In The Princess Bride, a man playing a deadly game said, “Ha-ha, you fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’” I thought this was received wisdom, but apparently not. Today America is involved in not one, not two, but three land wars in Asia. A real blunderbuss, put in their own mouth.
America is involved in Korea (still going on), Ukraine (ongoing), and Taiwan (getting going). One frozen war, one hot, one they’re desperately trying to order. The United States is actively messing with three nuclear powers, two of them highly industrialized. America is encircling these countries with military bases, fomenting coups in and around them, imposing sanctions (white word for sieges), actively arming and training their enemies, and openly calling for them. While North Korea has been a supine punching bag for decades, Russia and China are in America’s weight class. The bully empire has finally picked on someone their own size, and they’re about to fuck around and find out.
Given that America has lost every war — for decades — to dudes in Toyota Hiluxes, they really shouldn’t be fucking around with China and Russia, let alone both at once. China makes trucks, Russia has oil, and neither of their explosive devices are improvised. Picking a fight with either would be real war, and America is really not ready for land war in Asia, let alone two.
For decades, America has been able to hide the weakness of their war machine by dropping expensive bombs on poor people. But real war with real peer opponents is an entirely different beast. As Patrick Armstrong writes,“I can’t get two questions out of my mind: When was the last time the USA won a war? When was the last time US trained troops fought effectively?” The answer is that the last war America decisively won was World War II and that was with the USSR doing most of the work. The last time US trained troops fought effectively was never. America keeps covering up the actual ignominy of the last war with the potential glory of the next one, but if you look at the whole bloody record, it’s not good.
Like a broken record, however, the American war machine keeps going. Why wouldn’t it? They’re not destroying their country, and the money is all printed. The innovation of American Empire has been making money by losing wars, looting their own treasury and wrecking other countries and the Earth (their military is the single largest polluter). There is in fact more money in losing wars and dragging them out. For decades now America has been fighting wars without consequence, picking on poor people that can't fight back.
This leads us today where, after a few boring decades torturing Muslims, they get to fight commies again. What fun. Now the chicken hawks are clucking about real war, which requires real mobilization (ie, a draft) and real industrialization. None of which America is remotely ready for. If they continue on this blunderous path, America will fuck around and find out.
Who Are They Fucking With?
America is not talking about bombing poor countries without functional air forces anymore. Russia is the largest country in the world, with tonnes of natural resources, and the state-owned industries to process them efficiently. China has the world’s largest population, also has lots of natural resources, and is again much more efficiently industrialized. Both countries are able to marshal the most vital natural resource, which is young men to go kill themselves. Both have some form of conscription, and Russia has been mobilizing men for over a year now. America on the other hand, has a great propaganda arm, but cannot effectively produce weapons or muster the bodies to hold them. As mentioned, they have no draft and have outsourced production so much that the head of Raytheon has said they cannot decouple from… China. America is also not talking about defending itself from these countries, but offensively encircling them with military bases and weaponry. America today is the definition of a paper tiger and, foolishly, they out looking for fire.
What Will They Find Out?
If this actually comes to war, what does that mean? Well, firstly, what does war mean? War is two things, mustering men and matériel and being willing to lose both in horrific numbers. So three things, none of which America has. America is quite simply writing checks their ass can’t cash. Let’s discuss, in some detail, the two line items, men and matériel.
The prime natural resource required for war is young men, and in this aspect, America is completely at a loss. America ended the draft after their destabilizing loss in Vietnam and has never mobilized its general population again. For decades America has been attacking civilians elsewhere and calling it ‘counter-insurgency’. This has all got them quite confused about the real nature of war.
Since Vietnam, America has an all-volunteer Army. It draws from its nation of debt slaves with the promise of education and healthcare that should be their right anyways. Many people in the military still live off food stamps,because the huge budget mostly goes to private arms dealers, not privates. America talks about having a strong military, but all of their spending is really a measure of corruption and waste. America actually doesn’t actually have many men at arms, and no way to mobilize more without massive social instability.
Generations of American politicians, journalists, and think tankers have grown up quite comfortably starting wars, with no fear of ever fighting in them. Nor do they have to sacrifice their own children. These chicken hawks only fail upwards, because no one is ever held accountable. The same people that started the last disastrous war are still in power. Henry Kissinger still hasn’t checked into hell and and George W. Bush is somehow rehabilitated. And then there’s all the columnists and failed generals and bloodthirsty bureaucrats that have only failed upwards. Indeed, the only people that get purged in the American establishment are those that are anti-war. These think-tank commanders just keep thinking of bigger and bigger ways to fuck up, and why wouldn’t they? The money’s good and someone else pays for it.
America has been able to fight ‘wars’ without many men because their attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, etc have been more unabated war crime than war. America simply held down poor countries without air forces and brutally beat them up. This simply isn’t how conflict with a peer-country would go. An entire generation would have to see their peers go to war. With technology being equal, there’s no way around it. There will be blood. This dim awareness is dawning somewhere within the military industrial complex. That they may have to raise a much larger army, from the general population. As a recent report from the US War College states:
The Russia-Ukraine War is exposing significant vulnerabilities in the Army’s strategic personnel depth and ability to withstand and replace casualties. Army theater medical planners may anticipate a sustained rate of roughly 3,600 casualties per day, ranging from those killed in action to those wounded in action or suffering disease or other non-battle injuries. With a 25 percent predicted replacement rate, the personnel system will require 800 new personnel each day. For context, the United States sustained about 50,000 casualties in two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In large-scale combat operations, the United States could experience that same number of casualties in two weeks.
That paper continues, leading to the obvious conclusion, conscription:
The US Army is facing a dire combination of a recruiting shortfall and a shrinking Individual Ready Reserve. This recruiting shortfall, nearly 50 percent in the combat arms career management fields, is a longitudinal problem. Every infantry and armor soldier we do not recruit today is a strategic mobilization asset we will not have in 2031.The Individual Ready Reserve, which stood at 700,000 in 1973 and 450,000 in 1994, now stands at 76,000.These numbers cannot fill the existing gaps in the active force, let alone any casualty replacement or expansion during a large-scale combat operation. The implication is that the 1970s concept of an all-volunteer force has outlived its shelf life and does not align with the current operating environment. The technological revolution described below suggests this force has reached obsolescence. Large-scale combat operations troop requirements may well require a reconceptualization of the 1970s and 1980s volunteer force and a move toward partial conscription.
What is less obvious, however, is how this could be done. Even if they could impose a draft again, most young Americans are simply not fit to serve. As a recent Pentagon study said:
77% of young Americans would not qualify for military service without a waiver due to being overweight, using drugs or having mental and physical health problems.
Even if the young people of America were fit to serve, why would they want to? Whereas Taiwan and Ukraine are right next to China and Russia, these are simply not existential concerns for Americans. All the bullshit about ‘democracy vs. authoritarianism’ is fine and well for social media, but it’s very different when you get a draft card. America staved off massive social unrest when they ended the draft, but it’ll come right back if they restart it. There is really no way for America to raise the army required for land war in Asia (on multiple fronts) and the very attempt would cause war in their own streets.
In contrast, China has a large standing army already, and at least the basic concept of conscription. Everybody has to be ready for service, though China simply doesn’t go around starting wars. Russia also has a large standing army, significant amount of volunteers coming in, and has already proved able to mobilize from the general population (for Ukraine). More to the point, Russian and Chinese people would want to mobilize, if they were attacked on their own borders.
America thinks they’re big cause they write big checks to arms dealers, but this is mostly wastage and corruption, with proxy patsies doing the real fighting and dying. By threatening peer powers, America’s propaganda mouthpieces are writing checks their asses simply can’t cash. If they fuck around, they’ll find out.
The prime artificial resource required for war is matériel, ie hot shit to throw at each other. And America, which has deindustrialized both itself and now Europe, simply can’t make enough shit anymore. Don’t take my word for it. As the empire’s own Center for Strategic and International Studies says,“According to the results of a series of CSIS war games, the United States would likely run out of some munitions — such as long-range, precision-guided munitions — in less than one weekin a Taiwan Strait conflict.” America doesn’t have enough ammunition to last a week against China, and if they want to make more, they have to ask their Chinese suppliers.
Regarding the war they’re already in, the US and NATO have been vastly outproduced by Russia. Again, this is all in imperial reports if you get past the propaganda packaging. This, for example, from the NYTimes:
As a result of the push, Russia is now producing more ammunition than the United States and Europe. Overall, Kusti Salm, a senior Estonian defense ministry official, estimated that Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West.Russia’s production costs are also far lower than the West’s, in part because Moscow is sacrificing safety and quality in its effort to build weapons more cheaply, Mr. Salm said. For instance, it costs a Western country $5,000 to $6,000 to make a 155-millimeter artillery round, whereas it costs Russia about $600 to produce a comparable 152-millimeter artillery shell, he said.
The ‘safety and quality’ bit is just sour grapes. Western artillery shells are not $5,000 better, they’re just produced in a more corrupt and inefficient way, outsourced to war profiteers. Western production lines cannot scale up, and cost 10x more if they do. It’s a losing proposition and it shows. Joe Biden himself said the US is running low on ammunition. This is why they released widely illegal cluster bombs, to poison supposedly Ukrainian soil for years. As the Chair of NATO’s military committee said,“The bottom of the barrel is now visible.”
The western military industrial complex is fundamentally a grift and cannot keep up with the gruesome facts on the ground. Right now, the United States produces around 336,000 shells a year (according to the Pentagon), compared to the 2 million that their own intelligence says Russia is producing. The deficit may actually be much worse, and Russia is amping up industrial production of all things, not getting worse. Just look at manufacturing in general. Russia is reindustrializing, while the USA is at best standing still and Europe is going backwards.
The Pentagon’s big plan is to increase production to 1.2 million a year by 2025, but this is still less than Russia in 2023, and it’s not like they’ll stand still. And that’s just one enemy the Americans are choosing to make. What about the Chinese, or the North Koreans, or Iran? What about them working together? And what about India, just sitting this one out? How is America going to pick fights with all these people, while deindustrializing its ‘allies’? What are they even talking about? They simply don’t have the bullets to be shooting their mouth off like this. As the Good Ole Boys said, “you’re going to look pretty funny trying to eat corn on the cob with no fucking teeth.”
Of course, you could just write off artillery as dumb bullets and pretend that wonder weapons (ie, silver bullets) will win wars. America propaganda is obsessed with what the Nazis called wunderwaffen. In Ukraine we’ve been alternately told that HIMARs, Patriot missiles, Leopard/Abrams tanks, cluster munitions, F16s, or now ATACMS were going to win the war. But they didn’t, did they? Western weapons are simply not that good when deployed against anything more sophisticated than a Toyota Hilux, and this all misses the point the Nazis missed too. 500 good tanks beat 5 great ones. Quantity is its own quality in war. When a tank ‘depreciates’ in days or hours, who gives a shit about the frills? In World War II, the Soviets were able to produce a much higher quantity of ‘good enough’ weaponry, and that (along with rivers of blood) won the thing. And in many cases, the Soviet weapons were higher quality as well. They invented the AK-47 after all, and the Katushya, the first multiple rocket launcher.
Western propaganda talks about ‘Soviet-era’ weaponry dismissively, but F16s and Abrams tanks are from the ‘Soviet-era’. Even something like HIMARs is just a modern version of the Katuysha. What NATO is giving to Ukraine is mostly its old stuff and it’s not necessarily better because it’s ‘western’. Furthermore, new Russian technology is also damn good (at being bad, of course). The Russians are innovating with drones, glide bombs, and hypersonic missiles. In the Ukraine war, modern Russian weapons are generally both better and much better integrated than the Frankenstein’s monster of hand-me-downs that Ukraine has got.
The fact is that in Ukraine alone, western matériel is getting attrited much worse than the Russian stuff. Like sanctions, ‘destroying’ an army goes two ways. While Russia’s matériel is certainly getting destroyed, so is the western stuff, and the Russians are able to replenish theirs faster. US politicians claim to have destroyed 50% of Russia’s military ‘for cheap’ (using Ukrainian lives) but this is just bullshit. Russia is producing more than ever, whereas the West is at the bottom of the barrel, in their own words. And now the West is trying to open another front, against another industrialized power in China? This is nonsensical, especially since they need Chinese resources to attack China.
Don’t take my word for it, ask war profiteer Greg Hayes of RTX (née Raytheon).He said Raytheon has“several thousand suppliers in China and decoupling… is impossible. More than 95% of rare earth materials or metals come from, or are processed in, China. There is no alternative.”
The fact is that western economies (and militaries) are only big on paper. Most of their natural resources and production come from the rest of the world, and they’ve now sanctioned and scolded themselves into a corner. They’re paying $5,000 more for a bullet and pretending like it’s that much better, when in fact it’s just corruption and waste and fraud. None of these delusions will (or have) survived contact with reality. These wonder weapons couldn’t even overcome the Taliban. How much more useless are they against people with equal or better weapons, air forces, and electronic warfare capability? America simply doesn’t have the matériel capability to fight one war in Asia, let alone two or three. And as Madonna said, “We are living, in a matériel world, and I am a matériel girl.”
The option that often goes undiscussed about American foreign policy would be simply fucking off. Neither China nor Russia especially want to provoke America, they just don’t want America fucking around near their borders. One thing that people ignore is that the US is nowhere near Ukraine or Taiwan, and its record of ‘helping’ in other places is just a record of making things much worse. The truth is that the United States should have about as much involvement in China or Russia’s border as Sri Lanka. That is to say, none at all. But delusional American elites simply can’t live like that — like a normal country — so they’re choosing a final paroxysm of violence. And, of course, it could be final for everyone. These are, after all, nuclear powers that they’re fucking around with, and that’s a terrible thing to find out.
And so here they are, like the confident Sicilian in The Princess Bride. In the scene I discuss at the beginning, that man confidently blathers and scolds — so confident in his own wits — and then finally laughs at his opponent. The game is to guess which cup contains poison, and the Sicilian is completely sure he’s got it right. But he was wrong, of course, and he died. Both cups contained poison, which his opponent had worked for years to develop an immunity today. This is the state of America, blathering about war in Taiwan and Ukraine, while its opponents there have been industrializing for decades. America, meanwhile, has been in nothing but decline. This is neither the time nor the place for them to start a land war in Asia (it never is), but they seem determined. America simply cannot win a land war in Asia (who can?), but for some accursed reason, they’re still trying.