John Michael Greer: Archdruid Report Essays

128 posts / 0 new
Last post
Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush

Reading this made me think about our own brave Sager. He's jumped in head first. Collapse and de-industrialize your lifestyle now, on your own terms. Avoid the rush.

Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush (June 6, 2012)
"...The theory of catabolic collapse, which outlines the way that human societies on the way down cannibalize their own infrastructure, maintaining themselves for the present by denying themselves a future.  I finished talking about catabolic collapse and started fielding questions, of which there were plenty, and somewhere in the conversation that followed one of the other participants made a comment. I don’t even remember the exact words, but it was something like, 'So what you’re saying is that what we need to do, individually, is to go through collapse right away.' "

And...

"Abundant fossil fuels currently provide an "energy subsidy" to alternative energy sources that make them look more efficient than they are - there would be far fewer wind turbines, for example, if they had to be manufactured, installed, and maintained using wind energy.  Furthermore, our entire energy infrastructure is geared to use fossil fuels and would have to be replaced, at a cost of countless trillions of dollars, in order to replace fossil fuels with something else."

And...

"The skills, resources, and lifeways needed to get by in a disintegrating industrial society are radically different from those that made for a successful and comfortable life in the prosperous world of the recent past, and a great many of the requirements of an age of decline come with prolonged learning curves and a high price for failure. Starting right away to practice the skills, assemble the resources, and follow the lifeways that will be the key to survival in a deindustrializing world offers the best hope of getting through the difficult years ahead with some degree of dignity and grace."

"The way to avoid the rush is simple enough:  figure out how you will be able to live after the next wave of crisis hits, and to the extent that you can, start living that way now. If you’re worried about the long-term prospects for your job - and you probably should be, no matter what you do for a living - now is the time to figure out how you will get by if the job goes away and you have to make do on much less money. For most people, that means getting out of debt, making sure the place you live costs you much less than you can afford, and picking up some practical skills that will allow you to meet some of your own needs and have opportunities for barter and informal employment.  It can mean quite a bit more, depending on your situation, needs, and existing skills.  It should certainly involve spending less money - and that money, once it isn’t needed to pay off any debts you have, can go to weatherizing your home and making other sensible preparations that will make life easier for you later on. "
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/collapse-now-and-avoid-rush.html

Poet

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
Age of Limits weekend

Poet wrote:

Spirituality in relation to the decline that will come in a post peak-oil future. I think this is worth thinking about.

The Rumbling of Distant Thunder (May 30, 2012)
"...What can be expected to happen on the downside of Hubbert’s curve, and how individuals, families and communities might be able to respond to that..."

"...Peak oil events function as a gathering of the tribe, but it would be more precise to call it a gathering of several tribes - the peak oil investment tribe, the environmental activism tribe, the alternative energy tribe, and so on.  It’s one of the oddities of the tribe to which I belong that it’s hard to give it a simple, straightforward name of that kind, just a clear sense of the trajectory our age is tracing out against the background of deep time, and it’s one of the less heavily represented tribes at most peak oil events. What set The Age of Limits apart is that it was specifically for this latter tribe..."

And...

"...People in that tribe - and, I suspect, across a broader spectrum of society as well - are hungry for meaningful discussions of one of the taboo topics of our age, the relation of spirituality to the shape of our future... Carolyn Baker and Dmitry Orlov, wanted to address the same topic... I talked about the lessons that traditional spiritualities offer for understanding our predicament, Dmitry discussed religion as a mode of social organization that can sustain itself for millennia, and Carolyn explored collapse as an initiatory experience..."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/05/rumbling-of-distant-thunder.html

Will there be a great revival or a new age of enlightenment? Or will we see religious conflicts come to the fore?

Poet

I attended the Age of Limits weekend also.  It gave me a chance to put faces to names  JMG, Dmitri Orlov, Carolyn Baker, Tom Whipple and Gail "the actuary" Tverberg were the main presenters.  I wasn't particularly interested in the spiritual side of things, so missed the presentations you mentioned.  The setting is a combination retreat, farm and commune.  The attendees covered a broad range of people from aging(ed?) hippies (the old swimming hole isn't nearly as pretty as it used to be), to young hard-bodies who were well armed, to intellectuals and activists of various stripes to journalists.  They came from the four corners of the US as well as Iceland, Sweden and who knows where else.  The Currens from Transition Voice were there as well.  The presentations weren't as interesting to me as the time spent between presentations and over dinner and breakfast with the same cast of characters over most of four days.  On Sunday night a string band came in and everybody danced, lubricated with wine made at the retreat.  It was great fun - intellectually stimulating in a very informal atmosphere.  The place was a buzz of conversations all weekend all over the compound, which, btw, incorporates many of the attributes we discuss here as the kind of community we aspire to. 

This was the first of a hopefully long series of annual events.  Definitely worth the trip.

Here's a link to the schedule to give you a flavor:

http://4qf.org/index.php/age-of-limits/225-the-schedule

Doug

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Doug, Lessons From The Age Of Limits?

Doug:

Thank you for that info! Would you care to share with the rest of us, some of the lessons you learned at the sessions you attended, or in conversation that struck you?

Poet

Doug wrote:

I attended the Age of Limits weekend also.  It gave me a chance to put faces to names  JMG, Dmitri Orlov, Carolyn Baker, Tom Whipple and Gail "the actuary" Tverberg were the main presenters.  I wasn't particularly interested in the spiritual side of things, so missed the presentations you mentioned.  The setting is a combination retreat, farm and commune.  The attendees covered a broad range of people from aging(ed?) hippies (the old swimming hole isn't nearly as pretty as it used to be), to young hard-bodies who were well armed, to intellectuals and activists of various stripes to journalists.  They came from the four corners of the US as well as Iceland, Sweden and who knows where else.  The Currens from Transition Voice were there as well.  The presentations weren't as interesting to me as the time spent between presentations and over dinner and breakfast with the same cast of characters over most of four days.  On Sunday night a string band came in and everybody danced, lubricated with wine made at the retreat.  It was great fun - intellectually stimulating in a very informal atmosphere.  The place was a buzz of conversations all weekend all over the compound, which, btw, incorporates many of the attributes we discuss here as the kind of community we aspire to. 

This was the first of a hopefully long series of annual events.  Definitely worth the trip.

Here's a link to the schedule to give you a flavor:

http://4qf.org/index.php/age-of-limits/225-the-schedule

Doug

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 1591
Great post, Poet! Reading

Great post, Poet!

Reading this made me think about our own brave Sager. He's jumped in head first. Collapse and de-industrialize your lifestyle now, on your own terms. Avoid the rush.

Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush (June 6, 2012)
"...The theory of catabolic collapse, which outlines the way that human societies on the way down cannibalize their own infrastructure, maintaining themselves for the present by denying themselves a future.  I finished talking about catabolic collapse and started fielding questions, of which there were plenty, and somewhere in the conversation that followed one of the other participants made a comment. I don’t even remember the exact words, but it was something like, 'So what you’re saying is that what we need to do, individually, is to go through collapse right away.' "

This really rings true for me.  I just wish that 'personal collapse" -achieving personal/local sustainability and resiliency- was the "only" thing we had to worry about.  

It's the period of transition between now and "after' that I have a hard time coming to terms with.  It makes me concerned that my preparations for the time "after" are self-delusional, like "after the tsunami engulfs our town, I will be very well prepared to live life more simply, with what is left."  -I feel like there is a huge assumption of "making it past that event" that is often made, without adequate consideration of incorporating 'making it through/past that event" into the planning. Not that it is an easy problem to address, it is so full of unknowns, including wondering about the wisdom of preparing for an unlikely  (???) extreme outcome at the expense of less extreme, more probable (???) outcomes... 

It is alot to get one's head around.  Even with the preparing I am doing, I still often feel like a deer looking into the headlights.  I see the car approaching, and grasp the inherent danger of what is coming, but I don't know how to move to avoid it...

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
Poet, thanks for asking

I'll share some observations with you, we'll see if they turn into lessons.

JMG, as you would guess from his blog, is very well read and is nearly impossibly quick of wit and voluble.  I wouldn't attempt to debate him.  He was the most entertaining of the speakers as he sprinkled in anecdotes and was very energetic and responsive to the audience.  He sat at the same level as the audience and treated it like a big conversation.  This paragraph from his Rumbling of Distant Thunder post I thought summed up the weekend pretty well:

   One of the repeated pleasures of peak oil events is precisely that those of us who take that recognition seriously have the chance to share a meal or a couple of mugs of beer and talk openly about all the things you can’t discuss usefully with those who are still in the squirming stage. I mentioned in a post last fall the way that peak oil events function as a gathering of the tribe, but it would be more precise to call it a gathering of several tribes—the peak oil investment tribe, the environmental activism tribe, the alternative energy tribe, and so on.  It’s one of the oddities of the tribe to which I belong that it’s hard to give it a simple, straightforward name of that kind, just a clear sense of the trajectory our age is tracing out against the background of deep time, and it’s one of the less heavily represented tribes at most peak oil events. What set The Age of Limits apart is that it was specifically for this latter tribe, and the enthusiastic turnout in response to very muted publicity—little more than a few posts on blogs—shows me that the audience for such discussions is a good deal larger than I had any reason to think.

The energy and enthusiasm this weekend reminded me of the first Rowe conference I attended in March 2009.  I'm sure you recall that month.  666 stands out to me as the appropriate symbol for the month and that conference.  It was sold out and groups of people were up at all hours of the night discussing the collapsing economy and what it all meant.  I haven't seen anything else that evoked that kind of enthusiasm and energy until the Age of Limits weekend.

Orlov has a very deadpan style.  Unlike the other presenters, most of whom used some type of power point presentation (except JMG), he just stood at the mike and used 3X5 cards.  He was the most doomy and gloomy of the bunch.  I thought it was wildly inconsistent with his message that he lives on a sailboat, so asked him if he thought that it is sustainable and/or defensible.  He didn't try to make a case for it, he just likes living on a sailboat.  I don't know if he has a bug out place to retreat to or any type of preparations in place.  Over dinner one evening I asked him what he thought of the derivatives bubble.  He said that he thinks if they are ever activated by a bank or sovereign collapse, they will just lock up the whole system.  I haven't figured out yet how to think about that, but it would certainly be a collapse of sorts.  Money would just stop flowing.  I can only imagine that chaos would follow.  That's probably a good reason why tptb might never declare a 'credit event' that would trigger them.

I had a fairly long conversation with Tom Whipple, who I wasn't aware of before the weekend, while standing in line waiting for food.  He's a big peak oil guy who is former CIA (30 years ago).  Very knowledgeable about energy.  I found it interesting that he is a big believer in cold fusion.  I threw my usual objection at him, no peer review and no patents, and he responded with the conspiracy theory defense that we hear from Arthur on this site.  I'm from pretty close to Missouri, so I want to see peer review or demonstrations of it actually producing power that is being used in a practical application.  He did say that we are probably many years away from any kind of household or automobile use.  So, under the best case scenario, there are still problems of scalability that will take a long time to overcome.  At least, that's my take away.

I'll write more if there's interest, but need to wash dishes and get some sleep now.

Thanks Poet, you got me thinking about what I did get out of the weekend.

Doug

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
"Collapse now, avoid the rush"

I attended that talk.  For me, it was one of the two best of the weekend.  The theme really struck home for me and made me realize how lucky I have been in this whole prepping endeavor.  We bought our place 20 years ago.  I was shocked when a real estate agent told us how much we could afford to pay for a house.  Her numbers were so far over of my own calculations as to seem absurd.  Fortunately, we stuck to our numbers and by pure luck bought a place that is about as well positioned to take on collapse as any of the places we looked at.  In a sense, we have been going through collapse ever since.

Catabolic collapse is a concept that I grasped as soon as JMG described it.  I view it as essentially the result of eating your seed corn.  In our case, that is fossil fuel.  If we were smart, a more efficient use of the remaining cheap fossil fuels would be in the service of preparing for life without so much of it.  Gail Tverberg's talk gave this notion a little more urgency in her handling of Hubbert's Curve.  She is a numbers person and had lots of charts and graphs in her presentation.  For a number of reasons she shifted Hubbert's Curve to the right so that the run up to peak appears a bit more leisurely, and the descent down the other side much more precipitous.  If her take is correct, JMG's catabolic collapse will happen much more rapidly than even we preppers are ready for.  

That brings to mind my take away from all the presentations I heard.  There was not much new for those who have been obsessing on these topics for a few years.  The oft repeated axiom that collapse will happen slowly then all at once was driven home.  I think that our energy future was summed up pretty well in JMG's article:

Quote:
Third, these problems leave only one viable alternative, which is to decrease our energy use, per capita and absolutely, to get our energy needs down to levels that could be maintained over the long term on renewable sources.  The first steps in this process were begun in the 1970s, with good results, and might have made it possible to descend from the extravagant heights of industrialism in a gradual way,  keeping a great many of the benefits of the industrial age intact as a gift for the future. Politics closed off that option in the decade that followed, however, and the world’s industrial nations went hurtling down a different path, burning through the earth’s remaining fossil fuel reserves at an accelerating pace and trusting that economic abstractions such as the free market would suspend the laws of physics and geology for their benefit. At this point, more than three decades after that misguided choice, industrial civilization is so far into overshoot that a controlled descent is no longer an option; the only path remaining is the familiar historical process of decline and fall.

Despite this rather dramatic vision of where we are in the progress of collapse, he goes on to cite previous collapses that played out over 100-300 years and found no reason to believe ours will be much different.  I disagree with that view pretty strongly, but perhaps we just have different views of how far down down is.  That said, I agree strongly with this statement:

Quote:
In all likelihood you’ll be experiencing the next round of crises where you are right now, so the logical place to have your own personal collapse now, ahead of the rush, is right there, in the place where you live, with the people you know and the resources you have to hand.

One other observation from the Age of Limits weekend.  The fellow who founded the retreat where the event took place, Orren Whiddon, gave a talk about what he and his true believers have done with the site in the 18 years since he originally bought it.  He takes the notion of building a sustainable community seriously and has worked pretty hard at building it there.  If he ever had illusions of what building such a community requires, he long ago lost them.  He spoke of the many hard choices they have had to make along the way and stressed how far they still are from being "off the grid," metaphorically speaking.  I am suspicious of the commune nature of his community.  As anyone who has studied past communes knows, they are absolutely dependent on a charismatic leader.  Orren apparently fills that need, although to all appearances, he's just a down home boy growing old with a smoker's cough and a beer belly.  It is still not self supporting, needing the income from those who come to the retreat for various spiritual and recreational reasons.  But, nonetheless, he has taken on some big challenges.  On a mundane level, they put is a giant septic system designed to be viable for a very long time.  They actually do farming on the land, although it isn't clear to me how much they are supported by it.  The business model is pretty traditional, but everything is done with community involvement.  Among the things they haven't dealt with is what to do with people when they get old and sick.  On a model that is reminiscent of the Amish, when members get sick, they hold fund raisers and collect donations to pay for their care.  Whiddon has had cataract surgeries and some other serious health care needs paid for by these methods.  It is notable that this way of managing healthcare is dependent on a relatively prosperous outside community and will probably cease to function in economic collapse scenarios.  That's an important lesson.  We can't continue to think of healthcare in the high tech insurance covered model we have grown up with.  Healthcare services may well devolve into something much more basic and far less heroic in preserving life.

Enough for now, the garden is beckoning.

Doug

Tycer's picture
Tycer
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 26 2009
Posts: 559
Thanks Doug

Thanks Doug!!

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Thanks For The Insights, Doug!

Doug

Again, thank you so much for sharing.

I am glad to hear that John Michael Greer is just as quick-witted and voluble in person as he appears in writing. Definitely a great mind there (I bet he's got himself a "memory palace"). And it is nice to know that since he is only about 50 years old, he may very well be around for a lot longer to guide us.

I believe Gail Tverberg's (I think she's trained as an actuary) shifting of the Hubbert chart is taking into consideration the "Seneca effect", where decline is faster than growth. The assumption is that: Sure, regional oil extraction follows a relatively smooth growth and decline because operators can move on to other regions, but what happens when it's the world and there are no more regions or areas to viably extract from? In that case, it may make sense to look at a civilization's decline a la Easter Island, or the growth and decay of bacteria in a Petri dish.

Sober lessons indeed.

Poet

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
no problem

Poet wrote:

Doug

Again, thank you so much for sharing.

I am glad to hear that John Michael Greer is just as quick-witted and voluble in person as he appears in writing. Definitely a great mind there (I bet he's got himself a "memory palace"). And it is nice to know that since he is only about 50 years old, he may very well be around for a lot longer to guide us.

I believe Gail Tverberg's (I think she's trained as an actuary) shifting of the Hubbert chart is taking into consideration the "Seneca effect", where decline is faster than growth. The assumption is that: Sure, regional oil extraction follows a relatively smooth growth and decline because operators can move on to other regions, but what happens when it's the world and there are no more regions or areas to viably extract from? In that case, it may make sense to look at a civilization's decline a la Easter Island, or the growth and decay of bacteria in a Petri dish.

Sober lessons indeed.

Poet

I would encourage anyone here to attend next year's event.  Perhaps Chris could be a contributor.

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
Erik Curren

Here's something of a review of the Age of Limits weekend by Erik Curren of Transition Voice.  He has more interest in the spiritual side of the presentations than I do, so presents some interesting commentary.  There is also a response by Orren Whiddon, the prime mover of the community.

href=/comment/3591#comment-3591

Also, here's an interview Erik did with Greer in re: the Transition movement.

http://transitionvoice.com/2011/11/transition-plans-meetings-a-waste-of-time-says-greer/

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Parting Of The Ways

More like an aside, or a footnote. But interesting to note...

The Parting Of The Ways (June 13, 2012)
"...A series of news items over the last week or so have me worried. No, it’s not the latest news about methane plumes in the Arctic Ocean; it’s not the current round of economic idiocy from Europe, where the bizarre conviction that banks ought to be sheltered from the consequences of even their most clueless investment decisions has become the centerpiece of an economic nonpolicy that will likely tip the entire EU into mass bankruptcy; it’s not the death struggle between two failed ideologies that’s frozen Washington DC into utter political paralysis at a time when avoiding hard questions any longer may well put the survival of the nation at risk. No, quite the contrary: it's the rising chorus of voices, from all across the political and cultural spectrum, insisting that everything really is all right and that any suggestion to the contrary ought to be shouted down as quickly as possible."

And...

"...It’s not the shrill tone of the latest round that has me watching with more than the usual concern. It’s the increasing sense that not even the people who are promoting such claims actually believe them any more. The North Carolina legislators who are trying to pretend that sea level rise won’t happen, like their equivalents in Texas and Virginia, remind me of nothing so much as six-year-olds who stuff their fingers in their ears, scrunch their eyes shut, and chant "I can’t hear you, la la la" at the top of their lungs. The New Age equivalent is a little more subtle, but after half a century of failed predictions of saucer landings and leaps of consciousness - and let’s not even talk about what happened to the millions of Americans who tried to use The Secret to make boatloads of money for nothing by investing in the late real estate bubble - there can’t be many people left in the scene who don’t know, on some level, that they’re kidding themselves."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/parting-of-ways.html

So, the true believers out there are starting to have doubts...

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Twilight Of Investment

Slowly circling back to the story of the decline and fall of the American empire...

The Twilight Of Investment (June 20, 2012)
"It used to be called the Washington Consensus, though nobody’s using that term now for the "austerity measures" currently being imposed on the southern half of Europe. Basically, it amounts to the theory that the best therapy for a nation over its head in debt consists of massive cuts to government spending and the enthusiastic privatization, at fire-sale prices, of government assets. In theory, again, debtor countries that embrace this set of prescriptions are supposed to return promptly to prosperity. In practice—and it’s been tried on well over two dozen countries over the last three decades or so, so there’s an ample body of experience—debtor countries that embrace this set of prescriptions are stripped to the bare walls by their creditors and remain in an economic coma until populist politicians seize power, tell the IMF where it can put its economic ideology, and default on their unpayable debts. That’s what Iceland did, as Russia, Argentina, and any number of other countries did earlier, and it’s the only way for an overindebted country to return to prosperity.

"That reality, though, is not exactly welcome news to those nations profiting off the modern form of wealth pump, in which unpayable loans usually play a large role.  Whenever you see the Washington Consensus being imposed on a country, look for the nations that are advocating it most loudly and it’s a safe bet that they’ll be the countries most actively engaged in stripping assets from the debtor nation.  In today’s European context, that would be Germany. It’s one of the mordant ironies of contemporary history that Europe fought two of the world’s most savage wars in the firt half of the twentieth century to deny Germany a European empire, then spent the second half of the same century allowing Germany to attain peacefully nearly every one of its war aims short of overseas colonies and a victory parade down the Champs Élysées."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/twilight-of-investment.html

Greer predicts that Germany's tough requirements will likely keep the wealth pump squeezing a little longer, but ultimately, populists might rise to power in southern Europe and default on unpayable debts.

And because nothing was done about the banks' worthless assets since the housing bubble other than allowing them to hide what they hold and what it's currently worth, the problem is not yet resolved.

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Cussedness of Whole Systems

Here, John Michael Greer is saying that Hubbert's peak as applied to the entire Earth is going to be difficult to predict, due to...

The Cussedness of Whole Systems (June 27, 2012)
"Anyone who’s been following the peak oil blogosphere for more than a few years has gotten used to the annual predictions—they tend to pop up like mushrooms every December—that the year about to begin would finally see rates of petroleum production begin dropping like the proverbial rock. Tolerably often, in fact, the same predictions get recycled from one year to the next, with no more attention to the lessons of past failure than you’ll find in one of Harold Camping’s Rapture prophecies.  Even among those who don’t go that far out on a limb, the notion that global production of petroleum ought to start dropping steeply sometime soon is all but hardwired into the peak oil scene."

And...

"No doubt cornucopians in 2050 will be insisting that everything is actually just fine, the drastic impoverishment of most of the American people is just the sort of healthy readjustment a capitalist economy needs from time to time, and we’ll be going back to the Moon any day now, just as soon as we finish reopening the Erie Canal to mule-drawn barge traffic so that grain can get from the Midwest to the slowly drowning cities of the east coast. With any luck, though, the peak oil blogosphere - it’ll have morphed into printed newsletters by then, granted - will have long since noticed that whole system processes do in fact shape the way that the twilight of the petroleum age is unfolding.  How that is likely to affect the twilight of American empire will be central to the posts of the next several months."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/cussedness-of-whole-systems.html

Can't wait!

(Side Note: I finally got around to starting Greer's The Ecotechnic Future. Wow, looking to be a good successor to The Long Descent! So our current industrial civilization, based on rapid resource exploitation, will gradually be replaced by scarcity industrialism for several decades, then n to salvage societies for perhaps a couple of centuries, and then possibly an ecotechnic future. He's lays out a good case for it, as well as provides a good deal of insight. Well worth reading!)

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Wrong Kind of Magic

Our technology is so taken for granted, it might as well be magic. But it is the wrong kind of magic and it will end. Here's John Michael Greer.

The Wrong Kind of Magic (July 4, 2012)
"That futile pursuit of fake magic is a central theme of Kunstler’s book. It’s on display most memorably, perhaps, in his encounters with Google employees who insist that the Long Emergency can’t happen because, like, we’ve got technology, or with the TED conference attendees who flocked to hear the latest rehash of that weary 1950s fantasy, the flying automobile. (I’m asked now and then whether I’ve been invited to give a talk at one of the TED conferences. I haven’t, and I don’t expect ever to get such an invitation; any audience that can be entranced by jabber about flying cars will pretty much by definition not be interested in anything I have to say.) From vertical farming aficionados whose skyscraper-centric vision ignores the rising spiral of factors that are turning skyscrapers into an obsolete architectural form, to green energy wonks who can’t imagine why a society in freefall might not be able to scrape together the resources required for their favorite gargantuan construction program, right up to Ray Kurzweil, the computer geek’s Harold Camping with high-tech Rapture prophecy to match,  Kunstler spends much of the book exploring the ways in which wishful thinking founded on a debased, fairy-tale image of magic has come to replace reasoned thought in contemporary American culture, to our immense peril.

"Last Friday’s storm, again, was a useful lesson in the nature of that peril. Behind the magic boxes that keep the heat of summer away stands a huge and hypercomplex system of power plants, transmission lines, transformers, and the whole suite of services and social structures that go into keeping the system running. None of it can be dispensed with, and none of it comes cheap, but it’s only when something pops up on the far end of the probability curve and knocks the system silly that most people are forced to notice that the whole thing doesn’t work by fairy tale magic—and even then a great many of them spend their time complaining because the relevant authorities can’t make the magic pop back into being overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk from those magic beans. The slow shredding of the infrastructure that makes the magic possible rarely enters into the collective conversation of our time, and the logical consequence of that process—the statistically inevitable point at which, for each of us in turn, the magic goes away once and for all—goes not merely unmentioned but unimagined.
 
"Still, that’s where we’re headed. We haven’t yet reached the point at which people in outlying areas whose homes lose electrical power in a storm are quietly informed that they will have to pay the full cost themselves if they want power back, or told that they’ve been put on a list and it may take weeks or months or years before their turn comes up. Still, given the increasingly long delays in restoring power after increasingly frequent weather-related disasters—well, the Bob Dylan line is inescapable: you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/07/wrong-kind-of-magic.html

Visit a Third World country where electricity is intermittent... I've lived that life. You cook hot water on a gas stove (gas delivered by trucks in cylinders) so you can mix it with cold water in a bucket to take a bath using a large ladle to pour water over yourself. You use candles at night because the power is often out without warning, several times per week.

Some of you oldtimers may recall lines at gas stations back in the '70s...

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Distant Sound of Tumbrils

The latest from John Michael Greer. I think this one is also worth a look...

The Distant Sound of Tumbrils (July 11, 2012)
"The result was a high-stakes game of chicken between the party of the aristocracy, and the party of the civil servants, bureaucrats and officials whose authority and wealth was guaranteed by the power of the king. (If you want to describe these two parties as 'Republicans' and 'Democrats,' I’m not going to argue.)  What neither side noticed was that their struggles imposed severe burdens on the rest of the population, the peasants, laborers, and small-scale businesspeople on whose passive acquiescence the entire structure of power and prestige ultimately rested. As the struggle went on, the aristocracy did their best to delegitimize the king and the central government, while the civil service and its supporters did their best to delegitimize the aristocracy; both sides succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and managed to strip the last traces of popular legitimacy from the French political system as a whole.

"So when the aristocrats finally got their way and the États-Général were summoned, all it took was a few speeches by radicals and a bit of violence on the part of the Paris mob, and the entire structure of the ancien régime disintegrated in a matter of weeks.  The aristocrats, who were chiefly to blame for the mess, were also the last to figure out what had happened. It’s tempting to imagine one of them, stepping aboard the tumbril that will take him to the guillotine, saying to another, 'So, Henri, how’s that political strategy working for you?' - but there’s no evidence that any of them managed that degree of insight even when the consequences of their failure were staring them in the face."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/07/distant-sound-of-tumbrils.html

What do you think, folks? Revolution or chaos? Or are ordinary folks still too insulated from true hunger still?

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
On the Far Side of Denial

John Michael Greer makes the argument that industrial society is now solidly in the state of denial.

On the Far Side of Denial (July 18, 2012)
"Over the last six months or so an extraordinary torrent of nonsense about limitless gas and oil supplies has been sloshing through the media, spouting out from an equally extraordinary assortment of people who ought to know better. We’ve seen pundits loudly claiming that the United States had become a net petroleum exporter, when what was going on was that modest amounts of gasoline and other refined petroleum products that Americans are too poor to afford nowadays are being sold to more prosperous countries abroad. We’ve seen fracking technology, which the oil industry has been using for decades, waved around as a brand new technological breakthrough..."

So...

"That is to say, industrial society is collectively entering the stage of denial."

Also...

"...a close equivalent happened in late 1932 and early 1933 in the United States.  A banking system that had been fatally wounded by the 1929 stock market crash and its aftermath had been propped up temporarily by federal money - they called it the Reconstruction Finance Corporation then; that’s spelled "TARP" this time around—but was still loaded to the breaking point with huge amounts of worthless debt and unprepared for ongoing economic contraction.  Then a new round of economic crisis triggered by events in Europe - no, I’m not making up any of this; look it up - pushed the US banking system over the edge; as banks folded one after another, the basic trust that makes a credit-based economy function evaporated; nobody could be sure if the bank that received their deposits or their loans would still be there the next day, bank runs followed, and the whole economy shuddered to a halt. Paychecks could not be cashed, businesses could not pay their suppliers or get paid for their products..."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-far-side-of-denial.html

For those who want to read a little more about the second, much bigger panic of the Great Depression, when sovereign defaults took place starting in Austria in 1931, here's a discussion (with chart) another (unrelated) author:
http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2010/05/in-great-depression-second-wave-down.html

The next stage is anger. Greer writes, "It’s once that stage arrives in force that the explosion will follow."

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Upside of Default

In which John Michael Greer makes some observations... and a prediction for the United States that isn't 20 or 100 years into the future.

The Upside of Default (July 25, 2012)
"That’s the ultimate secret of the financial crisis, the thing that nobody anywhere wants to talk about: if a country gets into a credit crisis, defaulting on its debts is the one option that consistently leads to recovery.

"That statement ought to be old hat by now. Russia defaulted on its debts in 1998, and that default marked the end of its post-Soviet economic crisis and the beginning of its current period of relative prosperity. Argentina defaulted on its debts in 2002, and the default put an end to its deep recession and set it on the road to recovery. Even more to the point, Iceland was the one European country that refused the EU demand that the debts of failed banks must be passed on to governments; instead, in 2008, the Icelandic government allowed the country’s three biggest banks to fold, paid off Icelandic depositors by way of the existing deposit insurance scheme, and left foreign investors twisting in the wind. Since that time, Iceland has been the only European country to see a sustained recovery."

And a prediction...

"That’s what will happen, too, another five or ten or fifteen years down the road, when the United States either defaults on its national debt or hyperinflates the debt out of existence.  It’s going to do one or the other, since its debts are already unpayable except by way of the printing press, and its gridlocked political system is unable either to rationalize its tax system or cut its expenditures.  The question is simply what crisis will finally break the confidence of foreign investors in the dollar as a safe haven currency, and start the panic selling of dollar-denominated assets that will tip the US into its next really spectacular financial crisis. That’s going to be a messy one, since the financial economy is so deeply woven into the fantasy life of the average American; there will be a lot of poverty and suffering..."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-upside-of-default.html

But there is a silver lining, right?

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Degeneration of Politics

An entertaining historical look at "the good/bad old days" politics and political power in the United States, and how things have changed for the worse since the 1950s...

The Degeneration of Politics (August 1, 2012)
"Each week, I’ve gone to the keyboard intending to proceed further with the outline of the impending fall of American empire that’s the putative theme of this sequence of posts; each week, I’ve ended up talking about some way that the impending fall of American empire is affecting us right now."

And...

"Where winning a presidential nomination in 1852 or 1952 required solid organizational skills, the backing of a significant fraction of the party’s local movers and shakers, excellent public relations, and a good dollop of the amiable ruthlessness that makes for success in the world of political dealmaking, winning a presidential nomination nowadays requires precisely one thing:  money.  Business interests unquestionably had a seat at the table in the days when caucuses and conventions mattered, but theirs was far from the only such seat, and it happened quite often that a candidate favored by the very rich got elbowed aside by some upstart with populist notions who was just that little bit better at playing the political game.

"More generally, it’s worth taking a look at the kind of people who advanced to power through the old system, and comparing them with the kind of people who advance to power through the new.  A Kansas City haberdasher like Harry Truman wouldn’t be elected to the city council today, but he was one of those ambitious young men I mentioned earlier, and his exceptional skills as a campaigner, organizer, and bare-knuckle political bruiser took him all the way to the White House; the world-class drubbing he dealt out to media favorite Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election was typical of the man.  More generally, it’s fair to say that very few of the significant political leaders of American history between Jackson’s time and the beginning of the 1960s could get elected in today’s money-driven environment. If we’re going to have a corrupt political system - and we are; no political system anywhere will ever be more honest than the people it governs - we might as well have one that produces leaders more capable than the airbrushed marionettes who infest the American political scene these days."

Oh, and also...

"The first is that the gutting of the caucus and convention system took place alongside the collapse of an entire world of democratically run voluntary organizations, which provided citizens with most of the training they needed to take an effective role in local politics.  In 1920, for example, half of all adult Americans, counting both genders and all ethnic groups, belonged to at least one fraternal order, and these orders - ranging in size from multimillion-member organizations such as the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows down to little local orders with a single lodge and a few dozen members—were nearly all run by the same democratic processes used by caucuses to elect delegates and vote on policy proposals.   Nearly all the other institutions of American civil society, from gun clubs and historical societies to  independent lending libraries and farmers’ cooperatives, ran their affairs in exactly the same way."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-degeneration-of-politics.html

Well worth reading, I think. Like most of his work.

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Adam's Story: Twilight in Learyville

I haven't seen a new weekly post from John Michael Greer on his blog. Usually they are up late on a Wednesday night. Back on August 1, he had promised an update and not a hiatus (last year he was off for a few weeks).

To tide you over in the meantime, here is a fictional story set sometime in the latter half of this century. No, it is not a happy story.

Adam's Story: Twilight in Learyville (May 29, 2007)
"That was before the war, of course. Once war came, gas rationing canceled most vacations, and a dozen young men from the town went off in uniform, leaving their family’s windows decorated with blue stars that turned gold one by one. Nobody wanted to talk about that, and Adam had to ask his father what it meant, one night when just the two of them sat in the motel office. Afterwards, staring into the night from his bedroom window, he thought about the people he knew who wouldn’t be coming home again. The image that came to mind was an old blanket the moths ate full of holes one summer. The moths had gotten into Learyville, too, and a cold wind was blowing through the holes."

And...

"They parked their cars in the café parking lot, paid for one more civilized meal, and then headed out into the woods, convinced they were destined to found the tribal societies of an age about to be born. Those who spotted Adam tried to talk him into coming along; their excited gestures and bright eyes lit up a grand vision of life in the wilderness in harmony with nature, walking the hunter-gatherer path. The first few times he’d gone back to the motel with his head afire, and his father had to sit him down and explain exactly what would happen to a bunch of city kids who thought nature would welcome them with open arms. He’d been right, too. Some of them came stumbling back out of the forest months later, starving and shivering and riddled with parasites. Others never came out at all, and Adam got used to finding their bones in the woods when he and his father went hunting deer in the hills outside of town. For them, nature had opened not her arms but her jaws."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/05/adams-story-twilight-in-learyville.html

Greer can be intense.

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Glimpsing the Deindustrial Age, Adam's Story (Five Parts)

Before I post links to the most recent essays, I am going to step back a few years to bring your attention an essay by Greer that focuses on five factors that will be playing major roles in shaping the future of humanity after peak oil:

  • Depopulation
  • Migration
  • Political Disintegration
  • Cultural Drift
  • Ecological Change

Glimpsing the Deindustrial Age (May 23, 2007)
"I’ll be limiting my focus in space to North America, and in time to the next five hundred years or so - a likely time frame for the Long Descent from the industrial age, through the dark age following, to the seedtime of the sustainable cultures of the future. Any conclusions proposed will be tentative at best, since history is above all else the realm of the contingent and unforeseen, and even those factors that can be predicted in advance routinely take strange shapes under the sway of unexpected forces."

"At least five major factors, it seems to me, can be counted on to play a role in these transformations. The first is depopulation. We are so used to worrying about the population explosion that the possibility of its opposite has rarely entered into serious discussions of the future."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/05/glimpsing-deindustrial-age.html

Greer followed up with a well-written, well-worth-reading fictional story told in five parts. Events as seen through the eyes of a young man named Adam in the Pacific Northwest. Each part lays out in turn the impacts of each of the five factors.

Depopulation
Adam's Story: Twilight in Learyville (May 27, 2007)
"That was before the war, of course. Once war came, gas rationing canceled most vacations, and a dozen young men from the town went off in uniform, leaving their family’s windows decorated with blue stars that turned gold one by one. Nobody wanted to talk about that..."

"...Houses he passed stared back at him with empty eyes like so many skulls. That blue one had been Joe and Edna Williams’, before she died of the hemorrhagic fever and he drank himself to death; the green one back there was Fred Kasumi’s before he died and his sons left for the city in search of work; the brick one next to it had been the Dotsons’ since Learyville was a logging camp, and old Marge Dotson lived there for years after everyone else in the family was dead or gone, tending her chickens and her garden until he found her lying face down in her asparagus bed one morning."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/05/adams-story-twilight-in-learyville.html

Migration
Adam's Story: Nanmin Voyages (June 20, 2007)
"From the highway the land sloped toward the beach down below, and there, with its bow driven up onto the sand, was the vast black shape of Haruko’s ship. Adam had expected a fishing trawler or the like, certainly not a huge container vessel the size of a small town. Nor had he expected to see another shape like it in the middle distance making purposefully in toward the shore.

"'Japan has many people,' said Haruko behind him, 'and many ships. Not much food. Each year, more will come.'"
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/06/adams-story-nanmin-voyages.html

Political Disintegration
Adam's Story: Banners In The Wind (July 12, 2007)
"The man let out a whistle. 'You’ve missed a few things,' he said. 'Washington fell last winter, so no more United States. Governor Mendoza’s declared a republic here.' He gestured back behind the line; two trucks stood there, each with an unfamiliar flag - white, blue, green in horizontal stripes - painted on the doors. 'You’re headed south?'"
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/07/adams-story-banners-in-wind.html

Cultural Drift
Adam's Story: Tillicum River (August 2, 2007)
"'It’s a real mix here. Back when I was a kid you’d see a lot of tension. The old mossbacks and the greens didn’t agree on much of anything, some of the Christians didn’t like having Buddhists around, and the folks from Mississippi - we got a bunch of ‘em resettled here after they had to evacuate the Hurricane Coast - there was some trouble between them and the locals for a while. But that’s mostly past history these days. People pretty much get along.'"
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/08/adams-story-tillicum-river.html

Ecological Change
Adam's Story: Uncharted Waters (August 24, 2007)
"'One more spring like last one and we’re going to have to let go of the river fields,' Fred Baird, the city councillor who’d come to invite them to stay, said in one such discussion. They were sitting at the long table in the Grange hall’s dining room after the meeting. 'Between the rain and the river they’re basically mud until well into summer.'

"'Excuse me,' said Haruko after a moment, startling Adam; she still rarely spoke much in public. 'Perhaps you could grow rice?'"
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/08/adams-story-uncharted-waters.html

Sobering view of the future, and yet ends on a hopeful note.

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
A Crisis of Legitimacy

John Michael Greer turns his attention to that enduring, yet fragile thing called legitimacy. Greer presents his case that the United States is ripe for crisis and a massive change of the political landscape.

A Crisis of Legitimacy (August 8, 2012)
"...the theme of this week’s post centers on another kind of sudden disruption that occurs tolerably often in history, one that we’re probably going to see repeated in the not too distant future here in the US and elsewhere. Just as financial systems routinely come unglued, so do political systems; in both cases, though it takes years of mismanagement to build to the point of crisis, the crisis itself can hit suddenly and bring shattering change in a very short time; in both cases, in turn, the aftermath involves substantial losses, a great deal of frantic jerry-rigging and damage control, and then a return to a new normal that often has little in common with what the old normal used to be."

And...

"Sooner or later, once the system’s legitimacy becomes sufficiently doubtful, some event dramatic enough to seize the collective imagination will trigger the final collapse of legitimacy and the implosion of the system, but what that event will be and when it will come is impossible to know in advance."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-crisis-of-legitimacy.html

Things turn on a dime. But the pressures have to be built up first. I think we have the pressures. We just haven't met the crisis yet.

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Specter of Military Defeat

Greer points to the likelihood that the U.S. military is going to be defeated with tactics and technology that will be cheap and hard to counter.

The Specter of Military Defeat (August 15, 2012)
"...whatever literature ancient Egyptian chariot officers, horse breeders, and bow manufacturers may have churned out to glorify chariot warfare to the Egyptian reading public has not survived, but there’s an ample supply of books and articles from British presses between 1875 or so and the Second World War, praising the Royal Navy’s invincible battleships as the inevitable linchpin of British victory.  All this literature was produced to bolster the case for building and maintaining plenty of battleships, which was to the great advantage of naval officers, marine architects, and everyone else whose careers depended on plenty of battleships.  The fact that all this investment in battleships was a spectacular waste of money that might actually have done some good elsewhere did not register until it was too late to save the British Empire."

And...

"...the US military faces at least three existential threats in the decades immediately ahead.  The first is that rising powers will devise ways to monkeywrench the baroque complexity of the US military machine, leaving that machine as crippled and vulnerable as Hittite chariots were before the javelins of the Sea Peoples. The second is that an ongoing revolution in military affairs will leave the entire massive arsenal of the US military as beside the point as all those British battleships were once the Second World War rolled around.  The third is that the decline in fossil fuel supplies will make it impossible for the United States to maintain a way of war that, reduced to its simplest terms, consists of burning more petroleum than the other guy."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-specter-of-military-defeat.html

Poet

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The Monkeywrench Wars

Greer points to chaos, discord, and confusion as three ways the unknown can get you.

The Monkeywrench Wars (August 22, 2012)
"Compare bacterial evolution to the behavior of a tropical storm and the difference between chaos and discord is easy to grasp.  Tropical storms aren’t value-oriented; they simply respond in complicated ways to subtle changes in environmental conditions they themselves play a part in causing.  Imagine, though, a tropical storm that started seeking out patches of warm water and moving away from wind shear, so it could prolong its own existence and increase in strength.  That’s what all living things do, from bacteria to readers of The Archdruid Report.  Tropical storms don’t, which is a good thing; there would be a lot more cataclysmic hurricanes if they did."

Then...

"To go to the next level, let’s imagine an ecosystem of living tropical storms: seeking out the warm water that feeds them, dodging the wind shear that can kill them, and competing against other storms.  That’s all in the realm of discord.  Imagine, though, that a storm that achieves hurricane status becomes conscious and capable of abstract thought.  It can think about the future and make plans.  It becomes aware of other hurricanes, and realizes that those other hurricanes can frustrate its plans if they can figure out the plans in time to do something about them. The result is confusion:  uncertainty because the other system is deliberately trying to fool you.

"It’s crucial to grasp that what I’ve called chaos, discord, and confusion are fundamentally different kinds of uncertainty, and the tricks that will help you deal with one will blow up in your face if you apply them to the others."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-monkeywrench-wars.html

The comments themselves are interesting as well. I want to link to one story mentioned in passing:

Iran Encounter Grimly Echoes ’02 War Game (January 12, 2008)
"There is a reason American military officers express grim concern over the tactics used by Iranian sailors last weekend: a classified, $250 million war game in which small, agile speedboats swarmed a naval convoy to inflict devastating damage on more powerful warships.

"In the days since the encounter with five Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, American officers have acknowledged that they have been studying anew the lessons from a startling simulation conducted in August 2002. In that war game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships - an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels — when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats."
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/washington/12navy.html

Poet

OITW's picture
OITW
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2012
Posts: 28
I like Greer very much, and I

I like Greer very much, and I appreciate the points he's trying to make about chaos, discord and confusion.  Unfortunately, his ignorance of all things military bites him in the butt in this post and it frustrates me to no end.  The comments are full of misunderstandings such as this one, which has been twisted by various political factions for their own purposes.  The military is entirely capable of everything he says it is.  It is also entirely aware that it is capable of everything he says it is.

Exercises are written with objectives, specific goals the exercise managers want to achieve, concepts they want to test, capabilities they may want to integrate or force to use something new.  Nothing I have read about MC02 has ever stated what its objectives were.  Without knowing what they were, nothing Riper did or says he did matters.  A simulated Iran may have been a useful tool to exercise against, but if defeating Iran was not the objective, it proves nothing.  If the purpose of the exercise was to validate fleet integration, for example, what Riper did proved nothing because the Blue Force was not acting as it would in a true wartime situation.  In fact, in a situation like that Riper just becomes a pain in the ass getting in the way of the actual testing.  Think of it like testing a big jet engine on a rack.  The clown that keeps throwing wrenches in the front end is "proving" the engine doesn't work.

There are exercises that are conducted "gloves off."  They can be very, very painful.  Sometimes they generate huge changes in response, sometimes no visible change at all, but there are always many other factors in play beside chaos, discord and confusion.  Money, bureaucratic rice bowls, what the American public will bear (usually as demonstrated imperfectly by their elected politicians), what is technologically available--all these play into the responses.  To assume simple incompetence or the desire to cover up or "they're just fighting the last war" before all other factors have been examined is to fall into the realm of cliche, or magical thinking.

I participated in one exercise that had very high visibility.  One side figured out that it could hang AMRAAM missiles on B-52s, 18 on each B-52 IIRC.  In real world, utterly impossible.  The first day of the exercise those B-52s completely destroyed several squadrons of F-18s on the other side.  That general was livid, and with good reason.  He demanded the planes back, and he got them.

So it is with the claims about MC02.  You cannot run the Iranian IADS by motorcycles, they are too slow.  Light signals are possible, but then you have to ask whether Iran actually trains to do that and has the light networks established.  Was Riper supposed to fight the way we see the Iranians train to fight, or to invent something that would take months to implement, if not longer?  The swarms of small boats would only be effective if the cruise missile attacks were lethally effective, and even then they couldn't touch an aircraft carrier determined to evade them.  We have very effective weapons against the small boats, and the cruise missiles are not the threat they're advertised to be, and one would be a fool to think our defense against them starts after they are launched.  One extremely unlikely hypothetical stacked on top of another stacked on top of another does not provide any insight into how chaos, discord and confusion can lead the military into catastrophic defeat.

So forgive me my rant, but I don't want to create the account necessary to post on JMG's site, and this theme has been bugging the daylights out of me over his past two posts.

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2748
wrt war games

The swarms scenario starts out being a bit unrealistic because it apparently assumes our fleet would be in the Persian Gulf or transiting the Strait of Hormuz.  Under any realistic war conditions there is no way our fleet would box itself into the Persian Gulf.  Put a litte distance between the fleet and Iran, say in the Gulf of Oman or Indian Ocean, and the swarm would be ineffective.  Just a bunch of small boats that the Navy can pick off at their leisure.

Doug

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
Thanks, OITW and Doug! Feedback Requested

Thanks for the feedback, OITW and Doug!

Just to note, that exercise that Van Riper participated in, I don't think it was mentioned in Greer's essay, as far as I recall.

It was mentioned in a comment by someone else, so I searched on-line for more details.

That said, what do you guys think about China's development program of "ship-killer" long-range missiles? About Greer's mention of GPS, Predator drones, and torture as examples? And lastly, how vulnerable do you think our carrier task forces are?

Poet

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2485
Poet wrote: And lastly, how

Poet wrote:

And lastly, how vulnerable do you think our carrier task forces are?

Poet

The CVBG would have to be in range of the SUNBURN cruise missile.  A tanked F/A-18 HORNET has considerably longer legs than the SUNBURN.

Interested students can do the math......

OITW's picture
OITW
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2012
Posts: 28
Feedback

Poet, the problem is that Greer cites MC02 multiple times in the comments as an example of what can happen.  It is always possible, yes.  But the other side has its own cultural constraints, budget limitations, bone-stupid operators, inadequate and poorly-maintained equipment, as well as the one genius who will make you pay.  This is why the Army prefers intelligence assessments to include best case, worst case, least likely and most likely, to make the commander aware of the entire range of threats but to focus him on the ones that he most likely will have to contend with.  Same with the inflated capabilities assigned to the other side's weapons.  Why is that ours always really suck and theirs are always godlike?  Marketing and willfull misconception, mostly.

I will say that most assessments that cry out about how vulnerable and "last war" our carrier task forces are, are driven by political or monetary motives and usually contain gross misunderstandings of a carrier's true strengths and vulnerabilities.  Only a fool would say they are invincible, but they are a lot more survivable than their skeptics posit.  Whether they are needed or used wisely is one question, but to claim they won't survive the first round of the next shooting war is hyperbole.  The price of losing a couple, though, is not.

The dependence on GPS is real and unfortunate.  OTOH, everyone in the world depends on it.  No one is willing to take it down because it necessarily blinds itself in the process.  And I would encourage a helluva lot more skepticism about Iran's alleged GPS-hacking capabilities, based on that styrofoam modeling job they presented as the "captured" drone.  Again, they are godlike and we're incompetent.  It's a meme that is as misleading as the "last war" meme.  The great fear about GPS blocking before the Iraq invasion was mostly press hype that any logical thinker should see through (hint:  target is low, bomb guidance is high, and GPS signal source is way high and diffuse).

When teaching fighter pilots, we always say, "It's the one you don't see that gets you."  The military is always scanning the horizon for what it might have missed, and rushing to correct when it sees something new.  The idea that we go blindly forward trapped in one technological canyon or another is silly, although lots of bucks get wasted that way.  Still, in the words of some SECDEF or other, you don't know what you don't know.

I would postulate Greer's position differently.  His explanation has it appear that the military acts independently of our political leadership.  It doesn't.  Instead, the military gets stuck in morale-busting morasses that last decades, bleeding money, machinery and ordnance and achieving nothing in the way of lasting peace and order, at the behest of the political leadership.  It gets stuck fighting with the last war's technology because the new war makes no sense and so it wasn't planned for.  It's the slow bleed from loyally supporting some political hubris that's more likely to kill us rather than the sudden reversal.  That bleed isn't the result of military technology blinders, it's the result of poorly conceived political blunders, often to support domestic political agendas.  It's as old as the arrogant Athenian decision to invade Syracuse in the middle of the war with Sparta, and then the doubly arrogant appointment of Nicias, the most most vocal opponent of the campaign in the assembly, to lead the campaign.

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1843
The End of Gasoline Warfare

This was Greer's last essay before taking a break for the month of September 2012...

The End of Gasoline Warfare (August 29, 2012)
"Gasoline warfare rarely has the same result.  For those on the losing side - I’m relying here especially on accounts by French and British officers who were in the Battle of France in 1940 - the war is a roller-coaster ride through chaos; many, sometimes most, ground units never have the chance to measure their strength against the enemy in combat, because the other side has gone right past them and is deep behind their lines; orders from their own commanders are confused, contradictory, or never arrive at all; and then suddenly the war is over, the government has surrendered, and the other side is parading through Paris or Baghdad.  So there you are; your government’s will to resist may be broken, but yours isn’t, and pretty soon you’re looking around for ways to carry on the fight.  That way lies the French Resistance - or, for that matter, the Iraqi one."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-end-of-gasoline-warfare.html

Poet

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
thanks Poet

Poet wrote:

This was Greer's last essay before taking a break for the month of September 2012...

The End of Gasoline Warfare (August 29, 2012)
"Gasoline warfare rarely has the same result.  For those on the losing side - I’m relying here especially on accounts by French and British officers who were in the Battle of France in 1940 - the war is a roller-coaster ride through chaos; many, sometimes most, ground units never have the chance to measure their strength against the enemy in combat, because the other side has gone right past them and is deep behind their lines; orders from their own commanders are confused, contradictory, or never arrive at all; and then suddenly the war is over, the government has surrendered, and the other side is parading through Paris or Baghdad.  So there you are; your government’s will to resist may be broken, but yours isn’t, and pretty soon you’re looking around for ways to carry on the fight.  That way lies the French Resistance - or, for that matter, the Iraqi one."
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-end-of-gasoline-warfare.html

Poet

Very interesting article with interesting discussions as well, filled with implications of what may come.  As a corollary to that article, such groups as the French Resistance would have difficulty functioning successfully nowadays against an oppressive fascist regime due to a number of factors including a surveillance system of unprecedented magnitude, scope, detail, and sensitivity such as is evidenced by the NSA's Utah Data Center.  Also, social media such as Facebook (with the In-Q-Tel and CIA connections) reveal the interconnectedness of individuals and readily allow almost ny resistance to be sniffed out, routed, and annihilated before it can reach any substantial level of organization.  

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments