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"After all, there’s nothing unusual about soldiers being in poor physical condition: when Britain introduced conscription in 1916, the authorities were horrified at the poor physical state of many of the recruits. Anecdotally, many of the private soldiers who fought were barely 1,50 metres in height, and officers often stood at least a head taller than the men they were commanding."

It's interesting (to me, at least) to consider that recruitment health conditions might have parallels when the growing inequality in wealth is similar. Sure, they were short then, and they're fat now, but it's both a consequence of the upper class attempting to recruit the lower class and being forced to confront what abominations they've done to the food supply in pursuit of a more efficient work force.

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My guess is that consciously or subconsciously deciders in the West were assuming the fighting would be done by people who were NOT brought up on the culture of self gratification and indolence. One handy characteristic of the citizens of Josep Borrell's "jungle" is that they can endure hardship on behalf of the puffy Wall-E citizens of the "garden" (or is the H.G.Wells Morlock/Eloi metaphor more fitting?). The trouble is that the tougher people can easily see how much power they have if they get organized. This is a recurring theme in history, so enough said. Eventually they decide to march on Rome.

In Heinlein's SF Starship Troopers, there was an effort to maintain a quasi-fascist branch of society to do the heavy lifting...but that was the only way to earn citizenship. That idea won't fly in postmodern post-consequence Western life in 2024. There sure are a lot of people saying this whole set-up is doomed. I think the real question is: what is the stable equilibrium place where we will land after this top-heavy construct topples (or is toppled by a nation or society that isn't so weak)?

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Perhaps instead of wondering how the US will rebuild its military and make it fit for fighting major conventional land wars we should concentrate more on making friends and allies instead of making enemies. Crazy, I know. But Bismarck, who knew a thing or two about employing military force to make Germany a great power in his day said the secret to successful politics was: “make a good treaty with Russia.”

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I’d like to pick out the part of this essay on priorities. From my time as a technical (not management) consultant and a project manager (no, it’s not a real job) I’ve found that actually accomplishing anything requires someone to make the decision of what they want to accomplish. It’s like pulling teeth.

An example might be the iron triangle of construction: it can done be cheaply, quickly or well and you get to choose two of the three. But if the decision maker(s) can’t or won’t prioritize one of those three, the project will end up over budget, the schedule won’t be met and the quality will be poor. Every time. In my time I’ve found mostly blank stares if I directly ask the question, “what do want to achieve?” Even when I frame it as a multiple choice question with no wrong answers.

It is perhaps a fundamental and systemic problem with the “west” at this stage of development.

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Fucken awesome post

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A common theme expressed by younger men and women in the West is that they feel cheated of life's opportunities - caused by the mistakes and greed of their elders. Well I think they have a point but overplay the woe and tend to wallow in self pity and poor life choices. Putting my views to one side, it is certainly the case that the current generation of military age is much less likely to be prepared to fight for their national cause as they take a generally dimmer view of what it has dealt them. Notwithstanding generations now of encouraging mental weakness and perpetual childhood, as well as playing up toxic masculinity. And so on.

We also have over a generation of de-industrialisation and budgetary constraints. This has left western militaries in a parlous condition with only a long term solution of re-industrialisation to produce enough equipment and ammo etc to rebuild them. Cold war stocks have now gone. Even the mighty USA is experiencing severe problems right now. To rebuild for most nations - including the USA - will require economic pain. And most civilian tax payers do not see this as high on their priority list.

One solution to this was James Bond type special operations, color revolutions and the information war. Well we have seen this has its limitations. However targeted propaganda appears also to work well within Western populations. Maybe not well enough to make the sacrifices required to rebuild their MICs.

In summary, to sort of quote Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get thumped in the face. Hard reality is now intruding on delusional thinking. However on almost every issue of major importance, the West is engaged in fantastical thinking and irrational groupthink. It is going to be a long trip down, and a long way up again. The End of History? I think not.

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People are willing to die for their country, if they think their country is worthy of sacrifice, but since the United States is controlled by greedy, incompetent monsters who use the military for what are effectively enormous country destroying chevauchées, why should anyone want to join the military?

If the United States was every invaded, I thing people would be surprised at the enlistment numbers, but no more fighting for the glory of the empire.

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I vaguely remember that episode from the Simpsons where "wars of the future will be fought by small robots, and it will be your job to maintain those small robots". Someone must have taken that as prophecy instead of parody.

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If that lack of interest in the military had been accompanied with a willingness to create ties with the countries usually on the opposite side of us and to develop fairness and justice all would’ve been well. But no.

I often walk past a recruitment office here in England and the ads on the windows seem to emphasise two main things: fitness and travel, two of the obsessions of modern people it seems. I chuckle to myself.

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"But even if western armies could once again study effectively the type of operations the Russians are conducting, they do not have the forces available to reciprocate, and almost certainly never will."

Interestingly enough, Russia seems to be avoiding large-scale operations in Ukraine. I suspect that this is not the result of any real strategy, but out of a desire to keep casualty numbers politically manageable, while hoping that something happens in the meantime.

For my part, I consider this to be foolish on the part of Russia.

"What this may mean in practical terms is that, for example, if the Air Force of your country has a flying training budget and the price of oil goes up sharply, flying training will have to be reduced, even if other parts of defence cannot spend all the money they are given. "

That is why God gave us commodities hedges. If you know you are going to to require vast quantities of JP4, you buy long futures contracts or call options to hedge against price spikes.

"So I repeat, even if the immense organisational, technical and industrial challenges of rebuilding defence could be overcome, you still need large numbers of Mk 1 human beings ready to embrace the military life. As things stand, far from enlarging our armed forces over the next decade, I suspect that most western countries will do well to avoid losing them all together. I’m not sure the Russians have quite the same problem."

This is the real military problem that the West faces right here. Most Westerners are weak and soft, certainly the PMC are, and those that aren't are not the sort of people that the PMC wants to entrust with any kind of hard power.

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I've been saying for years now, bring back the draft, and make it fair across classes. When Rumsfeld and Cheney realized that a volunteer army would solve some immediate problems after the disaster of Vietnam, they knew conscription is what turned the tide against the MIC during that debacle. I was there, and, to be truthful, I didn't want to be sent off to some faraway place to kill Asians in jungles, and it really got my attention. Our entire foreign policy would change for the better if the voting public had their children snatched away to do that again.

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"we tend to forget how deeply ingrained the idea of “service to the nation” actually was, and how universal were assumptions about military service, both as an ethical duty and a coming-of-age ritual" is perhaps right in the US or France, with their republican traditions. But it is plain wrong in Sweden where peasants were fiercely anti-war as long as there were any peasants. They made socalled peasant peaces over the international borders in case of war, they dodged military recruitments and were finally convinced about 2 months military service in the late 19th century – provided that their taxes were substantially cut.

And I don't even mention workers!

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Russia has has its own share of problems with Armed Forces so I'll list a few.

First is a relatively low quality of the higher command. A significant portion of people there are so-called Parquet generals. Staff like this usually accumulates in the military naturally over a relatively long period of peace, but in the times of war they should go as they are simply unable to command and coordinate effectively. Unfortunately, they are politically protected from facing the consequences of their mistakes and failings. This factor limits the effectiveness of battlefield operations and supply. Apparently Kremlin did not expect to fight a major war and largely it still tries not to, because allowing competent people to rise in ranks in military would force Kremlin to rethink it's own approach to hiring. For the decades Kremlin enlisted political and financial managers from it's own close circle judging people by loyalty, not merit. Wars always force regimes to abandon practices like these so Kremlin avoided

the full-scale war and mobilisation, hence Minsk 1 and 2, Stambul peace talks and general idea of SMO. This unfortunate condition is compensated by bravery and skill of common soldiers and junior officers. And as the war goes on Kremlin simply has to install more and more competent people in military.

Second is a low quality of intelligence service. I guess two years ago Kremlin was still thinking Ukrainian army is going to meet Russians with open arms to unite and overthrow a corrupt Kiev regime. This attitude undobtedly supported by intellingence reports brought a disaster after disaster. At the start of the SMO Russian simply drove by UAF compounds only to be shot in the back. We did not bomb military bases, we did little to break the supply or control the already taken settlements. Generally this unpreparedness to deal with a strong and motivated enemy forced Russian Army to withdraw from the northern oblasts of Ukraine to maintain the stable frontline. This event gave rise to overly optimistic expectations in the West and you know the rest of the story.

Third there there are some shortages of basic goods like clothes and medicines due to organisationals problems in the military. The sitation is getting better as Russian army learns and adapts. There is also a pretty strong volunteer support movement crowdsourcing and crowdfunding for the needs of the frontline.

As for the morale, motivation and discipline they only improve over time. The West did its best to boost Russian fighting spirit by introducing Balkenkreuz in Ukrainian steppes.

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This essay is undermined by its tendency to lump the European part of "the West" with its American portion. The armed forces of the U.S. have more than enough recent combat experience, thank you (I devoutly wish it were less). The budget constraints discussed at some length are inoperative -- Congress habitually gives the armed forces more than they request, annually. And, in a country in which the major institutions are derided and objects of contempt, the armed forces are virtually uniquely respected (just look how many generals are promoted to Cabinet positions).

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Interesting that Israel with its mandatory conscription and what seems like "morale" and esprit de corps, doesn't seem to be terribly better at actual fighting than the rest of the West.

I suppose the neoliberalization and lack of a clear mission (as traditionally understood) is not made up for by a comparatively better crop of recruits.

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"But from the 1990s onwards, the Notional Left began to veer increasingly towards a kind of humanitarian militarism (less politely, humanitarian fascism) which saw the use of violence as a perfectly acceptable tool to overthrow recalcitrant states and rulers, and to remake them in our Liberal image."

I thought Aurelian's notion of "humanitarian fascism" was quite interesting. The U.S. poured trillions of dollars into this project, particularly since 9-11, but it had (and has) a lousy return on investment. Over time, doubts accumulated (at home and abroad) about how humanitarian it really was in motivation or execution.

The U.S. is tiring of spending more $ billions on places like Ukraine and Gaza without success and with huge amounts of blowback. "Humanitarian fascism" may now be on its last legs. What will replace it? Unabashed coercive "militaristic fascism"? Further escalation? Possibly with nukes?

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