Events in the previous few weeks have shown, with unusual clarity, that the conflict between N.Korea and USA which started in 1950 is still ongoing. While it is true that there has been no large-scale fighting between the N.Korea and USA (or its proxy S. Korea) since an armistice was signed in 1954, it is fair to say that things have never gone to back to normal in that part of the world. Between the annual military exercises by S. Korea and USA and counter mobilizations by N. Korea, the situation in that part of the world is still potentially volatile, and has been so for a long time. It certainly does not help that leaders of all countries involved have a habit of speaking past each other.
While it is highly unlikely that either N. Korea or S. Korea will ever resume that war on their own accord, persistent meddling by USA in that part of the world (as in many others) make it far more likely than otherwise. As many of you also know, such an event would be disastrous for both N. Korea, S. Korea and potentially Japan- basically all involved countries within the range of older and well-tested N. Korean nuclear tipped missiles. Even the USA would not be able to come out well, since any use of nukes by USA would ensure that every country capable of building nuclear weapons would do so immediately. To put it another way, such a war would be an epic disaster on multiple levels and for all parties involved.
But have you ever asked yourself- how did things in that part of the world get so crazy in the first place? Why did the Korean war start and why did countries such as USA, China, Russia and many others get involved in it? But perhaps most importantly.. why was USA unable to win the Korean war just a few years after it was able to win WW2 against Japan and to a lesser extent against Germany?
To better understand the many reasons USA was unable to win the Korean war in the 1950s, it is necessary to first appreciate that the Korean war was the beginning of the end for white-majority countries being able to dominate the rest of the world via military force. It is no exaggeration to say the “west” has never since been able to win against a determined and mobilized non-white adversary since that time. But why not? Was it because the “west” became softer and more humane.. or any other bullshit reasons peddled by CONservatives and other assorted jingoistic idiots in USA?
Let us look at facts about the Korean war as they have been acknowledged by official sources in USA. It is known, for example that USA dropped more tons of bombs on N. Korea during early stages of Korean war than they did on Japan during the entirety of WW2. It is also a fact that USA bombed and destroyed every building in almost every single N. Korean city. It is also a fact that bombing by USA killed somewhere between a third and fifth of the N. Korean population. Here is an article with a slightly longer explanation of what USA did in the Korean war.
In other words, the inability of USA to win the Korean war was not due to it being ‘soft’ or ‘humane’. In fact, USA did something lost the Vietnam war in spite of doing something similar in Vietnam and Cambodia during the war. Another more recent example of this phenomenon is the USA losing the Iraq war even after directly and indirectly killing over a million Iraqis between 1991 and today.
So, why was the USA unable to win the Korean war? There was certainly no shortage of bombs, aircraft, tanks, soldiers, guns or even large staging areas and bases close to the theater of conflict. Yet, for reasons I shall get into soon, the best they could achieve was an armistice where the new boundary between the two Koreas was almost identical to the pre-war one. Why didn’t bombing N.Korea heavily in the first few months of war and killing people at higher percentages than in Germany and Japan during WW2 translate into a decisive military victory? Why did the military strategy behind american success in WW2 fail so quickly after that war was over? And why has it subsequently failed and in every war since then?
Well.. here are the reasons, in no particular order, behind the inability of USA and other western countries to win a war against non-white countries since the end of WW2. Regular readers of my blog might realize that some of my older posts have briefly touched on a couple of them.
1] Wars in which the local population of a country or region have a personal stake are very different from wars pursued by elites in those countries. For example, Saddam Hussein’s habit of promoting his own ethnic group in Iraq and getting into unwinnable wars with huge human costs had greatly diminished his popularity among most Iraqis a few years before 1991. That is why the Iraqi armed forces gave up fighting and mass-deserted so readily in 1991 and 2003. Contrast this to the unremitting armed resistance by Iraqis (especially Sunni Arabs) to american occupation from 2003 onward which were only temporarily suppressed between 2007-2009 by bribing Iraqis on a massive scale to not kill american soldiers.
My point is that, the Korean war was largely seen by the local population (especially in N.Korea) as an attempt to reintegrate the country and expel foreigners who had humiliated and almost enslaved them for a couple of generations. In case you do not know what I am talking about.. read a bit about all the wonderful stuff that went on in Korea under Japanese rule between 1910 and 1945. Koreans had, and have, every right to be angry about their treatment under Japanese colonization. Perhaps more importantly, the post-1945 occupation by USA of southern regions of Korea and their multiple attempts to install puppet governments within a short period while making no attempt to help rebuild the country made them look just like the previous Japanese colonizers of that country.
It is therefore no surprise that Kim Il-Sung and his followers had far less trouble convincing his own people to fight foreign occupiers of their country than getting China and Russia to provide military and other assistance for doing so. In many ways, this situation is very similar to what occurred in Vietnam a decade or two later. While we can certainly argue about whether the elder Kim was a “good guy” or “bad guy” it is clear that he had extensive popular support within the northern half of Korea in the early 1950s. In other words, the Korean war was about USA fighting an entire people rather than a system of governance- like they had in Germany and Japan.
2] The american strategy of leveling N. Korean cities by massive aerial bombing was ineffective and supremely counterproductive. As mentioned previously in this post, the USAF was involved in bombing N. Korean cities on a massive scale in the first few months of the war. However, unlike in Germany and Japan during WW2, massive and indiscriminate bombing of cities was not effective in disrupting the N. Korean war effort- largely because all their supplies and weapons were coming in from adjacent countries such as China and Russia. These mass bombing raids did, however, make many more N. Koreans willing to fight to the bitter end. To put it another way, mass bombing of cities and heavy casualties made it impossible for N. Korea and USA to reach a negotiated end to that war.
You might recall that the USA did something similar in Vietnam and Cambodia a decade or so after the Korean war and the end results were rather similar. In other words, aerial bombardment by conventional weapons is incapable of winning wars against adversaries who are not centralized and have the ability to keep on importing weapons and other supplies. Aerial bombardment, if anything, creates more popular support for the cause for which they are being bombarded. This is borne out by the continued inability of USA to win against the Taliban in Afghanistan, various tribal groups in Yemen, Iraq.. the list goes on and on. Bombing non-white people in faraway places does however create millions of jobs in USA and massively enrich a very small number of people. But that is a topic for another post.
3] Thirdly, the level of weapon technology of countries and groups fighting USA is within the same bracket. Colonial wars in 18th and 19th century typically saw Africans with spears mass charging white men with rifles and machine guns or Asians with far inferior gunpowder weapons and tactics fighting against people with better technology and organisation. Somewhere between WW1 and WW2, this started changing as “western” weapon technology and tactics diffused through the rest of the world. Consequently, white soldiers of a western power now face non-whites who posses weapons in the same technology bracket and tactics to match them. Furthermore, their non-white opponents have a much better understanding of their environment and motivation to keep on fighting.
The overall point I am trying to make in this post is a number of large-scale and systemic changes have made it impossible for USA, or any other western country, to win a military confrontation that is not on their own soil. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the population of western countries, especially the USA, still harbor the delusional belief that they can win military victories in other countries. More regrettably, if predictably, the military-industrial complex in countries such as USA keep on fueling the popular delusional idea that their extra shiny toys can win wars against people with more of the less shinier toys. I just don’t see it ending well for USA as a country or other governments stupid enough to support them.
What do you think? Comments?
Many of you might have, by now, come across “news” which suggests that the frequent failure of N. Korean ballistic missiles is somehow due to some elaborate “cyberwarfare” by USA. I am sure you must have seen mouth-breathing idiots.. I mean american patriots.. repeat that bullshit because they heard if from some MSM or some ‘alt-media’ shill.. I mean “reliable news sources”. Anyway, the point of this post is to explain why that idea reeks of propaganda and delusion.
But let us be clear about a few things first. It is no secret that N. Korean missiles, either fired by them or in the 1990s by Pakistan, always had a rather high rate of failure. However the reasons behind this rather high rate of failure is immediately obvious to somebody who has read about the general history of developing ballistic missiles and space launch systems. Long story short- it comes down to the choice of fuels.
N. Korean missiles have been traditionally powered by pretty dangerous (but effective) mixtures of old-style hypergolic liquid propellants. Since N. Korean missiles trace their ancestry to Scud missiles, they have traditionally used the same fuel mixture- namely, kerosene and corrosion inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA) with UDMH aka unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as the liquid igniter. Once again, to make a long story short- this particular old-style hypergolic mixture does not scale up well for larger and longer-burning rocket motors
Apart from Russia and to some extent China, nobody has been able to mass produce relatively safe ballistic missiles which use hypergolic fuels of any kind. In fact, the rate of success of early american ICBMS using hypergolic fuels in the 1950s and early 1960s was pretty dismal. While it is possible to build pretty reliable space launch systems using more modern hypergolic fuel combinations, making scores of reliable ballistic missiles which use them requires a lot more experience.
That is why the majority of non-Russian (and now even Russian) ICBMS use solid propellants for their first and frequently also the second stage motors.
Returning back to the subject of ballistic missile control and guidance, let us be clear about a few basics. Firstly, the main guidance systems of such missiles is always internal and almost always based on some form of astro-intertial guidance. In case you are interested about the history of the non-computational side of guidance hardware, here is a link: The Soviet Union and Strategic Missile Guidance. Secondly, the computational part of such systems is quite simple and can be built without using integrated circuits, let alone CPUs.
For example, one of first electronic guidance computers for american ICBMS, known as the D-17B, contained 1,521 transistors, 6,282 diodes, 1,116 capacitors, and 504 resistors. Some of the older Russian designs for flight guidance computers on such missiles even used special rugged vacuum tubes instead of transistors. To put it another way, the flight control and guidance systems of ballistic missiles can be made of very rugged and simple electronic components, especially if you do not require a very high degree of targeting accuracy.
It is basically impossible to remotely “hack” a simple, hard-wired and hard-programmed control and guidance computer in which every discrete component can be repeatedly tested with a multi-meter and oscilloscope.
Furthermore, N. Korea is a pretty paranoid and conservative country. Therefore it is almost certain that they use somewhat primitive but extremely reliable indigenous designs. In any case, they seem to be aiming for targeting accuracy that is between 0.5-1% of distance covered- which is within the reach of such systems. It is therefore my opinion that the frequent malfunctions of longer range N. Korean ballistic missiles are largely due to their inability to scale up an obsolete hypergolic rocket engine technology.
Those problems will however go away once they are successful at building large solid fueled rocket engines. Some of you might know that they have already transitioned away from older hypergolic fuels for their newer short-range (upto 1,000 km) missiles. It is only a matter of time before they do so for their longer-range missiles. If things go the way they are going now, it is possible that they might be able to successfully test and start deploying such missiles in the next 2-5 years.
What do you think? Comments?
A few months ago, I came across an interesting YouTube channel about older computers systems and games. Have a look around if you feel nostalgic or want to see how those things looked and worked in the 1980s and 1990s.
Link to Channel: Lazy Game Reviews
Clip 1: SGI Indigo2 Computer System Review
Clip 2: Quake – DOS PC Game Review
One of the points I made in three recent posts (link 1, link 2, link 3) was that measuring GDP of a country in USD today, or at pretty much any point after the mid-1990s, is highly misleading since it makes the assumption that the cost of services and products of equivalent quality are identically priced, in USD, all over the world. As many of you know, that is simply not true in 2017- if it was ever so. The price of products and services of equivalent quality vary widely across countries and are often far lower in many supposedly “less affluent” countries than they are in USA. Examples of this phenomena include medications costing 3-10 times less in many European countries than in USA and medical services of equivalent quality in India and Thailand costing only 5-10% (or less) of their cost in USA- as measured in USD.
Consequently, access to many goods and services in many supposedly “less affluent” countries is often equal to, or better, than in USA. But what does any of this has to do with whether the GDP of Russia in 2017 (as measured in USD) has any correlation to its real-life military capabilities? As it turns out.. a whole fucking lot!
I am sure that almost all readers of this post have some across at least one “news” article from some supposedly “reputable” western news outlet which suggests that the GDP of Russia is rather insignificant and comparable to an average west-European countries- when measured in USD. These same presstitutes, I mean “journalists” also tell us that at this rate the Russian economy will collapse and the country will become insignificant and fragment into many pieces. The problem is that they have been writing and saying the same thing since at least 1991- if not earlier.
Sadly for them, their predictions of gloom and doom for Russia have just not come true. In fact, since 2001 living standards and conditions in Russia have gradually improved from their low point of 1997-1998. Today, the economic conditions of average Russians are pretty OK and in many respects are better than those of many Americans living in middle america, especially below the Mason–Dixon line. Could they be better? Sure.. But you can say the exact same things about people living in non-coastal USA. I should note that there is a certain irony that large parts of middle america now look like all those abandoned and ruined soviet-era towns that western “journalists” loved to photograph in the 1990s. I should also remind readers that the near collapse of the Russian economy in the mid-1990s was the laws and policies formulated by eCONomists from Harvard and other ivy-league universities. However, that is an issue best left for a future post.
Coming back to the main subject of this post- we can certainly disagree about the precise causes of this continuous improvement, there is no doubt it did occur and has been sustained since that time. And this brings us to the next, and related, question- How does this correlate with their current military capability? To answer that question- let us look at a bit of history. As many of you know, between 1917 and 1991, Russia was that main constituent of the Soviet Union aka USSR. As you might also remember, soviet-era Russia was also a military superpower- with way more than enough nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to destroy the world a few times over, not to mention a very large conventional army and airforce. In other words, it is clear that even soviet-era Russia was more that capable of developing and manufacturing humoungous numbers of contemporary weapons and fielding a large and organized army (and other armed forces) which could use them.
And this leads us the question of whether the amount of USD spent on weapons by a country has any correlation with their real-life military capability. I am sure that many of you have seen some version of the chart from 2013 posted below this paragraph. The gist of it is that USA spends way more money (as measured in USD) on its armed forces than many other countries in the world. Now, we can look at this data in two ways. American jingoists might see this as proof of their overwhelming military superiority over the rest of the world, largely because they think that weapons of equivalent quality and effectiveness cost the same all over the world. Cynics like me might see this an example of delusional people spending obscene amounts of money on something that has a history of poor performance. I mean.. what does it say about a country which spends about 700 billion a year on defense and yet cannot win against poorly organized insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The military capability of USA, like its healthcare system , is largely about presenting the appearance of competence and ability- while delivering something that is mediocre and very expensive. It is well known that USA has been unable to win a decisive military victory over any semi-competent nation since the end on WW2. Furthermore, a lot of the budget and military resources of USA is spent on maintaining the pretense of a global empire. To put it another way, it is the defense budget of USA (and not other countries) which presents a false picture of its real-life capabilities. In contrast to that, the military budgets of countries which make most of their own weapon systems (like Russia and China) underestimates their real-life capabilities. This is especially so with Russia, which has a large pre-established human and industrial base, to make them on a very large scale.
Then there is the issue of nuclear weapons and ICBMs + launch platforms, of which Russia has a rather large number. I should point out that the infrastructure for making nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles + their launch platforms while expensive to build from scratch, already exist in Russia. So they just keep on cranking out a few more and maintain the ones the thousands they already possess. It is also no secret that any open-ended war with Russia would sooner or later turn into a nuclear one, and well.. regardless of other subsequent events would definitely result in the obliteration of USA as an entity for all times to come. In other words, comparing the defense spending of USA and Russia as measured in USD to draw actionable conclusions about their relative real-life capabilities is highly misleading and incredibly dangerous.
What do you think? Comments?
A few months ago, I came across an interesting videogame related channel. While it contains recorded footage from a number of video games, the channel seems to specialize in Half-Life and Half Life 2 mods. I would go so far as to say that I have not seen any other YouTube with such an extensive collection of HL and HL2 mods. As some of you might know, the HL series of videogames happens to be one of my all time favorites.
Here is link to the YouTube channel – Bolloxed
Please note that both example clips (shown below) are long and best enjoyed by opening in new browser tabs.
Clip 1– Half-Life 2: PROSPEKT – Year 1 Update
Clip 2 – Half-Life 2: Sprucecape – Full Walkthrough
In the second post of this series, I wrote about how rapid improvements in living standards of the upper-middle and middle class in India have changed how they view USA and the west in general. The central point, in my post, was that such changes in living standards and general quality of life are far more obvious if you look at changing patterns of consumption for goods and services than gross reported income in USD or other western currencies. In other words, the commonly held assumption about income (and spending) in USD having a global correlation with quality of life has ceased to be true for over a decade or two by now.
However, the lack of a strong correlation between improvements in quality of life for upper-middle and middle class in India and income as measured in USD is only one example of a much larger and global phenomenon. The rest of this post will talk about how that change has affected formerly communist east-European countries.. from the Czech Republic to Russia.
So let me begin with a few observations I made between 1995-2002. During that time-span, and probably a few years prior to it, USA and the west was the destination of choice for many people from formerly communist east-European countries. At that time, many people from those countries (from academics and scientists to criminals and pretty women) wanted to move to USA or somewhere else in the west. Indeed, many of those who came over prior to 2000-2002 ended up staying for good. But then something started to change..
I first noticed this change because of a sharp and persistent drop in number of academics and scientists from those countries who were interested in moving to USA starting around 2001-2002. Prior to that, the majority of academics and scientists from those countries who were visiting the USA very frequently expressed a strong interest in moving there for good- and many followed up on it. However by 2002-2003 there was a sharp and persistent drop (among them) in the degree of interest in moving west. Curiously, there was no significant change in the numbers of those who visited USA (from those countries) for a few months to a couple of years.
So I started inquiring about the reasons behind this change. Curiously, I kept on getting different versions of the same answer. Basically, they all told me that the differences in quality of life and living standards between those countries and USA had now shrunk down to a point where it was simply not worth immigrating to USA unless there was a very specific reason to do so. I was initially puzzled by this explanation since it was clear that they were making significantly less in those countries- as measured in USD. Some internet research revealed that the cost of many goods and services in those countries was significantly lower than their equivalents in USA- when priced in USD.
The difference in cost (as measured in USD) was most obvious in areas such as housing, education, food, drink, entertainment and healthcare. Furthermore, the quality of these less expensive goods and services was functionally equivalent to their equivalents in USA. It also became clear that a person with a reasonable job in those countries could actually live a far more stable and financially secure lifestyle than somebody in USA- even prior to 2008. It was this realization which first led me to openly question comparing incomes across countries in USD or other western currencies.
The increasing lack of interest by people from those countries in moving to USA the rest of the west on a long-term basis is also obvious in other ways. Some of you might recall that the phenomenon of mail order brides and similar marriage arrangements by women from those countries was a well-known trope in popular culture during the 1990s and early 2000s. Today.. you don’t hear much about that sort of stuff anymore. Similarly, rich people from those countries no longer see USA as a highly regarded tourist destination.
So why did this change occur and why was it so fast? Well.. in my opinion, many formerly communist east-European countries already had most of the ingredients (levels of education, infrastructure, natural resources) necessary to provide a high standard of living for their people. Once the burden of ideological top-down control on them was lifted after 1989, it took most of those countries a decade or so to catch up with the west- as far as actual quality of life was concerned. Widespread international travel and ubiquitous internet access also showed a lot of them that difference in quality of life in USA vs their countries was simply not enough to make moving to the former worth it.
Today, only people from some the poorest sub-regions in those countries still harbor any worthwhile interest in moving to the USA- and even that is changing. To summarize, many formerly communist east-European countries are now good examples of places with a high standard of living but with supposedly lower income- as measured in USD. In the upcoming post of this series, I will write about how the living standard in east-Asian countries is also now no longer connected to average local income as measured in USD.
What do you think? Comments?