Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Retrotopia: Economics by Other Means

This is the tenth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator catches a train for the agricultural hinterlands of the Lakeland Republic, and learns some of the reasons why the Republic is so hard to invade.

The phone rang at eight a.m. sharp the next morning. I was in the bathroom, trying to get my electric shaver to give me a shave half as good as the one I got at the barbershop, and failing; I turned the thing off, put it down, and got to the phone on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Mr. Carr? Melanie Berger. We’ve got everything lined up for your trip today. Can you be at the train station by nine o’clock?”

“Sure thing,” I said.

“Good. Your tickets will be waiting for you, and Colonel Tom Pappas will meet you there. You can’t miss him; look for a wheelchair and a handlebar mustache.”

The wheelchair didn’t sound too promising—I had no idea what kind of accommodations counties in the Lakeland Republic’s lower tiers made for people with disabilities—but I figured Meeker’s people knew what they were doing. “I’ll do that.”

“You’ll be back Saturday evening,” Berger said then. “The president would like to see you again Monday afternoon, if you’re free.”

“I’ll put it on the schedule,” I assured her; we said the usual, and I hung up.

It took me only a few minutes to pack for the trip, and then it was out the door, down the stairs, and through the lobby to the street to wave down a taxi. As I got out onto the sidewalk, a kid with a bag of rolled newspapers hanging from one shoulder turned toward me expectantly and said, “Morning Blade? ‘Nother satellite got hit.”

That sounded worth the price of a paper; I handed over a bill and a couple of coins, got the paper in return, thanked the kid, and went to the street’s edge. A couple of minutes later I was sitting in a two-wheel cab headed for the train station, listening to the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves ahead and reading the top story on the newspaper’s front page.

The kid who’d sold me the paper hadn’t been exaggerating. A chunk of the Progresso IV satellite that got taken out by space junk a week before had plowed into a big Russian telecommunications satellite during the night, spraying fragments at twenty thousand miles an hour across any number of midrange orbits. Nothing else had been hit yet, but the odds of a full-blown Kessler syndrome had just gone up by a factor I didn’t want to think about.

Aside from the fact itself, only one thing caught my attention in the article: a comment from a professor of astronomy at the University of Toledo, mentioning that his department was calculating the orbits of as many fragments as they’d been able to track. I didn’t know a lot about astronomy, but I’d learned just enough that the thought of trying to work out an orbit using pen and paper made my head hurt. I wondered if they’d scraped together the money to buy a bootleg computer from a Chicago smuggling ring or something like that. 

I’d just about finished the first section of the paper when the taxi pulled up to the sidewalk in front of the train station. I paid the cabbie, stuffed the newspaper into my coat pocket, and headed inside. The big clock above the ticket counters said eight-thirty; there wasn’t much of a line, so by eight-forty I had my round trip ticket in an inner pocket and was heading through the doors marked Platform Four.

I’d just about gotten my bearings when I spotted a burly man in a wheelchair halfway down the platform. He turned around and saw me a moment later, made a little casual half-salute with one hand, and wheeled over to meet me. Berger hadn’t been kidding about the handlebar mustache; it was big, black, and curled at the tips. That and bushy eyebrows made up for the lack of a single visible hair anywhere else on his head. He was wearing the first hip-length jacket I’d seen anywhere in the Lakeland Republic, over an olive-drab military uniform.

“Peter Carr?” he said. “I’m Tom Pappas. Call me Tom; everyone else does.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand. The guy had hands the size of hams and a grip that would put a gorilla to shame.

“Melanie tells me you rattled the boss good and proper yesterday,” he said with a chuckle. “You probably know we’ve been getting a lot of semi-official visitors from outside governments since the borders opened. Of course they all want to know about our military. Care to guess how many of them asked about that right up front, to the President’s face?”

“I can’t be the only one,” I protested.

“Not quite. Ever met T. Bayard Batchley?”

I burst out laughing. “Yes, I’ve met him. Don’t tell me he’s the only other.”

“Got it in one. Of course he blustered about it in the grand Texan style, and more or less implied that the entire army of the Republic of Texas was drooling over the prospect of invading us.”

I shook my head, still laughing. “I bet. I was on a trade mission to Austin a while back, and we got a Batchley lecture to the effect that everyone in Philadelphia was going to starve to death if they didn’t get shipments of Texas beef that week.”

“Sounds about right.”

The train came up to the platform just then, and the roar of the locomotive erased any possibility of further conversation for the moment. The conductor took our tickets and waved us toward one of the cars. I wondered how Pappas was going to climb the foot or so from the platform to the door, but about the time I’d finished formulating the thought, one of the car attendants popped out, grabbed a handle I hadn’t noticed under the step, and slid out a steel ramp. Pappas rolled up into the car, the attendant pushed the ramp back into its place, they said a few words to each other, and then Pappas wheeled his way over to a place at the back of the car, flipped one of the two seats up, and got a couple of tiedown straps fastened onto his chair by the time I’d followed him.

I took the seat next to him. “Do they have this sort of thing in all the trains here?”

“Wheelchair spots? You bet. We had a lot of disabled vets after the Second Civil War, of course, and got a bunch more in ‘49. That’s how I ended up in this thing—got stupid during the siege of Paducah, and took some shrapnel down low in my back.”

The train filled up around us.  “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.

“Oh, it doesn’t slow me down that much.  The only complaint I’ve got is that I’m stuck in a desk job in Toledo now, instead of out there in the field.” He shook his head. “How much did they tell you about our military?”

“Here, or back home?”

“Either one.”

“Here, nothing. Back home—” I considered the briefings I’d been given, edited out the classified parts. “They’re pretty much baffled. We know you’ve got universal military service on the Swiss model, but no modern military tech at all—plenty of light infantry and field artillery, but no armor, no drones, no air force worth mentioning, and a glorified coast guard on the Great Lakes.”

He nodded as the train lurched into motion. “That’s about right. And you’re wondering how we can get away with that.”

“It’s a concern,” I said. “As I told President Meeker, we don’t want a failed state or a war zone on our western border.”

Pappas laughed, as though I’d made a joke. “I bet. What if I told you that we’re less likely to end up that way than any other country on this continent?”

I gave him a wry look. “You’d have to to some very fast talking to convince me of that. With that kind of armament, I don’t see how you could expect to defeat a country with a modern military.”

“We don’t have to defeat them,” he said at once. “All we have to do is bankrupt them.”

I stared at him.

“War’s not cheap,” he went on. “Modern high-tech warfare, square and cube that. Half the reason the old United States collapsed was the amount of money it poured into trying to stay ahead of everybody else’s military technology. I’m not going to ask you how much the Atlantic Republic has to pay each year for drones, robot tanks, helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and the information systems you need to run all of it; you know as well as I do that it’s a big chunk of the national budget, and I’d be willing to make a bet that you have to skimp on the rest of your military budget to make up for it—meaning that your ordinary grunts don’t have the training or the morale they might have.”

I didn’t answer. Outside the window, commercial buildings gave way to a residential neighborhood dotted with gardens and parks.

“So you’ve got a lot of money sunk in military hardware. Let’s say you guys decided to invade us.”

“That’s not going to happen,” I told him.

“Just for example.” He waved the objection away with one massive hand. “You send in your drones and robot tanks and helicopter gunships, seize Toledo and wherever else your general staff thinks is strategic enough to merit it, and dump a bunch of infantry to hold onto those places. You’ve won, right? Except that that’s when the fun begins.

“All that light infantry and field artillery you mentioned—it’s still there, distributed all over the country, and it’s not dependent on any kind of central command. It’s got first-rate training, and most of the training is oriented to one thing and one thing only: insurgent operations. So thirty minutes after your drones cross the border, you’re dealing with a full-on, heavily armed insurgency with prepared positions and ample firepower, in every single county of the Lakeland Republic. However long you want to hold on, we can hold on longer, and every day of it costs you a lot more than it costs us. Oh, and a lot of the training our troops get focuses on taking out your high-tech assets with inexpensive munitions. So it’s the same kind of black hole the old United States kept getting itself into—no way to win, and the bills just keep piling up until you go home.”

“I’m a little surprised you’re telling me all this,” I said after a moment.

“Don’t be. We want people outside to know exactly what they’re up against if they invade.” He gestured out the window. “Check that out.”

We were still in the residential part of Toledo, the same patchwork of houses, gardens, and little business districts I’d seen on the way from Pittsburgh, but something new cut across the landscape: a canal. It didn’t have water in it yet, and so I could see that the sides were lined with big slabs of concrete that must have been salvaged from a prewar freeway.

“We’re putting those in everywhere that the landscape permits,” Pappas said. “Partly that’s economic—canals are cheaper to run than any other transport—but it’s also military. You want to try to cross one of those in a tank, be my guest. There’s a lot of that sort of thing. Every county is its own military unit and builds bunkers, prepared positions, tank traps, you name it. Since we’re not interested in invading anybody else, we can put a lot of resources into that.”

I decided to take a risk. “If you’re not interested in invading anybody else, why did your people put so much work into getting detailed topo maps of our territory back before the border opened?”

The bushy eyebrows went up. “You know about that.”

I nodded. “We got lucky.”

“Gotcha,” Pappas said. “Did you hear much about the other side of our dust-up with the Confederacy in ‘49?” I motioned for him to go on, and he grinned. “We sent teams across the border into their territory to mess with their infrastructure. Bridges, power lines, levees, you name it—anything that would raise the price tag. We even got a couple of teams onto Brazilian territory to do the same thing; we would have done more of that if the war hadn’t ended when it did.”

“So it’s all about economics,” I said.

“Of course. You know how Clausewitz said that war’s a continuation of politics by other means? He got that half right. It’s also a continuation of economics—and the last guy standing is the one who can afford to keep fighting longest.”

I nodded. Outside the window, the first of the farms and fields were coming into view, brown with stubble or green with cover crops for overwintering.

“All across this country,” Pappas said then, “we’ve got young men and women doing their two year stints in the army, and showing up for two weeks a year afterwards as long as they can still shoulder a gun—and there’s a good reason for that. This country got the short end of the stick for decades back before the Second Civil War, then got the crap pounded out of it during the fighting, and then—well, I could go on. We found out the hard way what happens when you let some jerk in a fancy white house a thousand miles away decide for you how you’re going to run your life. That’s why President Meeker’s not much more than a referee to ride herd on the parties in the legislature; that’s why each county makes so many of its own decisions by vote—and it’s why all the people you’re going to see tomorrow are putting a nice fall weekend into shooting at drones.”

“Is that what’s on the schedule for tomorrow?”

The bushy eyebrows went up again. “Melanie didn’t tell you?” Suddenly he chuckled, rubbed his big hands together. “Oh man. You’re going to get an education.”


sgage said...
I am all in for a drone shoot!!!

12/2/15, 5:23 PM

Nick said...
I remain interested to hear how the drone shoot goes - or where they get the high performance batteries, semiconductors and radio systems that I think are necessary for drones to be a useful technology. However, it's entirely possible that in the (real world) future the key technologies that make drones expensive today get cheaper in real terms for a while longer.

However, Pappas is right about the costs of invading. I can't find links, but some retired US generals have espoused the opinion that truly defeating ISIS would require occupying the entire Middle East with close to a million troops for ~25 years. Needless to say, this isn't economically feasible (not that it might not be tried on a half-baked scale). It's worth noting that after World War 2, the Allied occupation forces in Germany and Japan were quite large - and the average German or Japanese citizen was not particularly antagonistic towards their conquerors, because the postwar privations and indignities were so much less than what they suffered during the war - it wouldn't necessarily be the same in a place like the Lakeland republic where it seems like the government would generally be fairly well regarded and invading forces, even if they did not commit atrocities, would be universally despised.

In any case, I think the future of robots in war depends on how effectively the robots can be automated - transmission links, especially near real-time, high bandwidth ones like current military drones use are quite vulnerable against an advanced adversary - but onboard AI is not nearly so vulnerable - if it can be made to work.

12/2/15, 5:28 PM

Auriel Ragmon said...
Where do I sign up for a permanent resident visa?
I'd learn to shoot if it meant shooting drones!
Jim of Olym

12/2/15, 5:41 PM

Pinku-Sensei said...
So next week that will be the long-awaited drone shoot episode. I'm looking forward to it. It should be great fun.

As for the strategy described, it looks like what the U.S. ran into in Iraq and Afghanistan as implemented by Midwesterners pretending to be the Swiss. Even though the land is flat and open here, adding barriers like canals would make the country a lot less friendly to invaders. That will make the Swiss impersonation a little more convincing. On a related note, I'm surprised you didn't add in bicycle infantry, which you've mentioned as a use of appropriate technology in a deindustrializing future before.

Speaking of appropriate technology and the theme of the past few weeks' posts about the technology people use being a matter of choice and not necessity, I've run into two stories where well-meaning residents of the county where I live convincing people who had abandoned driving out of necessity into driving again by getting new cars. The first was James Robertson, ABC's Person of the Week from February. He took a bus to the end of the line and then walked many miles to work and back, as his job did not pay enough for him to buy a car. A good Samaritan saw him walking the same route day after day and offered him a ride. When the driver found out about Robertson's situation, he told the local media about it and an online fundraiser was set up to buy Robertson a new car. He ended up getting so much money that he moved out of Detroit into the suburbs to be closer to work and live in a safer neighborhood.

That story repeated itself last week, when a man named Tony was biking to work in a snowstorm. A car salesman saw him and offered him and his bike a ride, first to work, then to look at a van. The salesman then set up an online fundraiser himself to get money for the van. It worked and Tony now has a lightly used van. The car salesman also made a sale for his dealership. Win-win, except for all the externalities.

In both cases, the media spun the events as heartwarming human-interest stories. While they were successes of charity, both incidents displayed the failure of metro Detroit to provide adequate public transportation. The response also sent a message that Americans think that car dependence is a virtue, not a vice. They also enforced the use of the prevailing level of technology, although the recipients were willing.

12/2/15, 5:55 PM

John Roth said...
I'm reminded that Clauswitz had another saying that doesn't seem to get repeated anywhere near as much. He compared a successful war to a three-legged stool: a healthy economy, a committed citizenry and a well-prepared military. I guess three halves is better than nothing.

12/2/15, 5:56 PM

pygmycory said...
Interesting. Basically, Lakeland is making itself too expensive to hold to be worth invading. That seems a useful strategy for less powerful countries. It might be a better one for Canada than the current 'let's have a smallish military that helps out the world superpower with their project-de-jour.'

Honestly, I don't think our dropping a few bombs on Syria or training some locals in warfare the western way makes much of a difference in world events one way or the other. It's expensive and pointless, and I don't think our military is capable of defending against either Russia or the USA should they decide to invade us someday.

Because the vast majority of Canada's population is in urban centers within a couple of hundred km of the southern border with the US, the Canadian winter isn't much defense. It's a very different situation from Russia defending itself from an invader from the west.

Not that I really expect the USA to attack Canada in the near future.

Russia? I sure hope the whole mess in Syria doesn't turn into open warfare between Nato and Russia. Canada doesn't have much of a military presence in the North compared to Russia, and the arctic islands would be very vulnerable to changing hands in a war if Russia wanted them. Presumably in a world-war type situation Russia would be very busy fighting the rest of Nato, but those islands would be an easy target.

12/2/15, 5:58 PM

Eric Backos said...
Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace, &c.
Cleveland, Ohio: The weekly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 is posted on under the MeetUps forum. Splendorem Lucis Viridis! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. (Look for the table topper with the green wizard hat.)
Faithfully yours
Tower 440
PS – Thanks for the advertising space, Boss.

12/2/15, 6:09 PM

Eric Backos said...
Fourteen more people know about Star’s Reach and The Blood of the Earth than knew yesterday. I’m working on middle school teaching certification and presented a quantitative analysis of the grammar in the two books to my (what else?) grammar class. I also put a link to The Dark Mountain Project on the handout. Does this count as a random act of Green Wizardry? Also, my lesson plans using science fiction stories to teach students to be cautious about technology have been requested by and sent to other aspiring Green Wizards all over the world. If any of you nice folks have favorite cautionary tales, please suggest away!

12/2/15, 6:10 PM

Mark said...
Distant Neighbors: Wendell Berry & Gary Snyder at the end of this, WB sez "I'd like to shoot down a drone" or words to that effect. At about 1:30 Much more memorable conversation and q&a.

JMG, thanks for the story!

12/2/15, 6:17 PM

FernWise said...

Canals! I know you want to talk the economics of the military right now ... but I've had canals (and water-based industry) on my mind.

I'm down river of you, a bit northwest of Harper's Ferry (in Shepherdstown, WV), and within an easy walk of the remains of the C&O canal. Harper's Ferry, of course, was an old industrial hub, using the power of the Shenandoah to power all sorts of workshops.

Do you think it's likely that, after/during collapse, that we will have the ability to bring back the canals and the water-powered industries we had? As I understand Harper's Ferry's history, it was the repeated destruction from flooding that led them to turn away from water power to electricity. Is it likely that someone will have the will to re-cast the parts needed to bring back those technologies while we still have the technologies to do that easily?

I certainly don't see the city govt doing it - all the very nice museum sites in Harper's Ferry are demos running on electricity, and climbing thru' the brick ruins of the old power plant on Virginus Island ... gives me no clues at all.

12/2/15, 6:42 PM

Graeme Bushell said...
Nice work!

You know, although I'm slightly too young, and of the wrong nationality to have been so effectively targeted by nostalgia as many of the other readers, the story itself is getting really interesting.

The economics of warfare is a key insight - lakeland have set themselves up to be not worth the cost. If the costs outweigh the benefits, warfare won't happen, or won't happen often, or for long. It's a strategy that a lot of plants and animals have evolved. Tough fibres, toxins, difficult-to-access calories, nasty bite, etc.


12/2/15, 6:44 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Ah, yes, guerrillas and good tactics trump hardware any day of the week. Ask the redcoats. For that matter, ask any great power that ever took on Afghanistan. The only thing that can trump guerrillas on their home ground would probably be a total scorched earth policy a la General Sherman.

So next week is the great drone shoot? Fun!

12/2/15, 7:00 PM

patriciaormsby said...
Both men and women doing two-year stints! Oh this is a good touch! I look forward eagerly to the next installment. And whatever became of handlebar mustaches? Once, years ago, I saw a well-dressed gentleman in a wealthier part of central Tokyo with a nice mustache. How distinctive that was! The Japanese do not like standing out, and a lot of the guys would only have a skimpy one, so you rarely see mustaches here.
I kept stopping and thinking as I read this. Two days ago I wrote out an outline for the Meriga Project fiction I've been thinking about. That came to 17 short chapters. My initial idea was about a page each, like a diary, with what I was estimating at ten entries, but there is so much background information and so many essential details. Good grief, I wanted a short story, but it will turn out a bit longer. Like Retrotopia, this will be about a well-led community with a realistic approach and humane ideals, accounting for Neeonjin's future strength.
And, a week ago, I mentioned to a certain activist, tangential to last week's discussion, an idea I'd gotten while working on the fourth section of my first novel, that just begged to be not a mere mention, but an entire novel in itself, and she liked the idea, so last week that started spilling out too, and it appears a neck to neck race with the Meriga Project piece (that I'm calling "Empress of the Sun"). It's in diary form, so I can set it aside, but it occurs to me I need to call a "sabbatical" if I am going to get these three works out. Because I'm the breadwinner, I can't call off my work. But as the Dragon King* told me a couple of years ago, I had better stop wasting my time, and I know exactly what he meant. So I will take a sabbatical from the news and buy a screen that I can use to block off my husband's constantly flashing TV. I promise to drop in here (perhaps Sundays), but not try to read all the comments, though they are so excellent.
*(The only mention I could find of him was here: and a worthwhile piece in itself, but another search turned up this: with interesting background on the Kompira Shrine itself and its connection to the Dragon King, known among esoteric practitioners as a particularly responsive deity.)

12/2/15, 7:02 PM

Bootstrapper said...
If you can't afford to go to war, you can't afford to go to war.

Making the cost of occupation greater than the return that can be gained by invading and occupying. That's exactly how the Vietmamese defeated the U.S. forty years ago and why the U.S. has lost every war since.


12/2/15, 7:08 PM

Howard Skillington said...
I’m guessing that the Lakeland Republic’s army is not top-heavy with colonels and generals, because career officers like to be able to show off a lot of sexy, high-tech, bigger-than-yours weaponry – cost to the taxpayers be damned.

Commanders of small units of cavalry and field artillery would need to focus on other things, like well-trained troops and tactical precision. Where’s the glamor in that for a five-star general?

12/2/15, 7:08 PM said...
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations bin his temple before the battle is fought... The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat. How much more no calculations at all, as Sun Tzu wrote.

He goes on, somewhat loosely translating: In the operations of war, when there are ten thousand drones in the air, a thousand swift Hummers, as many heavy tanks, and a hundred-thousand [plus thirty thousand surge-troops] Kevlar-armored soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them all across seas and continents, the expenditure at home and at the front, such as the entertainment of guests, or the purchase of small items such as glue and paint, and more expensive things like armor and F-35 tactical fighter jets, will reach the princely sum of 1,000,000 barrels of oil per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men. If victory is long in coming, the men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. If the campaign is protracted, the State will not be equal to the strain."

My ancient Chinese is somewhat rusty-to-non-existent, so I couldn't quite make out what some of the characters mean. But I don't think I'm that far off.

It's exhausting, sometimes, being an ancient history teacher reading about modern-day military campaigns. You constantly realize that either the civilian and military leadership has no idea how wars are fought or won [not that you'd necessarily do better yourself, truly]; or that they've been successfully lobbied and bribed by the chariot-builders association and the gravediggers' union.

12/2/15, 7:12 PM

Martin Lair said...
Hello JMG
I really appreciate the management strategies from the series and I sincerly hope that it inspires some future (adequate for once) politicians; also thank you for making me discover Thelonious monk a few weeks back, The man's a genius and his music is some of the most captivating I know of.
On another note, I have recently been reading Dmitry Orlov's series "Shrinking the technosphere" which seems to depict a much darker future than yours concerning climate and the fate of human populations as he claims that the only sedentery societies to survive in the next centuries will be on the rivers of the northern fringe of the Eurasian Continent (Since McKenzie is poisoned by Fracking north America is crossed out of the map ) and that some other places will be supporting, if lucky, some nomad ones.
Since Orlov seems to be a rather cultivated and legitimate source in the world of peak oil and collapse blogging, I do not know if I should fully consider all of those claims (especially since Guy Mcpherson's fingerprints appears to cover some of them).Also, since I do not think I'll have the opportunity to emigrate to siberia and settle there in the next few years, I find the Idea of my genes disapearing in Canada along million of other people's rather concerning.
Please tell me he has to revise his paleontology.

12/2/15, 7:13 PM

Dagnarus said...
Quick comment. What if the world military powers get wise to this also? For example Brazil decides it is to expensive to invade, but at the same time Lakeland represents a dangerous example which should not be replicated. Based upon this it decides that the most economical way wreck the experiment, and send a clear to anyone thinking of trying it themselves, is to bomb the built up infrastructure, so that Lakeland has no working canals, nor railroads, nor manure power plants etc. Possibly not as much of an issue in tier 1 counties, but still. I imagine that they could drum up some sort of justification for doing this based upon Lakeland being a neo-Stalinist dystopia which forces its citizens to not have v-pads.

12/2/15, 7:33 PM

Michael said...
Great post. I've really been enjoying these.

I was at a rally in Spokane, WA on Sunday in support of the Paris Climate Talks, or more accurately, in support of The Powers That Be getting off their ass's and actually doing something for the world at the Paris Climate Talks and had to chuckle when I saw another participant with a sign that read: frack off you fracking frackers. It made me think of your blog.

12/2/15, 7:52 PM

Genevieve Hawkins said...
There's a lot of truth about bankrupting the other side unfortunately it hasn't worked yet against the current USA which continues to think that more war and more terror somehow means we're "winning." On a long enough timeline I suppose...these things often happen slowly then suddenly. Usually the suddenly occurs when the large groups of followers stop taking orders from the small group of leaders...

12/2/15, 7:57 PM

Ien in the Kootenays said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

12/2/15, 8:17 PM

Mitzi said...
Carr's comment about the astronomers reminded me of a structural biologist with whom I studied years ago. He was amazingly able to "see" models and do calculus in his head for which most people required a computer to begin. He had started working before the computers were available, and learned to do a lot of the work mentally. He later wrote programs for his computers, but he could check the results based on his mental approximations.
When we no longer have the crutch of the calculator, and the computer is human again, that doesn't mean we'll be back to the stone age. We seriously underestimate what we can do with the most complex computer on the planet- the one between our ears.

12/2/15, 9:04 PM

iangagn said...
I say this with my thick Quebecer accent: Bravo! I really hope this series turns into a novel. Not the Ernest What's-his-name kind, but something with military action involving technologies from different times for good measure.

Also, I know this is a bit out there, but I'd love for there to be some sort of tie-in, however small, with some of what you're doing in the occult scene. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would want that given that the author seems at least as interesting as his many stories. I know you don't take requests and I'm not formally asking for it; I'm just planting seeds.

Just curious, that's all.

12/2/15, 9:14 PM

RepubAnon said...
It'll be interesting to see how they avoid tech and raw materials smuggling.

12/2/15, 9:31 PM

Sunny Lord said...
Thank you JMG for another installment of Retrotopia. Being from Pakistan, I was wondering how crippling a Taliban attack on our infrastructure would be. Then again, unlike the Lakeland Republic, the Taliban aren't just defending their territory. They're out to radically transform society and to exact revenge on the process. Have past insurgencies concentrated on infrastructures?

12/2/15, 9:33 PM

Misty Barber said...
That was worth the two week delay. I especially enjoyed the described small strike forces targeting infrastructure. I've been thinking that it's not until we see that kind of action that we need to be worried, but a sustained effort would quickly become crippling.

12/2/15, 9:59 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Sgage, you're welcome to start attending just as soon as the Lakeland Republic gets around to being founded. ;-)

Nick, stay tuned. The drones that are being shot are imports -- the LR army gets them via Chicago smuggling rings, of course.

Jim, just go to the nearest Lakeland Republic consulate, which will open its doors in your country just as soon as the Treaty of Richmond gets signed in 2062!

Pinku-sensei, nah, it's at least one more episode away. First we've got Carr's initial reactions to a Tier One county, which he'll be reaching midmorning, and probably a visit to a school in the afternoon.

John, good. The Lakeland Republic has gone out of its way to have all three.

Pygmycory, the Swiss approach makes perfect sense for any country that doesn't want to attack its neighbors and doesn't want to be dependent for its survival on the empire du jour. Unfortunately Canada has always made the latter choice.

Eric, delighted to hear it. I assume that "Superiority" by Arthur C. Clarke is already on your list of stories...

Mark, if Wendell Berry wants to shoot down a drone, I for one would chip in to buy him the ammo.

FernWise, it depends on whether the local community has the necessary knowledge base and organization to do it. It's certainly an option -- canals can be dug and used with medieval technology, after all.

Graeme, thank you!

Patricia M., and a scorched earth policy like that would have to contend with a countryside full of heavily armed insurgents, attacking your forces from prepared positions, and with the total support of the population. Losses among the invading forces would quickly become insupportably high.

Patricia O., delighted to hear it. I'll look forward to the stories!

12/2/15, 10:02 PM

Ondra said...

this is getting still more exciting.

I wonder about the role of nuclear threatening in this scenario. But since Lakeland Republic does not try to invade anybody, it makes no sense to blow them up.


12/2/15, 10:13 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bootstrapper, exactly. A nation that designs its defense around those principles and invests in the necessary preparations could make things far more brutal for an invader than the Vietnamese could -- and they were no slouches at that harsh art.

Howard, got it in one. In the Lakeland Republic army, centralization is minimal; most colonels are doing what colonels used to do -- commanding regiments -- and there are only a handful of generals. The entire Department of Defense occupies a modestly sized building in Toledo, two blocks up the street from the Capitol, and it's mostly staffed with clerks, secretaries, and accountants.

Andrew, I've noticed the same thing about modern military thought. It really does look as though nobody in the US military (to say nothing of the political establishment) has ever heard that there were wars before the Second World War, and the thought of drawing the obvious conclusions even from the wars they actually remember never crosses their minds.

Martin, Dmitry has always been rather too fond of fast-collapse scenarios and mass dieoff. My research leads me to think that something like this is a lot more likely.

Dagnarus, you'll notice that nobody's tried to do that to the various neo-Stalinist enclaves in the modern world, and for good reason. On the one hand, people who are being bombed don't generally run out and embrace the values of the people doing the bombing; on the other, there's the risk of blowback -- the Brazilian government will certainly be thinking of those teams of saboteurs who came ashore in the middle of the night during the war, and considering the economic consequences if the Lakeland Republic threw everything it had into causing Brazil as much pain as possible, one well-placed lump of plastique at a time.

Michael, glad to see that the meme's catching on!

Genevieve, that's because the US has never tried to take on a nation that's done what I have the Lakeland Republic doing, and prepped a massive insurgency in advance. The US has been exquisitely careful only to pick on countries that can't fight back, precisely because the economic and political consequences if the bubble of American invulnerability ever gets pricked are too vast to risk.

Ien, thank you!

Mitzi, exactly. You can also do a huge amount if you combine well-trained brains with simple analog calculators such as slide rules, which is what they're doing at the University of Toledo's astronomy department in the story. Computing orbital trajectories with a good log-log rule is straightforward -- that's what NASA used to put the Apollo astronauts on the Moon, after all.

Iangagn, I'll consider that. I'm planning on a Callenbachian utopian novel to start with, to get the ideas out there, but we'll see how it goes.

RepubAnon, the same way they do everything else: make it too expensive to be worthwhile. The lack of infrastructure makes a lot of the tech useless anyway, you know. More on this as we proceed.

Sunny Lord, infrastructure has always been a target of insurgencies: blowing up bridges, taking out telegraph or telephone lines, etc. What makes things different these days is merely that there's so much more infrastructure to target. I have no idea whether the Taliban is thinking in those terms, though; by and large they've seemed very unimaginative so far.

Misty, a hundred well-trained special forces personnel who knew exactly what to hit and how to do it could bring the US economy to its knees in a matter of weeks. We're hugely vulnerable to an infrastructure-targeting strategy, not least because the US has centralized its infrastructure to an idiotic degree.

Ondra, we'll get to that! The Lakeland Republic actually has a deterrent strategy in place, which will be mentioned in a later episode.

12/2/15, 10:41 PM

Stuart Jeffery said...
The reference to Sun Tzu by Andrew seems appropriate to make however Sun Tzu's big message was to know the enemy. With the knowledge that an invading country would be faced with insurgency all it needs to do is to use a strategy that counters it rather than high tech drones etc. which we know don't work (obviously the rest of the West has yet to realise this given the UKs appalling vote to start bombing Syria).

Countering an insurgent style army would require more brain power than a high tech war and in my mind it would involve a range of measures to control the media and infiltrate the political scene so that the underlying structures of the potentially insurgent army can be removed. I think the editor of the Morning Blade may need a bodyguard.

12/2/15, 11:19 PM

Dagnarus said...

First, I wasn't suggesting they would want lakeland to embrace there values, merely too destroy Lakeland as a viable economic model. Second my understanding is that the various existing neo-Stalinist enclaves which are currently existing, are hell holes which no one in there right minds would actually want to replicate, making them less dangerous to the current world order than Lakeland. Secondly the west has been bombing countries around the world for a good long while, whether it be Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Probably a lot of places I've never even heard of. And yet significant terrorist attacks in the western heartland which could conceivably bring the west to its knees are few and far between. Can you give insight into why Lakeland should be capable of consistently pulling off such feats while those with the motive to do so today have not? Does the west's current enemies target civilians rather than vital infrastructure because there not that bright, or do they have other reasons. Such as the latter being to hard to actually pull off.

12/2/15, 11:32 PM

Ron said...
On the other hand; big militarised nations have never been stopped invading a country that uses tactics and strategies as Lakeland does.
Why? The weapon- and supplyselling lobbies were too strong. They do not care for occupying and keeping a country. They care for selling weapons, ammunition and bandaids. And the more the better. And piling up bills still is not stopping the US for instance at continuing to do so. Yes, it is costing the taxpayers dearly, both in cash as in blood.
Can a country like lakeland be defeated by military means? Yes, but at tremendous cost to both sides; one paying heavily for the utter destruction of the other.
But in the end the highly motivated guerillas will prevail, simply because the destruction caused by the invader only fuels their will to fight. Something every invading army in military history had to learn the hard way. It might take 5 years, 50 or more. But by that time the invaded country would be left in ruins and its remaining inhabitants deprived of many necessities. It'll be a Phyrrus-victory.

Sun Tzu also says;
Know yourself and know your enemy and you will be victorious.
Know yourself but not the enemy and for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
Know neither yourself nor your enemy and you will succumb in every conflict.

Modern day armies and their bigheaded leaders tend more and more to use the last line, giving the utter failures we are witnessing these days or past decades for that matter. But it still doesn't stop them from starting yet another conflict, which again might raise the question why? Stupidity and bloated egos or behind the scenes profit and greed? Probably a combination of both. Actual strategic gains seems not all that important.

As for modern warfare; I do not think we will see much hightech on the battlefields in 10-20 years from now. We are simply running out of raw materials to keep that up.
If we ever get that far before transforming large parts of the earth into huge, self illumination parking lots

12/2/15, 11:45 PM

Leo Knight said...
Thanks again for another mind bender. Many moons ago, in "Omni" magazine, G. Gordon Liddy wrote an article about all the vulnerable targets in the US that terrorists might target. He had at least a dozen categories. I only remember two. First, the big natural gas pipeline that runs under the Mississippi River, vulnerable on either shore. Second, high voltage electric transformers, of which there were about two dozen necessary for long distance power transmission. At the time (1980s) Liddy claimed the US no longer had the industrial capacity to replace them. I can't imagine the situation has improved.

Regarding analog computers, I saw a documentary (on television!) about scientists trying to understand and replicate the ancient Antikythera device. One fellow, who delighted in making intricate clockwork devices, laid out the cogs, some with odd, prime numbers of teeth, merely by hand and eye! He just estimated them, and refined them until they were right.

12/3/15, 12:23 AM

Kim Mundell said...
"...the thought of trying to work out an orbit using pen and paper made my head hurt. I wondered if they’d scraped together the money to buy a bootleg computer from a Chicago smuggling ring or something like that"

As soon as I read that line, I assumed Mr Car was going to have a surprise encounter with a slide rule in a future post. Brilliant. Can't wait for that gem.

JMG, about six months ago your writing inspired me to buy a slide rule and after a one month search I finally purchased a 70 year old wooden masterpiece. It's truly a work of art - the workmanship and detail is awe inspiring. After years of getting used to the declining quality of plastic crap that infests our everyday lives I'd forgotten what quality tools look and feel like.

Sometimes, when I want to take a break from my computer work, I go sit in the sun and hold it and marvel at it. It feels like a tangible reminder of what we have (almost) lost and what we need to reconnect with.

When I was at school many decades ago I learnt to use a slide rule but I've forgotten the technique. As a hobby I'd like to re-learn. Does anyone have a recommendation of a useful learner's guide/book/website about how to use a slide rule?

12/3/15, 12:47 AM

MigrantWorker said...
Good morning mr Greer,

Two thoughts spring to mind:

- could it be that the modern military copes poorly with a preplanned insurgency because it cannot be adequately simulated in military models? I'm thinking of the (in)famous military game in which a maverick general overwhelmed an invading US flotilla with hundreds of explosive-filled inflatable boats, and eventually had to be told to refrain from this and similar tricks and lose by the rules. While not exactly an insurgency, it does have many similarities.

- sending demolition squads into enemy territory bankrupts the potential invader not only during the war, but also for however long it takes to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure. A cruel and unusual punishment indeed!


12/3/15, 1:08 AM

Maxime Richard said...

Another fascinating entry ! Thank you for your prolific writing.

In our current period I find disturbing how the modern military and the population can be out of touch and have distorted views on each other. Much of the distortion coming from the way government officials employ and tell about the military purposes and actions.

In France, the compulsory military service disappeared 20 years ago. And we see that civil youth and military youth drift apart in terms of values, political preferences and shared view of "polis".
This is getting critical now that the 'socialist' government enacted emergency state for an undetermined period. Overreaction. 10000 grunts are deployed on national territory for prevention of further terrorist attacks. I don't see how this provide additional security. Only a theater of security I would say. What a waste ! Troops overstretched for little impact.

I see firsthand and I fear for the coming month that this forced closeness is recipe for trouble. Civil marches for climate and/or democratic rights (currently suspended) are getting repressed hard. Police and troops have a clear resent towards protesters whom they see as slackers, hippies and the lot. And they are not accountable for zealous bashing.

Intentionally or not ISIS is managing a very cost-efficient attrition war. I see another type of war-economic asymmetry as the one you currently describe in the retropedia. Or is it the same ?

What a mess we live in.

12/3/15, 1:11 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Stuart, that's one of the reasons I mentioned the three attempts at regime change that took place earlier. We'll get to see a few of the measures that the Lakeland Republic uses to protect itself against the sort of strategy you have in mind as we proceed.

Dagnarus, to begin with, put yourself into the mindset of the Brazilian head of state. Would you see the Lakeland Republic as a viable economic model that others would emulate, or a bizarre anomaly where no sane person would live -- after all, you can't even get a veepad signal there! As for why terrorists haven't targeted US economic infrastructure, I frankly have no idea. I don't think it's the difficulty of the thing -- it really would be frighteningly easy. It may be that, like most of the rest of us, would-be terrorists don't think in terms of whole systems and so don't notice the vulnerabilities.

Ron, the US can still get away with bombing an assortment of Third World locales because it's willing to run up debts that will never be paid off. Lacking that expedient, this country would be stone cold it probably will be in due time. As for high-tech weapons, my thought is that some of those, of declining quality and soaring cost, will still be present in industrial-world militaries for another fifty to seventy-five years, though how functional they actually are will be a state secret: you can still threaten with a technology you can't use, so long as nobody calls your bluff.

Leo, I recall that article! The situation is if anything much worse, since electrical grids are much more integrated than they used to be, and just-in-time delivery systems mean that there are no spares on this continent.

Kim, you can download free slide rule manuals from Slide Rule Universe, Greg's Slide Rules, and Tina's Slide Rules. There are also scores of manuals on Google Books -- use the search string "slide rule," click on "search tools," and set the left hand dropdown menu for "Free Google E-Books" and you'll get a long list of good manuals in PDF format that are yours for the downloading. Have fun!

12/3/15, 1:15 AM

Dagnarus said...
If other states noticed the model worked, and then decided to follow suit, I imagine they would have to take notice. As regards terrorists, maybe, but I can't help but wonder if it's one of those things which seems simple as an outsider, but if you actually had to do the attack it turns out to be a lot harder, kind of like a thorium reactor. My understanding is that ISIS is lead by the pre 2003 civil servants of Iraq, thus I would assume that they would have some insight into the weaknesses of a modern nations infrastructure, then again maybe there strategy is to keep the west engaged, but not engaged enough to nuke them.

12/3/15, 1:28 AM

Martin B said...
I did one year of compulsory military service, back in 1965. In those days South Africa was peaceful and we mostly trained for conventional war, although I can't imagine Russia and China were interested in invading us. But they told us Harry De Rus and Piet Nou-ogies (Pete Slit-eyes) were our enemies.

In later years the guys served two years and saw conventional action in Angola, guerilla activity in Namibia, and riot control in the townships. I missed all of that, although as a civilian I drove around in land-mine areas in Namibia. Nerve-racking!

Most of us went into the military straight after school and became ordinary conscripts, but some preferred to go to university first. They generally became officers.

I didn't mind my year in the army. It cured me of picky eating. I got really fit, met a lot of people I otherwise wouldn't mix with, and got out from under my dysfunctional family. Plus what young man doesn't enjoy shooting rifles, machine guns, mortars, and bazookas, and throwing hand grenades? The only scars on my psyche are a lifelong aversion to bully beef.

The painful bit was the camps afterwards. Three three-week camps over the next several years. It's tough on self-employed professionals and small businessmen. I believe the Swiss can pay a tax in lieu of camps. Sounds like a good plan.

Just one drawback of universal conscription: I don't know if it's ever been proven, but my belief is people who went to the army young become bad managers. The army is their first exposure to adult management, and they learn the wrong lessons. Barking at people and pulling rank isn't the way to manage people in civvie life.

12/3/15, 2:28 AM

Tony f. whelKs said...
Seems like Lakeland has preserved some ancient warrior wisdom that other states forget, as ably pointed out by Andrew Watt's Sun-Tzu references.

Can I also throw Thucydides into the mix (or at least a paraphrase)?: "War is not so much a matter of arms, as of money."

But I guess these days we have to forget the lessons of the 4th century BC, we're 'modern', don't you know ;-) Reminds me of another ancient Greek concept, hubris.

12/3/15, 2:37 AM

gregorach said...
"Do you think it's likely that, after/during collapse, that we will have the ability to bring back the canals and the water-powered industries we had?"

Well, here in the UK, much of our neglected (and in many cases, deliberately destroyed) canal infrastructure has been brought back into use by volunteers, working in their spare time and with their own funds. Sames goes for some reasonably-size bits of railway, along with numerous steam engines and locomotives, not to mention the various trades needed to support them. I seem to recall hearing that there are more boats travelling the canals of Britain today than there were in the heyday of commercial canal freight.

12/3/15, 3:02 AM

Vilko said...
Mr Greer,

The Lakeland army could wage a successful defensive war against the US Army as it presently is, but not against a truly ruthless army. The British army of the Boer War was still a ruthless force. They put the Boer civilians (families included) in concentration camps (they invented the very concept) and let a quarter of the Boer population starve. The Boers lost the war.

During WWII, France was occupied by the Wehrmacht. The occupation government seized large parts of the crops and sent them to Germany. The local population survived on rations. Just survived: in my hometown, in the Paris region, the residents of the local asylum actually starved, because their rations were not sufficient. Who distributed the rations? The occupation government. The "Résistance" fighters put up a gallant fight, but they were no match for the Wehrmacht and the SS. When you can starve the people, they can't win against you. Stalin knew it, and implemented the policy, as the Ukrainians learned the hard way.

Suppose that the army invading Lakeland systematically destroys infrastructure (including industrial infrastructure), starves the population, and settles colonists in villages whose population has been previously expelled or killed (as was the Nazi plan in Eastern Europe). What would the Lakelanders do? Had not the Red Army defeated the Wehrmacht by sheer quantity, of men and hardware, half of present day Poland would be populated by Germans. Himmler even had a plan to settle Danes (a Germanic nation) in Eastern Europe.

The more money is spent on the US military, the less efficient it becomes, but that's because the US economy has become as flawed as the Soviet economy was, as the F35 fiasco shows. When the real objective of the economic and political actors involved is to earn as much money as possible, and nobody is worried about making an inferior product (which the F35 is), then you get a very expensive inferior product.

I have a hunch that the wars of the 21st century will be wars for resources, and the Swiss / Lakeland strategy won't work. Look at Syria. The Sunnis are plagued by an exceptional drought, and revolted. For complex reasons, the dominant force among the rebels is ISIL, whose cadre is largely made of former officers of secularist Saddam Hussein's army: circumstances always trump ideology. Who's having some success so far? The Russians, who've begun to carpet bomb rebel strongholds. Bashar Al-Assad will have won when the last Sunni rebel is either dead under tons of debris, or living in a refugee camp somewhere in another country. It may work for Assad. If it doesn't, nothing else will.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Yemen. That's a country which imports 90% of the food it consumes. My hunch: soon we'll see Yemeni refugees everywhere, millions of them, while the population of Yemen decreases to fit resources. It will be ugly, but we won't see it, because no journalists will be allowed to film it, and the Saudis know very well how to control the flow of information.

Lakeland looks like a Utopia. There are horses in Lakeland. A horse does the work of ten men, but it eats as much food as four men. Human population always rises as much as resources allow, as you know. Cheap petroleum allowed industrial societies to replace their horses by four times as many humans. When cheap petroleum ends, we'll still have those humans (including yours truly) who wouldn't be there if we still had horses. But with cheap petroleum gone, we'll need the horses back again, to pull the plows, transport freight, etc. But we'll also need all the land to feed the large populations we have (it probably won't suffice, incidentally). We'll have to do without horses. Survive on gardening rather than farming. Those of us who'll have access to a large enough garden, that is. It won't be everybody.

12/3/15, 4:25 AM

donalfagan said...
On the light rail this morning, I laughed inwardly when a guy boarded wearing a Lakeland Lions sweatshirt - from an elementary/middle school in the Baltimore area. Go Lions. It was a rare light moment for me with all the tension surrounding the Freddie Gray case, and related cases around the country. Not to mention the mass shooting(s) of the day before.

From a Tarzan flick: In a test of wisdom, they ask him, "Your battle begins with a long journey. Of what must you be certain?" He answers, "That my enemy is making the journey." The writers probably stole that from Sun-Tzu.

12/3/15, 4:32 AM

barrymelius said...
Both sides go into conflict with expectations of winning,and usually come out surprised at the loss involved. I suspect Lakeland would suffer enormously from a bitter,protracted struggle. That said,if one remembers Toynbee's dictum of challenge and response the longer term results would probably see a massive gain in élan with such a committed country as Lakeland. A generation or two down the road,the results could be similiar to Japan and Germany after WW II.

12/3/15, 4:37 AM

James Gemmill said...
Here's hoping that Peter Carr will be issued a nice set of earplugs for the drone shoot, depending on what sort of weapons are in use to take those exorbitantly over-priced, mil-spec grade R/C model airplanes out of the sky.

12/3/15, 4:41 AM

latefall said...
Re Maps: I can imagine the LR has a thriving orienteering scene, like many Nordic countries or the Swiss have. Even in the absence of mountains you still have micro relief, vegetation, and urban areas to train with.
The down side of guerrilla defense is what it will do to your civil population in the case of a determined aggressor. Your only protection there is pretty much (international) public opinion. Or not having much (accessible) purely civil population - probably the safer bet in the next couple of centuries.
Re drone shooting: I find it interesting to note that the operational altitude of MQ-9 is in range of say an old 40 mm Bofors or 88 mm Flak. Drone luring (with decoys and ruses) would probably be just as much fun as shooting them. You could probably do quite a bit with some cardboard, wire, cheap heat sources, and a couple of dogs for starters. And when the weather is on your terms a couple 5000$ anti materiel rifles with good optics, carefully timed fragmenting ammo, and well trained spotters with drone identification and ranging charts.
@Misti, JMG re infrastructure targets. I second that and would actually expand this to the whole West and most of the Asian manufacturing centers as well. Honestly, that is the bit of terrorism I am a somewhat afraid of - because I can imagine well that this could chase us away even further from an intelligently planned transition/collapse to sustainability. And yeah, it would take next to no budget and only a couple of weeks (perhaps up to a couple of months if you wanted to include food shortages) to burn us down a few decades on Hubbert's curve.

12/3/15, 4:53 AM

James Gemmill said...
...a comment from a professor of astronomy at the University of Toledo, mentioning that his department was calculating the orbits of as many fragments as they’d been able to track. I didn’t know a lot about astronomy, but I’d learned just enough that the thought of trying to work out an orbit using pen and paper made my head hurt...

Hmmm...I wonder if the astronomy professor might be using an alignment chart/nomograph--or multiples thereof--to keep up with his calculations, in addition to his trusty slide rule.

12/3/15, 5:28 AM

latefall said...
I think the rarity of infrastructure targeting (since end of WWII) has several reasons that apply to various degrees.
One important reason is probably lack of creativity and empathy in non-state sponsored organizations. Their current make-up due to the pool of their recruits is focused on a quite limited set of targets. Generally attackers don't like to prey on victims they don't know or believe to understand - it messes up risk estimations.
The lack of a mental model for the system perhaps makes it uninteresting.
Come back from Paris and claim 130 dead (and to be fair this is an understatement because 7.62 mm AK gunshot wounds really suck), or say, knock over some power lines and put a few million people in the dark in winter. What will get more cheers from your peers and make you rise higher?
Afghans routinely picked up stray & downed drones (1.6+ M$) and then drove a very hard bargain - before they would finally settle for like 100$ and return it.
I think this ignorance is a large part of the protection of civilizations against barbarians (perhaps already in Rome, e.g. Arminius).
The other big defense mechanism is contentment and perceived good intentions. If your enemy can't rely on his sleepers after 10 years, or has to assume 1/10 operatives is going to leak when the going gets a little rougher - you won't get far in many scenarios.
Now why that did not happen a whole lot (perhaps with false flags) in the cold war is an interesting question. It is documented on a small scale when the West messed in the GDR. But I guess the for the elites it is rarely a good idea to officially expand the conflict to the means of production. That is their stuff, and if you're on top you (ought to) become a little more risk averse. Wasn't that part for developing neutron bombs? Not break the stuff, and just resettle.
Of course there are state on state instances such as stuxnet, but I believe most are not so well documented.

12/3/15, 5:50 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
And to change the subject, fascinating as military matters are to many, you've answered a question I had far earlier. Wheelchair ramps built into the trains, and probably the streetcars.

Then the only other infrastructure needed to accommodate them is the sort of curb cuts in the sidewalks that we have today, which could have been built at any time by any culture that had paving, if they had cared to and/or seen the need. The latter is the only reason the Romans didn't have them, or for that matter, the 1950s.

And yes, every wheelchair jockey I've ever seen had had strong hands, arms, and shoulders. BTW, how expensive is it in Lakeland to hire an attendant for those things you can't physically do?

12/3/15, 5:51 AM

hari capra said...
Hi. Thanks for the great story, great blog, great books, and other great stories. I've been enjoying them and learning from them for years.

This series is great. I'm enjoying seeing your take on a government in the middle of collapse getting things right. I've been a little curious about geopolitics in this world, and about how the different countries interact and what they know of one another. I have to admit that the one thing I've been most surprised by is how little the protagonist knows about this country literally right next to his own, and that despite the fact that he's a central figure in his country's government. That required a little suspension of disbelief for me at first. Now I kind of trust that it could happen, but I'm still a little curious about it. Why is the Lakeland Republic inviting people to learn about it anyways? They've been showing other neighboring countries how they do things? I'm guessing this is for the purpose of stabilizing their neighbors to reduce the possibility of future war spilling into their area? I'm getting that the protagonist's country has stifled information about the Lakeland Republic, spun a lot of it to look bad, and has less information than we would have now. It's all interesting anyways.

I remember years ago we talked about Star's Reach being a setting for an RPG such as GURPS. There are some new games that do a really good job of giving players a lot of room for creativity and control of the narrative, and are quick and easy to play (both unlike GURPS). They also often do a really good job of helping their settings come alive. I'm a little tempted to try to come up with something in mid-collapse or post industrial America.

12/3/15, 5:57 AM

TJ said...
Slightly off topic...

As Mr. Carr was buying the old-fashioned newspaper, it just hit me: This guy's been off the internet grid for awhile now. In the first few installments he seemed to constantly be reaching for his electronic equipment to look something up or to take notes, now he seems to be well adapted to the slower pace of Lakeland. I can only imagine the mental relief and relaxation he must be feeling from that, and I hope you're going to delve into that at some point. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I can't help but think that's one of the biggest sociological differences impacting the citizens of the this republic.

12/3/15, 6:04 AM

John Roth said...
Something of interest to Lakeland Republic medicine. It's not relevant to this story, but it does suggest that the antibiotic problem is solvable:

The nice thing is that the basic approach to finding antibiotics to test is very low tech.

12/3/15, 7:06 AM

Eric S. said...
Interestingly timely bringing up the Swiss Model of military service in describing how Lakeland's military functions, since that's also a model that gets brought up in the context of certain other problems the contemporary US tends to have, that there's been a lot of murmur about lately. One theme I'm beginning to pick up on in this narrative is that many of the solutions that are proposed here: the tier system, the Swiss military model, the decentralized mix-crop agriculture, and the general approach to transportation, communication, etcetera between counties all have one big thing in common apart from the basic theme of grab-bagging from past solutions that have worked. They're all things that could be implemented admirably in a country the size of a small European Republic, but would be very difficult to manage in a country the size of the contemporary US. Aside from a few basic reforms (like the banking reforms Lakeland implemented, which some policy makers are alreadyconsidering reviving today), the policies Lakeland has implemented to save itself from collapse would not have been remotely possible without the dissolution of the United States as it currently exists. Am I picking up on an implication that it's the size, as well as the current geography of the United states that is driving it towards crisis? Would that mean that one of the "retro" aspects of retrotopia, that applies even outside of the borders of Lakeland could be a reversion of the geography of the US to something more closely resembling what it was prior to 1845 or so?

12/3/15, 7:22 AM

Johnny said...

E.M.Forster's "The Machine Stops" is a great cautionary tale about technology. It's online if you want to check it out:

12/3/15, 7:25 AM

sanguinesophrosyne said...
Another riveting installment! Others have commented on the military aspect, and calculating the orbit trajectories without the use of computers, and so the third thing that really stood out was the blindingly obvious and simple solution of wheelchair access onto the train. That was a nice touch that contrasts well with the kind of convoluted mess that would be passed off as a solution in our world.

I'm very excited to explore a first tier area. I imagine Mr. Carr is in for even more culture shock than he already has met with. This past summer I got to travel out away from the East Coast to the Midwest and what really stood out culturally was that there wasn't just the usual empty platitudes of "If you ate today thank a farmer" but that being a farmer was actually respectable, and -dare I say?- cool even, among the general population.

12/3/15, 7:37 AM

stevenstrange said...
Shooting at drones? I can't wait.

12/3/15, 7:39 AM

Art Deco said...
Good Afternoon JMG
Although I far prefer your creative non-fiction to your creative fiction, I think you have perhaps made a point here. As I mentioned before, I am an American living in England for a few months during the recent rush to war following the Paris attacks. There are several ironies here - Jeremy Corbyn, who is not noted as a reasonable man in the UK, is the voice of reason pointing out that that using a million dollar smart bomb to take out a thousand dollar campsite of tents and Kalashnikov rifles is not the best possible use of funds, and Russian President Putin, who is probably as bad as his press, has pointed to oil revenues from "a supposed NATO Ally"; Turkey, as being a significant source of money for the terrorists.
Although destroying ISIL's funding sources is more effective than destroying ISIL’s military bases, these thoughts have not been welcome. There is no doubt that somewhere within ISIL there is a very closely calculated and very cynical cost benefit calculation of what it costs for propaganda, expense accounts, and equipment to recruit one suicide bomber versus what it costs an European nation to intercept on.
The shear quantity of propaganda on social media means that someone is being paid well to recruit young suicide bombers; the only honest journalism professor I ever had once pointed out "No one will pay you the big bucks just to report the truth." Ouch.
So your Lakeland's strategy of being cheap to defend and expensive to invade also works for organizations that want go on the offensive. The numbers don't look good for civilization.
Art Deco

12/3/15, 7:46 AM

John Crawford said...
A timely post. You may find the following of interest.

12/3/15, 7:53 AM

Erik Buitenhuis said...
I notice that the economic argument for winning a war by waging it so as to prolong the conflict and spending less than the enemy is echoed from Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert. Is that where you got the idea? If yes, I like the way you've transposed it by -26,000 years.

12/3/15, 8:32 AM

Chris Smith said...
@ Andrewbwatt "they've been successfully lobbied and bribed by the chariot-builders association and the gravediggers' union." Exactly!

@JMG: I am enjoying "Retrotopia." I take it that the Lakeland Republic has no significant deposits of rare earths to make it an invasion magnet. I could see those being the subject of the next resource grab. China, the (New) Confederacy, and Brazil cant make their batteries and flat screens without them!

"T. Bayard Batchley," by the way is the best Anglo-Texan name ever, and had me laughing out loud.

12/3/15, 8:43 AM

RogerCO said...
Very timely reminder that war is a continuation of politics and economics by other means for those of us on the British Isles where those who claim to govern just signed up to spend a few billion pounds bombing the desert rather than dealing with the core problems. Apparently polls show upwards of 89% of the populace opposed to this madness, knowing intuitively that we'll be the ones who will be bankrupted by this adventure.
So sad, essentially Lakeland Republic after a hostile invasion attempt is in a similar position to Iraq and Syria today - there will be no surprise to your readers about the likely outcome of that conflict.

12/3/15, 8:52 AM

Ed-M said...

My this serial is becoming interesting!

Due to the diversion you had to take in the last couple of weeks, I had forgotten about Peter Carr's military inspection of one way how Lakeland defends itself. So when you brought up the title and name of his LR Armed Forces' escort, I thought Mr. Carr was going to visit the headquarters of a Lakeland fast food restaurant chain called "Kentucky Fried Souvlaki!" (Which probably is as disgusting as it sounds.)

12/3/15, 8:56 AM

Shane Wilson said...
Regarding terrorists, most of the ones we're most afraid of, are of the Islamic fundamentalist type, and they seem no more level headed, cold, calculating, and focused than the homegrown Christian fundamentalist counterparts that open fire on Planned Parenthood. Perhaps why we haven't experienced more targeted attacks on infrastructure in the US is because of deficiencies in the attackers rather than any strength in our defense. Maybe a more calculating, focused, level headed opponent would exploit our weaknesses better.

12/3/15, 9:02 AM

Clay Dennis said...
Your Lakeland defense strategy is one that I have been promoting for years whenever I cross with a Defense Hawk who insists we must keep our current military spending intact or growing to keep ourselves "safe" from Invaders. The Swiss are an obvious example of this. Many military theorists have called this type of strategy " 4th Generation War" though they don't embrace the low tech component. Despite the Swiss example, many think of the best example of 4th Generation Warfare as Hezbolah in Lebanon. My reading outside of U.S. media is that the Israeli's were handed a much greater defeat by Hezbolah during thier invasion of Lebanon in 2006 than is commonly let on. Hezbolah was dug in, with a decentralized command structure that was resistant to the airstrikes ment to nuetralize command and control. In addition is a technological choice that I would vote that the Lakeland republic make if they want to be truely successfull in repelling a high tech invadors. The Russian Anti-tank missles that Hezbolah had were key and fit in perfectly with the hide and pop-up strategy they employed against the Israelis. Though they have a decidedly high tech component ( high speed microprocessrs) , these could be smuggled in off the black market in large quantities as by common ones from their neighbors would be good enough for the task. A fairly simple man-carried missle that could be used against enemy tanks, trucks, helecopters etc. could be stashed easily and greatly increase the costs imposed on the invading force.

12/3/15, 9:02 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, the LR's insurgency strategy seems legit, because it is similar to many real world examples from modern history. Even my country tried a similar approach when a Soviet invasion seemed likely back in the late 60s:

12/3/15, 9:29 AM

hapibeli said...
So much fun reading about “... T. Bayard Batchley?”! Having grown up in Texas, there is a constancy to the idea of Texas being "separate and equal" to the "United" States of Murka. It will probably be one of the first to officially pull away when real dissolution comes.
I am happy to have good, loving family still there, but I'm so thankful to live in Canada where I was born. Another mass shooting in California, another day of foolish madness in the people and government of the USA.
I understand the sanctimonious belief in the exceptionalism down there. They are stroked with the belief in every way from cradle to grave. It is even pounded into them through movies, radio, talk shows, school systems, churches, every day work chatter between folks. Even the so called "progressives" will get their backs up if you tell them that most of the world's people do not want to live there. The world may want the toys and geegaws, but not the lifestyles.
A sad legacy for all of the children as they try to make sense of the world being handed to them by the Ted Cruz's, right wing christians, NRA, and military minded corporatocracy.
May America be blessed with an awakening not to damaging to its mental, physical, and emotional health.

12/3/15, 9:32 AM

Grim said...
Brilliant approach, insurgency by design. Defense is just that, not the Orwellian C.F. we are living with now.

I can't wait for the next episode. I'll bet it's a combination turkey and trap shoot.

12/3/15, 9:38 AM

Unknown said...
I note that some of the sites also have info on the abacus. I've seen amazing video of the abacus proficient easily beating digital calculator users.

A Japanese general or admiral after the war in the 40's was asked why they never invaded the west coast of the USA "There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass."

I'd rather not have a gun pointed at me, but if it had to come to pass, I'd much rather it be an ill trained person with a submachine gun spraying ammo all over, than a well trained fellow with a bolt or semi-auto rifle who has to make each shot count.

Lakeland's approach seems pretty sensible to me.

12/3/15, 9:42 AM

Eric Backos said...
Hi, Boss. Thank you for suggesting “Superiority” by Arthur C. Clarke. I had not heard of it until you made mention. I found it on line and think it is perfect. If you or your readers think of any more stories, poems, or plays that promote caution in approaching technology, let me know.

12/3/15, 10:02 AM

Raymond Duckling said...
Dear JMG,

I find your description of Lakeland Republic's military strategy sound, but at the same time I have a gut feeling that something is a bit off there. I cannot tell what for sure.

From general principles, you can win many types of competitions if you are able to leverage your strenghts and exploit your opponent's weaknesses. You should try to mitigate your own weaknesses if you can - since you sould expect the opponent to try and exploit your own weaknesses - but you should not do so at the cost of giving up the offensive; there's no defense without attack. And definitively you should not let the opponent to exercise their own strengths unchallenged.

Your strategy - which I will not claim to be bad, since has the advantage of have been proven in real conflict many times in recorded history - feels like too self centered to me. You do things to leverage your strenghts (decentralize command, use guerilla warfare tactics, bring the conflict to the enemy's turf in the form of sabotage), patch up your weaknesses (arm and train the whole population, build infrastructure that will block rather than enhance the displacement of enemy's motorized units), and certainly avoid playing to the opponent strenghts (deny the enemy any big juicy strategic targets that their hi-tech forces can concentrate on). What I don't see is an attempt to actively exploit your opponent weaknesses.

To me, it feels like giving up the iniciative. And I share, like others before, the concern about a scorched earth attack. Let me try to put it in ecologic terms (to I am no expert). Imagine you have an ecosystem with porcupines and coyotes. The coyote species wants to make the porcupine species part of its diet, so the porcupine species adopt a "hold your grownd and make them bleed" defense. There will be individual coyotes eating individual porcupines from time to time, but those will learn that the damage they took is not worth to try again. So the defense will work.

Now, coyotes are smart of course, but imagine there were a coyote king that could coordinate all the attacks. Let's suppose after some experimenting he would figure out that the optimal strategy is to send 6 coyotes to harras a single porcupine for one hour. These teams of coyotes could theoretically take on one porcupine after another, and eat 2 porcupines per day each while sustaining minimal or mild damages in most cases. Now the defense has failed, since the porcupines are now clearly part of the coyote diet. What's missing is some central coordination between the porcupines to compel them to come help a neighboor in distress, or better yet, to launch preemptive strikes against coyote burrows to let them know that any offense will be retaliated in kind.

I see the part of the saboteaurs plays some of this role, but it feels a bit wrong. It does not feel like the kind of thing that would make a powerful enemy to back off, rather like the kind of thing that would compel them to escalate...

Dunno... just wanted to comment on it.

12/3/15, 10:06 AM

MIckGspot said...
Thank you JMG for the great models and scenarios.

12/3/15, 10:10 AM

S.Treimel said...
This week’s post on the defense of the Lakeland Republic brings up some interesting considerations.
Why would one country invade and conquer another except to provide more territory for a burgeoning populace or to steal resources. All of that has to create a positive cash flow, or you end up like the US in the Middle East spending trillions on a war that was supposed to pay for itself. What does Lakeland have in abundance? Good farmland, and not a whole lot else that you can easily cart off. It’s not likely the farmers will assist conquerors in creating abundant harvests for export. If it comes to a guerilla insurgency, any dispossessed farmer knows how to kill crops as well as grow them, using very low-tech and non-toxic methods.
As for the drone shoot, I don’t think the Lakelanders will need actual, expensive, functioning drones to get good practice. How does a drone behave? It moves in straight lines, hovers, swoops, and circles in the air. Birds behave like this (except for the hovering part). Sport hunters and those who do trap and skeet shooting intentionally develop the skills to shoot moving objects out of the sky, and this skill set can be used to shoot down low-flying mechanical objects, too. I have to assume, given the propensity for low-tech, that the weapon of choice would be the shotgun. Just about every farm household would have one. The organizers of the shoot could use flying clay targets, or even rig wire lines across the field of fire, and move the 'drone' targets along the wire to simulate good drone behavior.
As for trying to invade a territory that does not rely on electronics with devices and machines that rely on electronics, I think that a small rocket with a payload capable of generating a non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse would be sufficient to disable enough of the invader’s equipment, making rapid advance next to impossible. It should be easy to keep the effects local and targeted, with a bit of testing beforehand.
I’m looking forward to the next episode.

12/3/15, 11:01 AM

Urban Harvester said...
John Michael,

I lived in Switzerland during high school and though I went to an american school, I had a few classmates whose parents were in the Swiss military and I had one friend who was headed for military service when I lived there. I did get the sense that the Swiss had strength of character, resilience and independence of thought (though they could at times also seem repressive or just grumpy). It is a stark contrast to the kind of irrationality you often encounter around the topic of gun ownership in America. In places like Virgin, Utah where every household is required by law to have a gun (like in Switzerland) the lack of any similar requirement for discipline or training is concerning. I have an acquaintance who built a house in Virgin and to comply with the local law he cast an old pistol into his concrete floor by the front door so that no-one (including his young kids) could misuse it. In a time of crisis I'd much rather be around my Swiss friends grumpy Dad than one of the rabid gun rights advocates you encounter here in the west.

I can see that the irrationality surrounding the ownership and use of guns by Americans could change in a hurry with the type of crisis underpinning Retrotopia. I think that the response of the future inhabitants of Deseret would differ though. I'd guess they would rely on the mountainous terrain, brute force and obedience to the theocracy for defense and coherence rather than the disciplined but egalitarian, decentralized and independent approach of the LR. I suppose the geography of the Midwest necessitates/allows that approach to a certain degree.

12/3/15, 11:16 AM

Urban Harvester said...
@Kim Mundell
Here are some public domain handbooks for slide rules which I have been using to learn to use them.

12/3/15, 11:17 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
Luckily terrorists have as much trouble thinking in whole systems as most people do. It seems they go for spectacle and terror. But if they wanted to really hurt a nation state they could do so a lot more effectively by attacking unguarded infrastructure. It would be so easy to grind the economy around a major city to a halt. I have some specific thoughts on this, but the last thing I want to do is put the idea into print.

12/3/15, 11:57 AM

Shane Wilson said...
faith in the civil religion of American exceptionalism is declining rapidly, especially with the disadvantaged and the young, which is why you're seeing so much discontent among the population right now, and why there's such a rise in volatility, exemplified by Trump, shootings, etc. People at a basic level no longer believe the civil religion of American exceptionalism and the American dream, but they have absolutely nothing to replace it with, which is why they're desperately grasping for anything to fill the void.

12/3/15, 12:01 PM

Shane Wilson said...
if you could just somehow push right wing groups outside of blind patriotism to the existing US, and push left wing groups such as BlackLivesMatter towards tearing down the system instead of demanding justice from it, you'd have the magical key to bring the whole thing down. So far, I haven't yet seen this yet, but it will be the thing to watch for.

12/3/15, 12:08 PM

SLClaire said...
For me the most poignant part of the whole post was this line:

"This country got the short end of the stick for decades back before the Second Civil War ..."

While I don't live now in the proto LR, I have long-time friends who have lived in the industrial part of northern Ohio since the early 1980s, long enough to be affected by the manufacturing collapse that began around then. The greater St. Louis region where I live has also been struggling as a result of losing most of our manufacturing base in the 1980s and 1990s. This line brings all of that back to me. As little as I like the idea of the US breaking up, as much as I know it would be likely to involve the kind of years-long hardship that you are talking about, I fully get the sentiment Col. Pappas is expressing.

12/3/15, 12:40 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

How's your winter shaping up? Things are a bit in flux down here as the coldest winter in 26 years looks like it will be followed by one of the hottest summers in recorded history (certainly it looks like it is shaping up as a proper rip snorter and will be in the top 10 at the very least - the next 5 days are all over 30’C). Still, I may be wrong too and I'll let you know for sure in another 90 days...

I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes and the little light switched on today and the proverbial penny dropped - this was a doubly impressive achievement because I had not had my daily coffee yet (yes, I'm aware of your feelings for that beverage). Oh, as an interesting side note, I've actually planted yet another coffee shrub and off the back of the now successful tea camellia (outside, no less) experiment, I'm now already counting the potential coffee beans (maybe? Hehe!).

Oh, what I was writing about? Oh yeah, entropy. It is that simple really, because that is what we are facing - ignoring all of the human-centric details - and your posts and this story as well are all about a rear guard action to face entropy as a species and, well, mature into it. Certainly fighting it seems to be a losing battle. Maturing into it means accepting the cycles and will of nature, because we're actually part of it. Of course, I now realise that you understood this possibly as far back as the 1970’s and 1980’s as you have stayed remarkably on message for as long as I have been aware of your writings. Respect.

I guess our little and brief foray into fossil fuels has been a wild ride which is not yet over. Oh, I spotted an interesting point in an article by a botanist, although I'm pretty sure he missed the crucial point - or chose not to look too closely - but fungi showed up about 300 million years ago at the end of the Carboniferous period. Now remember that fungi - which is not a plant and is actually more closely related to humans than humans actually want to consider - consume cellulose (amongst other goodies) usually found in trees. The last coal was laid down at the end of the Carboniferous period and therefore a general conclusion can be made that coal really is irreplaceable - because even if forests and swamps were to take over the planet again the fungi will possibly convert all that mass into fungi poo (i.e. soil) well before it gets the chance using geological processes to turn into coal. Maybe in some seriously swampy areas it may be possible? Maybe?

I'm enjoying your story - as usual and the arrangement for people with disabilities is exactly how it works here (on the country trains) and there are steel ramps and the conductor usually assists people in wheelchairs with boarding. On the city trains usually the driver (as there is no conductor) will assist the boarding process. It is all quite civilised really. Trams are a little bit more difficult but they have recently been building higher platforms with ramps for people to step onto the trams.

Plus, I'm enjoying how you have subtly and not subtly introduced the memes into the story and use your protagonist as a working example of how poorly our stuff actually looks.

PS: So you've settled on an old school diplomat kind of a guy. Very wise, they would have been the smartest of the smart - when it wasn't an established post handed out as political favours - or repayments. That is a sure sign of a society in decay, if ever there was one.



PS: I've got a new blog post up: I like my new shed better than my old shed. Yeah, I'm having to repurpose some of the infrastructure here that didn't work as planned. Nothing goes to waste though as it all ends up being used. Plus there are even more flowers (despite the heat) and I show some exotic fruit trees and how I have to manage for the contradictory risks of bush fires and evaporation in the orchard. Fun stuff and lots of cool photos.

12/3/15, 2:46 PM

. said...
I posted a comment earlier but it didn't come through. Did it fall foul of the rules or did blogger eat it? I wasn't sure if links to blogs are ok.

12/3/15, 3:00 PM

Shane W said...
@Vilko, possibly others,
the short of it, is that the Americas simply doesn't have near the population pressures of the Old World--there's nowhere in the Americas nearly as overcrowded as the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia. And as the fossil fuels that make globalization possible become increasingly scarce, the Americas are going to once again benefit from (or be cursed by, depending on the issue) our relative geographic isolation. So any would be refugees from more overcrowded parts of the world are going to find it much harder to get to the Americas than other parts of the Old World. While it is popular in the US to scapegoat our southern neighbors about illegal immigration, the truth is that none of Latin America is as overcrowded as parts of the Old World, and birthrates and population there are already leveling off and declining. So overpopulation is going to affect different parts of the world differently, and I don't think there's any reason to believe that the Americas will suffer the population strains the Old World is facing.

12/3/15, 3:28 PM

Joe McInerney said...
This practical system for an economical and effective defense sounds like a parallel to the philosopher of peace, Professor Gene Sharp's, concept of civilian-based defense.

"This policy aims to deter attacks and to defend against them by preparations to make to society unrulable by would-be-tyrants and aggressors. The trained population and the society’s institutions would be prepared to deny the attackers their objectives and to make consolidation of political control impossible. These aims would be achieved by applying massive and selective noncooperation and defiance."

12/3/15, 3:31 PM

. said...
Ooops I'm mallow not dot sorry!

12/3/15, 3:36 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
At some point will we find out what (if anything) keeps the individual well-prepared county militias from turning on each other in small-scale skirmishes?

12/3/15, 3:44 PM

John Michael Greer said...
MigrantWorker, I suspect it's less a matter of inability to model insurgency and more one of being unwilling to do so -- that was certainly the case with the naval exercise you mentioned. The unwritten rule in US naval exercises is that the carrier group always wins, because that way the people who've built their careers around the current version of US naval technology don't have to worry about losing their place on the food chain. As for the economic disruption, yes, that's a very deliberate issue -- an attempt to remind the aggressor that the costs of war can linger on both sides of the border.

Maxime, that inevitable gap between military and civilian values is one of the reasons why the US never had a large peacetime army until 1940 -- back in the day, it was common knowledge that the only way to keep the military from becoming an independent political force was to keep it very small in peacetime, and have most of the muscle in time of war coming from part-time state militia units that were constantly training. The Swiss approach is frankly better, which is why I chose it for the LR.

Dagnarus, in a world in which resources are in short supply and a small peaceful state that exports lots of agricultural products is good to have on friendly terms, those nations that want to go the high-tech route might well choose instead to let the Lakeland model spread. As for the issue with terrorism, I'm sorry to say that the only way I could make my point would be to lay out exactly how such a thing could be done cheaply and easily, and that's not something I want to see in print.

Martin, thanks for the feedback from your own experience!

Tony, got it in one -- and of course after hubris comes nemesis...

Gregorach, fascinating. One of the reasons that canals are so resilient is precisely that you can build and maintain them with shovels and a few carpenter's tools powered by muscle, and the boats have the same power source. Did British canals use mule power, btw? That's the traditional American power source: "I've got a mule, her name is Sal..."

Vilko, of course -- every small nation has to deal with the hard fact that a sufficiently large power willing to do whatever it takes can conquer it. The point of a successful military policy, on the part of a small nation, is to make the task look sufficiently costly and unprofitable that large powers will look for easy pickings elsewhere.

Donalfagan, I somehow missed that Tarzan flick -- pity, as it's a good line.

Barrymelius, true enough.

James, of course!

Latefall, drone luring sounds like a lot of fun, but the Lakeland Republic wouldn't do that publicly, to keep the other side from figuring out how to detect the lures.

James, he might well do so. I don't happen to know what was used to work out the orbits of the asteroids -- an important concern of astronomers for a century and a half after the discovery of Ceres in 1801, and one they accomplished quite handily with the available tools of the time.

Latefall, there's also the logic that keeps nations from using the systematic assassination of leaders as a major tactic in war -- if you start doing it, you know they're going to do it to you.

Patricia, exactly. All you have to do is put a sturdy metal ramp under the floor so it can be slid out, and make sure there isn't too drastic a gap between the floor and ground level. Yes, you'd need curb cuts, and there would have to be elevators in multistory buildings, but we already know the LR has those. Similar adaptations are easy enough once you ask the question, "What's the simplest effective way to make this easy to use for people with disabilities?"

12/3/15, 4:03 PM

Shane W said...
Interesting, JMG, in your response to Dagnarus. I'd never thought of that. If Lakeland takes place in the world of scarcity industrialism (as you've laid out in your posts before), and the world powers that be are the ones that have mastered scarcity industrialism, and limits to growth is a given/common sense, than countries like Lakeland that voluntarily forfeit high tech and use less energy and resources will be seen as a definite benefit to those that do want to continue having an industrial system. Wow!

12/3/15, 4:15 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Hari, remember that the borders have been closed for a couple of decades -- until the signing of the Treaty of Richmond in 2062, the closest anyone from the Atlantic Republic got to Lakeland territory was a look through the border fence. As for a roleplaying game, that's being discussed over at the Meriga Project blog -- might be worth a look.

TJ, good. Carr hasn't really noticed yet -- wait 'til he visits the Atlantic Republic embassy and gets to use his veepad again...

John, or that somebody in biotech is hoping to rope in a lot of investment cash!

Eric, oh, it could be done in the US -- but it would require returning the US to what it was when we actually followed the constitution, a federation of semi-independent states, each of which managed its own internal affairs and leaving a narrowly defined set of concerns to the federal government. You certainly couldn't do it as the kind of one-size-fits-nobody mandates that have replaced viable governance in today's America.

Sanguine, he is indeed in for serious culture shock, and a lot of farmers making a decent living from the land will be part of it. Glad you liked the wheelchair ramps; I've wondered for years why that isn't the default option already.

Steven, bring your shootin' iron! There's beer and bratwurst afterwards.

Art Deco, at this point I'm pretty sure that the so-called "Islamic State" is not much more than a sock puppet, and I doubt the Turks are the only parties involved in waving it around. If the Russians keep on flattening its petroleum infrastructure, I suspect the whole thing will implode in short order -- but we'll see.

John, thanks for the link.

Erik, no, I got it from the same place Herbert got it -- close observation of the last half century or so of US military failure.

Chris, glad you liked Batchley! I get a lot of character names, and for that matter a lot of characters, by a kind of listening with the imagination -- this time, I set myself to listen for the most archetypally uber-Texan of Texan names, and that's what popped up. As far as I know, the American Midwest has no commercially viable deposits of rare earth metals, so they're safe from the flat-screen legions.

RogerCO, I know. It's as though they actually think that dropping random loads of ordnance on the desert will do something.

Ed-M, funny. I considered making Pappas a major, but then thought of all the potential David Bowie jokes that would ensue...

12/3/15, 4:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Shane, oh, granted -- somebody who thinks that opening fire on some random group of civilians, and then being shot to death by the police, is a meaningful act obviously isn't thinking very clearly in the first place.

Clay, microprocessors aren't necessary. Shoulder-launched rockets were used as antitank weapons by all sides in the Second World War with good results, and you can bet the Lakeland Republic has plenty of those. Hezbollah was one of the models I had in mind when I drew up the LR's defense plan, btw.

Ursachi, exactly. I didn't happen to have that example in mind, but I know of quite a few others from history. Thanks for the link -- more fodder for research is always welcome!

Hapibeli, I know. It's getting sufficiently crazy and toxic, sufficiently fast that I've actually considered reassessing my decision to stay in this country.

Grim, thank you! The drone shoot's actually a couple of episodes away -- as noted above, we've got a first tier county and a schoolhouse to visit -- but yes, it's got some of that flavor.

Unknown, exactly. A landscape full of well-trained men and women who've been shooting since they were kids, and know how to aim before they pull the trigger, is not someplace you want to invade unless you really have to...

Eric, I'll see what else I can think of. Anyone else care to suggest classic SF stories about the downsides of technology?

Raymond, good. You've noticed that there would be something else, or possibly severla something elses -- and of course you're right. Would Col. Tom Pappas mention those something elses in a public conversation on a train?

MickGSpot, you're welcome and thank you!

Stephen, they use real drones for the annual drone shoot, for a variety of reasons, but you're absolutely right that most of the training, most of the time, uses other targets -- skeet shooting and trap shooting are popular sports all over the Midwest today, for example, and there are various ways to rig up a dronelike target for people to shoot at. Shotguns are a likely choice but don't neglect what a good deer rifle can do in the hands of a skilled shooter -- and then there are more exotic options, a couple of which we'll be seeing.

Urban Harvester, of course! In Deseret, you'd have something else, but the Lakeland Republic has a different culture as well as a different landscape.

Greg, I know. I've also got some very clear ideas, and don't propose to explain anywhere what they are.

12/3/15, 4:48 PM

Betsy Megalos said...

Enjoying the story. The Lakelands have some of the richest soils in the country, maybe even the world. That and abundant, non-fracked water, industrial manufacturing, food processing and waterways to connect all the powers that be and THEIR resources.... well.. very interesting...
They also have one of the largest populations what I like to dub.. "sustainability indicator cultures". A culture with a long life-style history that works well without modern conveniencies and external inputs.. Of course I refer to the Amish, old order Mennonites and other such agrarian oriented cultures- many of who coincidentally came from Swizterland.
I was wondering if you will make any mention of them as the story progresses?
Of course, non of these folks would likely enlist or take up arms and shoot drones.
However, These folks are very good at adapting in place -- So I wonder if this might be a none gun way to manage drones:

eagle takes down drone--

PS. The eagle was OK..

12/3/15, 4:52 PM

John Michael Greer said...
SLClaire, exactly. One of the massive political facts of the present is the extent to which a huge number of Americans outside the wealthy and privileged enclaves on the coasts feel, with reason, that they've been thrown under the bus and kept there. One of the reasons I expect civil war in this country within a decade or two is precisely the intersection between that very widespread sense of betrayal and abandonment, on the one hand, and the utter insouciant cluelessness of the privileged on the other.

Cherokee, exactly. Entropy is a convenient label from physics for a remarkably widespread, even universal aspect of the universe of our experience, and the weird inability of most people these days to take it into account is one of the craziest aspectsw of our crazed culture. Winter? So far it's stunningly normal here: plenty of rain, cool to cold temperatures, snow not yet in the forecast but probably here before the month is out. Stay cool and hydrated!

(dot), there was a flurry of comments from various people that didn't address the topic of this week's post, as specified in that pesky paragraph above the comments screen; I don't happen to recall if yours was among them, though, so Blogger might have been hungry.

Joe, I'd put it the other way around -- Sharp's proposal is an attempt to duplicate the successes of armed defensive insurgency using the weaker tools of nonviolent resistance. It's a creditable effort, though if the other side doesn't see any value in the lives of the people of the invaded state, and doesn't mind a public outcry in the world media, it would be fairly easy to break it by simply gunning down anybody who didn't follow orders.

(dot)/Mallow, thanks for the clarification. ;-)

Bill, the same thing that usually keeps different regiments of any other army from going to war with one another: the consequences. On the other hand, you'll already have noticed that this way of handling national defense makes it very difficult for a national government to pursue policies that are hated by the populace...

Shane, good! Keep an eye on the narrative for points along these lines; I've only hinted so far at the wider context in which the Lakeland Republic exists, but it's not as far from my other fiction as it might seem at first glance.

Betsy, I'll have to look into the Amish and Mennonites. Yes, I saw the eagle video -- I find myself wondering if you could train large birds to soar up above drones and drop things on them...

12/3/15, 5:05 PM

S Wilson said...
"It's getting sufficiently crazy and toxic, sufficiently fast that I've actually considered reassessing my decision to stay in this country."
JMG, I find that single statement to be most alarming, coming from someone as level headed as you who regularly brushes off the hysteria of the NTE'rs, etc. If you feel this way, it must be serious. Should I be making plans to go to "la Kentucky del Sur" (Veracruz, Oaxaca, or Chiapas, Mex.--somehow, I think there'd be all kinds of familiar faces there) I speak sufficient Spanish, and would get fluent very quickly w/daily usage/practice, and if Mexicans are as gracious and well mannered in their home country as they are in the US, I can't imagine it could be that bad, especially if you followed the "when in Rome" rule, worked hard, and strove not to be an "ugly American" Or I could go back to Ontario, though, honestly, I think Canada's most redeeming quality is that it is "not as bad as the US", in spite of the many great people I know there.

12/3/15, 5:25 PM

Nick said...
Re: Entropy

I'm a mechanical engineer (fancy ring and everything!) and it took me a decent amount of time to really understand what entropy is, despite (hypothetically) having some aptitude (probably just interest) in the subject. I really don't think most people understand exactly why it would be fiendishly difficult to power a lightbulb with a swimming pool worth of warm water even if there's more energy in that pool (relative to the same pool at ambient temperatures) than fits in their car's gas tank.

And regarding the military: I have to agree that the Swiss (or early American) model is the only model that has actually been tried (to my knowledge) that produces a state compatible with what I think are the two fundamental reasons to have states in the first place: Provide a framework for cooperation beyond the village scale that benefits people rather than harms them, and prevent other, less benign states from invading.

However, I have to say, regarding drones, if I were a military planner in the 2060s (still hypothetically possible, however unlikely and strange), I would focus on using liquid-fueled* fixed-wing drones with advanced camera systems to provide battlefield intelligence to troops on the ground (assuming such technology is possible to obtain and maintain). Hopefully these drones would be able to fly out of shotgun range - with present consumer camera technology they probably could. Everything else being equal, having a flying IR camera would probably decide a lot of battles.

If you could train birds to drop nets to foul the props, I don't see why falconry couldn't make an extremely bizarre comeback in the LR ;).

Regarding civil war in the US, I wonder if instead what will happen instead is the rate of mass shootings will keep rising. Right now, based on the standard of three victims makes a mass shooting there is approximately one a day. What if there were 10 a day? It also occurred to me that if one was really serious about starting a civil war, distributing relevant information on pamphlets printed on pre-digital equipment would likely cause some consternation at the NSA due to the lack of metadata.

*Assuming there are no big changes in battery technology between now and 2065

12/3/15, 6:04 PM

Tom Fitzpatrick said...
I had a friend who put some thought into insurgencies. One of his more interesting ideas was to have the guerillas put caches of bug farms all over the place and carry an array of ferments that could be fed any scraps of veges they had, the goal being to have high protein food with no supply lines.

12/3/15, 6:27 PM

Betsy Megalos said...
hMM.. drop things on drones,, yes!.. the direct assault on military versions might injure an eagle making a direct talon attack.. Dont want that!!.

Howz about somthing simple --maybe train an eagle, to carry in one claw- a "ball" with dangling streams of commercial grade, tested strips of something that would tangle and mangle the props on a drone - and the eagle would be trained to release the ball- string contraption upon string contact with the propellor?

Well, thanks letting me indulge in my naturalistic problem solving! Sometimes, i get into very old practical problem solving methods!:
Horse and travois- transport, Eagle- Partidge hunt- festival food!,, trackin hound- finding friends and criminals, Pidgeons- message sending.

12/3/15, 6:50 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
"Train large birds to soar up above the drones and drop things on them." Oooh what a lovely picture! Huge dollops of hawk chalk, right in their little electronic eyeballs.
OH, to have the cleaning contract for that!

12/3/15, 7:08 PM

234567 said...

When I was a kid, we made "bolo guns" using old inner tubes and tree crotches. These things had a good 100m range if you cut the old inner tubes right The key was making one ball heavier and leave the nest first - the rest cavorted around it. I guess it would be termed a primitive net gun today.

As net guns don't have that range, they wouldn't work for drones, but I am thinking an advanced bologun might be just the ticket??

12/3/15, 7:27 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
Betsy -- a lot of the surplus Amish and Mennonite population is moving to Tennessee, and we have substantial communities here now too. Alas, they are becoming more connected and less self-sufficient as time progresses. Tractors are replacing draft horses one by one, commercial pesticides are commonly used... My impression of Amish pacifism is that it applies to "thou shalt not commit murder." A drone is not a human, shooting it down would not be murder, and might be easily justifiable if it posed a hazard to the family or community. Same for the coyote threatening your sheep. But individual groups are quite autonomous, and these things vary greatly from family to family. One Amish friend of mine has a newer car, a fancier cell phone, and a shorter beard than I do... yet he still adheres to traditional 18th century-based Amish gender relations.

12/3/15, 8:05 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
JMG -- I think Ravens could learn to do that in a heartbeat. They might even come up with it on their own!

12/3/15, 8:12 PM

John Michael Greer said...
S Wilson, that's not a decision that can be made by or for anybody else -- and it's not a decision I've made yet, or expect to make one way or another anytime soon. It's simply that when a country's in a state of civil war, living there may not be a good idea -- and the likelihood that the US might go down that road rather sooner and more comprehensively than I'd thought earlier seems to be rising steeply.

Nick, I'd certainly expect reconnaissance drones of that kind, but attack drones firing missiles might also be popular as a way to get ordnance onto the battlefield without risking pilots and crew. Some drones would certainly fly at heights where you'd need a good rifle or even antiaircraft weapons to potshot them, others would go for the treetop approach. Thus your drone shoot training program has to cover quite a range of options, leading to different competitions. As for falconry...

Tom, I suppose. There are tastier ways to keep fed, especially if you're fighting on your own turf.

Betsy, I certainly don't want the eagle to risk getting hurt! I wonder if they could be trained to carry cameras...

Patricia, funny. In Seattle, where I grew up, seagulldroppings were a constant hazard for autos -- for complex chemical reasons, seagull excreta will strip paint right off your car roof. A running gag at the expense of a once-famous SF film suggested that the Seattle equivalent, featuring defecating seagulls, would be titled "Gross Encounters of the Bird Kind." I wonder if the lakeshore birds of the Great Lakes have the same proclivities...

234567, I rather like the bolo gun -- and I can think of some extremely effective ways to get a bolo to fairly high altitude, too. (Those readers who are familiar with old-fashioned artillery may guess at one of them if I murmur the words "chain shot.) Thank you!

Bill, I could see it! You'd just have to convince them that it was in their interest to do it.

12/3/15, 8:47 PM

Myriad said...
Hmm... with all this talk of a drone shoot, what kind of drones have we been talking about? I assumed the Lakelanders meant drones something like the ones the U.S. military currently uses: fixed-wing, 50-foot wingspan, propeller powered by a 110 horsepower engine at 80 knots or so, or well over 100 knots if it's in a hurry, flying one to four miles up, weighing half a ton unloaded. Shooting one of those down with a shotgun or deer rifle would indeed be an impressive feat! (Hence, latefall's sensible idea of using specialized rifles firing fragmenting ammo, trained spotters, etc. preferably after luring the drone to a lower altitude.)

But discussion of drones hovering and being knocked down by birds makes it sound like we're talking instead about those tri-rotor or quad-rotor drones you can buy from catalogs and use to take aerial photos of your neighbors sunbathing. Those would indeed be vulnerable to shotguns, or a stick dropped by an eagle, or (I suppose) sparse nets of monofilament lofted by hydrogen-filled party balloons. To be fair, such copter drones could have some military uses (such as close-quarters reconnaissance down corridors and the like). But unless Lakeland is expecting an invasion of paparazzi, shooting at that kind of drone seems more like one of many situationally useful skills than a cornerstone of military strategy.

Combat drones flying (let alone hovering) in the open at altitudes within effective range of small arms fire from the ground would certainly be a juicy target for well-trained marksmen. But why would they be doing that? Perhaps if a military still had the technology for remotely piloting drone aircraft, but lacked high-magnification cameras or guided bombs to put on them, thus requiring low-altitude operation? Or does the Republic of Texas mount assault rifles on copter drones and try to use them as infantry?

12/3/15, 9:05 PM

S Wilson said...
Well, the Con Con dissolution possibility is still out there--there's already 27 pending state calls for a Con Con, and a pending Civil War might be the necessary impetus for the remaining states to pass resolutions.

12/3/15, 9:46 PM

Ben said...
@ Nick - The civilian militia system of the early Roman Republic, and the Greek polis before the Peloponnesian War bear a striking resemblance to the Swiss and the Lakeland systems. Of course in those instance, escalating, near endemic warfare eventually turned both systems to using standing militaries, and much ink has been spilled writing about the results.

@ JMG and @ Shane - I know I'm not the first person to compare today to the 1850s. This country is turning squirrely in a bad way. My wife and I have talked about packing up the dogs, cats and chickens and moving to New Zealand. unfortunately, the apple trees don't travel as well. :-(

12/3/15, 10:28 PM

Martin B said...
ISIS is already using unconventional aerial munitions -- explosives dangling from balloons. Google "youtube ISIS condom bombs" for a bizarre sight.

I remember a short story where a beleaguered city used biplanes to defend against jet fighters. The biplanes were so slow the jets streaked past them before they had time to aim and fire their cannons, and the biplanes shot them down as they flew by. "Penntifer's Plan" by Paul Gallico in Confessions of a Story-Teller. He admits it was wishful thinking.

12/4/15, 12:00 AM

iangagn said...
This is somewhat timely:

I swear every week something like this happens. Almost every time.

12/4/15, 12:25 AM

Denys said...
If the terrorists haven't hit the economic infrastructure, could one conclusion be they are funded by it? That it is all one big employment project on both sides?

And then add to that these regular mass shootings which seem to be sourced from a variety of determined well-armed people......the fact that no one at any level of authority except the mayors of cities have tried to stop through weapons bans and background checks, makes me suspicious again of some larger plan at work. There has certainly been a flood of military weapons into US homes, many of them bought with cash so untraceable, so we are primed for something much more ugly.

I hope to never find out how my health insurance covers bullet wounds.

12/4/15, 5:16 AM

Denys said...
@bill The Amish here in PA are notorious for their over application of pesticide. Mennonites too. The local produce warehouse distribution center - surrounded by their farms - can't use anything they grow because it tests off the charts. They refuse to follow the directions on the containers and follow the thinking of when this technology was first developed "if a little is good, a lot must be better". And who knows they might be cooking up their formulations too.

Each group of Amish, about 80 families or so, picks what technology level they use as a group. It can vary quite a bit. And who knows maybe there are faux Amish now who are clever enough to get out of paying social security, Medicare, and mandatory health insurance. They don't pay those things you know and it makes me want to be Amish too.

12/4/15, 5:26 AM

Sven Eriksen said...
I have been looking forward to this episode. I had gotten my hopes up about how you would organise the LR armed forces, and I must say you've come up with a military quite to my taste. Funny thing is, I've realized, over here in my neck of the woods we actually have two seperate militaries. The first one is the standard self defeating deal that caters to supplying the empire with modest support in its adventures. It is extremely tech-minded, costly to the point of absurdity (the navy can't afford to operate most of its battle fregattes cause it bankrupted itself buying them, and it seems the air force will take that theme into the realms of parody with the F-35). It also seems to be constantly shrinking (i.e. becoming more "modern" and "efficient"). The second one is run by LR standards, and came into being in '46, determined to make use of some very hard learned lessons from the war years. It consists mainly of large light infantry units, every county having its own batallion with the companies divided up between the larger municipalities within that county. It is locally run, locally crewed and locally supported. Not incidentally, even though it dwarfes its conventional counterpart in terms of sheer size, it gets by on something like seven percent of the national defense budget. It is also very, shall we say, insurgent-minded. I have a feeling most of the grunts there would heartily approve of having drone shoot added to their training regimen...

12/4/15, 9:07 AM

Clay Dennis said...
Despite it's obvious practicality, effectiveness and economics there is of course a very large reason that most countries don't adopt the Lakeland Republics Defense model. Though such a plan of insurgency and decentralized countrol may work in the end it has one big disadvantage for those in power. If one country invades another with a spread out insurgent style defense force the obvious atractive soft targets are the seat of governement and the elites and their property. So if one day in the future the ascendent Islamic state with its new navy and airforce were to invade the U.S., which is now broke, and has adopted the Swiss model of defense they would certainly overrun D.C. , Wall Street, Greenwich Cn and the Hamptons and do some head chopping with those in power even though they might have trouble making any headway against the West Virginia Militia and eventualy leave and go home. Of course the elites don't like this scenario so they almost always choose the expensive expeditionary imperial style military machine even though it almost always leads said empire to the graveyard of history.

12/4/15, 9:18 AM

hapibeli said...
For a simple lesson in history, Vietnamese General Giap told the USA early in that war, "you will be here 10 years, we will be here 100".
Defence is often you only weapon when a more powerful force attacks you. Where else were the Vietnamese, the South Americans, the Iraqis, the Afghanis, going to go? It is there home.
Waiting out the conquerors with attrition is the only choice. The Natives of North America will be ascendant some day. Maybe not the rulers, but certainly more powerful and respected than they are today. The indigenous "Indians" have never mixed fully with American or Canadian culture, and now, as they have survived the machinations of their conquerors, they are relearning their traditions.
If you can hold on a few centuries, you may eventually take back much of what was yours to begin with.
Mother Earth will do the same.

12/4/15, 9:22 AM

The other Tom said...
The LLR militia system seems far more practical to me than a centralized, unsustainable MIC that we currently have in the U.S. Part of the American political dysfunction is the result of projecting military power all over the globe since 1945. Now they cannot scale back that military presence without giving up control of resources, an inevitable outcome that political candidates do not want to talk about, so we spend inordinate sums of money (debt) to kick the can down the road. Over the past 70 years the U.S. has come to expect a status quo that is completely unrealistic.
I think an important feature of a militia defense would be civilians taking responsibility for their own safety. As a civilian, you don't want to be around when an invading army comes through. Everyone would need to plan where they are going to go, possibly where they are going to hide until things settle down, how they are going to get news, what they can take with them. Knowing the local terrain would be vital to survival. Contemporary Americans are completely oblivious to their local landscapes, except for a few, including those of us who have an esoteric interest in really inaccessible campsites with water and foraging possibilities. As a civilian trying to disappear the densely wooded, rocky hills around me provide a lot of room to disappear. For people in other locales it would be something else, or maybe some places would be impractical to live in. But civilians could not simply stay home and assume they are safe.

12/4/15, 9:37 AM

Moshe Braner said...
After reading this week's posting, it really hit me as funny when I saw this title on Reuters News: "With an eye on Russia, Estonia seeks security in computing cloud".

There are actually some interesting tidbits in that article. I wonder though whether a Lakeland type defense against a Russian invasion would work for Estonia, being a much smaller country than Russia and thus perhaps unable to win on the economic attrition front, even if using cheap low tech.

12/4/15, 9:41 AM

Nick said...
@S Wilson,

I often wonder about whether things will be any different in Canada compared to the US. The border is very porous in every sense, and Canada is just as dependent (possibly moreso due to the cold and longer distances) on massive amounts of cheap, portable energy as the US. I do attempt to distance myself from 'Canadian Exceptionalism' - the belief that Canadians are somehow less crazy than Americans, but from what I can tell from the news that I choose to watch, things really are getting strange down there. It does seem to be apparent that people are realizing the American Dream was just that...

12/4/15, 10:47 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, it (thankfully) never had to be put into practice here, so whether or not it would have convinced a much more powerful foreign agressor to give up is up to speculation. But then there are places like Aghanistan or Vietnam.

12/4/15, 11:06 AM

Denys said...
So much to appreciate about this declassified manual....the title....the wording "purposeful stupidity"......the frank recognition of what we've all taken as normal in corporate culture......

Organizations and Conferences:
*Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
*Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
*When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
*Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
*Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
*Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
*Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

*In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
*Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
*To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
*Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
*Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

*Work slowly.
*Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
*Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
*Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

12/4/15, 11:32 AM

will said...
JMG, might we be learning something about the Lakeland system of justice, penal system, ideas on capital punishment, rehabilitation and the like?

12/4/15, 12:09 PM

Shane W said...
here are what I perceive to be Canadian strengths (generalities, of course):
higher social trust--few, if any, prepaid gas pumps, for example. People are willing to inconvenience themselves to help their neighbour, and, likewise, their neighbours are willing to help them. Along the same lines, there's more adherence to traditions of manners & hospitality. In the true, Burkean sense of the word, Canadians are conservative, and haven't lost as much of their social cohesion as the US. Where I'm from, people are baffled or downright suspicious if you offer to help them, they think you are expecting payment for services rendered. It really has people here flummoxed. Likewise, if you ask for or need help, expect others to disappear immediately--NO ONE will help you if you are in need, and they flee at the least indication you might in any way inconvenience them. People here are PETRIFIED others will take advantage of them. Keep in mind, I live in the South, which, traditionally always prided itself on its manners & hospitality.
Another thing is that the "national mood", if you will, in Canada, is not nearly as toxic as the US. The biggest thing that bothers me about Canada is that Canadians, generally, absolutely WILL NOT contemplate the US failing, or what Canada would do in the event of a US collapse. You all seem committed to going off the cliff with us. It's very hard, if not impossible, to walk a Canadian through a US collapse scenario. I tried, once, to put the question of what Canada would do when the US collapsed. I asked, directly, if, since Canada has so many Chinese & Indian immigrants, if they'd seek help from China or India in the event of a crisis /refugee crisis on the border. They were very uncomfortable with this line of reasoning. They kept going back to "either the US or Britain", even though Britain is less powerful than the US, now. Finally, with some ambivalence, they conceded that it MIGHT be possible for India to intervene since they were a part of the Commonwealth, but it was obviously an idea that made them uncomfortable. I kept thinking back to what JMG said, "you can't make someone understand something if their livelihood depends on them NOT understanding it."

12/4/15, 1:58 PM

Shane W said...
Regarding Canada, there's a lot more "parity" between individual provinces and individual states than between the two countries overall, especially when you take into consideration higher quality of life measures north of the border.

12/4/15, 2:24 PM

gildone84 said...
I agree with the idea that has been discussed here lately that new technology is not always better, and I have an example of my own to share. Just last evening I wanted to add a little bit of music to my personal music collection (which isn't all that big to begin with). As we all know, music has largely gone digital and downloading .mp3s is pushed as a convenient way to buy it. Aside from the fact that digital music doesn't have as rich of a sound as yesterday's vinyl records, my experience with digital music files is that dealing with them can be a pain in the @ss. A smart phone seems to be the expected way to manage one's music anymore and your storage device is expected to be "the cloud". Well, I don't have a smart phone and don't want one (I have better things to spend my money on than a data plan), so I have to download the album and few additional tracks I purchased to my PC.

When I did this I discovered that the whole software platform and user interface used by the online store I purchased the music from had changed, forcing me to spend time figuring it all out--again just like I had to the last time I used it (which was about a year ago). I don't even want to get into the problems I have with the media player software on my PC. Suffice it to say, it has it's own set of annoyances.

The problem with software-driven technology is that the software and user interface is updated regularly changed under the guise of "improvement". It's neither an improvement or convenience when you have to re-learn them every so often. It's just an annoying waste of time. I spent less time 30-years ago making a mix tape out of vinyl records than I did yesterday downloading some music and making a 50-minute digital playlist.

The whole episode reminded my why I rarely purchase music anymore. There are no record stores within a reasonable distance of my house, and I'm not going to buy CDs from a big online store that mistreats the warehouse workers who would fill my order. It also reminded me of why I rely on the local college radio stations for my music listening fix (we are lucky to have 4 of them in my area).

I suspect that some will be tempted to tell me how I probably just don't know what I'm doing or that maybe I'm just an over-the-hill technophobe. To those I say save your breath (or keystrokes as it were). I'm not a techno idiot. Sometimes glitzy new technology is just a good example of diminishing returns.

12/4/15, 3:37 PM

Raymond Duckling said...
>Would Col. Tom Pappas mention those something elses in a public conversation on a train?

Well, of course he wouldn't. It was foolish for me to expect otherwise!

12/4/15, 4:45 PM

Dagnarus said...
I would imagine there are two side to the equation with respect to resource usage. On the one hand Lakeland uses less than an industrial country, but does that mean that it uses less resources than a third world one? I would imagine that for the latter group of countries following the Lakeland example would be an example of how to organize the economy in such a way that there natural resources stay with them, rather than being traded away to China for Vee-pads. As an aside the up until recently Lakeland was under an embargo correct? What was Lakeland doing with there agricultural surplus then? Burning it? Second what exactly is lakeland going to be willing to import? From a previous post I believe you suggested some salvage steel from the atlantic republic, wouldn't this come under the heading of raw materials, which are becoming scarcer?

12/4/15, 5:07 PM

Jeff Balvanz said...
So, the people at the University of Toledo are tracking satellite fragments? I have no problem believing that's possible with 1950's tech; I still have the slide rule I used in college. Satellite tracking isn't really that hard. You can track the big pieces visually, and they might even use radar if they needed to badly enough. (The Brits had radar in WWII, and my dad ran a radar set in Japan during the Korean Conflict, tracking mostly seagulls and thunderstorms.) My question is, what's the point, other than as an academic exercise for physics students? Lakeland is not a space-faring country. Why would they care about satellite tracking?

Unless the drone-killing goes to higher altitudes if necessary. You can knock down a satellite with a sounding rocket, a bit of explosive, and a few hundred pounds of metal shrapnel if you know exactly when the satellite is going over. All you have to do is get some stuff in the way. It's like shooting a really big shotgun shell, and the satellite plows into the flak at 18,000 miles per hour. The Germans could have done it during WWII if there had been a reason. Does the LR have a couple of rockets hiding in silos somewhere to take out a satellite if necessary? Or is there a faction in the LR that would like to trigger the Kessler syndrome to take out some of the tech advantage the rest of the world has?

An excellent thought exercise. Please keep it coming, sir.

12/4/15, 7:59 PM

Grebulocities said...
It's not exactly on topic, but I wanted to say that I've gone back over the fascism series from early 2014, and I'm amazed at how much it already seems prescient. Donald Trump is a terrible Fred Halliot - a billionaire with no experience at all among the people who support him - and yet the hunger for a good fascist is so great that he's still winning the Republican primary easily at the moment. I suspect some dirty tricks will be pulled so that he does not actually become their candidate, but can you imagine what would happen if he were a working-class veteran in his late 30s instead? And for all that, as someone who has lived in the lower Midwest all his life and knows the sorts of people who do support Trump, a huge part of me would be happy to vote in a fascist to spite the bipartisan neoliberal consensus. That would be change we can actually believe in, and I don't think it would actually be worse for working-class Midwesterners than Clinton II or Rubio/Bush III/whatever. The humanitarian part of me is holding out for now, but I don't know how much longer it will last.

12/4/15, 9:50 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Myriad, I've hypothesized a range of drones in current use circa 2065, some high altitude but more running at treetop level to escape radar detection -- the only reason the US currently can get away with relatively high-altitude attack drones is that wedding parties and other typical US drone-strike targets aren't guarded by radar. The Lakeland military has appropriate antiaircraft weapons for the high-altitude drones as well, but those aren't the focus of the drone shoot -- it's the low-altitude drones that are on the menu every fall north of Hicksville.

S Wilson, I know. That's one of the wild cards in the deck at this point.

Ben, I know, and the 1850s are very much on my mind as well.

Martin, funny you should mention that. Stay tuned...

Iangagn, now we know where corporate America learned how to do business!

Denys, it's a possibility worth considering. "Islamic State" in particular sets off my sock puppet alarms.

Sven, that is to say, you have a toy military equipped with frigates and F-35s, and a real military that costs a sixteenth as much. If you know anybody in the real military, you might suggest drone shoots!

Clay, there's another reason why such a scheme isn't popular in a society as caste-ridden and economically unjust as ours. If the populace as a whole is well trained in military arts and organized for local resistance, there are very hard limits to the extent that you can abuse and exploit them...

Hapibeli, of course. Empire is always self-terminating.

Other Tom, one of the advantages of the Lakeland Republic system is that it constantly reminds everyone that they're not safe, but might have to deal with an armed invasion or some other massive crisis in their own neighborhoods. The US has lost that awareness, and that loss has played a very large role in making us as stupid as, by and large, we are.

Moshe, the disparity of scale is such that I'm not sure it would work, but it certainly makes more sense than trusting in distant server farms...

Ursachi, exactly -- there are enough examples of the thing working to make it worth building on.

Denys, so did someone set out to sabotage the US by convincing its corporations to adopt all those policies?

Will, I'll consider that.

12/4/15, 11:50 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Gildone84, exactly. "Newer" and "more complex" do not by definition mean "better" -- in point of fact, technology like everything else is subject to the law of diminishing returns, and increasing technological complexity -- as Joseph Tainter pointed out -- sooner or later goes into negative returns.

Raymond, nah, not foolish. One of the tricky things about a utopian narrative like this one is keeping in mind that the various people saying things to the narrator have their own agendas and biases. Ursula LeGuin is one of the few authors I know who really handled this well, in The Dispossessed -- even though that's more a wry commentary on utopias than a utopia, I've tried to borrow some elements of her technique here.

Dagnarus, yes, there was an embargo until three years before the story opens. As already mentioned, there was plenty of smuggling going on, much of it through Chicago, but there were also surpluses -- one way the LR dealt with that was putting a great deal of acreage into oil crops to provide diesel fuel, which can be stored, and was also in high demand for construction machinery during the rebuilding from the Second Civil War and the war of '49. As for imports, that's an interesting question, which will have to wait for an answer until I figure out more about the economies of the surrounding countries.

Jeff, there are at least three reasons for tracking satellite fragments. The first is that it makes a great teaching exercise for grad students. The second is that yes, there are potential military applications along the lines of those you've suggested -- a sounding rocket is well within the capacity of Lakeland technology. Third, the potential for a Kessler syndrome that would finish the process of making satellites uneconomic, and end the space age for several centuries or more, has massive implications in terms of the economic and military capacity of the countries surrounding the Lakeland Republic, most of which still rely on satellites to one extent or another. US military drones are controlled by satellite today -- what are the implications if satellites suddenly have an average lifespan measured in weeks before space debris takes them out?

Grebulocities, the only things Trump has going for him are that he's not part of the political establishment and he's willing to say things that nobody in the establishment would say. That may be enough to land him in the White House -- which is not exactly a prospect that I find cheering! If he does get taken out, either we get a bona fide fascist in the 2020 election or the country simply blows apart. The political class has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the American people, and its blatant and single-minded pursuit of policies that benefit the privileged few and are driving the rest of the population into destitution and misery is becoming a catastrophic political liability that nobody in Washington DC seems capable of noticing. As Keith Brand used to say in the runup to the 2008 housing bubble, "Dear God, this is going to end so badly."

12/5/15, 12:10 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Thank you and I am staying cool as much as possible and keeping hydrated. Of course, I also extend the water supplies here to all of the birds, animals and insects and it is amazing just how many of them - and also previously unseen species - are turning up this year. I spotted a very rare pair of long beaked corella’s this morning high up in a massive tree and had to grab my bird book out to find out what they were. The place has developed a level of complexity that is way beyond my understanding, and I merely focus now on giving everything a feed and drink and letting nature do the hard yards. It is not easy letting go, you know.

Which gets me to a Conan quote - which reminds me in no uncertain terms of the Golden Rule, which I'd like to share with you:

"I know what it is to be penniless in a Hyborian land. Now in my country sometimes there are famines; but people are hungry only when there's no food in the land at all. But in civilised countries I've seen people sick of gluttony while others were starving. Aye, I've seen men fall and die of hunger against the walls of shops and storehouses crammed with food."

I suspect that Howard's experience during the Great Depression left a strong mark on him, especially given his eventual demise at that time and that quote was him and his experience, I reckon.

I'm glad to read that your winter is more or less normal and as you'd expect. I reckon that you chose wisely with that particular location - for all sorts of reasons. You may be surprised to know that I now live on a mountain which is an island of green surrounded by some very dry country. I spoke with an orchardist this morning who is about 70km north of here (and lower in elevation but with better soils, but lower rainfall) and they told me that their place dried up 6 weeks ago which is phenomenally early.

Thank you very much too. It is crazy, unescapably universal and it is not at all obvious. The thing that amazes me is how long you must have had to carry that understanding, whilst the world around you went on and did other generally crazy things. Total 100% respect and I’m a little bit in awe. Incidentally, it completely makes the belief in progress and technology look like the laughing stock that they actually are because there is no winning against that universal reality. I look at the world very differently because of it too and now wonder how physicists could even understand that knowledge and then prepose the concept that technology will save when it should be clear to them that it is an impossibility. Maybe they don't understand what it means?

I dunno at all, but came at this understanding via low tech tools, an interest in magic and being up to my eyeballs in ecology with no back up services here. I was wondering whether you thought that there may have been different paths to travel to get to that understanding and I'll give that some thought too?

You may be interested to know that it was buying a 100ft (30m) garden hose that finally pounded the lesson home. The local hardware store showed me various hoses and I said I wanted one that would last for more than just 10 years and I eventually got one with a 30 year apparent life span - but I could see in the store persons heart that she thought that that was a creepy ambition and in my mind flashed a Terry Pratchett quote which I may have read here or over at the other blog over the past week or so:

"But there was something slightly creepy about someone who didn't just believe it, but lived their life by it. It was as unnerving as meeting a really poor priest."

Nuff said really, I think I am ready to move on and grow. It has been a hard path, no doubt about it.



12/5/15, 2:24 AM

latefall said...
@Myriad, JMG re drones: I assume you'll pretty much get every kind, probably even intermodal and complementary group versions.
What I could imagine is that the motivation (and pay grade) of the individual squad members of the AR aren't exactly the same, e.g. punitive service. I'd assume you have a couple of people who have to pick up equipment so it does not fall into enemy hands. This is probably going to be a major issue with hardware anywhere close to the front line. A simple mobility or mission kill on some expensive equipment quickly escalates to draw in more resources. Depending on their definition of violence, pacifists can still aim at tank tracks or down drones for example. Organic infantry level drones will be a rather important thing I believe - but it won't be a wonder weapon. There will be a lot of rock, paper, shotgun going on that will nullify much of their potential against a well prepared enemy.

@Dagnarus, JMG re import and surplus: Much agricultural surplus will likely go into strategic reserves (canned food, oils, alcohol).
In terms of imports my guess is a small selection of tools, (metalized) plastic foil (if there is not domestic producer), depending on how intellectual property is handled some pharmaceuticals, surely some alloying elements (tool steel), some ingredients for battery recycling, glass or ceramics, perhaps second hand solar modules, some relatively greenly produced LEDs (+ perhaps laser diodes), and components to stretch electronics lifetime, and lastly a handful of long lasting FPGAs (or directly some guided munitions from trusted sources, if either exists). It makes a lot of difference if the enemy has to assume there are a couple of highly mobile guided 155mm artillery shells (+optical designators) or anti-aircraft assets somewhere in the region.
The FPGAs could support (e.g. medical, biological) number crunching in times of peace, and be shoved into a reusable guidance kit (perhaps partially recovered via animal) mounted on large munitions or rockets.

12/5/15, 4:24 AM

Denys said...
"Denys, so did someone set out to sabotage the US by convincing its corporations to adopt all those policies?"

It's not the corporate written policy; its in corporate culture. Reading through that manual of describing how to intentionally slow down an organization is exactly what goes on in large corporations today. I worked in a company of 10,000 people and it was fascinating to watch everything people would do to fill their day and not complete actual work that moved the goals of the company forward. And the meetings and emails! Whole days could be spent responding to those.

Some well placed people in a large organization following that manual to be purposely stupid or these days perpetually offended by others, would grind a corporation to a halt. Emails would be sent, meetings would have to be held going up a level each time, then HR involved, then more training for all involved, and of course written reports the whole way with meetings about those reports.

12/5/15, 5:02 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, what's notable is that in such cases, there is also an outside player that provides some kind of support to the nation that's being agressed. Even the humble Chadians who defeated Libya in the Toyota War had French support. And my country (which, ironically, now has the same flag as Chad) made new "friends" in the late 60s which were happy that a Warsaw Pact country was not following Moscow's orders, and Nixon himself flew to Bucharest in 1969 where a massive parade awaited him.

I'm imagining that the LR, as isolated as it is, would still have some "friends" of its own which would provide some sort of support.

12/5/15, 5:29 AM

Shane W said...
@grebulocities, JMG,
it's very interesting just how much both outsider candidates, Trump & Sanders, match up on the issues of most importance. It's almost as if there's just a difference of style, manners, and class between the two. Both are playing into angry populism, just from different angles. If anything, the media is downplaying Sanders--he really could take out Hillary, though considering the Democrats long history of capitulation to the right, there's a question of what Sanders would actually do.
Regarding terrorism/shootings, I'm thinking that the powers that be consider it the lesser of the evils and the better option. To me, random, untargeted violence like shootings or rioting is wasted violence, compared with, say, organized, targeted violence to bring down the system. I'm pretty sure the elites are way more comfortable with shootings and riots than they would be with an organized, armed rebellion.

12/5/15, 6:53 AM

team10tim said...
RE: targeting infrastructure

In the 1970's there were some prison riots that were televised. The prisoners in other prisons got the idea and learned the methods from television and there were copycat riots. Eventually the networks stopped broadcasting the details of the riots and the copycat riots stopped.

If you know of any ways to target infrastructure in a simple and crippling way then for God's sake keep it to yourself! If you put some simple and easily exploitable vulnerability of industrial civilization on the net it greatly increases the chances of someone with an axe to grind and no resources using it.

Now, imagine that I had posted the 10 easiest ways to cripple the OECD on a budget. Sooner or later someone would act on it. Maybe in your country, maybe somewhere else. The best thing you could do to prepare for that eventuality would be to get some resources under your own control in case some infrastructure that you depend on is taken out.

So talk about green wizardry all you like, start practicing it. Get that information out there and in use, but for easy ways to destroy important infrastructure, as they say in the Navy, loose lips sink ships.


12/5/15, 7:14 AM

Nastarana said...
Dagnarus, It takes a while for a country to build up it's farming sector to the point where it has significant surpluses. Some countries today have surpluses only because their westernized elites don't care if their poor citizens eat or not.

I suspect The Lakeland Republic will trade for some, a few, electronic devices, so they can take them apart to see how they work. What I think they are really after is things like intelligence sharing and maybe military cooperation against piracy on the Great Lakes. Which cooperation can't be discussed out loud at this point because the pirates are funded out of Chicago. Also, the Atlanticans probably do put resources and smart people into intelligence gathering, and the Lakelanders need to know who might be coveting their farms and water. The Lakelanders might also want to trade for tropical crops being grown in places like Virginia, especially medicinals, jute, raffia, coconut from what is left of Florida and the like.

I hear tell that some tier one and two families are making some extra income fostering kids from upper tier families who don't want their kids growing up like dumb Americans. The upper tier family gets a kid who is not a good for nothing brat, and the lower tier farmer gets to save on the cost of hiring farmhands.

12/5/15, 7:51 AM

Nastarana said...
Dear Grebulocities, Trump is a creature of Wall Street, as was The Man from Austria before him. Unlike his spiritual forefather, The Donald has neither the will nor ability to strike out on his own. What I find interesting about this election is the Sanders phenomenon, in that, while the Senator himself is undoubtedly a sheepdog for Clinton, I think it is an open question whether the sheep will remain in their pens. This time, I think they may well not stay rounded up. If the Sanders supporters stay home on election day, or don't mail in their ballots, Clinton loses.

12/5/15, 8:20 AM

Sven Eriksen said...
Granted, John, since I among other things happen to be an NCO in said real military I'm prone to do a bit of lobbying for drone shoot myself. What was it you said, again? "Anything that can take down a duck..."

12/5/15, 8:33 AM

Tidlösa said...
I´m not an expert on military history, but typical armed resistance movements (regardless of political color) do target basic infrastructure, the political leadership, the actual military, or (if brutal enough) civilians rightly or wrongly deemed collaborators.

Then, there are the terrorists who target the World Trade Center, shoot people at random in cafés, etc. What are *they* playing at, I wonder? Revenge? Macho posturing? False flags operations? Nihilism? A little bit of all of the above?

It´s interesting to note that the Baader Meinhof Gang in West Germany apparently wanted the state to counter-attack in full force. It was part of their “strategy” to “expose the fascist character of the democratic state”, or what have you. A crazy, adventurist strategy, almost tailor made for somebody to take advantage of, sock puppet wise. Are some of the terror gangs in the Middle East playing with fire in the same way?

It´s also interesting to note that Daesh (“Islamic” State) doesn´t seem to have a real political program or social agenda, not even a Muslim fundamentalist social agenda (complete with soup kitchens for the needy poor and a populist theocracy). Daesh seems to be a criminal operation pure and simple. They are clearly guns for hire – witness how Assad could use them against the other rebel forces. Could their brutality, adventurism and irrationalism be explained as the mentality of a crime gang or youth gang on the rampage, being brutal simply because they can, and then committing “suicide by cop”? (Or in this case, suicide by Vladimir Putin!)

While the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Nusra in Syria are regressive and brutal, there seems to be a certain rationality to their actions. Al-Nusra, while nominally part of Al-Qaeda, doesn´t carry out terrorist acts on Western soil, concentrating on attacking Assad – this is logical, since the West (opponents of Assad) may otherwise attack them. In other words, they are taking advantage of the contradiction between their two enemies, the West and Assad. A classical strategy! The Taliban concentrate on attacking foreign troops and other adversaries in Afghanistan and Waziristan (where they are also hardest to track down).

Meanwhile, Daesh attacks both the West and Russia simultaneously, while also attacking other fundamentalists, such as Hamas, the Taliban, Al-Nusra…

Yes, something very “funny” is going on here. If and when the Russians finally take Raqqa and finds Daesh´s internal memos, somebody somewhere is going to get really, really worried. And, ironically, it won´t be Donald Trump!

12/5/15, 10:15 AM

Degringolade said...
John Michael:

You don't have to publish this, but in case you haven't seen this, I liked this article. I was especially amused by the fact it was published by the CSM. My favorite quote is "we aren't the church and you aren't Galileo."

12/5/15, 1:10 PM

Shane W said...
What's amazing about Trump is that he seems to have broken the neoliberal stranglehold on the GOP. The man outright favors higher taxes on the rich, restrictions on "free trade", single payer healthcare, among other things that have, in the past, been the "third rail" of GOP politics. Despite not passing these litmus tests, Trump's numbers remain high, not to mention his shaky stances on social issues like abortion. So, regardless of what a bloviating, egotistical idiot he may be, he does represent a sea change in the GOP regarding the neoliberal consensus. Some pause and contemplation is in order for what that represents.

12/5/15, 1:25 PM

Tidlösa said...
JMG, considering the rising sea levels and Swedish complacency, Sweden´s leading daily Dagens Nyheter recently published an editorial saying that Sweden has never been so rich (etc etc), ironically (their irony) illustrated with a photo of - guess what - raging seas during a recent storm. I suppose the expression "wry smile" comes to mind, although I suspect it won´t be the editor who´ll get the last laugh! This is getting a bit, you know, creepy. Somebody somewhere must wake up, soon, very soon...

12/5/15, 2:53 PM

Thomas Prentice said...
At the risk of using and overused word, this is "awesome" and getting "awesomer". Well, OK. "Awesomer" isn't an overused word. Picky, picky.

12/5/15, 4:28 PM

Doctor Westchester said...

Your concern that certain events are happening faster that you expected five or more years ago is mirrored in your fiction. While your Winter's Tales posts in 2006 and Adam's Story posts in 2007 had the U.S.A. breaking apart after 2050, both Retrotopia and Twilight's Last Gleaming has this happening in little more than a decade. A not very pleasant, but increasingly likely possibility.

12/5/15, 4:39 PM

Tom Fitzpatrick said...
Quick poll: has any one you know suggested that it would be a good idea to invade Mexico lately? The rational is that they are a failed state due to the takeover by the cartels, that Mexican's love America and want to be a part of it and the bonus is we can take all their oil. My friend's dad said this to me the other day like it was the simplest thing. I'm wondering if this idea goes beyond him. I would think that legalizing drugs and repealing NAFTA would work much better.

On this blog some time ago you made the point that in the Mexican culture has largely been much more successful in our hinterlands than the other way around and of our youth having a large admiration for gangster culture (the cartels). If this scenario were to play out a lot of loyalties would be called into question and it's hard to imagine the USA coming out on top.

12/5/15, 6:22 PM

Shane W said...
BTW, I've never seen Paducah mentioned so much in a single story. Are you just enjoying the way that quickly little place name sounds too much? LOL

12/5/15, 9:21 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
On the subject touched on by several others about our current corporate culture being exactly what the CIA would design to sabotage the workplace in another country, I want to add the fantastic article "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs."

12/5/15, 11:37 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi team10tim,

Whilst I always enjoy your comments, I must say that you are drawing a long bow to write that: "If you know of any ways to target infrastructure in a simple and crippling way then for God's sake keep it to yourself!".

I fail to recall that narrative in the story at all. In fact the fictional Lakeland Republic is at best responding to a more aggressive neighbouring country. There isn't anything greatly new or unknown that I have read in the tactics and my gut feeling is that the Lakeland Republic is more concerned with the prospect that they have another potential failed state on their doorstep and that is the subtext behind the engagement. I could be wrong though.

Incidentally, I recall from a few weeks back that I provided a link to an article which discussed the very possibility that (I can't quite recall the details, but I believe it was North Dakota - please correct me if I am wrong and accept my apologies) was intending to use drones fitted with tasers to use against civilians.

The thing is, if you live in the US then you have a government which represents you (more or less) and that government is actively pursuing drone strikes right now. If that is the case, you may want to reassess your opinion and consider the very real possibility of the implementation of the Golden Rule of do unto others...



12/5/15, 11:40 PM

Vilko said...
Mr Greer, you wrote:

every small nation has to deal with the hard fact that a sufficiently large power willing to do whatever it takes can conquer it. The point of a successful military policy, on the part of a small nation, is to make the task look sufficiently costly and unprofitable that large powers will look for easy pickings elsewhere.

True, but...

I may be unduly pessimistic, but I'm afraid that, in the near future, when nations wage war for resources in order to escape massive starvation, they will do "whatever it takes" to conquer territory.

Consider Syria. The drought deprived millions of Sunni farmers of their livelihoods. The drought is exceptional in its severity, it may be an effect of climate change. What do we have as consequences? The brutal elimination of minorities such as the Yazidees, with captured Yazidee men being summarily executed, and Yazidee women and girls enslaved, raped, and sold like cattle. A war in which neither party takes prisoners. ISIL uploads videos of public executions of prisoners. The Assad government is more discreet, but, as Assad told a French journalist, "we don't have French jihadi prisoners. They don't come to Syria to be captured, they come to fight and die."

In my humble opinion, the Sunni parts of Syria and Iraq can't feed tens of millions of people anymore (that's also what J H Kunstler thinks). Therefore, the war will last until the population has been noticeably reduced. What would it take, to make war "sufficiently costly and unprofitable" for ISIL? To them, it's win or die. Therefore, no price is too high.

This being said, I hope that North America will be spared the plight of the Middle East (as to Europe, where I live, well, the Middle East is already coming to us). But I'm pretty sure that there will be no Middle Eastern equivalent of Lakeland.

We mustn't underestimate the strength of homo sapiens' instinct for war. The recent mass killing in California, by a couple with a six months old daughter, may be an example of an extreme case of the war instinct, which is awakened when humans feel that war is the only solution to their predicament. It may not be a coincidence that the perpetrators belong to a community which feels oppressed, which is deprived (in the USA) of a territory it can call its own, in a State which has to deal with severe water shortages, and which would become dysfunctional, even chaotic, if energy, especially petroleum, became really scarce?

12/6/15, 1:27 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Loving this story, by the way. I'm sitting out on the veranda penning this as the sun sets because well, it's kind of hot here. Even now as the sun sets it is 20.5'C (69'F) and although the screen is attracting all manner of insects, no few of which are enjoying a munch on my carcass, it is still very pleasant. There is even a wallaby just below here having a good munch in the garden beds - they seem to really enjoy the poppies - go figure than one out.

Anyway, I've just put the chickens to bed whilst reading through the comments and it occurs to me that people who are commenting make the covert assumption that their military - and hence taxes - are actually out to win an engagement. It seems like an unusual assumption to make on their part given the long and protracted engagements that we seem to keep getting entangled in over the past 40 years. I dunno, except that I reckon that if engagements were set out to be won then different strategies would have been employed. For example in Afghanistan, I mentioned to you a long time ago that I would have broken the entire country up into manageable fiefdoms held by strong war lords bound by a simple and easy to understand basic set of rules. But maybe that is just my take on matters. Dunno.

Fortunately the marsupial bats have now arrived and are starting to eat some of the insects that are currently eating me.

As to the drones requiring high tech responses. I do hope that you introduce the shanghai? It still surprises me that few people seem to want to learn martial arts. I have to throw sticks at the magpies if they become a bit too cheeky and start aerial bombing my chickens when they are out in the orchard (which is most days). A shanghai would be a choice response to that, but then again I don't want to hurt the magpies, just give them a warning so the stick is a good response, but practice makes me a pretty shot. I doubt very much that drones in the future will look like the drones of today anyway.

Hi Chris Smith,

I doubt very much that deep cycle lead acid batteries require the rare Earth materials that you speak of. They're a very old technology and in fact the early ones used to be in the most beautiful glass jars where you could see all of the internal goings on. Nickel iron batteries are not that complex either.



12/6/15, 1:50 AM

Tidlösa said...
Shane W,

I didn´t know Trump sounded "social", I assumed he was a neo-liberal on all issues except immigration. The knee jerk reaction when a right-winger sounds "social" is that he´s a fascist, or moving closer to such positions. Compare Pat Buchanan, who pretended to support striking workers and showed up at picket lines. Of course, fascist is such an overused word, so I will refrain from calling Trump fascist as of this point. Conservative, anti-immigration parties with social agendas are currently in power in Poland and Hungary, and they have flexed their muscle during the recent "migrant crisis".

12/6/15, 3:22 AM

Matt said...

In the UK canal boats were typically drawn by horses rather than mules.

The second link has an excellent picture of a horse drawing a boat towards a five-level lock.



12/6/15, 5:56 AM

Hubertus Hauger said...
@ jmg telling Martin of Dmitry´s fondness of fast-collapses and mass dieoff´s gave me the impulse to follow the link towards last years Dark Age America series.

Being there been confronted with the massiveness of your collapse predictions, was shaking me in my cosy slumber. How horried, to look into future so realistically.

So now I can see better what kind of slow life paradise LR does resemble. To end at a place like LR couldn´t be much better, could it.

So, give us hope, John, give us hope ... before the morning come!

12/6/15, 12:25 PM

Ed-M said...
One of the commenters here mentioned how the elites in DC (but also New York and elsewhere) are becoming increasingly out of touch with the masses, who themselves I fear are going crazier and crazier... even to the point where the Archdruid is thinking of moving elsewhere. I found an article that was posted just this morning! Some pseudoconservative blogger took shots at a New York Times editorial on gun control, and not just metaphorically...

Someday, someone may commit a terrorist act against the Grey Lady in response to something that was published in the paper. As that same commenter above said, this is so not going to end well.

Now going off onto last week's topic: watching television is very much like being in Plato's Cave. I've had the opportunity to look up into some second-floor windows of neighborhood houses when I lived in Boston. Of course, I wouldn't do this in the daytime, just at night when people were sitting in their second-story parlors, watching TV. From looking at the light of the flickering from my perspective on the sidewalk, it appeared that there were small lightning storms going on in there!

@Chris, you made a very good point about Plato's Cave last week. Why would anyone want to go back in there!? If I were an outside observer watching the prisoner choosing his old captivity again over freedom in the sunlight, I'd call after him, "Yo' daft ****!"

12/6/15, 1:02 PM

Blueback said...
Sven and John Michael, I am reminded of a great quote by Jean Lartéguy, a French author, journalist and former soldier:

“I'd like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General's bowel movements or their Colonel's piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight.”

12/6/15, 1:45 PM

Blueback said...
The headline cited by Moshe Bruner "With an eye on Russia, Estonia seeks security in computing cloud", sounds rather oxymoronic, especially since the Russian military and intelligence services have proven to be rather adept at hacking, cyberespionage and cyberwarfare.

Just one more point of vulnerability if the Russians do decide sometime in the near future they want their old Baltic provinces back...

12/6/15, 1:50 PM

Blueback said...
Speaking of scary things going on in the Middle East, have you seen the latest headline coming out of Iraq?

"Iraq is talking about asking Russia for help following Turkish invasion"

With growing tensions between Turkey, Russia and Iraq, things could really escalate in a bad way. Now the Iraqis are openly talking about asking the Russians to intervene militarily in their latest dispute with Turkey. The Middle East right now is bearing an increasingly disturbing resemblance to Europe right before the Guns of August in 1914...

12/6/15, 1:59 PM

August Johnson said...
JMG - Just an aside, for those who might be thinking about Ham Radio, it isn't just something that should only be thought of as a task that has to be undertaken. It can be fun too, just last night I was tuning around the 80 meter band and came across a Special Event station W7P(luto) running from Flagstaff, AZ to commemorate the discovery of Pluto. Had a 15 minute conversation with the Ham running the station at that time, Bob (NF7E).

Contacted them again today on the 20 meter band and was able to talk to Doug Tombaugh (N3PDT), nephew of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930. Today the station was operating from inside the dome of the 13 inch Astrograph (Refractor Camera Telescope) that Clyde used to take the photos on HUGE Glass Plates. These plates were over a foot square. I'll get a nice printed color certificate.

You can have a lot of fun while learning about communication on the radio!

12/6/15, 2:16 PM

tokyo damage said...
I've been enjoying this story! My main thought this chapter is, if Lakeland is set up to make a high-tech, straight-ahead invasion too expensive, wouldn't all their elaborate insurgency-friendly infrastructure make it easier for Brazil/Texas/Whomever to simply fund a separatist militia group made of Lakeland natives? That way the insurgency-friendly infrastructure becomes a tool of the cats-paw militia(s); it's turned against itself.

Looking forward to the next chapter!

12/6/15, 2:19 PM

Graeme Bushell said...
One thing has been bothering me about the upcoming drone shoot... drones are high tech, and expensive. Who is supplying them for target practice, and why? If Lakeland is buying them they would make very expensive targets!

12/6/15, 2:20 PM

nuku said...
Re low tech warfare methods: it occured to me one could exploit various religious sensibilities. For example:

"The use of tallow or lard to lubricate rifles was the spark that started the Indian Mutiny of 1857. To load the new Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that the paper cartridges that were standard issue with the rifle were greased with lard (pork fat), which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (cow fat), which is incompatible with Hindu dietary laws".

Today, one could simply "pork bomb" both Orthodox Jewish and Muslim territories thereby rendering them "unclean" and not ft for human habitation.

12/6/15, 2:46 PM

Susan J said...
I really appreciate your story of the Lakeland Republic.

Perhaps it will take peak oil to save us from neoliberalism. Wouldn’t that be a wonder!

12/6/15, 3:23 PM

jean-vivien said...
@Shane W and Tidlösa :

The authoritarian, neoliberal far right party here has taken the same kind of stance on the economy lately. Today has marked an unprecedented success for them on the first round of our Regional elections, and not so much of it is due to the recent terror attacks in Paris. People want change in the economy, and the common point between Donald Trump and the Front National is that they both claim to break from the neolibral consensus, by focusing on the national economy and on jobs.

But you can understand from the way he talks that Trump is your usual, unthinking business-obsessed American, a cliché of the self-made individualistic hero who is so good at being a business shark and at the same time conveniently happens to embody all virtues of love and altruism for election pictures.

The Le Pen gang have taken for their own use the anti-globalism rhetorics, but they never had a coherent believable vision of economic policies before, and their latest attempt at "de-diabolization" (a sucessful media strategy of pointing angrily at and severely sanctionning the most extremist nauseating parts of their own movement) is not very credible. Neither is their take on altermondialism as part of their mix with economic patriotism, for an economic program.

It is a common feature of populist regimes, to field extraordinary claims of rupture against the status quo.


Regarding the inconsistency of stances about climate change, Paris happens to be the host of this giant monster of a global climate conference, COP21. But the ecologists have never been weaker politically in France, and the current political blockbusters, the Front National, are promising a patriotic rupture from the status quo while still sticking the worn-out idea of economic growth.

I can tell by listening to the enlightened public radio that somehow journalistic perceptions are slowly, subtly shifting to the left, and starting to wonder about the whole idea of growth. But I cannot see that trend publicly articulate in public media discussions until quite a few more years, not speaking of actual lifestyle changes, so expect very little from the very country which hosts the conference.

One of the posters we can see in the subway stations of Paris is a poster issued by the WWF for the COP21, with a crowd marching among a city in rumble. The leaders are a big panda waving a handwritten sign - fair enough - and a young girl holding its hand as well as a skateboard, sunglasses and tennis shoes. The very attributes of the Western lifestyle... duh.

Link to the poster

12/6/15, 7:17 PM

onething said...
Shane said,

"Where I'm from, people are baffled or downright suspicious if you offer to help them, they think you are expecting payment for services rendered. It really has people here flummoxed. Likewise, if you ask for or need help, expect others to disappear immediately--NO ONE will help you if you are in need, and they flee at the least indication you might in any way inconvenience them."

I'm really not sure where you're from, but I must be living in a different country. I'd say the extreme friendliness and willingness to help strangers are the strongest positive attributes of Americans. I could give endless examples. One time with my prior husband, 4 kids and my mother, our car had some weird battery problem that caused it to die every few miles, and we needed a jump to get it going again. Admittedly, we were a very nonthreatening-looking group of people, but at no time did we wait as long as 5 minutes before someone stopped and came over to see what they could do, and got us on our way. That was North Carolina.

12/6/15, 7:30 PM

team10tim said...
Hi Cherokee,

I wasn't referring to Greer's narrative, which is excellent. I'm advising the audience. Specifically, there are probably people who read this blog that have detailed knowledge of some of the country's critical infrastructure and systems. Most of that infrastructure isn't hardened in any meaningful way and most of it is centralized. This makes it an easy target for anyone who knows what they are doing.

I want to keep the details of how to exploit those vulnerabilities off the web because putting that information on the web makes it much more likely that it will be used. I've seen this before, where a group of intelligent people is discussing some aspect of industrial civilization and one of them says "if you really wanted to do a lot of damage/take this system down you just need to..." If they have this conversation online then anyone can read it and the likelihood of their idea being implemented increases.

So, if someone out there knows how to make nuclear reactors go Fukushima on a budget, please don't post it. JMG wouldn't put it through, but he isn't the moderator everywhere.


12/6/15, 8:19 PM

Dennis D said...
As an Canadian ex-military person, from long enough ago that the standard infantry weapon was a semi-automatic, I agree that aimed fire is much scarier than "spray and pray". If almost all persons old enough to properly aim a rifle are trained and equipped,there is effectively no civilian population to hold hostage. Couple this with an incentive to build all infrastructure with defense in mind, even a scorched earth policy would be difficult. If every house and barn was build with this kind of defense in mind, and underground root cellars doubling as tunnels as well as food storage would be a very hard to take target. When the first gulf war happened, there were no operative radars on the ground for long before a smart bomb would take them out. However if there were thousands of Ham radio operators, with low tech jamming and radar simulators out there, the number of expensive smart bombs becomes uneconomic, as well as interrupting any electronic communication and intelligence gathering. The other example of another poster regarding ruthless military's in the past, how many had their home populations at risk? I am really enjoying this series of posts

12/6/15, 8:19 PM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Hmmmm.....military stuphph on the ADR.....

I'd like to interject a humorous and irrelevant note, to lighten up some of the war-talk.


Being depressed today about the Hitler war and suchlike, I have just discovered that British
comedy lives on. RAF Battle of Britain mores, and along with that the bad modern British habits of speech and thought, get successfully parodied at (YouTube upload of user "Hat Trick", 1:33, from 2013-07-16, under title "Armstrong and Miller : RAF 'Youf' Loses a Leg")


now feeling better about crippled Lakeland Republic war veterans
and related military affairs,



PS: If one were reckless, one would also in this context refer to the parody of wartime MI6, retrievable by searching for an Armstrong and Miller "Hitler sketch" - a sketch purporting to describe the "single most important piece of intelligence from WW2". But one refrains.

PPS: Yes, definitely feeling better now - this like having a hot cuppa.

12/6/15, 9:25 PM

Susan Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L said...
I may have missed any references to the release of methane gas when permafrost melts, but I wonder how that plays out in future scenarios. It seems to me one of the most devastating outcomes to potential human life (not to mention all the other oxygen dependent life forms.) In general I find most of what I read here both plausible & encouraging.

12/6/15, 9:51 PM

Kevin Warner said...
I can see how you modeled your Lakeland Republican forces on the strategy and tactics of Hezbollah as mentioned in one of your replies. An article called "How Hezbollah Defeated Israel PART 3: The political war" at stated that the key was to ride out the waves of aerial attacks, hit their opponents key assets enough to draw in their land forces, and then use a well-trained force to maul the invaders. This seems to match your description of the Lakeland strategy in your narrative.
Without meaning offense, there may be a flaw in the idea of making an invading force reckon on the cost to a nation as being too prohibitive and it is this; It would only need to be profitable to a few key (defense) corporations to have a war launched anyway and they would not care about the effect on the economy of the rest of the country. Other corporations would be encouraged on the future profits to also go for an invasion. As an example, before the American invasion of Iraq a trade conference was held in which all the corporations got together to discuss how to cut up the Iraq pie and who would get what.
The reason that I remember this conference so well, as a side note, was that an executive from 7-Eleven boasted how a well-stocked 7-Eleven store would be able to successfully put out of business thirty Iraqi local business once set up and I remember thinking 'now where did you learn that particular lesson?'
A worse possible war for the Lakeland Republic would be like we see in Novorussia where the invading Kiev military was not particularly concerned with the population and would be quite happy to see the locals flee to Russia altogether. In this type of war, the invaders are only really after the land and its resources and the whole region is turned into a free-fire zone to get rid of the locals. The cleared areas would then be re-settled with their own people. It depends on how ruthless the 2065 Confederacy would be.
As for all this talk of drones, I am sorry to say that it is still early days on this particular form of warfare and may likely be just another weapon by 2065. We have not even had the phase of the development of hunter-killer drones that go after drones yet. I reckon that we are more advanced on how satellites can kill other satellites than how drones can kill other drones at the moment.
Please do not take this as criticism of the Lakeland Republic narrative, which I very much look forward to each week, but I do feel that some of these points should be brought up.

12/6/15, 10:51 PM

kitties101 said...
You wrote in response to one of the comments "...adaptations are easy enough once you ask the question, "What's the simplest effective way to make this easy to use for people with disabilities?"

My life's work was to conceive of and then write legislation that included the needs of people with disabilities in transportation, access to services, access to buildings and etc. With respect, the fundamental question is not what you asked. The effective ways were simple to imagine and then to write. The question was how to persuade the able bodied to be willing to include these changes so that the disabled could fully participate.

I mention my career not to blow my horn but to say I have experience in the trenches regarding this specific topic. For the duration of my 30 year career, I faced adamant opposition from building trades, restaurant owner associations, unions, elevator companies (braille next to the elevator buttons), transportation agencies and manufactures’ of buses and trains, assorted chamber of commerce, colleges and universities (forbidding discrimination on the basis of disability for admission to college), government agencies and more (blue handicapped placards that hang from car mirrors for example).

The true issue is not how simple the mechanical solution is but how complex, ingrained, and toxic bigotry is. Thank you for showing us possible pathways after the comming collapse. I hope post collapse that minority populations such as the disabled will not be returned to their previous place in society.


12/7/15, 12:53 AM

Bootstrapper said...
@Sunny Lord, If I may offer a somewhat bizarre explanation:

Could the The Military Industrial Complex and the various terrorist organizations with which it's currently engaged, exist in a symbiotic relationship? The MIC needs a 'bogeyman' to justify its existence and the terrorist organizations fulfill this role. Could the Taliban (and all the other monsters Uncle (Dr) Sam Frankenstein created over the last four decades), also require a "Great Satan" to justify theirs?

Both sides have the means and the know-how to defeat the other decisively, but both hold back from 'total retaliation'; An eerie echo of the never-ending wars, depicted in George's dystopian world.


12/7/15, 3:25 AM

RPC said...
To Tidlösa's statement, "Then, there are the terrorists who target the World Trade Center, shoot people at random in cafés, etc. What are *they* playing at, I wonder?" I wonder if the target audience (sorry) isn't the pool of disaffected youth in the home countries. I trust you (JMG) have read "Dorsai!" One of the conversations from that novel that I've always remembered is that in order to fight a war you've got to find a cause for which a large number of young men are willing to die. Pragmatic goals seldom qualify.

12/7/15, 7:59 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
Thank you, Moshe Braner, for your reference to Estonian defence.

Estonia's insurgency started in the Hitler war.

The last of the known "Forest Brothers", August Sabbe, drowned either accidentally or as an act of suicide, in Põlva County in the rural southeast of the Republic, when facing KGB capture, on 1978-09-27 or 1978-09-28.

The "Forest Brothers" are held in high esteem in contemporary Estonia. Nevertheless, I would respectfully suggest that they failed.

A contributing factor to the failure - albeit, surely, not a uniquely decisive factor - was the subversion of the Brothers' networks by the KGB or its predecessor agencies, possibly in part through the 1950s actions of the Cambridge Five or similar Soviet assets positioned in the UK. By 1958 or so, MI6 found that there was no point in maintaining radio contact with the Brothers, since the authenticity of their remaining proffered radio operator(s) was questionable.

I cannot speak at all for the government of the Republic. I would, however, submit as my own private view, writing as a private Estonian citizen, that Estonia's defence must incorporate in its foundations what one of the bloggers has helpfully noted at One key in this is the use of embassies abroad, as indeed noted in the Reuters material referred to by Moshe Braner.

In the 1939-1991 resistance, our diplomatic institutions abroad were one of our few success stories. I will quote here, with a slight correction of fact, my own impressions both of the general diaspora and of the Legation in London, in my essay "Depression, the Body Politic, and Frankelian Freedom-to-Appraise" at www(dot)metascientia(dot)com:

The Estonian exile diaspora from the mid-1940s to the late 1980s provided a universal frame of reference, applicable wherever Estonian was read and spoken outside police control. All was homogeneous and predictable, whether the local Estonian House happened at that moment to be open for weekend lunch on the Sydney or on the Vancouver side of the Pacific, whether the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church happened at that moment to be worshipping in Toronto pews or in a Nova Scotia living room. I remember a courtesy visit to the decaying Legation at Queen's Gate in Kensington, London. Legation representative Mrs Taru and I took our simple cup of coffee amid opulent, disintegrating upholstery worthy of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Dear, kindly, dutiful old Mrs Taru! She had joined the Legation support staff in 1948 or so. She was at the time of our meeting, in the latter half of the 1980s, perhaps the one soul among the few with keys to that vast, deserted mansion who could claim some close personal link to the 1939 traditions of Estonia's Foreign Ministry. Someone at the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office allegedly complained in the 1980s about the remarkable difficulty of dealing with a state that had ceased to exist half a century ago. And yet it was not difficult for us, its citizens: the eeriest part of my quiet chat with Mrs Taru was the realization that the objectively spooky milieu was to the two of us not spooky at all.

A minor lead into the work of the Legation is I have read the Estonian version of the Tiina Tamman's book The Last Ambassador: August Torma, soldier, diplomat, spy (an English version is cited at the end of this Wikipedia article), and can attest to Ms Tamman's thoroughness and sobriety. (The title is perhaps a little too lurid, though: it is evident from the body of the book that "spy" overstresses Ambassador Torma's modest known MI6 liaison.)

(line of reflection continued in next posting)

Toomas Karmo

(born in Nova Scotia in 1953)

12/7/15, 9:32 AM

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...
(line of reflection continued)

The Eastern European resistance of 1939-1991, in Estonia and elsewhere, indicates the possible shape of 21st-century conflict. What is primary is the clash not of arms (so inefficient, so expensive, so - if I may be forgiven by some USA readers - Pentagonal).

This point has been well understood not only by our side in Tallinn but by our former source-of-misery in Berlin, and by the relevant elements all down the years in Moscow.

On the relevant period in the now-ended situation involving Berlin, I remark briefly:

* Dr Goebbels was said to have had on his desk a switch which made it possible for him instantly to speak to the entire Volk, by cutting into the normal operations of the Reich broadcasting network.

* The Leni Riefenstahl film "Triumph of the Will" has been available for inspection at Regg Hartt's private screening room here in the Toronto area. On seeing the film, I was horrified by its modernity - the classic techniques of mental manipulation as we know them from television, and yet deployed by Riefenstahl on the cinema screen, some years before even the invasion of Poland! (Ms Riefenstahl for instance shows the something-or-other Jugend camped out in conical tents, and then immediately switches her camera to the conical roofing on a cathedral. The subliminal message is that the something-or-other Jugend and the Catholic Church are in bed together. But her soundtrack does not at this point even say the word "church", so she cannot be hauled up for libel.)

Berlin would have got further, except that the guy ultimately in charge was not the brainy Dr Goebbels, but some chappie-wappie with a 'stache and a fondness for troops.

On Moscow, I remark that in the battle of ideas, not only 20th-century but also current operations are of interest.

* I was last week told that COP21 is being represented on Russian television as a climate conference convened in Paris by an environmentally concerned Mr Putin. (Perhaps some reader inside Russia can comment on this? I am working on my primitive Russian so slowly that I am not this year in any position to understand any television po-russkii- even though 50 or so Russian channels are readily available here in the Toronto area.)

* And I find a high-profile Russian-diaspora blogger, of a laudably environmentalist persuasion, recently commending Mr Putin for his concept of the "dicatorship of law", i.e., of the Magna Carta idea that law trumps kings. (This commendation is striking, since the acquittal rate in Russian courts is said by an informant of mine, and also in material I have found on the Internet, to be on the order of just 1 or 2 percent. Perhaps some Russian reader of this blog is able to comment further regarding the work of the current courts?)

The general pattern of 21st-century warfare is perhaps this, that the really smart money seeks above all to subvert institutions and sway opinion, in an inversion of Clausewitz, working on occasion through naive proxies such as the Islamic State: it is not now, as in Clausewitz's day, that war is politics by other means, but rather (for the smart money) that politics is war by other means.

feeling now a need to cheer up by thinking of Vera Lynn,



PS: OR by thinking of that Armstrong and Miller sketch on YouTube,
"from Season 3, Episode 5, describing the single most important piece
of intelligence from WW2" - but this I dare not refer to more closely
in a blog whose readership is the polite public, as opposed to the impolite
British barrack room.

12/7/15, 10:09 AM

anton mett said...
First off, thank you for including someone with a disability. Most utopias are filled with only perfect people, in which case, the system never gets truly untested.

Just a few thoughts on our perceptions of why wars develop. Most of the time, the aggressor is seen as trying to take control of it's neighbors for one of the following reasons:
1-control of the neighboring resources. Trying to control a route or valuable mineral etc.
2-as an outlet for their own social problems. Sending off criminals, soldiers, or excess upper class types so that they don't cause problems for the current upper class.
3-as a sort of preemptive defense. This can be from fear of the neighbor itself, or in desire of a buffer from enemies even further away.
4-because they're crazy and evil. I don't think this happens as often in reality, but it's certainly a portrayal I'm used to seeing in fiction.

One I rarely see is that the idea that the defending nation is just poorly run. As an analogy, let's think of two farms. One is well run and is large enough to keep Farmer McDonald quite busy, so you'd think he'd have no interest in his neighbor, Mr. Bones' farm. But Mr. Bones doesn't mend his fences and his cattle and sheep begin to make frequent trips to McDonald's pasture and feed bins. Now Farmer McDonald is going to spend quite a bit of effort in upkeep on the fences. Then Mr. Bones lets his field go wild with weeds which seed into all of his neighbors' fields. Finally, the Bones family leaves it's garbage out where McDonald's beloved dog can get into it; Bingo often gets gassy from this. Now McDonald is dealing with extra upkeep, lowered productivity, and a flatulent pet through no fault of his own. At this point, he will be very interested in getting control of the Bones farm. I haven't even mentioned why Mr. Bones farm is in such disarray, mostly because it does not matter to McDonald. Mr. Bones may be an absentee investor, perhaps he's incompetent farmer, or maybe he is getting to old or sickly to properly run his farm. He could be cruel and calculating or sweet and unmeaning, but the effects on his neighbors are the same. Admittedly, the take over of a neighboring farm rarely relies on bloodshed, but I am speaking to the motivation, not the means of war. Most media (fiction and otherwise) seems to be exclusively interested in the latter.

My point in all this is that warfare begins well before the first shot fired or ultimatum given. Though one side may be the first to send coordinated soldiers officially into the other's territory, the problems of one nation may have been invading the other's territory for quite some time unofficially.

*This whole post is not meant as a moral condemnation or justification for any particular invasion or war. I mean only to provoke some thoughts in a path I see rarely used.*

12/7/15, 11:29 AM

Clay Dennis said...

This is a bit off topic, but certainly relevant to technological choice. This weekend I drove my wife to the airport ,which was one of the first times I had been in a car in a long time. It was dark out and I noticed several large SUV's in the adjoining lanes with small flat screen televisions being watched by the passengers in the rear seats. At this blog both Automobiles and Television are rightly villified as technoligical choices with massive negative ramifications. So watching a TV in an oversized Automobile must be the ultimate poor technological choice. In fact an hour or so later I was thinking about it and realized that this is the perfect analogy to represent most the U.S. We are cruising down the road to the future in comfort while guzzling massive amounts of energy and wreaking the environment but we don't even see out the windows at what is going on because we are transfixed on watching mindless entertainment and subtle propaganda. I can't think of any that better represents the remainder of the American Middle ( and upper) classes than this.

12/7/15, 1:07 PM

Graeme Bushell said...
Hapibeli, I've long thought the same thing about the Australian aboriginal cultures. They are our future, no doubt incorporating genes and memes from the short lived period of occupation we are in at the moment.

12/7/15, 2:50 PM

FiftyNiner said...
@Anton Mett
I very much liked your analogy of the farms as an explanation of how conflict develops. I couldn't help but think that in the world's current situation virtually no one is talking about the devastating multi-year drought which was a big(if not the biggest)contributor to the start of the Syrian civil war. Just one more example of how on the eve of war everyone seems to see all the reasons for the conflict EXCEPT the underlying economic reasons that are always there--only to be discussed much later by academic historians.
The farms analogy also made me think of all the agricultural products I have begun to notice of late that are products of the Ukraine and are filling the shelves of American grocery stores. No doubt Mr. Putin would like for Russia to again be the spigot through which that wealth makes its way out of Ukraine.
At the eve of the American Civil War the four states with the richest people were: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In 2015 those same four states rank in the order listed: 39; 29; 50; and 42 among the 50 states. Of the fifty states, the national average falls just behind the top 20 states. The only state of the Old Confederacy that ranks above the national average is Virginia.(Source: Wikipedia) Can it be concluded from this example that there are economic consequences that are long term for starting a war that you lose? Mississippi now receives $2.02 cents back for every dollar that they send to Washington. As Lawrence Wilkerson observed, without that federal money coming back the heart of the Confederacy would resemble Bangladesh!
Such numbers, however, never tell the whole story. I am poor by any measure that this society would apply, but I have a roof over my head; I am better than well-fed; I have the lowest property taxes in the country--less than $250 a year for three properties that I and my family own. I am almost certain that none of the richest 20 states in America would compare on a percentage basis with homelessness in the South. But even here, as elsewhere in the country, there are too many usable structures for any American, or "illegal immigrant" for that matter, to be out in the cold!

12/7/15, 5:58 PM

latheChuck said...
I also need to stand up for the helpfulness of US citizens. The residents of New York City are allegedly famous for their sense of isolation, but one winter day when I was striding along a crowded sidewalk, the wind blew my hat off behind me. Before I could turn and catch it, it was caught and handed to me. I now believe that New Yorkers have a keen sense of "when the situation is contrived", and they just don't play along with the psychologists.

I was also once stranded on the shoulder of a highway, and knew that the nearest service station was about two miles away. Not a bad walk, on a sunny afternoon, but I knew I'd be late at claiming my son from day care (and this, before the age of mobile phones). Before I'd walked 100 feet, a woman had offered me a ride, and would accept no compensation.

When I saw a flat tire on a car parked by the guest of a neighbor in front of my home, I gently insisted on helping the young man (still recovering from Friday night's party) replace the wheel and tire. (The wheel needed to be replaced because he'd driven too far after the tire went flat. He had no spare tire, and no tools to remove the wheel.)

When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, one friend set up a "meal train" calendar so we wouldn't have to cook (or buy ready-made) meals on therapy days. 23 dinners, delivered in quantity for additional nights or lunch meals!

I think that one of the practical functions of a faith community is the "laundering" of charity. Direct charity can create uncomfortably ambiguous personal relationships of mutual obligation. ("Thanks, but what do you want from me? Just to recognize that you're so much richer than I am? Maybe I'd rather go hungry.") But when members "support the church", or "get help from the church", it loosens the connection, which makes us more likely to execute transactions which may, in the long run, turn out to be mutually beneficial. The intermediary pooling of resources allows the wealthy of one generation to assist the young of the next generation, who will never be able to repay the prior generation, but will assist the third generation. So the accounts do balance, indirectly, over time.

12/7/15, 6:56 PM

Doctor Westchester said...
Tom Fitzpatrick and JMG

Your comment is the first time I've seen this idea of invading Mexico using the rationale you gave, and frankly I've been on the watch for it for some time. With the waning of our influence in the Middle East and the bursting of the shale oil miracle this would seem to be the next (il)logical idea to try. The current government of Mexico seems to be hanging on by its fingernails. If we invaded in order to "Iraqisize" our southern neighbor - well, if we thought the oil-soaked Islamic jihadists of ISIS were bad, just wait until we start seeing the drug-soaked Christian-derived Santa Muerte war bands of Mexico coming north.

12/7/15, 7:44 PM

Shane W said...
IDK, I tend to think that Mexico, while not without its problems, stands to benefit from our implosion, as they retake territory lost to Guadalupe-Hidalgo and form alliances with new nations like the Confederacy with which they share cultural, demographic, historical, and economic ties and similarities. I think Mexico could be a significant regional power in the age of scarcity industrialism, and the whole of Latin America is a relative bright spot when it comes to trends on human rights, democracy, and equality. And, if it remains intact while the US implodes, there's no reason they couldn't take our name, as well, if there's no USA anymore, than certainly the Estados Unidos Mexicanos would be well within their rights to rename their country Estados Unidos Americanos (United States of America)
If at first you don't secede, try, try, again! LOL I was thinking about JMG contemplating leaving. I think I'd have to reiterate my comment on last post, if there was a viable, reasonable secession/rebellion that would not be worse than what it sought to replace, I'd be supportive. JMG seems to think that the Confederacy would be based on the original Confederate constitution, and, if so, then it would definitely be very Burkean in nature. The Confederate constitution was a virtual carbon copy of the US one, with some minor deviations regarding the rights of the states, which would be very small-c conservative/Burkean. I'm certain that the slavery language would be omitted this time around, though.

12/7/15, 8:38 PM

Shane W said...
The old saw about Mexico: "Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States" I guess the same thing could be said of Canada, as well.
a few other advantages I perceive of Canada--more vibrant small town downtowns with real mom & pop locally owned stores selling practical goods, like hardware stores, pharmacies, etc. Also, a lot of the chains like Giant Tiger & Canadian Tire are franchised, so, when you do go to buy cheap imported stuff, you can at least feel better knowing that SOME of the money stays locally, and that not ALL of your $'s get siphoned off to some multinational like Walmart

12/7/15, 8:48 PM

Bill Pulliam said...
team10tim -- um... the critical vulnerabilities of American infrastructure are mostly hanging right out there in the open for god-n-everyone to see. There's no secrets involved! That's like saying "If anyone knows a part of a human male's anatomy that, if struck hard, is instantly incapacitating, please DON'T TELL ANYONE!" It's just that at this point nearly all Americans, including the radicals, are so wedded to this infrastructure they themselves couldn't function if it were interrupted. Terrorists need roads, food, water, power grids, news media, and the internet.

12/7/15, 8:50 PM

Nancy Sutton said...
I'd like to recommend the book, 'American Nations' by Woodard... explains a lot about the crazy divisions in this country, and the none-too-soon cracking up.

12/7/15, 10:25 PM

Shane W said...
I think you're onto something regarding cost of living not telling the whole story between rich and poor states. The poor are and have been completely pushed out of many of the wealthy cities in the wealthiest states--it's impossible to be poor in places like L.A., San Fran, Boston, Seattle, & NYC anymore--the gentrification and wealth pressures have forced the poor out. Yet it's still relatively affordable to throw up a double-wide on a rural piece of property in the rust belt, Appalachia, or the rural South and live a modest life, tend to your basic needs, and not feel pressured to get out, unlike more "progressive" coastal areas.

12/8/15, 9:06 AM

Vincent said...
Mr. Greer,

Was your response to Ron your opinion, belief, or can be substantiated by fact? Possibly you can address this in a future blog entry?

Ron, the US can still get away with bombing an assortment of Third World locales because it's willing to run up debts that will never be paid off. Lacking that expedient, this country would be stone cold it probably will be in due time.

12/8/15, 9:32 AM

Elderwoman said...
Amused and horrified today, in equal measure, to discover that the plastic clothes your fictional hero was so happy to discard a few episodes ago are now all set to become a reality - see:

12/8/15, 9:46 AM

John Roth said...

That's a paen to 3D printing. I saw a 3D printed dress last year; it might have been wearable at a fairly risque event, but was otherwise completely impractical. I seriously doubt you're going to see 3D printed clothing at a reasonable price point any time soon. Not that it can't be done, but the more capable 3D printers are neither cheap nor fast, and they also aren't the ones that you can find in hobbyist's hands.

What's more to the point is that there's an artificial spider silk jacket making the rounds in Japan right now; the vendors are saying they'll have artificial spider silk on the market next year. They're making it with sugar and e. coli bacteria that have been modified to produce spider silk proteins and then extruding it through artificial spinnerettes. As it turns out, there isn't one spider silk: every species produces a slightly different silk, sometimes more than one, and they have different properties.

Price not yet announced, but the Japanese are not known for announcing things they can't deliver. Here's a link to a story about it; it's not the one I originally saw, but it includes at least some of the details.

12/8/15, 9:11 PM

latefall said...
@Bill & team10tim: I think the issues is a question of "security through obscurity" or "asking for trouble", depending on where you stand. I have a foot in both camps. But my gut says it is less likely here that I'll get the right person to scratch their head and do something than it is that someone reads it and re-posts parts somewhere in, say, northern Africa.
A couple more thoughts on more conventional military matters. I think Cherokee is right to expect use of shanghais (sling shots) in certain situations. I could imagine larger versions (or spear guns, atlatls) to launch larger loads as well.
The canals most definitely would make LR terrain significantly more defensible. Usually they'd be asymmetric, so the tanks can go in on one side, but not up on the other. The other thing that makes ecological as well as military sense is of course bocage. Basements and underground tunnels are another bit that makes a big difference (particularly for the more civil population) - so are they somehow incentivized?
Lastly, I wonder how the attitudes to chemical, biological, non-lethal, siege, or perfidious means may change. I am in no means sure about what will happen there, but here's a couple of considerations. Currently hope still makes people head for the city. Urbanization is still a trend even though cities eat people. Military industry sees urban terrain as likely future scenario. Generally urban terrain blunts the technological/training edge significantly. On the other hand history shows that cities are vulnerable to chemical or biological weapons. I think the temptation will be to big to refrain. But what would be the effects on morale? Would it be more like carpet bombing, or more like currency hyper-inflation? On the other hand, if the population hides in the bush (and the very young and old generally die there, see various African conflicts) this favors scare tactics that win the war not by actual battle but more by obvious disruption of society. I guess in certain climates/seasons/wealth strata there is going to be a strong push to sit it out come what may. Perhaps a wedge could be driven into rich/poor or urban/rural populations that way. I wonder if B&C weapons on squad level would make much sense, but I think in principle they could. If you make someone (appear) real sick then either their buddies have to kill him/her or you tie down more resources. From today's perspective this would be pretty problematic, especially from a legal point of view. But how many people still care after they've been plutted a couple of times?
I wonder if the LR has a centrally (democratically?) defined defensive plan. Because in most (defensive) cases that would mean that the burden is potentially very unevenly distributed. I wonder how that what-if gets factored into daily politics.
Lastly, nowadays it does not seem to be particularly popular to go out of your way to take prisoners (perhaps also a question of the determination of combatants in currently reported conflicts). Even though we'll probably be sitting on a surplus of humans for some time (unless nuclear or biological get real big) I wonder if there'd be a couple of gangs of Confederates or Brazilians tending to the canals in the LR? This makes me wonder if there's been any advances in "prisoner taking tech". This is a particularly good option if you are defending of course, and I can think of a couple of ways this could also be organizationally included.

12/9/15, 4:23 AM

L C said...
I can't find anywhere else on the main site to report a broken link. I am trying to catch up on 4 months of ADR missed articles (without giving myself spoilers!), but the link tree on the right navigation menu isn't working. When I click on "2015" to open up the monthly link list, it just redirects right back to the current article.

1/16/16, 7:21 AM