (b) they are aware of that fact; and (c) they intend to do nothing about it. And the stormtrooper fallacy lets them get away with it.

  23. Ha! You should see how the ukro-russian business is featured on (most) french TV networks.
    It’s just Hollywood story from day one of the war. The empire striking back while everybody is dutifully asked to wait as long as it takes for the jedi to return…

    Fortunately, here and there, you can find some people capable of providing a less twisted and more serious analysis of reality :
    “The western political class has an essentially New Age approach to the war in Ukraine. They really want to get rid of the current Russian political class and replace it with people like themselves. And as we all know, if you really want something enough, you will get it. And so the approach is a fantasy one, where such mundanities as terrain, weather, numbers, firepower and so forth are abstracted away. Above all, you mustn’t say the Russians are winning, or they might do so.”

  24. Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Maxine, nicely done. Yeah, I bet you took some flak for that!

    Mister N, funny. You’ll notice that exactly that fan-wank appeared immediately below you in the comment thread.

    Meower, see Mister N’s comment immediately above yours. You’ll notice, however, that the Storm Troopers weren’t any better shots in the later movies. The absurd battle on the moon of Endor where those idiotic teddy bears took on an Imperial force armed with stone age weapons and only one of the teddy bears got killed — cue the usual emoting on camera — is par for the course.

    Clay, those are excellent points. “If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again” seems to be the motto of our current elites.

    Justin, ha! There we have something in common. I have used the following incantation more than once, with surprisingly good effect:

    “Tim, Tim, Benzedrine!
    Hash! Boo! Valvoline!
    Clean! Clean! Clean for Gene!
    First, second, neutral, park,
    hie thee hence,, you leafy narc!”

    Doomer, good. Yes, that’s another good example; as Foucault’s Pendulum demonstrates, the pendulum swings back, but never quite to the same point it left.

    Andy, no, there’s a third outcome, and at this point it’s frankly the most likely: the Russians keep pushing hard until the Ukrainian forces collapse, the way Germany’s forces did in 1918. I’d expect that to happen, if it does, either over the winter or with the spring offensive next year. But you’re right that either way, the dollar’s reserve status is ending, and over the next decade or so the US is going to bleed as a result.

    Slithy, the best option in any situation like this is to assume that all sides are lying. I find it most useful to follow media from neutral countries such as India, Turkey, and Brazil, and even then assume that there’s a vast amount of fakery going on.

    Mary, I’ll definitely check out Aurelien’s post. No, my essay’s only available in the anthology.

    Robert, thank you! As far as education, agreed. It’s a pity that English doesn’t make it easy to make the distinction, so obvious in French and many other languages, between book learning and practical know-how; that might spare us many disasters.

    Jeanne, I remember how exciting the first movie was when it originally came out. When I saw it again years later, yeah, it was pretty lame. Oh well. As for when the dog and pony show shuts down, good question — it depends on just how hard things turn against the Ukrainian side as we proceed.

    Wqjcv, oh, Nature always bats last. She’s in no hurry.

    Raymond, it took Turchin four essays to get to that obvious conclusion? Sheesh.

    Edward, sure, but you’ll notice that Churchill presided over the decline and fall of the British Empire; not all crises are exploited by the same people…

    Samurai_47, exactly. The US assumed, after the end of the Cold War, that it was never going to have to face a peer competitor in a land war again — or at least that by the time such a war finally happened, technology would have advanced so far that it would be fought with laser cannon or what have you. Thus we have one factory making shell casings and one factory installing the caps. If, ahem, some Russian agents were to blow up one or the other factory…

    Roldy, that’s another source of bad outcomes, and it’s one I should probably discuss in a later post.

    Batstrel, I’d be astonished if that wasn’t already what Wikifakery says about me.

    Jean, thank you for this! Yes, exactly — it’s always crucial to avoid doing what you’re expected to do, and trying to get an exemption using the one thing that’s been splashed across the media is a good example. I know a couple of people who got their exemptions by joining a Rosicrucian order with its own idiosyncratic (and court-tested) reason for refusing vaccines; nobody in the companies they worked for had the least idea how to respond.

    Anonymous, funny. Again, that only applies to the first movie.

    Charles, thanks for this. You’d think that more Christians would read the Old Testament and pay some attention to how their god punished his chosen people when they got way out of line: the Temple destroyed, for example, and the chosen people hauled away into captivity. Could the same thing happen to the Catholic community — the Papacy destroyed and the church hauled away into the captivity of schism? In a divine heartbeat.

    Justin, the Sardaukar could certainly hit things. If I recall correctly, they’d passed their prime as a fighting force at the time of the Arrakis crisis, but they were still tough.

    Batstrel, er, you do know that I don’t watch videos, right?

    Old Steve, that’s the thing that’s had me shaking my head since 2015. Donald Trump is not exactly a paragon of virtue by any standard. The fact that millions of Americans would rather have him in the White House than the current political class ought to clue in the political class that something has gone very, very wrong with their notion of governance, and maybe they ought to take that into account. Instead, all we get is endless shrieking about how awful the political class thinks he is. It’s as though they’ve lost track of the fact that their feelings aren’t the most important thing in the world for everybody.

    Tris, I read Aurelien regularly precisely because of comments like this. He’s dead on target, of course.

  25. One thing I’ve noticed about Bill Gate’s thinking is that all of his ideas seem to come from 1950s and 1960s SF novels. Even his thoughts on artificial meat is a trope from pulp SF. None of his ideas are original. He just has the money to act out fantasies he developed when he was a teen-age boy.

    I think we can expand that notion to adults in general who formulated their ideas as children and never deviated from those thoughts as adults. The gerontocracy ruling DC right now certainly thinks it’s 1945, as does Klaus Schwab and his pals.

    And I’m not immune! I’m quite sure I have some ideas that could use revamping.

  26. I do know that you don’t watch videos, JMG, but I reckon some of the other commenters will enjoy a bit of apposite humour. It’s not all about you, you know? 😉

    But I’m sure you do have to at least peek at the videos, in case I post something totally nauseating, like a snippet of “Little House on the Prairie” or such like.

  27. Wow, I can remember when no one here had heard of Ukraine. The switch from WWII tactics to WWI tactics is right on the money.

    But I think we have to admit that both the original Russian offensive and current Ukrainian counteroffensive have failed. Ukraine is probably not going to get back the areas it has lost. One thing we know about trench warfare is that hardly anything moves.

    Russia does have a lot of resources to maintain this trench warfare but the West has resources too and an ability to change tactics. The most likely outcome is an eventual agreement to maintain the status quo with Ukraine losing parts of four provinces occupied by Russia which will have to postpone its dream of recreating the Russian Empire.

  28. @jmg — I am glad that oilman2 is coming back — now what about “wer”? I have not seen him in the comments section for awhile. Do you or the other commenters have any info? I hope he’s ok. I’d like his insight into what is happening inside Ukraine about now.

  29. To be fair to Tolkien,

    The Good GuysTM spend much of the Quenta Silmarillion losing badly because they’re trying to do something they don’t have the strength to actually do, and the less good among them have angered those who might have helped them so that they’re now trying to do it without the assistance of the most powerful possible allies. Most of them die violently as a direct result. They lose the war, and all their kingdoms. They finally get bailed out by the most powerful of the potential allies they’d ticked off, because those people now feel sorry for them. But by that point almost all the major characters who started the War of the Jewels in Beleriand are dead. And the powerful allies manage to sink the land they were fighting over so everybody is now refugees.

    The Second Age gets pretty grim too. Being good is some protection if you act on it – ie. the Faithful surviving Numenor’s fall, and Lindon survives the War of the Elves vs. Sauron, but is certainly never enough to guarantee your safety. Even if you and your friends somehow manage to take down Sauron at the cost of your lives and the lives of far too many of Middle-earth’s people, guarantee that your heir gets ensnared by the Ring and claims it as his own, thus ensuring that Sauron survives and the war will return. And your friend didn’t have an heir, and his kingdom’s now falling to pieces.

    The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are more successful than large portions of Middle-earth’s history.

  30. JMC – Thanks as usual. I always enjoy your alternative, undermining-the-narrative takes. As well, I’ve always been a big fan of taking away the Good Guys vs Bad Guys narrative and concentrating on the basics: motivation, will, capability, and morale. In other words, Esprit de Corp.

    Here are two of my own counter-narrative takes I’d like to posit for you: 1) We cannot underestimate Ukraine’s will in this conflict. This idea seriously undermines the narrative of the Western Color Revolution/foreign coup that ousted the previous pro-Russian government. To me it is remarkably hard to think that the kind of native resistance we are seeing in Ukraine would be possible if the citizens felt alienated by a foreign-imposed government. When I personalize this, I can only imagine what I would have to feel, the amount of suffering I am willing to tolerate, to put my own wife and daughter on transportation to another county so that I can stay and fight. (And I’m a pretty good shot.) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Whether it is in matters of faith or war, these sentiments can only be earned, not mandated; at the first chance, non-believers/conscripts will run away. Long term, I believe that the Russian material advantage will eventually win out. But I sure would hate to be one of those poor Russian dogfaces who will have to occupy a devastated Ukraine when the conflict dies down. So, I am leaning towards the belief that Ukraine is a coherent entity, not a George-Soros-directed cesspool of Jews, Nazis and scoundrels as portrayed on Russian state media.
    Further, let’s look at the spread of NATO. Again, is this something the “The West™” can simply impose on the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations? Or, after decades (even centuries) as vassal states in the Russian orbit, might they see their vassalage paying off better in alignment with the EU? I have no original research that points me in one way or the other, but functioning markets and parliamentary democracies can be tempting. But again, I may be betraying my own inherent biases.

    2) For the last several years, I’ve been reading Peter Zeihan and he’s been having quite a moment just lately. (I recommend his latest book, “The End of the World is Just the Beginning.” It went to press just a few weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine so the only edits he could make was changing a few future tense verbs to present tense as he spoke about Russian-Ukrainian inevitability.) He works at the intersections of demography, energy, geopolitics and trade. He says that this invasion was inevitable. Russian history is one of constant invasion from all sides because Russia exists on a large, flat, indefensible plain. Catastrophic Russian demographics, only marginally better than the worst-in-the-world Chinese numbers, indicate that this is the last time ever that Russia will have enough young men to field major armies. Catherine the Great said, “The only way to defend Russia’s borders is to expand them.” The Cold-War-Era Soviet Union was the only time in Russian history when they controlled all of the far-flung entry points to these invasion corridors – the only time Moscow felt safe. So, to Zeihan, Ukraine is not the whole war, just an early battle. (Invasions of Chechnya and Georgia came before.) It will not end until they hold the Baltics, eastern Poland, Romania and the other Stans to the south. This is existential, live-or-die stuff for Putin, not vain glory hunting. NATO expansion or not, this was always in the cards.

  31. Dear JMG,

    Since reading your blog and a number of your books, I’ve started to wonder if something that underpins the Storm Trooper Syndrome (an appealing name
    BTW) – that the construction of the narrative that there are good guys and bad guys in this world, and a neat division between the two, is in fact an act of magic. Because once we believe we are The Good Guys – and equally our competitors are Bad Guys, it justifies and maybe incentivizes all sorts of bad behavior: we and our political leaders have moral impunity when we are so obviously righteous. Examples of this are two a penny.

    My question to you JMG is whether this is indeed some form of magic.

    BTW, as I write this I’m reminded of the excellent book on Bantu cosmology (by a revered traditional healer) called Indaba my Children. From which book I learned of the interesting Bantu belief that if people are too good, or too bad, they are likely to fall sick. And I recall your piece of druidical advice to avoid binaries!

    Yours kindly,

  32. There is some reasonable analysis out there that the Ukraine could have as few as 145,000 troops left. If that is the case ( or even a bit higher) then the Ukrainian military could collapse at any moment. At some point the mass surrenders begin to happen and deplete that number drastically. From what I have read the Russians have been very careful to treat Ukrainian POW’s well, so the day of mass surrenders will be moved forward. I expect the Russians will wait for that day to make a final offensive, and then march to Lviv with the remainder of Ukrainian ( and Nato) troop beating a hasty retreat for Poland like their predecessors in Hanoi and Kabul.

  33. What i find really bizarre is the pro-Ukrainian war folks go on and on about how anyone not supporting the war is a fascist. And when you point out that they are funding and suppling weapons to actual nazis, they double down and call you a nazi.

    I know it is classic shadow projection, but jiminy crickets, how can they not see it?

  34. Jean @ 19. Congratulations (belated) on your new job. What is ‘nudging’? Something other than a gentle shove, I take it?

  35. JMG, a number of years ago while commenting on the presidential election in the U.S., you mentioned how U.S. foreign policy seemed to be geared to unite the Russians and the Chinese, and alienate relations with both. Sure turned out to be an extremely accurate call. While I always thought the “Russian Boogieman” was more the requirement to have a bad guy in the mix when it comes to the racket known as war and the DoD, the stormtrooper syndrome is another angle that also looks to play a big part.

    I shake my head when I think about how things might be if instead the American .gov would have taken steps to align with Russia after the fall of the Soviets. From a technological, cultural and resource point of view, it will go down in history as a missed opportunity to maintain a shallower descent and less rough landing than what’s baked in the cake now for Western Civilization. Between the Covid fiasco and the Ukraine project, the curve of the Long Descent has steepened considerably.

    @Charles Obert #21 – excellent observation. Reminds me of when James Watt was appointed Secretary of the Interior for Reagan’s first cabinet. His, shall we say, “short term” views on the environment were comical, and appeared to rely in the Return of the Messiah to fix any problems with policy.

  36. Most everyone has heard that old joke about the guy looking for his keys under the street lamp “because the light is better there” even though he knows that’s not where he lost them. I think that’s what we’re doing and it’s why our aim is so poor.

  37. Hey JMG,

    These posts on the Western influence amongst the rest of the world are always rather fascinating. I like how you developed the theme that the Western world has the Stormtrooper mentality. There is definitely a lot willful ignorance amongst our government and elites. The recent upsurge in Union activity and striking is one good example of how business elite have ignored the needs and concerns of their workers, and often times, as in the case of many railroad workers, government has stepped in and ignored those concerns as well. One beautiful thing about the USA is our desire for freedom and independence, and this is definitely part of the cycle. It reminds me a bit of the 1920s/30s, and the period leading up to WW2.

    Russia definitely has a lot more adaptability than our Western governments, NATO, and the elites gave them credit for. I am familiar with Russians quite personally. My wife is Russian, I spent two months in the Russian Far East, and worked a number of years in China socializing and working with Russian ex-pats. On my visits to the Russian Far East, I noted how terrible their infrastructure was. It was good enough to get the job done, but any sort of pressure would put it out of service for awhile (ie, slightly heavy rains would flood many major thoroughfares in the city of Vladivostok completely halting business). There was an apartment that was in the process of being built next to my in-laws apartment. Over the span of five years I saw it slowly be assembled so that the last time I visited people were living in the bottom floor but the other 12 floors above it were uninhabitable. The job was getting done, but on the time frame of the people. On the other hand, when Putin came for a visit to the Far East for the Eastern Economic Forum, bridges were urgently completed and infrastructure that was needed to travel to and from the location were made acceptable. The Russians I got to know both in Russia, and the ex-pats in China all loved their country. However, they all had a sense that there was little opportunity there, that their country never could be great. Many developed great networks of people allowing them the best of their connections to help find material things and/or sources of revenue. They adapted to the reality that there were lots of opportunities outside of Russia and they could bring some of that wealth to share with their family and friends. My wife, and a few of her Russian friends have often made the comment that while Russians love the idea of Russia becoming stronger, none of them want to fight for the country. She personally is aware of many males who left, or attempted to leave when the fighting first broke out. There likely is some truth to the need of mercenaries to supplement the Russian forces, who may not be as well-stocked as thought.

    I also had the chance to meet many Ukrainians. They were often so optimistic, kind-hearted, and full of joy. They easily separated the Russian people from the Russian government, the latter whom they despised even before the situation in 2014. There was a spirit I saw in them that reminded me of the Finnish diaspora who make up a lot of my home region back on the Iron Range in Minnesota.

    Those anecdotal experiences, and a very simple familiarity with some history of wars reminded me of the Russian-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940, which I had alluded to last year when this broke out. While entirely agreeing that NATO has failed, and this Ukrainian-Russian war has marked the failure of the West, I also think Ukrainian spirit can’t be underestimated. They likely won’t find a way to gain back their territory lost, but neither will Russia get all they desire out of this conflict. In fact, what exactly does Russia desire as outcome of this conflict? To unshackle themselves from Western influences? How would that be determined? It’s not simply to hold ground in Ukraine, as they are already doing so. Their end game really must be adaptable based on forcing the West to eventually give the terms they want, which may move based on what Russia sees developing. Sorry, that got convoluted as I thought it out as I typed.

    Just a brief aside on Russia not entirely ditching Western ideas: if you’ve had the chance to see many RT articles, they love to bandy about the Nazi term much like our liberal elites did towards Trump and other right-wingers.

  38. Mister Nobody wrote

    I realized a long time ago that if Imperial Stormtroopers received the same kind of marksmanship training that US Marines receive, the first Star Wars movie would have been very short indeed, and the only sequels possible would have been something along the lines of The Adventures Of Darth Vader And The Stormtroopers as they rooted out the various pockets of resistance put up by the Rebel Alliance.

    Someone did a brilliant parody video along those lines about a year ago.

  39. The stormtroopers in the prequels were a lot more competent. Perhaps the real reason the Empire fell was because all the good stormtroopers got kicked out or killed? Maybe they were all drummed out from vaccine mandates? Am I using my inside voice again?

    Star Wars is a children’s fairy tale in any case. George Lucas has been upfront about it constantly, how he considered JarJar to be a success based on how many letters he got from kids saying they liked the character.

    The Expanse is a space opera for adults, IMHO. I dunno who Putin would be in that universe – Korshanov, Fred Johnson, or Anderson Dawes. I know many people would be screaming “He’s Marco Inaros!” but nah, I don’t think that’s him.

    >the side with the most artillery shells wins in a war of attrition

    Do. Not. Fight. An. Attrition. War. With. The. Russians. They will win. Nobody plays the attrition game like they do. Ask the Germans how well it went for them, especially those East Germans.

  40. Greetings all!

    A really good summary of the Russo – Ukrainian war. I have no military expertise whatsoever nor any particular knowledge about the industrial capacities of NATO countries or Russia, however as I watched with some amusement NATO rushing around the planet for ammunition it dawned upon me that (1) NATO armies are luxury armies in the sense that they have been designed to fight brief wars against vastly inferior enemies and (2) the scorn and contempt the West has for anything Russian is truly astounding and that seems to explain how Russia’s military strength was systematically down played by NATO. It amuses me greatly to watch eminent generals and colonels on French TV for instance to belittle Russian military power. Are they not supposed to have studied military history at war colleges?

    Furthermore as it became clear that NATO had set up Ukraine to fight Russia, I could not believe that anyone could come up with such a ridiculous strategy. The last 2 times anyone tried to subjugate Russia (Hint: Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany), it ended pretty badly for the aggressors. Why would anyone truly believe that a third attempt would succeed is beyond rational thinking.

    Anyway, in my humble opinion, it now appears that either NATO sends in ground troops and commits itself to a direct shooting war against Russia (and may the Divine help us all) or it abandons Ukraine to its sorry fate. The latter option would mean that NATO loses the war and any prestige it has and that the whole of Europe may well fall under Russian hegemony sooner or later. So, in a final twist of irony, instead of having to learn Arabic and convert to Islam, Europeans might well be advised to learn Russian and convert to Christian Orthodoxy.

    I can’t believe I am witnessing all of that!!!!

  41. This reminds me of what I consider to be one of the stupidest sayings of the modern era: “The right side of history.”

  42. One of the things that made me laugh about this article (which I heartily agreed with) is the “Storm-trooper” meme.

    Star Wars had just came out when I was getting out of the Army. I went with a bunch of folks from my platoon (leg infantry) and we laughed hysterically at the shooting. Cracks were made about how the Storm-troopers shot like third platoon (we were of course in the noble second platoon).

    Most of the guys there were getting out having served their tour. A sprinkling of the last draftees and mostly guys that signed up to get into the infantry in Germany rather than Vietnam (Germany required a four year enlistment). I was the odd man out, but that’s another story.

    On the way home, MB, easily the most mentally challenged of the group (he actually found being an infantryman a difficult thing) said something that has stuck with me ever since.

    “I think that all those Storm-troopers thought that they were doing the right thing.”

  43. JMG, I don’t think the USA ever was going to ally with Russia, alas. The pathological hatred of the Mittel European diaspora coincided with increasingly isolationist sentiment (which I share) among the rest of us. However, there is no appetite among Americans outside of that same diaspora for war with Russia or China, for that matter. I suspect that most of us think the Chinese can have Taiwan, we can supply Japan with oil from Alaska, but they need to stop gaming our immigration laws. Paper relatives, if you please, and the PMC idiots think this is cute.

    I do wonder what the Chinese think about recent Russian approaches to Africa, a place which China thought it had sewed up.

  44. Jon, exactly. One of the great sources of failure in our time is the way that a bunch of cheap clichés from pulp science fiction got anointed as The Future, and the people who grew up believing in them are still pushing on that tightly locked door, convinced that if they just keep at it, sooner or later the flying cars and the rest of it will show up on cue.

    Batstrel, fair enough.

    Roman, that’s the conventional wisdom just now. I learned a long time ago to distrust the conventional wisdom.

    Pygmycory, granted. Tolkien’s early, unpublished fiction is all about the good guys losing — the original “Book of Lost Tales” was one vast tragedy, far more complete than the later version that became the Silmarillion. My guess is that his focus on eucatastrophe came later, as a result of religious reflections.

    KevPilot, this is fascinating. One of the central points of my essay is that which side is good and which is bad is irrelevant, and yet you’re busy defending Ukraine against a supposed charge, which of course I didn’t make, of being “a George-Soros-directed cesspool of Jews, Nazis and scoundrels” — that is to say, Bad People. I really suggest you work on your reading comprehension.

    Boy, that’s an excellent point, and you’re quite correct — it’s a work of magic, and a fairly corrupt one at that, which is why its blowback is so nasty. I’m not familiar with the book, but I’ll see if there are copies in the local library system — it sounds like something I’d like to read.

    Clay, to my mind that’s the most likely outcome, though I suspect that it’ll involve Zelensky fleeing the country and whoever’s left holding the bag signing terms of surrender, rather than a march of conquest to Lviv. But we’ll see.

    Jon, thank you! I try to be entertaining.

    Dobbs, the whole point of shadow projection is that it prevents you from seeing what you don’t want to see. They’re so angry and brittle about it because there’s so much they don’t want to see.

    Drhooves, I know. The cretinous US foreign policy that forged an alliance between Russia and China, and then threw Iran into the mix, will go down in history as an unparalleled display of utter slack-jawed idiocy.

    Phutatorius, a good point!

    Prizm, well, we’ll see. It’s not mercenaries who are holding the Russian lines in Zaporizhzhya right now, you know — it’s regular Russian army units, and they seem to have no shortage of fighting spirit. The Ukrainian forces are no less brave, but at this point there’s a real question of how many of them will still be alive when the war is over. Germany showed a lot of fighting spirit before 1945, too.

    Other Owen, this is the first I’ve heard of “the Expanse,” so that went right over my head. Not a surprise, I’m sure.

    Karim, thank you! “Luxury armies” — that’s a perfect phrase, and I’ll be using it in the future. More broadly, yes — it’s astonishing to watch this.

    Thecroatoan, yep. It’s the triple-distilled essence of snotnosed arrogance on the part of modern Western elites. History is cooking up a fine banquet of crow for those who think they know what her right side is…

    Degringolade, ha! Thank you for this. MB may have had a hard time thinking, but that phrase really does sum it up.

    Mary, it could have been done; Russia and China have a long history of bitter disputes, and you’ll notice that they get along just fine. But of course our leaders had other ideas.

  45. One thing before we go on. Several people now have tried to post comments very clearly trying to take the discussion away from the subject of this week’s post. I have deleted them, and will continue to delete all such attempts. The open post on the fourth Wednesday of each month is set aside for whatever you want to talk about; I’ll ask that with very limited exceptions — approved by me — conversations here this week, and on other weeks that have substantive posts to discuss, focus on the subject of the post. Thank you.

  46. Hi JMG, you’re understanding of how the conflict is going is entirely consistent with my own, and your summary of it was masterfully efficient and concise. What’s been astonishing to me throughout are the parallels with the war in the east in WW2, with the Ukrainians repeating so many of the same actions and experiences of the Wehrmacht, from the denigration of their enemies as subhumans (‘kill the Orks!’) and the very clear and openly stated desire on their part and on those of their western sponsors to seize needed resources and ethnically cleanse the natives who resist, to the ‘not an inch back’ philosophy that has led to such amazing attrition and the emphasis on wonder weapons, each sillier and less effective than the last.

    For the sake of this misadventure the west has surrendered almost everything they ever had or pretended to have — the moral high ground, the support of the world, the reputation of invincible weaponry, the desire of any country not currently an outright US puppet to rely on the dollar, any trust whatsoever when it comes to negotiations (who is there that Russia could negotiate with that could possibly be trusted in anything large or small?), the idea that the US is the arsenal of democracy, hell, the idea that the US is a democracy. It’s just all gone up in smoke (the smoke of depleted uranium rounds and cluster munitions). Ditto the idea that the EU or any country in it has any independence or importance whatsoever. It’s just sad how much they flushed down the toilet, but this is just the culmination of decades.

  47. Wow you are really poking the eagle – or putting a cam on the nest – or something…..

  48. Dear JMG — In fairness, I said it was the Russian State Media that paints Ukraine as “a George-Soros-directed cesspool of Jews, Nazis and scoundrels”, not you. I see 2 nations, Russia and Ukraine, locked in what each perceives as existential crisis: Ukraine currently and Russian historically. Russian material advantage I believe will overwhelm Ukraine eventually but not without a terrible fight as Ukraine has become a coherent nation under its current government as opposed to the mess that it was before.

  49. “Germany showed a lot of fighting spirit before 1945, too.”

    Wasn’t one point of the post the return to WW1 strategies? That ended in Russian Civil War for Russia. Russia does amazingly well defending it’s borders, but extended excursions outside it’s borders haven’t fared too well. A part of me suspects that China has been using this opportunity to give support to Russia just enough that they’re getting by, but wouldn’t be against the chance to reclaim the Far East in some form or fashion. While there is definitely support for what Russia is doing, most of it is concentrated within the Russian heartland areas (the areas you’ve mentioned that Spengler thinks most likely to have develop into a Great Culture). Outlying parts of Russia have long felt left out, and pinched. If the war continues, economically the heart of Russia may do well but outlying areas are likely to suffer more, and that could result in civil unrest. Just a few years ago those areas, Kharborovsk and Vladivostok for example, were protesting for months.

  50. Mandrake, the example of Nazi Germany has a weird magnetism on the Western mind. To the Russians, the Nazis were just one more set of Western invaders, the modern heirs of the Teutonic Knights; to the West, they’re everything our elites officially hate and covertly, half-consciously imitate. I probably need to do a post on this one of these days, though it’s something I doubt many readers will understand.

    JustMe, I do this now and again. It adds to the amusement value of my inbox.

    KevPilot, I don’t disagree at all that both nations see this as an existential struggle. That being the case, to borrow a bit from Kipling, “this shall end when one is dead.” The Russians crushed an earlier Ukrainian independence movement in Stefan Bandera’s day, you know, and they’re doubtless dusting off the records right now to review how it was done.

    Prizm, Russia lost the First World War. It’s not losing this one. My point is that total defeat tends to change the calculus even for those nations that once had a lot of fighting spirit.

  51. Those claiming to be on “the right side of (H?)history” usually assume both moral AND technical superiority based on the “Myth of Progress.” Someone said, “The winner is whoever dies with the most toys”–in the case of war, the most weapons left undestroyed–but how much will it matter if nobody is there to notice/count?

  52. “It’s not losing this one. My point is that total defeat tends to change the calculus even for those nations that once had a lot of fighting spirit.”

    That brings me back to the questions posed in my first post, what exactly is Russia fighting for? Total control of Ukraine? An end to Western influence in their region? How can Russian victory be defined?

    As of now, it is a stalemate. Each side is trying to cripple the other economically, find some new weakness (terror drones) or wait it out till pure attrition changes the situation. At which point, if Russia were to be victorious in the attrition game, what would they consider victory?

  53. @Mary Bennet #38 Nudging
    Have you gotten those letters from the electric company telling you you are using more electricity than your neighbors? They are lies, but that is nudging. From the internet: “examples of nudges include sending people a reminder to schedule a doctor’s appointment, ensuring that healthier food is more noticeable in a cafeteria, providing people with information regarding how much electricity they use…”
    Probably just the latest cool name for advertising, but creepier. True confession, here is an example of how I have gotten taken: a podcast by creators I like talk about how they just bought a T-shirt from and say things like “yes they have great T-shirts!” Guess what I order online within the next hour? Turns out the T-shirt was not actually great. And then I realize what happened and kick myself. So I am doing two things: monitoring what I listen to and working hard to identify nudges so I don’t succumb. If you look around, it is EVERYWHERE.

  54. Nato missed one of the big lessons from the Lebanese defeat of Israel in 2006. The Israeli incursion was defeated because Hezbollah had a diffused, command structure with fighters hidden away in caves and tunnels waiting to pop up and destroy Israeli tanks with Russian made Kornet anti-tank missiles. The effectiveness of these Russian missiles ( some were Iranian copies) should have given the west second thoughts about tank battles with the Russians.
    But the Hezbollah was able to put a clock on the Israeli incursion because of the thousands of mid range missiles they had hidden away in caves. These missiles could strike deep in to the Israeli state, and the population was in no mood for this kind of destruction and hardship. Without this clock the Israeli army could have camped out on the border and bombed for an extended period of time ( like the Russians in this war) until Hezbollah was depleted.
    They made a big mistake when they assumed the Russians would turn and run like the Israelis because a few tanks got blown up in Ukranian ambushes, or given up when the McDonald’s closed down.

  55. The Atlanticist’s actions in Ukraine are astonishing. Real European security was accomplished with NATO’s advance to the Baltic states, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Any fool could look at the map and history and see that Ukraine was a no go for NATO and peaceful co-existence with Russia was obtainable even if Russia had absorbed the Donbass and even Crimea. My only only reason I can think of for the Atlanticist’s actions was that Russia was going to be stubbornly independent of the Atlanticist’s globalist ambitions and needed to be broken. Yet the Atlanticist drive for unfettered free trade and inclusion of China in the global system created another power center beyond their control. I remember reading assurances that a capitalistic free enterprise, private property China would transform into an over populated Canada. Instead we got a powerful, technologically advanced nationalistic, fascist state with a million Muslims in prison camp. Well, as Puck said to Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Also “Those who the gods wish to destroy they first drive mad”

  56. So will the defeat of Ukraine be the end of NATO? Ireland has always been technically neutral and didn’t join NATO. Now the political establishment in Ireland have made it clear they want to join (the NATO salesmen did their job) even though there is not much popular enthusiasm for it. Talk about booking tickets on the Titanic…

    I assume Ukraine will be swallowed up by the Russian Federation. How will NATO members like Poland deal with that? The “New Europeans” beloved of Donald Rumsfeld are in for a big shock…

  57. In a sense the US is suffering from a very extended bout of “victory disease”. In 1945 it was utterly dominant, and none of the various defeats and draws since (Vietnam, Korea, Iraq part 2, Afghanistan) were painful enough to force a serious reappraisal of American grand strategy. Instead we lurch on, zombie-like, in pursuit of Kennan’s “containment” (now of both Russia and China, plus anyone else – especially oil rich states – who refuse to bow down). But our resources are nowhere ear sufficient for the purpose, and less so over time.

    I am not optimistic that even defeat in Ukraine will force a rethink of our grand strategy, because the massive suffering of the war is not close enough to our shores to really drive the point home.

    On top of this, the US government has also just gotten sloppy, so it fails to plan for or execute even smaller efforts well. From personal experience, I know that our planning for the post-Ghaddafi Libya was close to nonexistent, despite warnings that such a lack of planning guaranteed a nasty civil war.

    The second follows to some degree from the first. If a country thinks that the entire world is its domain, the amount of attention it will be able to give to any given corner of it is limited; the flip side is seen in small countries that are laser-focused on relations with their immediate neighbors.

  58. Kind Sir,

    When it comes to education and intelligence Paul Simon summed it up nicely in his song Kodachrome:
    “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school it’s a wonder I can think at all”
    Overeducation is a thing. As a member of the PMC, i see a lot of people who had their heads crammed full of stuff, way beyond their capabilities of putting it into a useful context. So their strategy is parroting slogans and screeching when challenged.
    The idea that more education is better, always and for everyone, has backfired spectacularly here in Australia.

    For those who watch videos, here is a link if you need proof of the stupidity of our “elites”.
    This is the specific case of Australia, the ABC, to be even more precise, but i think a hot mic would produce similar results in many nations and institutions.
    I tip my hat to the sound tech who managed to get such a clear sound out of a randomly switched on microphone.
    honi soit qui mal pense

    What was also telling was the response of the ABC to this incident.
    Essentially they said: Crikey, this is not good. We will shoot the messenger as soon as we can find the bullets.

  59. As one of Tolkien’s co-religionists, I think it’s worth pointing out that the Christian story isn’t exactly that of “good guys win, bad guys lose, because God is on our side”, but of God redeeming all that is good out of fallen creation in the end. Although a lot of modern Christians seem to think that, the Bible is full of stories of when the going gets tough, and the “good guys” turning out to be bad guys, or at the very least, compromisers and collaborators with evil. The solution to this is not “get rid of the bad guys” – that would be asking for one’s own demise! Instead, it’s to repent and return to God.

    What I’ve found curious is how insofar as lazy Christian literature tends to provide this trite, moralistic good-guys-vs-bad-guys narratives, it’s 10x worse with post-Christian woke literature. Having thrown out concepts like original sin, divine grace, and repentance, all that’s left is the purest form of the good-guys-win-bad-guys-lose with the good guys not needing to learn anything and the bad guys not even showing the slightest hint of being able to mount a challenge.

  60. Directly related to the broader subject matter in this post,

    There was sometime recently a Justin Trudeau “town hall” type media event somewhere in Canada. One of the audience participants, an immigrant man from somewhere in Africa, managed to slip through a couple of unauthorized questions when he was called on. First question was something like, “why doesn’t Canada do something to try and broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, and put an end to the proxy war between US/NATO and Russia? Second question, the man asked Trudeau about what his government can do to better integrate immigrants and be more discriminating about who Canada lets in. .

    Well, immediately, Trudeau blew a gasket and started angrily yelling at the very polite questioner. “No, you’re wrong!!! This is most certainly not a proxy war!! Where did you hear that from?? You’re spreading Russian propaganda and misinformation!!” Apparently the phrase “proxy war” really triggered the Canadian PM.

    Complete meltdown in front of everyone; I think his brain short-circuited. Like he couldn’t at all process the reality that some people might harbor non-neoliberal establishment opinions, especially a man with the demographic profile of that questioner. And that second question must have really thrown him for a loop. “How could an immigrant possibly have nuanced opinions on immigration?”

    Quite something to behold from someone with the title of world leader.

    These “elites” really do live in the most deranged bubble reality, and repeatedly seeing episodes like the above has me agreeing with your premise that these “elites” are a heck of a lot dumber than most people assume.

  61. I’m in a long-running debate with a friend: I say the trouble we’re seeing in America is the result of insanity and incompetency. She says that it’s the unfolding of a perfectly plotted and executed Chinese plan. I can’t prove her wrong, especially as the result is the same: America ruining itself in idiotic wars.

    But I think she has an emotional investment in her theory. It’s easier for her to believe that there’s no hope and the bad guys have meticulously choreographed this whole affair, than to believe that society is going insane and our leaders have no real control.

    Also, I’ve noticed a trend in modern fantasy that’s the inverse of the Stormtrooper Syndrome. It’s particularly noticeable in A Song of Ice and Fire. Essentially the good guys are reliably weak and stupid, so the bad guys always win, and the story becomes one long miserable downward spiral as the villains outdo one another in villainy. It ends up as an exercise in self-flagellation.

    (I think this is why Martin can’t finish the story. He killed off all the characters that might have been able to move the plot forward, so now he’s stuck with a pile of corrupt sociopaths. It certainly mimics reality, but why wait fifteen years for a 1000 page doorstop, when I can just read the news?)

  62. Synchronicity is always a surprise to me. I am always intrigued and amused when it happens though.

    So today I was pleased by the arrival in my e-mail two distinctly different posts from two people who I very much enjoy reading.

    The first one I read was Aurelius over at Substack and his article:

    I was impressed at his approach and detail. In a sense, this article might be his best in many ways. I really recommend that folks here go over and check him out if you haven’t already.

    Then I got to read this post here at Ecosophia. I made an initial comment, but then I went back and read both pieces again. I really think that folks might want to read them sequentially. John, I apologize for not praising profusely last comment.

    I have a sneaking hunch that Aurelian and JMG are not acquaintances, but I think that these two across from each other having a discussion on this might be something to hear.

    Thanks again JMG for the strong work.

  63. The sanctions, in fact, did more damage to Europe than to Russia, leading to significant (and ongoing losses) in energy intensive industries. The US doesn’t consider that a real problem, since much of it is going to America.

    The American disease is in part, as you noted, that they’re used to beating up weak opponents, and bad even at that. Likewise, sanctions have done terrible damage to many nations, but none of those nations were Russia backed by China.

    Americans can’t get thru their heads that China is the largest manufacturing state in the world now. The US sold its patrimony for 25 years or so of money for elites.

    China isn’t sending weapons, no (or very few), but it’s keeping the Russian economy going. Anything the Russians really need they either have in excess (food/fuel/minerals) or they can get from the Chinese.

    The sheer idiocy of the “pivot against China”, years of declaring China an enemy, meant that there was no way China would let America take out Russia. With Russia they can’t be taken out by a naval blockade and have an ally with said food/fuel/minerals. Without it, they’re in a world of hurt (though they’re building their navy up fast, able to build 3 ships for every one NATO builds.)

    Russia, from a realpolitik POV is the one nation NATO/The US really needed to turn into an ally if they wanted to take down China. China is the one nation that the US/NATO had to keep from supporting Russia if they wanted a chance of breaking it up.

    So the fools decided to make it clear to both China and Russia, at the same time, that the US wanted their elites overthrown and their countries squashed.

    This hasn’t been that hard to predict. Right at the start I said (publicly, in writing) that Russia would take a chunk of Ukraine because at the end of the day it had more resources. Nothing has changed that equation.

    I have no real stake in this, except I’m in a NATO country. The US has terribly abused its power for years, and now other nations are seeing that it’s too weak to enforce its will any more.

    When you rule by force and fear, what happens when people stop being scared of you is UGLY. America is very fortunate it’s a continental power with oceans between it and its enemies, but even so, the decline is going to be sharp and accelerated by other nations who can’t wait to see the end of the “Pax” Americana.

  64. Hi John Michael,

    I like the concept, but it would be far better if the concept did not have real world implications. Oh well, some lessons need to be learned the hard way.

    You might of missed the local news, but a Taipan helicopter ditched into the sea a week or so back. It was not good for the crew. What’s come out of that, is that the people having to use those machines, apparently didn’t support the purchase. They wanted the older Blackhawk helicopters, but got something else instead. The word ‘troubled’ keeps getting chucked around.

    Anyway, as you do, I did a bit of interweb reading on the Blackhawk helicopters and inevitably came across the ‘Mogadishu’ incident in Sudan involving those helicopters. It was not good, and in some respects is your analysis, but on a smaller scale. It was assumed that nobody would observe the tactics and strategies, second guess them, and then counter them. It was brutal, but effective.

    But then, that’s war and people put their lives on the line for that gear. There’s a strong incentive to adapt to realities, unless you believe that there will be no consequences – and folks like that are dangerous.



  65. This topic is sure generating a lot of excitement. As far as the “good people” are concerned, there are two groups which cancel each out. One group of good people wants to return Ukraine to its former owner Russia. Another group of good people wants to prevent that.

    As far as the 2014 Ukrainian revolution is concerned, the CIA was undoubtedly behind it. But this CIA operation succeeded only because most Ukrainians supported it. Meanwhile the Russian FSB (or whatever it’s called) was undoubtedly plotting with Yanukovych to bring Ukraine closer to Russia for eventual unification. It looks like the CIA won that one.

  66. When I saw the title, at first I thought the post would be about America’s over-militarized cops. Then when you mentioned Afghanistan, two thoughts: first, we got our clocks cleaned in Vietnam fifty years earlier. Don’t they remember that? But then, when we went into Afghanistan, “Didn’t they remember laughing their heads off when Russia stuck its paws into the same tar baby that the British Empire did?” But then I remembered Retropia, and the recurring refrain of the Nations That Just Didn’t Get it: “That was then, this is now.” “That’s history,” meaning “now irrelevant,” etc.

    But the bottom line was “the world’s smartest people.” Meaning “We know everything because we’re the world’s smartest people. So shut up and sit down.” A major hazard of being one of the world’s smartest people.” There’s your entire thesis in a nutshell.

    Last observation: The Russian national game is chess. The American national game is football. Armored giants bashing each other on the field, with some semblance of tactics.

  67. Good point Charles and JMG about judgment coming on the Christian church, And I speak as a Christian. It says “judgment begins at the house of God”, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” “and our God is a consuming fire” At best the Catholic hierarchy has been like the goddess Kali with horror in one hand and blessing in the other. The dark historical acts of the papacy are mind boggling and I don’t exclude the Protestant or Orthodox factions and myself for that matter from possibility of God’s judgment and punishment.

  68. My thoughts on war in the technological age is that each major war has shadows of the next war in it. Many NATO adventures in the first two decades of the century had drones, but the Ukrainian war really has drones. In the early days of the war, much was made of the ability of the $80,000 dollar Javelin missile to take out a Russian tank from a couple kilometers away.

    Now, $20,000 dollar Russian Lancet drones are killing NATO tanks from dozens of kilometers away, and if they don’t find an opportunity for an attack, they can fly back to be recharged for another sortie.

    I suspect that devices like the Lancet can be built a lot cheaper, possibly as low as $2000 each – a machine that can fly 40 km and deliver a few kilos of explosives with extreme precision, as long as a certain failure rate is accepted.

    With another few hundred dollars for a powerful AI computer onboard, autonomous devices that can be sent on “kill anything that moves within a region” missions are feasible, and something even worse than first world war trench and artillery warfare emerges.

  69. As far as Ukrainian independence is concerned, there were earlier attempts at the end of WWI. My family is from Galicia (now Lviv Oblast) which is the westernmost province of Ukraine proper and before WWI was the easternmost province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    My grandfather was drafted into some Ukrainian regiment which was part of the Austrian Army. After Austria was defeated in WWI, various Ukrainian regiments tried to establish an independent Ukraine. They were defeated by the Red Army and my grandfather was taken prisoner.

    At the time the situation was fluid and the Bolsheviks apparently didn’t want the responsibility of caring for thousands of POWs so he was free to return home. But my grandfather became mesmerized by the promise of a worker’s paradise and stayed. Once Stalin came to power the door slammed shut and he was trapped in Russia. He knew four languages and became a German teacher.

    At some point my grandfather became disillusioned with the worker’s paradise and said something negative in a letter. He was charged, arrested, and executed in Stalin’s purge of 1937. He was shot in the back of the head in the Katyn forest outside of Smolensk. There’s some Russian culture for you.

    In 2017 we visited Katyn which is now an official memorial. Our tour guide explained that there are countless killing fields in Russia which have never been uncovered. The only reason Katyn is well known is that thousands of Polish POWs were executed there in WWII by the Soviets and Poland made a big issue out of it.

  70. I was listening to the Congressional UFO hearings in the background while I was at work today. Based on what I observed, I agree with our host that this is almost a dog-and-pony show to distract attention away from something else, probably a major scandal of some kind. I get the distinct impression that whatever it is, it must something really bad. It makes me wonder if the American equivalent of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace is about to come out…

  71. Downside, sure, but the game’s not over yet and the side with the most toys doesn’t look like it’s going to win!

    Prizm, First World War tactics imply First World War modes of victory and defeat. The war will continue until Ukraine has nothing left to fight with, at which point either the Ukrainian government will surrender or the Russians will proceed to the Polish border. As for their broader goals, er, do you think I can call up Putin and ask him? I’m guessing, just like you.

    Clay, my guess is that they expected the Russians to keep on trying to fight blitzkrieg while losing a lot of men and tanks, and they clearly expected the wheels to fall off the Russian economy. Zero for two!

    Moose, my guess is that the Drang Nach Osten toward Russia was plan B when China didn’t turn into a nice friendly liberal nation on cue. Given that the Atlantic powers had enabled China to become a major rival, their next move had to involve seizing as much as possible of Eurasia so that China could eventually be neutralized; that meant Russia had to be dismembered and disarmed. Puck had it right, of course.

    Bridge, my guess is that NATO won’t fall apart immediately, since it’s the one pretense of security Europe has in the face of a resurgent Russia. I expect to see a lot of shrill and angry talk about turning European nations into military powers again, lots of parade and pretense, and a happy hunting ground for arms salesmen. In the process, they’ll bankrupt their nations and erase the last of their legitimacy in the eyes of their own people, and the final rounds of the game will proceed from there.

    IEL, that’s the downside of the culture of complacency among our elites. Since they never have to suffer any of the consequences of their bad decisions, it’s never occurred to them that too much stupidity carried out with too much enthusiasm could literally end their reign. I expect a lot of blank baffled looks on a lot of very privileged faces as they’re led off to their fates.

    DropBear, that’s a great line, and an accurate one.

    Carlos, fair enough. As an outsider to your faith, I don’t claim to see the whole picture.

    Hypercosmic, that must have been hilarious to watch.

    Cliff, hmm! Yeah, that follows — every ideology generates its opposite, so it’s not surprising that Stormtrooper Syndrome would end up producing a Bad Guys Win syndrome, equally stereotyped and equally dull.

    Degringolade, Aurelien comments here now and again, and I read his blog regularly. We don’t know each other, but his thinking sometimes influences mine.

    Ian, I know. I expect to see some very rough times here in the US, and they will have been very well earned.

    Chris, no, I didn’t hear about that. No surprises, though — military equipment these days is purchased by greasing the palms of politicians, with embarrassingly little attention to what happens if the equipment has to be used to, you know, fight an enemy or something.

    Patricia M, exactly! That very American habit was exactly what I was satirizing in that passage of Retrotopia.

    Moose, thanks for this. I always get suspicious when people insist that no matter how craven and corrupt they are, their god will always pat them on the head and smile. Gods aren’t like that.

    Justin, the Russians are also taking plain FPV quadcopters, strapping a shell onto them, and literally sending them in kamikaze dives down the open hatches of Ukrainian vehicles. Cheap, lethal, and brutal.

    Roman, yep. There’s a reason American historian Timothy Snyder called his book on modern Eastern European history The Bloodlands — just about everybody in that part of the world has committed atrocities against just about everybody else.

    Platypus, that’s by no means impossible. Stay tuned!

  72. Yeah, the Lost Tales are a really fast, hard loss with very little mitigation. I like the Silmarillion better. I think out of all of Tolkien’s work, my favorite is the Silmarillion. Though I really like Lord of the Rings too, and unfinished tales and HoME are great places to mine for details and ideas when you’re writing fanfic.

  73. 🌸Jean #57

    According to what I learned spending forty years with my Jewish in-laws, there is the word “nudge” and the related, but different “noodge.” They are pronounced differently. Nudge is an ‘uh’ sound. Noodge has an oo sound like ‘pool.’

    ‘Nudge’ is a gentle push; it is pleasant. It is mostly the verb, ‘to nudge.’

    ‘Noodge,’ on the other hand, means to nag; it is unpleasant. It is passive-aggressive and nasty. There is a guilt factor there, like ‘if you don’t do what I ‘indicate’ (“order”) that you do, you are wrong, it is your own fault if things don’t go right, and don’t expect any help from me in the future.’ It implies underhanded dealing, and has the tone of borderline, un(der)stated “up yours.” It is mostly a noun. One does NOT want to get a reputation of being a noodge, because to others, what is transparent is the selfishness of that entity. To noodge is UNacceptable behavior.

    Be well…

    Northwind Grandma💨
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA🌸

  74. JMG,

    You’ve suggested that Russian defeat looks very improbable, so I thought you might have some picture of what a Russian victory might look like. Western desires in the whole situation definitely pictures Ukraine returning it’s borders, and Russia being broken up. NATO has been found weak however, and few here can imagine that. However, I don’t see Russia’s machine running without the help of China (Iran and North Korea are both indebted to China and that plays a huge part in their willingness to help, alongside with their similar disdain for Western influences). I think Russian victory results in Russia willingly giving up their Far East, or parts of it, to have continued support from China. Then Russia dismantles Ukraine, and… then NATO steps in to counter the feared threat of Russia on their backdoor, just as Russia defended itself from NATO walking into theirs. A lot of twists of irony in that picture.

  75. Before the war, I was talking to an accountant that does audits of other accounting firms for certification and he said that he has spent a lot of time in Ukraine trying to certify their accounting firms. He said bribery was, so common that he couldn’t certify the companies, and that the corruption was one of the things that was preventing Ukraine from joining the EU. So much for them being the good guys.

  76. In fact, I’ve been contemplating this attitude for years now and personally call it ‘Heroic Rebel Syndrome’.
    They see themselves in stories of heroic rebels standing up against oppression, God will send space bats to their aid as they find and exploit the crucial weakness that will bring them down. King Leonidas, Cincinnatus, Mulan… the story goes back to the mists of antiquity in many different cultures. Our modern version is some lone inventor tinkering away in his garage makes something that creates an entire industry or turns one upside down. It’s the same story you sketch out here, and far too many people see themselves as heroically storming a Bastille to liberate seven prisoners, rather than part of the very problem they seek to fix.
    I prefer to say these people are obtuse, in that, the vast, vast majority of people are not sharp enough to be aware of, much less question their own beliefs. It takes a rare personality to challenge the commonly held ideas and examine them against reality and an even more marvelous person if they can truly reject a bad idea that defines a zeitgeist. When people grow up with a set of beliefs about the world, that will be a part of them until they die, even if only as a suppressed concept buried deep in the psyche. Even adopting an apparently opposite view doesn’t mean the original idea isn’t just as powerful, since 180 degrees from wrong is still wrong.
    Of course, the idea that “Good must triumph” and its corollary “We are Good” is the sine qua non of any motivation to struggle at all. Without that basic foundation, no one would ever fight for any cause. Everyone must believe what they are fighting for is right, no one believes they are evil. What is current and is different is the conviction that right must triumph even without force to back it up, when the history of the world clearly shows that if might does not necessarily make right, right without might can never win.

  77. Great essay, JMG, always enjoy your take on current events.

    This would all make for great comedy if only so many people weren’t getting killed because of it. Oh well.

    I just came across this interesting tidbit: Apparently not only do the Russians learn from their mistakes, but it looks like the Westerners still don’t. At this point, the Russians have managed to capture several intact NATO armored vehicles and tanks. Looks like the Russians aren’t too impressed…:

    “The study of captured NATO armored vehicles by specialists of the Russian defense industry showed that they are distinguished by “mediocre mobility” and excessive design complexity, which is not always rational, a source told RIA Novosti. According to him, because of this, Western equipment has low maintainability, and its maintenance requires a lot of resources.

    At the same time, the level of armor of NATO equipment is “acceptable”, although it has many weak points due to the distribution of protection that does not meet the requirements of modern combat, the source added.”

    ….”which is not always rational” haha, I chuckled pretty hard at that. Its not supposed to be rational, silly Russians. Its supposed to make U.S. defense contractors lots of money! I couldn’t help but think of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story Superiority…

  78. Pygmycory, granted. Tolkien’s early, unpublished fiction is all about the good guys losing — the original “Book of Lost Tales” was one vast tragedy, far more complete than the later version that became the Silmarillion. My guess is that his focus on eucatastrophe came later, as a result of religious reflections.

    The Book of Lost Tales is actually substantially goofier than the later Silmarillion – Sauron is Tevildo Prince of Cats, and Melko(r) gets defeated by chasing him up a pine tree and cutting it down.

    The issue with Tolkien is that there are only two eucatastrophes in the entire invented history of Middle-earth. The first is Earendil making it to Valinor, to plead for aid. The second is Gollum’s little stumble. Both eucatastrophes take place in the context of desperate pilgrimages, the former an act of repentance, the latter an attempt to reject power (and an embrace of mercy).

    But since there are only these two events… Tolkien gives himself free rein to demonstrate his thesis that history is the Long Defeat, and his morbid fascination with the Northern Theory of Courage, the idea that true bravery is fighting when you know you are going to lose*. Eucatastrophes can never be counted on… and it is also worth remembering that Tolkien’s Elves have two different words for ‘hope’. One is amdir, which refers to hope rooted in worldly experience. The other is estel, which refers to the trust that a Higher Power has not abandoned us.

    *Tolkien would also have been aware that the Old Norse ‘Ván’ (hope) is the saliva of Fenrir the Wolf. The whole point of the Norse ethos is fighting on without hope. Tolkien critiqued this idea, but it fascinated him.

    But even in the case of estel, one of Tolkien’s major stories wrestles with the question of how can one continue to trust when all evidence goes the other way. The Children of Hurin – Tolkien’s mash-up of Oedipus Rex, the Volsunga Saga, and Kullervo from the Finnish Kalevala – basically has Divine Providence Out to Lunch, to a degree where it makes a curious contrast to The Lord of the Rings. It is the Tolkienian Book of Job, not merely a question of why bad things happen to good people, but whether the fates of the world itself have turned malign. . .

  79. From Aurelian’s latest substack piece:

    Where are you going to find media pundits who explain that global warming isn’t what we would like it to be, but what it is, and what we are going to have to do? How much longer are “human rights” groups that tell us that governments must not force people to do things to prevent the spread of Covid going to last?

    I can’t say as I find this Aurelian commentator to be very useful. I think I’ll pass the next time I see a link to his substack.

  80. Our esteemed Archdruid brings in more Saturnian wisdom, which is always welcome.

    About the above mentioned type of thinking, George Carlin said it best:

    In today’s America, no child ever loses. There are no losers anymore. Everyone’s a winner. No matter what the game or sport or competition, everybody wins. Everybody wins, everybody gets a trophy, no one is a loser. No child these days ever gets to hear those all-important, character building words: “You lost, Bobby!”

    “You lost, you’re a loser, Bobby!” They miss out on that. You know what they tell a kid who lost these days? “You were the last winner.” A lot of these kids never get to hear the truth about themselves until they’re in their twenties. When their boss calls them in and says “Bobby, clean the sh*t out of your desk and get the f**k out of here, you’re a loser”.

  81. This post reminded me of my sister’s small farm back in the ‘80s. At that time she had about 10 hens (all white) and a single black rooster. My teenaged nephews named the rooster “Darth Vader”, and the hens, naturally, were jointly named the “Imperial Storm Troopers”. To this day, when I see images of the Star Wars storm troopers, I remember those white hens being chased by that randy rooster.

    Glad to see you finally posted this, JMG. It’s been a long time a-brewing. I’m certainly no military expert but I know enough veterans who have been in the thick of battle to trust them when they say that the Russians tactically won the war as soon as they ‘dug in’. Now it’s largely a matter of battering the Ukies with arms (up to 60,000 shells a day, every day – how absolutely apocalyptic!) until NATO runs out of arms (which has pretty much happened) and then the Russians walk in. At which point their first objective (demilitarization of the Ukraine) will have been accomplished and the second objective (denazification of the Ukraine) will kick into high gear.

    The Western war propaganda has really outdone itself with this conflict right from the day the Russians entered the Donbass (Russian troops are demoralized and deserting! Russia is running out of weapons!). And with each announced new ‘wonder-weapon’ that will ‘turn around this war’ – and never does… each is just a new target for the Rooskies to gleefully obliterate. Meanwhile vast sums of money are handed over to Ukraine’s black hole (with likely a back-eddy to the politicians in the West). Over time nations become specialists in certain accomplishments: France – cuisine; Italy – fashion; Russia – land-based warfare. It’s just one of those things. And anyone who forgets this is a fool.

    Speaking of monkey-wrenching, it seems that the Russians have been having fun ‘scambling the brains’ of the ‘smart’ munitions that NATO keeps on trying to use against them: electronic warfare is alive and well on the steppes of Eastern Europe.

    As for the West feigning support for the Ukraine, it makes me ill. Hundreds of thousands of combatants dead. Maybe a third of the country’s population has fled, probably never to return. Virtually all industry either captured or destroyed by Russia. But the West has continuously goaded Ukraine to keep on fighting. With friends like the West, who needs enemies, eh?

    Of course, the current conflict is just one manifestation of the pervasive delusion that the elites in the West has fallen into. I’m starting to think that the incessant ‘virtue signalling’ by the elites is not just empty theatrics (hey, with a prime minister who used to be a drama teacher and failed at becoming a Hollywood actor [just like he has been a failure at absolutely everything in life so far], I’m entitled to imagine that) but they actually, truly, believe that they are the ‘good people’ and are therefore always in the right and should therefore always win. News flash: from a ‘virtue’ perspective, I am absolutely certain that the Tibetans were far superior to the Communist Chinese… but their military was squashed like a bug on the windshield of a transport truck barrelling down a highway. Sorry, elites, but the real world is not obligated to follow your script and once your debased magic of propaganda and public relations loses its potency (as it seems to be happening internationally big time and more gradually domestically), you are finished. And none too soon.

  82. Isn’t a “eucatastrophe” the same thing as a “deus ex machina”? A plot device overused since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, when a god shows up to rescue the heroes from the mess they’ve made?

  83. I’m sure everyone’s heard about this, but…

    Fitch reduced The USA’s credit rating from AAA to AA+. Not much, but there has been much panic in both the LameStream Media and the Stock Markets.

  84. If elite stupidity is still on-topic, the one that really frightens me is the plans to cut back on food production to reduce carbon emissions:

    Both Ireland and the Netherlands have decided that the abstraction of ‘reduced carbon emissions’ is more important than their country’s ability to produce real, concrete food.

  85. Most esteemed Wizard, I humbly regret to inform you that your excellent Stormtrooper analogy is 20 years out of date. That was the fan fiction inspiring the Destert Storm wars. Our elite’s current fantasy is based off of the Disney Girl Boss (aka Mary Sue) who is perfect at everything without trying, has no moral constraints because of her 100% goodness, and would succeed immediately if all the annoying doubters and mansplainers would simply get out of her way so that she can round up all the necessary MacGuffins to deliver a death blow to the barely intimidating (and often recycled) Big Baddie.

    Thank the Angels of Mercy that you have been spared the frustration of watching all the stories from your youth get ripped to pieces and vomited back up by Ratcorp.

    One hopeful sign is that nobody seems to care about the alien saucers being dangled in the background. It’s as if we’ve all collectively exclaimed “Hey I’ve seen this movie before! This part sucks.”

  86. “…they have the best education you can get in a modern western society.”

    Therein, I believe, lies much of the problem.

  87. In my view present-day elites conspire and collude. And come up with the most hare-brained schemes. I think that very often both can be true, so yes, there’s sinister conspiracies, and yes, at the top, they’re really stupid, every bit as stupid as they seem.

    I used to watch the Sunday morning talk shows and listen to the weighty thinkers and watch them furrow their brows and pronounce upon weighty international and domestic matters. And i would sit there and laugh. But after some years it stopped being funny and so I stopped watching.

    I saw a discussion some years ago on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff where such luminaries as Leon Panetta, General Zinni, Andrew Bacevitch and some others were talking about US actions in the Middle East. The delusion on display was truly impressive. Panetta said at one point ‘we know how to do this’. And Bacevitch replied, ‘no we don’t, we don’t know how to do this.’

    After one gigantic faceplant after another you’d think that the so-called Blob would have clued into what Bacevitch said, no, we don’t know how to do this. Because that much is readily apparent.

    But it’s like that guy said, nobody ever learned from history and nobody ever will and he might have added, nor from recent experience either and especially the almighty elite.

    So, you might ask, will no one rid us of these troublesome priests? Patience. It’s like Lenin said, for decades nothing happens, and then little rivulets of events coalesce into raging torrents, and then in days decades happen.

  88. “That put Ukraine and its NATO backers into a very difficult position. In First World War-style combat, the winner is the side with the largest munitions industry and the biggest pool of recruits to draw on. Russia has a huge advantage on both counts.”

    In this case the Russian targeting of munitions industry in Ukraine along with the routine blowups of Ammo depots worked towards that objective.

    WWI was probably so much of a disaster because there wasn’t the attempt or successes of sabotage operations of enemy weapons, ammo and so on.

    And likewise the Blitzkrieg operations required highly fossil fuel guzzling vehicles. And given the National Socialist shortages of Oil this made them lose the War in the Long-Term:

    Can’t do the Stormtropper tactics without complex logistics and massive fuel consumption

  89. I agree with the other posters who feel that Russia’s main motive in this would be preventing themselves from being invaded and destroyed. MacKinder’s Heartland Theory (my nickname) can’t help them sleep any better at night:

    History shows that one of Russia’s main defenses is distance– armies invading from the West have had to cross large distances to get to Russia proper. Nowadays, the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine constitute that buffer zone ( The Baltics seem unwilling to provoke Russia, Belarus is firmly in Russia’s “friend” camp, but Ukraine being flipped represents a huge threat to Russia. Not only is it the biggest part of the western buffer zone, but it also contains Russia’s only access to a warm-water port (in Crimea). Even with that in Russia’s orbit, their ships still have to get out through the Bosporus (past Turkey), then through the Mediterranean Sea and then Gibraltar and/or Suez, to have full access to the world’s oceans. (Thank you, Clay Dennis, for your comments on Syria, Belarus and Turkey which shed even sharper light on these thoughts of mine.) Thus I would expect Russian interest in Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Spain and Morocco to continue.

    However, global warming is opening up new travel opportunities for Russia in the Arctic Ocean. If they could use the Arctic Ocean for sea traffic for more than a few months a year, that would be huge for them, as many of their rivers run north into that ocean, and they could wind up with quite a network for water-borne travel and transport.

    I see both Russia and China pursuing a kind of “velvet-glove” strategy, trying to gain economic leverage and control over other countries instead of coercing them with force. This strategy may even have an official name, but I don’t know it, I just see it in action. Russia I believe tried to get Europe energy-dependent on them, but was spotted by an energy analyst in 2014 whose book may have been what alerted the PMC and instigated the current round of anti-Russia rhetoric in our media. (Marin Katusa, “The Colder War”, has a picture of Putin and Obama on the cover.) And of course, China makes most of our daily-living necessities, so they have a lot of leverage over us there.

    Regarding the US’s small arms supply, it is exquisitely vulnerable to interruptions in the supply of bullets. I have not done the digging; I don’t know how many small-arms ammunition plants there are in the US. I do know that around 10 or 15 years ago there was a sudden nationwide shortage of .30-06 rounds– as in, they vanished from the shelves in every sporting goods store I checked. Nobody seemed to know why. Finally, one of my coworkers told me that a friend in the industry had confided to him that Department of Homeland Security had ordered 1 billion rounds of .30-cal ammunition, thus soaking up the entire country’s production for several months.

    Yes, would-be US resistance fighters could hand-load their ammo up to a point, but hand-loading is still dependent on getting primer caps (hand-loaders can’t make those themselves AFAIK) and I don’t know how many places in the US those are made either. Because of this incident, of one thing I am certain– ammo plants in the US are major strategic targets for any kind of fight on US soil, and any smart fighting force will take control of those as quickly as possible.

  90. “so it’s not surprising that Stormtrooper Syndrome would end up producing a Bad Guys Win syndrome, equally stereotyped and equally dull.”

    I think the Soviet Union is a good example of the “Bad Guys Win”. But once it actually happens. A power struggle gives rise to a Dictator. That coincidentally becomes paranoid and starts murdering other bad guys who he perceives is a threat to his absolute power. And almost the entirely of the Old Bolshevik Party is dead by the end.

    Something similar happened with the French Revolutionaries.

    When all the “Good guys” are dead. Divine Judgment turns them against each other. The worst of the bloodletting consisted of all the most Enthusiastic Bolshevik supporters.

  91. Pygmycory, oh, granted.

    Prizm, I’ve already talked at length of what a Russian victory might look like. That doesn’t mean I know what Vladimir Putin thinks a Russian victory looks like!

    Anon, er, which side is the good guys is entirely irrelevant to the points made here.

    Renaissance, and the really bleak irony is that these people who see themselves as heroic rebels are in fact total conformists helping to prop up a corrupt system.

    Andrew, yes, I saw that! No surprises there.

    Strda21, only two eucatastrophes in Tolkien’s work? Er, no. How about Bard’s one-in-a-million shot that brings down Smaug? Also, there was this hobbit named Frodo who did something improbable I think you’re forgetting about. And there are more, of course. I also wouldn’t characterize The Book of Lost Tales as “goofy” — it uses the material of fairy tale a little more explicitly than the latter work, but it’s a very tragic story.

    Ecosophian, he was as usual dead on.

    Ron, exactly. I think they really do believe it. They’re not just acting out a role; they’ve become convinced that they really are the best and the brightest — gods help them.

    Ecosophian, not exactly. I recommend reading Tolkien’s essay “On Faery Stories” for an explanation.

    Godozo, given the insane debt load, it should be B- or lower.

    Kfish, yeah, that’s way up there in the stupidity ratings.

    Aloysius, I hadn’t encountered the term “Ratcorp” before; thank you. I’ve also been heartened by the general yawn produced by the latest round of UFO fakery.

    Smith, no argument there.

    Info, no question, drone strikes and long-range missiles give the Russians another round of advantages in carrying out the First World War style of warfare. It’ll be interesting to see, once they go on the offensive, whether they stick with the same mode of slow advance they’ve been pursuing around Kupyansk and Krasny Liman, or whether they have some other card up their sleeve.

    Cicada, all this corresponds fairly closely to my thoughts.

    Info, and it did indeed come out very, very dull.

  92. JMG,

    I get your meaning re the the hollowness of the “good guy/bad guy” bifurcation, but doesn’t every large-scale enterprise axiomatically think of themselves as the good guys? The Soviets certainly thought themselves so. Even the Nazis thought of themselves as making a better world, though all the dark symbolism they wallowed in, the skulls, lightning bolts, black leather, etc., could lead one to think they were very much into destructiveness for destructiveness’s sake. But point is, the losers think of themselves as good guys until they lose, and then have to confront the reasons why they lost.

    As historian Victor Davis Hansen underscores in his book “Culture And Carnage”, the “good guys” do win most of the time and the “bad guys” lose, if “good guys” is defined as those cultures that allow at least some individual initiative (as opposed to strict central command) to play out, particularly in warfare. Individual initiative of course depends on individual inspiration, and genuine inspiration comes from Above, so to speak, and this leads to innovation, adaptability, and out-of-box thinking. I sense that in the current UK/Russ war, the current emerging Russian culture is more reliant on individual inspiration, maybe on genuine inspiration in general, than is the spiritually arid West, who then are the bad guys and are fittingly losing.

  93. JMG: Godozo, given the insane debt load, it should be B- or lower.

    Given certain fearful premonitions I have of 2024, I wouldn’t be surprised if such a plummeting credit rating – or an active default – was in the works.

  94. Strda21, only two eucatastrophes in Tolkien’s work? Er, no. How about Bard’s one-in-a-million shot that brings down Smaug? Also, there was this hobbit named Frodo who did something improbable I think you’re forgetting about. And there are more, of course. I also wouldn’t characterize The Book of Lost Tales as “goofy” — it uses the material of fairy tale a little more explicitly than the latter work, but it’s a very tragic story.

    Bard’s arrow is a straight-forward Chekhov’s Gun – Smaug’s weak spot is well-established. It’d be bad storytelling if the dragon weren’t brought down by that bit of information. Moreover, Smaug’s death isn’t the resolution – it’s merely setting the scene for the real climax, the squabble over the Hoard.

    Perhaps I use the term eucatastrophe in a more narrow sense than you – and, to be fair, there’s a case for Gandalf’s Return and the arrival of the Rohirrim at Minas Tirith. But to me, a eucatastrophe has to be more than a ‘hope spot’ before the darkness resumes. It’s the entire point towards which Tolkien’s fairy story conception builds. Hence Earendil at Sea and Frodo at Mount Doom, with the darkness being built up over the course of what came before.

    The Book of Lost Tales isn’t goofy when viewed in isolation, but I think it’s definitely goofier than the mature Silmarillion (1930s and 1950s). In addition to Tevildo and Melko’s pine tree, we’ve also got Salgant the Fat Elf at the Fall of Gondolin, Maeglin as a flat moustache-twirler, and character-names like Tinfang Warble. Tuor kills Balrogs like it’s going out of style. Melko/Melkor at this point is a trickster, with his own faction of Valar, not the metaphysical poison that he would become in later conception.

  95. In defense, slightly, of eucatastrophes – wouldn’t it be fair to say that those who are spiritually aware and open to the Divine are more likely to experience miracles, whether they be one-in-a-million shots or enemy stumbles, whatever? Not that it’s realistic to expect miracles to carry the day all the time or that we should become dependent on them, but they are known to occur.

    I get that the modern, materialistic mind can unrealistically interpret the notion of the eucatastrophe as being a painless free pass in life, but to a spiritually mature mind, well, the eucatastrophe miracle is a now and then reality.

  96. Other Owen #43

    “Do. Not. Fight. An. Attrition. War. With. The. Russians. They will win.”

    Unless.You.Are.Afghanistan. They will wear out all comers. Eventually.

  97. I think the traditional NATO tactics have failed, however, I am not so sure it means Ukraine has failed, or has even culminated. The generals running this war were all trained to Soviet doctrine, not NATO, and whilst Ukraine has adopted the “mission command” approach which delegates decisions down to non commissioned officers, and even platoon level troops (itself a Prussian army invention), when things get tough, it’s the Soviet tactics and approach they know best and will return to. That means no heavy armoured assaults, and a big reliance on artillery.

    Russian shell production isn’t keeping up currently (it may in the future), and their allies contributions are for the moment either small or of low quality. The artillery advantage they had has been evened out, it’s probably at parity now. It doesn’t mean it won’t change, especially if western supplies fail, but at the moment, especially with a bunch of cluster munitions, I’d say Ukraine has the edge on supply chains.

    In a war of attrition like this, it may come down to the balance of motivation and command structure. The “mission command” doctrine of delegated authority may be key to tipping the balance. That approach explained most German WWII success, often against huge odds, except where a certain little man with a mustache overrode his generals.

    So to with Russia and this war. It does mean that the air-land battle, or the rephrased blitzkreig is over, but I wouldn’t rule the West, or certain western countries out from adapting there. Ukraine chief amongst them with a relatively unique experience of war above any of its allies.

  98. I follow Kamil Galeev on Twitter, he is an ethnic Tatar who doesn’t like the Putin regime, so he has a clear bias, but some of his threads, which are now on Substack are quite interesting:

    He was very bearish on Russia in the first few months of the conflict but that has turned into consternation now. To sum his views, basically he sees the Russian military manufacturing industry as being highly dependent on German inputs for things as basic as ball bearings, if Germany wanted to, they could have stopped supplying this to Russia, but they still do.

    Anyway, I also wanted to say that I feel a bit concerned that a lot of “right”-leaning commentators seem to also have their own versions of binary-thinking; i.e., thinking that the Ukrainian forces as a whole are neo-Nazis, engage in ethnic cleansing etc as opposed to the . The Azov battalion isn’t really representative of Ukrainians as a whole.

    I don’t really have a horse in this race, but I do feel sorry for the Ukrainian people and the ethnic minority conscripts from Russia; my old wrestling coach is from Ukraine and was there over much of 2022. He has since left, and is actually speaking Russian to his young son now rather than Ukrainian, maybe it’s a sign of where he sees things going.

  99. Thank you for the summary about the Ukrainian war! In my view, the well-articulated analysis of military tactics is especially valuable considering the loud and incoherent propaganda around us.

    My view is that if we look at the strategic picture even more closely, the Western elites are a little more diverse than your essay describes. I certainly agree that the majority is clueless but I think there is also a minority among them exploiting this stupidity. For example, the Western European (German and French) elites are completely in the grips of the Stormtrooper fallacy including the politicians and their voter base. They are drifting along with the flow of events without having any way out of this mess. However, the US warmongering policy seems to be much more cunning. The defeat of Ukraine and the potential breakup of NATO might easily lead to a scenario in which the US withdraws from Europe (at least partially) and leaves complete chaos behind. Correct me if I am wrong but this outcome is not against US interests at this point.

    Of course, the voter base, the supporters of warmongering are just as clueless in the US as in Europe but the Washington deep state seems to manipulate the situation instead of succumbing to it like their Western European counterparts. This is not intended to be a critique of your essay, just an elaboration, although you may think it involves too much conspiracy.

  100. FWIW, I have known a Ukrainian woman since the late 1990s. She is a brilliant researcher who had her first books published before completing college and went on to become Ukraine’s youngest university professor.

    Even back then, she could not stand to even be in the same room as a Russian, so much she hated them. For many Ukrainians, the issue really runs that deep.

    >No, it’s got to be a sinister conspiracy!

    I think it is every citizen’s duty to believe in conspiracy theories, and if possible to come up with new ones to keep up with events.

    The alternative, i.e. believing that our leaders are indeed that stupid, is clearly un-patriotic.

    We are so far down the road that only the completely disillusioned and the completely brainwashed do not believe in conspiracy theories.

  101. JMG, can you recommend a book or two that might serve as prophylactic when your readers realize that Stormtrooper Syndrome is creeping into their own habits of thought? I was raised by flower children, and I can tell you I’ve noticed this habit creeping up in my own decisions from time to time.

  102. @JMG I differ with you on a few points; I’ll just set them out here to add to the discussion rather than for debate, as I agree with the general thrust of this post.

    That was why the Russians abandoned their deep thrusts into Ukrainian territory, [etc]

    I wouldn’t agree with you here: I think the original Russian blitzkrieg was successful despite mishaps, in that its purpose was to force Kiev to the negotiating table. That happened, and a peace agreement was very nearly agreed in Istanbul. It was only after that was torpedoed by the Anglo part of NATO, and the UK in particular, that Russia changed its methods. Honestly, I think the big discussion point for future historians about this conflict will be the level of disconnect from reality of the British Establishment. ‘Stormtrooper syndrome’ is even more dominant in London than it is in Washington, and I increasingly suspect that the UK could potentially emerge from all of this as even more of a loser than Ukraine, believe it or not. As you say, the people in question are stuck in habits of thought that make it impossible for them to do anything useful in a crisis – and for us here in Blighty, that’s expressing itself in many, many ways, unfortunately.

  103. Mandrake, the example of Nazi Germany has a weird magnetism on the Western mind. […] I probably need to do a post on this one of these days, though it’s something I doubt many readers will understand.

    I hope you’ll write that post, as there is definitely something uncanny about it. Kellog’s The Russian Roots of Nazism, Goodrick-Clarke’s The Occult Roots of Nazism, and Stephan’s The Russian Fascists are all good sources on the topic. The very early days of the NSDAP were strongly influenced by (takes a deep breath) the exiled German aristocracy who had ruled the Baltic nations on behalf of the Tsars for centuries and who, dispossessed by the Bolsheviks, formed part of the White émigré movement. These people were fully integrated into the broader German culture and society, but they were also a part of the Russian aristocracy – which prior to the revolution had been fascinated by a weird combination of Orthodox chauvinism, Baltic paganism, western occultism, Asian religion, and anti-semitism. It seems to me that somewhere in that toxic mix emerged the glamour (in the sense of magical fascination) which took such a powerful grip on the western imagination – but you’re the expert on this, and I will be very, very interested to hear your analysis!

  104. Insightful essay, JMG! I also went over and enjoyed Aurelian’s.
    Over the past several years I’ve begun wondering if there is a a way to sum up where it is that the left goes so wrong so consistently, as it clearly has yet again. I came from a very liberal family, and this kind of thing was absolutely inconceivable to us as of 40 years ago, before I left the States. After that, though, they went one way and I went another, and the gap became clear after Obama’s election and betrayal of his campaign promises. Now I try to avoid expressing my real observations to these relatives and old friends, just politely listen, then go away and shake my head.

  105. Hello JMG and kommentariat.
    It’s interesting to realize that every time Ukie propaganda (Aka western “information”) talks happily about Ukrainian (little) progresses in the battlefield, they never say how many human losses have had really…That propaganda keep on the deceptive idea that “the good guys” keep on winning the war. we’ll keep on winning the war year by year…until Russkies tanks enter in Kiev some day. Propaganda power is big, but eventually can’t defeat a powerful enemy in the battlefields.

  106. >whether they stick with the same mode of slow advance they’ve been pursuing around Kupyansk and Krasny Liman, or whether they have some other card up their sleeve

    If I might. It’s kinda depressing but also becoming clear that defensive tactics are much better than offensive tactics in this strange new 21st c world we find ourselves in. The tactics and what’s possible drive everyone into eventually “turtling up”.

    Combine that with Orlov’s comment about the Ukraine being essentially a “moldy bagel” that Russia only reluctantly wants to touch and even then touch as little as possible.

    I think they want to deny Black Sea access to what’s left of the Ukraine, but I don’t think they actually want to take much more land. If they did, they’d be facing what we faced in Vietnam – trying to pacify a group of people who will always be trying to find a way to bleed you out.

    I think Russia doesn’t want to negotiate, they’re basically not listening anymore. They’re “turtling up” on what they’ve taken, and they’re happy to let what’s left of the Ukraine bleed out trying to take it back. If they do venture forth from their lines, it’ll be to destroy Ukraine military units but you’d see them return behind their lines for the most part.

    As I see it the war’s essentially over, or will be winding down in an uneven manner over the next few years. That is unless NATO wants to get involved directly. Then it’s WW3. That would be doubling down on a failed strategy.

  107. I’ve seen members of of the twittering classes (including some with military clout) blame the failure of the Russian blitzkrieg and the Ukrainian counteroffensive on a kind of non-western primitiveness, an inability to grasp and execute complex strategies. Many of the same apparently also believed Russian soldiers would simply flee when confronted with the superiority of NATO weaponry.

    With the above in mind, I fear the next few decades could come as quite a shock to the psyches of many in the west. Perhaps the best course of action would be to start practicing detachment and ego dissipation now, before the damage sets in.

  108. Something popped into my head this morning (while folding laundry), after reading this essay yesterday.

    While Tolkein and Rowling are British, Hollywood is American. Is it possible that the “heroic underdog good-guys winning against the bad-guys-in-charge despite all odds” trope is somehow baked into the American psyche thanks to the American Revolution?

    I’m not a historiographer, but it’s my understanding that a sort of founding myth of America is – or at least used to be – the story of freedom-loving Good People standing up to the Evil (British) Empire of Bad People, and winning despite underdog status. Scrappy, under-resourced troops of noble patriots coming together under the leadership of a clever rebel leader to defeat the better-dressed and better-equipped redcoats against all odds, using clever tactics the enemy never expected, etc. Obviously, the reality is a bit more complicated, but in fairness, there is a some truth to the perception that Washington was a talented military tactician who secured unexpected victories, and the Continental Army did start out as the perceived underdogs in that successful rebellion-turned-revolution. And I suspect beliefs born of Enlightenment thought may also have worked their way into the origin myth, although I’d have to think about that part a bit more.

    This history wheel has long since turned and the American patriots are now more likely to be viewed by the current self-professed Good People as a bunch of privileged white males fighting for stolen native land under the leadership of a wicked enslaver, but just because the Revolution/Washington story has been re-written doesn’t mean that the underlying mythic structure has gone away. I wonder if Star Wars and other Hollywood products are tapping into some sort of collective unconscious American origin myth, and that’s why there’s a deep, unspoken belief in how Good Guys always triumph against all odds?

    My theory doesn’t quite explain Tolkein, but Rowling is a product of the 20th century, so she would have been steeped in the Hollywood myth, stripped of it’s America-specific origins. The Revolution Myth can be told over and over in stories that follow the same structure without referencing the original version.

    Just my morning laundry musings 😉

  109. A very welcome analysis, thank you.

    I was waiting for you to point out at the end that Dobry-Cola is Russian for Good-Cola with its implication that another brand of fizzy, brown sugar-water that also comes in a red can, is something other than good.

    If I’m to believe the likes of Col. Douglas MacGregor, there are plenty of excellent thinkers in the military, just not at 4-star level informing the White House. These men (I believe they’re all men) are effectively politicians, and yes-men to boot.

    His latest article has just dropped and it seems to dovetail very nicely with your essay. (There may be reasons for that…)

    Make Peace, You Fools!

    In the article, MacGregor goes through a short list of wars where, with the benefit of hindsight, either attrition or bold advance was the right strategy. Also he points out that doing the rational thing is not how humans always work, which is something you have talked about on numerous occasions.The overriding message, though, is that both White House and 4-star generals suffer from stormtrooper syndrome.

  110. Indeed. Isn’t the irony delicious? They even go around seeking out imaginary metaphorical Death Stars to blow up and Bastilles to conquer so they can feel heroic, because it’s so much safer than taking on a real one. They might get hurt if they did.

  111. Recently I read a paper by an analyst the War College at West Point ( sorry I don’t have the link) that described how Russia had been evolving an updated style of warfare since the early 2000’s. At that time they had begun developing the long range missile systems that they are using heavily today. But this made them realize that the massed concentrations of troops, and equipment required for modern Blitzkrieg warfare was vulnerable to destruction at a distance by precision long range weapons. So while some of Stavka kept thinking Blitzkrieg, the rest were developing a new system based on safety in mobility and tactics. Of course being Russians both camps kept artillery as the backbone of their strategies. The key was how mobile the artillery was, and how it was organized. The conclusion this author ( us military thinker) came to was that the Russians had developed the best 5th generation land army in the world. So it was fairly easy for the Russians to shift from the failed Blitzkrieg to new tactics because they had been preparing for it for years. The west was surprised by the shift to WWI artillery warfare, but even more surprised by how the Russians had given it a 21st century twist. But they shouldn’t have been if the generals spent more time studying the work of their own thinkers and less time on the golf course or Sunday morning talk shows.

  112. I wonder to what degree the United States’ founding myth plays into this. You know, the Declaration of Independence, plucky New England farmers picking off Redcoats (the original stormtroopers?), the daring rebel raid at Trenton, Valley Forge, right down to the final victory at Yorktown. Not a word about France, except maybe the Marquis de Lafayette. If you grow up on that myth, the idea of the (outnumbered and outgunned) good guys winning against the Empire is embedded pretty deeply.

  113. The plucky rebels defeating the evil empire is the American Revolutionary War. I was taught of how the American colonists stood up to the Evil British and won because they were right and good. It is an old story baked into the American psyche. Of course, the British were incompetent boobs who couldn’t shoot straight……

    Now the 1619 Projected decided to replace plucky rebels with plucky Black slaves and the evil empire with evil White slave owners, who were boobs. And the Star Wars story is the same trope. The Alamo is the reverse in an odd way of the heroic sacrifice of keeping the Mexicans occupied. Again, the Mexicans were really incompetent boobs.

    Of course, evil Empires win – Rome was rather successful in that regard against a horde of plucky barbarians. Plucky rebels win too.

    What brings me to this is that the trope is so embedded in people’s psyche that they are the good guys, even when they are incompetent boobs. Consider the Magic Resistance fighting the evil Orange Man. (My personal take on Trump, was that he told people the truth, and they didn’t want to hear that they were just ordinary.)

  114. @Mister Nobody #83: Just last week we were discussing the value of reading and communicating with writers even and especially when we don’t agree with them on every last issue.

  115. @JMG: I do think our tastes and interests overlap inside the vesica at times!

    @Cliff #65, et al, on fantasy fiction.

    I think you are very right about the inverse of Tolkien with much contemporary fantasy, i.e., the grim-dark subgenre. The opposite of one bad idea is another.

    I do love Tolkien, it’s just all his imitators that made the field so boring. My favorite contemporary fantasy is usually of the “This world” variety… Charles De Lint being one example, and a lot of the older “YA” fantasy lit of this variety. A lot of De Lint’s tales aren’t so much about good and evil as they are about problems and/or anomalies that happen when people interact with the otherworld, and the resolution, especially in his Newford short stories.

    Of long winded fantasy, I did read the Rothfuss books and loved his style and story, but I am upset he hasn’t finished his series, so I’ll be refraining from reading books that are parts of other authors series until they are finished, unless each can function as a stand alone.

    I don’t know what has caused the problem for Rothfuss, except perhaps a quick ascent to success, and too much rewriting? Those are just guesses.

    General comment: I think maybe one of the good things that has come out of the pandemic situation is people taking their kids out of regular schools, and either putting them in alternative/private schools, which can be their own mixed bag, and homeschooling. Perhaps this kind of educational monkeywrench will produce a different quality of leader down the line.

  116. I wonder how much of this is groupthink. Somehow, everyone conveniently forgot themselves and decided to join the group ethos. I am reminded of the Tower Time and the Storm Goddess of the Neo-paganists. It was said that they simply took Christian end-times and put a Pagan veneer on the whole thing. Somehow, they are the Chosen Ones since they will suffer and come out on top.

    I was thinking about the fiat news covering the Ukraine-Russia War. They want to present the Ukrainians as the blog says – plucky and the Russians as boobs. And be a cheer leader for NATO intervention. And if anyone like DeSantis says that perhaps we shouldn’t be involved, everyone starts screaming how evil he is.

    What happens when reality intrudes? Do the Good People pass it off as a speed bump? Again I am thinking about how the Battle of Alamo is presented in popular media. The Mexicans won, but somehow the plucky Texans outfoxed them or something like that.

  117. I guess great minds think alike since at least three of us came up with the American Revolution.

    My experience is colored by the fact that my father’s ancestors were burned out in Boston and sent to sea in an open boat. They made it to Canada and fought for the King. It was my father’s generation who drifted back to the U.S. But we still retained that point of view that not the Revolution wasn’t as clean and glorious as everyone is taught.

    It was dirty, messy, and full of mistakes. My mother’s family lived at the point in Maine where Bennedict Arnold tried to invade Canada. The signs are still there since he chopped trees to make a passage to Canada. A different species grows where the trees were chopped. Somehow that is never taught – the failed invasion of Canada.

    So I wonder how much of the Stormtrooper Syndrome is wistful thinking that people took as reality.

  118. JMG, Your comment to Mandrake on #54 I think can be summed up with the only reason we label the Nazis as ‘evil not to be replicated’ is because they lost so we can clearly put them in the evil camp.

    If they had won, the old saying “all is fair in love and war” would have applied and we would have chalked it up to one of those things that had to happen to get us to where we are. Also, since history is written by the victor, there would have been a different slant to how that episode was taught in schools.

    Even today, we are seeing people rewrite history and changing the definition of words to justify their behavior. Movies tend to make the evil ones monsterish e.g. Stormtroopers, orcs, trolls and such, while we even do this online calling people trolls, although some of these may be bots. I find it interesting the some people feel justified in trolling people that they feel take a stand on something that they disagree with.

    All this goes to show that othering people is common enough even in real time. And when the enemy is seen as being nonhuman, we can justify treating them inhumanely. Or if it is online, writing real mean things that we hope they will read or at least someone will read and agree with us, making us feel better and superior to the other.

  119. The first “drone” was a propeller driven biplane devised for WW1, the Kettering Bug. If you’d rather, it could also be considered the first cruise missile. The plan was to hit arms depots beyond the range of artillery. Sound familiar? I don’t believe it got used before the armistice but the Russians are even in this reverting to a very old playbook.

    Foucault’s pendulum is an excellent metaphor, thank you.

    The one thing that surprises me in your essay was the notion that NATO leaders learned from Israeli experience. I was not aware they were capable of learning. Maybe that insight came from the Ukrainians? They do seem much more flexible– ie, see how their offensive shifted to surmtruppen style “mosquito tactics” to crack Russian trenches while NATO flacks keep advising to repeat failing armoured attacks.

  120. Hello JMG’
    Thank you for the great analysis of Russo-Ukrainian war. I am not a stranger to that part of the world and follow the situation closely. I shudder when I think of the fate of the Ukrainian people. I see many Ukrainian refugees where I live. I like how you talk about the habit of thought and approach the situation logically. You attach words to my images. I look at all this and see mud, sludge, heavy rain, poor roads, trenches. Russians are very good at this. They will not outmaneuver. They will outlast and outsuffer. If NATO wanted to take Russia down they had to come up with a different strategy. Hard to put it in words, but… if you, John Michael Greer, wanted to take down Mike Tyson you wouldn’t invite him to a boxing match, would you? That’s what NATO did.

  121. Clay Dennis, how do you know Russia was ready to shift to WWI tactics? It seems they were not ready because it took them about 18 months to do so. They were probably more surprised by the failure of their Blitzkrieg than anyone else. If they can change tactics, so can the Ukrainians and anyone else.

  122. What’s your opinion about Chomsky book “Why Ukraine”?(if you didn’t know that interview-book, let’s link to this web)

    I’ve read it and I think it’s interesting, but he doesn’t say anything new for the NArrative dissidence.
    Chomsky tells some inconvenient truths for the Russian-phobic Narrative. For instance, he points to the never-ending NATO expansion to the East in the last decades.
    However, I feel that this man, as always, is too moralistic-biased in his political activism.
    I could summarize his popint of view: “It’s true that Putin is evily evil (maybe he eats a baby every morning for breakfast!) and the Russians have started an illegal war, but I can say that U.S. Government is even worse, so it’s eviler than Russians;it’s the evilest evil in the world…so it’s better to choose the lesser world evil”.

  123. Hi JMG,
    I can’t disagree with what you are saying. But I do see some rich people taking full advantage of the situation due to greed and in some sense just plain being evil and power hungry.
    John Leake, who co-authored the book The Courage to Face Covid, with Dr. Peter McCullough, wrote a substack a short time ago in which he talked about a scene from an old movie, The Third Man. In that scene the villain was talking with his old friend at the top of a huge ferris wheel, looking down at the little dots walking around below and asking if you could profit at the expense of a few fewer dots walking around below, why wouldn’t you do it.
    When the Gates Foundation sponsored HCQ studies in which they intentionally overdosed people to create failed HCQ studies for the medical press. I just can’t see a way to attribute that to incompetence. I’m sure to some extent Gates tries to see himself as a savior and that any cost to the little people, for him to achieve his goals is justified. But I mainly see an evil greed and power lust driving him and people like him.
    Bob Brown

  124. I’m reminded of a series I liked in my youth called The Animorphs. It’s a pretty engaging series about a group of children who are given the power to morph into animals and tasked with fighting off an invasion by the Yeerks, an alien race of mind-enslaving slugs. The incompetence of the bad guys wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but when I revisited it in my twenties it made the stormtroopers look like a competent if poorly equipped professional army.

    There’s a rationale for it that would fit the narrative though- most Yeerks in the series didn’t like Yeerk society. Examples abounded of exceptional Yeerks who turned their back on it or semicompetant ones deliberately engaging in sabotage. In the end, the long-term victory came not from military action (though the good guys won that too) but by sharing the morphing technology with them, removing their need to enslave other races. Some deep themes in that series when one reads it a second time.

    From that angle, even setting aside an omnipotent judge with a thumb on the scale a la Tolkein, I think there really is a benefit to being the acknowledged good guy. I suspect at least a minor part of America’s success is world war 2 had to do with the fact most Germans in a position of needing to surrender to someone thought it would be better to live under American than Russian occupation. And I suspect, a big reason why India and Brazil didn’t want to go along with the sanctions is that no one is really sure who blew up Nordstream 2, nor is anyone really sure they’ll get a fairer deal from an American led coalition than a Chinese one. The good guys aren’t considered the good guys based on banked Karma after all, but what others expect them to do in victory.

    Justin Patrick Moore, I have a guess on this I’d like more opinions on. In the series, Kvothe’s entire extended family is slaughtered because his father is about to reveal the secrets of the Chandrian. Supposedly, Patrick Rothfuss intends to do the same in book three. Now, suppose he had an encounter with a scary something that doesn’t like its secrets revealed, he went ahead and wrote about it, and now he’s being prevented from finishing by whatever means the inspiration behind the Chandrian has at its disposal? My Fiance, who’s never read the books, had a pretty spooky dream involving a blue flame that I thought might be coming from the same place Patrick Rothfuss got the idea for the big bads of the series. Made me wonder…

  125. Conspiracies and stupidity co-exist, fed on the compost of the mind rotting comics of yesteryear.

    The back room, self congratulatory hand wanking, I mean shaking, amongst the well to do and soi distant, on the one hand as low-grade conspiracy. There is also the fact that people of a certain flock will frack together, producing more of their milieu. The botox, plastic surgery and perfect teeth do give off a reptilian vibe. And they like to talk about eating insects (even as they choose steak).

    It seems that the Davos types really just want to be Davros types and don’t realize their eyes are bulging and are foaming at the mouth of madness. They see themselves as would be supreme rulers of the universe. Most supervillains see themselves as superheroes. Supreme beings who alone know what is best. So the megalomania aspect seems on point of the subconscious stories that have taken root.

    Financialization has made things “too big too fail” and that has worked for this sector for awhile, but now they approach a failure too big, from which recovery, especially of trust, is doubtful.

    Yet, the superhero narrative is also at play in those who would expose the conspiracy. The band of plucky sleuths who only need one more bit of information to put the puzzle together. One more clue to put the dastards into solitary so the rest of us can get on with our refinement.

    This is what makes the battle of the narratives so imperative.

    The way the west was lost, was done by a magic trick where people got hoodwinked into a disenchanted view. Now that gig is up and the whole thing under review.

  126. @Robert Matheson #11, @ JMG –
    What’s that saying again…? Oh, yes…
    “Ya can’t fool me, I’m too stupid.”
    I think Intellectuals are easy to dupe because they spend their time in a world of beautiful ideas and theories. Unfortunately, either Socialist or Nationalist, they quickly become untethered to the complex reality we actually live in. So it is easy to play off their belief that everyone is as honest and genteel as the people they associate with on a daily basis.
    Conversely, the tough street kid is just as easy to fool, because that world is one in which everyone is out for number one and no one and nothing can be trusted. Just as easy to manipulate, but requires different techniques.
    Experience should create a sense of balance, that people, no matter how high-minded, are still fundamentally people with innate desires, passions, and needs. Everyone has their own agenda, we are all slightly different, but as long as we all remain relatively balanced in our views, and limit our actions, (there are those two words which seem to be anathema these days) we can tolerate each other, if only in small doses, and thus get along. Experience should teach us that no one is absolutely holy, and no one is absolutely evil (although some people ultimately do need to be stopped by force). Every idea should be tested against history to see what the actual outcome was, because every idea has already been tested to the limit.
    To come back to the example of this essay… trench stalemate can be broken…if you do it right. Bewegungskrieg can be stopped cold…if you do it right. One just needs to not get lost in the clouds of abstract thought and pay attention to what really worked in the past.
    Thus I always say, “I was born at night… wasn’t *last* night.”

  127. After that, though, they went one way and I went another, and the gap became clear after Obama’s election and betrayal of his campaign promises. Now I try to avoid expressing my real observations to these relatives and old friends, just politely listen, then go away and shake my head.

    I think this is when the big-city, blue-state, prog-dem, PMC wave started to break in anticipation of washing back out to sea. I remember when halfway through Obama’s first term when it became clear that the Obama Administration was essentially going to be the third term of George W Bush. I was reading a prog-dem blog at the time that initially appealed to me because of the vituperation its author heaped upon the militaristic, plutocratic administration of the younger George Bush. I suggested at that point along with another commenter that perhaps the Democratic Party wasn’t really worth supporting anymore. The blogger responded to this on his next podcast by saying that anyone who doesn’t want to make supporting the Democratic Party into a non-falsifiable proposition should shoot themselves in their basements. It was at this point where I realized that the PMC prog-dems no longer held the moral high-ground and probably wouldn’t ever again for as long as I lived.

    But even then I had no way of anticipating what vile rotting zombie of bottomless moral bankruptcy the Democratic Party and its supporters would be some 10-12 years later.

  128. Well. Well.

    @JMG I’m sorry to inform you that your entire analysis of the fighting in Ukraine is wrong.

    We have been officially informed by British Military Intelligence that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has not been stopped by Russian tactics. It has been stopped by weeds and shrubs.

    You read that correctly. British Military Intelligence have officially stated that the Ukrainians have been stopped by weeds and shrubs.

    I’m so embarrassed. How do I get another nationality, please?

  129. Will M, the winners always define themselves as the good guys, which helps maintain the myth, and it’s standard all through Western culture to define the good guys as the ones who favor individual initiative, because that ties into another of our founding myths. In reality, no, sometimes the really disciplined ones win, and sometimes they lose.

    Godozo, a US debt default is inevitable at this point. It’s purely a question of when it happens.

    Strda221, Tolkien was a competent writer, so of course he set the stage for each of his eucatastrophes in advance — I noted that in my post by pointing out how much work he put into making them plausible. For that matter, from a Christian standpoint, isn’t the whole Old Testament a matter of placing Chekhov’s gun in advance of the eucatastrophe of the Resurrection? As for The Book of Lost Tales, er, I bought my first copy of The Silmarillion the week it was originally published — I was a serious Tolkien geek in those days — so I’m not reading the earlier work in isolation. If you see Tolkien’s use of standard fairy tale motifs in that very bleak narrative of the final failure of the Fairies and Gnomes to rekindle the Magic Sun of Valinor as “goofiness,” well, all I can say is your take isn’t mine.

    (Though I grant that “Tinfang Warble” is an embarrassment, and the poem in which he first appears shows just how much Tolkien still had to learn!)

    Will M, miracles also occur to the spiritually unaware. The inscrutability of the Divine is one of the hard facts of existence in this world.

    Peter, I think you’re quite mistaken, and on more than one count. But we’ll see, won’t we?

    Alvin, oh, granted. That’s one of the reasons I pointed out the fact that Stormtrooper Syndrome is present on the right as well as the left.

    Adam, no, I think you’re mistaken. Keeping Europe squarely under the US thumb is a core element of US foreign policy, since the chaos you mention won’t last long; if the US pulls out of NATO Russia will certainly move into the gap, and then the Atlantic Ocean becomes a naval no-man’s-land. Have you read Alfred Thayer Mahan? Control over Britain and Japan is essential for the US to remain a global power, since both those holdings head off potential naval threats across the Pacific and Atlantic; control over the rest of Western Europe more generally keeps the power in control of the Heartland from extending its power to the Atlantic seaboard and having immediate naval access to the US east coast. (Taiwan and several other island chains have the same role in Asia, since the Chinese seaboard is in hostile hands.)

    Disc_writes, no surprises there. Eastern European history seems to breed a lot of that sort of resentment.

    Joshua, I wish I knew of one. Anyone else?

    Bogatyr, I certainly don’t disagree about Britain. The UK has taken the lead in pushing this war, and I’m quite sure the Russian government is well aware of it. The question is what Russia will do about it; I doubt they’ll just let it slide. As for the afterlife of Nazism, thanks for this; I was aware of the role of Russian emigrés in creating the climate for Nazism but I clearly need to go deeper down that rabbit hole.

    Patricia O, I think it’s quite simple. With Obama’s election the current Left got into power, and as Lord Acton pointed out well in advance, they were promptly corrupted by it. Being convinced that they were the Good People made that corruption even easier than it would otherwise have been.

    Chuaquin, it’s absolutely standard that when an elite class loses the power to control events, it gets obsessive about trying to control narratives. Then that fails, and down they go.

    Blue Sun, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Other Owen, nah, you’re forgetting the lessons of the First World War. Defensive tactics remain strong until one side no longer has the men, materiel, and morale to maintain a defense along the entire front, and that’s when the losing side collapses. The fact that the Russians are gaining ground in the north shows that the Ukrainian position is becoming very weak. As for Dmitry’s “moldy bagel” thesis, if one bagel in the bag is moldy you’ve got to clean it out or the rest of the bag will get moldy too. That’s the situation Russia is in; as long as Ukraine remains independent, whatever power dominates Europe will use it as a weapon against Russia. I expect a pro-Russian government to be put in place once the war ends.

    D., that’s certainly what I’m expecting, and your advice is valid.

    El, that’s certainly an element, and it’s become an interesting wild card just now. Have you noticed that the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution is only a few years away, and nobody in authority is mentioning that at all? I remember the fuss that was made over the Bicentennial in the mid-1970s, and there were equivalent fusses made in 1926 and 1876, but now — dead silence. If it’s the founding myth of our country, it’s a myth that our current would-be lords and masters desperately do not want anyone to remember. You’re right that there’s all kinds of attempts to take the myth and apply it to someone, anyone, other than those farmers at Concord Bridge — but it’ll be interesting to see whether and how that backfires.

    Reloaded15, if I remember correctly from my high school Russian classes, dobriy is more than just a synonym for “good,” and I didn’t want to get into the complicated connotations thereof — but yes, that’s a point, Thank you for the link — I didn’t know MacGregor’s latest was up.

    Renaissance, delicious indeed. It’ll be entertaining, in a certain grim sense, when one of their would-be Death Stars shoots back.

    Clay, interesting. If you find a link to that paper, please post it.

    Roldy, see my response to El above. Yes, and it’s got fascinating connotations just now.

    Neptunesdolphins, clearly the American Revolution is in the air right now! Yes indeed; see my response to El above.

    Isaac, annoyingly, I can’t read the article since the Times has it paywalled. Still, fascinating.

    Neptunesdolphins, groupthink is the normal state for human beings, and under most circumstances it’s harmless — but we’re in one of the times when it’s not. As for what happens when reality intrudes, it depends on just how intrusive it gets. If the US is forced into debt default and half the Federal bureaucracy has to be laid off, I think they’ll notice!

    Clark, no, that’s not what I’m saying. The Nazis have become a strange attractor to the modern Western imagination, with frankly weird effects on our thinking; I’m going to be trying to dissect that in a future post.

    Doomer, nah, it’s a mistake to think that the NATO elites are incapable of learning. They’re just incapable of learning from their own mistakes. Other people’s mistakes? Those they can occasionally learn from.

    Kirsten, that’s a fine metaphor. The problem with NATO is that it thinks it’s Mike Tyson while these days, it actually has more in common with the late Pee Wee Herman…

    Chuaquin, I haven’t looked at it. Chomsky doesn’t interest me; he’s a classic example of the faux-rebel who parades around his supposed opposition to the system that gives him his income and privileges. For all his oppositional pretense, what has he accomplished? (Other than pushing a radically false theory of language on the academic scene, that is.)

    Bob, greed and malice are perfectly compatible with stupidity. I certainly don’t deny the existence of greed and malice in the elite classes — they’re just as human as you and I, and I’m sure you’re quite aware of your own tendencies toward greed and malice, as I am of mine. The problem with conspiracy theories isn’t that they point to greed, malice, and other nasty habits in the elites — it’s that they assign to the elites an omnipotence that the elites do not have, and assume that everything they do, no matter how idiotic, must be in furtherance of some infallible master plan.

    Christopher, that is to say, even the Yeerks are secretly on the side of the Good People, and if you just teach them the Right Way to do things, they stop being Bad People and become Good People instead. Blecch.

    Bogatyr, okay, they’ve just hit Peak Absurdity. Brace yourself for the implosion. Oh, my aching sides…

  130. @Justin Patrick Moore #120:

    Have you read “The Worm Ouroboros” by E.R. Edison? The Demons are the good guys and the Witches are the baddies, but not quite outright evil, and there’s a twist towards the end that keeps the whole thing from being completely Manichean. And the language is rich like tiramisu.

    I’m so-so on De Lint, and while I enjoyed the Kingkiller Chronicles as a trashy read, I barely remember them and I don’t expect Rothfuss to finish the story. I doubt I’ll be invested if he ever gets around to writing the third one.

  131. I know this is only tangential to the theme of the post, but since it was brought up, I share Bruce Charlton’s point of view that LotR is literally divinely inspired and that is why it continues to resonate so strongly, long past its expected expiry date. We listened to an audiobook of it as a family during the darkest period of the pandemic and it helped get us through. I recommend it.

  132. @Joshua #105 re: Prophylactics against Stormtrooper Syndrome

    To the degree I’ve been successful in countering this, I find works that either a) deal with how effective folks I can’t obviously paint as “good guys” can be, b) details military conflicts between folks who are so distant in time and space that I don’t automatically view either side as “better”, or c) stuff that takes folks I might have some predisposition to view as “good” or “on my side” and then shows in unflinching detail what they were really like (some amount of distance can be helpful here).

    For some specific recommendations:
    a) Effective, but nasty, folks: read about the Comanche sometime. Books like Empire of the Summer Moon show some of the more sympathetic side of them, but also don’t shy away from how horrifically they treated outsiders.
    b) Lots of distance: Prehistory is great here. Constant Battles: Why We Fight, War in Human Civilization, and War Before Civilization are all good here.
    c) Distant, but affiliated somehow: For me, I got a dose of this reading about the (likely) Proto-Indo-European people. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language doesn’t get super into some of the nastier stuff, but The One Eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-) Germanic Mannerbund does a bit more. Apparently it was a coming of age ritual to raise a puppy and later sacrifice it. Yeesh.

    Anyhow, hope these help!

  133. Here is a link to a copy of David Brooks’s op ed that is not behind a paywall.

    I started reading it and thought that those UFO sightings might have been real and they had landed space aliens who had taken over David Brooks’s brain.

    His premise was that the meritocracy policies of the PMC had actually hurt the working class and they supported Trump for good reasons and not just out of misogyny and racism.

    But then , at the end he added, of course the Democratic elite were good and noble people with the best of intentions, the courts and judicial system are fair and above reproach and Donald Trump is still a ” monster”.

    Well David, I don’t think that fake mea culpa will keep you out of the Tumbrels.

  134. @Joshua (#105)

    I don’t believe there’s any book that could help in that sort of way.

    What will help guard against fallacious thinking is spending a considerable amount of time in solitude and meditation. What this does is increase the extent to which you make your own observations, formulate your own reasoning, come to your own conclusions, and base your decisions on your own thinking. This is a major factor in why so many people can’t handle being alone for any length of time – it forces them to do some of their own thinking, thinking is work, and most people are even lazier about their minds than they are with physical stuff. Hence the popularity of groupthink: why work it all out yourself if the guy next to you already has it done and you can just copy off his test paper? Likewise, stormtrooper thinking is another manifestation of that same laziness: why get prepared, why make contingency plans, why think it through, why do all that work, if the cavalry is going to come over the hill and save you just in time anyway?

    Remember: just because someone else has a solution to a problem doesn’t mean the solution they have will work all that well for you, or for anyone else for that matter – including the one who came up with it.

  135. @JMG (#135), responding to Chuaquin about Chomsky:

    And a small coin just dropped …

    I was studying linguistics at UC Berkeley when Chomsky’s first influential book, Syntactic Structures, became fashionable. Many of the more advanced students of linguistics were enthralled, as it proposed a major paradigm shift in the field, away from the concrete study of natural languages in all their complex cultural contexts and toward a highly abstract universal model which, curiously enough, worked better on English and other Western European languages than on most other languages elsewhere in the world. And no one wanted to be left behind as linguistics marched forward into the realm of “science” … And better yet, now an aspiring young linguist no longer needed to spend years doing exhausting field work in some foreign culture, but could sit at home in his comfortable armchair and theorize endlessly on the basis of his native English..

    But the Chomskyan revolution might well have fizzled, had it not been for Chomsky’s own superb gifts for playing academic politics and for winning lucrative grants for himself and his most loyal disciples. (He always seemed to insist on complete loyalty to his theories from any budding academic whose grant applications he supported.)

    And here is the rub: most of these grants, curiously enough, came from the Department of Defense, or from other parts of the Federal Government most closely tied to the Industrial-Military Complex. This always puzzled me, as even way back in the late 1950s Chomsky was an avowed, somewhat anti-American leftist — the last sort of academic you might expect to be massively supported by the Department of Defense.

    So here’s the slot into which the coin just dropped … The Chomskyan paradigm shift away from the concrete study of the world’s various languages in their own proper cultural contexts (through anthropological field-work), and toward the abstract study of “Language™” as a universal thing, wholly detached from any cultural context, certainly meshed quite well with the then current effort to create a “rules-governed world order,” controlled by the USA. After all, anthropological field-work generally produces in the anthropologist a good deal of sympathy and respect for the other culture s\he is studying — and often a measure of disgust with one’s own culture as well.

    Could Chomsky’s ready access for decades to Federal grant money have been due, in part, to the political utility of the paradigm shift that he ushered in?

  136. Dear Mr Greer,

    You wrote: “sweeping economic sanctions would finish wrecking Russia’s economy and force Russia into a humiliating withdrawal and an internal political crisis”

    Exactly. Bruno Le Maire, the French minister of the Economy said in March 2022: “We will crush the Russian economy.” The video has become viral. In spite of his obvious incompetence, he has kept his job, probably because he isn’t smart enough to be a rival to Macron.

    It was obvious to me that there could be no complete and affordable replacement for Russian natural gas. I’ve been interested in petroleum depletion for almost twenty years (that’s how I found your old blog, incidentally). European leaders knew less about oil depletion and energy in general than an ordinary guy like me, and that’s a bit frightening, when you think of it. For sure our leaders have much less spare time than I do, but they have well-paid, supposedly very smart assistants whose job is to do the research for them.

    I don’t know if the French are as much into the Good guy / Bad Guy dichotomy as the Americans. I suspect we are less thoroughly into it, but I am impressed by my friends eagerness to adhere to whatever the mainstream media says. Even when they are highly educated academics.

    Seizing yachts and villas, and freezing bank accounts, just because their owners are Russian? No problem. Sanctioning Putin’s daughters, although they bear no responsibility for the decisions taken by their father? No problem either. 15,000 people killed in the Donbass between 2014 and 2022? Never heard of it, therefore it didn’t exist, it’s Russian propaganda. The Minsk agreements? Just a name, contents are unknown.

    It seems to me that they lived in bubbles all their lives (they’re Boomers like me), and now that the bubbles are bursting one after the other, they place their hope on the government to maintain business as usual, and they’re glad the mainstream media comforts them in their hope.

  137. >Russians are very good at this. They will not outmaneuver. They will outlast and outsuffer.

    They called it the Red Army because it bled insane amounts of blood. But it won. Ask the Germans.

    The Chinese have no sense of value for blood, to them everyone is just ghoulish meat. The Russians? They know blood is precious, but they spend it anyway and they will always spend more than you. That makes them slightly scarier in my way of thinking.

    In any case, the question I have, is this. Can Murica defend itself against a Russo-Sino alliance? Whether it’s a cold war or WW3, who do you think is going to eventually win? Ask the southerners after the Civil War whether military talent or industrial manufacturing power was more important. Actually ask the Germans that too after WW2.

  138. #33 The problem here is that there are two opposing narratives about Ukraine mentioned here. One of the most crude variety of Russian propaganda, and the other of the Brave Heroes of Kyiv who the country is united behind, and that one is treated as propaganda and the other is treated as being self-evidently true, ignoring anything that might question that story.

    Don’t forget that Ukrainians featured in western media on a journalist’s visit to Ukraine, are first selected by the fact they are still resident in Ukraine, and willing to share their viewpoint with media, and the media being willing to share it which depends on it fitting into the story they want to tell. People more sceptical are probably going to be less likely to shout too much about it.

  139. @JMG:

    About the hypothetical US withdrawal from Europe…

    My suspicion is that the US intends to keep Britain (as you say) along with lands on the European periphery. I mean the Nordic and Baltic region, a strengthened Poland, (rump) Ukraine and Romania with additional players here and there in the Mediterranean region. Any awakening Western European power would be riddled with these proxies for a long time.

    I understand your argument about Russian expansion but I don’t see the will in Russians to go and occupy the West, not to mention to dominate the Atlantic. Especially not if they see a united front of hostile but not really dangerous states on their border (the proxies mentioned above). My guess is that the Russians are turning away. Probably to the south where the Middle East presents a sucking power vacuum that is very enticing to the Muslim and Christian conservatives. I see Syria as their main direction and Ukraine as a detour.

    Finally, I must admit that I have not read Mahan in full, only summaries of his work. I don’t see contradictions here but there are many uncertain points of course, and my speculation might be seriously wrong.

  140. JMG,

    You know the storm trooper syndrome is so utterly antithetical to human prosperity that it should be labeled a memetic virus, “bad habit” really understates how hazardous it is.

    But… that’s our leadership these days, elites with heads so full of mental contagions that they can’t coordinate action well enough to ensure their own prosperity let alone the rest of ours.

    What’s funny is that these mental contagions were so clearly aimed at the public decades ago as a means of control but…. since we live in a representative republic our elites had to contract every single one of these mental contagions ten times over in order to get elected. So now they are “winning the culture war” as mental contagions rob them of their mental capacity.

  141. JMG,

    Wouldn’t the spirit of the American land itself play a rather large role re the shape of the founding myth? The early pilgrims were drawn *here*, not to Northern Africa or eastward to the plains of Eurasia, and I’m imagining that there was a certain continental magnetism at play re their search for spiritual freedom. And as you’ve pointed out, the pilgrims started talking about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” as soon as they got off the boats. Also as you’ve said, at the heart of Native American spirituality is the spiritual experience unique to each individual, and I imagine this freedom is imbued in the land itself.


  142. Thanks for this perspective! It really is strange how easy orcs and stormtroopers are to kill.

    As I ponder the crises of our time I’m often confronted with what I might call the competence-incompetence dichotomy, though I’m sure you could come up with a better name for it.

    Basically, by some measures human competence and understanding of the world and ingenuity is at an all-time high. Consider the architecture and engineering and materials science required to build the Burj Khalifa, or the Millau Viaduct, or to successfully extract tight oil 15,000 feet down. Consider the genetically blind boy who can now see because modified viruses transfected a functional copy of the gene into his eye tissues. Consider the machining and lifetimes of experience and innovation that goes into an engine that can run 500,000 miles with minimal maintenance. Consider the intricate circuitry in a ubiquitous “smartphone” and its evolution from a basic understanding of electricity a couple of centuries ago to the room-filling behemoths of the 1960s to the handheld devices of today.

    You and I have thought and written often about the Religion of Progress – the way in which this trajectory of technological advancement has generated a teleological belief system that insists that we must have more and better until we are immortal in a galactic civilization.

    But I don’t think the Religion of Progress or its impending collapse adequately explains the astounding *in*competence of the bigger picture: the F35s that won’t fly, the disastrous foreign policy, the massive failures of public health logic over the past three years, the loss of our collective capacity for dialog and critical thought and descent into tribal emotional politics.

    More than anything it would seem to be a result of the rise of the PMC – a group whose authority to craft policy and make important decisions is granted based on social status and credentials rather than demonstrated competence in the field. I could also make an argument that it arises from hyper-specialization and resultant loss of big-picture thinking – which perhaps puts a cap on the level of real technological advancement achievable by primates with our brain capacity.

    Anyway, just my musings for the day, and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this dichotomy sometime.

  143. History rhymes again,

    “Unlike the Japanese, who drastically altered their tactics for the upcoming battle, the American invasion plan was unchanged from that of previous amphibious landings, even after suffering 3,000 casualties and enduring two months of delaying tactics against the entrenched Japanese defenders at the Battle of Biak.”

    “The reduction of the Japanese pocket around Umurbrogol mountain has been called the most difficult fight that the U.S. military encountered in the entire war.[30] The 1st Marine Division was mauled and remained out of action until the invasion of Okinawa began on April 1, 1945. In total, the 1st Marine Division suffered over 6,500 casualties during its month on Peleliu, over one third of the entire division. The 81st Infantry Division also suffered heavy losses with 3,300 casualties during its tenure on the island.

    Postwar statisticians calculated that it took U.S. forces over 1500 rounds of ammunition to kill each Japanese defender and that, during the course of the battle, the Americans expended 13.32 million rounds of .30-calibre, 1.52 million rounds of .45-calibre, 693,657 rounds of .50-calibre bullets, 118,262 hand grenades, and approximately 150,000 mortar rounds.[20]

    The battle was controversial in the United States due to the island’s lack of strategic value and the high casualty rate.”

    So maybe the Stormtroopers weren’t doing so bad after all.

    I’m just back from a camping trip in the Cascades so far out of the way that not only were there no cell phone signals, but no FM or daytime AM radio either. Very peaceful. Also not one overweight person, not that I saw that many people.

  144. South Park spoofed this phenomenon when they made their second feature film, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The American syndrome — let’s call it BLU syndrome after the South Park movie — is to triple and quadruple down on strategies that worked umpteen years ago instead of coming up with something new or going back to an even older approach. I appreciate your explanation of the Russians going back to WWI battle tactics, because that explains what has been going on quite succinctly. Disney keeps making hard flops because it is so busy diluting its old characters with woke, race-swapped live action remakes. Meanwhile, a fresh upstart in the form of an indie studio has usurped Disney-owned Indiana Jones in the form of a film about child trafficking called The Sound of Freedom. This happened despite The Sound of Freedom only being available in half of movie theaters while the latest Indiana Jones snooze-fest played in all of them.

    BLU syndrome happens in houses: enter the McMansion, which elephantizes a normal, single family home to be the size of an alpine village. BLU syndrome can tie in with aging and body dysmorphia: celebrities and influencers are getting implants, fillers, and facelifts at alarmingly young ages. The newest macabre trend is the removal of deep buccal cheek fat in order to make the face more chiseled, gaunt, and high-fashion. Things can go spectacularly wrong in the buccal fat removal procedure; ethical plastic surgeons have started refusing to do buccal fat removal altogether. A normal nose job or a zapped forehead wrinkle is not enough for today’s celebrity. BLU syndrome dictates that everyone who wishes to stay relevant must submit to a never-ending array of ghoulish medical procedures. What ghastly horrors will celebs succumb to in 2033 to stay relevant? Or will they all be AI at that point?

    I keep hearing news that Donald Trump has been sentenced to multiple lifetimes in prison — I don’t know what to make of that and if anyone can explain it to me, I will be grateful. This seems to me like BLU syndrome yet again, as the elites attempt to throw the house on top of their chosen witch in hopes he will resign like Nixon. It’s like they cannot understand it is no longer 1974.

  145. Thank you for your coherent assessment of that horrible war.

    I was so disheartened, disappointed, disgusted when that war started and was being hyped as a morality tale… so many were “ra ra!! good war, noble war” … while a few of us were just stunned that this was actually happening! Pure insanity. Where were the peaceniks? What’s going on with what are supposed to be intelligent beings? So sad.

    Will humanity always war?
    Should I cash out my one lousy government bond as not to support this war?

  146. Mr. Greer …

    MY estimation of ol’ Noam C. ratcheted down to zero cred, I repeat – ZERO CRED! – when he blurted out on ‘some venue’ during the height of the Covid Madness .. that the UN-Vaxxed, in his estimated opinion – Absolutely • Should • Be • Thrown • Off the Chomski ISLAND … to live or die; he cared not! … as is/was warranted by the Whore$e$ A$$ Club (who couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it) ……. of which he is apart!

    He’s just another non-agreement capable punk, from the self-annointed high falutin managerial ‘highest educational’ class, after all.

    OK, now that I’ve mentioned how I really feel, I sense a bout of the HATE coming on … so I’m gonna chill down for a spell.. so as not to bring out my inner Palpatine..

  147. Dear Mr. Druid

    A quick comment about the WW1 strategy. Brian Berletic at The New Atlas has lots of detailed information about the trenches and the battles at Artemovsk (formerly Bakhmut) One thing to remember is this part of the Donbass is honeycombed with coal and salt mines and there are many many tunnels. NATO through Lafarge poured several billion euros of cement reinforcing the tunnels. Only in a comic book or Star Wars fantasy could a force blast through these defenses. Berletic has numerous videos with diagrams provides detailed technical discussion of the defenses. Remember in tunnels drones and satellites don’t help, and even artillery is of limited value. He contends going advancing through Artemovsk would be difficult in either direction given the fortifications. Russia could have closed the cauldron but left it open to fight at Artemovsk instead of letting Ukraine re-enforce other defensive lines.

    Satellites and drones are making the big arrow offensive type of wars more challenging. The big losers are manned aviation and tanks, while land mines and artillery are in. Missiles are an extension of artillery. For some strange reason Ukraine seems fixated on Artemovsk and Crimea. Berletic and others provide good speculation that Artemovsk was the starting point for the NATO push into Russia after the much anticipated collapse of the Russian Army which explains why Ukraine spent so much effort to hold the place.

    The fixation on Crimea is a bit more bizarre as Crimea appears to be about the worst place to try attack for NATO. 1.5 million people, mainly Russian, with a huge Russian Military base. Even if the war was going well for NATO, Crimea is one of the most heavily armed places on earth and a full attack would be costly for the US, er NATO. (The suggestion if NATO was winning would be a siege)

    Prizm – some of us view this as a civil war, not a war between distinct nations. Remember it was a Ukrainian Army that sacked Budapest and Vienna in WW2, and people living in Ukraine of all stripes were very active and eager participants in the Soviet Empire. My take, Russia will consolidate the Russian speaking parts, kick out Galicia, and leave a demilitarized zone for the rest. Kiev will be a depopulated museum area in a wasteland with no power. A surprising number of Ukrainian speaking people will decide to leave the west and live in Russia as the economic prospects of Russia will be better than that of the EU.

    KevPilot – whenever I come to Ecosophia and the Zeihan bots are out I check out his twitter for some bad geopolitical analysis. Jacob Dreizin on his blog has a good take down, but the latest idiocy is Mr. Zeihan quoting the failed economist Larry Summers that manufacturing does not really create much economic activity which is why it was outsourced, and the money is in services. Funny, Mr. Zeihan is silent about one – five -five ammunition being short. I would like to see Mr Summers and Mr. Zeihan be forced to learn to weld so we can have shells to fight a war so at the brave Ukrainian conscripts can go out with some dignity. Mr. Summers must realize that services are lucrative where you control the rules. This is likely why the US Hegemon is fighting so hard, so that services continues to be lucrative so people like Mr. Summers can keep his influence.

    Funny that Mr. Zeihan is pretty silent on the rapprochement between Saudi and Iran, and Saudi and Syria. Rarely does he mention Israel in his middle eastern or Russian analysis, and his energy economics is just plain bad. Like most Neocons, his hatred of Russians and Muslims clouds his judgement.

    Mr. Druid – thanks for your blog and look forward to your article on the fixation with the Nazis. Any chances of an article on the demonic forces driving the Neocons and wokesters?

  148. @bofur: Divine inspiration has been attributed (by Christians) even to some works of non-Christian authors. Do you know by any chance Charles Williams’ poem « On the Death of Virgil » in « Taliessin through Logres »? Also Virgil’s role in the first 55 cantos of the Divine Comedy.

  149. Bofur, hmm. By the same logic, wouldn’t that mean that The Wizard of Oz, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, Alice in Wonderland, and the Sherlock Holmes stories are divinely inspired? They also have had unusual staying power…

    Clay, thanks for this. Yeah, I think the Orbital Mind Control Lasers from the fine old Steve Jackson game Illuminati! must have been working overtime on him. Or something, That’s an astounding utterance from a victim of Stormtrooper Syndrome.

    Robert, good heavens. I wasn’t aware of the source of Chomski’s grant money, but you’re right — that makes a great deal of sense out of it all.

    Horzabky, yes, I was thinking of Le Maire’s vaporings among others. It’s got to be harrowing for the bubble inhabitants just now…

    Other Owen, the US is in deep trouble. If we’re lucky we can maintain national unity and survive the crash of our empire, and pull out of it a few decades further on. If not? Defeat, dismemberment, and a very hard road. There’s no way we can “win,” if that word means maintaining our global empire; that’s ashes in the wind at this point.

    Your Kittenship, funny. That gets today’s gold star with a knotweed wreath.

    Adam, it’s not a matter of Russian will. Power vacuums are profoundly unstable things, and if Russia is faced with chaos on its western flank it will expand as necessary to restore order — not by conquest but by the same kind of proxy governments we’ve used. As for Russians turning away, yes, but it’s not Syria that’s their main focus. Here’s a map of the nations in Africa with which Russia now has military treaties:

    GlassHammer, yep. That’s one of the main reasons why elites fall.

    Degringolade, thanks for this. I’m still blinking in shock.

    Will M, yes, but that’s only here. Most of history didn’t take place in North America, you know.

    Mark, that’s a valid point. What we have in our present culture is profound competence in material crafts, and profound incompetence in human interactions and anything (like military procurement contracts) that depends on those latter.

    Siliconguy, a solid defensive line is a very tough nut to crack, if the defenders know what they’re doing.

    Kimberly, the way things are going, by 2033 Hollywood will be 100% AI. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens to the current celebrity culture.

    Jill, I’m sorry to say that human beings are semi-intelligent, which is why the same stupidities echo down the ages.

    Polecat, one of the things that was most astonishing to me about the whole Covid fiasco was the number of people who jettisoned whatever remained of their ideals to fall in line behind the vaccine crusade, and civil liberties be damned. Chomsky was right in there alongside plenty of others. But I’d already noted, having compared his grammatical theories to Celtic and Native American languages, that the whole schtick he was pushing in linguistics made zero sense unless all you could speak was English, so his behavior didn’t surprise me that much.

    A1, thanks for this. The fact that the Russians were able to take Mariupol and Artemovsk despite the huge tunnel complexes held by the defenders was one of the things that convinced me that they were very likely to win this war.

    Anon, I really, truly didn’t write that as an instructional manual!

  150. WRT Hollywood, history, myths, and how it affects our psyches.

    As part of the Agatha Christie movie marathon, we’ve moved onto watching foreign adaptations. That is, ones that aren’t filmed within the English speaking world.

    We’re working our way through the French ones now.
    They are different, especially where they take Agatha’s plots (which I’m very familiar with and have now seen onscreen often) and turn them into … almost tragedies. Happy ever afters don’t often show up for the characters in a given version. It’s very strange, almost as though it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you might still fail.

    The Chinese adaptions are even stranger; set in the Republic of China period in the city of Harbin. I’ve never seen police brutality and the power of the state so bluntly stated and accepted on film by every character, from low to high.
    The only difference is high-status characters know that — most of the time — they’ll be okay. Low-status characters know better.

    It has to be cultural differences because they’re using the same source material.

    But yes, our heroes (the regular cast) will succeed because they’re the “good people” who are “on the right side.”

  151. Tinfang Warble as a name for a famous elven poet is very bathetic. I’m rereading the Book of Lost Tales at the moment, and it makes me wince and want to laugh. Always interesting looking at how ideas develop.

  152. JMG wrote

    But I’d already noted, having compared his grammatical theories to Celtic and Native American languages, that the whole schtick he was pushing in linguistics made zero sense unless all you could speak was English, so his behavior didn’t surprise me that much.

    That reminds me of an old joke I’d heard a while back.

    Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

    A: Bilingual

    Q: What do you call a person who speaks three languages?

    A: Trilingual

    Q: What do you call a person who only speaks one language?

    A: An American

  153. Hi John Michael,

    The default I also believe is baked into the cake. The outcome at the moment of declining demand for your countries IOU’s, is inflation. It’s a problem for sure. But don’t you think it is weird that the current elites seem to be hoping for a solution based on the increased price of money (i.e. interest rate hikes)? I find it to be very strange that increased taxation and decreased government spending isn’t also on the table. I reckon the ‘storm trooper’ halo effect is playing out there for sure, and the blasters used are either a bit soiled, or damp, and maybe even both! 😉

    Your feds spend I believe around six trillion, yet only bring in about three trillion, each year. Few enterprises can survive such poor fiscal management. I’m of the opinion that losing half of all public servant positions is an under estimation, it’ll be far worse.

    Not to worry, it’s raining outside right now. But mate, yesterday was very warm for a winters day. Not record breaking, but along those lines. To me it looks like the sub tropics have shifted south. Some of the fruit trees are breaking their dormancy, and fortunately they’ll get enough winter chilling hours here (hours less than 7’C / 45’F): Australia thaws in mid-winter warmth — is winter over? Strange days indeed.



  154. JMG, yeah, and I saw the articles congratulating the Ukrainians on their successes using cheap FPV drones with shells strapped to them to stop the Russian Blitz. Now the Russians have cheap-ish drones with more than ten times the range of the FPV drones and bigger payloads. And, in a dash of divine irony, the Russian Lancet drones look like X-wings. In darker corners of the internet, there are lots of videos of Lancet attacks on multimillion dollar hardware. A FPV drone can’t make it from the front to where the self-propelled howitzers, self-propelled AA, ammunition dumps and other juicy targets are. The Lancet can, while being quite a bit harder to hit than the Shahed drones at about the same cost.

    The Western governments have no excuse for not understanding the military potential of cheap drones – in 2013 Angela Merkel was buzzed at a press conference by a remote control helicopter with a rubber replica of a penis and testicles attached. While humorous, the payload easily could have been a grenade. My suspicion is that the incident was not unnoticed but all efforts were devoted to protecting the people that matter ™ from such an attack while ignoring the possibility of the large scale military use of such a tactic.

    The video of the drone “attack” on Merkel is available here:

  155. I have no problem believing that Western elites suffer from sclerotic thinking made worse by a total lack of accountability and the myriad opportunities to fail upward or laterally into the open doors of the numerous PMC-owned institutions (think tanks, media, universities, etc), but in my opinion these are only symptoms, or second- or third-order results. The underlying basis for nearly all the disasters we see in my opinion is corruption. The Ukraine conflict, for example, might be the largest money-laundering operation in history, whose main protagonists in the US are able to create the money they launder at will. Is it any surprise Biden was willing to withdraw from Afghanistan but not from Ukraine, a place where he was effectively a mob boss?

    The intellectual weakness, wagon-circling, freedom from repercussions, and other badges of office are just the secret handshakes of a group that sees a shrinking pie as an opportunity to grab bigger pieces of that pie. They won’t stop feeding until the trough is empty. They don’t care about sustainability any more. I used to think, several decades ago, that the main difference between Republican grift and Democrat grift was that Republicans were interested in looting everything they could get as quickly as possible without worrying about killing the golden goose of the moment, since they would just move on to another, whereas Democrats were more like long-term parasites who wanted to keep their host alive for as long as possible. Now they all seem to have settled on the first model.

    What thrills me most about the election results of 2016 was that, had HRC been elected, we would have had the Ukraine conflict in 2017, of that I am certain, and Russia might not have been as ready either financially, economically, or militarily. I’m sure they would have muddled through, but it might have gone a lot worse for them. When the neo-cons got their compliant, corrupt zombie in 2020, the war became a certainty in early 2021. I know, I know, it was Russia who invaded. But what prompted them to do so was that the first army that Ukraine lost (they’ve lost at least two by now and are far advanced in losing their third) was on the border of Donbas looking to settle matters and that was the last straw. Funny how that happened about a month after Biden took the oath of office.

  156. I’ve found a brilliant example of this syndrome.

    While disparaging old Drumpf’s actions on January 6th, 2021, Al Sharpton asks: “Can you imagine if James Madison or Thomas Jefferson tried to overthrow the government?”

    The urge to consider “us” as “the good guys” is so overwhelming that the people who rebelled violently are recast as… pacifist? Or something. I don’t know.

    “Good people don’t rebel against their government. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were good people, therefore they didn’t rebel against their government. The US government just sort of spontaneously appeared in Washington DC one day like mushrooms in a forest after the rain, and the British wandered off north simply because they really wanted to drink maple syrup.”

  157. Princess Cutekitten wrote, comment # 90

    “…they have the best education you can get in a modern western society.”

    Therein, I believe, lies much of the problem.

    Andrei Martyanov has talked about this quite a bit on his blog. He argues that for the most part, American universities these days are little more than glorified diploma mills. He said that most educated Russians view the American elites as being embarrassingly ignorant and uncultured, an observation that I’ve heard coming from other Russian commentators such as the Saker.

  158. Re: the map of Russian influence in Africa – and how many of these nations are ones where the democratically elected governments (per the mass media here) were overthrown by military coups – which according the straight reporting are popping out down there like flowers in spring – found myself humming “…at the twilight’s last gleaming….”

  159. Hi Jill,

    The U.S. has been at war with somebody or other since at least 1945z At this point you might as well keep your bond. I also believe the government should resume calling them War Bonds.

  160. The web of military treaties that Russia has been signing with African countries is quite stunning. Spengler once observed that Russians have long felt drawn towards the south, particularly towards Jerusalem and Constantinople for religious reasons. But now it appears they are looking even further afield.

    During the Cold War, Africa was a major theater of competition between the US/NATO and the USSR and its allies. The West was desperately trying to prop up the status quo through neo-colonialism after the old colonial empires became unsustainable. The Soviets supported a lot of the anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist and anti-apartheid movements and revolutionary governments in Africa, which is one of the major reasons why Russians are generally popular and well-liked in that part of the world to this day. Now that the French are rapidly wearing out what’s left of their welcome in West Africa, the Russia is positioning itself to become the dominant power in Africa.

    Leonid Brezhnev is alleged to have said that one of the Soviet Union’s long term strategic goals was to gain control of what he called the energy treasure house of the Middle East and the mineral treasure house of Africa. Thanks in large part to the stupidity of the American and European elites, the present Russian government seems to be well on its way towards achieving Brezhnev’s southern strategy.

  161. Lots of people are talking about Russia and Ukraine but I’m not sure anyone knows how they became separate countries so I’d like to shed some light on this.

    Medieval Ukraine was established as a kingdom around 882 AD. The capital was Kyiv and Moscow was an outpost on the eastern fringe. Now hardly anyone knows it was the biggest kingdom in medieval Europe.

    A Mongol invasion destroyed the country in 1240 and penetrated into Eastern Europe. Poland and various allies pushed the Mongols back to the middle of Ukraine. This transformed the country into a mostly Polish controlled western part which became more liberal. And a Mongol controlled eastern part (today’s eastern Ukraine and western Russia) which became more authoritarian. This cultural division still exists today and is probably the main basis for the current war.

    By an amazing accident of history the Mongols chose Moscow to be its agent in administering eastern Ukraine. This made Moscow strong and about a century later it pushed the Mongols out of Moscow. It then began a long historical process of recovering Mongol areas.

    It was around this time that Muscovites began called themselves Russians. The name of the old medieval kingdom was Rus and Muscovites saw themselves as its heirs. It was not until the 18th century that Russia took the last Mongol stronghold. In the same century the now Russian Empire took Kyiv for the first time after the Partition of Poland. The Austrian Empire took Lviv which became more western and liberal. It was also around this time that Ukrainians began using that term to describe themselves where Ukraine means a borderland. A borderland of Russia.

    It is an amazing irony of history that it was Russians who first used the name Ukraine officially when they created the Soviet “Republic” of Ukraine. They also gave Ukraine its first official borders. Now Putin claims Ukraine does not exist. It wasn’t until WWII that Russia took Lviv for the first time, thereby reuniting the old medieval kingdom after 700 years.

    But the problem is that Russia and Ukraine had become different countries and that is why we have the current war.

  162. Will M @ 99, those who are spiritually aware recognize miracles. They are all around us.

    Adam @ 103, “the voter base, the supporters of warmongering are just as clueless in the US as in Europe…” Adam, where are you finding said voter base. Because I don’t see it. I see a pack of intriguing warmongers who have no accountability–See Aurelian’s recent substack on that point–, no loyalty to the USA or any other country, including Israel, and are enacting their own bloody vengeance against Russia, the hereditary enemy.

    disc_writes, and others who understand Ukranian hatred of Russia, could you please explain to me, an American, why their revenge is my job? If they get to remember history, how about I get to remember that Russia was our ally during the Revolutionary war and the ally of the Union during the Civil War? Not to mention both World Wars.

  163. Joshua #105,

    Reading history when the good guys lost is helpful. Two books that I enjoyed:

    1066 the Year of the Conquest – David Howarth
    Harold Godwinson should have defeated William Duke of Normandy, but fate conspired against him. Had any one of a dozen different unlikely unlikely events gone slightly different and Harold would have won. The book is great for a number of reasons and I enjoyed it right up until the very end when the bad guy won.

    Ghost Wars – Steve Coll
    This is a contemporary account of the lead up to the US Invasion of Afghanistan, from the CIA’s role in supporting the Mujahedeen in the 80s to 9/11. The hero here is Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir (Panjshir means the valley of the five lions) who was pretty much the perfect guy to lead the Northern Alliance and, in my honest opinion, the only guy in the world who had a chance of making Afghanistan into a functional country. It doesn’t go well for our hero.

    And I find that writing everything out is an effective proof against mental handwaving. When I write out an argument that I believe in that I intend to be seen by others it forces me to justify everything that I put in. There are tricks and rhetorical devices for glossing things over, but I know when I’m using them to cover a weak or unsupported point. When it comes to writing, I’m my own worst critic. I can think or talk a bunch of BS, but when I write it down for an audience I see problems with my own arguments.

  164. Bogatyr: thanks for your answer on the previous post. As for this: I knew about their other interests, but do you recommend any source on Russian aristocrats’ interest in Baltic paganism (and why not Slavic)? To be a different nationality from them – though you’d be properly still be called “British”, as you well know – all you have to do is to win an independence war against the English. (Simple! I don’t say “easy”.)

    JMG: compared to placing a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, how worse off do you think Russia’d be to annex everything east of the Dnieper, and let the west do what it wants?

    adam: fortunately, as JMG said, Russia can play a greatER power role and aim farther than Syria – because that’s Iran’s natural direction, and it’d – for very good reasons – like to be a great power separately from Russia.

  165. Teresa, fascinating.

    Pygmycory, Tolkien was very young when he came up with Tinfang Warble, and eventually grew out of it. I made sure to destroy the manuscripts from my Tinfang Warble period, as they had things in them that were even worse.

    Platypus, yep. And what do you call somebody who knows only one language but wants to insist that he understands the deep structure of all of them? Noam Chomsky.

    Chris, the only thing that keeps the US economy afloat right now is vast amounts of unpayable debt. Raising interest rates is the only gimmick that will rein back on inflation while still allowing the bubble to be inflated further — because once it goes, most of our managerial class will be out of work, and the entire system will grind to a halt. As for the weather, well, the Sahara is moving into southern Europe, so subtropical climate in your part of Oz is no surprise.

    Justin, I’ve seen a Russian image of a Lancet plush toy. My guess is that they’re all the rage in Russia these days.

    Mandrake, that’s an important factor, of course — but the cluelessness that leads our elites to think that they can just keep engaging in kleptocratic frenzies without any ill effects is something else again.

    Hackenschmidt, that’s funny, in a bleak sort of way.

    Patricia M, yep. These days “democracy” in much of the world means “funded by the US and its allies,” and military coups are one time-honored way to displace such an elite with one more attentive to the interests of a nation’s own citizens.

    Platypus, no kidding. The thing that fascinates me is that the Russians seem to be edging out everyone else, including China. That has fascinating implications in the middle and long run.

    Dékete moi sónt, that wouldn’t give them enough of a buffer zone. My guess is that they’ll want to take it past Lviv — and down the road a bit, the possibility of installing compliant governments further west will be on many minds in Moscow.

    Rcastle (offlist), er, long stream-of-consciousness pieces aren’t really suitable to this forum. Please reread the text above the comment box: “Courteous, concise comments…”

  166. One way to read the first three Star Wars movies is as a satire on bureaucratic management.

    The Death Star is a giant boondoggle built at enormous expense on the orders of upper management. They release the first version into the wild only to find that it has a fatal design flaw that even a bunch of amateurs are able to use to destroy it.

    How does management respond? They decide to build a second, even bigger, Death Star. This one is designed to be completely flawless. No, really.

    Because it’s so big and complex, construction is way behind schedule. The low-level officers complain that they don’t have the resources. Darth Vader responds by summarily executing the lead officer and then putting whoever happens to be standing in the vicinity in charge of the project. Amazingly, this doesn’t work to get the project back on schedule and so Vader eventually has take charge himself.

    Meanwhile, the Storm Troopers are just the line level workers who have no idea what’s going on but they show up reliably to work every day wearing the rights clothes and provide the illusion that they know how to do their job.

    When the boondoggle is almost finished, upper management (Palpatine) finally shows their face and there’s a grand ceremony to honour their presence. Except it turns out that the indestructible boondoggle mark 2 is not so indestructible and gets destroyed by the same bunch of amateurs a second time.

    I swear I’ve been on corporate projects exactly like this 🙂

  167. I’ll be very interested to see how the war ends, and whether China will invade Taiwan. I would rather live in a multipolar world than a globalized unipolar world, but it’s a shame that so much violence will be required to wrest power away from the West and destroy the “liberal international order”

    It’s absurd when the American media calls Russian billionaires ‘oligarchs’ as if we don’t have them here, too. “American billionaires aren’t oligarchs, they’re good democracy-loving patriots!” The hypocrisy is palpable.

  168. I sent the copy of the map of Russia’s African allies to the Stirling fan list, since he’s strong on military fiction. He answered “Bear in mind that generally you can’t buy African countries. You can only -rent- them.” If true, I wonder if Russia is aware of it (or thinks so, if merely Steve’s opinion.) Once again: Russians play chess; Americans play football.

  169. Regarding Chomskian linguistics:

    I follow some linguistics meme pages on Facebook and Twitter, most of the memers are deeply interested in historical linguistics, make jokes about Tocharian, the Altaic hypothesis, and are comfortable with IPA. Every now and then, a random commenter with a linguistics degree comes in and says they have no idea what the memes are about.

    It seems like a legacy of Chomsky’s influence that most linguists don’t even know at least some of the basics of how linguistics evolved out of philology, whereas random internet nerds, some of whom do have linguistics training, while others are enthusiasts, can make jokes about these things.

  170. @JMG
    @Dékete moi sónt

    Thank you, I will look into your argument about Africa. I am also considering JMG’s take on the future of Europe. Outright Russian domination looks better than the prolonged internecine conflict that my scenario entails. (I live in Eastern Central Europe and do not want to leave.) Still, I am skeptical that the Russians will save us from ourselves this time.

  171. Interesting stuff. Thank you. What really surprised me was that the US military something learned from the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. Can you please share some sources that discuss this conflict in detail. And how did you find out that the US Military took notes and created a new tactic?

    On a different note, I am starting to think that dying civilizations and their peripheries are fertile fields for innovations in warfare. What do you think?

  172. One wrinkle in the Ukraine conflict that isn’t talked about enough (in my opinion) is the oil. It’s been known for a long time that there’s oil in the Black Sea, but it wasn’t until 2012 when a Romanian exploratory vessel found unexpectedly vast reserves of natural gas that exploration really took off there. It’s thought now that the Black Sea’s reserves of both oil and nat-gas rival those of the North Sea. (That is to say, it’s a lot.) So, they find oil in 2012 and– coincidentally, I’m sure– a U.S.-backed coup occurs in one of the countries bordering the Black Sea in 2014. And Russia’s response is to snap off the part of this country with the lion’s share of territorial waters and EEZ (exclusive economic zone) in the Black Sea, namely Crimea. If I were a cynical man, I would almost think that these events were all connected.

    The oil wealth of Crimea surely couldn’t have anything to do with Zelenskyy’s strident insistence that any peace deal would include handing back all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, despite Crimeans making it plainly known that they would (by and large) prefer to cast their lot with Russia. If I were a snarky man, I’d suggest that Zelenskyy’s statement about getting Crimea back was a return to his roots of being a TV comedian.

    As to the question of what a Russian victory in this war would look like, having their claim on Crimea recognized and legitimized in any kind of peace deal would be huge for them, even if they “magnanimously” allow what’s left of Ukraine to exist, because then they could start building lucrative oil rigs in Crimea’s waters without fear of attack. The West would not be happy about this and would undoubtedly retaliate with many a strongly-worded social media post, but we’d still buy the oil. In fact, we are still buying Russian oil even now– indeed, we never stopped– despite all the breathless, sanctimonious kabuki theater surrounding the so-called sanctions. (Google “Latvian blend” sometime if you want a laugh.)

  173. @Mary Bennet,

    I am not saying that I approve of the war, or that the US and Europe should finance it. I am just saying that many Ukrainians have a deeply rooted hate of the Russians that goes back generations.

    Some commentators seem to think that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people and that the current animosity is a made-up excuse to sell American weapons. But it is not so: the two really do hate each other’s guts.

    For me, a neutral Ukraine with autonomous minorities and trade agreements with Russia and with the EU would have been the best outcome, and the basis to start healing psychological wounds.

    A war like this, with no end in sight, is a catastrophe for all involved: Russians, Ukrainians, and Europeans. The American MIC is the only one who profits.

  174. @JMG:

    > there’s a third outcome, and at this point it’s frankly the most likely: the Russians keep pushing hard until the Ukrainian forces collapse, the way Germany’s forces did in 1918.

    Yes, I have certainly discounted this possibility supposing that if the Russians dug in, there’s nothing stopping the Ukrainians doing likewise if their current approach isn’t working. Even if the PMC of the West thinks it’s unnecessary. There’s little hiding of the eventual outcome so we will not have to wait long, but I have been curious about this and so I turned to the metaphorical last page and peeked.

    With the Ukrainians in the 1st house, Russian’s in the 7th and the 4th house of real estate as the focus I got Acquisto, Populus, Tristitia, Caput Draconis for houses 1-4.

    This perfects in two ways, Ukrainians perfect by translation, but the Russians perfect by the stronger conjunction and will win. Caput Draconis suggests the beginning of something new and given the symbolism of Tristitia – not good.

    It’s not a happy chart for Ukraine.

  175. Kfish #88 – Living in Ireland I agree with this worry, as we can see some underhanded things going on around me to confiscate more livestock than usual – positive TB tests that turn out to be negative when re-tested after the confiscated animal is sent to the meat factory and put into the human food chain… but too late for the farmer concerned…

    Meanwhile the eat “plant-based” lobby has succeeded in turning many vegans into campaigners for the idea that animals (and not industry) are the true climate villains. Industry has generally succeeded in pulling this off, as we all know that our health problems are entirely due to the facts that we drink and smoke too much, exercise too little and love us some snack foods, and never because of industrial pollution and toxic practices. Industry remains perennially untainted so that it can continue to present as a source of health “solutions” – instead of attempting to curtail its own health-threatening habits.

    True to form, we are now being attuned to the idea that the climate is changing because we ordinary people can’t stop ourselves eating too much meat, having too many babies, and enthusiastically going places, while the contribution made by industry goes largely unchallenged, so that it can continue to position itself as the the source of climate “solutions” while never having to consider curtailing its own climate-threatening habits.

    Its an old playbook.

  176. @JMG #135 Bogatyr, okay, they’ve just hit Peak Absurdity. Sadly, I doubt that. I’ve no doubt that there’s much more where that came from.

    @ The Other Owen, #143 The Chinese have no sense of value for blood, to them everyone is just ghoulish meat. Really? Really? For shame…

    @A1, #155. The fixation on Crimea is a bit more bizarre as Crimea appears to be about the worst place to try attack for NATO. 1.5 million people, mainly Russian, with a huge Russian Military base. . Actually it’s very clear, once you understand that Ukraine is not independent, but is being directed by NATO, particularly the Anglo members. For them, control of Crimea is the single most important outcome of this entire episode. Briefly, they felt in 1991 that the collapse of USSR was not sufficient; the Russian Federation also needed to be broken up (Dick Cheney was very much of this view). Zbigniew Brzezinski repeatedly published his plan that it would be split into 3 mini-states, whose natural resources could be extracted by western companies. (JMG is mistaken in the OP. It was never considered that they would be brought into the EU: that would have given them too many rights and protections). For this to happen, Ukraine and Georgia had to come into NATO; the Kuban region of Russia (which has many historical and cultural links with Ukraine) would be annexed to Ukraine, and the Black and Azov Seas would thereby become NATO lakes. The Crimea, especially Sevastopol, would become a major NATO base, able to project power all across European Russia and deep into Siberia.

    Two pictures of interest here: a postcard from 1919 showing ‘Greater Ukraine‘, and a photo showing a map in the office of Ukraine’s Head of Military Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov (the article is in Russian, but the photo is what’s relevant). It shows Brzezinksi’s 3 successor states. Karelia has been given to Finland (so Murmansk is now Finnish). Chechnya is now an independent Ichkeria (the name used by the jihadis of the 1st & 2nd Chechen Wars). Sakhalin has been returned to Japan. So this has been Washington’s aim since 1991, and the eastwards creep of NATO, and the training of the militaries in Georgia and Ukraine are also consistent with that ultimate goal. Getting NATO forces into Crimea is the key to all of this, hence the obsessive focus on it.

    @JMG, 158 re: that map. I wish it gave more detail on the nature of those agreements! I also find it strange that it doesn’t include South Africa, given that the South African navy conducts joint exercises with Russia and China.

    @ Roman, #170. I appreciate that you’re trying to condense a lot of history into a short space, but The Austrian Empire took Lviv which became more western and liberal. Erm, not exactly. They took Lemberg, a city which was largely Polish. Most of the surrounding countryside was owned by Poles, although the population was Ukrainian. This was a problem, since the Austrians had, as you say, helped extinguish Polish independence. To counteract the influence of the Polish middle classes, they began to educate the Ukrainian population, and to foster a sense of Ukrainian national identity. It may well have been more liberal than the Russian Empire, but the affinity with German cultural influences had unfortunate consequences in the 1940s, including the manner in which Lvov (as it was by then) changed from being majority-Polish to majority-Ukrainian, and which to an extent continue to this day.

    @Dékete moi sónt, #173 do you recommend any source on Russian aristocrats’ interest in Baltic paganism (and why not Slavic)? It’s not an area where I have in-depth knowledge, I’m afraid. Apart from the books I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure where else you could look. As for ‘why not Slavic’, briefly (and making huge generalisations), the Russian empire was less ethno-centric than any other of the period. In their expansion eastwards and southwards, the Russians absorbed all kinds of other cultures and took the pragmatic step of simply absorbing the local aristocracies into their own. Russian aristocrats were required to live in Saint Petersburg where the Tsar could keep an eye on them, and had little in common with ordinary Russians up to and including language: the aristocracy’s native language was French, and many spoke Russian very poorly. Ordinary Russians were, in any case, serfs: property. So in terms of occult influences, the Russian aristocracy had very little contact with Russian folk culture; their views were formed much more by the Orthodox church, and by Asian influences via people like Gurdjieff, Roerich, and Blavatsky who became fashionable in Saint Petersburg as they later would in the west. The Baltic German aristocracy, descendants of the medieval Teutonic Knights, also seem to have held their Estonian or Latvian subjects in contempt, but I have the impression that they had more knowledge of their customs than the Russian aristocracy did of their serfs, and would have fed this knowledge into the general mix. I emphasise, though, that this is based on my limited reading rather than any particular expertise.

    @ JMG, #174. Platypus, no kidding. The thing that fascinates me is that the Russians seem to be edging out everyone else, including China. I would rather suggest that they’re tag-teaming. The Chinese are building infrastructure and developing economic capacity. The Russians are providing security, plus things they do well such as nuclear energy. Each is playing to their particular strengths in order to push the west out and integrate Africa into the multipolar economic framework.

    @ JMG, OP. The “switch to WWI tactics” theme is bugging me a bit. In the sense that it’s a useful analogy for attritional, grinding warfare, it’s useful for a western audience. As a way of understanding Russian thinking, it’s misleading, since WWI on the Eastern Front wasn’t attritional in the way the Western Front was; it was far more mobile. As I understand it, the Russian mental model of what they’re doing now in Ukraine derives more from the Soviet experience in the Great patriotic War, ie WWII. Just nitpicking, I guess, but also aware of the need for clarity in forming mental images.

  177. Hi John Michael,

    Oooooooooooooooo. And just for impact, here’s another mighty Oooooooooooooo!

    I just read the David Brooks opinion piece. Wow. Does he not realise what he has just thus penned?

    When a person speaks of another person in terms of contempt, and the words: Trump is a monster. That tells me everything I need to know. It’s a red flag, all other considerations to the side. As a general rule, a person should never speak of another person in terms of contempt, otherwise they must face the blowback. Holy carp, the blowback! The very definition of magic suggests that this shall be so. Oh man, what was he thinking? He got so close too.

    Also Sprach Brooks! 😉 Needs a good tune like what that Richard Strauss fellow came up with. Very awesomely dramatic if I may say so.

    My head is spinning, Exorcist style, and hopefully there is not a pea-soup incident. Always messy.

    Mate, they’re in a whole bunch of trouble.

    Thanks Degringolade for linking to the article. Wow. Talk about bonkers.

    Anyway, I ain’t arguing with you about your interpretation of the economic state of affairs. I’m always left with a mental model of the Titanic with the people frantically scrambling to get a seat on the life rafts. Utterly bonkers.



  178. I pinched ‘Tinfang Warble’ as an alias for a long-running character back in my RPGing days, so being reminded of the name actually brings back some happy memories. ‘Trillup’ is also a wonderful word. ‘Teleporno’, on the other hand, just makes me rather sad. I’m glad we got ‘Celeborn’ in LotR.

  179. @Christopher Henningsen: Your theory that “suppose he had an encounter with a scary something that doesn’t like its secrets revealed, he went ahead and wrote about it, and now he’s being prevented from finishing by whatever means the inspiration behind the Chandrian has at its disposal?” sounds plausible. On his author blurb he mentions something about being an alchemist or dabbling in alchemy. So maybe he did touch something that scares the shale out of him.

    @Cliff: No, I haven’t read The Worm Ouroboros. I’ve seen the title a fair amount and will add it to my list.

    I get being so-so on De Lint. I like his short stories a bit better than his novels, and of those I prefer the Newford ones. I like hanging out in that city, and love that all his characters are writers, painters and musicians who are constantly involved in the magical side of life.

    @Bofur, if I may. I think any really good artist, in whatever field, can be divinely inspired. If they are reaching up from the astral plane to the realm of ideas on the mental plane, and divine “above” it, they may certainly be getting some assistance from the muses and other inhabitants of those realms.

    Tolkien was a straight up bard and surely inspired. It didn’t hurt that he fed his imagination on the great myths and legends of the world.

    Question for JMG and the commentariat: What are some of your favorite military novels or war fiction? Could be military SF or fantasy too. This is an area I have not read much of, and it’s good to mix things up with my reading habits. Thanks in advance to any and all who respond!

  180. I believe I saw the Reverse Stormtrooper Syndrome in action with the – yet -again – indictment of Donald Trump. I believe that he is up to three of them. Somehow, one of these will get him finally. Just keep shooting until you get the Orange Man.

    Because of this, I had to change my sources of news since the mainstream ones were going over the same thing – Justice triumphs! I could read between the lines – we are scared that we will miss the Orange Squid, so we will keep shooting.

    I call Trump the Orange Squid because squids are alien animals who are as intelligent as primates. Their alienness cause people to shiver. Consider how many aliens in sci-fi movies are squid like or insect like. Anyway, what the Good People forgot is that Trump has spent most of his professional life in litigation. He has a lot of practice with this sort of thing.

    So they are the plucky rebels trying to take down the evil emperor. Something has gone terribly wrong in their group think, since we are talking the power of the federal government going after one man.

  181. “Now for the trillion-dollar question: given that the US spends more each year on its military than the next ten nations combined (graph above), why has it run out of weapons and materiel to supply to Ukraine in its (US) proxy war with Russia? To be clear, there is no suggestion here that doing so would either be a laudable goal or good public policy. But still, if Russia can fund its military at eight cents / dollar relative to the US and still field an army in Ukraine, why isn’t the US, given its military expenditures, loaded to the rafters with weapons and materiel to sell to Ukraine?”

    Interesting article here:

  182. Answer: “A bipartisan consortium of human snakes, lizards, and anal warts (apologies to snakes and lizards) has ‘brokered’ the delivery of decidedly low-quality public goods and would find it distinctly inconvenient to have their names associated with their political products by the public. In fact, the goods are so low-quality that liberal largesse looks a lot like looting.”

  183. JMG: Neptunesdolphins, groupthink is the normal state for human beings, and under most circumstances it’s harmless — but we’re in one of the times when it’s not. As for what happens when reality intrudes, it depends on just how intrusive it gets. If the US is forced into debt default and half the Federal bureaucracy has to be laid off, I think they’ll notice!

    Me: The Federal Bureaucracy is one giant marshmallow. When they decide to cut government, contractors increase. When they decide to unionize the government, contractors suddenly became privileged groups – disabilities, minorities, etc. and get into Federal Service without going through the usual channels. So, it flows back and forth.

    If the money is cut off, the Fed gets blamed and expected to do something. Meanwhile, the Fed is also infected with groupthink. So around it goes.

    I do believe that reality will intrude as in a black swan that shakes the trees. After all, life happens, when you are planning something else.

    BTW: The federal prosecutor is a third stringer. He brought an indictment against the former Republican governor of Virginia, which was tossed out by the Supreme Court. Scuttlebutt is that the whole Trump thing was executed by the Blob (the power behind Biden) to distract from Biden’s troubles. Still trying to figure out the Blob (Jabba the Hutt?)

  184. @Mary Bennet:

    You asked about the voter base of warmongers. I see them everywhere. I live in a small country (Hungary) that does not give weapons to anyone and the official communication of my government is about prompt ceasefire. Still, the press is full of warmongering, the only difference is that we get the propaganda of both sides. And there is an audience for both. I also used to lurk occasionally on British Conservative websites that are full of Russophobic comments. Many people still believe the legacy media, and many other people believe warmongering online celebrities. And let’s not even talk about Poland or the Baltic states where Russophobia is not controversial, not even a class issue but almost a commonplace triviality.

    People are fallible, including myself. I see no reason to deny it.

  185. Bogatyr, wow, you sure know a lot about Ukraine. I was talking about the Ukrainians in the whole Lviv area. Then know as Galicia (Halychyna in Ukrainian) and now Lviv Oblast. I am amazed that you know that Austria began a major program to educate Ukrainians.

    My grandparents were part of that program. They graduated from teacher’s college in Peremyshyl (now in Poland) and were assigned to a Ukrainian village as teachers. I visited that village and noticed a fence 300 meters from their house. I later learned that was the current Polish border. So they were assigned to the last Ukrainian village going West.

    I wrote about what happened to my grandfather but will repeat it here. When WWI broke out he was drafted into some Ukrainian regiment which was part of the Austrian Army. When WWI ended various Ukrainian regiments tried to establish an independent Ukraine. They were defeated by the Red Army and my grandfather became a POW.

    But the situation was fluid and POWs could return home. But my grandfather became mesmerized by the promises of a worker’s paradise and stayed in Russia. He became a German teacher there. Once Stalin came to power there was no going back and he was trapped in Russia.

    At some point he became disillusioned with the worker’s paradise and wrote something negative in a letter. For that he was executed in Stalin’s Purge of 1937 with a shot in the back of the head in the Katyn forest near Smolensk. I visited that too.

    But the bottom line is that Ukrainians preferred living under Austrians than Poles or especially Russians.

  186. Mary Bennet @#171 – of course there are miracles all around us, within us too. My own consciousness (and yours) is a miracle. It’s just that not all miracles are eucatastrophe miracles.

  187. Scotlyn @ 184, check out the interview Russell Brand did with Vandana Shiva @

    It looks to me like the small country, Ireland, is being used as a test case.

    IDK why so many commentators, including on occasion our host, appear to think that corporations are for some reason above criticism. The reason we even have Biden in high office is because the state of Delaware was for many long years basically owned by the DuPont company, maybe still is, who wrote state laws for their own benefit. Many, many companies are chartered in Delaware, taking advantage of those very lax laws. DuPont, you may recall was one half of the unholy duo who managed to get the growing of hemp, that ancient and useful plant, banned. DuPont wanted to replace hemp rope with their product, nylon.

  188. I am really glad Im not the only one who has paid close attention to this subject since 2014 and sees this unbelievably tragic war the same way. It’s an In La Kesh moment for sure. JMG, sorry as a “latecomer” I cant read all previous comments to see if you addressed it. I did pause about 10 hours on launching this comment to try reading upthread for an hour (and sleeping) and was pleased to see there are many readers who also have easily seen through this highly insulting media slop. Any insights on the neopagan/occult connections and interest in Ukrainian Nationalism, or in the west in general? Im looking at the zombie Nazi occult revival in Ukraine facing off with what I estimate to be Russian Christian mysticism, with real support from Muslim (Chechen) and Buddhist (Buryat) communities and maybe some Siberian Shamanic folk magic as well. Or maybe something on the whole Western “Satanic elites” trope that has resulted in the slaughter? It feels as if there is a brutal assault on human dignity in many aspects by way of this war. It has me reminded of the Kali Yuga. Like all the chips are down for both sides, and the stakes couldnt be higher. Perhaps the avatars and demons have all taken their hosts at this point. Hope I’m not reverse stormtroopering myself.

  189. Chris @ 186, David Brooks is an agent of influence and writes what he is told to write. For this he is very well paid indeed, gets invited to the top TV shows and the best parties, etc. He can write and ain’t dumb, but the guy sold out long ago. His columns, sometimes the headlines are all you need, are a reliable indicator as to what the DC establishment is thinking and planning. Sometimes he is used by one part of the elite to convey a message or warning to another part. I gather from his recent work that some parts of DC are beginning to think the involvement in Ukraine is costing more than it is worth. In other words, their own pleasures and projects are being cut back. Us nobodies could have told them this adventure was the mother of all bad ideas, but they don’t listen to us.

  190. @Justin Patrick Moore #188. Anything by Weston Ochse. He’s former military and a fan of science fiction and horror; it’s reflected in his writing.

  191. About The Worm Ouroboros, my opinion, for what it might be worth, don’t waste your time. Well written, but mid 20thC British fantasizing. Our Hero is straight from Eton and OxBridge, handsome, rich, talented in just about everything, never fails etc. etc. Beau Guest without the battles. In BG, the protagonists at least did things. My personal biases are showing here; I dislike this genre about as much as others can’t stand the good guys vs. bad guys stories.

    About that latter, originally good guys win stories were about how does an ordinary person become virtuous, ‘virtue’ being understood as an active principle, not a euphemism for ‘nice’.

    Much of the involvement in Ukraine has, so far as I can see, no rational basis. Crimea is a place of natural beauty, I gather, and historic significance, ever since Miletus began planting colonies there. I do, in fact, believe that certain influential factions of the Citizenry of the World, think they should get to own it, because. So they can take vacations there and have beach houses.

  192. Simon, ha! I like that. I’ve stayed out of corporations, so haven’t actually worked on such projects, but I know people who have.

    Enjoyer, oh, I think “oligarchs” is the wrong word. “Kleptocrats” seems a little more fitting.

    Patricia M, Russia has plenty of oil and grain to pay the rent — also soldiers who can actually fight. (When Wagner PMC replaced the French in Mali, the jihadi insurgency the French had been fighting, or “fighting,” for years popped like a bubble.) But Stirling’s response doesn’t surprise me. A lot of people in the US are going out of their way to be blindsided by the huge geopolitical shift now in process.

    Alvin, that’s true of just about every field I know of. The official experts have been trained in some system of irrelevant abstractions that don’t apply to anything in the real world, while amateurs and internet geeks can fill you in on the practical details.

    Adam, I think it’s more likely than not, but of course we’ll see.

    Anonymuz, I don’t have any hard evidence that the Pentagon drew useful lessons from Israel’s debacle in Lebanon, but the game plan in Ukraine really does seem to show that attention. In terms of sources, I’ve been following that since it happens and I don’t have a list of what I’ve read — you can doubtless find plenty online with a little digging. As for your last comment, very much so, yes.

    Troy, that’s an excellent point. Now that we’re deep in the twilight of the oil age, it’s crucial to keep an eye on fossil fuels and other energy sources as a focus of warfare.

    Andy, you’re assuming that the Ukrainians can keep fighting indefinitely. They can’t. They’re facing an opponent with far more abundant resources, a stronger economy, a much larger population of military-age men, and vast munitions factories whose output dwarfs all of NATO’s weapons plants put together. Even if the Ukrainians go on the defensive, the Russians can shift to the tactics they tested at Mariupol and Bakhmut and are now using to drive steady advances toward Kupyansk and Krasny Liman, and grind the Ukrainian army down until it collapses completely. I give the Ukrainian side a year at most, and probably much less than that, before holes start opening in the front and the endgame begins.

    Bogatyr, I haven’t had a chance to chase down the details of the agreements, but as far as I know South Africa is keeping the same kind of neutral stance as India: plenty of trade, occasional joint military exercises, but no formal defense treaties. As for the Great Patriotic War, no, that was a war of big-arrow attacks, and those are increasingly unworkable now, as they were on the Western Front in 1914-1918 — which is of course what I’m talking about. (You’re right that I should have specified.) Look at the Russian offensives in the Kupyansk and Krasny Liman directions: each forward thrust pushes the line of contact a few kilometers forward, and then the Russians dig in. It’s working, in the same way that the very similar Allied offensives in 1918 did, and it will have the same end: a general collapse of the enemy’s ability and willingness to keep fighting.

    Chris, the thought of doing a recording of Brooks’ piece with Strauss in the background is tempting! They are indeed in a world of hurt, and Brooks’ essay shows that some of them are starting to become aware of it.

    Owain, funny.

    Justin, I never really got into military fiction. I’ve always preferred good narrative histories. But I’ll be interested to see what other people come up with.

    Neptunesdolphins, exactly. You have to wonder what they’re not noticing because of their frantic fixation on the King in Orange. As for the federal marshmallow, sooner or later in every marshmallow’s life comes the moment that it has a stick thrust through it and it gets roasted over a fire…

    Degringolade, thanks for this. It looks well worth reading.

    MJM, that’s a big and complex question, of course. I haven’t done enough research yet into the various flavors of Eastern European and Russian spirituality involved in this to offer a clear view of things, but your reference to the Kali Yuga isn’t out of place. This will be one of the decisive struggles of the 21st century, on a more than material level.

  193. >Really? Really? For shame…

    Like the Chinese would say – “What?”. Can you tell me who else has a reputation for having a voracious appetite for organ harvesting? Sitting here 1000s of miles away, it looks like they view everyone and everything as meat. And they see nothing wrong with it.

    >Defeat, dismemberment

    So here’s my followup question. If the Chinese invade, where are the likely to show up first?

  194. About that seemingly silly comment about weeds – Jean Lamb in K. Falls notes
    ‘I think someone may have mistranslated the phrase ‘in the weeds’ which means getting bogged down by ghastly little details.”

    Rather like “being nibbled to death by ducks.”

    Some metaphors just don’t translate across national borders, I guess.

  195. Another aspect of the “we must win, we’re the good guys” is the “if we lost, then the story must not be over.” This is commonly refered to as the “double-down” gambit.

  196. @Justin Patrick Moore, Why so little bang for the buck in the huge American defense budget? My thoughts – We pay a lot more per soldier in the area of pay, insurance, housing, also I imagine we have larger bureaucratic administrative costs, more luxurious bases, facilities, buildings in comparison the Russia and China and fantastically expensive ships, planes, tanks, missiles and other equipment due the unrestrained prices the American military/industrial complex get to charge in the sycophantic, parasitical relation it has via lobbyists, and other connections between the military and congress. Also huge ammunition and equipment stockpiles didn’t meet an immediate need and money was preferred to be spent in other areas. So we do not have a military equal in power and size to the next ten militaries combined, even though we spend money equal to what they spend all together. And we have an atrophied manufacturing base.

  197. “Bogatyr, okay, they’ve just hit Peak Absurdity. Brace yourself for the implosion. Oh, my aching sides…”
    “Weeds and shrubs”? Really? Does anyone NOT on weed proofread these tweets so that the Ministry of Defense does not look embarrassing? This tweet reads hilarious to a westerner. Funny as it is, it is also true. Weed and shrubs make for a difficult terrain that goes together with mud, sludge, heavy rain, poor roads, and cold trenches. Russians are good at it. Westerners – not as much. Russians have been paying attention to it for centuries and know how to use these condition to their advantage. There is not a single peace of Russian war-themed literature (e.g., War and Peace, And Quiet Flows the Don, The Tale of Igor’s Campaign and many others) that does not include long, LONG paragraphs describing nature and how it plays a role in the war. The ones that I’ve mentioned are from the school curriculum. Everyone who’s gone to school in Russia knows them. From Wikipedia: “The Tale [of Igor’s Campaign] has been compared to other national epics, including The Song of Roland and The Song of the Nibelungs. The book however differs from contemporary Western epics on account of its numerous and vivid descriptions of nature and the portrayal of the role which nature plays in human lives.” As I write this, somewhere in Ukraine there is a Russian soldier sitting in a cold trench, looking at all these weeds and shrubs and thinking. “Good for me”. Gods help Ukrainians, what a meat grinder…

  198. On Chomsky:

    I know next to nothing about linguistics, but I think that the real relevance of N.C.’s theory does not come from how well it fits to human languages. Rather, it provides a formal framework for artificial languages: computer languages in particular. Prior to Chomsky, the standard foundation of computer was the Turing Machine, an abstract contraption that pulls and puts symbols from/into an infinite “tape” (ordered sequence) and processes them mathematically precise ways. This was good enough of an abstraction to model the actual behavior of all early computers (and of all computers in existence so far, and AFAIK ever). This was also terribly alien for most humans to interact with, and it is a testament to the dumb stubbornness of the early coders (despite their other intellectual merits) that early computers were able to compute anything at all.

    Other pioneers of computing (sorry, no citations come to mind but Wikipedia can help for a change) developed more mathematically sound models called Automata and proved formally that these where equivalent to a Turing Machine (or in case of smaller Automata, to a constrained Turing Machine). The genius in Chomsky work is that then you can create languages that are mathematically equivalent to those kinds of Automata, and can therefore be a pretty good model or computer behavior.

    Nowadays, look at any programming language in existence. But for a rare, few exceptions (LISP dialects come to mind), they all look like the pidgin English that would come out of locking Tarzan and Rainman in a dungeon for a couple of decades (with a bit of embedded algebraic notation thrown in for the sake of accounting software to be). So, its no surprise that the US government would shower N.C. with the spoils of the very wars he was so fond of “protesting” against.

  199. JMG said

    I haven’t done enough research yet into the various flavors of Eastern European and Russian spirituality involved in this to offer a clear view of things, but your reference to the Kali Yuga isn’t out of place. This will be one of the decisive struggles of the 21st century, on a more than material level.

    I am reminded of a couple of things I have come across. One is an essay published back in 2015 about the spiritual roots of the Russo-American conflict, which draws heavily on the ideas of Oswald Spengler and of Russian thinkers like Nikolai Berdyaev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn.

    The other is the title track from a rock opera by a Russian symphonic metal band called Imperial Age, which came out in 2012 but seems to be very appropriate to the struggle going on right now between the nascent Russian great culture and the decaying Western civilization.

    Turn The Sun Off!

    [I. The Presage]

    There is a permanent fire
    Burning inside our hearts.
    We shall never betray
    Our purity of Gods

    But those who choose to be weak
    Those who linger behind
    Those who always retreat
    They commit suicide

    Their Sun will stop burning…

    Now make your choice
    Whether to join us and be free
    Or get lost
    In the purifying flame

    Of our wrath
    There is no space in one place
    For both
    Beasts and Gods!

    There is fear in your hearts!
    Uselessness in your eyes
    There shall never be mercy
    For the cancer of the Earth!

    You can only consume
    You sleep away your lives
    You have no ways to evolve
    Only one path – to die!

    Our Sun will die because of you!

    The brightest light
    Will shine forever on the wise
    We will rise
    Far, far above the dark blue skies

    Our minds
    In concordance with our souls
    Will create
    A worthy world!

    [II. There Is Hope]

    There’s so much to do together
    We could live forever
    And this hell might never
    Never return…
    The whole world is against us
    And it shall burn!!!

    Rise your head above the sky
    And let the ground be shaken
    By your battle cry!

    You are not forsaken
    Your soul can not be taken
    Unless you wish it to be done!

    In the eternal fields of darkness
    The Primordial Chaos is whirling
    We collect our strength eternal
    To create a brand new world

    Those who waste their time on nothing
    Will doze in a lifelong slumber
    Till the time the High Command rings:

    [III. The Beginning Of The End]

    The sun will darken
    The air will chill throughout
    The heaven will collapse
    The darkest winds will blow
    Across the desert of Seth

    Arise, who lie beneath the ground!

    [IV. Rise Of The Undead]

    In every place and in
    every direction bones start
    shivering beneath the
    ground, and out of every
    hole, every low place the
    Undead crawl into the light
    of the darkening sun and
    countless dead eyes are
    gazing at the still beautiful
    but dying Earth…

    This is the end…
    But you asked for it…

    Inexorable… implacable…

    There was a little hope…
    You could live in a world
    So bright and strong!

    It could last forever…

    The brightest light
    Could some forever on the wise
    We could rise
    Far, far above the dark blue skies

    Our minds
    In concordance with our souls
    Could create
    A worthy world!…

    [V. The Dead Will March The Earth]

    Hold the line!
    Spare none but the worthy!
    Purify the world!
    Eradicate the human disease!

    Get ready! Hold on!
    The world is ours!
    Only the decent will survive!
    We are the healers of the

    VI. A New Aeon Dawns

    It is the morning time
    But I see no light
    No light in the sky:
    There is no sun!

    Only the stars
    Shine in the night
    Only the night
    Eternal night…

    Soon the world
    Will invert itself
    And Brahma’s breath
    Will repeat…

    Countless new suns
    Dawn on the edge
    Of the world
    A new Aeon
    Is starting…

  200. Yes, of course America is certainly in decline. We have what must be the most corrupt administration ever in Washington. The economy is based on a debt bubble that may implode any day but has not done so yet.

    Another problem is that state and local governments in places like California and New York have apparently decided that the best way to fight poverty is to decriminalize property theft. This lets the underclass (welfare class) prey on the nearby lower middle class (wage class) which still may have something left worth stealing.

    But all this does not necessarily mean Russia and China will prevail. These countries have long histories of shooting themselves in the foot. The long communist experiment in Russia, including the artificial famine in Ukraine, was certainly a failure. The Chinese did even worse with experiments like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution which killed more people than any other event in history.

    It just may turn out that everyone is in decline as current technology cannot keep up with global population which is still expanding.

  201. Interesting article JMG. I think there’s a lot of truth there in your analysis of the Ukraine War. However, do you think it’s possible a version of the Stormtrooper Syndrome could be “Industrial society, progress, and the secular elite always loses and the natural world and spiritual populists will end up winning in the end.”

  202. Interesting article in the NYT from Aug 2: “Ukrainian Troops Trained by the West Stumble in Battle — Ukraine’s army has for now set aside U.S. fighting methods and reverted to tactics it knows best.”

    It’s behind a paywall but can be easily found elsewhere (like Yahoo News) for free. Basically confirms that the Ukrainians are following the Russians back into WWI tactics, but acknowledges that this plays into Russian strengths rather than Ukrainian ones, and mostly seems interested in blaming the Ukrainians for not adequately translating the superior advice of Western trainers into inevitable, overwhelming victory.

    “Ukrainian military commanders have changed tactics, focusing on wearing down the Russian forces with artillery and long-range missiles instead of plunging into minefields under fire.”

    Sounds like a plan. Unfortunately it’s a plan that requires boatloads of increasingly scarce ammunition.

    “It raises questions about the quality of the training the Ukrainians received from the West and about whether tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nearly $44 billion worth from the Biden administration, have been successful in transforming the Ukrainian military into a NATO-standard fighting force.”

    The joke here is that the Ukrainians had the largest, most experienced fighting force in NATO (excepting the US). A NATO-standard fighting force is a large step down from what they started the conflict with.

  203. They start these ridiculous movie tropes early, and they are getting worse. I had the misfortune to watch a kids Disney movie, finding Dori ( ? maybe not exactly right but Dori was the main fish character ) very shallow naturally. There was no real bad guy, more of a resume or find your way home. But, the whole premise was that to have it turn out alright, Dori’s way of approaching life, making decisions, needed to be emulated. And that ws to do the first thing that came to mind and it would somehow all work out. Just go for it. total the good guys have it all work out, just believe or try type thing. And, the decisions made were very, very awful really. Makes the storm troopers look like intelligent professionals.

    I am known to not show cartoons or tv to small children, so I was told, I was voting to “not judge”. Meaning my offspring, the parent really must know how awful this stuff is. They pay for Disney channel…….Usually once a week a movie is shown, on a beautiful Saturday morning while my offspring goes off to do adult stuff, the other parent turns it on Disney channel. The child watches the same ones multiple times.

    The child is read books and plays outside, etc… at least it is not all TV. somehow has missed the 3 bears, I told this one from memory and was asked to repeat it the next day, which I did. I will order and send Jan Bretts illustrated version. Not much else I can do

  204. If the elites who run the us foreign policy establishment had spent more time during last 20 years indulging in poplar entertainment instead of reruns of masterpiece theatre and CNN they might have avoided the trap of Stormtrooper Syndrome. Sure, in popular movies and tv shows the Russians are almost always the baddies as they have almost universally been typecast as gangsters or warlords. But far from the way the Germans were portrayed in Hogan’s Heros, the Russian baddies are almost always portrayed as Ruthless, Calculating, Efficient ,Strategic and demanding of absolute loyalty in their followers. Usually other criminals and the cops are scared of them. So if the gang down at Foggy bottom had spent a little more at the local Big Screen at home watching tv we might not be in the pickle we are in now.

  205. @Justin Patrick Moore #188 re: Military Fiction

    If you want to get really blood-and-guts, Tom Kratman’s books use the conceit of another very-earth-like planet as an excuse to do basically do alternate-history late 20th/early 21st century military scenarios, but the way Kratman would run them if he was in charge (he’s a former military officer who I believe was a grunt before becoming a JAG who worked on rules of engagement).

    Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield is about the battle of Thermopylae and is extremely popular among military folks for getting it right about what makes men fight and what leads to excellent soldiers, even if it’s not entirely historically accurate.

    I’ve heard good things about the Galaxy’s Edge series, which is written by a couple of vets and has been described as “Star Wars if it were written by hard nosed military guys.”

    Neal Stephenson’s books Quicksilver and his trilogy The Baroque Cycle are not exactly military, but they feature main characters who are soldiers getting caught up in some crazy stuff that “lands right” (Stephenson’s not a vet, but it’s obvious he knows a bunch). His spy/crime/techno-thriller Reamde gets a bit of this vibe too, with a former Spetsnaz guy being one of the main characters.

    Glen Cook’s The Black Company series of short stories is usually billed as dark/military fantasy. It’s about an amoral group of mercenaries working for the stereotypical evil queen in fantasy war. Clearly the product of someone who lived through the Vietnam era. Cook was in the Navy and attached to a Marine Force Recon unit, but apparently didn’t deploy with them.

    I’ve only read the first book or two, but Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series (adapted into the movie Master and Commander) is great if you want to go deep on Napoleonic naval warfare (complimented nicely by A.T. Mayhan’s classic military history The Influence of Sea Power upon History).

    Arabella of Mars gives some of the same, but in a science-fantasy flavor, where the solar system has atmosphere between all of the planets and they are populated as late 19th/early 20th century folks imagined them, and ships float up and up before sailing between worlds. The other two books in the series were written as an apology for following the colonial tropes of 19th century British literature, and so the fun was weighed down by political stuff.

    Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is a clear homage to Starship Troopers (which should definitely be on the list, come to think of it) that’s not amazing or anything, but is pretty fun. Again, the first book provides a fun military adventure story, but the later books follow the whole “subvert the premise” track that is so popular these days. My favorite part of this one is that it shows humans in a galaxy full of intelligent life not as the helpless newcomers, but as mean, dangerous contenders.

    Speaking of mankind being dangerous to aliens, the Man-Kzin Wars was a project created by Larry Niven, and the first collection of short stories features Poul Anderson, but it’s a series of short stories about said wars between humanity and a race of cat people set in the same world as Ringworld. The stories are of variable quality, and not all are really “military sci-fi,” but they take place in the context of the wars after first contact is made between humans and the Kzin. Mankind had finally learned how to get along, then we met these warlike cats and we’re like “guys, do you have any idea what we’ve been specialized in for the last few millennia? You sure you want to go down this road?”

    Again, not exactly military, but certainly martial is The Mongoliad, which was a joint writing effort by a few authors, including Neal Stephenson, that was an attempt to launch a multimedia franchise around western martial arts, using a fictional warrior monastery as its focal point (think Shaolin monks, but in plate with longswords). I enjoyed the initial cycle of books, but the short stories and spinoffs did less and less for me, and I ended up putting them down. Strongly recommended if you have interest in historical European martial arts (the authors all know each other from their HEMA group, and so the fight scenes are loaded with realistic details).

    Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon series has some strong military elements as it goes on. Think fantasy romans with Four-elements-based pokemon for their magical powers (I think that he was given a challenge to make something cool out of a lame idea, and I think he did pretty well). Not as good as the Dresden Files, but likable characters, very readable, satisfying growth.

    Lastly, another “martial”, but not “military” book – Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa is a big sprawling epic about the most famous swordsman of Japanese history, and it does a good job of exploring a warrior mindset, even if most of the book is not about battles, and when it is, they tend to be smaller fights, rather than clashes of militaries.

    Anyhow, hope you find something appealing in the above!


  206. Hi Simon,

    The U.S. “Department of Defense” has also worked this way since the ‘90’s, when Vice-President Gore (who, as far as I can tell, never held a non-government job in his life) decided the government was to be run like a business. This being impossible did not seem to concern him.

    The U.S. actually has no department devoted to overseeing defense. “DOD” is actually the Department of PMC Welfare, employing small armies (ha!) of engineers, scientists, consultants, training firms, medical personnel, and stupid people who possess expensive pieces of paper and look good (“professional”) in expensive clothes. This state of affairs should be of considerable concern to people living in the U.S., but as far as I can tell it isn’t. I guess DOD has managed to hide the true extent of the problem.

  207. Re: Brazil, India, etc. not cooperating with the sanctions: a Tonto / Lone Ranger joke comes to mind: Finding themselves surrounded by hostile Indians, the Lone Ranger asks Tonto: “What are we going to do, Tonto?” To which Tonto replies: “What do you mean ‘we’, white man?”

    This whole process of the U.S. & allies losing their prominence in world affairs could be be called the Great Un-Entitlement.

  208. Other Owen, they won’t invade. They’ll assist the United States to fragment, and then cut deals with the fragments that have resources or ports that they want.

    Patricia M, I trust that was meant as a joke. Here’s the actual press release:

    AV, true enough.

    Kirsten, one of the things that’s driving the collapse of the Western system is that it never occurs to the people in power that other people might look at what they say and giggle. No, they’re the movers and shakers, and what they say is truth! Then they get blindsided when the giggling starts.

    CR, hmm! Interesting. I could see this.

    Platypus, thanks for both of these.

    Roman, in the long run, sure. But the US has put itself in the position of being both the greediest and the least competent person in the boat. I expect Russia and China to end up at each other’s throats in due time, and both will go through bitter crises…but they’ll remain allied and focused until we’ve been shoved off the boat.

    KV, sure, but that’s not something I’ve argued for — though I know it’s what people insist on hearing from me, even if they have to rewrite what I say to do it. What I’m saying is that a civilization that rose on a vast drawdown of resources will fall as the resources run out, and those of us who don’t want to be dragged down with it might want to consider other options. You know, like “collapse now and avoid the rush”…

    Mandrake, yes, I saw that. The fingerpointing has begun.

    Atmospheric River, I thank the gods I haven’t had to watch any more Walt Dismal slop. You might consider learning some other classic children’s stories.

    Clay, ha! Maybe so.

    PatriciaT, funny. Indeed it could.

  209. Justin,

    Re: military fiction, if you haven’t checked out Bernard Cornwell, I recommend his Sharpe series, which is set in the Napoleonic era. It is light reading, but for my money, he does the best battle scenes, period. His Alfred the Great-era series, The Last Kingdom, is also very good.

  210. Hi JMG,

    Thanks for this analysis of the ruso-ukranian war and the way is seen from the western elites.

    You said: “a solid defensive line is a very tough nut to crack, if the defenders know what they’re doing.”

    Indeed, the germans, even when the “blitzkrieg” was wreaking havoc in their enemies, they never tried to attack fortified lines planned and made many years or months in advance, they never considered to attack the Maginot Line in frontal assault or even the Metaxas Line In Greece, they by-passed those lines and cut the supply and communication lines, and then wait till the situation to rot for the defenders.

    For example in the German invasion of Greece some german units tried to attack the Metaxas Line and the results were disastrous for the attacking german force even with the advantages of full air support, tanks, artillery, manpower, operational excellence, etc…

    Well the only case where the Germans attacked a very solid defensive line well prepared during months was in Kursk with the expected results, but then as now, the people that take the military decision thought and still think that the Russians are really “untermensch” a bunch of drunken, nasty, brutish, stupid, demoralized semi-slaves without the required intellect and bravery to resist a determined western armed and managed attack.
    Then and now the western elites think: “We only have to kick in the door and the whole building will fall down.”. When they discover that this will not happen, as the last time, it will be too late….


  211. WRT “The Sound of Freedom”

    To our great astonishment, our college-age son went with his friends to see not the Indiana Jones fiasco, but “Sound of Freedom.”

    Think of it! A pack of 20-something young men didn’t want to see Indiana Jones and instead made the effort to find the one theater in central PA that showed a film they weren’t supposed to want to pay to see.

    According to Mark, they liked it, too.

  212. Hi John Michael,

    It’s a lovely piece of music! And the idea has merit. 🙂

    Had to laugh about the shrubs, weeds and stuff problem. You see what I have to deal with here with the plant communities and civilisations abilities to deal with (or even just comprehend) such simple issues? If we don’t have the basic tools as a society to cut a fire break, or maybe clear some fast growing plants so that err, mine fields and stuff, well doesn’t that tell you how rubbish the forces are over there? And that eventually nature will ultimately win the fight.

    It’s not as if the indigenous folks here didn’t manage that task for more than sixty millennia. I’ve always imagined that they had a rather rude wake up call long ago to have to come to the collective decision to do that work. Years ago now, I read a book by an Indigenous bloke: Victor Steffensen, with his book: ‘Fire Country’. The words changed the way I see and interact with the land, and magnitude of the problem is quite staggering. There was a poignant moment in the book when he was observing a wallaby (a slightly smaller forest dwelling kangaroo) bouncing down the road. He made the casual observation that the forest to either side of the road was so thick the wallaby couldn’t get around in there.

    Those military forces are apparently no better than the wallaby. I’d have to suggest that using the well trod road is a very bad idea.



  213. Hi Simon,

    That’s funny, and thanks for the laughs. We’ve (mostly) all been there!

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for the explanation. Hmm. That may well be the case. Yeah. You know that those words I quoted from the article were a form of incantation? One of the issues which has mystified me since you know, 2016, or so, was the disrespect shown to the incumbent of that high office. I have always been very uncomfortable with that dimension of this story, all other considerations to the side. It’s a very divisive strategy, and few people seem to notice that. But then to allow that form of magic (as it is understood in present company) to swell and ripen is also an expression of the inner workings of the minds at the top of the food chain. It’s not good.



  214. No, she didn’t mean it as a joke. She was seriously trying to understand I sent her a copy of the image you posted.

  215. John–

    When I comment to myself that the locus of power is shifting (has shifted?) to Asia, I often have to also remind myself that Russia is as much–if not moreso–an Asian power as a Western one.

    Do you think that the looming NATO defeat will have a near-term impact on eastern US vassals like South Korea and Japan? They may need to start looking for a new overlord shortly, or else figure out how to stand on their own.

  216. Hi Jeff,

    I liked Musashi too! I have it on a Kindle, which, considering its size, is the best place for it. If you dropped the real-book version on your foot you’d be hopping about on crutches for quite some time.

    Wasn’t the Larry Niven warlike cats (great band name) where intelligence was sex-linked? Males smart, females about as intelligent as dogs? I wonder if you could get something like that mainstream-published these days?

    An often overlooked piece of military fiction is Watership Down. Hazel must lead his “men” through hostile territory to safety, then neutralize the threat presented by crazy General Woundwort. (Adams said Hazel was based on the best officer he ever served with, during WW II.)

  217. Miscellaneous notes.

    Re Chomsky. In addition to providing models for computer languages, one of the major attractions of his early work was its use against one of the prevailing models of language — the Skinnerian/associationist model. To simplify, in the Skinnerian view, language was learned by a process of operant conditioning (positive, and negative reinforcement, extinction, and aversive stimuli) — and to account for language did not require hypotheses about consciousness, internal states, etc. Chomsky’s position was that there was in fact something going on “in there”, and that infants learned language not (merely) through conditioning but through actively seeking out, and working with, language-like aspects of their worlds. (A position traditionally called “Rationalist”, because based in a claim that human minds have innate “ideas” that provide information about the world, or about how to make sense of the world.) This was a scandalous challenge to prevailing academic ideas, especially at Harvard (Skinner). The intuitive appeal was to the sense that haunts quite a few people who have learned different languages that there’s something similar going on in all forms of human speaking, despite the obvious surface dissimilarities. An interesting basis for a hypothesis — but the effective implementation of it kept slipping out of his grasp, and that of his legions of followers.

    Agatha Christie: Are you referring to Ming Guo Da Zhen Tan? I’d like to get a chance to see that. Note that it’s a very recent production, and set in the bad old days of the Republic (and in Harbin, to boot) which allows for all sorts of depictions of official corruption and violence which of course are harder to depict in stories set after 1949.

    As for Goodies vs Baddies — that is a complex issue. In general, the appeal to principles (right and wrong) is applicable (or effective) (a) when there are shared principles, with pretty much the same order of importance — including stopping rules, (b) when there is some confidence that there is agreement on how to apply the principles (and no cheating), and (c) when life (and more) is not on the line. Especially in situations where there are indurated grievances extending over generations, if not millennia, where no one trusts anyone else, and everyone is convinced that existence itself is on the line, appeal to principle is a spectator luxury. But once conflicts become indurated, they persist, no matter who is currently the apparent winner.

    Finally, with respect to Chinese regard for human life. It’s not so simple.

    There’s a plethora of particulars that could be totted up in the negative column, from the Warring States period through the Taiping Rebellion and the nearly contemporaneous reduction of Chinese Turkestan, the destruction of the Yellow River dams to hinder the Japanese invasion, all the way up through current events. The toll in deaths alone is quite impressive, let alone in other casualties and forms of misery. (As a side note, Genghis Khan was just barely dissuaded from depopulating all of north China to turn it into grazing land. That’s depopulating by hand, mind you. No 19th century technology. One sword stroke at a time.) — And against this, in the positive column, there are the deeply humane traditions that coexist with, and are counterpoised against, the desperate works of violence. The stubborn resistance of Lin Zhao. though often linked to her Christianity, is far from unique in Chinese history.

  218. Waiting for my copy of Twilight, even though I rarely read fiction. Slow day at work so I checked the Amazon reviews. They say the book depicts the US and its President as extremely arrogant.

    In 2014 I would have said “that’s too much.” After two years of Biden I would say “that’s right on the money.” How did we fall so far so fast?

  219. @ Princess Cutekitten

    Not just any business either, but the most inefficient and slow-moving business – a giant corporate bureaucracy.

    Still, it makes sense if you consider that the real aim is simply to launder money. Given that the US empire runs not on military power but on financial power, getting practice cooking the books might actually be a useful skill in the grand scheme of things 😛

  220. DFC, exactly. Blitzkrieg was never as omnipotent as it was made to look; it could always be stopped by sufficiently solid defensive lines — ergo the use of the Ardennes as a way around those lines in 1940. Add in today’s loitering drones and real-time satellite info, and armored thrusts are very hard to carry out effectively.

    Teresa, thanks for this — hope for the future and all that.

    Chris, certain places online are posting images of weed cutters under the slogan “the next aid package to Ukraine.”

    Patricia M, fair enough. I suppose the utterance itself is so stupid that the charitably minded would likely look for some way to make it make sense.

    David BTL, the answer to that question will determine the next century or so of East Asian history. No, I don’t know what it is yet.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Legrand, thanks for this as well. I certainly grant that Chomsky’s work was a big improvement on the Skinnerian orthodoxy that preceded it, but, yeah, the implementation never worked.

    Roman, er, “fall”? You might read a bio of Lyndon Johnson sometime. (Though I didn’t base my fictional President Jameson Weed on him — I wanted a weaker and more tragic figure in the presidency for the first part of the narrative.)

  221. @Your Kittenship, #228 re: Musashi and Larry Niven

    Agreed! I read it on my Kindle, but I bought a physical copy as a gift for a friend and was impressed by the heft. Certainly viable as a weapon, if need be.

    As for the Kzin, yes, in the “present” of Ringworld, the Kzin have become sexually dimorphic in intelligence, maybe even in “sentience” – the males are clearly self-aware individuals, the females appear to lack most of that. The Man-Kzin Wars series is a prequel and includes some exploration of how maybe that state of affairs came to be, and casts some doubt on the dimorphism presented as a sure thing in chronologically later books. As you say, it’s some provocative territory to explore, even in sci-fi. But evolutionary pressures are something Niven was interested in – for example, in this series, it was proposed that the Kzin evolved to be less warlike because all of the most aggressive ones were killed off by humans in the war.

  222. Oh: as for Russian pagan music. Arkona is an interesting group, though it has been around for a while. Among their pagan accoutrements are various versions of the famous sun-wheel.

    One can listen to many of their songs on Youtube — it’s not necessary to watch! But for those who can watch videos, some of them are quite instructive. Their anthemic “Serbia” is well worth a watch as well as a listen.

    And as for Tolkien: one of his best infelicities was probably the Mountain of Tuna, which, if I remember correctly, really had nothing to do with the cats of Queen Beruthiel.

  223. Justin
    I would recommend Bernard Cornwall’s Richard Sharp series about the Napoleonic wars, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls about the Spanish civil war, The Killer Angels about the US civil war, Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander books about the Napoleonic War at sea, Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front and A Time To Love And A Time To Die. There are tons more, but that is a start.

  224. When I saw the first Star Wars movie, I wasn’t bothered so much by the miraculously poor shooting of the storm troopers because I was very much bothered by the notion that a society capable of fairly easy inter-stellar travel would still be using what are basically guns shooting energy bits instead of lead. Surely they would have weapons that you just tell to take out a corridor and everything in the corridor is killed instantly.

    One of the many glories of the Three-Body Problem trilogy is a scene in which the super advanced and massive star ship fleet that Earth has built comes face to face with truly superior technology. (I also highly recommend that trilogy for any sci-fi fan who would also like to gain a greater understanding of how the world looks from China. Definite echoes of the Opium Wars and the Century of Humiliation.)

  225. Clay Dennis #215
    “But far from the way the Germans were portrayed in Hogan’s Heros”

    Barely on topic here, but the actor who played Colonel Klink had them write into his contract that the role would be that of an idiot. He, the actor who played Schulz, and the actor who played the French member of Hogan’s group were all actively anti-Nazi in real life. The actors who played Klink and Schulz both went into exile, one because he was Jewish, the other on principle. The actor who played the Frenchman served in the real resistance in real life.

  226. Karim’s comment about “luxury armies” rings all too true in my ear. My sister’s eldest graduated from college in May of ’22 and received his 2nd lieutenant bars in the U.S. Air Force via his university’s ROTC program. And then spent the next several months getting paid to lounge on the beaches of the Florida panhandle getting hammered. Because they didn’t really need him to do anything yet.

    Sheesh. This is the state of our military, folks…

  227. There was an interview with Putin nearly two hours long, in Russian with subtitles, done shortly after Russia annexed Crimea. It seems to have been removed from YouTube but I still remember some of it.

    The important point is it was obviously staged. The interviewer was very deferential, and Putin was relaxed as if he knew what questions were coming. In other words, this was Putin unofficially telling us what his stance was on various matters.

    The interviewer asked Putin why Russia had sent troops into Crimea but not into Luhansk and Donetsk.

    Putin replied that in the referendums, Crimea had overwhelmingly voted to return to Russia, so he sent in the troops to ensure that, but Luhansk and Donetsk had said they were content to remain part of Ukraine provided they became self-governing, hence no troops.

    In other words, at that time this is the deal Putin would have settled for: Ukraine has to cede Crimea to the Russians, and lose some control over the Donbas but retain its industrial capacity, and presumably stop the ethnic cleansing of Russians and maintain non-NATO neutrality.

    Obviously, the Ukrainians thought they could get a better deal by throwing in their lot with the West. They’re now in a mess and I don’t see how they’re going to get out of it.

  228. Great post John.

    Trump looking stronger and stronger these days.

    We know Trump hates losers so its looking likely, assuming he wins, that in 2025 he will pull the plug on Ukraine and force them to surrender to the Russians.

    As for Europe, its a open question whether Trump will have any time for NATO as he is known as a major sceptic.

    Trump is a hard nosed realist when it comes to geopolitics and I do wonder if he looks at the state of the US military and decides that the US is better off withdrawing from the bulk of Europe, leave them to the tender mercies of the Russians and avoid finding out if the US military is capable of taking on the Russians.

  229. I think that one aspect in the development of civilization is the development of moral/legal systems. In civilizations infancy, moral/legal frameworks are less complex/sophisticated, more centered around might makes right/and the direct interests of groups work together/against one another. The winners in these early games can bring law, a moral legal framework which is more abstract, it is no longer as kosher for the one with most might to act with impunity, if they do everyone will turn on them, and they will no longer be the most mighty. This is system gets traction because it help stabilize everyone’s position in society, while at the same time making the society stronger against outside threats. It is also likely at least thought to be backstopped by some divine principle (mandate of heaven, the Abrahamic God, Jupiter, in our system Progress). As time progresses the moral/legal system becomes more abstract, what was developed originally as a means of competing groups settling there differences peacefully, with a minimum destructive competition has progressed, to something which should be followed simply because it is righteous. Where I assume that the original warlords who ran France were at least dimly aware that the reason why they got to stay in the big house was because they terrified the peasants, and ensured their military was happy, the occupants of the Palace of Versailles believed that they should be followed simply because they had the right blood, and God, Providence, the legal code, or whatever deemed them important.

    Similarly I suspect that the original authors of the post world war 2 order was much more cognizant that their system relied on them having the military might to mug the rest of the world, while keeping the home populace well enough supplied to buy into the system. The current crop I think truly believes that the system is just in and of itself, all those who rebel against the System should immediately be seen as outlaws by all observers (regardless of whether the system is working for the given observer), all those who are failing in the system are miscreants who did not deserve to succeed. The possibility that, if the system fails to meet the needs of a large enough segmented of its supposed members, then they can flip the table doesn’t even occur. That is evil, God (Progress) shall surely smite those who defy it.

  230. Pure speculation on my part, but I believe the Chinese have always suspected the Russians of being secretly pro-Western, and therefore not the most reliable of allies.

    But with the West having become so decisively anti-Russian, by the dictum of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” , closer relations between the two powers are inevitable.

  231. Justin,

    Re: military fiction, if you haven’t checked out Bernard Cornwell, I recommend his Sharpe series, which is set in the Napoleonic era. It is light reading, but for my money, he does the best battle scenes, period. His Alfred the Great-era series, The Last Kingdom, is also very good.

    If you like the American/French Revolution time period, 1770-c.1820, you might like David Weber’s Honor Harrington universe. Think Napoleonic fighting sail but space.

  232. One of my friends was totally sure that Jameson Weed was based on George W. Bush, sometimes mocked as “Shrub” by those who didn’t like him. Going on that assumption, he identified many of the characters in the novel. Can’t say he was that far off. Updating it, of course “Ellen Harbin = Hillary Clinton” works as well as or better than his ” =Condoleeza Rice.” I’m sure he’s not the only reader to play that game, which just about shows where the country’s been at for the past 20 years no matter which party’s in office.

  233. Military fiction: Try Colin Iggulden. I read his Genghis Khan and War of the Roses books. He does both the political and military.

    Learned about the Battle at Badger Mouth Pass (Yehuling) between Genghis Khan and the Jin Dynasty of Northern China. It is a battle that few in the West know about. It pitted 90,000 Mongols against 135,000 Chinese, with heavy casualties, and wiped out the Chinese forces. In other words, it is a battle and campaign worth noting.

  234. About David Brooks.
    I read the exact same thing in the Washington Post. Word for word. Everyone has doubts but they remain convinced that Trump is the Evil Satan. I gauge how much Biden and group are losing by how many articles and essays come out saying how wonderful he and they are. It is really quite the indicator of how threaten they feel. Most evil Trump, good Biden, the more desperate they are to convince themselves that they are Good People.

    Meanwhile Trump (Orange Squid) has happened upon something that will keep him ahead. He realizes that everyone is in a swamp, stuck in the mud, unable to get out. He has offered a way out through the jungle. Take his hand, you will be able to shake loose the mud. Brooks and Wash. Post don’t even recognize that there is a swamp out there, let alone people being stuck in it.

    BTW: The Washington Examiner (Conservative and anti-Trump) is reporting that no one outside of Biden and Brooks and friends wants the war in Ukraine. They don’t want any U.S. troops, materials, or money going to the war.

  235. I may be pedantically incorrect, but I no longer refer to European nations as “allies”, as they are more effectively just vassal states to the U.S. But I hope that may be on the verge of changing (fingers crossed) in response to the accelerating recklessness of American ambitions in response to her declining fortunes.
    In any case, the predicament(s) besetting the U.S. and its empire of sycophants is summed up nicely in this handy quote that I’ve always liked: “The true rulers of any society are its unchallenged assumptions.” ~ Ran Prieur

  236. It is a well known psychological phenomenon that people subconsciously project their own flaws and weakness’s on their enemies. So perhaps what we are seeing with regards to the establishments under estimation of Russia is not Stormtrooper syndrome but this type of projection.
    We decided that Russia’s military is weak and outdated with poorly motivated troops and equipment not suited for the job, when in fact some in the beltway may fear is the case with us.
    We assume that the Russian population is frustrated and disenchanted with its leadership, which we view as weak and unpopular and ready for replacement at the drop of a hat. Yet any person in Imperial Washington with a brain larger than a squirrels must secretly harbor this fear about their own regime.
    And finally we assume that the Russian population is shallow and consumer driven such that they will give up and replace those in power if they have to pay more for jeans, or cell phones because of sanctions. When in reality it is those in Washington who live in fear that they will be ousted if gas prices get too high, or Toilet paper gets hard to find.

  237. As your readership expands, I believe you will get more exposure to what Joe Six-Pack is thinking. As a certified member of the hoi polloi, I think it is really important what Joe is thinking.

    A super majority of Americans now think the country is falling apart. Not sure when this happened but it must have been after 2000. Gallup should know.

    In 1968 the public was sick and tired of LBJ. But people did not think the country was falling apart.

  238. @Horzabky

    “It was obvious to me that there could be no complete and affordable replacement for Russian natural gas. I’ve been interested in petroleum depletion for almost twenty years […]”

    I’ve mentioned Karin Kneissl before, former Austrian minister of “Europe, integration and foreign affairs” – admittedly, a kind of vague title.

    However said person has been a diplomat since the 1980s in Austria, is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish, and has spent a good deal of her time in the middle east.
    She is also an expert in petroleum affairs (to this, later).

    She fell into disgrace because she is pro-russian, had her govt mandate from the also pro-russian right-wing party FPOe and invited Putin himself to her wedding. Also, she criticised the EU and German politics in the 2015 grand immigration event and while in office, rejected the UN “Global Compact for Migration”.

    Almost needless to say, she is a non-person now in Austria and wider-Europe. Recently she has been living in Lebanon.

    After being vilified by the established political class and media here in Austria and the EU, she has become a prominent expert in Asia for energy security matters.

    In an interview in Asia Times, she recounted her story of diplomacy and politics, and talked about her expertise in energy matters. Since the 80s, she states, functionaries of the government are all preoccupied with marketing and spin doctoring, while lacking any real experience or even interest in topics like energy security.

    Read up here:

    She has vocally warned against the sanction policies against Russia and the consequences.

    Our papers have villified her so much, even government critics think little more than a clown of her. Putin? Far Right Wing party? Must be someone without a brain!

    You’ll have to look hard to find people so experienced in diplomatic terms as well as in key sectors of government and economy (THE key sector, as we know…). But THAT escapes almost everyone!
    What is a meaningless clown to us Westerners is a person of diplomatic weight with sought after expertise in the emerging powers of the planet.
    This is the stormtrooper syndrome in effect.

  239. John
    This isn’t connected to this particular post but I’d just like to say I am currently reading paths of wisdom which I find to be extremely refreshing, it is clear, evidenced , and well written in a time when all of these are in short supply and especially in what one might term esoteric books. I posted here because I couldn’t find other contact details and I just wanted to say thank you because your book has greatly enriched me at exactly the right moment .
    Dr Mark Brickley

  240. This is the latest of half a dozen or so articles I’ve seen in the last few days suggesting what is known in management-speak as Expectation Management, may be starting. It’s from the UK DailyTelegraph/Torygraph which for the last year has been publishing absurdly optimistic opinion pieces on Ukraine, practically every week.It is a newsfeed, but at this moment headed by by an article on Russian gains. It may be behind a paywall, though strangely I can read it all Telegraph articles on my phone:

  241. Out the eyes of an average academic, it is no surprise that Russian must seem like both evil as well as incompetent. It is true that for decades now, the infrastructure in the EU (to some part still in the US) is top-notch world wide, and especially the EU has boasted an enourmously low crime rate and violent crime rate, .virtually no hunger, in countries like Austria previously barely any homelessness, almost 100% literacy….

    Every middle class academic visiting another part of the world must come to this conclusion – nowhere as safe, reliable, peaceful, and expressive as here! It’s still true.

    Yes, true, true. The topics of energy security, industrial production, diminishing returns…nothing an average person will really hear about comprehensively. Bits and pieces here and there, but as late Neil Postman said, such pieces aren’t worth much without broader context.

    Currently, my social class is still doing long-range flights for holidays, so nothing really changed.

    Wait, there’s one thing: since this year one promise for the middle class here has been broken – loans aren’t readily available anymore, to build a house, for which costs are skyrocketing anyways, or to buy an apartment, same problem.

    Another ecosophian told me projects in the construction sector are being cancelled in April, the newspapers have recently alarmed the construction of housing and apartment units is lagging, and my friend who works as a salesman in the construction industry has informed me today, that times are changing into a recession.

    This is a break. It was always the promise you can have a house, if you have half a middle class job available. Until the 1970s, even a working class man could afford a house, at the end of his working days, but only when he saved money for that.

    Still, it isn’t hard to believe Russia is weak and incompetent. Like most countries on the planet, it shows derelict infrastructure and problems the 1st world countries had kind of eradicated these years (though they are slowly coming back…out of sight for my social class though, mostly).

    But times are changing. Russia nothing but a petty gas station with nuclear arms? Kind of a North Korea with oil and gas? Maybe, but then, Russia runs one of the FOUR extant global satellite navigation systems in the world (GLONASS) – together with the EU, USA and China.

    But which academic would know. Our smartphones use GPS, the US system. IDK what this EU satellite nav system is for – it had many problems until recently and isn’t well known around here at all. It has not replaced GPS in any everyday application known to the average middle class individual.

    Russia’s military is weak and falling apart? Maybe. People take the unchanging front lines as an indicator, but in a war of attrition, it means nothing.

    The average academic can’t be blamed to not understand so many underlying implications of this whole global affair. Judging by what we see in a normal daily life, by the media we usually consume, things sure seem to fit the narrative.

    Only slowly, things are really unraveling for us.

    It is still the case that an Austrian restaurant waiter may book a flight to Brazil with his earnings, but not the other way around!

    This is written by me, a man with a living standard far above most people on the planet, as well as most people in my own country (Austria).

  242. LeGrand, granted, but I’m sure they could find it on a dark night! (I bet every seagull in the Undying Lands knew where it was, too; come to think of it, maybe that’s how Earendil knew where to go.)

    Your Kittenship, you’d be amazed how few people got that joke.

    Jessica, oh, granted. But most science fiction only pretends to be about the future; nearly all of it is about the present or the past, just in glitzy drag.

    Grover, that sounds about right. When a nation loses track of the fact that it may actually have to fight for its survival one of these days, absurdities like that follow promptly.

    Martin, yep. Misjudgments like that are are a commonplace of history; as you doubtless know, Hitler was sure Britain and France wouldn’t declare war when he invaded Poland, and he was shocked and dismayed when they did.

    Forecasting, I wonder when the Democrats will realize that their attempted prosecutions of Trump just make him more appealing to more Americans; so many people here know what it’s like to be unfairly singled out by clueless people in power. That said, I’m far from sure Ukraine will still be fighting in 2025.

    Dagnarus, that seems quite reasonable. One factor I’d insert is that morality and law are not the same thing. It’s the confusion between them — the conviction that current laws are not just an expression of who has how much power but a body of timeless moral truths — that makes late aristocracies like ours so vulnerable to sudden collapse.

    Other Owen, that’s about right!

    Patricia M, good. I didn’t have any particular administration in mind when I worked out the characters, and I went out of my way not to mention anybody’s party affiliation so the book couldn’t be misread as a partisan tract — but the US government characters were all inspired by common types in Washington DC.

    Neptunesdolphins, fascinating. I wonder what kind of deals will be cut as the debacle of the Biden administration becomes ever more difficult to ignore.

    Fedora, “client states” is a nice neutral term but, yes, “vassals” will do. I don’t think Europe is in any position to stand alone just now — it’s too dependent on its own neocolonial relationships, and those are fraying fast. But we’ll see.

    Clay, you know, that’s a valid argument.

    Roman, I live in a working class neighborhood, and spent nine years living in an impoverished town in the Appalachians; I’m very comfortable with working class people. I’m quite aware that most people think that the country is falling apart, and they’re right — but we were talking about the arrogance of presidents before you changed the subject.

    Dr. Mark, thank you!

    Robert, hmm! If they’ve lost the Torygraph…

    Curt, all this reminds me powerfully of what I’ve read of life in Vienna in the years just before 1914.

  243. Stormtroopers have another distinctive characteristic – their humanity is abstracted away by their identical armor and helmets, which means no one needs to treat them as persons, or think too hard about their motivation.

    Because western armies think in terms of stormtroopers, there is a need to make the enemy faceless, and avoid having most military personnel actually get too close a look at enemy combatants. Hence the heavy use of tech like drones. Drones are often presented as a technology designed to save (western) human lives. But I believe its more important function is the ability to minimize the number of service members who will ever have to lock eyes with an enemy combatant.

    I remember reading about someone who lives in a middle eastern country who claims he was wrongly put on the drone hit list (this was sometime during Obama’s presidency). He said he can not go out of his home of fear of being targeted by a drone flying many miles over him, controlled by a service member sitting in a base somewhere in the world, because his picture was put in a database by someone, who knows why.

  244. Forgive me if I am being totally ignorant. Many commenters here predict a Trump victory in 25. But here in the UK it’s being reported he stands accused on 36 criminal charges and that it’s more or less a done deal that he’s going to prison. Tangential to Ukraine, I know, but still- can you please explain what is really going on to non-Americans?

  245. Justin Patrick Moore-

    I read “Fields of Fire” (by James Webb (not the “James E Webb” for whom the space telescope was named)), about American troops in Vietnam, and found it to be enlightening.


  246. JMG – I don’t think enough attention is being paid to the role of the natural gas trade re: the war in Ukraine. Before the was started, and (I think) before Russia took Crimea, the only news I heard about Ukraine was their habit of stealing Russian gas destined for western Europe, and not paying the bill for gas they bought from Russia. Now, to the extent that western Europe is prevented from getting Russian gas (not to imply that it’s entirely blocked), it’s an opportunity for North American LNG to be sold there. It might not have been enough of a factor to start the war, but it certainly pushed in that direction.

    It’s not hard to speculate, also, that Ukrainian business interests could make Joe Biden an offer he couldn’t refuse: “take the money, or your son Hunter doesn’t come home. He could easily have a terrible accident, in Kiev or in Wilmington, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  247. Roman @ 252, about hoi polloi (of which I also am a proud member) attitudes: I believe the tipping point was the Simpson murder trial, which was televised. We were treated to the sight of highly paid, credentialed people doing their jobs at a level of incompetence which would have gotten most of us fired. I think my favorite moment came when a policeman testified that he went on a tour of the defendant’s house with a vial of the defendant’s blood in his pocket. Um, excuse me, are not blood samples supposed to be labelled, logged and kept in temperature-controlled storage???

  248. Excellent analysis.

    What I’ve noticed in America for a long time: everybody around me believes they are a god.

    I go on with my life trying to ignore it, but I can’t. So I have to make do and allow others to have their delusions while patiently awaiting their (and my) end.

  249. It’s good to know I’m not alone in thinking there’s something profoundly problematic about the whole good-versus-evil-save-the-shire/galaxy/whatever trope so predominant in modern entertainment and popular fiction. Don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it especially perverse when WAR is brought into the story of the movie or novel in question; as I see it, there are certain things you just DON’T fictionalize about (did I coin a new word?), and war is one of them. You want to tell a war story? Show your audience the REALITY of war, please, for goodness’ sake. No blood and gore? No brains or intestines spattered all over the shop? And you can draw a clear line between the angels and devils? And the angels ALWAYS WIN??

    Yeah, right.

    (The harrowing 1985 Film COME AND SEE directed by Elem Klimov does just that: show the reality of war. Flyora is NOT another incarnation of Frodo or Luke Skywalker.)

    It’s not that I don’t like fantasy/sci-fi. And it’s not that I don’t like stories that lead in some positive direction. But what are the philosophical presuppositions underlying your narrative? And how do they work out in your narrative? If there’s something called THE FORCE in the Universe of your story, is ALL LIFE perhaps a manifestation of it? That would utterly blur if not erase any line between angels and devils, because those we call the bad guys would be manifestations of the Force as much as the good guys are, merely too deeply sunk, perhaps, in the delusion of individuated consciousness. This would open up the possibility that they could have their delusion removed and become enlightened — maybe through the use of some special kind of super-science. Lots of wonderful plotlines could come from this. And if you ask me, I think such a VISION would be far more exalted than the usual one in which some are irredeemably bad and just have to be thrashed. And please don’t tell me this is ‘too pretty’ a picture. What can’t happen in a world of the imagination? If you can have a ring wearing which makes you evil, why can’t you also have a ring wearing which makes you good?

    There’s a reason why I haven’t stepped inside a cinema for almost thirty years.

  250. Re: military fiction.

    Huge thanks to everyone who has responded do far. I will post a more detailed reply tomorrow, as I am tight on time today. Hope everyone is having a good Saturday and gets to do something they enjoy.

  251. >In 1968 the public was sick and tired of LBJ. But people did not think the country was falling apart.

    Maybe not in 1968. But in 1979? Even so, what’s going on now makes 1979 look like the Good Old Days.

  252. >The stubborn resistance of Lin Zhao.

    I can almost guarantee you that people like her will not be making military decisions or setting foreign policy.

  253. >But most science fiction only pretends to be about the future; nearly all of it is about the present or the past, just in glitzy drag.

    And it shows when you watch old sci-fi shows the most. Then you realize they always think the future is going to be like the present, only even more so. It’s not really the future they’re portraying but the hyperpresent.

  254. Regarding “stormtroopers” the question I always had is this: “Why is their armor as bad as their aim?”

    Not only can they NOT shoot, they get easily taken out by a single shot. Seems like it’s more of a clunky uniform then actual armor; however, the “armor” does conveniently dehumanize them so that their massive losses are more commercially palatable.

    JMG, I’ve been following the war very closely monitoring all sides and agree with your assesment — a year or less, probably this year. Ukraine is running out of men, equipment, ammunition and the patience of the citizens of foreign countries over continued aid. NATO senses this and is engaging in increasingly desperate maneuvers to forestall the inevitable. It could get really ugly before the AFU collapses entirely.

  255. @Roman, yes, the consensus that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave with shared patriotism I knew decades ago is no more. This does not bode well for the social cohesion of the country. As it says in the Bible, “a people without a vision perish” In 2001 the country after 9/11 sang “God Bless America” including Congress, both republicans and democrats. I do not see that happening again.

  256. @JMG


    well two takes I know is first an astrologer from Vienna (Astrowolf Wien). I don’t share all the ideas he has (Chemtrails etc), and I also do not understand astrology.
    I can only anectodally say, often I felt like he predicted in his daily reports, and once, he said “tomorrow will be a day where friendships that have fallen apart after an argument come together again”. The next day my precious friend who was angry at me for some reason called again after about two and a half months.
    He is always humble about his predictions, often stressing how things might conceive in a certain way, but “astrology is not a precise forecast there”.

    Repeatedly he predicts a densification of chaotic signs around the new moon 13. of Nov and thereafter. I don’t remember too many details, sorry.

    Again he said, he cannot put out absolute certainties here, but he has not seen alike in all his years.

    Another is some random russian german shaman on yt – yes I know, most random that. I just found her concise, not using too many words at all. She predicted something of a long descent – a bit shorter, and giving advice in the vein you do – and said “winter 2022 will not be too hard. It is winter 2023 when many things will be turning!”-

    That was something like August 2022.

    All in all, I have reason to believe the UKR offensive is not going well (“weeds and shrubs are hindering our brave soldiers”,”…we have a problem with ammunition…”,”UKR offensive not going well…”). I have reason to believe, this will have consequences in the timeframe you gave.

    A friend who actually earns money speculating on the stock markets (successfully) and predicted some of the rumblings this year earlier (though they were not as intense yet) – said that the West as such is heavily indebted with the affair in UKR. Should it unravel, he warns forebodingly, many things will unravel!

    As I said: I have been far too apocalyptic in too short a timeframe with my own predictions many times before. This winter is a good example. Yet, the direction I am thinking is not at all unlike what I see.


  257. A gloomy quote from a different blog (an economic one) about unmotivated workers that fits well here;

    “They got lives to live, and no faith in the future. If you want ’em motivated to work, they need to starve a little… otherwise they’re just gonna muddle along until their robot replacement arrives.

    It’s different on the way down than it was on the way up. The incentives have changed.”

  258. As for military science fiction, there is a series based on Falkenberg’s Legion. the CoDominium is nearing collapse sets the background. An interesting twist is that the further you get from a spaceport the lower tech the implements get.

    As for NATO, I can see a limited case for it to remain, keeping the North Atlantic sealanes open, and even extending that to the Mediterranean Sea. After all, historically pirates were a problem. But really that is about the only remaining useful purpose for it.

    If sense were to break out an Arctic Naval Treaty Organization would get organized. The US, Canada, Denmark (by way of Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and maybe even Britain have common interests up there.

  259. Justin,
    Ernst Jünger’s early work is worth a read. I’m also partial to the old Hornblower novels, and of course there is always Flashman!

  260. FourSided, that’s an excellent point.

    Miow, nowhere in the US constitution does it say that a convicted felon can’t be president. Trump could win the election from prison and pardon himself, and then the fewmets will really smite the windmill.

    Lathechuck, it’s certainly an important factor!

    SGP, basically, yes. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make stupid.

    G Wang, the whole point of that kind of loathsome fiction is that it allows people who will never face the reality of war to feel good about sending other people off to fight and die. The vision you suggest is indeed more exalted, and that’s why it’s unpopular — it doesn’t leave room for the privileged to pretend that they’re not causing hideous suffering.

    Other Owen, yes indeed — and not just the SF you watch. It’s painful reading old Isaac Asimov these days — it’s all 1940s and 1950s America with a few Tomorrowland trinkets.

    TJ, another good point. As for Ukraine, it certainly looks desperate from here; it wouldn’t surprise me if the Russians go on the offensive in a big way in the near future.

    Curt, thanks for this. We’ll see!

    Siliconguy, what he may not realize is that starving a little is what they get from working for the existing order. These days, increasingly, if you want to prosper you quit your job and find some way to work off the books, under the table, or at least entirely for yourself.

  261. A saying of my father – As long as we have young men and older men (and at times older women) to send the young men off to fight we will have war – Progress is that young women get to go too??? I don’t think so.

  262. Hi John Michael,

    You’ve got my brain cogitating! So, events on the ground spiral out from the control of the elites. The population experiences rising costs for the policies being pursued, say inflation, pollution and population pressure, just for a couple of examples. The elites respond by clamping down, not on events, but on controlling the narrative. The costs continue to rise. The road ends in failure.

    But at some point along that road, there is a tipping point. Sun Tzu advised never to back your opponents into a corner for they fight back with a recklessness far beyond their numbers.

    Does history have anything to say about the tipping points? They seem like pretty random and unlikely events to me. Innocuous, almost. But the events become a way of talking about and acting upon, things left unsaid. And that is the risk as I see it with controlling the narrative, the elites stop talking about things that matter, or say: “No it isn’t!” Hmm.



  263. I agree that morality and law and law aren’t the same. But the moral system are both being manipulated. It was immoral to not get the vaccine, or vote for trump. In some places/times it is/was considered immoral to be a homosexual, while still being legal.

    Does there exist a single correct morality. If you’re following a monotheistic religion, probably whatever your deity espouses. If your polytheistic this is less clear to me. From a practical standpoint, I think everyone should aspire to some moral standard, I don’t believe you can expect that system to ever match the platonic ideal.

    All of this is a long way of saying. I think that the current corporate aristocracy is pushing a rather one sided moral system upon us, while also attempting to expand the legal system to reflect it.

  264. Miow – Foreign audiences should also understand that “indictment” is not “conviction”. It’s only a judgement that there is a reason to hold a trial. Of course, those who slyly promoted Trump (as the easiest Republican for Hilary to defeat) assume that “THIS time, they got him”, but we heard headlines throughout his presidency that “THIS time, it’s the end.” After all, they impeached (that is, indicted by the House of Representatives) him TWICE, and did not get a conviction in either trial (in the Senate). There’s an old saying in American law: “a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” The grand jury hears only the prosecutor’s side of the story before issuing the indictment, but the trial jury hears both prosecution and defense arguments.

    News is reporting that Trump’s defense will argue that he relied on faulty legal advice (“he’s not a lawyer, but his lawyers approved his statements, so it’s not his fault”), and 1st Amendment protection of free speech (“He was just expressing his personal views, not conspiring to break the law.”) “Intent” to break the law is part of the standard for conviction, and “knowing” that the election was actually fair while claiming otherwise, is also part of it.

    Mischievously, arguments as to whether he really knew that he had lost “a fair election” may allow his defense to present evidence of election fraud (if any such evidence exists), I’m sure to hilarious effect.

  265. Re: NATO, and Trump. Back in 2018, the Mainstream Media heard Trump threaten to reduce US funding for NATO… and didn’t hear him say “because NATO countries aren’t keeping up with their 2014 pledges to spend 2% of GDP on their own defense.” I think that’s sort of like a parent telling a young adult child “I’m going to kick you out of this house” … “if you don’t do your share of the household chores.” It doesn’t mean that the child is unwanted, it just means that the parent is trying to get the child’s compliance with a fair set of rules, by threatening consequences for non-compliance. When they wanted us to think that he was too friendly with the Russians, weakening NATO was part of the narrative. His Insistence that NATO allies should spend more to defend themselves (from Russia) seems to have escaped their notice.

  266. @Miow (#259) and JMG’s reply (#275):

    An elected president cannot exercise presidential powers until he had been sworn in to the office. If Trump is already in prison by then, presumably for more than four years, the logistics of that swearing-in will be unusually complicated, and will be subject to the judgement of the prison’s governor, so the swearing-in itself may be delayed for some time. Meanwhile the elected vice-president will have been sworn in on the usual date. There is no law, only custom, that says the vice-president elect cannot be sworn in until after the presidient elect has been sworn in.

    Could a reasonable interpretation of Section 1 of the 25th Amendment then permanently elevate that new vice-president to the presidency in the interim, in despite of Trump’s election victory?

    MIght s\he then decide that s\he likes being president enough to refuse to pardon Trump and step back down into the vice-presidency?

    Unlikely, one might say … yet it never pays to underestimate human mendacity and selfishness. I think it easily falls within the realm of the possible.

    I can only imaging the country-wide outrage and unrest that such an unprecedented scenario would provoke …

  267. I really didn’t explain myself very well. First I was trying to say that we had fallen very low very fast between 2014 and 2023. Then I was trying to say that even though many people could see this coming, the majority probably didn’t catch on until recently. Probably after 2014. At least I knew what I was talking about.

  268. military fiction: I second the recommendation of Patrick O’brien’s naval novels. A British historian named Harry Sidebottom has published a series of novels set in Ancient Rome around the time of Constantine. Those are quite good as well.

  269. “Weeds and shrubs”? Have they never heard of agent orange? If we/they have sunk to using cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions, what is stopping them/us?

  270. Chris, history does have quite a bit to say about the tipping points. Very often they’re unimportant, embarrassing little things: the tipping point that made the French Revolution inevitable was the Affair of the Necklace, an absurd little scandal that finished the process of erasing the last sense of legitimacy surrounding the rule of the Bourbon kings. Any number of silly little things could have a similar effect this time around.

    Dagnarus, okay, thanks for the clarification. You’re quite right, of course — the corporate aristocracy is pushing a very specific moral ideology, which basically allows it to justify its abuses and still claim to be the Good People. An increasing number of people don’t buy it any more, and the attempt to force that moral ideology on people using the legal system is the result.

    Robert, true! I assume that Trump will have that in mind when he chooses a running mate.

    Roman, fair enough.

    Phutatorius, maybe they’re stuck with “Orange spray bad!” circling through their heads…

  271. JMG – Re: Agent Orange – It’ll be hard to fly defoliant sprayers over a war zone with anti-aircraft weapons. Hard to fly them twice, that is.

  272. Good heavens, JMG, have people forgotten Aunt Polly’s jim[p]son weed so soon?

  273. Seems that, basically, we’re talking about an entire rulership class suffering from delusions of adequacy. I almost long for the nearly as ruinous attitude of original sin and inadequacy as a foundation for action. Delusions, basically, no matter where derived, once they reach a certain level of pervasiveness in a polity that are not tethered to actual circumstances, are universally disastrous.

    To a certain extent we all suffer from delusions in some fashion, and (pardon my preaching) it is our work as students of the higher powers whether as mystics or magicians or simply as thoughtful people, to reduce delusions’ influence on us personally, and by our example to reduce their effects on those around us. I most admire those who in the most dire circumstances retained their commitment to this goal. One is minded of fairly ordinary Tibetan monks going into Chinese prisons who took it as their practice daily and constantly to forgive their captors and cultivate lovingkindness towards them, who emerged as accomplished adepts who even caused those who mistreated them to be at least abashed and even (secretly) their students. There are other examples of such heroic commitment in prisons and concentration camps and even battlefields, some of whom have been officially designated saints and others who were that without any official anything.

    I hesitate to mention this, but as the tides of collapse swirl around us, some of may well be called upon to remember these people and emulate them. Even now, it seems to me that clear-headedness is practically a lethal condition which must be dealt with by remembering the fourfold admonition: to know, to will, to do, and (note it well) to keep silent. That last requiring some extra discernment in order to practice it properly.

    Believe me, I don’t think I’m some high exalted poo-bah to be saying these things. They are as much for my own encouragement as anyone else’s. I don’t regard the geopolitical situations being discussed here as anything other than incredibly serious and fraught with possibilities both awful and awesome.

  274. JMG, Chris: it strikes me that tipping points almost have to be trivial things. If they weren’t, the sheer gravitas of the event would be enough to leave a trace of legitimacy for the regime.

    To put it somewhat bombastically: political regimes are supposed to be Important(tm) and do Important Things(tm). If they fail at those Important Things(tm), well at least it’s an Important Failure(tm).

    By contrast, if a regime manages to embarrass itself over something truly trivial, that calls into question just how Important(tm) it really is.

    As an analogy: an expert art thief who gets caught in the act of stealing the Mona Lisa will likely get an adoring fan club for his troubles; but if he gets caught pilfering a Thomas Kinkade calendar at a Walmart, he’ll be a laughing-stock from then on.

  275. A very interesting article, JMG. I’ve already shared it with some friends, and so far, all I’ve heard in response are cricket sounds. Which is better than foaming at the mouth rage, “BUT THE GOOD GUYS HAVE TO WIN!!!” I’m almost tempted to ask some of them, in the event of a Russian victory, if that means the Russians were the Good Guys? But that would be unnecessarily kicking a hornet’s nest.

    I find the Stormtrooper Syndrome a delightful way of explaining what is happening now. Starting as a very young child, I was a fan of Star Wars. I really loved the franchise (granted, as a very small boy, it was Spaceballs that initially drew me into the actual SW franchise). I even enjoyed the prequel trilogy. Then came the other films. The woke stuff, and so on. I hated it. I felt like it ruined the franchise.

    Then, as I became more and more “red pilled,” I finally asked myself, “maybe the franchise sucked from the start?” The simplistic morality tale, where the Bad Guys are blatantly obvious clichés and the Good Guys are paper thin. I hate that kind of story, and now can’t seem to understand what I ever saw that was likeable in Star Wars. Spaceballs is more entertaining.

    It is actually quite scary to see how many of my fellow Americans are still operating under that simplistic and easily debunked view of reality. It is really concerning that a figurehead with dementia and his puppet handlers buy into it, and have control of a very large nuclear arsenal. I hope those leaders are dissuaded from anything too insane by considering how lousy life would be in a VIP bunker eating MREs while ruling over a radioactive wasteland before running out of supplies and dying.

    The swing of the pendulum and how it doesn’t return to the same position, and the comments on Catholicism/Christianity, has helped me to realize something else. I started out as a dogmatic atheist (I utterly detested the Pentecostal services my mother dragged me to as a child), then became a Catholic as a young adult. I held to the worst conservative attitudes of the faith, and became a complete butthead. This is consistent with the mistakes I made in the two past lives that I have some memories of.

    The Catholic god eventually sent me into a spiritual exile (your OT reference in #27 hit me like a ton of bricks; this is essentially what happened to me on the individual level), and I’ve worshiped a number of deities since. They gradually, and kindly, led me (pretty recently) back to near my starting point, but as a henotheist who can finally appreciate and embrace the points you made in chapter ten of “A World Full of Gods.” The Catholic god has finally begun answering my prayers again. Who would have thought? And I remain forever grateful to the gods who journeyed with me for a time.

    Anyway, I am hoping that, if the Russians win this war (as seems very likely to me), the crushing blow to Western folks might lead more people to reject the rule of our globalist warmongering leaders. Though that may or may not result in an improved situation in the West. The Bolsheviks weren’t much of an improvement over the Tsars, after all. With no clear good guys and no clear bad guys, I’m content to focus on myself, my family, and my dear friends. The rest is more or less completely out of my control.

  276. Justin, et al
    A non fiction book about war that is one of the best I have ever read is Philip Caputo’s ” A Rumor Of War” about his experience in Vietnam. as a marine Lt. I think we were actually on one operation together when I was a photojournalist.

    One thing I never hear mentioned, though Scott Ritter, Douglas Macgregor or Larry Johnson probably have and I missed it, is that Crimea is Russia’s only warm water port and they will never let it go. It would be similar to expecting the US to give up Pearl Harbor.

  277. So the main factors now emerging in US politics might be:

    A crushing defeat in Ukraine.
    The involvement of Hunter Biden in Ukrainian corporations.
    President Biden’s obvious cognitive decline.
    The Democrat attempt to jail the leading Republican candidate.
    Economic pressures bought about by ongoing loss of reserve currency status.

    And of course Election 24.

    Have I missed anything else? I’ve tried to frame this in neutral terms but it seems like a fairly explosive mixture to me already.


  278. Hello JMG,

    at this point a big thank you for this (once again) convincing essay and that you take the trouble to reply to (almost) every comment. Also a thank you to the other commenters who have a lot of useful and interesting things to say.

    Simplicius posted a very readable situation report today that complements very well your view of things. He wrote that 61 Ukrainian infantry/- and tank brigades have to defend 1,300 kilometers of frontline. According to old Soviet doctrine, this leaves the Ukrainian army understaffed by a factor of 10 to effectively defend a front line, while Russia is currently fighting with the gas pedal half depressed.

    Consequently, there could be another huge wave of mobilization in Ukraine. There are early signs of this. However, the material and the leaders are lacking to form a powerful army out of this. With Western support crumbling, Zelensky’s only hope is an overreaction from Russia that forces NATO to make new concessions. Certain attacks on civilian buildings in Moscow should be seen against this background. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Wehrmacht attacks with V1/V2 rockets on London in the final phase of World War II.

    Simplicius predicts that, barring unforeseen events, the war may enter its decisive phase next year. The war would thus be much shorter than expected. Originally, he expected the conflict to last 3-5 years, if not 10.

  279. Hi John Michael,

    Interesting. Very interesting, actually. Hmm. You’ve got me wondering now, have other times in history had their collective ‘dream’? What I’m observing is that as the Great Australian Dream (TM) fades into the rear view mirror, if you look really hard, you’ll see a sullenness in many parts of the population. It expresses itself in all sorts of unusual ways, that’s for sure. Dunno.

    The trappings of the dream never seemed worth it to me, but then I skip to my own dance in this matter. However, it has become increasingly difficult to get that concept across to the people infected with the sullenness and that presents problems. Mate, I’m thinking about this matter, yeah. Got any advice for me?



  280. Well, JMG and kommentariat, I’ve read your opinions and facts about Mr Chomsky, and I’m not very surprised by his “dirty secrets”. I’m not trusting him since COVID pandemics, when he advotaced for massive and compulsory vaxxing without nuances and charged against “antivaxxers”…This blindness and his moralist approach to the Ukraine mess, had made me distrust in him.
    Now, I know that this government funded”anarchist” and “scientist” is really, thank you! With more reason…
    I don’t watch MSM anymore, when I can avoid them, but yesterday I was in a bar with some friends and my country “public” TV said (ahem ahem); “According a reliable source in Ukraine -the Ukraine secret service- Russian ships were hit by drones…”and so on. I couldn’t stop laughing at it. Reliable source of information…Ha!
    My friends told me not to laugh, because “Ukies are tough and brave”. So I thought the same thing could be said in its day about German and Japanese troops in 2nd World War. How it ended, in spite of their b***s?
    Another question. Where is Wer? I’m making this question too. I hope this Pole commenter guy hadn’t had any problems in Poland, which is under heavy pressure by an ultranationalist far right government…
    JMG; I’ve read that in your opinion, Russians are going to win this war against Ukies undoubtfully, but I’m going to do the devil advocate role,and I’m thinking…If Russia wins this war, NATO morons aren’t going to be quiet. They could block (via Baltic Sea and by earth) and eventually conquer Kaliningrad and Leningrad in a new war, in which the “useful stupids” (Poland, the Baltic victimists and Finland as NATO slaves) may be playing the war game against Russia. Do you think they would dare to do that atrocity that may be end in a WW III?

  281. Not that I am saying this is what was, and is happening, but interesting to think on in relation to this comment re your essay on stormtrooper syndrome:

    “Hard to put it in words, but… if you, John Michael Greer, wanted to take down Mike Tyson you wouldn’t invite him to a boxing match, would you?”

    KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov’s warning to America
    “Bezmenov was born in 1939 in Mytishchi, near Moscow to a high ranking Soviet Army officer. At the age of seventeen, he entered the Institute of Oriental Languages, a part of the Moscow State University which was under the direct control of the KGB and the Communist Central Committee. In addition to languages, he studied history, literature, and music, and became an expert on Indian culture. During his second year, Bezmenov sought to look like a person from India; his teachers encouraged this because graduates of the school were employed as diplomats, foreign journalists, or spies”

    “The current ideologically-based power structure of the West outright requires that certain types of people be in positions of influence and certain types of people be sidelined. This applies to all steps of the social ladder; from kindergarten teachers to university teachers and corporate executives, and all the way up to the leaders of society itself. This has been progressing steadily for the last five decades or so, and has resulted in a major structural problem for the West. That problem is the obvious and massive degradation and misallocation of human capital in the West.”

  282. Oops! In my last comment I’ve written Leningrad instead St. Petersbourg, excuse me! I was thinking on the historiacal siege during the II WW…

  283. Some additional input on Karin Kneissl mentioned by Curt (#283):

    In an interview, Kneissl went into detail how western diplomacy (specifically EU diplomacy, but the same applies to the US) became a mere shadow of its former self.

    According to Kneissl, diplomacy is much about protocols but even more about trust, hospitality, and respecting the other. This is now completely lost in the west. In 1815 at the Wiener Kongress the defeated French were treated as sovereigns. This had changed by 1919 when the losers (Germany, Ottoman Empire, etc.) were treated as supplicants. This only got worse. Today, western diplomacy is about teaching others what to do and how to behave – there is no more respect.

    Kneissl also shared some insights about the role different countries in the EU play(ed) in international diplomacy. About Austria she says that it is de facto no longer neutral. Vienna (the same is true for Geneva) used to be a meeting ground and the Austrians used to be mediators. But as Lavrov said, these cities will gradually lose their importance as international meeting grounds. New meeting places will probably be New Dheli, Istanbul, Budapest. In other words, the center of diplomacy moves away from Europe.

    For Kneissl, the EU’s diplomatic style used to be about harmony and consensus. After von der Leyen entered the stage it’s all about being tough. And the lies about the Minks agreements mean that Paris and Berlin have lost their major diplomatic roles on a global stage.

  284. JMG
    I forgot to add in my comment last night that, not only is Crimea Russia’s only warm water port, it is also their direct maritime link to the Mediterranean, East Africa and the Indian Ocean.
    This also explains why it was so vital for them to gain port facilities in Syria.

  285. JMG,
    I have a big picture question. In the past you commented the elite use magic on themselves and others to keep the dream world they inhibit as the only viable reality.

    Would you consider “stormtrooper thinking” as one such story used as a spell, or are you simply pointing out a common bad thought habit?

  286. >maybe the franchise sucked from the start?

    It’s a children’s fairly tale. You don’t read fairy tales anymore, do you? But you do pull them out on occasion when a kid needs to be entertained. And you did enjoy them as a kid.

    >figurehead with dementia and his puppet handlers

    My question is – who is Jim Henson in this muppet show from hell?

  287. “Consequently, there could be another huge wave of mobilization in Ukraine.”

    So who is left to draft? Time for the Volkssturm? That happens when the end is near. When it gets really desperate they will lower the minimum age to 14. History is rhyming again.

  288. Andy @ 292, I am afraid I have to disagree with much of what you typed here.
    You listed: A crushing defeat in Ukraine.
    The involvement of Hunter Biden in Ukrainian corporations.
    President Biden’s obvious cognitive decline.
    The Democrat attempt to jail the leading Republican candidate.
    Economic pressures bought about by ongoing loss of reserve currency status.

    And of course Election 24.

    I doubt the upcoming election will be fought over any of the above, with the possible exception of #4, which will of course enrage Trump supporters and that might indeed be important in some Congressional districts and some states. “A crushing defeat in Ukraine” won’t affect American voting, it is not our kids being killed. One hopes it might provide the excuse needed to finally turf the neo-con fanatics out of office. As for Hunter Biden, a. it is becoming increasingly clear this addict was lured into compromising involvements, and b. he has never held elective office, has never been appointed to govt. office of any kind, and the contrast with young Mr. Kushner is pretty clear. Biden has always had his faults, but he is not a nepotist. I myself doubt Biden is long for this world, the rumor that the Democratic Powers that (fill in disgusting personal habit of choice) are trying to elevate CA Gov. Newsome to lose in his place receives some credence from this morning’s news that Gruesome plans to debate DeSantis. I doubt much of the electorate understands reserve currency status, but they do see that their own lives have gotten steadily worse.

    I suggest the following as issues that will be on voters’ minds in 2024:

    Immigration. Leftist policies have Failed. Do. Not. Work., and what about our own homeless. When do they get to be important?

    Covid, vaccines and our toxic food supply. More and more folks, ordinary middle class folks, not crackpots looking for attention, are beginning to sit up and take notice.

    The high cost of housing, which ties directly into immigration and people are beginning to see the connection. So. I am supposed to endure excruciatingly high rent (or mortgage) payments as well as increasing utility expenses so that Ms. PMC manager doesn’t have to do her own housework and Mr. construction company owner doesn’t have to pay his workers a living wage?

    China. The electorate doesn’t want a war over Taiwan, but they are also fed up with overseas manufacturing of crappy products. Buying Local is a Thing now, a growing trend among pro-business conservatives as much as among us hippy gardeners. In my opinion, the left is fast losing influence because lefties won’t give up their cherished ideology of multicultural internationalism and refuse to understand that North America is not part of Europe.

    My suggestion, for what it might be worth, watch the Kennedy presidential campaign. I doubt Mr. Kennedy will become the president or that he wants the job, but he is clearly addressing voters’ actual concerns.

  289. The current counter-offensive of the Ukraine was somewhere compared with the Battle of the Somme, a comparison which came to mind more than once. And the end of it all may well be similar to the end of the First World War: a humiliating defeat for the West, an unwelcome surprise for all those who have believed in Western propaganda about the war when things turn out to be when the aforementioned defeat happens, and an equivalent to the “backstabbing legend”, a conspiracy theory where the victorious German Reichswehr was stabbed in the back by traitors, resulting in the defeat of 1918 (the fingerpointing has already begun).

    One other interesting thing: it seems to me that the mood in Germany currently is rather subdued, probably the economic crisis has to do something with it, but the war may be another factor in this or that way.

  290. “Does history have anything to say about the tipping points? They seem like pretty random and unlikely events to me.”

    Avalanches in sand piles, more generally called self organized criticality.

    Once the sand pile reaches the critical slope the next particle added can result in any size of an avalanche. The size of the avalanche follows a power law distribution, that is there are many small collapses, fewer middle size collapses, and very few really big ones. Which sized collapse you will get from the next sand grain is unpredictable, only the long term distribution is known.

    One problem sand piles do not have is hidden rot, they are consistent throughout.

    A tree almost got me many years ago. I notched it without incident, then when I went to the back side and started my cut I was only into it a couple of inches when the bottom of the tree shattered and it came down and in the wrong direction. The tree had a large hollow core off center, my notch had randomly ended up in the thickest part of the sound wood, so there was almost nothing left holding up tree. The next small cut and the trunk failed in a completely unexpected way.

    So yes, many tipping points are hidden and unpredictable, and the bigger ones are the most unpredictable. You are more likely to get small and containable collapses, but sooner or later the big one will happen.

  291. There may be no need to worry about another pandemic coming out of Wuhan. It just may be that the next Chinese pandemic will start right here in America.

    Authorities have accidentally uncovered a “secret” and “illegal” Chinese-run lab housing about 20 “biowarfare” pathogens including the coronavirus in the Fresno area in California. This story has received little national attention. How many more labs like this are there? Does the Biden administration care?

    This reminds me of the pre-9/11 situation where lower level FBI agents noticed suspicious Saudi behavior at flight training schools. But the big shots at the FBI had more important things to worry about.

    China has thousands of years of war experience. Its master war philosopher Sun Tzu considers deception to be the main war strategy. The master tactic is “to act without being seen to act.” Kinetic war is to be avoided as much as possible.

    If China prevails over the US, it may be less due to material strength than to psychological strength.

  292. Jimson Weed? I caught onto that pun right away! Maybe it comes from living in the desert?

  293. Lathechuck, it would be child’s play to put Agent Orange into the kind of artillery shells that were designed to splash poison gas all over the battlefield. That’s First World War technology.

    Your Kittenship, seemingly so.

    Clarke, this utterance of yours —

    “Seems that, basically, we’re talking about an entire rulership class suffering from delusions of adequacy.”

    — earns you today’s gold star. Yes, exactly. Your comment more generally is also spot on, and well worth reflecting on.

    Slithy, ha! Thank you; this makes a great deal of sense.

    Brenainn, I was a fan of the first movie — I went to see it seven times during its first run in Seattle. (The UA 150 theater, now of course long since defunct, was a great place to watch it; from the seats down in front, that opening bit where the star destroyer comes overhead was a spectacle to remember.) But then I was in my teens in those days and was still outgrowing a childish fondness for Good People vs. Bad People plots; by the time the second movie came out, I found it dull. I’m fascinated, though, that you’re getting cricket noises from your friends. That suggests that reality really is starting to get a word in edgewise.

    Stephen, of course, and that’s an important point. It also explains why they’re so busy cutting deals for ice-free ports elsewhere in the world.

    Andy, the one I’d add is the collapse of public trust in the legitimacy of the government and the expert class. That’s the thing that makes this a truly revolutionary situation. A majority of Americans think that the current leadership and the experts that shape its policies are incompetent and corrupt, and this means that even a very modest crisis can spin out of control because the consent of the governed is no longer something the government can rely on. Cue 1789, 1917, and 1989…

    Executed, Simplicius is one of the bloggers I read regularly, and yes, I saw that. It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s right and the Russians drag things out for months yet, or whether they step hard on the gas pedal and cause the whole rickety structure of Ukrainian defense to collapse.

    Chris, of course other nations and ages have their collective dreams. They’re not usually framed in quite the same terms as the American or Australian Dreams, but every successful nation has a set of self-glorifying narratives that support the status quo by drawing people into emotional identification with the nation and its government. In Bourbon France and Tsarist Russia, it centered on the mystique of monarchy and the traditional loyalties surrounding it, in the Soviet Union and its client states it was the fantasy that the prophecies of Marx would be fulfilled, and so on. When those dreams implode, so does the nation. The sullen feeling you’re seeing is one stage in that implosion; it doesn’t work to talk to the sullen, because they’re working through their own emotional ties to the status quo and that’s an internal process. Once those ties snap, and they will, everything’s up for grabs.

    Chuaquin, the biggest question right now is whether NATO will try to intervene militarily in the current mess. One of the reasons the Russians have been fighting this war with a fraction of their total strength is that they’re aware of that risk. I don’t expect it to happen, however, because NATO weapon systems have turned out to be unexpectedly fragile in the recent fighting, NATO has drawn down its reserves of weapons and ammunition to dangerously low levels in an attempt to prop up the Ukrainian side, and it’s by no means certain that NATO at this point could face a full-on Russian military response without crumpling — and of course there’s the risk of things going nuclear, in which case no European nation will survive. (Big nations can potentially pull through a limited nuclear exchange; the little nations of Europe will have all their economic and political assets turned into sheets of glass by a very modest number of warheads.)

    Earthworm, whether or not that’s happening, a great many people are prepared to believe that it’s happening — and that, too, has political implications.

    Bergene, thanks for this. It astonishes me that the European elites have done so poor a job of grasping the fact that their subcontinent isn’t the center of the world any more…

    Circle, it’s a spell. Like most forms of evil magic, it works by making people stupider than they would otherwise be, and it accordingly has a particularly nasty form of blowback: the people who cast it get caught up in it, and are rendered stupid by it.

    Booklover, good. I’ve been keeping a close eye on that possibility as well.

    Roman, the big question is whether or not that lab was unknown to US authorities.

    Patricia M, good! Glad to hear that someone else got it.

  294. A case of a minor scandal that didn’t completely bring down a regime, but paralyzed one for a year or two, in my opinion, was Bill Clinton’s affair with his intern.

  295. “….and trim and cut to fit….” David Kaiser discusses Neil Howe’s new book “The Fourth Turning is Her.” here. Let me know if this is too far OT:

    (Duh! He’s just NOW discovering that?)

    Howe is hornswoggled by the fact that it’s not being resolved as the past ones have. Neither Strauss not Howe nor Kaiser are familiar with the concept I actually developed independently in an ignorant fannish way, of the Megacrisis, i.e. the life and death of recognizable eras in history. Because the three periods of history I’ve delved into deeply, not in a scholarly way, were Rome’s Dying Republic Century, its sequel The Julio-Claudian Soap Opera, and the15th Century Retreat from France.
    Once you get the concept of the Megacrisis, you’re one step away from the rise and fall of civilizations, which of course, the Fall of Rome is the one we know best.

    I do intent to download the book (popcorn in hand when I get my new teeth) and watch Howe struggle with the fact that, for once, This Time It’s Different!

  296. Again, thanks to all who have chimed in with military fiction (and non-fiction) book suggestions. Now I have my reading cut out for me. I’m copying and pasting these all of these suggestions into a document for reference. My plan is to work some of these in with the stuff I am generally more drawn to on my own to mix up my reading habits and add some more compost to the subconscious heap for future use as imaginative fertilizer.

    @Julie Hamon: Weston Ochse looks pretty cool, and I haven’t heard of his work before. More than his military fiction, though I’m immediately interested in his collections “Scary Rednecks and Other Inbred Horrors” and “Appalachian Galapagos”. Southern fiction and fiction set in the south is something I’ve read a bit more of the past year or two, and I have almost finished a 2nd and 1/2 draft of my own short novel set in Kentucky. So this cat looks interesting to me on a few levels.

    Of the “southern” books I read that I really liked include: Country Dark by Chris Offutt, Country Hardball by Steve Weddle, and the hilarious comedy of spontaneous combustion, southern politics and interpersonal relations, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson.

    @Jeff Russel: Thank you for all of these. Some notes on a few of your suggestions…

    Okay, I can see myself reading Gates of Fire pretty quick. I like the non-fiction I’ve read by Pressfield and have enjoyed hearing him speak on podcasts. But I haven’t read his novels. The War of Art is excellent non-fiction book for kicking the artist/writer/creators ass. It’s a dose of willpower in the face of resistance.

    I may give Stephenson another shot, but I gave up on the Cryptonomicon by him after about 200 pages and haven’t gone back to his works. I know some people really like all the essays of his that he embeds into his fiction. (I do have a copy of his steampunkish-hacker novel The Diamond Age that I always meant to read…).

    The Black Company by Glen Cook is high on my list as of now, because I have also been focusing on reading much more short stories and novellas, so a story collection would fit right in with the other reading project I have going on. That is also much closer to one of my usual tastes: somewhat trashy pulp style fiction.

    I’ve seen Patrick O’Brian’s books at work… but never looked into them. I may for this on the historical side of things.

    I think I did read Starship Troopers when I was going through some Heinlein novels, but I never got into John Scalzi, though I have read some of the other SF writers who came of age with him (Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross). There was lots of praise for Scalzi and Old Man’s War about a decade ago or so, so I may give that one a read too.

    I always meant to read Jim Butcher too, for some of his urban fantasy proclivities… but haven’t yet.

    Musashi sounds like a good book for some long winter nights…

    Your list would also make a good post on your blog btw!

    @Samurai_47: I’ll add Bernard Cornwell to the list! Like O’Brian I’m familiar his name and titles from library work, but that’s about it.

    @Stephen H. Pearson: I see a second person recommending Cornwall & O’Brien now. Hemingway I never could get into, but I may try again. It seems like I should have read All Quiet on the Western Front in highschool, but that title was never assigned in class. I’ll keep the other book by Remarque in mind as well.

    @tlong0038: and a third vote for Cornwall! Light reading can be quite good reading, and if they have the Sharpe titles on audiobook I may listen to them at work, where light listening is good to do while cataloging other books. Same for David Weber. There are a ton of military SF books by Weber, Flint and the like from Baen that I always see at work, and some of them do look really fun. Something with the flavor of the spirit of ’76 might be good too with the lead up to the 250th anniversary of the US of A.

    (Related: I listened to the first trilogy of S.M. Stirlings Emberverse at work and it was a fun mixture of Wicca, Scottish clan fandom, zombies, no electricity, and some nice battles… a far cry in some respects, from the deindustrial genre, but fun in its trashy way. I think there were too many undead types for me to get into the second trilogy.)

    @Lathechuck: Thanks for Fields of Fire for some Vietnam era material. The name James Webb is familiar!

    @KAN: Thanks for Ernst Junger for some German and European flavor! I’ve never read the man. The novel “The Glass Bees” looks very interesting on a quick web search.

    @Princess Cutekitten: Watership Down is a favorite! I hadn’t thought of it as a war novel, but you’re right about the aspect of patrols and scouting, etc. This makes me think too of the first few books by Brian Jacques in his Redwall series… that do have some military aspects. I liked those as a young teen, but I don’t know if I could stomach them now. Maybe just the first one…

    Some war novels on my shelf that I haven’t read by three writers whose I admire include:

    Jame Lee Burke’s “White Doves at Morning” is a longish civil war novel. J.G. Ballard’s autofiction “Empire of the Sun” about his time growing up in Shanghai during WWII. I do remember seeing the movie when I was very young, but only vague images remain. The third is from Martin Cruz Smith, his “Stallion Gate”… less about battles etc, but about Oppenheimer and others creating the bomb.

    @A Nony Moose #207. I think you are definitely right about all of those things!

  297. @Soliconguy #305 – known in folklore as “The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back.”

  298. P.S. on Kaiser’s comments on the book about the mess we’re in: Having observed my grandchildren, I totally agree with Kaiser that the turning point was 9/11… and Kaiser notes, shaking his head, that our leadership did NOT mobilize the Millennials and could have. That repeatedly, they dropped the ball. This blog post answers his unspoken question “Why?”

  299. Roman, I have also been reading about the illegal lab or storage facility, whichever it was. What I would like to know is have there been any arrests and if not, why not? Have any arrest warrants even been issued? This facility was discovered because a code inspector saw a garden hose sticking out the back wall, so someone must have been disposing of effluent through said hose. I seem to recall that one local news report mentioned people at the facility, must have been sightseeing, I guess, told investigators it was being used for covid testing or something.

  300. Here is a link to an article on Larry Johnson’s site that explains the mechanism by which Western Societies ( especially the US) have ended up with incompetent elites and are no longer able to accomplish important things or increasingly even able to maintain the things they have. It uses this as a way to explain why the Russians have performed so much better in this conflict than we have. The only thing the author seems to miss is the link to how this behavior goes hand-in-hand with an empire on the downslope. His arguments as to how the Russians and Chinese have avoided this trap are a little thin though.

  301. “It would be similar to expecting the US to give up Pearl Harbor.”

    Hell, we won’t even give up Gitmo, and everyone seems to conveniently ignore that we’ve effectively (and without question illegally) “annexed” it from Cuba. The entirety of Crimea has essentially always been Russian but we leased Guantanamo Bay in 1903 and have been squatting ever since.

  302. JMG
    Apropos the ice free ports: I see that on his recent trip there, Shoigu negotiated port facilities in N. Korea at a port not that much south of Vladivostoc, though I guess Vladivostoc freezes over whereas the N. Korean one doesn’t. It is the northern most ice free port in the Western Pacific. I guess the plan is to run a branch of the trans Siberian RR down to it. This opening should work well for N. Korea.

  303. One of the dangers of a Manichean moral dualism between Good People and Bad People is that its adherents may feel a victory for the Bad People over the Good People absolutely cannot be allowed to happen. If the Ukrainians look like losing the war there is chance of a seriously dangerous escalation by NATO.

    For this reason I actually hope that Trump wins the election next year. For all his faults he is more likely to write Ukraine off and do a cynical deal with Putin ending the war. Whereas the Democrats are so emotionally invested in Ukraine I could easily see them ordering a direct NATO intervention against Russia.

  304. Patricia, I didn’t know jimson weed grew in the desert.

    Good heavens, JMG. As recently as the early 1980’s, in one of his books Stephen King cited Tom Sawyer—the bit where Tom cons the other kids into painting the fence—and I would imagine both he and his editors thought people would recognize the reference. The loss of our past is speeding up.

  305. Hi JMG

    I’m trying to figure out what is the strategic goal of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, I suppose the Pentagon planners (I am sure this is a Pentagon managed war) thinks that taking Mariupol means an equivalent to Dien-Bien-Phu or something similar, that will cause a kind of russian army “collapse” or “armistice” or any other similar phantasy/dream,

    It reminds me the prusso-german obsession with the Cannae Battle; all the strategies of the prussian and germans generals revolve around the reenactement of the Cannae Battle to achieve the strategic defeat of their millitary opponents, and Sedan 1870 as a reenactment of Cannae was the Founding Myth of the German Empire and army with all the mental/spiritual/sentimental power that this entails.
    It works well with Moltke the Elder, almost worked in august 1914, again worked very well in May 1940 in France, but failed miserably in the Ost Front for the reasons Schevin, Isserson and Tukhachevsky detailed in their treatises about the Deep Battle Doctrine in the 1930’s where they assess that to defeat a modern big scientific-industrial state you need not one but a long chain of “Cannae” in a colossal atrittion war effort, in both senses: defensive and offensive combined arms operational level maneuvers. Because big scientific-industrial modern states have big industrial capacities and the coercive and propaganda power to achieve a total mobilization of people and resources to fight a total war during many years commiting all the population if required
    In fact they (Schevin, Isersson and Tukhachevsky) learned the right lessons from Cannae, at the end the Romans prevailed and “Cartago Delenda Est”.
    This theory explain why the Soviet Union prevailed over Germany in WWII despite the colossal initial defeats with millions of soviet soldiers lost, they learned the lessons and from the end of 1942 they won the war applying the Deep Battle Doctrine in full force.

    I am convinced that today Russia is a big scientific-industrial modern state (not “a gas station”) with the propaganda and coercive power force to mobilize millions of soldiers and a huge arms industry, and the East of Ukraine and specially Crimea is an existential issue for them, so to defeat Russia the Pentagon (all revolve around US, forget Europe or Ukraine) must be ready for a Deep Battle Atrittion War with Russia just in the Russian border, if this is not the case, I do not understand why they (the Pentagon) do not press for a peace accord ASAP before it gets worse


  306. JMG, re: your response to Chuaquin (#295), if I may. While the number of NATO nukes and delivery systems that still actually work is less than what is claimed, I’m willing to bet it is not zero. My fear at this point is that having exhausted the conventional weapons, NATO’s choice is between capitulation and nukes.

  307. Stephen, in the right circumstances that might have become a tipping point.

    Patricia M, one of the reasons I don’t put a lot of credence into Strauss and Howe is precisely that they have too rigid a scheme, one that doesn’t make room for broader arcs. That said, Howe needs to take a much harder look at 1848-1865: that crisis wasn’t resolved quickly either.

    Clay, thanks for this.

    Stephen, yep — and of course North Korea is doing very well just now off contracts for artillery shells, no doubt payable in wheat and fuel.

    Robert, that’s a real concern. If the US ordered a NATO intervention, it would be interesting — in a grim sort of way — to see how far it gets.

    Your Kittenship, oh, granted. A very long time ago — I’m not sure you were in my commentariat yet, it was that far back! — I did a post on the theme of culture death. That process has accelerated since then.

    DFC, that’s the dreadful secret of the current war. The Pentagon is so deeply enmeshed in Stormtrooper Syndrome that the failed Ukrainian counteroffensive didn’t have a meaningful strategic goal. It was intended to be the grand heroic gesture that would break through the Russian lines, send their forces reeling back to Russia, and reveal Ukraine as the triumphant Good People. It was apparently supposed to be followed by a second big thrust due east from Bakhmut through the Donbass, after which Putin’s statues would be dragged from pedestals all over Russia and Good would infallibly triumph over Evil.

    I mean this quite literally. I’ve tried to make any kind of strategic sense out of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and it has none. Even if everything had gone well and the Ukrainian forces had reached Mariupol, the Russians would simply have mobilized more reserves and kicked the meatgrinder into higher gear. Once the Russians refused to play by the Pentagon’s rules, the entire war turned — as you suggest — into a war of attrition that the Russians will win. But the NATO leadership can’t see that because they’re sure they know how the movie has to end.

    Justin, the Russian government is surely aware of this, which is why they won’t push for total capitulation. Some facesaving measure will be manufactured.

  308. @Princess Cutekitten – you’re right. It’s locoweed that grows in the desert. I had the two confused. But I still recognized the pun.

  309. @JMG. I know. Not until the end of Reconstruction. Like I said, Howe is doing a lot of trimming and cutting to fit, like a tailor with stretch fabric trying to turn a pants suit into a ballgown.

    Everybody’s also missed the point that after the Civil War, there was no equivalent of the Greatest Generation. There was the wave of settlers characterized as “sheriffs and schoolmarms” who sorta of civilized the Wild West and their equivalent genteel reformers back east, and before them, the Gilded Age types. For a good, vivid, if a bit preachy contemporary picture of those people in that era – and the sharp contrast between those two waves, I highly recommend Louisa May Alcott. Nobody mobilized the Sheriffs and-schoolmarms either, and government corruption and incompetence ran pretty high in those years.

    The ones who were mobilized were their children, later, caught in the meat-grinder of the trenches, and 1920s literature tells the rest.

    Sorry – I just now realized how full I was of the literature of the post-civil-war era and later – from childhood reading and later. Because this was living history to many of my elders!

  310. @Clay Dennis & JMG re: Why Is The West So Weak – shakes head –

    Folks, I have an official IQ in the high 140s, and have made so many bad decisions that it’s amazing that I was even able to feed myself by my own efforts (a job in the university mailroom helped a lot), and I can’t read people worth a hoot. Knock out the verbal facility and go straight to the the executive functions, and I test out a glorious 108.

    Any fool who puts me in a management position – which won’t happen because I also can’t conform or pretend to worth a hoot – would be smoking his, her, or their shorts. Which is why the tests given me when applying for work back in the day proved totally worthless. Yet, employers were going by those tests. In wholesale lots. For what this is worth.

  311. Since Patrick O’Brian’s name is coming up, I will add my note of appreciation. I hardly thought of those novels as military fiction, but of course they can be viewed that way. There are plenty of sea battles, in which the main characters don’t die, at least until very late in the series. But there’s so much humanity and humor there as well; the books were way better than what I expected. Interesting glimpses into British Admiralty politics; which officers slept with which other officers’ wives and how that affected their careers, for example. I think in at least one book, they never even put out to sea.

    I read that O’Brian himself (not his real name; he was British, not Irish) flunked out of RAF training because he crashed too many airplanes — the sure sign of a genuine man of letters.

  312. “Justin, the Russian government is surely aware of this, which is why they won’t push for total capitulation. Some facesaving measure will be manufactured.”

    I only hope that the NATO leadership is smart enough to take it…

  313. Mary, that story has sort of dropped from the news. The Sacramento Bee was doing most of the reporting. Same for the Fresno Bee. Try Googling them.

  314. Glad to see “emotional ties to the status quo” brought up. We all know that Trump was elected in 2016 because he promised to drain the swamp.

    In hindsight it appears that Trump and his supporters were politically naive. They all expected that Washington had no choice but to accept his victory because we live in a “democracy.” But nothing of the sort happened. The swamp drained Trump more than Trump was able to drain the swamp.

    This may explain why many voters switched their votes in 2020. They probably wanted to consider themselves as part of the winning establishment.

  315. Another thing that someone in nato should be thinking about is,” if we go all in and throw all the battle ready troops we can from the EU in to the game, what else could Russia bring to the game. It seems to me, that if push came to shove the Chinese would get off the fence they are wisely sitting on now and throw more men and Resources to help Russia. So could several other countries in what some call “Zone B.
    While the US and Europe are busy trying to get a few reluctant out of shape gender confused citizens to become competent soldiers, Russia could bring in battle hardened troops from Lebanon, Iran, Yemen and perhaps some from the fringes of China like Mongolians. It would be wise for west to declare victory and go home before such a tipping point is reached.

  316. @ Justin Patrick Moore #188

    I like S.M. Stirling’s “Peshawar Lancers”. I don’t know if it exactly fits your definition, but it’s high adventure in an alternate Earth involving big politics and Russians and empires fighting to live.

  317. “Meanwhile, European politicians made public statements admitting that the previous ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia had been a sham”

    Hi JMG,

    May I please know which/where? Want to follow up on this but missed it because I don’t follow the news and am apparently bad at searching.

    Thank you!

  318. @JMG,

    I’ve been following this discussion with interest since Wednesday, though other events have kept me occupied until recently. To begin with, I’ll make it clear that I totally agree with your main thesis. I think that it was a bad idea for the US State Department to provoke the present war (by repeatedly couping Ukraine under the Bush and Obama administrations) and I think that the people in the “liberal democratic West” are mistaken in thinking that (1) they are the good guys in a crystal clear, good-vs-evil struggle, and (2) that this guarantees their eventual victory.

    That said, I’m going to argue with some of your subordinate points. First, I think that the ineptitude of the Stormtroopers in Star Wars owes more to storycraft than politics. Perhaps you’ve heard the joke that goes: “An Imperial Stormtrooper and the Redshirt get in a fight. The Stormtrooper misses every shot. The Redshirt dies anyway?”

    Basically, what’s going on here is that in both Star Wars and Star Trek, the walk-on characters are much more destructible than the big-names, and this is true even when the walk-ons are on the good team (i.e. the Redshirts in Star Trek.) The situation wasn’t much different three thousand years ago, when Homer’s epic poetry revolved around a handful of big-name heroes with godlike abilities – Achilles, Hector, Ajax, Odysseus, Diomedes, Patrocles, Paris, etc. – who are constantly slaying their way through walk-ons, but who can only be slain by other big-names (or, in the case of Ajax, by himself.) Obviously, real-life history wasn’t like this; somebody like Pyrrhus of Epirus, one of the most famous military commanders of the ancient world, could be killed in an urban battle by an old woman throwing a roof tile. (Stonewall Jackson being accidentally shot by his own pickets is a good modern equivalent).

    But you never see Homer or Virgil or the other epic poets killing off their heroes this way, since it would be anticlimactic, and the audience wouldn’t like it. So when George Lucas has his heroes’ infiltration of the Death Star end with only one of them being killed – and that in a grand duel with the number one bad guy – he’s in good company!

    Second, I think that Russia is a declining, rather than a resurgent, empire. Demographics are the main problem – Vladimir Putin has spent his entire presidency pursuing pro-natal policies; he managed to edge the fertility rate up to a peak of 1.78 a few years ago, but by now it’s slumped back down to 1.50 (or lower, if you look at only ethnic Russians.) Yet in actual history, families in expanding empires always have plenty of boisterous second or third sons who can be sent off on dangerous adventures, perhaps to win glory like Hernán Cortés and Robert Clive, perhaps to never be heard from again, but either way the mother country can afford their loss.

    Putin’s Russia doesn’t have that. With an aging population with only 0.75 boys in the average family, Russia can ill-afford the losses of the present meatgrinder of a war. The fact that Ukraine is probably going to suffer even worse makes little difference for Russia in the long run. Russia’s shrinking population is just spread too thin, over a very large landmass, which as the climate warms is going to be increasingly coveted by more fertile populations from the south, like the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Afghans.

    So I think Vladimir Putin is going to be remembered, in the long run, as a failed leader who tried to reverse his country’s decline, who showed some promising signs early on, but who ultimately failed.

  319. Blegh? I suppose that’s a reasonable answer to a morality play for children, my grandparents’ account of being trapped between American and Soviet armies not so much. You’d have a tough time convincing a German woman of my grandmother’s generation there was no ‘good people’ among the choices presented to her, and that has very little to do with how loudly either side proclaimed itself the good people and very much to do with how likely she was to suffer rape when either army rolled through.

    I’m just sayin’ – retention rates of thinking personnel and co-operativeness of neutral parties are correlated and they matter, a fact the Ukraine conflict is currently rubbing both sides’ faces in. One can lament that occupying the moral high ground became the responsibility of propaganda departments without claiming that there’s never a moral high ground to occupy, or that occupying it holds no strategic advantages.

  320. Patricia M, exactly. Too rigid a scheme is as inaccurate as no scheme at all.

    Clay, the North Korean government has offered to send 100,000 soldiers to help Russia in Ukraine. I really don’t think NATO wants to face that, either!

    Jen, here are a couple of articles:

    There are many more, if you search for them.

    Moose, you’re most welcome.

    Sandwiches, first, I think you’ve missed the point of my use of the Imperial Storm Troopers as metaphor. Second, yes, I know, that’s the conventional wisdom in the NATO countries these days. We’ll just have to see how it plays out, now won’t we?

    Christopher, er, you’re taking what I’ve said way out of context.

  321. @Justin Patrick Moore #311 re: Fiction Recommendations

    First off, thanks for the idea to use the recommendations as a blog post – I was a bit behind on the next installment of my review of The Seed of Yggdrasill, and cleaning that comment up into a post fit neatly into my available time. If you, or anyone else, are interested, you can find it here:

    1) Yeah, War of Art is great. You’ll get a similar vibe from Gates of Fire. I had a harder time getting into The Virtues of War, about Alexander, so I can’t say “oh yeah, all of his fiction is just as good,” but Gates of Fire definitely is.

    2) For a long time, Neal Stephenson was my favorite living author. I still like his work quite a bit, but I’ve cooled on it somewhat. I always liked the embedded essays, but if they’re a turnoff for you, his more recent writing has far less of that. Reamde has basically none and is actually really good at keeping up the tempo and pacing of a thriller. Diamond Age is great, though it’s harder for me to get into a premise that basically ignores the energy needs of its “post scarcity” world than it once was. Not military at all, but for my money, Anathem is his best book, but if you like realistic space stuff and engineering, Seveneves might beat it out.

    3) Nice, if you like trashy pulp, then Black Company ought to fit right in (and see below on Jim Butcher).

    4) Other folks have said some good stuff about O’Brian, and I need to read more, as I liked what I did, and I’ve been “meaning to get back to it” for like 15 years now.

    5) Eh, as I said, these days I’m not all that impressed with Scalzi, but Old Man’s War had some fun concepts and scratched a similar itch to Starship Troopers, though the later books in the series went more for subverting the premise than following it. I haven’t read any Stross yet, but again, have been meaning to for years, and I really liked some of Doctorow’s books, like Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Makers but I ragequit the most recent book of his I read, The Walkaway, as it was political axe grinding of the most obvious and annoying kind that just got worse and worse as the book went on.

    6) Since you said that pulpy stories are right up your alley, I can more unequivocally endorse Jim Butcher’s stuff, especially The Dresden Files. I haven’t re-read them since learning more about magic and occult philosophy, and so that might hinder my enjoyment somewhat these days, but they start out as fun hardboiled detective stories with magic, and then the world really starts getting developed and longer-term stories weave in and out of each episode. If you’re an audiobook guy, James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) reads them and does a great job.

    Anyhow, happy reading, and thanks again for the welcome idea to write up my recommendations as a blog post.


  322. Patricia, I find your “confession” very interesting. I believe IQ tests basically measure whether you can understand something like the theory of relativity. Not whether you can deal with the hoi polloi.

    An IQ test is basically left brain. Dealing with reality is more right brain. Come to think of it, I never see right brain/left brain these days. Is that theory obsolete? Did I miss something in the last 20-30 years?

  323. As a side note — Clay Dennis (#215) mentions the tendency to portray Russians as the baddies in popular entertainment. This situation has varied a lot over time (a field of Diachronic Baddiology could produce some interesting results). When is a villain too “on the nose” to be used in a story? Big stories require big villains so that there can be big heroes, or at least big defeats — and fashions in villainy change. Look at the shift in attitude toward vampires from Dracula to Twilight. (The other Twilight, of course.) Aliens, however, are still available. And giant albinos.

    A few data points, from the early to mid 1960s. The TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in which a (Soviet) Russian and and American agent work together for a kind of international police/espionage agency. And from about the same time, the film The Russians Are Coming.
    Or The President’s Analyst, which works through all the usual suspect villains to end up finally uncovering The Phone Company.

    Sometimes the villain one imagines is the villain one encounters; sometimes not. There are many people on record from the early stages of WWII as being absolutely stonkered to find that the villains were turning out to be the famously musical, artistic, cultured, rational Germans.

  324. Compare JRR Tolkein to JRR Martin. When I read Game of Thrones I was sure Ned Stark would be the hero through all the books and was floored when they chopped his head off in the first book. And then the red wedding. No eucatastrophe for the for the Starks.

  325. @Mary Bennet #303

    Thanks for this. In Britain, the agenda during elections is generally set by the politicians themselves. So for example, Net Zero, a collection of policies designed to reduce The UKs carbon emissions is now being talked about by the Tories because offering to kill it presents a glimmer of hope against an almost inevitable defeat in our own elections of 24. The tone and topic of discussion is top down.

    Would you say that this is the way it works in the US or do the actual concerns of voters get an airing at national level?

  326. “Nations such as Iran and China that are hostile to the US saw the situation as an opportunity to extend a middle finger to their enemies”.

    Yeah, but not exactly mysteriously “hostile”, or for the sake of it, as if they’re naturally baddies.

    Iran was perfectly minding its own business when the US overthrew their democratically elected leader (because he wanted BP, the oil company, not to have a free ride on the country’s natural resources), and installed a puppet king of their choice. When Iranians finally overthrew him, they were more consevative as a precautionary measure, and opted for a stronger islamic leader. They were also understandingly a little bitter. Especially since a few years later the US armed and supported Saddam Hussein (yes, that one) to declare war on Iran.

    China too was minding its own business, when the UK attacked and bombed it and forced it to accept its trade terms, for its own internal market. The UK also “leased” the most valuable port of China, Hong Kong, dictating its colonial terms. And after WWII, the US also too China’s fascist enemy, Japan, who genocided Chinese people, under their wings, and are now arming it. They also coddled Taiwan, post-war, which was a contentious subject for China. And not because they loved its democracy vs the “bad” Chinese autocrats. Taiwan, after all, was a right wing millitary dictatorship until the 1990s, and the US was just fine with it, and supporting it.

  327. Etymologically speaking “eucatastrophe” means:

    “good-disaster” (eu = good, catastrophe = “down turn, or turn for the worse”), which is kind of an oxymoron.

    The etymologically correct form Tolkien should have used for the intended meaning would have been “eustrophe”, adding “eu” and dropping the “cata” part. That would mean “turn for the better”.

  328. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the advice. It’s really hard to say what would motivate a ruling class to abandon a dream, without replacing it with another which may be better suited to the times. Dunno about you, but to me it seems a bit baffling.

    Hmm, as to the ongoing war, I’d have to suggest that when failure is not considered, it becomes likely. Maybe it is just me, but I prefer having fall back plans which are based in reality and workable.

    As a funny side story, I recall studies which encompassed strategic planning, and one of the things to ‘tick’ with that area of study was ensuring that the plans were realistic and achievable. Maybe I’m naive, but it never even occurred to me to set goals which were unrealistic and impossible to achieve. 🙂 Why even bother doing that?



  329. JMG,
    Seems a long time since such an article.

    Was following Scott Ritter, Larry Johnson etc (along with news from India) so not much surprise to me.

    A few things in my mind, one being Kaliningrad which Barathakumar mentioned lately in passing.

    The communists gave Donbass and Crimea to Ukraine. At the same time (Stalin) gave Kaliningrad to Russia.

    I see a Calais situation there in the future, as fossil fuels deplete. Do you think the Russians will be able to sort out this matter within the current crisis?

  330. Dear Mr. Druid

    The Russia and China have terrible demographics so they can’t win (or even fight) a war is the Peter Zeihan conventional wisdom analysis. Not sure whether Mr Zeihan creates or simply parrots the argument.

    War with NATO will be in the next few years. Does Russia appear to have enough manpower and resources to form an army and fight a war? Yes. Does NATO? Yes to the people, not sure about the resources. So game on. In terms of a NATO vs. the Rest of The World (ROW), energy will become important as war requires lots of oil. Who has lots of oil? Russia. Who has no oil? Europe. Should be interesting for Europe. Hope Team Biden has thought this through and gamed it out.

    Even more funny is “China is shriveling away to nothing” and with 600 million in 5, 15 or whenever years, China will not be able to find enough young men to have an army. I’m not suggesting demographics and demographic analysis aren’t important, but breeding your way to victory or prosperity is not guaranteed.

  331. >I believe IQ tests basically measure

    And I would stop there. They measure something and that something is tangible and interesting but what exactly it is, that’s up for debate. I suppose a statement that says the least would be “It measures the probability of future academic performance”. What is probability? What is academic performance? You can chase your tail just on those alone. Woof.

    Other people have stronger opinions on the subject and you can quickly start jogging through the minefield on this. Veritasium made a video not too long ago on the subject.

  332. Dear Mr Greer

    I think that Putin made a complete cock up of his initial incursion into the Ukraine and because of this Nato thought that it was 1917 again and Russia would soon be on the verge of collapse. It never seem to have occurred to them that this might be 1941 and that the war is only just beginning.

  333. @European reader (#347):

    However, a “eucatastrophe” is neither a catastrophe nor a eustrophe, but a thing that is both and neither. A eucatastrophe is an event that seems obviously to be a disaster for one side and a strong portent of its ultimate defeat, yet (as events continue to unfold) it turns out have been essential for that side’s ultimate victory. Eucatastrophes do indeed happen in real life.

  334. Think it through. If Murica (let’s face it, NATO is just a thin costume for Murica) started shipping boots on the ground to start fighting Russia, nukes would start flying in fairly short order. Put yourself in Russia’s shoes – what would you do if you saw the 101st Screaming Bluehairs deployed in Kiev?

    I could be wrong but I don’t think it’s yet (yet) Nuclear Time. I think what you will see is a lot of passive-agressive backstabby pussyfooting for the rest of this decade. Next decade or the decade after that? Yeah, maybe not so much pussyfooting.

    Although as others have brought up – the demographics are tick-tocking away, if you are going to put young boots on the ground, now is as good as it’s ever going to get. Problem is, soon as you do – nukes.

    Those scientists sincerely wanted to make war so horrific, nobody would ever do it again. They sort of got their wish. But what replaced old-fashioned war was even worse, IMHO.

  335. European Reader #346: “And after WWII, the US also too China’s fascist enemy, Japan, who genocided Chinese people, under their wings, and are now arming it.”

    During WWII, the American Flying Tigers defended China against the Japanese, and some of them lost their lives in the process. There are memorials to them in China:

  336. European Reader, there are no innocent parties in this game. Iran once had a giant empire which extended to Greece. This conquest undoubtedly cost a few casualties on both sides. There were attempts to recreate this empire. The current belligerency from Iran undoubtedly includes a desire to somehow recreate the Persian Empire in some way and bring back the glory days of the old empire by rhetoric if nothing else.

    China has conquered places like Tibet, Mongolia, Manchuria, and Muslim Xinjiang so thoroughly that they are simply considered Chinese provinces today. I can remember the Cultural Revolution which Mao launched in 1966 that became one of the deadliest events in history.

    Mao’s Little Red Book with its red plastic cover was available in bookstores then and I read it. The only thing I can remember is Mao saying that China could afford to lose millions in a war because it still would have millions left. Some of this thinking is probably still around in China.

  337. @ Thrown Sandwiches #336

    If what counts in a modern war is demography Nigeria will be the military hiper-superpower of the world today, but it isn’t, ok?.

    To be a very military powerful country today you need a big scientific, industrial and resource base more than merely a lot of young men in militay age. OK at the end you need soldiers but very well armed, equiped and with the capacity to sustain a very long attrition war; today Russia has a population in military age bigger than Germany in 1940, they can mobilize more than 25 million people if they have to do, but they have also a huge industrial and resource base (much bigger than Germany in 1940), and are not subject to the US nuclear bullying. They have hipersonic missiles, a complex and complete multilayered air defense, thousands of anti-ship missiles, many of then super sonic to wreak havoc if required to the US transport of troops to Europe. No, a war with Russia near the Russian border will not be as “easy” for the US army as the WWII or WWI, it will be orders of magnitud worse and cannot be win, as Montgomery said “Do not march on Moscow!” or in general “do not fight a land attrittion war with Russia in the Russian borders!”

    All of this without taking account that the Russian strategic “reserves” are in China, because China could not allow a defeat of Russian that could compromise the Russian state because they clearly know that in fact this is a “secondary front” and for the American Empire they are the main target.

    No, I think Putin will pass to History as the leader who expose more clearly the weakness of the American Empire and probably contribute more to the quick demise of the main foundations of the US Empire, namely the US $ as the world currency.


  338. This is one of the best essays i’ve read in a while. The message rings true and i think i see this more and more all the time. The people, even those very close to me, are unable to conceptualize something happening that they don’t regard as morally good. Especially those friends who went to Universities, well it feels like they no longer can think very logically on matters that consider something else than matter (pun was imminent). Your essay put together a lot of thoughts i’ve had for a while now. Many thanks!!

  339. In the original Star Wars trilogy*, the ultimate Storm Trooper syndrome was the Death Star itself. It did destroy a planet, but was itself destroyed by a ludicrously simple design error. Why such incompetence in power?

    In this essay:
    a military acquistions officer says that the Death Star flaws were the second most plausible plot point of the Star Wars movies; the first being the extraordinary usefulness of the minimalist R2 astromech units. He warns against huge money-devouring projects promising perfection: for they run over budget and schedule (as did the Death Stars themselves); they tend to be run by Dark Lords; and they underperform.

    I say that power corrupts not just the heart, but also the mind. Everyone lies to a crook; so crooks become fools.

    * The original trilogy was junk food; the prequels were garbage, and the sequels were plastic.

  340. I always find the “Demographics, therefore no war / will lose” argument unconvincing.

    1. Future demographics bear little influence on the current situation, and I really doubt countries base their decisions to go or not to go to war on “if I do so now, I won’t have enough young men to do so again in 2060!”. Most countries, I’d imagine, to the extent they think that long-term at all, are only doing so in the most vague manners. This is especially true if you believe (rightly or wrongly) that your current or pending war is of an existential nature – that you are fighting (or must fight) to survive. In such a situation, there is no “later.”

    2. Young people as a percentage of the total population is an irrelevant metric in terms of actual battlefield logistics. What matters in a current or imminent war is the raw number of soldiers you can bring to the battlefield right now. All else being equal, 500k active or conscriptable soldiers from Nation 1 will beat 200k from Nation 2 even if those 200k make up 10% of Nation 2’s population (however that term is defined) while the 500k make up only 5% of Nation 1’s.

    3. Yes, it does mean that many of those going off to war will be only children and that the death of some soldiers may extinguish family lines. That is a problem for those families, not the state. Parents will not want their kids going off to war. Conscription says the parents get as much a say in it as the kid does.

    4. The demographics argument was trotted out in early 2022 as an argument why Russia would not invade Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine anyway. Also according to, Ukraine’s population peaked in 1992 (about the same time as Russia’s), had declined by 8 million between then and 2021, and has now declined a further 7 million (through emigration and through war attrition) since Russia’s invasion. If demographics were the be-all and end-all of warfare, Zelenskyy should have been begging for peace long before now.

    5. The argument is especially specious when it comes to China. According to the same population pyramid site, China right now has 133 million males age 15-30 (prime conscription bait either now or soon). Only nine countries in the world have entire populations higher than that, one of them being China itself. This pool is expected to remain stable or even grow over the next decade, despite China’s overall population leveling off, because the 5-9 and 10-14 five-year blocks are larger than anything below 30-34.

    6. If ALL (potential) combatants in a (potential) war are facing population decline, the situation vis-à-vis demographics is the same as if they were all experiencing population growth.

  341. Robert Mathieson,

    Thank you for the “penny-dropped analysis” on Chomsky. Really. Truly.

    My father-in-law is a die-hard Chomsky fan, a Left Coast liberal most of his life, and at his recommendation I read what I could of “Manufacturing Consent,” and even went to hear him speak in person at the University of Florida when I was a (late-blooming) student there twenty years ago. And I always got an icky feeling from him. Chomsky too.

    Thanks again.

  342. “War with NATO will be in the next few years. Does Russia appear to have enough manpower and resources to form an army and fight a war? Yes. Does NATO? Yes to the people, not sure about the resources.”

    Now here is an evil thought. The US still has considerable resources, but most of them are tied up in or near wilderness areas and other protected lands. New mines have been blocked in Alaska, Nevada, and Minnesota to name three. But if there is a war, then a State of Emergency can be called, and then all those protected areas are suddenly open for a no holds barred frenzy of extraction. Environmentalists who object to the mining can be conveniently relocated to the front lines.

    Then once the war is over, “Well gee, the damage is done. We may as well keep mining, we need those metals for the Green New Deal anyway.”

    Is that sufficiently evil? The main flaw in it is that it takes years to get a new mine on line and I doubt any peer adversary is going to wait for us to ramp up. It’s more likely that Management still thinks the rest of the world will trade metals for cat videos and comic book movies.

  343. Mr. Greer..

    I hear tell a mighty derecho be headed your way. Hope you and yourn are bucked up! .. just in case. But consider, perhaps what is being cast as an unusual weather event might just be an emmission from an Empirial Rus Death Star, coming your way..

    “Da Dah” “da da da DA DAH” “da da da DA DAH” “!DA DA DAH DAAAA!”

    May the Force(s) be with you.

  344. Andy @ 344, That is a difficult question to answer. A LOT of money is spent to make sure that concerns of voters do NOT get a hearing at the national level. Even more money is spent to encourage emotional and frivolous voting–ginned up outrage over some trivial incident, labelling and name-calling, and so on. Howsomever, Sanders, then Trump and now Christie and Kennedy are in fact campaigning on actual issues which at least some voters do care about. Mind, I am not feeling sorry for Trump; the guy is not stupid and did not have to conduct himself like an entitled, spoiled rich kid in office. Once in office, he seemed to forget that he owed his victory to the fact that large numbers of voters literally hated his opponent. (I can’t stand her, either.) Americans do want a reasonable amount of dignity and decorum from our presidents. That is one major reason why Obama won, because we were fed up with the adolescent excesses of both his immediate predecessors.

  345. Patricia M – 327

    I loved your honest post. “Smart” doesn’t mean good at everything.

    The best years of my career were when I was working with a small, but tight group. We were all really smart and had known each other for years. We really respected each other. I was the technical guy who did my magic in the field. B was the money/contracting/agreements/relations person who put all the paperwork together to make my job possible. And C was our boss, the Big Picture/Team Leader/Politician who decided what we were going to do in the first place (vision) and got the money and institutional okay for me and B to do our thing. We got a LOT done. We were a lean machine.

    But we were so effective because we all brought different skills. We helped each other, but I couldn’t do what either of them did. They probably could have done mine, given time, but I don’t think they wanted to. Doesn’t everyone like doing what they know they are good at? I do.

    Anyway, maybe someday there will be a better way to measure all the different dimensions of “smart”. Or maybe we’ll stop navel-gazing and throw that all away. In the memorable words of Forest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  346. @DFC, Brendhelm,

    I don’t understand why you guys feel the need to distort my argument re Russia’s demographics in the way you did. I never said that (1) demographics is the principal or only determinant of military strength (making Nigeria a superpower) or (2) that Russia is going to lose its current war because of its low birth rate (yes, I’m aware that demographics are only one factor among many! And that Ukraine’s demographics are worse!)

    My argument is that Russia’s main long-term threat is the threat of not having enough people, as the century goes on, to hold its vast and not-quite-so-frigid-anymore territories in Siberia against the coming armed migrations of Central Asian climate refugees. I think that Putin is going to be remembered as a weak leader because his attempts to reverse the demographic decline were unsuccesful, and because the losses sustained in Ukraine will have left his country in a worse position going into those future wars.

    If you’re going to disagree with me, you may as well disagree with what I actually said.

  347. @Andrew_B

    Bit of a followup to your comment about Russian designers thinking little of our overcomplicated military hardware – I’ve been paying close attention to the much-ballyhooed delivery of and training of Ukrainian forces on 31 M1 Abrams tanks courtesy of Uncle Joe, because there’s a secret nearly everyone is unaware of about these lumbering beasts. In a past life (before I managed to get myself out of there, I did not join that company to work on death machines) I was assigned to work on upgrading the rescue tow truck associated with the Abrams, the

    You’ll note in the details of the page that there is a future version of this failure-prone machine in the works, though none have been produced yet. The most critical aspect of the upgrade model is increased tow capacity, because get this:

    The Abrams has gotten so fat with electronics packages, extra DU armor, etc, that a failure in the field currently requires TWO tow vehicles to drag it back to base, and that’s over relatively level and easy terrain! Ukraine received a whopping *eight* of the last-gen model to go with the tanks, and Russian forces already knocked one of them out.

    America’s mightiest battle tank is easily defeated by a well-disguised pit trap. It’s going to be an illuminating year.

  348. IQ tests, the great mine field. As far as I can tell they measure the ability to do abstract reasoning. Can you deal with written language, mathematics, and rotate shapes in your head? If so you should get a good score and be able to well in college.

    And that narrow focus is about all it’s good for. The Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery is a much broader test.

    Combining IQ and the military in the worst possible way you get the reason McNamara deserves his own special level of hell. If reincarnation is a thing he had to start over as pond slime.,000

  349. Yavanna #355, when Nixon opened relations with former bitter enemy China (remember “ping-pong diplomacy”), it went surprisingly well. Our Political Science lecturer said it was because China had always had a warm regard for America which had been obscured during the Mao years.

    Looks like America has pushed the reverse button on that relationship.

  350. JMG,

    If it hasn’t already been pointed out, the evidence does not suggest that NATO/US were convinced of Ukrainian victory. Lethal aid wasn’t given to Ukraine in any amount to make a difference until the start of hostilities. Even then, lethal aid didn’t arrive until the build up on Russia’s borders. On Feb 2nd and 3rd Gen. Milley told congressional “leaders” that Kyiv could fall within 72 hours. Most Russians I know thought the same.

    Beyond that, the sanctions are more of a mixed bag. Sanctions in general are ineffective and I can’t think of too many times they did anything but cause the sanctioned party to innovate/adapt. That being said, sanctions have had a big impact on the RuAF and precision munitions. This meant RuAF planes have to fly low in order to drop dumb bombs which has resulted in some of them getting shot down by stingers, which should never happen.

    RuAF should have had air superiority fairly early in the conflict, the problem is that BS in Russian military didn’t give commanders an accurate picture. PM of Armenia criticized iskander missiles during Azeri conflict (saying something along the lines of 8-9/10 didn’t work like they should) and was forced to apologize.

    Furthermore, you say “ First, NATO countries no longer have a political consensus supporting mass military conscription, while Russia does.” I agree 100% with the first part of that statement, but very much doubt the second part. Many analysts from the nationalist military sphere have pointed out that a mass mobilization should have been conducted before or soon after the war started and the assumed cakewalk did not occur. People like Igor Girgin have pointed this out. The simple fact the Russian government forces people to refer to it as an SMO and not a war means it still has not committed itself to a total mobilization of society that would be required to actually win in accordance with the original objectives. Why has it refrained from real mobilization? The fact is Russia is no longer your grandfather’s USSR/Russian empire. As long as most draftees are from Dagestan/Chechnya/Kalmykia then all will be fine. Once it impacts SPB and Moscow, things will be different.

    By any metric Russia should prevail but that still hasn’t happened. There is a risk of the land bridge to Crimea being cut off. We should have a clear idea by mid October. Much will depend on how Russian logistics in south of Ukraine adapt. Since I’m criticizing your prediction, I will offer my own: By 2025 Russia will hold less territory in Ukraine than it holds today. It will reach a negotiated settlement with Ukraine. This will be the last major war Russia, as we currently know it, fights outside its current borders.

    I would argue the current state of affairs, based on the level of competence shown by the Russian arm forces, is preferable to the alternative. Even assuming only a small percentage of hostile Ukrainians stay, you’re still looking at a violent insurgency that will become more desperate.

    I do like some of the concepts though. I’ll have to steal them lol.

    My final point: I often see individuals such as yourself, that I would describe as natural contrarians, take the the opposite position of whatever is being pushed/promoted, but living in a world equally detached from reality. I suspect your predictions here will go down about as well as your astrological readings from recent years (something about Pelosi and the GOP teaming up against the squad types in congress? Would make a good fiction book!)

  351. I’ve been reading the comments while listening to the BBC World Service. The latest Important News they have promoted is the military coup in Niger. There’s a lot of bluster about how Evilly Evil a military takeover is, conveniently forgetting the long tradition of US supported military coups, from Iran to South Vietnam to Bolivia.
    Luckily for us in the West, Victoria Nuland has told the new government in Niger to reinstall the “elected” government or else! Unfortunately for our military, there are some 1,000 of our soldiers based in Niger. I surely hope that those poor souls are not sacrificed in some vain attempt to reverse the coup.

  352. During the First World War there were attempts at a compromise peace but they all failed. Lloyd George believed it was necessary for Britain to wage war until it had achieved absolute victory. And he did so for two principal reasons. First, he blamed his counterparts in the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary for the outbreak of the First World War, and for cruelties and barbarism committed during the course of the conflict. This, in itself, made the idea of negotiating utterly repulsive. Second, the enormity of human sacrifices rendered the proposal to end the war by compromise completely unattractive. Leaders on all sides were keenly aware that something positive had to come out of the war – and only military victory could provide it.

    Both these factors apply to Ukraine – the Russians are demonised as responsible for wanton aggression and the sacrifices made have to mean something which they might not with a compromise peace.

    The British historian David Stevenson has called this mechanism “the war trap” – the greater the losses, the more difficult it becomes to consider negotiations. Only victory can give a sense to the sacrifices and suffering. Governments feel that they have to justify the monumental losses by delivering tangible gains for the nation, such as swathes of new territory or a better and safer international order modelled around their own political ideas. For both Zelensky and Putin only victory is acceptable.

  353. JMG:

    I always thought of the stormtroopers as the result of what happens when you give a bunch of conscripts inadequate training and equip them with barely functioning garbage procured from the most well-connected military contractors who pocketed most of the money (and kicked a bit back to the officials involved). Nothing more American than that! (See F-35, the)

    But on a serious note, this essay reminds me of the MLK Jr. quote about the arc of the universe bending towards justice or whatnot. A nice sentiment, but wholly wrong. If you want justice, you need to get to work bending the universe’s arc towards it because the universe isn’t going to do your work for you.

  354. I would have to disagree with the assessment that. many people have that the first phase of Russia’s invasion was a disaster. Yes, they had. more significant losses in manpower and equipment than they do now, but the opening days of the SMO accomplished the following things for them:
    1) Destroyed the entire Ukrainian Navy.
    2) Destroyed 90% of the Ukrainian Airforce that was not moved
    outside of the country.
    3) Drove to and captured Mariupol to insure that the Ukraine could
    not send their army to Crimea.
    4) While capturing Mariupol they wiped out or captured the largest
    and most hardcore grouping of right sector Azov fighters,
    Ukraines most effective soldiers.
    5) They manuvered a huge column of equipment and soldiers
    around the Ukrainian fortifications to bring it right to the gates
    of Kiev.Which brought Zelensky to the negotiating table and
    might have worked if Boris Johnson had not shown up with his
    “message” from Nato.

    When the negotiations failed Russia realized that they would have to dig in for a hard WWI type battle. The biggest losses Russia had were in the house to house battle for Mariupol, which I think was essential , because if they had settled in for a war of attrition with the path to Crimea controlled by the Ukraine it would have been a disaster.

  355. Reports that leprosy is now “endemic” in Florida. No need to watch the 1959 film Ben Hur to see leprosy. Just get a plane ticket to Miami or Orlando. But officials say there’s nothing to worry about. So just stay calm and carry on.

  356. chola3, it’s not quite correct to say Russia “gave” certain areas to Ukraine. To understand this we have to go back to the Tsarist period.

    While the whole country was called Russia then, there was no administrative unit called Russia or Ukraine. The country was divided into 117 districts which could be called small provinces or maybe giant counties.

    There were districts called Moscow and Kiev but no Russia or Ukraine. There was no Donbass. There was no Crimea but there was a district called Simferopol with somewhat different boundaries.

    It was the Soviets (which means Russians with a couple of exceptions) who decided to divide Tsarist Russia into 15 “republics” including Russia and Ukraine which gave us the current versions of those two countries. These two countries never existed as such beforehand.

    Donbass was largely unpopulated grassland until the industrial revolution when coal was discovered there. Why it became part of Soviet Ukraine would take a lot of expertise to determine. But I have a simple solution. Making Donbass part of Ukraine gave it a geometric shape somewhat resembling a rounded rectangle. Otherwise it would have looked weird with a big bite in it.

    The only real giving concerned Crimea which Khrushchev transferred to Ukraine in 1954. But this made sense since Crimea was physically attached to Ukraine by an isthmus but not physically attached to Russia. Thus all the bridges Russia needs to get to Crimea.

  357. Legrand, a dissertation on historical villainology would definitely be worth reading, not least because the roles assigned to Russians (and obvious Russian stand-ins such as the Klingons) gives a nice measure of approved political attitudes — the Sixties saw the first movements toward detente, which were reflected in the media of the time. (Though I think The President’s Analyst was more accurate!)

    European Reader, now show me where I said there was anything mysterious about the hostility of China and Iran to the United States. It’s really odd how many people insist on reading their own hobby horses into any spare utterance. With regard to “eucatastrophe,” if you want to go argue with Tolkien, why, I’m sure it’s not hard to find his grave and go yell at that.

    Chris, oh, granted, but it’s precisely the doom of elite classes that they lose track of the difference between “I want that” and “I can get that.”

    Chola, the Russians have positioned considerable forces in Belarus, so that any attack on Kaliningrad can be met with a thrust straight through the Suwalki gap. Only 65 miles separate Belarus and Kaliningrad, so any attempt to seize the latter by Lithuania, Poland, or both is extremely vulnerable — and since the Polish and/or Lithuanian action would be an attack on Russian territory, Article 5 of NATO would not apply.

    A1, the demographics argument has been brandished around for more than a century now, and its value as a predictive tool is very, very weak. Did you know that Germany couldn’t possibly go to war in 1939 because its demographics were so bad? Yes, people were claiming that at the time.

    Jasmine, that’s possible. We’ll have to see what comes out once the rubble stops bouncing, and details like the initial Russian plans become public.

    Other Owen, my guess is that if the 101st got deployed to Kiev, the Russians would smile, keep doing exactly what they’re doing, and after a couple of weeks use half a dozen Kindzhals to cause maximum damage to their leadership and equipment stocks. The Russian military has already found out that it can take on NATO weapons systems and win. Since, to be quite frank, American soldiers these days are by and large nothing like as tough as Ukrainian soldiers — whatever else you can or can’t say about the Ukrainian rank and file, they’re brave and they fight hard — the Russians have no need to use nukes; all they have to do is subject US troops to the kind of hideous losses the Ukrainians have been suffering for months now, and the political blowback against the Biden administration will end that deployment in a hurry.

    JP, you’re most welcome.

    Paradoctor, thanks for this. That strikes me as very good advice.

    Siliconguy, I’ve been saying for years that before the Long Descent gets much further we’ll see the Sierra Club advocating for the strip mining of the national park system. “Do it for Ukraine!” would be a very good excuse for that.

    Polecat, rule #1 with regard to the weather these days is never to believe the media. We had some rain and some wind — nothing even out of the ordinary — and the main consequence is that right now it’s uncomfortably humid. The Death Star was once again a total flop…

    Grindstone, this all strikes me as ex post facto rationalization. Still, one of the advantages of a war that’s still being fought is that the various hypotheses about what will happen face a decisive test. Let’s see how it turns out, shall we?

    Peter, I can imagine the new government of Niger listening to Nuland’s rant with the kind of bored tolerance that adults direct toward squalling toddlers. Apparently Wagner PMC is already on its way.

    Robert, that’s a good point. Of course Zelensky has another good reason to refuse a peace: his political career will not survive it, and neither may he.

    Christopher, THANK YOU! That quote by King is fine rhetoric but as historical analysis it’s astoundingly clueless. You’re right, of course; history isn’t an arc, and it certainly doesn’t bend toward whatever you happen to decide is just.

    Clay, that seems reasonable. I don’t think the initial actions of the war were a disaster, but Russia clearly wasn’t expecting the response it got.

    Roman, the federal government is trying to punish Florida by decreasing its tourist trade and slowing the rate at which people are moving there — that’s become a real embarrassment to blue states. The actual increase in leprosy rates is tiny — and leprosy has been endemic all over the south for a very long time.

  358. Clay, et al
    Whether part of the original plan or not, one result of the initial Russian attack/feint towards Kiev was to draw a large percentage of the Ukrainian forces away from the Donbas, giving the Russians time to build up their forces and consolidate their position.
    They also now have an 800,000 man army where they had a 200,000 man one 18 months ago.

  359. JMG,

    First, I really liked this post. Well done.

    Second, is it a warning?

    “For some time now I’ve been looking for a way to talk about one of the most common bad habits of thought in the modern industrial world. Habits like this are far more important that a casual glance might suggest.
    It’s really quite remarkable, when you think of it. These days, if a government bureaucracy or one of those dreary panels of multibillionaires get together to try to solve some problem, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll either do nothing or make the problem worse.
    No, the problem is that the people in question are stuck in habits of thought that make it impossible for them to do anything useful in a crisis.”

    Because it looks to me like quite a few crises are looming on the horizon. And while I wasn’t expecting the elites to do anything productive about them, I guess I wasn’t consciously thinking that they would actively make them worse.

  360. in regards to Chomsky critics speaking one language and formalizing English as foundational to syntactic structures – idk i skimmed a few pages of his ‘On Language’ and he cites Panini’s work in Sanskrit and had an undergraduate thesis on Hebrew. hehe flame away i won’t mind just a fact checks!
    (request to ban noam from the subject list! :))

  361. Re: Leprosy (more formally Hansen’s Disease) in Florida, is the armadillo population increasing? They are known carriers.

    It’s treatable, and most people are naturally immune. They will have to find something scarier than that to keep people from moving to Florida. If the giant snakes and alligators don’t do it then this won’t either. On the other hand, in a doom scenario the bacteria is not edible, but the snakes and alligators are edible. And reptiles do not have the alpha-gal problem that was last week’s doom porn.

    Back on corporate and government incompetence, the lead paragraph from an article behind a paywall is;

    “Siemens Energy AG launched a strategic review of its wind power business as problems with its turbines are expected to cause a €4.5 billion ($5 billion) net loss in one of industrial Germany’s biggest debacles.”

    Apparently the new generation really big windmills are tearing themselves to pieces.

  362. Wow, you even know about leprosy. I guess I fell for those reports. We may think we can detect any disinformation but we are dealing with pros who can always come up with something new. It seems like we are living in a Twilight Zone of disinformation but it’s actually business as usual.

  363. About justice and “the good guys always win,” I vaguely remember a bit of dialog in something I was reading. I was sure it was Lord Peter Wimsey explaining to Harriet the importance of her murder mysteries in the light of the world’s troubles. The gist of it was that a good murder mystery was a lesson in the fact that justice is possible and that it is important. That when people stopped believing that, things would be really bad. I’m now reminded of Dion Fortune’s Battle of Britain.

  364. Events in Africa are interesting. If the neo colonial model can be kicked out of there, or even just switched sides, it will have enormous consequences regarding many commodities. This is especially true of things like Cobalt, Uranium etc that are supposed to fuel the techno utopian fantasy.

    I wonder if this is what WW3 looks, plenty of localised conflict fought between two big power blocs without the titanic direct clashes of the first two. I can’t see any way in which the west could mobilise the manpower needed for a direct clash (perhaps only China and India can truly do so), such is the fate of a civilisation in decline. Like Rome at the end, it depends on other people to do the fighting.

  365. >decreasing its tourist trade and slowing the rate at which people are moving there

    You really want to do that, emphasize the bugs and the gators. There’s no winter down there to stop any of the critters from crittering.

    Although perhaps people are more fleeing NewYorkifornia than they are moving to Texida, and if it wasn’t TX or FL they’d be moving to somewhere else that isn’t NewYorkifornia. You listen to some of those transplants and all they can do is talk bad about New York, they can’t say a nice word about Texas.

  366. Team10tim, it is indeed a warning. We have a bevy of crises on the horizon right now — the increasing unwillingness of other nations to buy US debt and prop up our Ponzi scheme of a government being arguably the most serious of them — and at this point it would astound me if any of our current politicians and experts could respond to any of those crises without doing their best to make things worse.

    Jstn, so? His linguistic schemes still don’t work well with any non-Indo-European language, and not that well with anything but English. Citations are easy; a theory that works is hard.

    Siliconguy, that I know of, there’s been no increase, but there are plenty of armadillos there, of course. As for the windmills, indeed they do — and they’re also unreliable due to intermittency effect, and usually don’t pay for themselves.

    Roman, I keep track of a lot of things.

    Patricia M, it’s when people stop believing in the officially approved secular mythologies that governments fall and nations implode.

    PumpkinScone, exactly. The rise of Africa, and the concomitant decline of Europe and North America, are among the most important things happening right now.

    Other Owen, I’ve been in Texas all of twice, and don’t have many nice words to say about it either — but if I lived in California and I thought Texas was the best option I’d be on my way. The accelerating implosion of California is horrifying to watch.

  367. If adding to the armadillo conversation isn’t considered OT, in the late 80s, I was taught that armadillos fill the same ecological niche as o’possums and that they were slowly migrating up from Texas. They had ‘arrived’ by 2004 ( and we occasionally see them on the highway. We call them “possums on the half shell”.

    As far as other ‘scary’ Florida wildlife that the media promotes, have you seen the articles about the iguanas in Florida when it gets cold? Ack! Don’t touch them! Salmonella!

    My grandfather was stationed in Panama when my father was a child (and the whole family got to live there before WW2). Apparently, iguana tastes like chicken…

  368. >I wonder if this is what WW3 looks

    No. You’ll know WW3 has started when GPS goes down and never comes back up again.

  369. Mr. Greer,

    I think someone at the Babylon Bee has been following your sight.. check out their lastest.

  370. Yes, California is going down the tubes. But we live in a California suburb that is still safe and clean. Just hoping that it’s not like being in a bunker in Berlin right before the Red Army arrives.

  371. Andy, it’s the same over here. The elites create the political agenda and the public gets to pick which version of the agenda it prefers. Of course if the public picks the wrong candidate as happened in 2016, we quickly find out who is really running this country.

    This raises the question of why social evolution created modern democracies to begin with and I have a theory on that. The ruling classes got some nasty shocks in the modern era beginning with 1517 (Luther), 1642 (Cromwell), plus the better known dates of 1776 and 1789.

    It eventually dawned on the ruling classes that society (due to population growth) had become too complex for them to manage alone. They needed a system to find out what the lower classes were thinking which had suddenly become important.

    It turned out that giving them limited power to vote and affect major policies was the answer. Thus we now have democracies of some sort almost everywhere.

  372. Florida also has the sort of muggy heat when humid and broiler-level heat when less humid right about now. It doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people, and the landscapers are out there in long sleeved dark clothing, but when a former desert rat finds the heat intimidating, that should deter some snowbirds. Now try being trapped in a semi-functional elevator with perishable food in your tote bag, and the emergency phone gives you the Robot Voicemail Blowoff (please leave a message) and there is no a/c in the elevator (true story, less than half an hour ago, still coming down from it. Including the robot going on with “Press 9 to… press 0 to…” and me losing it and shouting at it where it can go, directly there….(me being in that place’s anteroom at the time)…

    No, I am not in love and charity with sunny Florida at this August moment.

    Today has been the kind of day which reminds me what god in the Germanic/Norse pantheon gave today its name!

  373. In support of your Stormtrooper Syndrome hypothesis, earlier this year NATO quoted a writer,

    Ukraine is hosting one of the great epics of this century

    “We are Harry Potter and William Wallace, the Na’vi and Han Solo. We’re escaping from Shawshank and blowing up the Death Star. We are fighting with the Harkonnens and challenging Thanos.”

    We must say one thing for Ukraine, at least: they have been masters of propaganda in this conflict. They will no doubt have countless Ukrainian stories from history and legend they can draw on for analogies, but this particular piece of propaganda is aimed at the Anglosphere, in particular the US and UK, and so all their analogies are from American and British stories.

    And the Anglosphere is so caught up in Stormtrooper Syndrome it wouldn’t occur to them to ask why a Ukrainian would use Anglosphere stories to understand the world. It’s brilliant. “We’ll confirm your prejudices, whatever, just give us more guns.”

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