Riding the Red Horse, Wargame: Airland Battle and the Principles of War

I’ve done a little more thinking on the principles of war as elucidated by Tom Kratman in “Learning to Ride the Red Horse: The Principles of War”, from the Castalia House anthology Riding the Red Horse. First Mr. Kratman offers the standard U.S. military list, the so-acronymed MOSSMOUSE: Mass, Objective, Surprise, Security, Maneuver, Offensive, Unity of Command, Simplicity and Economy of Force. Then he appends three more of his own: Attrition, Annihilation and Shape.

How have these applied to what I’ve seen of Wargame: Airland Battle? This is a PC game with some pretensions to combat realism that was developed by Eugene Systems and published by Eidos. The premise is the breakout of outright hostilities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact circa 1985 or so, and how that would play out across Scandinavia in particular. The game features impressive visuals, rollicking-fast matches and a dizzying number of period-units. I’m sure much, probably most, of it is unrealistic; I knew out-of-box that F-16s are never used for tree-skimming strafing runs on armored columns, or that fighter-bombers are in the habit of descending below 20,000 feet or whatever when Swedish forests are stuffed with all manner of anti-air.

Kratman defines Mass as “decisive combat power,” or “concentration of force.” I expect this is exactly what William Lind would define as the ruling principle of the First and Second Generations of Modern War, especially the latter ie. putting steel on target. In a set-piece battle on the high seas, for example, the admiral who could consistently bring a higher amount of firepower to bear should expect to win against an equally-equipped opponent (setting aside the intricacies of gaining the gauge, raking, morale aspects etc. etc.). Likewise, whosoever could have his line infantry spread in such a way so as to throw the most lead could expect to win against an equally-equipped opponent on land. Or, an admiral or general who effectively fielded more troops could expect to win, all else equal.

As you might guess from a phrase like “decisive combat power,”Mass is as much a measure of quality as it is a headcount.

The application to Airland Battle is fairly straightforward. The primary weapon is the armored tank, and the most sensible practice is to field a medium-number of moderately-effective tanks, interspersed here and there with higher tier models that are much more expensive. It’s essential that command zones are captured so that there is a healthy fund of command points for continuous reinforcements and new attacks.

Another important Airland factor I cannot see anywhere except under Mass is how your units are geographically deployed. Massed columns and lines are horrifically vulnerable to artillery, airstrikes and even outnumbered yet well-fortified squads of infantry, so the ideal advance and fortification looks surprisingly loose and disorganized from the air. Tanks may be a kilometer or so apart in a jagged line, continuously changing direction and even reversing to frustrate enemy artillery-gunners and the first shots of long-range anti-tank missiles. This may be the first strategy game I’ve played where fortifying a position requires as much maintenance as attacking one’s enemy; quite as soon as a tank takes out an enemy-scout, it must be moved out from under retaliatory artillery shells. It’s quite interesting, actually. And it applies across the board: a Tunguska finishes perforating a bomber with 20mm, and it must be moved to a new hedgerow or treeline. ATGM vehicles are even more fragile and flighty.

Economy of Force is something like using your Mass in the most efficient way possible. One might have to accept the risk that your line will be fatally circumnavigated or your artillery annihilated so that you can apply effective Mass to your enemy’s weakness. Since Airland is inherently miserly with how fast you can deploy your units, you are always, always, always strapped for reinforcements. Airland does Economy of Force extremely well in other ways too, better than I’ve seen anywhere else on PC. For example, a well-camoflaged infantry squad can take out half a dozen tanks and twice as many vehicles over the course of a match. Same with a well-timed air/artillery strike on a temporarily-clumped group. A cheapo missile-battery can bring down a magnitudes-more-expensive jet flying carelessly by overhead.

Kratman’s Shape is very related to Economy of Force and Mass, I think. As implied, deploying sufficient Mass will require a consideration of Shape. Should our strength be spent in a single fast-moving spearhead down the center? A loose slow-moving echelon? Shall we be required to deplete our Mass somewhat to reinforce the long-supply line trailing our spearhead like a bungie-cord? And of course, Airland’s maps are all very unique in how they arrange towns, mountains, rivers, highways, reinforcement-points and forests.

The principle of Objective is usually predetermined in strategy games ie. destroy the enemy completely, just his command-units, out-perform him economically etc. etc. The maps of Airland are quite large, which permits one to set changeable and intermediary objectives as one desires.

Surprise is always operative in Airland, mainly because one perceives very little of the map at any one time. This is by no means a problem that can actually be resolved at any time during the match; fielding more recon means fielding fewer guns. And, just as Kratman says, mustering forces to strike at some unexpected point simply means that you will have fewer forces elsewhere. This means that your opponent will have surplus forces and a wandering attention span. Good luck.

Security is the counter-measure to enemy Surprise. Don’t skimp completely on recon or tanks and infantry to simply sit around; they are your rearguard.

Maneuver is the practice of “placing the enemy in the disadvantageous position through the flexible application of combat power.” Flexibility is difficult in Airland, what with the huge maps, the rugged terrain and the limited fuel, not to mention the immense fragility of supply vehicles in the game. Artillery, airstrikes, attack-helicopters and heli-troops are the best tools for responding quickly to the enemy, though they are quite limited the longer they remain engaged. The heavy weapons must be ordered into response simultaneously, so that they join the action before your fast-response weapons are completely overrun or mediated.

The principle of Offensive is difficult to quantify for Airland. Quite frankly, I’ve never managed to carry out successful large-scale offensives with any consistency; camoflaged troops, artillery and airstrikes have a way of smashing an offensive. I think this is because carrying out an offensive in Airland requires a vulnerable concentration of your forces. Perhaps this is simply how it boils out in reality as well.

Attrition is huge in Airland, since the victory conditions stipulate that the winner is whoever reaches a certain sum of enemy kills. Whereas capturing a single point would encourage Offensive strategies, Airland seems to incentivize “turtling.” Unity of Command, of course, is simply a given within strategy games. There is only one commander: you. The principle of Annihilation is similarly limited in Airland: when the match is over, it’s over. If the combat were integrated into a wider-campaign a la the Total War series, destroying the enemy utterly and without mercy would be crucial to victory. It’s a sort of panacea to the threat of every other principle of war working against you: if the enemy has lost his left arm and you have cauterized the stump, you never again gave to fear a strike from the right. This allows one to concentrated one’s surplus strength just where it is needed elsewhere.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Living with Open Eyes and Good Will

I’ve written in a peripheral way about the many and fascinating insights of William Lind, but today we all ought to read and think on his astonishing column “The Discarded Image.”  Here is the particular quote we really should burn into our minds:

Virtual realities lie at the heart of Brave New World, aka the New World Order, “globalism,” “democratic capitalism” (as the neo-cons define it), etc. The bargain Brave New World offers is this: if you will only do as Marcuse advises and trade the Reality Principle for the Pleasure Principle, we will enmesh you in virtual realities that will make you happy. True, you will lose your free will, because our virtual realities will condition you to think as we want you to. But they will also give you anything and everything you want. So what if none of it is real? All that matters is that you feel happy, right now.

As our medieval forefathers would quickly recognize, this is Hell speaking. Hell has always loathed reality, because in reality, Christ is king. Wiser than we, the medievals were interested not in felicitas but in beautitudine – not in being happy but in being saved. Had they been given a television or a video game, they would have smelled brimstone.

That’s a painful condemnation for all of us, richly deserved and truer than we can know. The whole of political, personal and social life in the West is a facade of lies, self-delusion and the most vapid and narcissistic sort of mutual congratulation.

Some years ago I came into the first inheritance of my life, a gift from a man I’d never met and never cared about, and who died before I was born. It was a collection of perhaps thirty Popular Mechanics magazines dating from 1930 to perhaps 1964. No doubt you’ve heard ridicule from your contemporaries regarding the pie-in-the-sky futuristic predictions of our forefathers. And there were some, often featured on the magazine covers in confident strokes and bright, optimistic colours.

But there was something else underneath those covers: Ingenuity. Leafing through them the first time, I felt a growing prickle and flood of manly shame. The articles were clearly written for a generation of plucky, bold, intelligent and useful men, with advice on how to build things like sailboats, masonry fireplaces, houses and trucks that could roam across the water on paddle-wheels. The advertisements were for things like a discount for schematics on building a wooden motor-launch in your garage.

Now, I am as capable or more so than any average man in my generation as regards tools, carpentry and skilled manual labor, but I’m not a quarter as capable as the average subscriber of Popular Mechanics circa 1941. The level of everyday cleverness and skill was staggering. Imagine a world where bored people throw together full-scale wooden ballistas instead of watching Breaking Bad and you’ll have an idea of what I’m trying to say.

The reactionary, neo-reactionary and conservative say that a nation and a civilization is only as good as its people. What does this say about Modern man? What, honestly and forthrightly, does he actually know, and what can he actually do? This brings me back to Lind’s wonderful foregoing quote.

Suppose I were brought into a comfortable and nondescript white room, and sat down before a panel of omniscient and friendly experts. Suppose they provided me with food, drink, sunlight and a bed, and for sixteen hours a day I sat in that chair while they politely investigated just how much I know, what I’ve accomplished, and what I can actually do.

Poof! Wood-working tools, work-benches and fine oak and ash timber arrive out of thin air. I set to work. A treadmill drops out of the ceiling. I start jogging. Barbells fly out of the walls. How much can I lift, how long? Water threatens to push me out the window. How far can I swim? Infinite rock-climbing walls arrive, along with wrestling partners, boxing partners, dance partners, musical instruments, welding torches, guns, bows, swords, conversationalists, axes, trees, sailboat-parts, dead batteries, malfunctioning electric motors and a car with a weird whine. I am tested to the full reach of my abilities, and the panelists are careful to permit me enough activity to demonstrate my ability without thereby increasing it appreciably. They want to know what I knew before coming into the room.

Suppose furthermore that I’m returned to the chair, where they will investigate the extent of my propositional knowledge. With an infinite glass of water beside me and an infinitely-comfortable chair under me, I begin to talk. They let me go on for perhaps one thousand words before, stopping me politely, they go through what I know and what I do not; that is, they tell me how many mistakes, falsehoods and lies I have uttered in the preceding segment. Then they permit me to continue.

Suppose they ask me what I think I’ve accomplished in my life. These appear credulously and immediately on a wall beside me. They inquire as to the full extent of remarkable experiences in my life. Somehow my memory is precise, complete and accurate within this room. I continue to talk.

Suppose they then instruct me to climb to a hidden viewing gallery above, where I find several billions gathered in quiet watchful contemplation, and then they bring in Alexander the Great, Leo Tolstoy or Ludwig van Beethoven. Suppose they bring in a hardened lumberjack, or the first-officer of a nuclear-missile submarine? An astronaut? A carpenter? A plumber? Someone who built a wooden motor-launch in their garage? Horatio Nelson?

What have they known and done and experienced? What have you done? What do you know? What do I know? What have I done? What have I experienced?

A whole hell of a lot less than I ought to know, and a whole hell of a lot less than I ought to have done and experienced. Back to Lind: how much of my life has been spent “enmeshed in virtual realities”? How much has been self-delusion, escapism and fantasy?

It is something to really think on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Riding the Red Horse, Part 2

I’ve made progress through the first third or so of Castalia House’s military science-fiction anthology Riding the Red Horse, edited by Tom Kratman and Vox Day. Without exaggeration I can say that this is the best short-fiction anthology I’ve read, especially when I compare it to the two other collections I consumed this year: Other Worlds Than These and Alien Contact. Not that the latter volumes were without entertainment and creativity, just that such qualities varied severely by author. There is no such fault with Red Horse, though Jerry Pournelle’s “His Truth Goes Marching On” suffers mildly from stylistic flatness (not by any means a serious defect in military fiction; one expects substance over style, I think), and James F. Dunnigan’s non-fiction piece on military blunders is rather too brisk for such an intriguing subject.


The anthology opens with “Sucker Punch,” the fiction-debut of the accomplished Eric S. Raymond. China is in the midst of a massed-invasion of Taiwan when the reader is placed next to the ranking officers of a nearby American carrier strike group. This latter collection of ships is, as the narrator mentions, one of the most technologically-advanced and expensive weapons in the history of man. The officers, then, are understandably perturbed by the weird indifference of the Chinese to the American threat. There is the massive Chinese invasion fleet, apparently without any air-cover or anti-air to speak of, and there is an American aircraft carrier, packed with F-35s. But the Americans have run out of time to think it over; they must fulfill their treaty-obligation to defend Taiwan. The F-35s launch.

The story is brilliant. The ideas that Mr. Raymond illustrates are extremely provocative, and the effect is only improved by a subsequent article on the future of airpower. As to style, his story has really emphasized in my mind the peculiar effectiveness of a stripped-down narrative style that tosses in the rare bit of description and color. Mr. Kratman’s A Desert Called Peace series increasingly enjoyed the same advantage.

Chris Kennedy’s enjoyable “Thieves in the Night” illustrates what would happen if the American political class wasn’t a bunch of sanctimoniously-useless self-righteous pussies. I have no objection to saving good women and killing bad guys.

Vox Day’s “A Reliable Source” reads like reality. We shouldn’t have the slightest doubt that his story will happen, if it hasn’t already. He’s really bringing home some of the unforeseen implications of open borders, in that we can expect fourth-generation opponents to attack both directly and indirectly from the shadows that modern Western society casts so carelessly about itself. It’s terrifying. Think of Rotherham.

“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” is worth pretty much the Kindle price alone. He describes what technological, tactical and strategic realism would look like in space-warfare. As I recall, he covers propulsion systems, armor, spacecraft design, weapons, stealth and the battlefield of space. It’s very valuable stuff for science-fiction authors and interesting in its own right. It’s a subject worthy of an entire book, really; I wish he’d had the opportunity to discuss space elevators and electromagnetic launchers. Maybe I’ll send him an email.

“A Piece of Cake”, “Shakedown Cruise”, and ‘Tell it To the Dead” are rollicking good sci-fi battles in the best way, authored by Christopher Nutall, Rolf Nelson, and the Quantum Mortis duo Vox Day and Steve Rsaza. I’ve already read everything the latter pair have produced, but I will certainly look into the preceding two as well. I think that after a bit of playtime with Kerbal Space Program I understand orbital mechanics better (the mathematics I will look into at some point), and so I enjoyed the tactical reasoning of the authors, especially Nutall.

That’s pretty much it for what I’ve read so far. “The Limits Of Intelligence: Why It’s Nowhere As Important As The Spooks Would Have You Think” is a great inclusion to the anthology. The author was formerly of some unnamed British service, and he comes at the question of intelligence from two directions. On the one hand, intelligence gathering is very easy while interpretation is very difficult, and you would guess correctly that the best, brightest and most ambitious would rather spy than analyze. Accordingly, privileged intelligence is a needle in a whole lot of chaff.

On the other hand, the sort of privileged intelligence that only state agencies can come by is, according to Harry Kitchener, of frankly limited strategic value. By contrast, I would expect (though he doesn’t elaborate; probably not his specialty) that tactical battlefield intelligence is of paramount importance to commanders.

In sum, the first third of Riding the Red Horse has been impressive and thought-provoking. There’s more to come.



Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gearing up for military theory: Riding the Red Horse, Part 1

91qTEcCikqL._SL1500_Recently I bought a slew of books from Castalia House, including the newly-released military science-fiction anthology Riding the Red Horse. It’s been well worth its price (presently a very reasonable 5.17 USD on Kindle), especially concerning the personal value I found in William Lind’s non-fiction article “Understanding Fourth-Generation War.” To be more specific, he includes a reading list which will organically bring a student into an understanding of modern war through a historical journey beginning with the Treaty of Westphalia, signed 1648.

An interesting prelude is the editor’s introduction itself, penned entirely (I think) by co-editor Lt. Col. Tom Kratman, who we all know and love for his horrifically ruthless A Desert Called Peace series. As you might guess if you’ve read his books, he opines that Lind’s work on Fourth-Generation Warfare is supremely important if we are to avoid the horrifically ruthless measures necessary to defeat non-state opponents. In other words, if we cannot absorb the losses and humiliations required (as deemed by Lind), deterrence will be inevitably genocidal in nature. For the sanctity of our souls and the bodies of our enemies, then, we have an obligation to seek out Fourth-Generation solutions before we seek out solutions at the… atomic level. The window of opportunity for this study closes every year that Fourth-Generation opponents continue their campaign, as with every defeat we draw nearer to the moment that a vengeful leader or coup pushes some very dangerous buttons on footballs.

Of course, Kratman thinks that tragicMissile_silo_of_a_SS-24_missile_(2) eventuality is beyond the capability of our characteristically spineless and immoral leaders, and that such willingness to do mass-murder is indicative of the weakness of the West’s vitality and survival instinct. What’s interesting about this selfsame existential insecurity is that it may well be responsible for our decades-long defeats by Fourth-Generation opponents in the first place. On his end, Lind speculates that the growing weakness of the Western states results from its loss of legitimacy. And who can believe in the inherent rightness of a nation and its state if neither believe it themselves?

None. And so the decrepitude of the nations and the states continue. Civilization was only ever a spaceship launching into the hostility of the ether; in most times and most places, the natural state of man is as a pathetic scavenger and a violent savage. It takes a staggering amount of effort and tradition and custom and religion to establish a civilization as advanced and moral as our own, and the loss of faith in such efforts and so forth will be followed by civilizational ruin. Thankfully, as the great economist said, “there is a lot of ruin in a nation.” A much-reduced nation casting off its parasites and predators has a better shot at survival than roving bands of thugs and whores.

Anyhow, returning from my lurid nightmares back to the less-flighty Lind, we find the aforementioned instructional list of military volumes:

1) The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militaerische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 by Charles E. White, (Praeger, Westpower, CT, 1989)

2) The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919-1939 by Robert A Doughty (Archon Books, Hamden, CT, 1986)

3) Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918 by Bruce Gudmundsson (Praeger, Westport, CT, 1989)

4) Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 , by Martin Samuels (Frank Cass Publishers, London, 1995)

5) The Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940, by Robert Doughty (Archon Books, Hamden, CT, 1982)

6) Fighting Power : German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945, by Martin van Creveld (The Free Press, NY, 1991)

7) The Transformation of War by Martin van Creveld (The Free Press, NY, 1991)

8) The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon.

Since these recommendations are as authoritative as I’m likely to receive, I’ll commence the list from the top after I finish Riding the Red Horse.

Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dark places and suffering

Some months ago I was emerging from a dark place when a profound thought occurred to me.

“Whatever doesn’t kill you… doesn’t kill you.” It sounds like cliche, like one of those smarmy platitudes one emblazons in dark blocky letters on a white marketing poster. It sounds like some sort of lame self-help phrase, doesn’t it, like something you would say to a depressed acned teenager agonizing pathetically over some interchangeable classmate.

It is not. You will understand it very differently when you have, for a long time, desired death. It will not have the “cheer-up-Chappie” feeling, but something far more melancholic. It’s really the strangest thing. One may wish for death as fervently as one likes, but the heart and the lungs will happily chug on regardless.

A dear friend may be stolen from their moral coil in the prime of their life, in the very moment when they were poised for the ecstatic realization of all their dreams, and yet: the one whose mouth waters with the thought of death, the one who would gladly switch places with his disappeared friend, he still survives. He is unworthy. He does not desire this gift of life. He would give it away at the first request. Why his friend, who would use the gift with the greatest care and gratitude, and not him, who wastes every breath with contempt and hatred for the gift?

The question, the central mystery of the matter, is not the injustice of who receives the life-gift and who does not. It is something more… mysterious. It is something about the… tenacity(?) of life itself. This example of the friend only approaches it from an angle. Permit me another vantage.

Suppose you could tell a man under torture that, “whatever doesn’t kill you…doesn’t kill you.” Would he not start at those words, and stare at the ruptured roots where his fingernails once were, or at the shattered knuckles of formerly-strong hands, and would he not begin to weep tears so bitter, tears more bitter than we can understand? That is not mere melancholy. It is… tragedy. And yet there might be another angle.

As I said at the beginning, this whole thought occurred as I was emerging from a dark place. The place I am in now, well, it seems more illuminated somehow. By what, I cannot really say. One could call it hope, I suppose, but that would invite certain questions. And I cannot answer them. I cannot rationalize why I feel the way that I feel. What I can say is that, when one claws one’s way out of a hole, or when one is carried upward by some unforeseen subterranean tide, the same phrase still invites tears.

But they are not tears of melancholy or despair.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Modern Art is Terrible

Today I was reading John C. Wright’s recently reposted article on “Supermanity“, and his characteristically-through deconstruction of modern art put a memory in mind.

Some time ago I went to a museum with a friend. We started at the top floor, where I lingered with unhealthy interest over the various iterations of machine-guns and astonishing dioramas of such historical episodes as the Charge of the Light Brigade and The Imperial Guard Refuses to Surrender at Waterloo. As we descended through the building I was struck with the same feeling I get at most historical museum; man’s ingenuity, and, above all, his labor. And such labor it has been. Men toiling in some horrifically hot recess of the earth for hours and days and months and years on end, just to feed their families and the steam-engines of the world. Or men ducking cables that snap and whicker with lethal ferocity, skipping over falling timber, arms with piano-wire tendons straining to drive a saw to and fro, all to feed their families and the saw mills of the world. Men standing hundreds of feet in the air without harness or net, smiling at the camera and eating their sandwiches. Men locking their bayonets home and charging over the top when the whistle blows, watching their friends fall like wheat to bullet-cloud scythes until it is their turn to gasp and scream at the cruelties of a Maxim gun. When my attention is drawn to the sacrifices and courage of my forefathers, I am humbled. I could only hope to meet their challenges as they did, and to meet mine with similar decency and integrity.

Then we descended another floor to the art exhibit. My humanistic reverence disappeared immediately. I felt only contempt and…pity. These emotions were prompted by the modern half of the exhibit, exacerbated painfully when I was forced to compare this contemporary art to that of the pre-World War One generation, which was often hung directly alongside. The difference could not be more profound; even now I feel the same overpowering sensation of sadness and disgust.

The theme of the exhibit was Antarctica. All the art (save one photograph) created prior to World War One or thereabouts was invariably painted, and painted realistically, in oil and acrylics. The impression was positively Lovecraftian; recall that the southernmost part of the world was to our ancestors as the hidden oceans of Europa are to us. That is, the paintings depicted the Antarctic as an alien planet, as dangerous and forbidding and unknown. Some depictions were so stark and forceful that they made me shiver.

But Man was not absent. Against the howling backdrop of ice and snow, many of the painters placed a single ship, empty, or perhaps with a few lone souls out on the ice. The impression was dramatic; that of man outfitting and manning a ship at great expense, and at risk of drowning, freezing, starvation or more malevolent evils (ahem: Franklin expedition). You saw Man’s tenacity, his willingness to sacrifice all for a chance at walking where no man has walked before.


Oh! How brave you are! How subversive! Enjoy the frostbite.

The modern art, by contrast, had no depth of soul whatsoever. In fact, I saw no indication that the artists were aware of any such thing as a human’s nature, or had any grasp of the inherent horror of wilderness and loneliness and what it means to be marooned. One memorable picture was a color photograph of approximately six hundred people laying naked on a sunny glacier. Another showed a bunch of white plastic chairs and tables evidently on the deck of a goodly-sized touring-vessel. The caption read some nonsense about the appalling commercialization of Arctic tourism. No doubt the artist, if you’d like to call him that (I try to ignore the pretensions of morons), preferred to think of himself as part of some elite that, of all shocking surprises, should be allowed anywhere he wishes. It is striking that all the modern art, without exception, was photography that relied on long captions to explain the piece, and all the captions invariably mouthed the same leftist platitudes with which we are all lamentably familiar. I could write this crap in my sleep. Here, I’ll have a try right now.

“This dramatic depiction of a glacier surrounded by beach-umbrellas depicts the growing commercialization of Inuit lands and communities, part of a larger trend towards the capitalization of oppressed peoples and cultures.”

“This photograph of a nude spread in the foreground of a polar-bear kill depicts the twin crises of global warming and the objectification of women’s bodies. The artist describes himself as a no-talent latte-sipping faggot with intellectual pretensions.”

In sum, then, all pre-modern art was dramatic, realistic and exhibited impressive artistic skill, and never required captions to explain itself. In fact, all the captions were merely perfunctory: “A Ship Stuck in Ice. 1898.”

By contrast, all modern art required explanation as the images themselves were uncomposed, empty, gimmicky or outright pornographic. They were invariably photographs, probably because learning how to sketch and use a paintbrush is too much for these idiots. And they were ultimately forgettable and meaningless. Aliens who discover our planet many eons hence will toss all modern art in the trash with a contemptuous bug-eyed hiss on their way to contemplate Monet or Michelangelo. I’d have us follow their example.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

I frequently find myself reading several books concurrently. Perhaps this is a solution for those reluctant readers who cannot seem to get enough variety and stimulation from perusing a single volume. I think I am just impatient.

Along with my military readings I’ve also been working my way through The Slight Edge, a self-improvement entry from author Jeff Olson. By some weird coincidence this book has reminded me forcefully of Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s Democracy (review Part 1 and 2), with both authors emphasizing the supreme importance of deferring gratification in the present for gain in the future. Olson’s concept of the slight edge involves the daily repetition of easy productive habits and the denial of mildly destructive habits, a routine which he asserts will improve one’s life immeasurably in the long run. The edge itself, then, is merely that little tipping of the balance toward positivity and productivity, which, like coins tinkling into a savings account day-by-day, will have hugely-compounding benefits in one’s future.

One productive habit I’m cultivating is the improvement of downloadmy writing skills through practice on this blog (no less than 500 words per day), to which routine I intend to add some longer-form fiction writing. Another is to always say yes to whatever social opportunity I’m presented with, all other things being equal. I’m already in the habit of taking icy cold showers everyday, which I’m convinced has raised my testosterone and improved my wakefulness and cheer on work-mornings. Oddly enough, I’ve found this supremely easy to keep up over the last eight weeks.

The trick is to step into the cold water for a moment to moisten my skin, step out to apply soap, step in to rinse, then remain under the nozzle while you warm the water’s temperature, then leisurely shampoo and rinse, then turn the water to max cold and endure for as long as possible, after which one steps out completely refreshed, with considerable rushing adrenaline and a peculiar numbness about the shoulders and chest. Friend, you will learn to love incipient hypothermia.

Prior to this morning shower, I’ve rolled out of bed to immediately commence no less than forty push-ups and thereafter written down three things I’m thankful for in my life. According to The Slight Edge, this latter routine (three new blessings every day)  is one of four easy habits one can easily undertake to increase one’s contentment. And happiness, Olson asserts, is as necessary to success as good habit. And, happily, one can form habits to be more happy.

One important note is that the ideology of the book is very helpful after the original euphoria of self-improvement has worn off and the ordinary grind has returned. It’s just as easy to undertake easy good habits instead of easy destructive ones, and it’s easy to overcome negative inertia when one keeps this thought firmly in one’s mind. [I think I’ll make posters with daily checklists to help out with this.]

Other slight edges I wish to develop is an incremental deepening of my social life and conversational skills, all updated through practice every day.

Destructive habits to avoid every day are porn-use, which I understand perverts ordinary brain function and dampens libidinous ambition and ambition itself, and fast food, after which I will begin eating a healthier diet. Multiplied over years, I expect these habits and counter-habits to improve my life.

In sum, then, I can heartily recommend The Slight Edge. The prices are very reasonable for Kindle and paperback.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Politics of Military Coups

The success of military coups seems to rely a lot more on peripheral political factors than I thought. The bulk of coup attempts occurred in Africa and South America after a period of political instability, such as decolonization and the advent of democracy. African states in particular were artificial creations maintained by force, and once the Europeans relinquished overt control the state’s infrastructure merely became yet another resource to be exploited in endless tribal wars. In other words, the borders which divided the African continent never arose from a natural process of ethnic migration, homogenization, war and negotiation, so when sources of order were destroyed in the post-colonial period, it looks as if these latent tensions returned with horrific force.

The coup, then, is both a symptom and a catalyst for national failure. I would hazard a guess that third-world countries particularly susceptible to coups have ethnically and/or religiously homogeneous militaries, which ethnicities/religions are either 1. a majority jealous for its privilege, or 2. a threatened minority. Of course, a military takeover is always morally illegitimate in the modern worldview, so even a single coup weakens the national trust sufficiently to precipitate further coup attempts. The enormous payoff of using a small military force to take over an entire nation has a way of encouraging further attempts. The authors of How to Stage a Military Coup, David Hebditch and Ken Connor, relate the tale of Equatorial Guinea’s takeover by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, pictured below, who follows the tyrannous and corrupt example set by other coup-leaders like Idi Amin and Augusto Pinochet. 1200px-Teodoro_Obiang_Nguema_Mbasogo_with_Obamas

Another political factor has surely been whether the United States or Britain have backed the coup. Amin and Pinochet were both apparently put in power by the intelligence agencies of these states, and the catastrophic consequences ought to discourage any intervention overseas by our governments. They won’t, but they ought to.

If coups occur in a climate of national disorder and disloyalty, are the Western nations in danger of future military coups? It seems to me that the growing ethnic diversity of Western nations and irreparable ideological divisions between whites severed pretty much all fealty to the Nation sometime around Obama’s first election. In other words, Western nations are already engaged in tribal war at the ballot box; quite as soon as one group loses any hope of electoral victory they will take up arms to conquer the nation (or, more optimistically, secede). It seems to me that white conservatives are the greatest threat in this regard, being the group of fastest electoral disenfranchisement and the most heavily-armed. Since the armed forces are generally more conservative than the rest of the government, I would not be surprised if they do what they do best; fight. On the other hand, the upper military echelon has been bought off (from what I’ve read) with fancy toys, foreign adventures and well-padded retirements. Colonels are surprisingly prone to coups; maybe they’d be most likely to mutiny. If the Western armies are infested with the same division and weakness of the rest of the population, coup-leaders might have to first purge their own ranks to avoid a civil war. Another possibility is that federal-level command structures will be bypassed altogether in pursuit of nuclear launch codes and missile silos, which would be more than sufficient (and less bloody) to destroy the political power of presently-existing nation-states.

But that’s all speculative fiction? How are coups carried out on the ground? Honestly, I haven’t really learned much of that from Military Coup. Any sort of news media has to be neutralized by winning its sympathies (unlikely in the West) or commandeering it, which is more and more difficult in the age of media decentralization. In any case, the center of public perception is still at large media corporations; their studios must be captured as early as possible. The command structure of the state must be disrupted as much as possible, which might require mass power shortages, shooting down satellites, spreading disinformation through intelligence agencies or units still embedded in the state’s military, or a precision air campaign, or some other means. Finally the centers for institutional political power must be occupied, after which the precarious auction for public acceptance will determine how the rest of the military reacts.

In the end, I don’t really feel I understand the precise mechanics of a coup and the actual political realities to make one succeed. How to Stage a Military Coup was entertaining, and it was apparently written by men with military experience, but it seemed like dilettantism. I  need a more thorough grounding in military theory before I attempt this subject again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being a better armchair general

Though my gaming habits of late have been uneven (maybe I’m growing up? Nah…), I still favor strategy games above all others. Recently, I was in the process of reading William Lind’s On War and playing Wargame: Airland Battle when I was suddenly struck by the utter complexity and richness of military theory. In retrospect, it’s peculiar that my general mediocrity at strategy games, virtual and board-based, didn’t inspire me to take the subject of strategy as a proper object of study in itself. Now, I can think of nothing more exciting. As part of a project of taking life in general more seriously, then, I wish to become an excellent armchair general. It’s just what the world needs more of. I do what I do for the people.

Seriously though, after Military Coup is finished and reviewed, I want to go directly to square one of military history and theory, perhaps supplementing with texts on pure strategy and game-theory, and work my way into a fuller understanding of war, politics and history that will help orient me in the present day. I hate that drifting sensation when one is ignorant about one’s exact position within one’s world. Which way is North? Where did I come from? Why does this nation do that?

In the meantime, I will sketch out a reading list of foundational texts in military thought. Tomorrow I’ll also concentrate on finishing Military Coup and delivering a review large enough to compensate for the lack of words today. Till then, cheers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


It occurred to me that a coup d’etat could be considered a civil war that’s over with the opening ambush. Lately I’ve been working my way through How to Stage a Military Coup: From Planning to Execution, and, while entertaining, I’m accord with the mixed reviews on Amazon. It seems unfocused at whatever it does, whether it’s relating attempted coups in detail or offering more general tips at how to carry out a coup, so I’m considering sinking some money into Edward Luttwak’s seminal study Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook. At any rate, I know a little more now than prior to starting the book.

A coup d’etat is an attempted takeover of a state’s command structure, and its success relies on absolute surprise and speed. To accomplish the former, one must begin one’s plotting with a sort of Occam’s razor in mind: never multiply conspirators beyond necessity. Coups are the equivalent of stabbing the ruling regime in the back and stuffing it hurriedly under its desk while the phone rings. One will be massacred if the state’s command-structure has enough time to muster even a fraction of its full strength. So, increasing the number of conspirators increases the fatal dividend of stupidity, carelessness and betrayal, but one must still attain the maximum amount of soldiers one can. Another factor in recruitment is the trade-off between seniority and reliability; higher-ranking officers command more men but less loyalty, as they are more distant from the fighting-men. The authors suggest that this can be mitigated by seeking out units with flexible capabilities, with a mixture of infantry, tanks, APCs, anti-air, artillery and troop-carrying helicopters. And of course every care should be taken to evade surveillance. I really don’t know much of what this would entail.

One thing the authors stress is the need for coup-members to have an affiliative attitude toward civilians, since all coups will occur in probably the most populous area in the nation. It should go without saying that the violent death of any civilians will probably doom even a militarily-successful coup in the long run, since public opinion about the new regime’s legitimacy will determine whether there is a counter-coup by the rest of the military. That is, all civilian deaths, even those by the hand of the defending regime, will be blamed on the undertakers of the coup.

Since the coup is a one-off affair, there cannot be any skimping on planning, preparation or practice. It should all be done with maximum deniability. Hoard and under-report as much inventory as possible. Drill and practice endlessly in the target area or similar if possible. Assume that once the coup begins, you will be cut off from all ordinary supply lines and modes of communication.

The authors also advise strongly to operate from a Third-Generation style of waging war, though they never use that exact term. Their background in the SAS apparently taught them to improvise on the situation at hand, and to act in whatever way was necessary to reach an objective regardless of military orthodoxy. In other words, a coup attempt ought to be conducted much like Blitzkrieg. Find the enemies strongest points and circumvent them; find his weak points and concentrate all of your forces there. Stop for nothing to encircle the enemy with the greatest possible speed. This is all the more important because the coup’s forces will be hopelessly outnumbered in the long-run, so, in the words of a Frenchman, “audacity, more audacity, always audacity.”

Part 2 will discuss the general theory of how a coup ought to attack.

Posted in History | Leave a comment