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Recommended Reading

Campaign Reboot –Forever War: Losing Track of Strategy 

….The Forever War is, unsurprisingly, a book about war. It charts the conflict between humanity and an alien species called Taurians. The Taurians are alien in the classic sense, unknown and for the majority of the book unknowable.

The core of the book is the war, but it is also a book about disconnection, since the protagonists suffer from the effects of time dilation every time they go on tour, with hundreds of years potentially passing each time they ship out and return home. The same is true of the Taurians, meaning that in every engagement is is impossible to know whether the Taurian enemy is operating with technology from the future, or the past (from the perspective of the protagonists).

Over time the characters become disconnected from their own species, as guided evolution turns humanity into a species in which they have no part. Despite being the cream of the crop when recruited (all recruits have an IQ of 150+, the effects of this brain drain are explored in the book) they are left behind by a humanity which has chosen to pursue a guided evolution.

Strategy is at it’s most effective when the environment over which a conflict is going to be fought is understood. Terrain is part of this, however the mindset and moral elements of the opponent must also be understood. The Forever War is a study in what happens when a conflict is unmoored from reality, indeed it never has a root in reality, since the Taurians are unknown and unknowable.

Dr. Tdaxp – The Humanities, the Sciences and Strategy 

The Servants of Strategy

The humanities and the Sciences are siblings. Both serve Strategy. Graduates from the Sciences can usefully serve Strategy to the extent they understand the tools of prediction and control: improvement, and are not distracted by non-normalrevolutionary science. Graduates from the Humanities can usefully serve Strategy to the extend they understand the tools of understanding and explanation, and are not distracted by critical political agendas. 

Opposed Systems Design – PRC, DC and the Myth of Scheming 

….All of this reminded me of Luttwak’s recently released The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.  Luttwak argues that the purported strategic wisdom of Chinese history actually impedes China’s ability to successfully carry out policy in the international sphere.  During the waring states period, massive intrigue and Game-of-Thrones-esque maneuvering was possible because of a common language, in addition to ethnic and cultural homogeneity.  International politics, on the other hand, is marked by disparate languages, ethnic groups and cultural  heritages.  In this hodge-podge, deep stratagems aren’t feasible because people have a hard enough time understanding one another when they aren’t attempting to dissemble.  In short, the fear of inscrutable Chinese strategists playing a brilliant long con on the world is simply not plausible because it would require a degree of cosmopolitan understanding of other nations and societies that no nation has successfully achieved.

Fabius Maximus – Who lies to us the most? Left or Right? 

Many posts on the FM website have described similarities between the Left and Right in America.  Some discuss their similar policy recommendations (eg, economic policy should benefit banks, foreign policy should be dominated by the military and advance our global hegemony). Some note how both Left and Right are OK with lies to start our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to support torture and shred our civil liberties.  Some discuss their similar method of gaining public support: use exaggeration of threats to build fear that stampedes the public (DDT, ALAR, nuclear winter, climate change, government debt, creeping Sharia, al Qaeda).

This raises another question with which I’ve long grappled: magnitudes. Magnitudes matter.  While similar, which party does this the most — and the most egregiously?

A speculative diagram by Crittenden Jarvis.

SWJ – Book Review: Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime 

That’s it.

7 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. Chris Says:

    Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed, hoping to write a longer piece based on this soon. Potential for this to become a more frequent thing – “Sci fi book X and what it teaches us about strategy”

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Thanks, Mark.

  3. T. Greer Says:

    Left the following comment at Opposed Systems Designs. Probably worth repeating here:


    “Luttwak argues that the purported strategic wisdom of Chinese history actually impedes China’s ability to successfully carry out policy in the international sphere. During the waring states period, massive intrigue and Game-of-Thrones-esque maneuvering was possible because of a common language, in addition to ethnic and cultural homogeneity. ”
    I have always thought this a very shaky argument. The seeming cultural unity of the WS era is more a matter of Qin and Han dynasty propaganda than it is a reflection of actual history. During the WS the various kingdoms patronized different philosophical systems, dressed differently, spoke different languages, and considered themselves quite culturally unique – Chu and Qin (who would later conquer the rest) were considered particularly ‘barbarian’ and not really part of the same civilizational continuum as the state of Qi and those under he hegemony. (I imagine Byzantine views of the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms were similar in tone). Cultural, linguistic, and philosophical unity came after political unification, not before it.

  4. zen Says:

    You are welcome, Chris and Lex.
    Hi T. Greer,
    I am not as strong on ancient China as I am on ancient Greece, I am better after WS but not great. That said, your argument pretty much follows what I have read on the attitude of dynasties toward rivals and China’s tendency to coalesce into numerous regional cutural-economic centers of gravity. Not the same as Spartans, Thebans, Argives and Corinthians seeing each other as fellow Greeks and Lydians, Thracians and even (when being sticklers) Macedonians as non-Greeks

  5. Mr. X Says:

    The tension between libertarianism and Christianity points in Fabius Maximus blog are well taken. And while it attacks libertarianism in general it does not smack of the PAID Ron and Rand Paul hating propaganda that dominated numerous GOP-friendly blogs cerca late 2011 early 2012.

    It’s one reason if Russia is to stay true to its Orthodox Christian heritage from Byzantium it will always be maddeningly at odds with Washington and London expectations, both libertarian (too collectivist, historically too Statist and top-down driven, complete with two Times of Troubles proving when there is no Tsar or a bad Tsar the people suffer under tyrannical local boyars or foreign invaders) and contemporary cultural relativism/Marxism (Russia remains less a single ethnic bloc and more of a civilization, albeit constructed around a Slavic core that nonetheless includes many non-Slavic Caucasians, Jews — particularly in high technology/the Skolkovo tusovkas, and true Eurasians/descendants of Ghenghis Khan in high positions like Defense Minister/Putin heir apparent Sergei Shoigu, etc).

    Russia simply has no choice for the foreseeable future but to rely on natural resource and agriculture exports (with ag taking an increasing share of export growth since it has far more room to grow than global oil and gas consumption).

    But contrary to The Economist’s or the ‘Streetwise Professor”s conceits, this does not necessarily spell Zaire with permafrost doom any more than Chile’s dependency on ag/metals exports or Australia, Norway or Canada’s longstanding raw material export reliance dooms them to be corrupt kleptocracies.

    In fact it’s amusing to see on Twitter Brits insist the only way Russia can show a modest demographic rebound is to A) cook the books or B) count Central Asian immigrants, legal or illegal as Russians while Slavs flee the soon to be Yellow Peril/Muslim dominated Eurasia for greener pastures. The Brits are arguing this even at a point when the UK and France, not Russia, are routinely experiencing street crime and low-level rioting with 3rd World immigrant/racial overtones!

    In fact the evidence is slowly mounting that EDUCATED Russians are fleeing the overtaxed, declining economies of Western Europe, including the UK, to return to the Motherland, where despite bloated costs for housing, imported cars and electronics/clothing, education and health care remain significantly more affordable than in the U.S. and less rationized than in the UK. In fact it’s become bloody difficult to land a job in Russia as an expat with modest Russian skills even with a liberalized visa regime. Why? Because the competition from returning Russians who speak English or another European language so well is very fierce.


  6. Mr. X Says:

    At least Luttwak is more shrewd in his strategic insights than the banal to oddball George Friedman of Stratfor aka “Western Russia is good tank country and even paranoids have enemies”and “Poland, Mexico and Japan will be the resurgent Great Powers of the Mid-21st century”.

  7. Mr. X Says:

    I do think per Fabius subject some of the Right’s conceits will be exposed with respect to the military industrial complex and the necessity of America’s bloated overseas presence. For example, in the short run we will see more ‘bad behavior’ by the usual bad guys of North Korea and Iran. But in the long term besides China showing the flag more in naval cruises we WILL NOT see a return to Great Power warfare just because America realized the Empire of bases in 100 countries was no longer worth funding and indeed, contrary to the conceits of a few fools, DOES NOT pay for itself in the form of countries enjoying the American security aegis (led by Japan) buying our debt to sustain the petrodollar.

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