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Posts Tagged ‘war

“The fog of war”*….

McKinley Valentine (in her wonderful newsletter, The Whippet) on a fierce battle “between” a single army…

The battle happened on the night of 21 September 1788, in what is now Romania. The Habsburg and Ottoman empires are Austria and Turkey (but bigger, because empires).

I’m just going to give you the bullet-point summary:

• The vanguard (part that goes ahead of the regular army) of the Austrian army crosses Timiș River to scout for Ottomans. They are ‘hussars’, light cavalry. The hussars don’t find any Ottomans, but they DO find some Romani people who sell them some barrels of schnapps.

• Some Austrian infantrymen cross the river, see the other soldiers getting drunk, and ask them to share.

• The (very drunk) hussars refuse, and set up makeshift fortifications around the schnapps barrels.

• The argument escalates until eventually shots are fired.

• Someone shouts “Turks! Turks!” Both groups think the Ottomans are attacking and try to run away – it’s enormously chaotic. An officer shouts “Halt! Halt!” to try and restore order, but the troops (who are from a bunch of different countries and don’t understand German) think they hear “Allah! Allah!” and the Ottomans are definitely attacking.

• The hussars flee on horseback back through the main army camp. The General of Artillery thinks it’s an Ottoman cavalry charge and orders the cannons to fire on them.

• Entire army camp wakes up and goes into a terrified panic.Holy Roman Emperor (head of the Habsburgs) orders the whole army to withdraw and get itself together.

• Ottomans turn up two days later, discover only some dead and wounded Austrians and no army, and easily capture the city of Karánsebes.

There are some who suggest that the account is apocryphal (e.g. here, source of the image at the top), But as Valentine observes…

Did this really happen? Some of it is a bit too neat, too story-like – esp the Halt/Allah thing – which ought to make you suspicious. But Wikipedia reckons there are a lot of contemporary accounts of it (I can’t read them because they’re in German, French and Italian), so at the very least it’s a story that sprang up at the time, rather than being internet-era misinfo. And certainly Karánsebes is a real city that the Turks captured in 1788 (you’d be amazed how many internet-era historical myths fall at 1-inch hurdles like that). My guess is: in broad strokes, yes; the specifics probably added for colour.

The Battle of Karánsebes: possibly history’s dumbest skirmish,” from @mckinleaf.

* a paraphrase of Clausewitz (“War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”)

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As we promote peace, we might recall that it was on this date in 1781 that that French Navy defeated the British Navy in the Battle of the Chesapeake (AKA the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes). The French victory kept supply lanes open for the Franco-American army, providing them siege artillery and French reinforcements which were decisive in the Siege of Yorktown, which in turn effectively secured victory in the American Revolution and independence for the Thirteen Colonies.

The French line (left) and British line (right) do battle

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“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”*…

A couple of weeks ago, (Roughly) Daily took a look at the fall of neoliberalism. What’s to come? The estimable Noah Smith has a suggestion…

For years now, I’ve been thinking about what the next big organizing principle of U.S. political economy will be. By “political economy” here I mean the type of economic policies we carry out, and the ways that we expect those policies to reshape our economy. This will be the first in a series of posts laying out my predictions for what the new paradigm will look like.

From the late 1970s through the middle of the 2000s, our organizing principle was what some people call “neoliberalism” — deregulation, tax cuts, free trade, and the shift of the welfare state towards in-kind benefits and work requirements. The reasons we went down this road were complex, and the results were mixed. This replaced an earlier paradigm that people called “the New Deal”, which started to emerge during the Great Depression but really solidified during and just after WW2. That paradigm involved large-scale government investment, heavy regulation, high taxes, social insurance, and the encouragement of a corporate welfare state.

Ever since the financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2008-12, we’ve been looking for a new organizing principle. Obama didn’t really try to give us one; with the exception of Obamacare, he was mostly focused on crisis recovery and damage control (stimulus, financial regulation, boosting the welfare state incrementally along largely neoliberal lines).

But everyone knew a new paradigm was needed. The question was what it would be…

[After carefully considering, then sadly rejecting climate change as a candidate…]

So if it’s not climate change, what will be the thing that forces us to come up with a new policy paradigm? If it’s not the moral equivalent of war, perhaps it’ll be the threat of actual war…

The War Economy,” Part 1

In a second post, he elaborates on how the U.S. and its allies might stack up against a “New Axis.” He dives into relative demographicc, economic, and social strengths, concluding…

I can’t say whether or not the New Axis is the most formidable military competitor that the U.S. and its allies have ever faced. The original Axis was certainly fearsome, and the USSR had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ready to roast the world at the touch of a button. But I think that the comparisons above show that the New Axis certainly represents an economic competitor like none the U.S. and its allies have ever faced. And the reason is simply China. Russia is mainly a gas station with nukes. But China has three things going for it:

  • China has far, far more workers than the original Axis or the Soviet bloc.
  • China has advanced manufacturing technology that probably rivals the original Axis in relative terms, and far exceeds the Soviet bloc.
  • China has the world’s largest manufacturing cluster, making it the “make everything country”, which neither the Axis nor the USSR managed to be.

He continues…

This is simply a unique situation in modern history. The Industrial Revolution began in Europe and spread to the U.S. and the East Asian rim. The aftermath of WW2 saw central Europe and the East Asian rim incorporated into a U.S.-led alliance that dominated global manufacturing in a way that the communist powers could never threaten. Now, with the rise of China, world manufacturing is divided roughly in two.

Much of the War Economy in the U.S. (and its allies) will therefore be about rediscovering the manufacturing capabilities they neglected during China’s meteoric rise…

The War Economy, Part 2: Sizing up the New Axis

The Brookings Institute recently published its own (and very resonant) assessment of U.S. readiness, “The Sources of Societal Competitiveness.” And Nathan Gardels followed with a trenchant reminder that consensus on national security is a double-edged sword…

In the end, the enduring vitality of any country must be built primarily on the wherewithal within, not on the shaky foundation of menacing adversaries without. George Kennan, architect of the containment strategy against the Soviet Union, understood that lasting vigor comes from the inner confidence of a nation that thrives on its own terms and doesn’t rely on enemies to hold it together. External threats may spur a welcome renewal, but it will remain fragile if that becomes its purpose.

Kennan believed correctly that the West would ultimately be victorious in the Cold War not on some battlefield but through the organic strength of a robust society that no adversary could match.

The same perspective applies today with respect to the challenge of assertive autocracies, especially China. The most important contribution democracies can make to fostering more freedom in the world is to demonstrate through their own institutional integrity and innovations how a governing consensus can be reached by non-authoritarian means.

When Domestic Unity Is Built On Foreign Enemies

We live in interesting times. Eminently worth reading all of the links in full.

* J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of The Ring

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As we return to first principles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that the Japanese Foreign Ministry sent telegrams to the Allies (by way of Max Grässli at the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs ) announcing that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration. The surrender of the Empire of Japan was announced by Japanese Emperor Hirohito on 15 August and formally signed on 2 September 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close.

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Lieutentant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, watches from the opposite side of the table. Foreign Ministry representative Toshikazu Kase is assisting Mr. Shigemitsu. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 10, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Their principal dependence is not upon their arms, I believe, so much as upon the failure of our revenue”*…

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and subsequent rounds of economic sanctions has underscored the important role of money in conflicts. As Jamie Catherwood explains, for hundreds of years nations have used money as a means of control and geopolitical influence. Financial instruments and economic sanctions have been wielded like any other weapon…

Over the course of centuries, nations have utilized money as a means of control and geopolitical influence. Financial instruments and economic sanctions have been wielded like any another weapon.

In fact, President William Taft’s foreign policy became known as one of ‘Dollar Diplomacy’. President Taft explicitly referenced the interchangeability of traditional weapons and debt in his State of the Union Address in 1912, explaining that his foreign policy was to “substitute dollars for bullets”

The methods and mediums through which countries wield this economic weapon changes over time, but the objectives of economic sanctions today are the same as those of centuries past: hurt the enemy by hurting their economy and restricting access to financial lifelines.

This article uses historical case studies across multiple centuries to demonstrate how money has been weaponized or used as a geopolitical tool in conflicts…

As the prevalence of “hot wars” continues to decline, the weaponization of money and finance stands to play an increasingly key role in how wars are waged…

A Brief History of Economic Warfare,” from @InvestorAmnesia.

* “Their principal dependence is not upon their arms, I believe, so much as upon the failure of our revenue. To think they have taken such measures, by circulating counterfeit bills, to depreciate the currency, that it cannot hold its credit longer than this campaign. But they are mistaken.” – John Adams, in 1777, on Britain’s attempts to undermine the U.S. economy

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As we brandish banknotes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1973 that Pink Floyd’s 8th studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, reached the top of the Billboard 200 album chart. It had entered the chart on March 17 of that year, just over two weeks after its release, and held the #1 spot for only a week. But it was in the chart for for a record-setting 741 consecutive weeks. It has popped back into the charts over the years, and has currently been ranked for over 900 weeks (and counting). Overall sales of the album are estimated to be close to 50 million copies.

Money
It’s a crime
Share it fairly, but don’t take a slice of my pie
Money
So they say
Is the root of all evil today

Money,” Track 6 (Track 1, Side 2) of The Dark Side of the Moon

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“Those who wish to perfect themselves must regard their losses as lessons and learn from them what sorts of things to avoid in the future.”*…

Ponder a mystery…

Ask 100 historians to rank the foreign policy teams of the post Truman presidencies. What might they say?  My wager: the majority would pinpoint the administration of George H.W. Bush as the most accomplished of the modern era. The men and women who served under President Bush have a distinguished list of accomplishments to their name: they brought the Cold War to a victorious conclusion, integrated two Germanies into one whole, managed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc without the outbreak of violence, shepherded South Korea and the Philippines into the democratic fold, saved South America from a regional debt crisis, enshrined human rights and neoliberal economics as the conceptual foundation stones of the new post-Cold War order, and presided over two military victories—first in the now largely forgotten Panama intervention, second in the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. That war’s 100-hour land campaign was one of the most spectacular military triumphs in American history—a triumph made the more impressive by the massive global backing the Bush team mustered to support it. A vast number of countries mobilized troops to join in the coalition, even the Soviet Union supported this American-led intervention, and the United States did not have to pay a dime. Allies abroad were convinced to finance all operations.

It is a substantial set of accomplishments. Even those who might disagree with some of their favored policies (say the administration’s embrace of free trade as a bedrock principle of their new world order) will admit that the foreign policy team that directed America in the late Reagan and Bush Sr. years was fantastically effective at moving the world towards their own vision of the good.

Such nice things cannot be said for the poorest showing of the post-Truman era. Here again a commanding majority of experts is likely to have a consensus candidate: the administration of George W. Bush, particularly during its first term. The demerits are many: a poorly conceived strategy of the War on Terror, the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the mismanagement of that country’s occupation, their failure to prevent its subsequent descent into civil war, the mistaken attempt to remake the People’s Republic of China a “responsible stakeholder” in an American led international system, and Russia’s alienation from this same system all occurred under the watch of the Bush 43 team. To this may be added a one final disaster, the subject of this series: it was this group of statesmen that had responsibility for Afghanistan in the early aughts. As they squabbled in Washington, their field of victory sank into our military quagmire.

How different the legacies of these two groups of officials!

But there is the catch: these are not two groups of officials. The national security teams of Bush 41 and Bush 43, America’s most accomplished and most reviled set of statesmen officials… were the exact same set of people. The authors of America’s Cold War victory were the architects of America’s 21st century defeats. There lies the mystery! With more collective experience under their belts than any foreign policy team since the Founding Era, with a greater list of accomplishments than any group of national security elites since the creation of the modern national security state, the statesmen-officials of the second Bush administration should have accomplished glorious deeds. They should have lived up to their track records. Instead, they delivered failure and catastrophe. How could this have happened?…

Find out at “Learning From Our Defeat: The Skill of the Vulcans,” from Tanner Greer (@Scholars_Stage).

[Image above: source]

José Raúl Capablanca

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As we learn from our mistakes, we might recall that it was on this date in 2014 that One World Trade Center formally opened in lower Manhattan. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, it was erected as a replacement for (and is the namesake of) the North Tower of the original World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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“War is progress, peace is stagnation”*…

 

Even if one doesn’t share Hegel’s copacetic take on conflict, one can observe that wars do, in fact, usually encourage bursts of technological innovation.  Indeed, most of us are pretty familiar (in both senses of the phrase) with the range of epoch-defining technologies that were a product of World War II: radar, radio navigation, rocketry, jet engines, penicillin, nuclear power, synthetic rubber, computers… the list goes on.

But we are perhaps a little less familiar with the advances– now so ingrained that we take them for granted– that emerged from World War I.  Readers will recall one such breakthrough, and its author: Fritz Haber, who introduced chemical warfare (thus lengthening the war and contributing to millions of horrible deaths), then used some of the same techniques– nitrogen fixation, in particular– to make fertilizer widely and affordably available (thus feeding billions).

Five other key developments at “The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I.”

* Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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As we look for the silver lining, we might that it was on this date in 1917, “Army Registration Day,” that the draft was (re-)instituted in the U.S. for World War I.  Draft board selections were subsequently made, and conscription began on July 20.

These draft boards were localized and based their decisions on social class: the poorest were the most often conscripted because they were considered the most expendable at home.  African-Americans in particular were often disproportionately drafted, though they generally were conscripted as laborers.

Young men registering for conscription during World War I in New York City, New York, on June 5, 1917.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

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