Category Archives: war

Why I Dislike the Doomsday Clock

Recently the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of their ‘doomsday’ clock to two minutes to midnight, with midnight representing “how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.”

The clock started in 1947 and for most of its existence the reference was to all out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It is a potent symbol of our fears of the terrible price humanity could pay in a full nuclear war. A symbol used by Alan Moore in his classic graphical work Watchmen.

My problem with the Doomsday Clock is that is gives the impression of something quantified and scientific when it is really an opinion. The fact that the group is named The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist conjures up the impression of serious people in white coat armed with complex calculations when really watch we are seeing is the results of their own fears and impressions.

There is no quantifiable system by which the clock can be judged. There is no testable hypothesis, and objective formula, only their guess and yet every motion of the clock’s minute hand is treated with great reverence. A reverence that comes solely from the fact it is scientists making these opinion based proclamations.

Is it really two minutes to midnight? Hell, how can anyone know? I do know that I dislike quantifiable number being used to justify mere opinion.


A documentary series I have really enjoyed

I am a nut for documentaries. Last year when I was home recovering from sudden surgery I watched a ton on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. A week ago i discovered one on Hulu that has simply blown my mind.

Warlords is a study of the mental games played by four of the leaders in the lead up to World War II. It delves into aspects that, for me, have previously been skipped over in the retelling.

For example, it’s well known that Stalin ignore the warnings that Hitler was going to invade the USSR. The intel was solid and it came at him again and again. It made no sense to me that Stalin, the murderous paranoid dictator, somehow had a blind spot when it came to Hitler and just couldn’t believe he would attack. This series shows that he did know Hitler wanted to destroy the USSR, he did know that Hitler could not be trusted, but also explains the reasoning going on in Stalin’s head as to why he thought the intel was part of an elaborate ruse, one he was determined not to fall for.

The second episode has dealt with Churchill and Roosevelt. Wow. Roosevelt does not come off looking good in this one and Churchill comes off a bit like a battered spouse willing to believe the lies just one more time.

I cant’ recommend this series enough.




So it looks like the U.S. has gotten an out on Syria, what with that country an Russia seeming to coming to an agreement that the vile nasty chemical weapons can be passed like a relay baton and this will make everyone happy. Well, no the people being bombed and shot to death but at least they won’t be gassed to death. As everyone know it’s not the destination but the journey that matters. As everyone knows 100,000 people killed in a series of fire bombing mission is honorable warfare, but 100,000 people killed in a single atomic mission is inhumane.

Despite the flippancy above I was strongly against U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war. I have great sympathy for the people suffering on the heel of a monstrous dictator, however I failed to see a compelling national interest. I opposed the War in Iraq and I look back and see all my fears validated in that conflict.

I hope Assad falls. I hope that by some dues ex machina if he should fall a non-extremist government might arise, but man I am not holding my breath on that one.


Warning Educational Materials ahead

So Sunday I was tooling youtube and other video hosting sights, looking for interesting films and such to watch. (No, not porn. Get your mind out of the gutter.) I ended up searching for a World War II training film I had caught part of during a TCM Memorial Day Marathon. (I did find it, it’s called Resisting Enemy Interrogation. It’s got a cool story as German Interrogators try by hook and by crook get information from 5 down airmen.)

However, while looking for that video I found several others that were very interesting. One on flak (anti-aircraft fire) how it works and how to evade it, and a Sad Sack cartoon on the importance of maintaining you weapon properly. The most informative video I found though was one on the basics of small arms and how they work. I have friends who collect guns, and I remember shooting rifles as a boy with my father, however nothing has every made the mechanics of modern firearms as easy to understand as this WWII training film. I present it here for your education or enjoyment. (It is about 40 minutes long.)



Marines, The Taliban, and dehumanization in war

So a few days ago a video surfaced where it appeared that four U.S. marines, while be recorded possibly by a fifth Marine, urinated on the corpses of recently killed presumably Taliban fighters. The reaction to the incident has been varies and in many ways thoroughly predictable based upon the political philosophy of the reactive audience.

People have done everything from vocal support for the act to calling for it to be considered a war crime. All of that is of course absurd and nothing more in my opinion than general political tribalism.

I land somewhere in the middle, on the thin isthmus of rational ground between the extremists and partisan on either side. Continue reading Marines, The Taliban, and dehumanization in war


Osama bin Laden, DEAD

This is truly good news. Osama bin Laden, evil fuck, killed by American Special Forces, his body taken by those forces and now in our possession.


I wish it had happened sooner, but I am very happy it happened. There are few human beings that can cause me to cheer at their demise, but this fucker was one of them.

There are those who will ask does this affect the 2012 political season; those questions are for another day. Put donw your R’s and Put down your D’s for one flippin’ moment and just enjoy the fact this evil evil man not only is dead, but had his death handed to him by our best and our brightest.




Fighters in Space

Thanks to George Lucas and his Star Wars films, modern SF has developed a love affair with fighters in space. Lucas used WWII aircraft footage as reference material for the special effects teams working on Star Wars and the influence is clear.

This led to a lot of imitators and copycats, all loving the carrier and fighter in space motif. For me to really became too much when the SF program Space: Above and Beyond (which I refereed to as Space: Abort and Begone) aired. In the program, which really was just WWII set in space, during a briefing pilots are advised to remember that the enemy fighter can out climb the allied fighters. Out – fucking – climb in weightless space. What the hell are they climbing against?

There are reason why carriers and fighter make perfect sense for wet navies, but trying to put them into space just makes the writer look all wet.

First, Ships and Planes travel through different media. A ship has to push water, heavy incompressible water, in order to move. This requires a great deal of energy to get very little speed. The USS Lexington in WWII could go at an astounding 34.5 knots.  (39.7 mph) to do this speed required 150,000 standard horsepower. An F4F Wildcat cruised at 155 mph, could go as fast as 318 mph on 1200 standard horsepower.

Nearly ten times as fast on less than one-tenth the power.

In space, the carrier and the fighter are traveling through the same medium, vacuum. There is no intrinsic reason why a fighter would be so much faster than a carrier. (yes the fighter has less mass, but if you have motive power that accelerate the fighter that fast, you have it for the big ship too, just takes more.)

Another reason planes and carriers makes sense on planetary surface is that planets are curved. Planes give ships an over the horizon spot capability. (In fact before WWII it was thought that spotting and scouting was the reason for Carriers, and that fighting would remain the domain of the big gun ships. The Imperial Japanese Navy persuaded us otherwise.) A ship in space has no horizon to limit detection. No need for small vulnerable spotters.

The third element that makes the airplane useful to surface navies is that the plan can carry a weapon load-out capable of sinking a ship. Note that this is general not done with the plane’s machine-guns or cannons. The attack planes carried either bombs or torpedoes. (Today it is the guided missile carried by planes that make them deadly to ships.) In SF movies we don’t see attack craft with one or two big heavy ship killers; they always attack big target with the same guns they used on the enemy fighters. Damn silly.

In terms of physics and real world analogs, space combat is going to look a lot like submarine warfare. Lots of sneaking. (if that’s possible — it may not be.) Cramped tiny spaces, and long range missiles or torpedoes for killing their targets. Note that under the water, with everyone in the same media, we don’t have carrier and fighters.


War On Terror Rant

I am annoyed at the current state of thing in this ‘war on terror.’
First off I have never liked the idea of a war on a common noun. You can’t win that kind of war because the common noun will always be around. The wars on poverty and drugs are wonderful examples of that sort of stupidity. I am all for war on a named enemy, say Al Qaeda and it’s allies. You know when you’ve won that war. With they give up or cease to exit.
Besides that point I’m really fed-up with the stupid and pointless political crap that gotten in the way of pursuing our enemies.    The current state of affairs seems to be that on one side of argument you have to be for torture and going all Jack Bauer on their stupid medieval skulls, and the only other option is go full court ACLU with Miranda and layers of lawyers.
Continue reading War On Terror Rant


Wars of choice are often bad choices.

I did not have a blog in 2003, so there is not internet history of my opinion on invading Iraq as we geared up towards the war in 2003. However I can state I was flatly against the invasion.

My arguments against the war were fairly simple.

1) Iraq was not a direct threat to the United States at that time.

2) Even if Iraq possessed Weapons Of Mass Destruction a paranoid dictator such as theirs would never let them go out of his control.

3) We would easily overthrow the government but become bogged down in  a war with a native insurgency.

4) A new war would distract the U.S. from is primary goal, chasing down and destroying Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

My friends who supported the war — or described themselves as war-agnostics – dismissed my concerns. I remember quite clear how the last point seemed ridiculous to them.

Well along with the others, point four seems to be gaining evidence lately. See the following quote from a story about a history of the Afgan war written by the Army itself.

First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.

Second, military planners were concerned about Afghanistan’s long history of resisting foreign invaders and wanted to avoid the appearance of being occupiers. But the historians argue that this concern was based partly on an “incomplete” understanding of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

Third, the invasion of Iraq was siphoning away resources. After the invasion started in March 2003, the history says, the United States clearly “had a very limited ability to increase its forces” in Afghanistan.