The End of Surface Warfare?

November 27th, 2013   Submitted by Roman Skaskiw

GoldBitWho wouldn’t want a seat at Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, if only occasionally — say, on long weekends?

The grand chessboard is a paradigm which substitutes individual wills for collective ones and treats each of them as a chess piece for you to command.

The book which popularized the phrase focuses on Eurasia, but its title and tone portrays the world at large as a giant amusement park for aspiring collectivists and their myriad admirers, for people with all of Napoleon’s ambition and none of his ability or initiative. On some days, this describes me.

For players of the grand chess game, time is too precious to trifle with individual wills — such varied, conflicting, troublesome chattel. For the sake of humanity, we must assess and shape the world with broad brushes and other less subtle tools — intuition, educated guesses (among other sorts), etc.

The grand chess board seems the chosen game of idle and monstrous minds who seek to bolster their sense of manhood (Hillary Clinton, for example), and condescend toward their fellow humans in the most extreme way, as Henry Kissenger demonstrated by referring to military men as “dumb stupid animals to be used” as pawns in foreign policy.

So, it is with a degree of shame that in writing this essay, I join their armchair speculation.

Brzezinski hoped for the peaceful rise of China, which, he correctly argued, was inevitable. I, instead, hope for the peaceful decline of the petrodollar, which is also inevitable.

Empires have ended both peacefully and catastrophically. Excepting the British who exhibited characteristic common sense in adopting a policy of disengagement, it seems empires end peacefully only when they find absolutely no opportunity whatsoever to achieve catastrophe.

The Soviet Union clung desperately to Afghanistan hoping first for victory then for a dignified exit. They imploded rather anti-climatically two years after withdrawal. Perhaps they were too stifled by incompetence to end with an exclamation point, as the Spanish did with their Armada.

The Romans, after tax collectors eviscerated civil society, had numerous military defeats in defiance of their empire, demonstrating how easily the idea of military supremacy can outlive the reality.

The Athenians exemplified it too. In a lull during their war with Peloponnese (Sparta), the Athenians, confident of their invincibility, aspired to conquer a second land mass, just as big, comparably populated, but with the added difficulty of being separated from them by a broad sea – the isle of Sicily. Their defeat at Syracuse was so complete, that when surviving Athenian soldiers and sailors trickled back to Athens with news, no one believed them.

American brashness and self-assuredness toward Iran, which is much like Iraq, only bigger, echoes this ancient history.

I fear the petrodollar empire will not fade peacefully. I fear the United States (notice my sweeping generalizations) possesses neither the common sense of the British nor the crippling incompetence of the last days of the Soviet Union. The United States retains a dangerous combination of stupidity and competence which threatens a Spanish Armada-like exit from empire status.

The stupidity may have increased just recently with the administration’s purges of officer corps, and the empire’s lingering competence may come from military recruiters outcompeting a hobbled private sector to hire professional soldiers with petrodollars.

Let’s pull our armchairs to the grand chess board and speculate what terrifying form this disaster may take. Let’s also hope that I’m wrong.

I’ll confess that I spent six years as an infantry officer, most of it as a paratrooper, but true to the stereotype of light infantrymen, my knowledge of military hardware is proportional to my ability to carry it. So the following speculation about aircraft carriers is that of a dilettante. The one relevant observation I can import from my military career confirms the proverb cited by Ludwig von Mises (in Bureaucracy), that generals always prepare to fight the previous war.

American infantrymen, for example, prepared for Vietnam until 1993 when they refocused on preparing jointly for Vietnam and Mogadishu. They have since been retooled to serve as a gigantic police force engaged in counter-insurgency. On a completely, hundred percent unrelated note, this latter skill set would be useful in stamping out domestic unrest.

The navy, having suffered the misfortune of complete military supremacy since WWII, continues to live in the tactical reality where aircraft carriers only recently displaced battleships as the kings of the oceans. Here is where I sound my warning: Are America’s aircraft carriers, which seem attracted to dangerous regions as moths are to candles, floating targets?

This same concern has been expressed elsewhere:

I doubt new technology will empower defenders to command the sea from the shore, but it might well empower them to deny command across broad expanses. . . . the maritime strategic landscape is starting to look grim for “skimmers” such as myself who ply the water’s surface. . . . Whether they [surface navies] can contribute in wartime, even if armed with [their own] carrier killers, is worth pondering.

Perhaps American fleets are intended as targets — lambs sacrificed for the sake of the next glorious war in the spirit of the USS Maine, Lusitania, Gulf of Tonkin or (arguably) the USS Liberty. But the demagogues aspiring toward the next war should be careful about the punch they invite. The world may be one missile strike away from another paradigm shift in military affairs — the end of surface warfare.

Consider which you would rather be: a soldier trying to hit ships with missiles or a sailor trying to hit missiles with bullets. For the former, a five percent success rate can mean victory. For the latter, a ninety five percent success rate can mean defeat.

During the Falklands War, two British ships were sunk and a third damaged by Exocet missiles.

Missile technology has surely improved since 1982, and so have countermeasures. Which would you bet on? More importantly, which would be easier to finance: missiles or aircraft carrier fleets?

There are implications here for the anarcho-libertarians speculating about private defense.

Let’s also speculate about the psychological aftermath. An effective strike against the US Navy could not be marketed as a cowardly sneak attack which defied the underfunded but otherwise hardworking and noble security guards at Boston Logan airport. Such an attack would be a direct, immediate affront to America’s image of itself, to all grandfathers with pins in their baseball caps, to all those children reciting the pledge of allegiance with their hands over their hearts, to Hollywood’s annual celebration of victory over Nazism.

The media apparatchiks would do as they’ve done before and embrace the war-making advice of Hermann Gööring: “the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

Except this time, there’d be much more truth in their poisonous rhetoric. Perfectly reasonable conservative values like loyalty, sacrifice, honor, courage, pride would be seamlessly perverted into drum beats for a gigantic war. The news would elevate the worst, most depraved savages as reasoned and neutral analysts.

Though most of the visible anti-war movement vanished with President Obama’s election, America does seem war-weary. The entrenched anti-war sentiment admirably resisted the latest Administration/media/AIPAC lurch toward war in Syria. But could the sentiment survive such a military catastrophe?

If, God forbid, such a disaster befalls our “invincible” military, brace yourselves, watch for demagogues, and put your faith, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, courage, pride in family and friends, in guns, gardens and gold (and Bitcoin!).

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17 Responses to “The End of Surface Warfare?”

  1. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    I enjoyed the article, though I’m not sure what to take from it.

    Beans, bullets, band aids, and bitcoins!

    • Meh. I’m just making noise. People like us are too busy being productive to waste much time at the grand chess board.

      Thanks for the indulgence. 🙂

      • JohnNo Gravatar says:

        Wow. It seems like your brain is working well *only* when you are not trying to use it. Perhaps you should smoke Jane more often – worked well for so many musicians. Seriously, nothing wrong with this article, it is full of sense and even looks like it contains an original thought. You were not afraid to mention petrodollars several times.

        What happened to you since then though?

        The media apparatchiks would do as they’ve done before and embrace the war-making advice of Hermann Gööring: “the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

        Truer words could not be spoken. Hello Ukraine?!
        I am surprised that you were able to avoid the draft thus far.

        • Thanks, Ivan. You’re pretty transparent: Every criticism of the United States is good, smart, thoughtful. Every criticism of Russia is unfair, lies, exaggeration, a double standard.

          You guys are bunch of savages with no regard for truth or for human life. That is why Russia will always be a poor, miserable place run by tyrants and full of people who want to be slaves. Is there any other country in the world is so unanimously hated by its neighbors?

          I am happy that Ukraine is finally escaping the black hole of Russian kleptocracy, propaganda, savagery. It comes at a high price. A very high price. I am touched, awed, grateful, & humbled by the sacrifice of so many Ukrainians.

          Libertarians can learn a lot from this revolution / Russian invasion.

          • JohnNo Gravatar says:

            For a moment I thought I could change your mind. Oh well, I am writing for the benefit of your readers.

            [[Roman, reminder, your other article still contains a challenge from me to rebut Corbett’s points about MH17. It is on the second page of the comments section. You must be getting an email notification whenever someone posts a comment so I am sure that you have seen it, but for some reason chose not to reply.]]

            Even if you did not intend to, you illustrated the futility of trying to use a missile shield to take down hundreds of Russian nukes (some launched from undetectable subs) flying at 10 mach and splitting into 10, particularly given that the missile shield depends on operating internet networks, absence of EMPs and the indefensible satellites staying intact. It is as if you are familiar with books by Nassim Taleb.

            At the risk of letting you not address my points directly, I am leaving a long reply.

            Emotions, lots of emotions. Understandable.
            Rebels claim that the actual Kiev losses are about 10x the figure that has been reported by the Ukrainian army.
            This war is as useless as the Russian war against Chechnya. Perfectly good Russkie boys got mutilated by thousands and Grozny took heavy casualties, lots of dead and mutilated civilians and a quarter of a million refugees.
            Same thing here – 18 yo paruboks dying by the hundreds while their commanders covertly sell weapons to the other side and Kiev overtly sells weapons to Russia. a fucked up thing to do if one were to assume that these oligarchs in charge are not photogenic sociopaths. Dontyathink?
   p-russian-military-despite-support-for-rebels/2014/08/15/9c32cde7 -a57c-4d7b-856a-e74b8307ef9d_story.html

            Dude, Ukraine is not escaping anything, it is sliding into an abyss. You are right that it is paying a very high price, in many ways, on both sides mind you. While you still have your hot water and air conditioner and a bed to sleep on, YOU might not feel it, but tens of thousands of civilians in the East have PTSD, got nothing to eat or drink and Kiev is looking for all kinds of excuses to stop humanitarian aid, as inspected and approved by Red Cross. Speaking of red cross, Russia has invited OSCE monitors to check if there are any military border crossings from Russia and they found nothing.

            Here is an example of a boring report from OSCE. ission-russian-checkpoints-gukovo-and-donetsk-20-august

            Kiev says that Russia wants to nuke them (lols). They say that thousands of Russian military armed to the teeth crossed the border in only a few days, but they either give no proof or show black and white satellite images that came from a computer game.

            I am surprised you are buying Kiev’s crap. The reality is that the untrained, corrupt, underfunded and unwilling Kiev army was beaten by a smaller, less armed but more committed force. Ukrainian army almost does not exist and a fresh round of conscription will not help. It is fucking sad, and I take no pleasure in saying that. The soldiers could have been useful in a real emergency.

            And for the last part – now you ticked me off. I tried sticking to the cold facts but what the flying fuck? Are you a fucking politician? What the fuck is up with this meaningless cookie cutter statement? It sounds like it came straight from a press release.

            “I am touched, awed, grateful, & humbled by the sacrifice of so many Ukrainians.”

            Are you not a Ukrainian, a male of ripe military age, with plenty of military experience? Don’t tell me you are a pacifist. By supporting this war you do want your countrymen to be sent into a battle. Eighteen year olds … some will die as virgins. They’d much rather play with a vagina for the first time than eat lead.

            Are you physically or mentally disabled? You are not and I do not want you to die like thousands of others but fuck stop pretending like you are not looking after your own ass by playing in the expected way.

            You get no credit for living in Ukraine.
            Fuck you, keyboard ranger!!!

            You better invest in a monoxide alarm as you burn wood in a rocket stove this winter inside of your apartment. You did install one, right?

          • JohnNo Gravatar says:

            If you are a fan of large tits, check this out. Vlad likes her quite a bit, says Russian women are too skinny.
            (10 Times The Government Lied When It Said “Trust Us”)

          • JohnNo Gravatar says:

            I am impressed with your ability to make a sound argument. This is why I replaced the word Russia with Ukraine and came up with an even better (dare I say, killer) argument. There, FTFY.

            “””You guys are bunch of savages with no regard for truth or for human life. That is why Ukraine will always be a poor, miserable place run by tyrants and full of people who want to be slaves. Is there any other country in the world is so unanimously hated by its neighbors?”””

            Q.E.D. !!!

            No, I do not mean that. I do not make blanket statements about any particular nationality. Hopefully the reader will see that you have pre-conceived notions about a place called Russia and will refuse to look at actual evidence, no matter how compelling. In the court of law you would be dismissed by the defense team on the basis of bias.

            I was wondering why you are so into “war is peace freedom is slavery ignorance is strength” logic and the answer is … 1984.

            Roman’s grandfather got tipped off that the Soviets were about to arrest him and he swept up his family, including Roman’s mother, then two years old, and escaped to Poland and then the United States.

            Let’s just say you tend to get emotional when talking about Russia. My understanding is that people of every ethnicity got fucked in the Soviet Union. Get over it.


            Let’s see how long your cognitive dissonance lasts.

          • JohnNo Gravatar says:

            Roman, your favorite alleged Kremlin troll is here (we will let the readers decide who is who).

            Looks like Putin found a way to slip some of his boys under OSCE noses. Still, it must not be a sizable force since Russia keeps saying – bring more OSCE observers. Use drones, whatever will set the facts straight.


            So, the reason why it is hard to take Kiev’s media, particularly

            “You” guys have cried wolf (or rather bear) way too many times. It is hard to take yet another cry seriously.

            Just today @EuromaidanPR is crying that Russia has its eyes on Paris next. Yeah, right, Russia plans to attack a nuclear member of NATO which individually has #6 firepower ranking in the world.
            Then there is “Tomorrow – London” tweet from 8 hours ago. Yup, Russia is planning to attack #5 firepower (which would drag the entire NATO into the conflict).

            Then some said that Putin wants to use a tactical nuke on Ukraine. Come on! Nukes are weapons of last resort; also useful for a provocation of WW3. Soviet Union lost 20M in WW2; they know what it is like to fight on their own territory. America does not really.

            I also saw a picture “proof” on the same twitter channel that a Russia fighter blew up a Ukrainian boat. Yeah, right, like that would go unnoticed by the NATO ships in the Black Sea.

            And yes, Ukrainian military is responsible for hundreds of dead Ukrainian soldiers because they gave their surrounded troops order to fight till death.

            I would pay more attention to Ukrainian media and activists but there is a lot of misinformation and refusals to debate (like the envious cousin – Ukraine Today did to Russia Today).

            If pro-Kiev activists had numerous solid facts to support their point of view, then more people would pay attention. Crying bear for half a year accomplishes the opposite.

          • JohnNo Gravatar says:

            Here is an objective reason why the dollar is dead: Ponzi: Treasury Issues $1T in New Debt in 8 Weeks—To Pay Old Debt


            Here is what Putin and China are doing about it: Grandmaster Putin’s Golden Trap


            Clearly it is a financial war, the one that US stands to lose, unless nukes starts flying, in which case both sides lose.

            Accuse me of being a Kremlin troll all you want, but as Ayn Rand said: You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality

            With all this, it only makes sense that Ukraine is just a pawn in the geopolitical game, a pawn ready to be sacrificed or traded for another piece.

  2. RocketmanNo Gravatar says:

    Good article and what I have long surmised. Carriers are too vulnerable to attacks from 21st century missiles. Consider that several “sunburn” Russian missile at a cost of a couple of million dollars each with conventional explosives might kill a modern carrier and it’s aircraft worth 10 billion or more, not to mention the lives of upwards of five thousand American sailors on board it.

  3. don duncanNo Gravatar says:

    I worry the end of the Empire will come with a bombing attack on the homeland like the Nazis suffered. And the U.S. will be just as innocent. But my wife won’t leave the police state. She won’t leave her sister/nephews. She can’t/won’t admit how bad it could get. And I won’t leave without her. So I wait and watch wondering if I/we will be trapped and die, or worse.

  4. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah … so I’m going to go ahead and list information relevant to the next false flag event here so that when it happens, we will have something to talk about. Yxg8t1dQ
    False Flag Alert! Obama Lifts Ban On Libyans Joining US Flight Schools, As 11 Planes Go Missing!

    When it does, hopefully you will realize what I know: The globalist central bankers elite is at least 10x more sociopathic than Putin (unless Putin is their puppet as well, in which case all hope for freedom is lost).

    Something very bad will happen in the one or all of the following: US, UK, Europe very soon. US’s timeline isOctober, when FED promised to raise the interest rates.

    Here is how secure our border is. Obama’s administration recently flooded the border with illegals to allow ISIS operatives to slip in as well. 6wV1twLg hlvp3Y1sMfDUcFIJ6X hlvp3Y1sMfDUcFIJ6X hlvp3Y1sMfDUcFIJ6X