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We are about to enter a new phase whereas manpower and capital (above a certain minimum) will no longer be the deciding factors, but rather, who has access to a reasonably good AI tech and a concealed factory for producing bio-weapons, and willingness to use them, of course.

I'm actually surprised this hasn't happened yet...

The blueprint is Dune author Frank Herberts lessor known work, The White Plague (1982).

Of course, it's fiction, but the technology required is, if not already developed, about to be. Perhaps not in the same way as the book (whereas men are carries of a plague that only kills women and threatens to end humanity) but nevertheless, the idea isn't that far-fetched, one could dig up bodies n the permafrost and culture the Spanish Flu and release it...obviously anthrax can't be that hard to make as we saw in post-911 attack, etc.

The Demon in the Freezer author Richard Preston talked about (this is decades ago) how his friends, as a hobby, were creating new viruses all the time. What a man in a lab could do previously in a year an AI can already do now in minutes. It will not be long before someone creates something as least as bad as small pox or anthrax or the Spanish Flu, this is axiomatic as they could just stick to making what nature has already provided.

What AI and drone technology allow is a small force to multiply itself by a factor of 10 or 100 thousand, perhaps more. How many men can US brigade kill in day (sans nuclear)? Even if it's 10s of thousands, a small group of people with the right bio-weapon and a few thousand (or even a few hundred) drones could wipe out most of New York or Los Angeles in a few hours work (granted it might take a few weeks before everyone is dead, but the result is the same).

I'm curious, David, why do you think Ukraine hasn't unleashed a bio-weapon in Moscow?

They don't have access to one?

The world would turn against them if they did?

Morality and ethics?

In The White Plague the protagonist unleashes the weapon in England, Ireland, and Libya and demands the world governments instruct those countries to send all citizens of those nations back home and then let the plague run its course. Of course, it's fiction, so things go sideways, but the idea in principle seems sound.

I mean, logical. If you want Russia to end the war, seems like killling off a million citizens out to do the trick as long as you can back up your next threat, i.e. if you don't pull out your troops, next attack will kill 10 million....

I never understood the idea of "War Crimes" in that, if your defending your home, seems like all bets are off.

It's like the little birdie analogy you've used in your libertarian talks, i.e. the little birdie is willing to fight to the death to defend it's territory with a no-holds-barred strategy. "We're both gonna die if you attack, so think twice, bigger bird."

Ultimately I think this is the only way a libertarian or anarchist or any type of new country based not on geography but ideals is going to be able to form and survive, it must have a weapon so dangerous and so unstoppable, the big countries must respect it.

Heinlien taught me this in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The gravity well of earth meant that the moon citizens could simply hurl boulders and they'd turn into WMD.

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I'm not sure there's such a divide between the British and American model. By continental European standards the British army has always been risibly small, and required vast expansion for the world wars; and local militias used to be a significant part of the armed forces (and in a sense, with the Territorial Army, still are).

Undeniable that efficiency was always secondary to a desire for the British army to have interests identical to those of the ruling class, though. I recently found out that even as late as the early twentieth century an officer's salary wasn't sufficient to allow you to marry and have children, unless you had another source of income.

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You wrote, "Russia started the war with an enormous stockpile of equipment and ammunition inherited from the USSR, but if the war continues long enough to exhaust that stockpile and for Ukraine’s supporters to shift their economies towards military production it is hard to see how Russia can win."

Well, it looks like Russia has won. Why? Maybe they're more motivated because the wolf is at their door. The United States and Europe face no real threat from Russia.

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What was the GDP of Vietnam and Afghanistan (both of which the US had to leave in a hurry to the forces it was fighting for a decade or so), compared to the US?

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Aug 17, 2023·edited Aug 17, 2023

Unfortunately, I cannot share your optimism with regard to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Partly because I don't think that "nation" is a good abstraction here and neither is "victory". If victory is understood as achieving the stated objectives, then neither side is likely to achieve it any time soon. The stated objectives of the Russian government are entirely nonsensical, so the war was lost the moment Putin made his speech outlining the objectives of the "Special Military Operation". However, the stated objectives of Ukraine's government, while in theory achievable, are also immensely ambitious: regaining control of all territory controlled prior to 2013 (including Crimea, that is), exacting reparations from Russia commeasurable with the damage caused and a trial and conviction of Russia's leadership and military for the war crimes that they committed.

In the past year and a half, the war has been hugely "labor intensive": both sides are losing people on a scale not seen since WW2. The bottlenecks for both sides are people and artillery shells (not a particularly high-tech product). While it is true that Ukraine's backers are -- especially in the long run -- able to produce more shells than Russia (although delivering them safely to the fighting forces is no trivial matter either), the latter won't be running out of them for quite some time. Regarding people, both sides are in a tight spot, because they are experiencing the third demographic echo of WW2 (the current generation of military-age men is missing the great-grandchildren of those who perished in WW2, a staggering number of people). The two sides are addressing the problem in different ways: Ukraine's government closed its borders to all men between 18 and 65 years of age wishing to leave Ukraine and engaged in aggressive conscription. Since the defense of the Ukrainian homeland is reasonably popular and the government's approval ratings are reasonably high, they can get away with it, at least for a while, though it is clearly burning through their political capital. Russia's government is far more cautious in this regard, because it relies much more on its abilty to violently suppress any opposition and much less on popular support; they are (quite justifiably) afraid of the 1917 scenario, so they do let people out and they recruit their cannon fodder in the poorest parts of the country and in the penitentiary system. The casualties on both sides are huge and while Ukraine probably does have some advantage due to better weaponry, better motivated fighters and better intelligence, it is not dramatic. Almost certainly not better than 2:1 and likely not better than 1.6:1. They keep their losses a secret and probably for good reasons. Now, whether Ukraine's backers are willing to fight for the control over all of Ukraine "to the last Ukrainian" is an important and interesting question, but the longer it drags on with such high casualties, the less popular it will become both within and outside of Ukraine.

The populations of both countries have already lost in the sense that no outcome of the war can possibly make the vast majority of them better off than they were before it. Russia has been cut off from large and important parts of international trade and finance and these lost ties cannot be quickly rebuilt even in the case of a complete Ukrainian victory as defined above (which is the condition of lifting the sanctions) and since that is unlikely anytime soon, the sanctions will likely remain in place, hurting the prospects of economic growth, but not really threatening the regime (see North Korea, which is a far more extreme case; Russians won't suffer similar hardships). Ukraine's already crumbling civilian infrastructure has been further devastated by the war. The loss of labor due to death and injury in the war has also been substantial. The confiscated Russian assets will probably mostly go towards paying Ukraine's sovereign debt to its creditors and what remains will hardly compensate the devastating damage of the war. Forcing Russia to pay substantial reparations over a long period of time is an even trickier prospect. In case the current Russian regime survives the war, they just won't pay. How to overthrow it is not obvious, but in case of any serious challenge to it, considerably damaging its hold on power, there is a very real possibility of a disintegration of the Russian Federation. If that happens, forcing a sufficiently large number of former RF regions to pay tribute is a daunting task. There is a big temptation to outsource it to some centralized entity, but that is precisely how the strong and dangerous Russian state came into being from its humble origins as the principality of Moscow: the Golden Horde (under Ozbek Khan) chose them to collect tribute from all of territories of Rus and Ivan I (Kalita) happily took up the task, creating a culture of deception and hoarding of militarily useful resources that characterizes the Russian state to this day. A Russian state held together for the purpose of exacting a tribute from all of Russia's population for the benefit of Ukraine's reconstruction is a surefire recipe of (re-)creating a dangerous leviathan with all the necessary tools for threatening its neighbors, very much including Ukraine. In short, rebuilding Ukraine by taxing Russia might well be beyond the realm of feasibility. So Ukraine will probably stay the poorest country in Europe for several generations to come.

To conclude, I think that this war is going to drag on for many months and possibly years as a high-intensity conflict and then feeze to a stalemate that neither side can consider a victory with low-level hostilities continuing for decades. The damage done to both countries will be devastating (worse for Ukraine, but bad enough for Russia) and even the rest of the world will be perceivably worse off for it.

P.S. How does Adam Smith's model explain the defeat of the US military by the Taliban?

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<i> But the moment that an artificer, a smith, a carpenter, or a weaver, for example, quits his workhouse, the sole source of his revenue is completely dried up. </i>

At least the smith goes to war, along his peer artificers and customer-farmers, to defend his life time investment in the smithy, the foundry, the mill... and of course the yeoman farmer goes to defend his own specific home and fields as well as the general "country". The militia turns out collectively, to defend property, owned individually. Property. The "Pursuit of Happiness" as Jefferson's draft Declaration was amended from "property". "Land", in the Henry George sense of the term. Real Estate. Fixed assets.

Probably other earlier philosophers, maybe even Adam Smith in passages not quoted, have extended this argument, but I encountered it from Clayton Cramer. This contemporary historian made the argument, during the Michael Bellesiles fraud, that in the English and Colonial American era a three-legged stool of concepts were structured into the notions of "citizenship". One leg was privately owning weapons: longbows to muskets to rifles -- along with duty of community drill in the commons to establish competency, confidence, and cooperation. Another leg was voting: defined very generally. Voting on leaders, voting during jury trials, subscribing" or signing-on to community projects like drainage ditches or roads. And voting rights and militia membership were linked, on the third part of the structure: to owning Property.

Not everybody owned Land or a mill/press/foundry. A "journeyman" artificer might make a sufficient living with a few materials and only the "tools of his trade" in a ruck sack. Tinkers and peddlers and teachers and preachers; jewelers and scriveners and smiths or carpenter journeymen who eventually intend to, but have not yet, settled down, too young yet to root themselves in land and buildings and "real property".

Historically though, Europeans have been suspicious, sometimes violently so, of those who practice an itinerant, peripatetic, trade. There was too a vicious circle established. Identifiable groups were prohibited from owning Land or owning Weapons, consequently individuals in the target group tended to develop a community of itinerant craftsmen, and soon enough took nearly a monopoly on their trades. Jewish jewelers. Romany tinkers. Arab peddlers. Unfairly, the group and the traveling tradesmen were thought to be unreliable, prone to flee trouble rather than confront it. Run from battle rather than stand in opposition. And if that disfavored group can't be expected or trusted to take up arms in the common defense, why let them buy land or vote? Entirely circular, and very very common.

The old Romans, and the Colonial Army under Washington, partly broke out of the circle with a promise to the landless young, healthy, and hungry "journeymen" of their eras. Join the Army, for low pay and chance of painful death, and when we win and if you survive, you'll be awarded your own land, carry home your service weapon to defend it with, and vote about whether or not the nation (and your sons) will participate in the next war. The promise was, in ancient times and modern, imperfectly fulfilled. But even partially implemented it structured that hree-legged stool of land, weapon, and vote that government legitimacy depended on.

The claim has subsided into subtext in discussions, more recently, about voting rights for Women, and rights to lifelong medical treatment for veterans, and qualifications of "gentle" civilians to own weapons. (Weapons of self-defense? Weapons of War?) I think, though, it's useful to bring the 3-part notion into the forefront. Do equal rights for woman include the equal duty to subject themselves to a draft? Can an interstate truck driver, licensed to carry in her home state, carry the weapon registered to her in her home state, and use it in another different and more restrictive state in defense of herself, her rig (valued at more than some homes) and cargo (ditto)? If a female truck driver is not allowed one of Sam Colt's "equalizers" is the profession skewed, if not closed, against her? Is the claimed disparity between mens' and womens' pay at all correlated to state gun laws affecting their respective choices of (dangerous) jobs? Or even just willingness to take on (riskier) night shift, higher pay, schedules? Do the preferences given veterans for employment in state and federal civil service jobs (a property right to a paycheck nearly comparable to owning land, after all) discriminate against women and religious pacifists?

And back to the topic, what do we think of Russian use of mercenary forces, apparently just as unreliable in this century as the 14th? What of the draft, including drafting old veterans of what's conventionally retirement age? Where are the Russian female soldiers in this tale? (Or, Ukranian, for that matter?) Quite a bit of what I think of as "war" has not been happening in this conflict. I wonder if the whole thing is more of a show, a potlatch, destroying wealth to gain prestige, somehow. And what does classical economics tell of THAT ritual?

Anyhow, thanks David, for reminding me I need to read more Smith and perhaps a bit less Heinlein.

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According to Samuel Johnson, 'On the Bravery of the English Common Soldier', the English soldiers were braver because they tended to be from the civilian 'jack of all trades, master of none' and were used to making do.

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Re firearms aiding civilization - that's really interesting.

Russian military is made up of multiple militias.

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