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  • A Few Cautious Predictions About Our “Crisis Era”

    Posted by Jay Manifold on January 6th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
    You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
    I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
    But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …

    – Neil Peart, Distant Early Warning

     

    But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?

    – Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

     

    Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.

    Strauss and Howe portray four prior “Crisis Eras” in American history:

    • the Glorious Revolution Crisis in the late 17th century;
    • the American Revolution Crisis in the late 18th century;
    • the Civil War Crisis in the mid-19th century; and
    • the Great Depression – World War II Crisis in the mid-20th century

    A quarter-century ago, based on their reading of the temperaments of the generations then living, including the Millennials being born at the time, they predicted a fifth instance, which they called the Crisis of 2020. This is not to be taken as an event occurring in 2020 or in any single year, but in the years around 2020 and reaching its climax and resolution within a few years of that date. The Great Depression – World War II Crisis could have similarly been predicted, circa 1910, as the “Crisis of 1940.”

    GENERATIONS was blurbed by a collection of personages as variegated as then-Senator Al Gore and then-Cato Institute president Bill Niskanen. I have met and spoken with enough people of contrasting political persuasions who have read it to know that its appeal, and perhaps its ability to give offense, is entirely orthogonal to conventional politics. Note that my belief in the model, however fervent, is not a desire for the Crisis of 2020 to continue to unfold; I would greatly prefer to live quietly. I don’t think I’m going to get to do that for a while, even if I happen to survive, and our own Crisis Era is likely to include, besides plenty of casualties, a degree of societal regimentation far greater than any libertarian, or most conservatives or liberals for that matter, could ever welcome. Heinlein: “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.” If I’m right, we won’t have either for several years, starting soon. This is about acknowledging our situation and moving to meet it, not being thankful for having been matched with this hour.

    The general theme is that relatively constant stresses in combination with steadily declining crisis-management abilities create ever-greater “negative risk events” (I tend to litter these posts with project-management terminology) until a truly existential struggle is joined. Pressure does not build up, but its containment fails, simply because the generations that survived the previous Crisis Era, thereby acquiring an almost instinctive ability to overcome crises, inexorably depart from the scene. The youngest cohort of the Silent Generation turned 72 last year, and Boomers have, if anything, a propensity to foment crises. “Absalom, Absalom, Absalom!”

    Descent Into Crisis

    This is not a merely arcadian worldview in which we are endlessly descending from an ideal past, but a description of the crossing of a threshold for the fifth time in three and a half centuries, one that, as in past instances, requires prompt and drastic adaptation. As to our particular crossing, I would nominate non-state WMD acquisition – if not development – and use no longer being successfully prevented or deterred in the near future. The domestic-economic phase of the Crisis of 2020 has been underway since at least 2008; predicting the exact mechanism for starting its international-military phase matters much less than realizing that our ability to prevent geopolitical calamities has steadily atrophied, because the “we” of 2015 is not the “we” of 1985, much less 1945.

    2015–16: Gridlock, Institutional Failure, and Occasional Disasters

    • The 114th Congress will probably be deadlocked with the Obama Administration from day one; see Axelrod for game-theoretic considerations as applied to the end of a politician’s final term of office. And even without party turnover of the White House at the next presidential election, the period from 9 November 2016 through 19 January 2017 will be one of exceptionally unpleasant opportunism.
    • A general and widely acknowledged air of institutional ineptitude, as recently commented on by no less than Larry Summers, will continue unabated. I note that the recent and much-praised Orion flight test was, at most, a re-enactment of the first such flight of the Saturn V/Apollo CSM … 47 years earlier. The salient differences are that Apollo/Saturn was developed in half the time, was without historical precedent, and was far less expensive.
    • Political gridlock and institutional dysfunction may, however, have the virtue of thwarting numerous and surprisingly popular attempts to seal off the US from the world, both physically and economically, all stemming from fear of contagion. Proposed restrictions on travel, trade barriers (on the movement of labor as well as goods), capital controls, and even internal checkpoints will proliferate. They will be promoted by people who loudly proclaim, in their next breath, to be defenders of freedom, supporters of civil liberties, etc. Like gun control and narcotics Prohibition, if implemented, these measures will not stop motivated actors, and will invariably create black markets.
    • The UN will look more and more like the League of Nations, especially in its non-management of violent conflicts, the large majority of which will be in or immediately adjacent to Dar al-Islam. Refugee counts will remain in eight figures, and death tolls will reach toward seven figures. The prevalence of failed states, already stretching in a nearly uninterrupted arc from West Africa to Central Asia, will widen and deepen. As I draft this post, as a side effect of Saudi determination to render independent US production uneconomical by holding down oil prices, the implosion of Venezuela seems certain. This will have, to put it mildly, nontrivial secondary effects around the Caribbean, already bordered by several other nations with some of the world’s highest violent death rates.
    • Simultaneously, however, at least one Middle Eastern nation formerly thought to be institutionally secure, quite possibly the KSA itself, will be destabilized in the manner of Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. This will effectively arm and train tens to hundreds of thousands of new jihadists. American public opinion will resolutely oppose incurring ~1,000 KIA in the Middle East to annihilate ISIS, which will thereby grow beyond the scope of any limited military response as it continues to add affiliates in Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.
    • Closer to home, in an atmosphere of extraordinary intolerance for immigration, an incident analogous to the MS St Louis, but with victims of the collapse of Venezuela, the ISIS genocide of Yazidis, or some similar situation, seems likely to occur. Notwithstanding obvious, imminent danger to refugees’ lives, allowing them into the US will be enormously unpopular. (This is one of my easier predictions, given that we have already nearly had such an incident within the past year.) Many, possibly most, of those turned away will die violently in the next few years.
    • Meanwhile, entirely within the US, a domestic debacle entailing a 4- or 5-digit death toll may occur as a direct result of institutional neglect of, or clumsy government overreaction to, a stressor, possibly epidemiological. A tsunami of conspiracy theorizing and intermittently violent fringe political activity will follow.
    • Worst-case scenario: widespread, active homegrown disloyalty escalating to fifth-column activity in support of foreign interests or violent domestic factionalism; numerous completed acts of terrorism and sabotage, with overt red/blue sectional differences.

    2017–20: Over the Edge

    • The Administration/Congress relationship will improve greatly, especially for most of 2017, irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 election. This will occur even in the event of a bizarre combination, eg, a President Elizabeth Warren and a conservative Republican Congress.
    • International tension will be extreme – much worse than during the Cold War. Expect desperate attempts throughout the First World at negotiating peace and at diverting public attention to non-military priorities, including grandiose environmentalist and economic-restructuring schemes.
    • War, when it begins, will as usual be caused by a disagreement about relative strength. The West in general and the US in particular, thanks to the previous decade of floundering in general and our ignominious defeat in Afghanistan in particular, will be perceived by an attacker as incapable of decisively imposing its will – or even of responding to an attack at all. The oft-noted large size and cost of the US military will be irrelevant to this calculation.
    • I unimaginatively predict an opening, undeterred attack on the US, by a non- or only quasi-state entity, employing WMD, targeting DC and NYC, and possibly other high-cultural-profile (ie, settings of internationally popular TV series) cities. I note that the flight time of an aircraft, or for that matter a cruise missile, from the Arabian Peninsula to the northeastern US is less than twelve hours; and of course the time-of-flight of a ballistic missile between any two points on Earth is three-quarters of an hour at most. A ship-launched IRBM could reach a coastal target in less than 20 minutes. A century ago, no attack on such timescales could have ranged over more than a few miles. From an early-21st-century military perspective, the entire planet is now no larger than a typical US county prior to mechanization.
    • Official overreaction may kill more people than the attack itself, most likely by ordering the evacuation of an area hundreds of times the size of the one directly affected. This order may nonetheless have considerable popular support; see last year’s Ebola hysteria (or the similar panic over enterovirus D68) and attendant calls for drastic Federal action.
    • Sizeable disloyal elements will celebrate the attack, and opposition to a military response will be widespread among those who self-identify as having voted against the current Commander-in-Chief. Blue states and cities will protest a Republican president; red states and suburbs will protest a Democrat. Some of the sharper verges in American political geography, eg coastal vs interior California, may see clashes between rival factions.
    • Of course, depending on the timing, location, and scale of the attack, abrupt turnover in national leadership may occur. Overall institutional continuity is likely, however, since 3 USC § 19 specifies a line of nearly 20 eligible presidential successors.
    • Domestic partisanship aside, thanks to huge civilian casualties (unlike at Lexington/Concord, Fort Sumter, or Pearl Harbor) there will be enormous political pressure to respond in kind. This will range up to and including a nuclear strike on at least one national capital in or near the Middle East, with millions of attendant civilian deaths. Resisting the temptation to carry out such a strike will be supremely difficult, as it will have the support of a large majority of the American population.
    • Notwithstanding that consensus, widespread derangement will manifest itself in the form of conspiracy theorizing far more intensive than that in the aftermath of 9/11. At least one extremist political movement based on such conspiracy theories will arise and briefly capture the support of many of the adherents of whichever major party happens to constitute the opposition to the current Administration. Its platform will consist almost entirely of scapegoating: “investigations,” show trials, and purges.
    • Worst-case scenario: terrorists acquire lower time preference and therefore execute a widespread biological attack that takes weeks to months to kill most of its victims, rather than a single- or few-point nuclear or chemical attack that kills immediately. Note that viruses can already be made to order in laboratories and shipped to customers, and Variola major, for example, reliably kills one-third of those infected and permanently disfigures most of the remainder. Toy quadcopter drones with atomizers could infect thousands of people in minutes at large public gatherings, in hundreds of locations around the country simultaneously.

    2021–25: Climax and Resolution

    • A combat theater encompassing nearly the entire Muslim world, from Morocco to Maluku and Sierra Leone to Shaanxi. A possible additional, smaller Western Hemisphere theater in the “gap” nations of the Caribbean Rim and Andean South America. Participation, modulated by conscription, by most of the Millennial generation in the US, with its manpower significantly augmented from India.
    • Chinese devolution/breakup and US alliance with faction(s), not necessarily that/those with the largest Christian population – recall that Urakami Cathedral, the largest church in northeastern Asia, was 500 meters from the hypocenter of Fat Man – but that/those most willing to destroy jihadists after the manner of the suppression of the Dungan Revolt of the 19th century.
    • WMD use successfully deterred wherever a second strike remains possible. Nuclear bombs could be, and were, used on Japan in the summer of 1945 not merely because they were available, but because Japan could not strike back at the US itself, while still being capable of inflicting huge casualties on an American ground invasion force. Belligerents lacking any second-strike capability or WMD-armed allies will be similarly vulnerable this time around.
    • Ubiquitous situational awareness and direct communication worldwide among soldiers and noncombatants alike, mediated by mobile phones, wearable cameras, VR helmets, 4k video, drones, and haptic interfaces. An incessant torrent of gruesome, full-motion, multisensory imagery, immediately accessible by most of the First World populace. Frequent unauthorized but unpreventable contacts between adversaries, either directly or through neutral mediators. Significant participation by freelancers, mercenaries, and partizans; combat as LARPing with the possibility of death, and the usual likelihood of PTSD.
    • Accelerated development and use of military nanotechnology as a force multiplier, including greatly shortened prototyping/manufacturing cycles for weaponry – compressed from years down to weeks or even days – and immense progress in regenerative medicine routinizing organ/limb replacement. Treatments or (by comparison with those available now, benign) pharmaceuticals to reduce the need for sleep to 2 hours or less out of 24.
    • See Xenakis on genocidal “crisis war,” in which the value of individual lives drops to near zero. Various resulting material privations, including severe rationing of domestic/civilian medical care, especially for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems (six weeks ago as I post this, the CDC estimated that 800,000 Americans have unsuppressed HIV). Widespread, accepted de facto if not de jure euthanasia, unopposed even by most of those who have been prophesying such a development ever since Roe v Wade was handed down. Large domestic refugee populations, depending on our adversaries’ targeting and, not to overlook the obvious, the prevalence and concentration of fifth-column activity.
    • Even amidst desperate struggle, however, parasitism in the form of an attempt to gain legal and cultural status for nonmilitary Federal “service.” This idea will be especially popular in areas of the US with historically low per capita rates of volunteer enlistment, that is, the West Coast and the Northeast megalopolis, plus prominent mid-sized academic cities like Austin and Madison.
    • Assuming relative continuity of national leadership, the late-term game-theoretic problem of early ’15 – early ’17 discussed above repeating in early ’23 – early ’25, possibly moderated by national unity in the face of existential conflict.
    • Events acquiring a retrospective coherence – that is, an imposed narrative, such that the conflict is described as having had a specific beginning, middle, and end – which, other than perhaps the very beginning and very end, was not obvious to participants at the time.
    • And the butcher’s bill? Doing a bit of math, I find that per capita death tolls in past Crisis Eras have ranged from 1/326 to perhaps 1/25 of the American population; lower if the conflict was foreign, higher if domestic, and much higher if one domestic faction makes itself relatively vulnerable, ie, attacks unrealistically and, for obtuse-cultural or low-situational-awareness reasons, doesn’t know when to quit. Thus the Civil War toll was proportionally twice that of the Revolution, and that of King Philip’s War was proportionally twice that of the Civil War – as much as a third of the indigenous population of New England died. American deaths in the Crisis of 2020 may therefore be expected to range from 1 million to over 10 million.
    • Worst-case scenario: a large but vulnerable domestic faction fighting the majority, and unrealistic enough to refuse to surrender early on, pushing the US KIA number into eight figures.

    As overwhelming as our disadvantages may seem – the foolishness of American baby boomer-generation leadership and the wishful thinking of the American electorate being high on that list – and as long and deadly as I expect the conflict to be, I believe that both civilizational and American survival are likely. Many of the people reading this will lose someone close to them in the next decade. Some of us will not live to see the final victory ourselves. But the America of the late 2020s will be as much improved over what it is now as it became between the middle 1930s and the late 1940s. Like those who saved the West then, whatever generation you belong to, you have a rendezvous with destiny.

     

    31 Responses to “A Few Cautious Predictions About Our “Crisis Era””

    1. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I resent paying for relief for islamist warfare.

    2. Whitehall Says:

      This guy predicts a major hegemonic war against the US circa 2020. they tend to run in ~75 cycles. Great Britain had a streak of two in a row, ending with WWI and put to bed by WWII. Only when the US finally accepted the role and burdens of world hegemon in the 1940s was order restored. US reluctance to do so after WWI and become the world policeman was the real cause of WWII. The most likely challenger to the US today looks like China but Islam seems the cultural challenger, or at least major antagonist. Islam could provide the spark that China takes advantage of.

      http://www.amazon.com/Long-Cycles-Prosperity-War-Modern/dp/0300041128/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1420601308&sr=8-3&keywords=long+cycles

      Such a major challenge to the US would definitely stress our internal politics but I fail to see our internal liberal/leftists as a significant quasi-military challenge to conservative Americans. The black underclass would create disorders only when and where allowed by liberal office holders. The situation in NYC shows the relative strength of conservative Americans vs leftist official. Who is going to pay their pensions will be a big influence on which side our internal peacekeepers support.

      Countervalue attacks such as biowarfare attacks on US population centers would be disruptive but not a war-winner.

      A breakdown of global trade and its attendent prosperity, such as in WWI will kill more people than the war itself.

    3. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I always find the scenario of a US-China war unbelievable. Neither side would benefit, it would be catastrophic for both.

      We also need to be careful about averaging events, then claiming an event is due. Events are driven by circumstances, not averaging. WWI and WWII happened 20 years apart. Circumstances drove that.

    4. Whitehall Says:

      Michael,

      “There tides in the course of human events…” One can certainly over-predict but history does tend to move in cycles, not repeating, but rhyming.

      Just read a decent book on the hyperinflation of Weimar. the British author criticised the Americans for insisting that France pay back its WWI war loans which they wanted the reparations from Germany to cover. A more confident USA might have put an end to reparations and wrote off the war loans. That would have changed the course of history. We just weren’t ready as a country to assume the roles of world policeman and world hegemon. After WWII we barely stepped up.

      http://www.amazon.com/Downfall-Money-Germany%C2%92s-Hyperinflation-Destruction-ebook/dp/B00EV0VGDA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420612230&sr=8-1&keywords=the+downfall+of+money+germany%E2%80%99s+hyperinflation+and+the+destruction+of+the+middle+class

    5. Phil Ossiferz Stone Says:

      >Proposed restrictions on travel, trade barriers (on the movement of labor as well as goods), capital controls, and even internal checkpoints will proliferate. They will be promoted by people who loudly proclaim, in their next breath, to be defenders of freedom, supporters of civil liberties, etc. Like gun control and narcotics Prohibition, if implemented, these measures will not stop motivated actors, and will invariably create black markets.

      As a resident of rural NorCal, this raises my goddam hackles. The entire coastal area from Santa Cruz to Eureka has been turned from a series of idyllic seaside resorts into sh*tholes swarming with tweekers and Mexican gangbangers in short order. Meth and pot are everywhere and the Mexican cartels control most of it. These changes are not some vague socio-economic phenomenon — they have been engineered and brought about by a political class obsessed with raw power, even if they have to drive businesses and families with children out of the state by the bushel. Our blue-fascist overlords in Sacramento have contrived to issue illegal aliens with driver’s licenses starting January 1st, and naturally most will be registered to vote via the Motor Voter Law, and just as naturally they will all vote the liberal Democratic ticket in self defense. Which is the idea. This is not tinfoil-hat theory… this is happening. Right here, right now. An entire American electorate has been blotted out on your watch, and nobody notices nor cares. We are too white and too rural and not gay or illegal or exotic enough.

      In my sleepy little town I heard gunfire along the river in back of my house twice last year, gunfire inside town, for the first time in my life. Tweakers let out of prison on the bleeding-heart premise that being overcrowded violated their precious rights, 80% of them recidivists according to the police officer that came and talked to our neighborhood watch group two months ago. People are buying guns like crazy and they are worried and sick and scared and increasingly angry at a society that wages open lawfare against them with no legal recourse to be had.

      When you shred a high-trust civil society in favor of a low-trust tribal society of warring special-interest tribes so you can manage them more easily, Saudi sheik-style — and that is the evil work of our Activist In Chief and his allies in Sacramento, and indeed in the dinosaur media all over the country — what you will get sooner or later is law and order enforced at the local level. It is the last resort and the last… not best, but meanest hope of a population that has been persecuted and disenfranchised beyond all point of endurance.

      Mr. Manifold dismisses this almost uniquely American phenomenon at his peril. So do the powers that rule. In Washington state the suburban sheep nodded and sighed and voted to make private sales of firearms illegal by legislative fiat, so 2000 righteously PO’ed gun owners gathered in front of the state capitol for their own little gun show, in full sight of police and press… and got away with it. It is the first small temblor of many.

    6. JohnTyler Says:

      Michael Hiteshew Says:
      January 6th, 2015 at 11:24 pm
      I always find the scenario of a US-China war unbelievable. Neither side would benefit, it would be catastrophic for both.

      @ Michael

      Your comment is incredibly naive.
      No nation has ever started a war believing it would be a disaster for itself. A nation starts a war because they really believe that it will be a disaster only for their enemy, and that victory and all its attendant benefits will be achieved at little to no cost.
      Even the crazed Hitler would not have started WWII in Europe if he thought Germany could lose . He started it because he was convinced he would win quickly and decisively.

      The Japanese were convinced that bombing Pearl Harbor would keep the USA out of messing with Japanese military aggression in China and other parts of Asia. They did not attack the USA because they wanted a war with the USA.

      Wars start – ALWAYS – because the aggressor nation has MISTAKEN / WRONG optimistic assumptions about the outcome. The notion that a war could turn out to be catastrophic is assumed – always wrongly- to be the outcome for ” the other guy.”

      Read history!!!

    7. TimL Says:

      Critical Molly Hemingway piece on the Paris attacks:

      http://thefederalist.com/2015/01/07/how-president-obama-sold-out-charlie-hebdo/

      Obama is a disgrace yet again.

    8. dearieme Says:

      “I always find the scenario of a US-China war unbelievable. Neither side would benefit, it would be catastrophic for both.”

      It was France’s extravagant military and naval efforts, culminating in its victory at the battle of Yorktown, that so stressed the country financially that eventually it got its horribly bloody revolution (which, naturally, failed to solve the financial problems). In other words, France’s intrusion into the American War of Independence proved catastrophic for France. As was her decision, while still revolutionary, to invade her neighbours, declare war on Britain and the Dutch Republic, and so on. And then her decision, under Napoleon, to invade most of Western and Central Europe, Egypt and Russia. Countries forever do things that are not to their benefit.

    9. dearieme Says:

      Or 1914: Germany decided to invade Belgium and attack France and Russia. Britain decides to take the French/Belgian/Russian side. Eventually Italy was bribed to do so too. None of these participants benefited from their decisions. (The USA did, mainly by having the sense to stay out of the whole bloody affair until the end.)

      Come to that, did Germany gain from its decisions in 1939 and 1940?

      History is a record of foolish decisions. Consider this one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peloponnesian_War

    10. Mike K Says:

      I doubt China will throw a war since they are having enough trouble with their own people, including the demographics of the “one child” policy and the unequal distribution of economic activity. The PLA will bluster and buy toys but their economy will not survive a war. Ours may not either but we have oceans between us and everybody but Mexico.

      That is not to say that we will not have events like the massacre in Paris today as we have open borders and people who want to harm us. I am very uneasy about all the Muslim immigrants that Obama is admitting and the previous presidents allowed. The Muslims do not assimilate, as we see in Minnesota with the Somalis.

      The last wealthy country that began a war was 1914 Germany. The Germany of 1939 was poor and the war was an act of insanity, as the generals knew.

      As for Athens, it was undone by democracy as they voted to recall Alcibiades from the Sicily expedition after it sailed. The reason was an event that he had nothing to do with, the destruction the Herms the night before it sailed.

      After lengthy preparations, the fleet was ready to sail. The night before they were to leave, someone destroyed many of the hermai — the stone markers representing Hermes, placed around the city for good luck. This event was taken very seriously by the Athenian people as it was considered a bad omen for the expedition, as well as evidence of a revolutionary conspiracy to overthrow the government. According to Plutarch, Androcles, a political enemy of Alcibiades, used false witness to claim that Alcibiades and his friends were responsible. Alcibiades volunteered to be put on trial under penalty of death in order to prove his innocence (wanting to avoid his enemies charging him, in his absence, with more false information), but this request was denied.

      He was otherwise extremely popular and had the support of the entire army; he had also gained the support of Argos and Mantinea during the preparations. He was not charged, and the fleet sailed the next day. His opponents, however, waited for Alcibiades to set sail before they leveled the charges against him. This was because the army, his main source of support, would be absent, and his supporters would be outnumbered when the votes were cast.

      Very modern use of democracy.

    11. Andrew X Says:

      There is not a word here about how such a series of events would affect the trans-gendered. How heteronormative of you.

      (In my wry and repeated joke is a message of great seriousness – of how pathetically vapid, juvenile, and outright stupid are our current “activists” notions of what matters and what does not on today’s earth. Much blood purchased their right to elevate the insipid to its current lofty perch of residence. Methinks that they may realize just how foolish they are being, when they are being consumed for their flesh by either our enemies or by their fellow citizens, determined to survive the wreckage such “activists” will have brought upon us all.)

      (Oh, and BTW – both “transgendered” and “hereronormative” come up as errors when written for this post. Do draw the appropriate conclusions from that, if you will.)

    12. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> Your comment is incredibly naive…Read history!!!

      I agree that people do lots of things that are not in their best interest, at least when viewed in hindsight. I do believe people generally act in what they see as their self interest. I cannot imagine anyone in China or the USA rationally calculating they would benefit from a war with the other. That only leaves miscalculation, maybe some unforeseen event that neither side can back away from, precipitating a war. Taiwan comes to mind, but from a real-politic point of view, the USA should stay out of that. That is a vestige of their civil war and I don’t see a benefit to our having a war with China to keep Taiwan independent. I would be more open to risking war to protect longtime allies like Australia or the Philippines. Taiwan? No.

    13. JNorth Says:

      China’s gender gap is too large thanks to their one child policy. I have heard they dropped it but it is probably too late. They are looking at ~20% more young men then women. If they do not go to war with someone else they will with themselves.

    14. dearieme Says:

      “I cannot imagine anyone in China or the USA rationally calculating they would benefit from a war with the other.” All it needs is one, or a few, of the senior decision-makers in either country to decide on war. There’s no earthly reason to suppose that the interest of such a person or cohort will automatically be aligned to the benefit of the masses of people. Consider the American attack on Iraq as an example. Japan’s attack on the USA. Napoleon’s on Russia. etc etc etc.

    15. PoorFellowSoldier Says:

      Just finished a “Counter terrorism” graduate level class, given by a European University, just FYI the Academic weenies and the UN have a plan to deal with Islamic threat is…….drumroll…………………

      GIVE THEM A “PLACE AT THE TABLE!”

      Thats right kids you are going to see a push in the coming months to bring Daesh/ISIS/ISIL and AQ into the UN/Political fold.

    16. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>Consider the American attack on Iraq as an example.

      That’s much more complex situation, dating back to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the violation of surrender terms, etc. He’s hardly a rational actor. Nor a large trading partner with the USA. Nor had many of the elite in Iraq been educated in the USA.

      >>Japan’s attack on the USA.
      The Empire of Japan had by then invaded China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Burma, Korea (did I leave anyone out?)…
      China is not in that category.

      The only plausible way the USA and China go to war is by strategic miscalculation. We’re much more likely to be at war with islam for generations.

    17. Mike K Says:

      “We’re much more likely to be at war with islam for generations.”

      We have been but just haven’t noticed. Obama thinks he can get a big diplomatic breakthrough with Iran by letting them have the bomb. I think a guy named Chamberlain had a similar idea.

    18. RonaldF Says:

      The French Republic of the 1930’s is another fine demonstration in how a democracy can commit suicide. As for the cyclical nature of history, I do find myself seeing the extreme anti-authority attitudes of the late 60’s and 70’s popping up all over again. People do seem to forget what builds a good, prosperous, civil society. I think you had to live through the 70’s to understand just how bleak everything became, and then see it turned around by a single man who just refused to let the American dream be consumed by cynical elites who were were clueless about the true nature of this Nation.

    19. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> As for the cyclical nature of history…

      I have not argued against cycles. I argued against timetables based on averages; such as, We have a war, on average, every 75 years, therefore one is due. It doesn’t work like that.

    20. Grurray Says:

      “the recent and much-praised Orion flight test was, at most, a re-enactment of the first such flight of the Saturn V/Apollo CSM … 47 years earlier. The salient differences are that Apollo/Saturn was developed in half the time, was without historical precedent, and was far less expensive.”

      The technology has progressed quite a bit to justify the increased lead times and costs. SpaceX Dragon capsule will be able to land on solid ground and be reused up to ten times, unlike the disposable Apollo splashdown capsules. Safety and quality will undoubtedly improve with private spacecraft.

      Also, one thing we may want to do as an early indicator of a crisis is to keep an eye out for the Gray Champions.

    21. Jay Manifold Says:

      I’m going to respond to “Phil,” even though he’s using a pseudonym, because he’s either recounting actual experience or writes well enough to sound like it, and I respect that.
      The unpleasantness he describes is, overwhelmingly, a byproduct of narcotics Prohibition. The political class in California thinks that the way to address it is through firearms Prohibition. An exceedingly unpleasant combination, one that will not be easily walked back; control fantasies die hard.

      There are no easy answers here, because the politics of California are, as everywhere, an emergent phenomenon. Even if its electorate somehow acquires the courage to move toward regulation rather than Prohibition, it has a whole suite of financial issues that have given it the worst or second-worst credit rating in the country every year since at least 2001.

      I hope that California will “retrace [its] steps, and … regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.” I fear that it may settle into a two-tier society in which a strip of mansion-dwellers along the coast generate just enough wealth to maintain a gigantic inland slum.

    22. Anonymous Says:

      Dearieme and JNorth have the right of it. China has a population it cannot sustain, an incredible unemployment problem, and a leadership which considers agenda and ideology, not the needs of their own people. It is incredibly, almost unbelievably naive to think they would avoid war simply because it isn’t logical, doesn’t make sense to do so. Good grief.

      There are incredible resources still available in this country, as well as in Siberia. You can be certain that China has her eyes upon those, and will reach for them when it appears that we are too immersed in our own problems to effectively resist, or when the will to resist itself just isn’t there. (Obama might raise an army to protect his vacation spots/golf courses in Hawaii and elsewhere, unless the PRC guarantees that he can play-through without any difficulty or delay. If they do, all bets off. If they promise to build a mosque right at the 18th hole so that he could hear the muezzin every day, he would probably surrender our country to them without a fight ;-)

      For Phil Stone: I left behind a lovely 40 acre ranch just outside of Yreka, because I could see where CA was headed, and how the progressives in the cities over-ruled the rights of us in rural California, especially up in the State of Jefferson. I’m now in rural Montana. We have progressives running the state here, too (who else would keep electing Tester and Baucus?), but the very low number of people who hate America (like the La Raza crowd, inner-city Michael Brown fans, Hispanic/black gang members, Barry and Michelle, etc.) makes it a safer place to live, and living in our mountains makes a more difficult place for .gov to oppress. You might just have to break down and move, buddy.

    23. RegT Says:

      Sorry. Anonymous at 9:37 PM was me, RegT. Thought I’d identified myself.

    24. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> China has a population it cannot sustain, an incredible unemployment problem, and a leadership which considers agenda and ideology, not the needs of their own people. It is incredibly, almost unbelievably naive to think they would avoid war simply because it isn’t logical, doesn’t make sense to do so. Good grief.

      That first line can be said about a lot of places, including Western Europe and the USA. You make it sound like your conclusion is patently obvious, but I’m not seeing it. And I don’t think I’m being naive at all, I’m being realistic. I see no evidence of stupidity or rash behavior from their leadership. The security problem facing us is islam, not China.

    25. Grurray Says:

      It seems reasonable to me to at least explore the possibility. People in both the Pentagon and in China certainly are.

    26. Jonathan Says:

      Keynes:

      The inevitable never happens. It is the unexpected always.

      and

      I would rather be vaguely right, than precisely wrong.

    27. Whitehall Says:

      There will arise a challenger to America’s global hegemony. When that day comes, the war will be bloody.

    28. Jay Manifold Says:

      OK, couple more follow-ups:

      1. I find myself sympathizing with “Phil,” if only because someone inevitably told him to move, advice I’ve been known to hand out to Californians myself. There have been shots-fired incidents in my Kansas City neighborhood in the last few years, too, and God knows Missouri does not lack for twerkers. Given that there is going to be some kind of problem anywhere, notwithstanding that California is somewhat unique in (among other things) the kind of illegal immigrants it attracts, my counsel would be to beware of any proffered solution that increases state power, even if it is being sold as a technique to manage something you find exasperating or worse.

      2. Lots of China talk. To clarify, I believe and predict that China will break up under various stresses, including nontrivial linguistic differences, intermittently lunatic politics, and a bubble economy. But the skewed gender-ratio phenomenon has happened in Chinese history before, so whatever role it may play here, it is not unprecedented. I also do not believe that whatever Chinese faction(s) we are not allied with will be among our principal enemies.

    29. vxxc2014 Says:

      The problem is here, we have to settle accounts with our hostile, insane, evil and predatory elites.

      Before they close our account, quite their intention.

      Never mind the world. Our first duty is here.

      We have the most blessed in resources and geography land on earth, and we should have been far less trusting in who we let in, and expected this prize to draw predators. It did. By a few counterfeits and ancient ruses they seized many of the Commanding Heights, they did not however make any inroads amongst our Valiant Defenders. Who’s only failing has been to be loyal to the wrong people. That is changing, and God Bless the NYPD for turning their backs. Tectonic plates shifted when they did that, and the earthquakes are coming.

      For Turning their backs is all we need.

    30. Joseph P. Martino Says:

      Putting aside the issue of cycles, the article does hit one important point. There aren’t many of us still alive who actually remember the Depression, WW II, and when America was a great country instead of one that’s afraid to defend its own borders and expect that people actually work for a living.

    31. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I do not see war (at least a really big one) in any short term framework. Of course mankind is subject the same cognitive errors that we have always been plagued by. But, 1914 should be an omnipresent lesson to all of us.

      Nor do I see China as a potential aggressor. Xi is trying to consolidate power and it will be a while before he can know that the machinery of the state is under his control. Even then, he will be hard pressed to keep control and adventure at the same time.

      What I do see is the mountain of debt that is slowly crushing the USA. Not merely the 18 T$ of federal debt. The federal mortgage companies have about 5T$ of debt outstanding, which should be, but is not accounted for as part the federal debt. Households are about 12T$ in debt (about 3/4th mortgages, the rest split among credit cards, student debts (~1.2T$), and automobile paper). There are more than 3T$ of Municipal bonds outstanding. But, wait there is more state and local pension plans are in a 4T$ hole. Now some of these numbers overlap. The private mortgages were funded with dollars borrowed by the federal agencies, but it adds up. And there is no clear understanding that it needs to be paid. So Every year, politicians come up with more ways to borrow and spend. Free community college anyone?

      We have been limping along because the Fed keeps kiting checks to pay yesterday’s bills. And because interest rates are near to zero. “Every day the bucket a-go a well. One day the bottom a-go drop out.”

      Then the fun will begin.