The Three-Body Problem was a landmark for me. It is the longest novel I’ve read in a half decade, since John Derbyshire’s historical fiction Fire from the Sun. I’ve been away from fiction for a long time. Three Body Problem is a great way to return.
By genre, Three-Body is hard sci-fi, with philosophy of science, history of science, and political history thrown in. It evokes both 5GW and the religion. Structurally it is a combination of mystery (the modern-day scenes, beginning in Beijing and concluding in the Chinese countryside) and drama (historical scenes, with the reverse progression). It has a third thread, a narration of experience in a computer game, that ends up being critical to understanding both main threads.
The author is an engineer who was born and lives in the People’s Republic of China — an officially atheist society. So the discussion of religion were especially intriguing. Buddhism seems to be disparaged, described (unlike Christianity) as not being person-centric, and with pilgrims who appear to be in a daze. By contrast St. Joseph’s Church is one of the landmarks of Beijing held out for special admiration. The definition of ‘God’ used by characters tends to be deistic (belief in an orderly universe created by a minimally involved God). The religious feeling and looked-for purification created by certain interactions in Three Body recalls the supernatural struggle the Book of Ezekiel and other second temple literature.
Three Body problem reminds me of primarily of other books: C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength and John Derbyshire’s Fire from the Sun. There is also similarity to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, as well as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. That Hideous Strength is so similar to the mystery thread of Three Body Problem I wonder if it was intentional: the character known as the “the Commander” in Three Body is a composite of the Head and the Deputy Director in Strength. Like Fire from the Sun it is a beautiful and tragic look at the experience of Chinese youth who came of age during the Cultural Revolution. Rainbbow Six contributes an interesting ecological narrative, while Red Mars is a clear inspiration in hard (or technically plausible) science fiction.
It was quite the treat to discover this book, a great mix of history, science, and fiction that ties into so many of my interests. No wonder it won the 2015 Hugo Award.
Larry’s post, “How Science Works,” is definitely a blog post to read with a “shot of tequila” — very thoughtful, but full of unexpected connections
The Carter Doctrine keeps everything â€œforeignâ€ out of the Middle East, except the implicit image of the Nation State to Observe.
The coolest thing, of course, is that this is all reaction of a line of mine…
I donâ€™t believe that we are educating Americans appropriately. Large portions of critical industries are in the hands of foreigners because of the failures of US education. These failures are deep and systematic â€” all stakeholders share blame â€” but must be addressed.
The battle for education reform is being occurring along three major axes — power (among States and Districts), childcare (among Large-Scale Consumers of Educated Workers and Parents) and money (Teachers and Publishers). Tradtionally, Teacheres were able to oversee all three of these axes through united front organizations they created — such as the NEA, AFT, NPTA, and Districts whose boardmembers were elected by the NEA, AFT, and NPTA activists. Unfortunately for Teachers, Democrats created a new power nucleus which is now overseeing a radical transformation in the teaching profession.
As the NSF & DOE matured together, it created a federal-academic complex unlike any other player in the political economy of education. DOE bureaucrats wanted more power, the NSF “Research Directorates” wanted more funds, the academics who won NSF grants wanted more freedom to research, all these players interacted with advocates for childcare. The Federal-Academic Complex contains interests at least as aligned as other blocs such as “teachers” or “publishers,” so is capable of political action, but it became interested in all of the axes in the education debate (power, childcare, and money), due to its diversity of operating environments.
In short, the interlocking relationships between DOE and NSF stakeholders created a federal-academic complex, or “bank.” Both Parents and Large-Scale Consumers of Education Workers were always able to translate their interest in childcare into money, but the DOE/NSF (“the federal-academic complex”) made it easier to translate their interest in money into political power over education. The same of course was true for Districts and States, who had the standing Federal-Academic complex to lobby and influence. Likewise, Teachers and Publishers could invest funds (and expected funds) harvested from education funding and translate that into power through the Federal-Academic Complex.
With the exception of States (who viewed the Federal-Academic Complex as essentially an arm of the federal government, and so focused on opposing it), every rational actor began using the bank of the Federal-Academic Complex to pursue its interests. States rationally opposed the Federal-Academic Complex, other rational players rationally used it. Teachers, suffering from the lobotomy of low wages and arrogant in their united front organizations, stupidly saw the complex simply as another source of profit and ignored the changing political landscape.
Districts put up propaganda posters in favor ofhe NSF and DOE, and fawned over funding for NSF Computer Labs and other sources of funding that could be used to weaken State power. Large-Scale Consumers of Educated Workers used the Federal-Academic Complex to push for a better educated workforce. Publishers, observing the possibility to increase their revenues, used the Federal-Academic Complex to push for changes that would require buying more goods and services from publishers. Parents, the easiest of all forces to satisfy, slept soundly knowing that entrance of a new force meant it was even less likely would have to care for their own children.
Politically naive teachers imagined the Federal-Academic Complex would mean higher pay without greater responsibilities. And so they voted in blocs in favor of intiatives that aggrandized the Federal-Academic Complex, and subsidized the step by step the encirclement of their own united front organizations.
Henry Kissinger is the famous American diplomat. His new book, On China, is a fine history of the “Central State” focusing on the late Qing and early Communist periods. On China is destined to be assigned reading in graduate schools for years, because of its fine application of “realist” thinking to the survival of a strong country facing a multitude of high-tech strategic rivals. On China is clearly aimed at the informed political class: professional analysts, thoughtful policy professionals, and opinion makers. The narrative of On China appears to be distorted, either because of Kissinger’s focus on his own time period, his keen insight on what to clarify on what to clarify and what to obfuscate, or both. This is most notable in his incorrect depiction of Deng Xiaoping‘s political standing, as well as the near- complete absence of discussion of the KMT or the contemporary Communist Party.
On China is a good book for anyone interested in how the most radical and dangerous of Communist states managed to position itself in the winning anti-Soviet coalition with a minimum of leadership turnover or domestic discontent. Aside from hints as to Kissinger’s own thinking, however, it contains little new as far as history goes. Kissinger’s purpose is not to write a history. It is to write an introduction to Reality.
The Decline of China and Lessons for the United States
The reaction that many foreign policy teachers will have when reading On China book is, “I hope my students are familiar with the arguments in this book!”The two most striking are Kissinger’s view of the late Qing dynasty’s foreign policy, as well as China’s participation in the Third Vietnam War. Most scholars view both late Qing Diplomacy and the Third Vietnam Wars as failures, where China paid a grievous price for a worsening of relations with its neighbors. Kissinger argues that both of these were calculated triumphs: the late Qing, faced with being surrounded by enemies each of whom was stronger that China, nonetheless maintained regime survival and territorial integrity (more or less) for as long as possible. In other words, the Qing accepted defeat after defeat in vertical, short-term scenarios and were playing to survive in a long-term, horizontal scenario.
As Kissinger writes, “[The Qing] judged that it befell the court’s ministers to repeat what the Middle Kingdom’s elites had done so often before: through a combination of delay, circumlocution, and carefully apportioned favors, they would sooth and tame the barbarians while buying time for China to outlast their assault.”
Kissinger also views the the war between China and Vietnam as a success. He repeatedly uses the Chinese phrase “touching the buttocks of the tiger” to demonstrate how China discredited the Soviet Union’s security guarantee. Kissinger also repeatedly uses the phrase “Indochinese Federation” to refer to Vietnam and its satellite states (Laos and Cambodia), and argues that China’s attack in Vietnam may have prevented Thailand from being the next country to be conquered.
In all time periods China’s strategic situation was basically the same: the country faced high-tech and potentially hostile powers whose interests were a combination of geostrategic expansion and trade. Whether the high-tech enemies were Mongol light-cavalry, Russian gunpowder brigades, or British gunboats, China cleverly used diplomacy to maneuver around its enemies. Indeed, the historic strategic situation of China appears identical to that of Byzantium, as described by Lars Brownsworth in his popular work.
Kissinger’s purpose is clear: the historical position of the Middle Kingdom will soon be shared by that other “central state,” the indispensable nation — the United States of America. The Qing example demonstrates how a superpower can maintain its own national and cultural continuity as long as suicidal decisions do not occur in close order, as they finally did under the disastrous Dowager Empress. Likewise, China’s policy against Vietnam aggression shows how a superpower can use calculated attacks on the client of a rival to maintain the peace.
Observe carefully, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly; hide our capabilities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.
Kissinger continues with Deng’s secret explanation of his advise — advise which Kissinger clearly wants U.S. leaders to understand and appreciate:
Enemy troops are outside the walls. They are stronger than we. We should be mainly on the defensive.
The Nature of Chinese Communism
Like the Chinese news agency (or any good editor, for that matter), Kissinger argues his point not so much by stating an opinion but limiting what facts he shares. This is most obvious on the time period that he focuses on. Later in the book, however, Kissinger’s power of selecting facts appears to fail him, and he makes statements that are simply untrue.
I think this is intentional.
The greatest hope for peace in our day is probably a United Front between the Chinese KMT on Taiwan and the Chinese Communists on the mainland. That both the Chinese mainland and “Chinese Taipei” are governed by pro-business, pro-trade, patriotic, and mildly corrupt regimes which share a common history is amazing. Yet the KMT regime is nearly absent in the book, which serves as a problem for anyone wanting to understanding China’s “near abroad.” This is especially frustrating in places where Kissinger seems to almost bring it up, like in this transcripts:
MAO: Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this. He calls us Communist bandits. He recently issued a speech. Have you seen it?
NIXON: Chiang Kai-shek calls the Chairman a bandit. What does the Chairman call Chiang Kai-shek?
ZHOU: Generally speaking we call them Chiang Kai-shek’s clique. In the newspapers sometimes we call him a bandit; we are also called bandits in turn. Anyway, we abuse each other.
MAO: Actually, the history of our friendship with him is much longer than the history of your friendship with him.
Misstatement replaces silence later on, however. For instance, consider this:
Deng’s Reform and Opening Up was designed to overcome this built-in stagnation. He and his associates embarked on market economics, decentralized decision making, and opening to the outside world — all unprecedented changes.
Kissinger is probably right about the first and last element in the list, but definitely not the second. Indeed, the disasters that Mao is most associated with — the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolutions — were examples of distributed decision making in extremis. Indeed, Mao often appears to be used the term “Left” to mean distributed and “Right” to mean bureaucratic, which leads to the obvious conclusion that, at least as far as decentralized decision making went, Deng did not so much replace statistics” with sensible goals and measures. At the same time, Mao’s Leftward tilts toward distributed decision making were unsuccessful, and so in between revolutions Mao relied on “Rightist” governments led by Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Lin Biao, and Deng Xiaoping.
Mao was willing to sacrifice the lives of 100 million Chinese to build a Leftist future of distributed decision making for China. He was willing to experiment and try new things, at an unfathomable cost in death and destruction, to do so. But in between attempts, when disorder threatened to do away with his power, Mao used Rightist bureaucrats to recharge — to set up the next stage.
Just as Kissinger teases us by raising the issue of the KMT, but not relating it to the Communists, Kissinger also teases the reader here, too. Kissinger writes:
[Mao] stressed his personal goodwill to Nixon, both personally and because he said he preferred dealing with right-wing governments on the grounds that they were more reliable. Mao, the author of the Great Leap Forward and the Anti-Rightest Campaign, made the astonishing remark that he had “voted for” Nixon, and that he was “comparatively happy when these people on the right come to power” (in the West, at least).
The Right are reliable bureaucrats. Mao’s statements is no more shocking that the view of the Soviet Union presented by Tom Clancy: menacing, dangerous, rational, and painfully boring.
(To tie this in with a recent book I read, Lord of the World, under Mao’s use of the terms, the British Communist Party would have been a Right-wing government, while the order established by Pope Sylvester would have been a left-wing movement.)
The effect Kissinger’s silence is compounded by the very next thing he offers, a transcript between Nixon and Mao, in which Kissinger allows the reader to think the line about DeGaulle is a laugh-line, instead of an elaboration of Mao’s view of the Right and the Left:
NIXON: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.
MAO: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.
NIXON: And General DeGaulle.
MAO: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say that the Christian Democratic party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.
DeGaulle was a “different question” not because the French were quirky, but DeGaulle was unpredictable, and (liked Mao) viewed his government as a dangerous tool and was willing to sacrifice entire provinces toÂ preserve the national essence. The Republicans, the Tories, the CDP, and even the Soviet Communists, however, were lifeless, bureaucratic automatons.
Kissinger tantalizes the reader with parallels left unstated. For instance, Kissinger traces the use of the phrase “peaceful evolution” as first described by John Foster Dulles as a method of ending the Communist threat, then to Deng Xiaoping as identifying a threat to regime survival, then to Warren Christopher as a goal of the United States. But Kissinger writes:
The heir of Mao’s China was advocating market principles, risk taking, private initiative, and the important of productivity and entrepreneurship… Deng’s advise was that China should “be bolder,” that it should redouble its efforts and “dare to experiment”: “We must not act like women with bound feet. Once we are sure that something should be done, we should dare to experiment and break a new path… Who dares claim that he is 100 percent sure of success that he is taking no risks.”
On China‘s a good book. Kissinger, deservedly, has a very high reputation. So I truly wonder if the problems and omissions in On China are by accident or design. For instance, in the epilogue Kissinger writes:
In all of China’s extravagant history, there was no precedent for how to participate in a global order, whether in concert with — or in opposition to — another superpower.
But this is simply wrong! China and Russia are both successor states to the Mongol Horde. Russia was the first state that China recognized as “sovereign.” Russia had a de facto embassy in Beijing for centuries before any other westerners were even allowed to live in the city. Kissinger even explicitly refers to the history of the three-way continental politics between Russia, Turkestan, and China in in a footnote:
The answer is that On China is not really a memoir, or a history book, or a country guide. It is a tool to teach foreign policy. Kissinger is following his advise. Quoting a Qing official:
In your association with foreigners, your manner and deportment should not be too lofty, and you should have a vague, casual appearance. Let their insults, deceitfulness, and contempt for everything appear to be understood by you and yet seem not understood, for you should look somewhat stupid.
and quoting Confucius:
Love of kindness, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by foolishness. Love of knowledge, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by loose speculation. Love of honesty, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by harmful candour. Love of straightforwardness, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by misdirected judgment. Love of daring, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by insubordination. And love for strength of character, without a love to learn, find itself obscured by intractability.
So it is pointless to go on — to challenge Kissinger’s statement that Mao followed Confucius, or Kissinger’s lowballing of the death figure in the Great Leap Forward, or Kissinger’s statement that Deng Xiaoping lost control of the press in the early 1990s, or any of the weird statements that Kissinger makes.
The purpose of On China is learning. While the audience is people who want to learn about China, the intention is to teach Americans international relations.
Kissinger uses the term “reality” 27 times. The 27 instances 27 quotes by Kissinger, which contrast “Reality” with idealism, misapprehension, chaos, hope, friendship, disappointment, expectation, and so on. The purpose of On China is to focus the reader on Reality, and not on the fluffery which so often get in the way.
On China‘s a brilliant book, and succeeds at its goals.
To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne (the author of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962) is (1) a logistics-heavy description of the Battle of France, (2) a description of the general incompetence in both the France and German High Commands, (3) a tale of France, a country that was not then and never became a western democracy, and (4) a history of the end of France and Germany as distinct states.
1. The Logistics of War
“It was time that was the vital element which — more than weapons, even perhaps more than morale — France most lacked in 1940.”
Horne’s focus on logistics, timing, supplies, and materiel is refreshing, especially given so much strategy-focused writing by John Boyd and William Lind. I am not in a position to evaluate the completeness of Horne’s account, but his manner of writing certainly has fans:
Some two years later, I encountered at a London publishing party Israel’s leading military analyst and former Chief of Intelligence, Chaim Herzog (He was later to become Israel’s President.) We had met some years previously in Israel, and he had now just published his own account of the 1973 campaign, The War of Atonement. (Weidenfeld, 1975). When I commented on the similarities to the Manstein Plan of 1940, he smiled knowingly and said something to the effect that, only recently, General Sharon had referred to it, acknowledging a certain indebtedness to To Lose a Battle. Herzog kindly signed a copy of his book for me, adding the laconic but meaningful inscription, “In appreciation.”
I’ve never read a clearer account of battle that focused on the vital appointment of having the right materiel at the right location at the right time. Horne deserves major props for this part of the book, as he does for flowing between the political and military dimensions of struggle in his last book.
2. The Incompetence of the High Commands
Poor decisions went up to the part. “During the course of the Second World War,” Horne writes, “Hitler committed half a dozen key blunders that were to lose Germany the war.” Though in fairness, Hitler’s consistent habit was to bluff as much as he can while being prepared to rapidly ceed ground at the first resistance. Even as late as 1939 Horne believes that a French attack on Germany (during the Nazi invasion of Poland) would have reached the Rhine within two weeks.
The French and German general staffs, however, were fixated on the strategy of an orderly defense, and as such both were hesitant to move rapidly or seize the initiative. These “wrong lessons learned” for World War I, however, reach comic levels with the French, who even move troops away from Paris and towards the Maginot Line near the end of the fight.
3. France, an Unstable Democracy
The best insight I have from reading To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace is that France was never a stable western democracy. Attempts to view its behavior as analogous to what the United States or Britain would do in a similar situation are unfounded, because France had a unique set of interests. Specific elements of French political life that made normal politics impossible were
A lack of separation between the political and the military
A militant left-wing (which was purposefully crippled by Stalin)
A revolutionary right-wing (which was sympathetic to military coups against elected governments)
The pattern of both To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace is the old general, brought in from retirement, who oversees the death of the old Republic and faces resistance from an idealistic general
After reading both books, the solution is obvious: France is not a stable democracy.
Reading To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace at first is strange, because the country appears to be a nightmarish version of the United States, but the U.S. is a democracy that has not had a new constitution since the the 18th century. France, by contrast, was never stable. Thus Petain, and DeGaulle, operated out the same frame: no stable government existed absent a strong leader, so a constitutional dictatorship was (for the time being) the only natural form of government for France.
The difference between Petain and DeGaulle was not between traitor and patriot (by our standards, they were surely both). Indeed, both recognized the unstable nature of French democracy, and sought to meld the French polity into Germany. Likewise, both (like Mao Zedong, Chiang Kaishek, and Wang Jingwei) differentiated between ‘diseases of the limbs’ and ‘diseases of the hearts’ — during their heights…
Wang Jingwei was willing to give up Taiwan, Manchuria, and Mongolia
Mao Zedong was willing to give up Taiwan and Mongolia
DeGaulle, unlike Petain, was an optimist as DeGaulle, unlike Petain, did not live with the guilt of overseeing a massacre. While other French commanders fled he attacked the Germans, achieving some pointless victories that did nothing to stop the German war machine. Thus, DeGaulle was willing to wait for a better time to commit his ethnic cleansing campaign and tie his country’s fate to Germany. Petain simply wanted to end the destruction of his country.
4. The End of France and Germany
The hosts of heaven allowed the sons of man to form two nations, France and Germany, in June 840. The mandate was revoked in June, 1940.
Before France and Germany western Europe was controlled by a transnational aristocracy. After June, 1940, such a world returned.
The end of the book has a “where are they now” section. There seemed to be no correlation between the side of a leader and how his future career unfolded. Both German and French generals suffered under Hitler. Both German and French generals were executed post-war. Both German and French generals would enjoy a sunny career in NATO. June 1940 appeared to be the last month where the fates of Germany and France were, truly, antagonistic.
For centuries it was impossible imagine a world without these two countries. Now, it is impossible to imagine one with them. Considering the inability of either France or Germany to establish stable national democracies, the accomplishments of the European Union are astounding.
To Lose a Battle is a brilliant history of one of the first fights of the Second World War. Highly recommended!
The American victory in Afghanistan would be short lived, owing to the efforts of the progressives. The stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan inaugurated by President Obama was soon undermined by activists to his left. The Karzai government was unable to acquire the weapon systems that it needed to defend itself, and was soon swept away in all but name. To this day, the Afghanistan War is a lesson of the hollowness of military victory when the enemy has already infiltrated the nation’s capital. The Story of the United States, 1776-2026, Beck Academic Books.
American imperialism ran aground in Afghanistan, like it ran aground in Vietnam two generations before. Attempts by the globo-capitalists in the Obama Administration to subjugate the Afghan people quickly backfired, as popular movements swept across the countryside. Of course, given Afghanistan’s unique history, many of these movements garbed themselves in the robe of the religion that is native to the region. The enormous might of the military-industrial complex was once again unable to overcome the will of the people– both American and Afghani — for peace. The American People: Triumphs and Tragedies, the Yearly Kos Press.
The Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was first formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996, as a way for China build friendships with our neighbors. The group was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined, though Uzbekistan would not be the last new member! Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan also soon wished to join, and the Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was born. The SEFA is now an “economic, monetary, and political union,” in which all members work together to harmonize their economics while avoiding conflict or misunderstandings. Peace-keepers from SEFA have proven critical for the prevention of conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries. Asia: A Political Geography, Peking University Press.
“…we stayed a long, long time
to see you
to meet you
to see you
– Sufjan Stevens, In the Devil’s Territory
There are several types of time. There is a short time, where events will begin after some action. In a short time, a man might buy a lottery ticket, and discovery that he is now rich. There is a medium time, where events will begin after a series of actions. A might cut up our credit cards, as a solution to his lottery addiction that will last a medium-amount of time, until he changes his mind and applies for new cards. There is a long time, in which a man’s medium time patterns keep repeating until something fundamentally changes. And there is a long, long time, after which it feels like the world has ended.
It is human nature to want all good things to being in a short time, and for bad things not till happen until a long, long time. In general, a more intelligent man will think more about what is good for a long time than a medium time, and a less intelligent man will think about what is good for a short time than a medium time.
The four types of time are relevant to understanding security. A battle can be won in a short time. Military solutions are short time solutions. Elections can be won in a medium time. Political solutions are medium time solutions. Wealth is built over a long time. Economic processes are long time processes. And the terrain changes of a long, long time. (There is human terrain and physical terrain, the former being more important than the latter.)
The four types of time can be understood through the xGW framework. In the xGW framework, violence is understood through one of six gradients. A 0GW conflict is a genocide, a war of people against people. A 1GW conflict is the the creation of a trained and armed class of fights. A 2GW conflict introduces capital as a substitute of labor, whether in the form of arrows or cannons. In a 3GW conflict the goal is no longer to destroy the enemy, but merely to disrupt his operations through formless fast transients. 4GW narrowly targets violence so that for most of the struggle the conflict is a political campaign aimed at splintering the opposition. 5GW focuses death even more closely, perhaps only on one individual, and may never be noticed at all.
The six gradients of conflict map onto the four types of time. 1GW, 2GW, and 3GW, falling within the traditional understanding of war, are clearly tactics made for winning in the short time. 4GW, falling within the traditional understanding of politics, is obviously a tactic meant for winning in the medium time. 5GW, as a method for silently creating social realities to force an enemy into doing as you wish, is naturally an economics-based approach. The gradients of war then circle around, as 0GW, a brute-force method of changing the human terrain, is a way of speeding of a change that normally would take a long-long time into a short-term solution.
This roundtable asks what Afghanistan will be like in 2050, forty years after these posts are written. Forty years is the difference between 1945 (when Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrendered to the Allies) and 1985 (three years before Emperor Hirohito would stop going to the Yasukuni Shrine, where some Japanese war-criminals are interred). Forty years is the difference between 1959 (two years after Deng Xiaoping was named being named General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party ) and 1989 (when Deng Xiaoping ordered the crack-down against pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square). Forty years is the difference between 1944, Menachem Begin’s declaration of revolt against Britain, and 1984, the year after Begin left office as the Prime Minister of Israel.
In other words, forty years is no long, long time at all.
Neither is forty years a short time, though. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved by the military. And neither is it a medium time. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved even by the politicians.
Forty years is definitely a long type of time. Forty years is ruled not by armies or politics or geography, but by economics. Therefore, in order to understand Afghanistan in 2050, we can dispose of wars and politics. Battles will be won and lost, deals will be made and broken. Unless there is unusually brilliant or unusually atrocious individuals in power, the results of these things even out over time. Likewise, we cannot expect any meaningful change to the terrain in only 40 years. The Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains will still be there, and the people will still be Muslim.
The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan mean that the largest industries in Afghanistan will be natural resource extraction. This will be true for a long time, whether the optimistic projections of specific surveys come true or not. The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan’s neighbors mean that the largest market for Afghanistan’s extractive industries in China. This will also be true for a long time. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are too small, Iran is an extractive supporter itself, and India is separated from Pakistan by inhospitable terrain — the Hindu Kush mountains and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
We will wait a long time to see Afghanistan in 2050. Fortunately, we already know the important outline of Afghanistan in 2050: in will be a natural resource exporting satellite of China. To the extent that U.S. strategy accounts for this fact, there will be less mayhem. To the extent it does not, there will be more. But absent unusually good or unusually atrocious leadership, this outcome is inevitable.
The writer’s copy of The Handbook of 5GW: A 5th Generation of War? is in limited circulation among the handbook’s contributors, so it’s a good time to highlight an excellent point by Arherring: “XGW and Torture.”
Here’s an excerpt:
4GW – Fourth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of the attainment of a functional invulnerability that prevents the opponent from being able to orient upon a threat and creates a perception that saps the ability of the opponent to function effectively.
The use of torture at the fourth gradient is premised upon the creation of a sense of dread of the unknown in the minds of the opponent. Torture becomes a method not just of gathering information, but a weapon of fear. UsedÂ as an extreme, the opponent may have a fear of capture by the 4GW actor that prevents the opponent from orienting effectively, always considering most immediately the need to be able to escape rather than the most immediate method to execute their own doctrine. The morality of the use of torture at this gradient is ignored in the necessity of its utility to inspire fear.
5GW – Fifth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of manipulation of the context of the observations of an opponent in order to achieve a specific effect.
Torture at the fifth gradient takes on a different aspect from the use of torture at 0GW and 4GW. At those gradients the negative moral aspect of torture is either irrelevant or used to give torture utility. For 5GW the moral aspect of torture is the most important aspect. InÂ most Â (if not all cases) 5GW is a warfare of competing ideas and ideals. At the fifth gradient the least desirable outcome is to have your ideology linked to an overwhelmingly negative meme like torture either Â through your own actions, or by the manipulation of an opponent that links torture to your ideology.
A 5GW force is typically one that is too weak to win a competition of ideas and ideals, so I think Arherring’s descriptions of torture in 5GW are besides the point. Â In a 5GW, the torture of a single person may be the only violence that is inflicted as part of a subtle, winning campaign. Â Likewise, a 4GW campaign may be built on broadcasting an attractive ideology. Â Fear may be besides the point.
Still, I like the idea of using xGW as a way to understand torture. I also like the way Arherring lumps together “torture and “enhnaced interrogation techniques.” The difference between them is a legal fiction. You either win or you don’t. Â That is, you either lose or you don’t.