China: Huawei, 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution – US Shooting Two Feet With One Bullet – by Godfree Roberts • 29 Jan 2019

Wireless carriers around the world are sprinting to adopt 5G networks to power self-driving cars, virtual reality and smart cities. We’re talking about billions of devices on the same network, not just millions. First-adopter countries embracing 5G could sustain more than a decade of competitive advantage. Countries that adopt 5G first are expected to experience disproportionate gains in macroeconomic impact compared to those that lag. China’s Five-Year Plan calls for investing a further $400 billion in 5G and consequently, China may be creating a 5G tsunami, making it near impossible to catch up. Deloitte.

5G is a national productivity tool whose benefits, like those we derive from our railways, are less noticeable to end users yet critical to industry and commerce. 5G is 20 times faster than 4G, serves as the fast backbone of the “Internet of Things”(IoT), handles a million connected devices/km2 simultaneously with millisecond latency and uses power and radio frequencies more effectively with downloads of 20 gb/second, enabling smart factories and smart cities.

Gear based on the 5G stand-alone specifications, the standard China is pushing, is designed to run independently of 4G networks so operators will need to rebuild their core networks and buy new 5G base stations to provide higher data speeds and greater capacity, as well as ultra-reliable, low-latency services to support machine-to-machine connection and autonomous driving. Today, many new technologies like IoT and AI are ready for broad application and 5G technology itself is remarkably well developed. Once implemented, a 5G system provides an almost unimaginable increase in the capabilities of all internet-connected devices. Instead of new devices being standalone, they will create an internet-connected web of things to integrate their activities into an almost-living machine-machine and machine-human environment.

Imagine thousands of apps, billions of printable RF identifiers, millions of machine controls, automobiles and many processes that 5G’s low latency alone makes possible. 5G’s one millisecond reaction time is ten times faster than the human experience,which gives the man-machine interface a reactive ‘living’ feel. After a surgeon in China conducted the world’s first remote operation via a 5G network, Dr Michael Kranzfelder told the German Surgical College, “5G networks constitute a trend-setting technology which will play an important role in surgery and open many new applications for which the previous mobile data transmission standard was simply not fast enough.”

The 5G infrastructure market, $528 million in 2018, will grow at a 118 percent CAGR, reaching $26 billion in 2022. Direct and indirect outputs will reach $6.3 trillion and $10.6 trillion by 2030, according to IDC.

In return for millisecond latency, 10cm locational accuracy, blinding speed and wide bandwidth, 5G requires five times more cell sites than 4G. This is how installations stood at the end of 2018:

A crucial element of 5G deployment is the installation of new wireless sites, many of which must be placed on lamp posts and utility poles in densely populated areas. China dominates on that front. During 2017, China Tower, the state-owned cell phone tower operator, added 500 cell sites daily and now has two million wireless sites, compared to approximately 200,000 in the United States. “This disparity between the speed at which China and the United States can add network infrastructure and capacity bodes well for China’s prospects in the race to 5G,” Deloitte said.

Remarkably, only one company owns significant 5G intellectual property, controls its own silicon from end to end, produces all the elements of 5G networks–including proprietary chips–assembles and installs them affordably on a national scale: Huawei.

Non-Huawei customers must integrate more costly, less functional, less compatible and less upgradeable elements, pay twice as much, take twice as long to implement 5G and experience inferior service because Huawei produces every element of 5G systems and assembles turnkey networks–from antennas to the power stations needed to operate them to chips, servers and handsets–at scale and cost. It is literally unrivalled in enhanced mobile broadband.

Huawei employs 700 mathematicians, 800 physicists, 120 chemists and 6,000 fundamental researchers. Among its 87,805 patents, 11,152 core patents were granted in the US and the company has cross-licensing agreements for patents with many Western companies. Your Huawei phone is assembled with just 28.5 seconds of human labor in a high-end automated plant spread over 1.4 square km. Automation and technology upgrades have reduced the staff to 17 yet its more than 30 production lines produce 2 million smartphones every month:

In 2018 Huawei unveiled the world’s first 5G Base Station Chipset, Tiangang, which enables simplified 5G networks and large-scale network deployment. It makes breakthroughs in integration, computing capability and spectral bandwidth and supports the 200 MHz high spectral bandwidth required for future networks while running 2.5 times faster than existing products. Tiangang improves active antenna units (AAU) in a revolutionary way and cuts the weight of 5G base stations by half. Huawei has shipped over 25,000 5G base stations worldwide, deployed 5G networks in more than 10 countries and will deploy 5G in 20 countries in 2019.

Tiangang is not the company’s only trick. Andrei Frumusanu says Huawei’s semiconductor division, HiSilicon, is the only company to provide high-end competition with Qualcomm and, in some areas, is comfortably ahead. Its 7 nm Ascend 910 chipset for data centers is twice as powerful as Nvidia’s v100 and the first AI IP chip series to natively provide optimal TeraOPS per watt in all scenarios. Its 7nm ARM-based CPU, the Kunpeng 920 boosts the development of computing in big data, distributed storage, and ARM-native application scenarios by 20%. Its Kirin 980 CPU is the world’s first commercial 7nm system-on-chip (SoC) and the first to use Cortex-A76 cores, dual neural processing units, Mali G76 GPU, a 1.4 Gbps LTE modem and supports faster RAM. With 20 percent faster performance and 40 percent less power consumption compared to 10nm systems, it has twice the performance of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 and Apple’s A11 while consuming 40% less power. The Kirin 980 fits 6.9 billion transistors on a chip no larger than a thumbnail. Huawei’s patented modem has the world’s fastest Wifi and its GPS receiver taps L5 frequency to deliver 10cm positioning and supports speeds up to 1.4Gbps and 2,133MHz LPDDR4X RAM.

Huawei’s 5G phone will launch in June this year. Apple will release its first 5G handset in September, 2020.

Beijing’s four telcos are spending 30 billion yuan (US$5.4 billion) on a 5G network in the city by 2022 and applying the technology to infrastructure like the new airport, the new satellite city and the 2022 Winter Olympics. The city, home to many of the country’s top tech companies, plans to achieve 200 billion yuan of 5G related revenue by 2022. Beijing has set up product innovation centers, special projects and manufacturing bases for developing the key components, including radio frequency parts and chips. The city aims to have its tech companies reach a 10 percent share in the global 5G component market. “Obtaining breakthroughs on developing core components for the 5G network and putting them into industrial use is the primary task for developing the 5G industry in the city,” says the mayor’s plan.

Xiongan New Area, a brand new city of six million located sixty miles from Beijing, which will welcome its first residents in 2020, is being wired for 5G. Residents will find no traffic lights, many autonomous vehicles, face recognition providing seamless access and be able to reach the capital via a driverless maglev train costing the same to build and operate as regular subways but traveling silently at 120 mph, with no moving parts. A literal city of the future, courtesy of 5G, Xiongan is designed to deliver the same relative productivity gains for its residents that the Industrial Revolution gave England’s in the 19th century.

The US labels Huawei a ‘security risk’ because Huawei gear protects the confidentiality of users’ communications: “Most of the personal data you store on your Huawei device (such as your photos, call logs, mailing list, messages, frequently visited websites, and so on) will be strictly protected. In addition, you will be clearly notified of any personal information being collected, and have complete control over the collection, processing, and sharing of your personal data. Without your authorization, your personal data will not be disclosed with any third parties.”

Snowden’s revelations suggest Huawei is more sinned against than sinning. The NSA’s ‘Tailored Access Operations’ unit broke into Huawei’s corporate servers and by 2010 was reading corporate emails and examining the source code in Huawei’s products.“We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it,” boasted one NSA briefing. Slides also disclosed that the NSA intended to plant its own backdoors in Huawei firmware. In 2014 the New York Times, Time and Reuters revealed that the NSA had infiltrated Huawei headquarters, monitored all of its executives and gone through the company’s entire data infrastructure.

One goal was to find links between Huawei and the PLA and the other was to find vulnerabilities so that the NSA could spy on nations through computer and telephone networks Huawei sold, as it did through Cisco’s, which had installed ‘back doors’ for the CIA. The Times said its story of operation Shotgiant was based on NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden. The NSA planned to unleash offensive cyber attacks through Huawei if ordered by the President, “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” the Times quoted an NSA document as saying, to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world.

Bien Perez and Li Tao say, “The Chinese government wants every industry to use the most advanced infrastructure to upgrade productivity. This is a strategic agenda, and they think that 5G will help. China has very ambitious plans to promote the industrial internet of things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), the capabilities of which require the support of brand-new 5G networks. For example, self-driving cars require sensors, AI and roadside base stations for fast and reliable connectivity to allow vehicles to talk to each other to avoid collisions and avoid pedestrians. Today’s 4G networks cannot meet those quick response times.

China’s plan for an aggressive 5G roll-out is in line with the Made In China2025 road map. Initially, this focused on the domestic telecoms sector’s ability to increase broadband penetration nationwide to 82 per cent by 2025 as part of a push for industrial modernisation. Another objective was to see local suppliers making 40 percent of all mobile phone chips used in the domestic market. Under an updated version published in January, Beijing now wants China to become the world’s leading maker of telecoms equipment.

Smart factories will integrate the entire factory production process, arranging the smooth transfer from minimal energy, raw materials and water inputs and the just-in-time delivery of subcomponents to the optimised assembly line production of custom-designed-and-ordered by customers to the effective delivery of these products to the user and the continual (and maybe continuous) product reporting of its use, effectiveness and location. Smart cities will have driverless cars, buses and delivery trucks and ports and airports. The smart economy will have very fast HST intercity services, along with transparent data on the operation of mines, energy generation, transport, communications and government. Medical monitoring and the rise of the extended healthspan technology will free China from the dependency trap because people are likely to remain healthy all their lives using continuous medical assessment through an internet bangle.

President Trump has attacked the Made In China 2025 policy because the US, stuck in neoclassical macroeconomics, is committed to a system which not only does not produce the goods but also can’t afford the essential infrastructure required for the next major advance in the ongoing industrial revolution. The decision will put the Five Eyes countries ten years behind China in 5G and its associated technologies. The Germans correctly describe their version of China2025, Industrie04 as “the fourth industrial revolution.” The 5G stakes are so big that, if Germany rejects Huawei it risks committing economic suicide.


US Air Dominance Falters As Pilots Contend With Advanced Russian Anti-Aircraft Systems (Free West Media) 31 Jan 2019

The Syrian proxy war has shifted the balance. US military might is being challenged by the Russian S-400 air-defense missile system.

The Pentagon has now acknowledged that the new Russian air defense systems have severely restricted the US Air Force’s freedom of movement in US overseas operations. The report, published in part by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), is presented as a big surprise.

But, as early as the Cold War, US pilots and their NATO allies had shown the utmost respect for the precursor systems of the modern Russian S-300 and S-400 systems. The quoted Pentagon report therefore basically does not reveal anything new.

<figcaption>The S-400 Triumf anti-air missile system</figcaption>
The S-400 Triumf anti-air missile system

The only new issue is that Russia has introduced these missile systems into the hotspot of Syria in order to limit the operations launched by the US Air Force.

The loss of absolute dominance in airspace has hit the US War Department particularly hard. If the Pentagon “reports” such developments to the media, it is usually to obtain more money from taxpayers however. The military industrial complex often complains in such reports about the gaps in military technology or even the alleged superiority of potential opponents, says former spy Rainer Rupp.

Experience has shown that this is done with the intention to demand more funding in the next budget. Alarming reports on the dangers to “national security” have usually succeeded in winning approval for more military spending. And the Pentagon is chronically in need of funding for the new “requirements” against Russia and China.

Since 2001, the start of the “War on Terror” (WOT), the Pentagon has transformed the structure of the US war machine to build an army of commando soldiers. Today, this consists of countless, highly mobile, smaller task forces, which are largely on their own and operate around the globe – with or without the consent of the countries concerned – against the “enemies” of the United States.

This may include reconnaissance or reconnaissance missions or targeted hijacking or killing missions.

Meanwhile, the resurgent and independent Russia and superpower China have at least partially succeeded in putting Washington’s global claims to power in check. Therefore, in recent years, an influential faction in the Pentagon has been trying to change the course for the force structure back to preparing for major land wars against strong opponents, Rupp noted.

According to the Wall Street Journal, over the last two years the Kremlin has used Washington’s total obsession with alleged Russian “destabilization and disinformation campaigns” to “establish air superiority in regions where US planes could have operated with impunity”.

From the north of Syria, along the borders of Eastern Europe to the Arctic Circle and further into the Far East, Russia has built an anti-aircraft ring that “threatens the US military’s reach” and forces Washington to “reconsider its position as the world’s undisputed air force”.

Russia’s wide-ranging air defense system S-400 also detects stealth (stealth) aircraft, and is “an irritating and potentially deadly defense shield that has changed the calculus of the US and its allies in potential hotspots,” starting with its deployment in Syria.

In fact, the Kremlin has used this “series of effective and far-reaching air defense systems” to set up a “new iron curtain” around Russia the WSJ complained.

Although the Pentagon has not yet been able to test the Russian anti-aircraft systems in a battle, it has already acknowledged in its report the need for flight routes to be changed and for US Air Force aircraft not to be deployed anywhere.

For example, the S-400 batteries in Syria “forced adjustments to the operations of the US-led anti-Assad coalition”. According to the WSJ article, this is the most significant revelation in the Pentagon report.

At the end of 2017, the White House revised its national security strategy to address the so-called “new challenges” of Russia and China. It states, among other things, that Russia has “developed military capabilities, which in times of crisis deny America access and deny our ability to operate freely and unhampered”.

A similar formulation can be found in a Congressional report drawn up by a bipartisan commission to assess the White House’s defense strategy. As quoted in the WSJ article, the Commission noted that Russia “is seeking regional hegemony and seeking ways to project its power globally” and that this has already “brought about a reduction in US military advances” and is “a threat to vital US interests”.

Although Russia’s military spending and capabilities are inconsistent with those of the United States or even China (Russia’s defense budget is about a tenth of that of the Pentagon), the Kremlin has skillfully moved to startle Washington, the WSJ continues.

At the same time, Washington is concerned that “the lethal reach of the S-400” may be increased due to the sale of the system to other countries, such as China and India, which are both against Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

However, the WSJ admitted that the war in Syria was the reason why the S-400 systems were eventually stationed outside Russia’s borders. Washington and its US allies should only blame themselves for this development.

Especially as some US officials have admitted, albeit only in rare moments, that Russian troops had come to Syria only in response to the covert regime change war that was waged against Damascus.

The WSJ quoted Sergei Karaganov, Putin’s foreign policy advisor, as saying: “Russia does not want military superiority, but it has ended the superiority of the West or the US. Now the West can no longer use force indiscriminately.”

‘War and Peace’: The Relevance of 1812 as Explained by Tolstoy to Current Global Affairs – by Gilbert Doctorow – 31 Jan 2019


Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is widely considered to be the best war novel ever written. Spatially, in its more than 1,800 pages it offers a vast panorama of Russia during the Napoleonic wars, both on the battlefield and on the home front. Temporally, Tolstoy shifts our attention back and forth between the big picture in time-lapse and close-up slow-motion psychological portraits of the leading characters. With its “scenography” already sketched by the author, War and Peace has inspired a number of beloved films produced both in the West and in Russia. It provided the material for Sergei Prokofiev’s brilliant opera of the same name, which enjoys periodic revivals in the world’s grand opera theaters.

Of course, the dramatizations of War and Peace tend to highlight the affective romantic themes which carry along readers, in particular teenage girls. We envision Natasha’s first ball, her dance with Andrei. We see her by his bedside in his final agony as he succumbs to his injuries from the Borodino battle. We tend to skip over and ignore the considerable dose of Tolstoy’s historiographical musings on whether great men like Napoleon or Tsar Alexander I are the decisive force of history or the involuntary agents of the people they think they govern, his philosophical shadow boxing with Schopenhauer over free will versus determinism.

Tolstoy injected these “asides” into the work at regular intervals, and then let go of all self-restraint at the very end in the 75 pages of the Epilogue, Part Two. That non-narrative text, in which the author was reasoning directly with his readers rather than through his characters confused professional reviewers of War and Peace when it was first released in 1869 to the extent that there was some uncertainty whether the work even qualified as a novel in terms of genre.

Indeed, some publishers chose to delete the second Epilogue from their editions. However, the briefer passages of historiographical reflections spread through the novel are there to be savored in most all editions. In the appendix to this essay, I offer an extensive citation of one such “aside” so that the reader can appreciate from Tolstoy’s text his method of reasoning, which is at the same time homely and unrelenting. The given selection focuses ultimately on the relationship between kings, generals, ministers and the people. It is as applicable to our understanding of Donald Trump as it was to Tolstoy’s understanding of Napoleon or Alexander I of Russia. The translation from the Russian is mine.

The philosophical asides of Tolstoy in War and Peace serve as the raw input for this essay, because they strongly suggest the relevance of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in the late spring of 1812 to the psychological and strategic situation we find ourselves in today on the Old Continent in what could well be a prelude to all-out war. To go a step further, I would argue that the Napoleonic invasion of Russia is more relevant today than Cold War 1.0, not to mention WWI and WWII.

To be specific, 1812 as interpreted by Tolstoy raises the following issues:

  1. The precondition for war is the near universal acceptance of the logic of the coming war by not only those who will be doing the fighting but also by all those who must support the war effort in civilian capacity in production and logistics. That is to say people fight not because Power compels them to do so but because they are persuaded it serves their interests

In 1812, the logic of those enlisted by Napoleon was, on the high-minded side, the spread of the values of the French Revolution to the very fringes of autocratic Asia. On the low side, it was the incalculable riches awaiting the victors. For soldiers and officers that meant whatever could be seized by those lucky enough to occupy Moscow. For the French emperor and his coterie, it meant enforcement of the Continental System that enriched France at the expense of Britain and the other European states.

Transposed to our own day, this issue finds its parallel in the informational war the United States and the West more generally have been waging against Russia. The defamation of Putin, the denigration of Russia all have been swallowed whole by the vast majority of our political classes, who today would view with equanimity, perhaps even with enthusiasm any military conflict with Russia that may arise, whatever the immediate cause.

  1. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was not a French force acting out purely French ambitions but was described by Tolstoy as “a movement of the peoples of Europe from West to East.” The Grand Armée of 680,000 soldiers which Napoleon led had as its core his Imperial Guard of 20,000, which he never deployed in action against the Russians because of their vital role in keeping him in power. Ordinary French soldiers and officers who were put on the field to fight and die made up less than half of the total forces at Napoleon’s orders. They were a still smaller percentage of those who perished in the campaign. The rest of the army consisted of willing recruits from petty German states along the Rhine, Prussians, Dutch, Italians, Austrians and others, in particular Poles, who deserve special mention below.

Transposed to our own day, the multinational forces of French-led Europe of 1812 translate very nicely into American-led NATO.

  1. The single biggest contingent of the voluntary forces serving in the Grand Armée poised to invade Russia in 1812 were Poles, who were there for their own geopolitical purposes to restore their homeland to the map of Europe and to prove their value as Europe’s protectors. This is a point which Tolstoy develops at some length not just because of the numbers of Polish troops, which were very significant, at approximately 96,000 but because of the Poles’ likely influence on how the whole campaign by Napoleon was conceived, including the peculiar decision to march not on St. Petersburg but on the ancient Russian capital of Moscow, where the Poles sat on the throne exactly two hundred years before during a turbulent period known in Russian as the Time of Troubles.

Tolstoy goes out of his way to highlight the Polish factor in the invasion. This begins with his description of the June day when Napoleon stood on the banks of the Nieman River which marked the western border of the Russian Empire and gave the order to invade.

While Napoleon rested on a tree stump and looked over his maps, Tolstoy tells us that a Polish lancer came up to him, shouted Vivat and offered to lead his cavalry troops across the river before the eyes of the Emperor. Napoleon distractedly looked the other way, while the lancer’s men attempted the crossing, during which more than 40 of them drowned. The emperor afterwards made sure that the leader, who did make it across was duly given a medal.

A further tip-off on Tolstoy’s thinking about the role of the Poles in the invasion is his remark on what was going through Napoleon’s mind as he looked across the river to the Russian Cossack detachment on the other side. He tells us that Napoleon believed he was looking at the Asiatic steppes!

While Tolstoy does not attribute this specific extravagant idea to Napoleon’s Polish allies, who otherwise are close by his side, we note that at this time Napoleon has already donned a Polish officer’s uniform. And in a day or so he will be taking up residence in the home of a Polish nobleman in Vilno (today’s Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, then still a Polish province of Russia) where Alexander I had had his field headquarters just weeks before.

Transposing all of this to present-day, we find that once again Polish ruling elites are hard at work prompting, goading the European Union and the United States to use Poland as the shield against Russia. The notion of a Fort Trump falls perfectly in line with the sycophancy of their forebears to Bonaparte.

Finally, there are three observations about the invasion of 1812 which Tolstoy repeatedly tells us in his asides. They merit the full attention of today’s leadership in Washington and Brussels.

  1. Watch your supply lines!

It is today widely believed in the general public here in Belgium, in France that Napoleon was defeated in Russia not by superior military skills of his enemy but by “General Winter.” Even a cursory reading of Tolstoy shows that this is utter nonsense. The French retreat began after only 5 weeks of the occupation of Moscow in mid-September, when blasts of winter cold were still months away. But from the moment the withdrawal began the Grande Armée was melting away due to illness and desertions related to lack of provisions. The overall breakdown in discipline following on the marauding and looting during the occupation of Moscow compounded this disaster.

Provisions were lacking for a number of reasons, including very poor decisions by Napoleon on the route of return, using the already wasted Minsk highway. But the single most important reason was that Napoleon’s forces were overstretched. And, of course, that was no accident. Insofar as the Russian commander Kutuzov had a consistent strategy it was precisely to draw the French far into the country till their ability to sustain war was vitiated by the scorched earth policy of the Russian population, from peasants up to nobility.

Transposed to today’s strategic confrontation with Russia, the notion of NATO defending the Baltics or pursuing a war at Russia’s borders generally is as foolish as what Napoleon undertook. The United States is simply too far away to respond effectively to Russia fighting on its home soil, with or without the forward stationing of US supplies and rotating NATO forces in the East.

  1. Beware of “asymmetrical” responses to your military superiority

Tolstoy devotes considerable attention to the irregular Russian forces operating quasi-independently of the imperial Army which were used with devastating effect against Napoleon during his long retreat from Moscow. These were both Cossack detachments and forces of local noble landowners and peasants who made opportunistic raids on isolated groups of French-led troops and, Tolstoy hints, took no prisoners. They brought into play for Russia great tactical flexibility and heroic initiative outside the lines of command, where, as Tolstoy shows us in detail, there was always wrangling between the armchair generals brought in from court and the field commanders, between native Russian and foreign-born officers. All of this “asymmetrical” warfare compromises both Napoleon’s and our own vision of the contest in 1812 as one between the military of the ancien régime and the military of revolutionary France in the same way as Napoleon was perplexed and unable to respond to the Russian emperor’s refusal to raise the white flag and negotiate a peace after his historic capital, Moscow, was captured. Such obstinacy was simply not fair play by the inter-state rules of the day.

Transposed to today, it compels us to take with utmost seriousness the claims of President Putin to have put in place low cost and deadly asymmetrical weapon systems that can overcome and defeat America’s vast investments in a global missile network to contain Russia and possibly exercise a first nuclear strike.

  1. The outcome of battles and of war itself is not foreseeable.

In his narrative of the battles between the warring forces during the 1812 campaign, Tolstoy tells us repeatedly that the relative strength in men and materiel of the respective sides was only one factor to success, however important. That advantage could be overturned by greater determination and morale of the nominally weaker side. It could be overturned by the arbitrary decision of a noncommissioned officer on the front line to shout ‘hooray’ and lead his troops in attack or it could be enhanced by the arbitrary decision of such an officer to shout “we are lost” and pull back his forces in a rout. In no maneuver is morale more important than in retreat, which was the strategic plan of the Russian leadership.

Readiness for self-sacrifice to save the fatherland was the outstanding feature of the Russians in 1812, just as later proved itself in WWII. The battle of Borodino was, in purely military terms, a loss for the Russian side which left the battlefield with casualties and deaths more damaging than Napoleon’s Grand Armée suffered. However, it was a moral victory, because unlike all the European armies Napoleon had fought till then, only the Russians absorbed horrific losses from artillery bombardment and nonetheless stood their ground, leaving in an orderly retreat in the end. The way was now open for the French to take Moscow, but the Russian Army was not broken and would be there to enforce the flight of Napoleon’s force after it lost its strength to indiscipline and desertion during its stay in Moscow.

Transposing this message to our present day, we have reason to take seriously the manifest will of today’s Russians to stand their ground at whatever cost. More generally, we should pay close attention to a crusader for moderation who has the military experience to justify our respect. In his several books, Andrew Bacevich has argued repeatedly, like Tolstoy, that there are no certainties in war and that wars of choice must therefore be avoided.

Gilbert Doctorow, 2019


War and Peace. First pages of Volume Three. Part One Tolstoy’s philosophical thoughts on historical causality, on the role of Great Men in history and on day one of the invasion.

“From the end of 1811 there began a strengthened arming and concentration of forces of Western Europe and in 1812 these forces – millions of people (taking into account those who transported and fed the army) moved from West to East, to the borders of Russia to which precisely as in 1811 the forces of Russia were drawn. On 12 June the forces of Western Europe crossed the borders of Russia and war began, i.e., an event occurred which went against human reason and against all of human nature. Millions of people did to one another such countless evil deeds, deceptions, betrayals, theft, counterfeit and release of fake bank notes, stealing, arson and murders which for whole centuries you do not find in the chronicles of all courts of the world and for which in this period of time the people who perpetrated them did not view them as crimes.

“What produced this unusual event? What were its causes? Historians with naïve certainty say that the causes of this event were the offense given to the Duke of Oldenburg, the failure to observe the Continental system, the thirst for power of Napoleon, the firmness of Alexander, the errors of diplomats, etc.

“Consequently, you needed only that Metternich, Rumyantsev or Talleyrand, between the going forth and the rout, had to try harder and write some paper more skillfully or for Napoleon to write to Alexander: “Sir, my brother, I agree to accord the duchy to the Duke of Oldenburg,” and there would have been no war.

“It is understandable that it seemed to be the case to contemporaries. It is understandable that to Napoleon it appeared that the cause of the war was the intrigues of England (as he said on the island of St. Helena); it is understandable that to members of the English House of Commons it appeared that the cause of the war was the thirst for power of Napoleon; that to the prince of Oldenburg it appeared that the cause of war was the violence committed against himself; that to merchants it appeared that the cause of war was the Continental system, which ruined Europe; that to the old soldiers and generals it seemed that the main cause was the need to use them in the affair; to the legitimists of that time it was necessary to restore the proper principles, and to the diplomats of that time, everything resulted from the fact that the alliance of Russia with Austria in 1809 was not sufficiently skillfully concealed from Napoleon and the memorandum No. 178 was clumsily written. It is understandable that these and still countless more reasons, whose number depends on countless different points of view, appeared to contemporaries; but for us – the descendants who see the enormity of the event and are looking into its simple and terrible sense, – these causes are insufficient. For us it is not clear that millions of people- Christians – killed and tortured one another because Napoleon was thirsty for power, Alexander was firm, the policy of England was crafty and the Duke of Oldenburg was offended. We cannot understand the connection between these circumstances and the fact of murder and violence; why in consequence of the fact that the duke was offended thousands of people from one end of Europe killed and destroyed people of Smolensk and Moscow provinces and were killed by them.

For us, the descendants – not historians, not carried away by the process of searching and therefore with undimmed common sense contemplating the event, the causes seem to be countless in number. The more we get into the search for causes, the more they are revealed to us and every cause taken separately or a whole array of causes seems to us to be equally just by themselves, and equally false in their insignificance by comparison with the enormity of the event and equally false due to their inability (without the participation of all the other coincidental causes) to create the event which took place. Such a cause as the refusal of Napoleon to move his troops back beyond the Vistula and to give back the duchy of Oldenburg seems to us to rank with the refusal of the first French corporal to enroll for a second tour of duty: for if he did not want to go into the service and did not want a second tour and a third tour and the thousandth corporal and soldier there would be so many fewer people in the army of Napoleon and the war could not have been.

“If Napoleon had not been insulted by the demand that he move back beyond the Vistula and had not ordered his troops to advance, there would not have been a war; but if all the sergeants had not wanted to go for a second tour of duty war also would not have been possible. Also there could not have been a war if there were no intrigues by England and if there was no prince of Oldenburg and the feelings of insult in Alexander, and if there were no autocratic power in Russia, and if there had been no French revolution and the dictatorships and empire which followed from it, and everything that produced the French revolution, and so forth. Without one of these causes nothing could have been. And so these causes, all of them, billions of causes, came together for what happened to occur. And consequently nothing was the exclusive cause of the event, but the event had to happen only because it had to happen. Millions of people had to abjure their human feelings and their reason, going to the East from the West and killing people like themselves, just as several centuries before that crowds of people went from the East to the West and killed people like themselves.

“The actions of Napoleon and Alexander, from whose words it would seem the event took place or would not take place – were also no more arbitrary than the action of each soldier who went on the campaign by drawing lots or by recruitment. It could not be otherwise because for the will of Napoleon and Alexander (people upon whom, it seemed, the event depended) to be executed it was necessary that there be a coincidence of innumerable circumstances without one of which the event could not be carried through. It was necessary that millions of people in the hands of which there was real power, the soldiers who shot, carried the provisions and cannon, they had to agree to carry out the will of the singular individuals and weak people and they were brought to this by an innumerable number of complex and diverse reasons.

“Fatalism in history is inevitable to explain unreasonable phenomena (i.e., those whose reasonableness we cannot understand). The more we try to reasonably explain these phenomena in history, the more they become unreasonable and incomprehensible for us.

“Every person lives for himself, uses his freedom to achieve his own personal objectives and feels by his whole being that he can now do or not do some action; but as soon as he does it, this action completed at a certain moment in time becomes irreversible and becomes the property of history, in which it has not a free but a predetermined significance.

“There are two sides to life in each man: his personal life, which is freer the more abstract are his interests, and the elemental life where man inevitably performs what the laws prescribe for him.

“Man consciously lives for himself, but serves as an unconscious tool for the achievement of historical, general human goals. The act completed is irreversible, and his action, coinciding in time with millions of actions of other people, receives historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more he is bound up with big people, the more power he has over other people, the more obvious is the predetermination and inevitability of his every action.

The tsar’s heart in in God’s hands.”

“The tsar is the slave of history

“Napoleon, despite the fact that more than ever before in 1812 it seemed to him that it depended on him whether to spill or not to spill the blood of his peoples (as Alexander wrote to him in his last letter),never more than now did he submit to those inevitable laws which forced him (acting in relation to himself, as it seemed to him, by his arbitrary choice) to do for the common cause, for history, what had to be done.

“The peoples of the West move to the East to kill one another. And by the law of coincidence of causes it happened on its own and coincided with this event that there were thousands of small causes for this movement and for the war: rebuke over nonobservance of the Continental system, and the duke of Oldenburg, and the movement of troops into Prussia undertaken (as it seemed to Napoleon) only to achieve an armed peace, and the love and habits of the French emperor for war coinciding with the predisposition of his people, the attraction to grandeur of preparations, and the expenses on preparations, and the need to acquire advantages which would justify these expenses, and the ……millions and millions of other causes which underlay the event and coincided with it.

When the apple falls, why does it fall? From the fact that it is drawn to the earth, from the fact that the stem dries out, from the fact that it is dried by the sun; that it grows heavy, that the wind shakes it, from the fact that a boy standing underneath it wants to eat it?

“Nothing is the cause. These are just the coincidence of conditions under which any live, organic and elemental event occurs. And the botanist who finds that the apple falls because its cells decompose, etc. will be just as correct and just as incorrect as the child standing underneath who says that the apple fell because he wanted to eat it and prayed for this. Just as right and wrong will be the person who says that Napoleon went to Moscow because he wanted this and he was ruined because Alexander wanted his destruction: both right and wrong will be the person who says that an excavated hill weighing a million poods fell because the last worker struck it the last time with a pick. In historical events so called great men are labels which give a name to the event, which like labels have least of all any connection with the event.

“Every action by them which seems to them to be arbitrary and for themselves in historical sense is not arbitrary but is bound up with the whole course of history and has been determined eternally.”

29 May 1812 [Old Style] Napoleon left Dresden where he spent three weeks surrounded by his court.

“Although diplomats still firmly believed in the possibility of peace and worked hard with this goal, despite the fact that the emperor Napoleon himself wrote a letter to emperor Alexander calling him Monsieur mon frère and sincerely assuring him that he did not want war and always would love and respect him – he went to the army and gave at every station new orders aimed at speeding up the movement of the army from west to east. He traveled in a carriage pulled by six horses, surrounded by pages, adjutants and a convoy on the road to Posen, Torn, Danzig and Koenigsberg. In each of these cities thousands of people met him with thrill and delight.

“The Army moved from West to East and exchange teams of horses bore him there. On 10 June [Old Style] he reached the army and spent the night in the Wilkovis forest in an apartment prepared for him in the estate of a Polish count.

“The next day Napoleon caught up with the army and in a carriage approached the Nieman so as to inspect the place of crossing. He changed his dress into a Polish uniform and went out onto the shore.

“Seeing on the other side Cossacks and the Steppes spreading out, in the middle of which was Moscow, the Holy City, the capital of a state like the Scythian state, where Alexander of Macedon had gone. Napoleon, unexpectedly for everyone and against both strategic and diplomatic considerations, ordered the attack and on the next day his troops began to cross the Nieman.”

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2017. … his blog.

WW3 – US v China – US Defense Intelligence Agency ‘China Military Power’ Report Reveals Washington’s War Plans – By Colin Clark (Breaking Defense) 16 January 2019

A Drumbeat for War Against China

WASHINGTON: China is not ready to wage war far beyond the shores of Taiwan, but it is pressing hard to develop some advanced weapons and increasingly wants to project power beyond its shores with an increasingly capable military.

Those are the fundamental conclusions of the Defense Intelligence Agency in a unique report with its roots in the Cold War. Known as China Military Power, it was inspired by a similar enterprise known as the Soviet Military Power report, first published in 1981, which was translated into eight languages and distributed around the world.

The United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published the report this month, “China Military Power,” detailing the strength of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The report, which goes into great detail about the location, size, and sophistication of China’s weapon-systems, garrisons, command centers, air force, navy, and other tools of war, aims to stoke fear of “Chinese aggression” among the American public, while also signaling to Beijing the extent of US preparations for war.

The report was released only a few days after Patrick Shanahan, the acting US defense secretary following the resignation of James Mattis, used his first full-day to emphasize “Great Power competition” with China. “Remember: China, China, China,” he was reported to have told Pentagon staff.

The Pentagon released the report today, as well as a video to ensure the report’s assessments get as wide a distribution as possible.

(To read the Report in PDF – )

Today’s report leads with this quote:

The 2015 Chinese white paper China’s Military Strategy, issued by China’s State Council Information Office, states: “It is a Chinese Dream to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Chinese Dream is to make the country strong….Without a strong military, a country can neither be safe nor strong.”

While that might seem to set the stage for a harsh Cold War assessment of China’s rising military power, the result is markedly measured, especially to those who’ve followed these issues for some time.

DIA director, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, emphasized that “China Military Power 2019” showed China’s evolution from a domestically oriented force to a global one. He told reporters the PLA was changing “from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe.”

The report details a myriad of ways the PLA is increasing, in the jargon of the Pentagon, its ability to “project power”—that is, to have influence beyond its domestic borders. This includes the development of bombers, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, hospital ships, submarine port calls in foreign harbors, and more. In particular, the report drew attention to the PLA’s technical and organizational developments, including in hypersonic missiles, where China is allegedly ahead of the US in precision-guided ammunition, defense systems, and 5G technology.

Echoing the changing policy of the US military away from the “war on terror” and towards China and Russia, the report bemoaned that China had taken advantage of “a period of strategic opportunity” early this century, during US entanglements abroad, “wherein [China] presumably would not be involved in a major military conflict before 2020, allowing time for economic and military development.”

A senior defense official, speaking anonymously to Reuters said: “As a lot of these technologies mature, as [China’s] reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, the concern is we’ll reach a point where internally in their decision-making they will decide that using military force for regional conflict is something that is more imminent.”

With specific reference to Taiwan, the defense official continued that “the biggest concern is that they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell [President Xi Jinping] they are confident in their capabilities. We know in the past they have considered themselves a developing, weaker power.” Only weeks ago, the Trump administration approved a significant arms deal to the Asia-Pacific region and Taiwan in particular.

For example, Dan Taylor, a senior DIA analyst, told reporters: “The PLA will acquire advanced fighter aircraft, modern naval vessels, missile systems, and space and cyberspace assets as it reorganizes and trains to address 21st century threats further from China’s shores.”

In fact, Taylor said, “China is rapidly building a robust lethal force with capabilities spanning the ground, air, maritime, space and information domains designed to table to impose its will in the regional and beyond.”

A senior defense official (yep, one of those) said China is “on the leading edge” of building fieldable hypersonic glide vehicles to attack ships, along with various missile systems.

This has been made possible by consistent and expansive defense spending. Beijing’s total military-related spending for 2018 probably exceeded $200 billion, a threefold increase since 2002. Chinese military spending increased by an average of 10 percent annually from 2000 to 2016. It has since gradually slowed to 5- to 7-percent growth during the past 2 years, the report says.

But not all is rosy — from the Chinese pint of view — with other weapon systems. Many have pointed to the J-20 fighter, a stealthy looking aircraft that some compare to the F-35. As other defense officials have noted in the past, the Chinese have had “some issues with jet engines,” the senior official said. That means the PLA still have some challenges to get their systems up to the level they obviously are aiming for.

Combine that with China’s first foreign military base — “with a deployed company of Marines and equipment, and probable follow-on bases at other locations” — in Djibouti and you’ve got an historically inward-looking country, with a military focused on maintaining internal order and waging land wars, making a major shift. It “signals a turning point in the expansion of PLA operations in the Indian Ocean region and beyond,” the report drily notes.

But intent is the key when assessing another country’s military. What do they want to do with the weapons they are building?

Navy photo

“The biggest concern is that as a lot of these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into affect, as they become more proficient in their capabilities — our concern is they will reach a point where, internally, within their decision-making they will decide that using military for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior defense official said.

While the report seeks to drum up the threat of China, it is also forced to admit that the country lags behind the US when it comes to its capacity for foreign involvement militarily. The report notes: “Today’s PLA is still far from being able to deploy large numbers of conventional forces globally.” It describes China’s defense-industrial complex as “one to two generations behind its main competitors in the global arms industry.”

However, the PLA’s technical relationship to the United States and other imperialist powers is complex. The report notes that “although the total dollar value of China’s defense budget remains significantly below that of the United States, China has benefited from ‘latecomer advantage’… China has been able to focus on expediting its military modernization at a small fraction of the original cost.”

For example, the report notes that “China is the top ship-producing nation in the world,” is “capable of producing ground weapon systems [tanks, armored vehicles] at or near world-class standards,” and has cruise missile systems that are “comparable to those of other international top-tier producers.” However, when it comes to the most advanced parts, such as high-performance jet engines, it observes that China “remains reliant on foreign-sourced components.”

In multiple parts of the report, the authors note that China’s military is disadvantaged by not having been engaged in active conflict for several decades—unlike the United States, whose forces dominate the world. Furthermore, it notes that the organizational structure of the PLA has had to go through significant changes in the past two decades as it shifts from a more “hierarchical” organization, “rife with corruption,” to a segmented professional army with technical specialization and C2 capabilities (command and control capacity to monitor and act on things in real-time through coordinated data collection and information services). China has yet to test this new organizational structure in a time of war.

The report makes the point that elements of China’s nuclear force is “decades old and requires routine observation, maintenance, or refurbishment to maintain effectiveness.” It comments that while China’s forces officially follow a “no first use” policy, “some PLA officers have written publicly of the need to spell out conditions under which China might need to use nuclear weapons first; for example, if an enemy’s conventional attack threatened the survival of China’s nuclear forces or of the regime itself.”

Such statements underscore the reckless character of the US’s military and economic encirclement of China. Both China and the United States have enough nuclear firepower to destroy the majority of each other’s population and virtually end life on the planet. While other reports on China seek to downplay the threat of a nuclear catastrophe, the confrontational US policies necessarily threaten the survival of “the regime itself.”

“China Military Power” is different from other military reports in that it does not have a classified component and was created for public consumption. In this vein, the Pentagon released the report with a grotesque video aimed at generating a certain kind-of action-movie or video-game-like enthusiasm for war preparations against China.

The report is the continuation of a series of reports titled “Soviet Military Power” which were the first unclassified reports on the Soviet military, launched under Regan in 1981. The Pentagon relaunched the series in 2016, as part of the Pentagon’s larger refocusing towards preparing for war with both China and Russia.

Several times in his discussion with reporters, the senior defense official raised the worrying issue that the burgeoning Chinese forces, which the official noted have not fought a war in 40 years, might “miscalculate.” Given recent close brushes between the US Navy and PLAN ships, as well as China’s bellicose language whenever US or allied ships and planes perform perfectly legal close passes to areas China claims as its own, he may have a point.

US Football in Decline As Routine Brain Injuries Exposed – by Patrick Hruby (Guardian) 30 Jan 2019

As the Super Bowl approaches, is high school football dying a slow death?

Millions will watch the Rams and Patriots play this weekend. But participation in high-school football is falling, and fears over brain trauma could be to blame

For decades, high school football has been a feelgood American institution
For decades, high school football has been a feelgood American institution.


For Mike Kelly, a high school football coach in Manassas Park, Virginia, early August usually means anticipation and excitement. But last year, he had a problem. Practices at Manassas Park High School were drawing only 15 players – a tiny number for a sport in which rosters often exceed 50 athletes. Concluding that Kelly’s team was too undermanned to compete safely, the school cancelled its varsity football season, instead playing a junior varsity schedule.

“Finding out that you are not going to have a program, that has a big impact on not just the kids [on the team], but on the school itself and the community,” said Kelly, who has coached at the the school for four seasons and played football himself at the University of Virginia. “You don’t feel good.”

For many decades, high school football has been a feelgood American institution. The sport provides pride and entertainment in small towns and big cities alike, inspires films like Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights, and produces the next generation of stars in college football and the NFL.

Yet as fans prepare to gorge on beer and guacamole while watching the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the sport is eroding at its roots. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), high school football participation in the United States is down 6.1% over the last decade, falling from 1.14m players in 2008 to 1.07m in 2017. That decline has occurred even as overall high school sports participation has increased by 5.9% over the same span, rising to 7.98m athletes in 2017. In addition, youth tackle football – a feeder system for high schools – has seen a 17.4% participation drop among children ages six to 12 over the past five years, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Coaches and others attribute the slide to a number of factors, including rising interest in other sports. First and foremost, many believe, is increased public awareness of the scientific link between football hits to the head and brain injuries, including concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease that’s been found in the brains of former players.

While high school football is not yet suffering a full-blown crisis, it finds itself coping with mounting reports of merged teams, forfeited games and canceled seasons.

“During the offseason, we would always have 100 kids waiting, preparing for the next year,” said Tom Green, football coach at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, at an Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program youth football forum held last year. “The last few years, we’re down to like 40, 35 kids participating in football. Our numbers have dropped.”

Peak football?

Football remains the top high school sport overall, and the most popular among male athletes. More than a million boys played in 2017 – nearly double the number that participated in outdoor track and field (600,097) or basketball (551,373), and greater than the amount who played baseball (487,097) and soccer (456,362) combined.

Spectator interest is also healthy. ESPN broadcast 18 high school football games across three of its networks last fall. In Texas, nine high school stadiums costing between $20m and $70m were built over the last decade, while another facility was renovated for $33m.

Randy Trivers, who coaches at Gonzaga High School in Washington DC and last December was named USA Today’s All-USA Coach of the Year, says that overall enthusiasm for football is “as strong as it has ever been”. Trivers recently met with a college coach who had just taken his first recruiting trip to Texas, where he watched several dozen high school players conduct an offseason workout. The college coach subsequently was told that “the varsity guys will be coming later”.

“It was all freshman players,” Trivers said. “The passion is still there. The quality of the football on the field is as good as it has ever been.”

Quantity is another story. In the fall of 2017, University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr received an email from his son’s junior high announcing that there wasn’t enough interest from students at three nearby middle schools to form a single eighth-grade tackle football team.

That got Pielke – who blogs about sports and previously wrote a book on doping –wondering: was America experiencing what he calls “Peak Football”, the moment of maximum participation in the sport? Examining NHFS data, he saw that high school football participation increased every year from 1998 to 2008, peaking at roughly 1.14m players. Since then, however, the number of athletes has dropped every year except 2014.

Comparing those numbers to US Census Bureau population data for 2010 to 2016, Pielke found a similar pattern: the percentage of American boys ages 14-17 playing high school football peaked at 13.2% in 2013 and fell to 12.7% in 2016. Over the last decade, Pielke saw, participation was up in a handful of football hotbeds, including Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. But it had dropped in 40 states, sometimes by surprisingly large margins: 9.5% in California, 11.6% in New Jersey, 21.6% in Michigan, 23% in Ohio and 55% in Vermont.

Since 2014 alone, high school football has lost more than 45,000 participants – roughly 600 teams’ worth of players. “Demographically, it seems pretty convincing that we are in the early part of a process that started a decade ago where football is just not was popular as it used to be among youth,” Pielke said. “Exactly why it is happening is a tricky question.”

Players pray before a game in Bremerton, Washington
Players pray before a game in Bremerton, Washington

Safety concerns

Trivers said recruiting high school athletes to play football is more challenging than when he first began coaching more than two decades ago.

“Athletes are more likely to play one sport year-round, especially with so many parents trying to push their kids for college scholarships,” he said. “And football is hard. People don’t like hard. If you have a kid who likes football and basketball, going to play for two hours in the gym is different than going out in the hot sun or cold rain and practicing football.”

The sport’s level of physical risk is different, too. According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, football has the highest injury and concussion rates of any high school sport; the Healthy Sport Index, a data-driven online tool developed by the Aspen Institute that compares 10 youth sports, ranks football last in terms of athlete safety.

“Those concerns have always been there, but over my career, they certainly have increased,” Trivers said. “When you start talking about head injuries, it has trickled down from the NFL. And I think the way things have been emphasized and portrayed in the media has made for a different level of questioning for families and parents wondering what sports they should get their kids involved in.”

Nathan Stiles, who died in 2010 at age 17 of a brain injury following a high school football game, subsequently became the youngest person to be diagnosed with CTE. Two years ago, Boston University researchers reported that they had found the disease in the brains of 110 of 111 former NFL players, 48 of 53 former college players, and three of 14 former high school players they posthumously examined. Meanwhile, researchers from Purdue University have found that both concussions and subconcussive blows can cause damage and changes to the brains of high school football players.

In 2016, a University of Massachusetts survey found that 65% of the public considers sports concussions and head injuries to be a major problem; that 87% believe that CTE is a serious public health issue; and that 48% think the statement that “tackle football is a safe activity for children during high school” is either certainly or probably false.

Pielke said that the two steepest high school football participation drops this decade came in 2012 – when Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, later diagnosed with CTE, committed suicide – and 2015, when the Will Smith feature film Concussion, detailing the NFL’s alleged denial and dismissal of CTE research, was released in theaters.

“Was that causal?” Pielke said. “I don’t know. That’s a tricky social science question. But the notion that the more people talk about head injury risk in football, the more parents and kids making decisions to play are aware of that risk isn’t outlandish.”

Too big to fail?

Concussions and the risk of brain trauma seen in the NFL have raised fears among parents of student athletes
Concussions and the risk of brain trauma seen in the NFL have raised fears among parents of student athletes.

To mitigate brain injury risk, sports governing bodies in Texas, Florida and other states have limited hitting and tackling during high school football practices. Additional reductions are likely, and the sport eventually could adopt rules changes to reduce violent collisions and helmet-to-helmet hits.

But whether such measures will be enough to halt or reverse declining participation remains to be seen. As awareness of football’s dangers increases, academic administrators and policymakers may question the wisdom of schools sponsoring a sport that can damage students’ brains. Lawsuits and rising insurance costs also could force some schools to drop the sport.

Football’s demographics may be shifting as well, following the path of boxing – a once-mainstream sport that largely has been abandoned by upper- and middle-class families and now draws most of its participants from poorer communities where athletes are less likely to be educated about, and more willing to accept, health risks.

A story on HBO’s Real Sports airing this week found that over the last five years in Illinois, the proportion of high school rosters occupied by low-income boys has risen nearly 25% – even as the number of players in the state has fallen by 14.8% over the same period.

Yet despite its current problems, high school football likely is too big to fail. Americans have been enjoying the sport for as long as they’ve been fretting about the safety of its participants: in 1907, the Journal of the American Medical Association condemned tackle football for children under age 18, calling it “no sport for boys to play”.

Even if high school football continues to lose participants at its current rate, Pielke calculates, it still would boast more than 800,000 players in 2030.

“A gradual erosion over time is a large concern, but I don’t think it will ever just disappear,” said Jon Solomon, editorial director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. “Personally, I think it will continue to be fairly popular as a whole in our country.”

Kelly concurs. After Manassas Park High canceled its varsity season, its junior varsity team went undefeated – and finished the season with 31 athletes, a large enough roster that the school plans to resume varsity play this coming fall.

“We are going to have a team,” Kelly said. “We will build from where we are at, and eventually build back to where it was.”  There are no plans to help students who develop life-long brain problems. 


Reading ‘Lolita’ in the West – by Zachary Snowdon Smith – 26 Jan 2019

In 1955, when a flushing toilet was still considered too offensive for the eyes of the movie-going public, it’s no surprise that a blackly comic novel about sex with children would cause a stir. Enter Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the effusively written story of a 37-year-old literature professor who marries a widow in order to gain access to Lolita, her 12-year-old daughter. The star of Lolita is not Lolita herself, but Humbert Humbert, who hides his obsession with adolescent girls under a mask of tweedy old-world erudition. Humbert uses his position as narrator to lecture the reader on the many noble aspects of adult-on-child romance, and to extol his love for his adopted daughter/concubine. To many, Nabokov remains “the guy who wrote that book about pedophilia.”

Following its publication, Lolita was ignored, and then banned. Britain led the way, confiscating all copies of the novel entering the country, and France followed suit. Only months after its release did Lolita receive its first positive review from a respectable paper, the Sunday Times.

Responding to the Sunday Times, John Gordon, editor of the Sunday Express, spoke for Lolita’s moral critics: “Without doubt it is the filthiest book I have ever read. Sheer unrestrained pornography… Anyone who published it or sold it here would certainly go to prison. I am sure the Sunday Times would approve, even though it abhors censorship as much as I do.”

The first edition of Lolita was printed by Olympia Press, a publishing house where the pornographic bumped elbows with the merely provocative. Nabokov was not the first serious writer to take refuge with the seedy publisher: William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Robert Kaufman’s exposé Inside Scientology all had their first editions at Olympia. The Olympia imprint, however, did little to improve Lolita’s credibility.

In the 2010s, as hand-wringing over the moral effects of art has grown fashionable once more, Lolita has been subjected to fresh scrutiny. In Russia, an ascendant religious Right has sought to discredit Nabokov as an un-Russian cosmopolitan and purveyor of deviance. The Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg has suffered particular abuse, ranging from graffiti accusing Nabokov of pedophilia to having vodka bottles containing Bible verses thrown through its windows.

One email received by museum director Tatyana Ponomareva, from a group calling itself the “Orthodox Cossacks,” reads: “We believe that Nabokov’s museum cannot exist in St. Petersburg, and ask you to move it outside city limits…. Our goal is to rid our beloved country from the culture of Satan, depravity, and violence.”

These primitive antics have been reinforced by more sophisticated attempts to erode Nabokov’s reputation among educated Russians. In 2013, around the time of the Orthodox Cossacks’ vandalism of the Nabokov Museum, Literaturnaya Gazeta columnist Valery Rokotov enthusiastically set about dismantling Nabokov’s legacy as an icon of Russian culture:

Today, reading Nabokov, you catch yourself thinking that you are wasting your time. You are quickly lulled by the murmur of his text, flowing in a leisurely stream and completely without meaning. You understand fully what stood behind his coronation. His heights of style and loud disrespect of the classics were not only a tool with which to hammer Soviet chiliasm. They turned out to be an ideal stupefying machine, extremely important to the new, postmodern society. It’s no coincidence that postmodernists look on him as a god.

In the West, puritanical concern with art emerges not as much from the Orthodox Right as from the progressive Left. For readers subscribing to the axiom that all speech is an exercise of power, there is little redeeming in a novel that, however prettily written, remains a comedy about rape authored by a wealthy and powerful man. Many revisionist spin-offs of Lolita, like the novel Lo’s Diary and the stage play Dolores, have mounted explicit attacks on the inferred misogyny of the original. Author Rebecca Solnit, who has carried on a years-long feud with Nabokov’s admirers, writes, in an article titled “Men Explain Lolita to Me”:

The popular argument that novels are good because they inculcate empathy assumes that we identify with characters, and no one gets told they’re wrong for identifying with Gilgamesh or even Elizabeth Bennett. It’s just when you identify with Lolita you’re clarifying that this is a book about a white man serially raping a child over a period of years. Should you read Lolita and strenuously avoid noticing that this is the plot and these are the characters? Should the narrative have no relationship to your own experience?

For right-wing critics, Nabokov remains a pervert and an amoral postmodernist; for progressive ones, he’s just another dead white man. The fact that Nabokov snarkily decried anti-war activists and other “class-conscious philistines” has also done little to endear him to social-justice-minded readers. In an article celebrating feminist reappraisals of Nabokov, Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam wrote: “I’m a Lolita fan, but let’s face it, Solnit is right: This is a sprightly little tale about the serial rape of an unwilling or indifferent 12-year-old, embraced and promoted by the male literary establishment.”

*     *     *

Did Nabokov share Humbert’s inclination toward pedophilia (or, for the pedants, hebephilia)? The notion is popular among readers, and non-readers, of Lolita, and it’s easy to see why. After all, why would Nabokov craft such a charming and witty character, only to fill his mouth with eloquent defenses of ideas with which Nabokov himself disagreed? Why spend five years writing a manifesto for something you’re against?

Throughout the novel, Humbert paints attraction to children as a kind of refined aesthetic taste, himself as a victim of fate, and his own victim as a kind of provocateur:

A normal man given a group photograph of school girls or Girl Scouts and asked to point out the comeliest one will not necessarily choose the nymphet among them. You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs — the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate — the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.

There are, in fact, many similarities between Nabokov and Humbert, which feed the theory of Humbert as Nabokov’s alter-ego. Both Nabokov and Humbert were European immigrants to the United States, both taught literature and published poems, both were skilled chess players, both disdained Freudianism, and both shared a talent for audacious multilingual wordplay.

A close reader, however, will find numerous cues that Nabokov did not view Humbert as a kindred spirit. While Nabokov was himself an exile from the Soviet Union, Humbert has only disdain for the novel’s handful of Russian émigré characters. Humbert sarcastically refers to a White Russian colonel-turned-cabdriver as “the Tsarist” and “Mr. Taxovich,” and misses no opportunity to draw attention to the colonel’s poor French and corny ancien régime courtesy. That Humbert is a world traveler who, nonetheless, views Nabokov’s own country exclusively through a set of crude clichés, should not be overlooked.

After writing, Nabokov’s chief pleasure was butterfly-hunting. This was no mere hobby — Nabokov spent years working as a lepidopterist at Harvard University and elsewhere, and ornamented gift copies of his books with color sketches of butterflies. On this topic that was so crucial to Nabokov, he and Humbert once more diverge: at one point, Humbert laughably mistakes a cloud of hawk moths for “gray hummingbirds.” It may also be worth noting that Humbert describes himself, twice, as a spider who wishes to catch Lolita in his web — spiders also being natural predators of butterflies. It’s doubtful that Nabokov, for whom butterfly-hunting was a doorway to life’s sublimity, would have written a self-insert as a lepidopterological ignoramus.

Indeed, much of the novel’s dark comedy emanates from Humbert’s absurd use of elevated verbiage to embellish his predatory and self-deceiving actions. In one scene, Lolita develops a fever. Rather than taking her to the doctor, Humbert decides that the time is right for seduction: “I could not resist the exquisite caloricity of unexpected delights — Venus febriculosa — though it was a very languid Lolita that moaned and coughed and shivered in my embrace.” Here, the reader is invited to laugh incredulously at Humbert’s narcissism; to read this passage as a blithe endorsement of raping children while they have the flu is to miss Lolita’s true audacity.

On the other hand, new readers who have been acquainted with Lolita’s hair-raising reputation, but not with the book itself, are often disappointed by how little sex is to be found within its pages. Nabokov’s sex scenes are as allusive, as intricate, and as playful as the rest of his work. In perhaps the novel’s most explicit moment, Humbert dandles Lolita on his lap:

The day before she had collided with the heavy chest in the hall and — “Look, look!” — I gasped — “look at what you’ve done, what you’ve done to yourself, ah, look”; for there was, I swear, a yellowish-violet bruise on her lovely nymphet thigh which my huge hairy hand massaged and slowly enveloped — and because of her very perfunctory underthings, there seemed to be nothing to prevent my muscular thumb from reaching the hot hollow of her groin — just as you might tickle and caress a giggling child — just that — and: “Oh, it’s nothing at all,” she cried with a sudden shrill note in her voice, and she wiggled, and squirmed, and threw her head back, and her teeth rested on her glistening underlip as she half-turned away, and my moaning mouth, gentlemen of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out against her left buttock the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever known.

In short, anyone who buys a copy of Lolita as a companion piece to The 120 Days of Sodom is likely to be let down. (A friend once asked me, in somewhat conspiratorial tones, to lend her my copy of Lolita. She returned it two days later, commenting that it “seemed censored.”)

Alfred Appel, who studied under Nabokov at Cornell and later went on to annotate Lolita for McGraw-Hill, recalls the shock of finding his erudite former professor published by Olympia Press:

I was on the Left Bank and I wandered into a dusty, quaint old bookstore… I did a double-, maybe triple-take because there was a book called Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, my professor. And in the matching green Olympia covers, on the left side was a book called Until She Screams and on the right side of the Lolita was a book called The Sexual Life of Robinson Crusoe. So I bought the middle book, Lolita, and took it back to the barracks. Someone wanted to read my dirty book, but couldn’t get through the first sentence and threw it down, said it was “goddamn literature.”

For his part, Nabokov seemed to find Lolita’s confusion with pornography rather funny. In one interview, Nabokov is seen leafing through a bookshelf full of Lolitas, taking a moment to chuckle at a Turkish edition with generic Harlequin-style cover art: “Look at the man and the girl. I’m not sure who is older!”

Nabokov seems not to have considered seriously that readers might so strongly identify him with Humbert. “The double rumble [‘Humbert Humbert’] is, I think, very nasty, very suggestive,” Nabokov told Playboy in 1964. “It is a hateful name for a hateful person.” To the Paris Review, he commented, “Humbert Humbert is a vain and cruel wretch who manages to appear ‘touching.’ That epithet, in its true, tear-iridized sense, can only apply to my poor little girl.”

Perhaps we identify Nabokov most readily with the narrator of Lolita simply because Lolita is the only one of his books we know well. The antihero of the lesser-known novel Despair lectures us on the virtues of Marxism — how many readers suspect Nabokov of being a secret Marxist? Pale Fire’s protagonist rhapsodizes on the shapely rumps and thighs of male youths — does this suggest that Nabokov was a closet case? We all know Humbert Humbert, the prototypical pervert, but few of us are acquainted with Hermann Karlovich, Charles Kinbote or, for that matter, Vladimir Nabokov.

As Nabokov remarked, Lolita is famous, not I.”


US Military’s Lost Wars: Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There – By William J. Astore (TomDispatch) 28 Jan 2019

winged victory of samothrace

(Winged Victory of Samothrace)

One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013).

Think about it. America’s Afghan War began in 2001 with what was essentially a punitive raid against the Taliban, part of which was mythologized last year in 12 Strong, a Hollywood film with a cavalry charge that echoed the best of John Wayne. That victory, however, quickly turned first into quagmire and then, despite various “surges” and a seemingly endless series of U.S. commanders (17 so far), into a growing sense of inevitable defeat. Today, a resurgent Taliban exercises increasing influence over the hearts, minds, and territory of the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s response so far has been a mini-surge of several thousand troops, an increase in air and drone strikes, and an attempt to suppress accurate reports from the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction about America’s losing effort there.

Turn now to the invasion of Iraq: in May 2003, President George W. Bush cockily announced “Mission Accomplished from the deck of an aircraft carrier, only to see victory in Baghdad degenerate into insurgency and a quagmire conflict that established conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Gains in stability during a surge of U.S. forces orchestrated by General David Petraeus in 2007 and hailed in Washington as a fabulous success story proved fragile and reversible. An ignominious U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 was followed in 2014 by the collapse of that country’s American-trained and armed military in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State militants. A recommitment of U.S. troops and air power brought Stalingrad-style devastation to cities like Mosul and Ramadi, largely reduced to rubble, while up to 1.3 million children were displaced from their homes. All in all, not exactly the face of victory.

Nor, as it happened, was the Obama administration’s Libyan intervention of 2011. “We came, we saw, he died,” boasted a jubilant Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the time. The “he” was Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s autocratic ruler whose reign of terror looked less horrible after that country collapsed into a failed state, while spreading both terror groups and weaponry throughout the region. That, in turn, led to wider and more costly U.S. interventions in Africa, including the infamous loss of four Green Berets to an ISIS franchise in Niger in 2017.

“We don’t win [wars] anymore,” said candidate Donald Trump in 2016 and he wasn’t wrong about that. In fact, that remarkable record of repeatedly turning initially advertised victory into something approximating defeat would be one reason candidate Trump could boast that he knew more about military matters than America’s generals. Yet for all his talk of winning, victories (large or small) have proved no less elusive for him as commander-in-chief. Recall the botched raid in Yemen early in 2017 that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and many Yemeni innocents, which Trump blamed on his generals. Recall the president’sbeautiful cruise missile attack against Syria in April of that same year, which resolved nothing. Or recall the way he recently “fired” retired general Jim Mattis (just after he resigned as secretary of defense) supposedly because he couldn’t bring the Afghan War to a victorious close.

The question is: What’s made America’s leaders, civilian and military, quite so proficient when it comes to turning victories into defeats? And what does that tell us about them and their wars?

A Sustained Record of Losing

During World War II, British civilians called the “Yanks” who would form the backbone of the Normandy invasion in June 1944 (the one that contributed to Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender less than a year later) “overpaid, oversexed, and over here.” What can be said of today’s Yanks? Perhaps that they’re overfunded, overhyped, and always over there – “there” being unpromising places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Let’s start with always over there. As Nick Turse recently reported for TomDispatch, U.S. forces remain deployed on approximately 800 foreign bases across the globe. (No one knows the exact number, Turse notes, possibly not even the Pentagon.) The cost: somewhere to the north of $100 billion a year simply to sustain that global “footprint.” At the same time, U.S. forces are engaged in an open-ended war on terror in 80 countries, a sprawling commitment that has cost nearly $6 trillion since the 9/11 attacks (as documented by the Costs of War Project at Brown University). This prodigious and prodigal global presence has not been lost on America’s Tweeter-in-Chief, who opined that the country’s military “cannot continue to be the policeman of the world.” Showing his usual sensitivity to others, he noted as well that “we are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

Yet Trump’s inconsistent calls to downsize Washington’s foreign commitments, including vows to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria and halve the number in Afghanistan, have encountered serious pushback from Washington’s bevy of war hawks like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and his own national security advisor, John Bolton. Contrary to the president’s tweets, U.S. troops in Syria are now destined to remain there for at least months, if not years, according to Bolton. Meanwhile, Trump-promised troop withdrawals from Afghanistan may be delayed considerably in the (lost) cause of keeping the Taliban – clearly winning and having nothing but time – off-balance. What matters most, as retired General David Petraeus argued in 2017, is showing resolve, no matter how disappointing the results. For him, as for so many in the Pentagon high command, it’s perfectly acceptable for Americans to face a “generational struggle” in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) that could, he hinted, persist for as long as America’s ongoing commitment to South Korea – that is, almost 70 years.

Turning to overfunded, the unofficial motto of the Pentagon budgetary process might beaim highand in this they have succeeded admirably. For example, President Trump denounced a proposed Pentagon budget of $733 billion for fiscal year 2020 ascrazyhigh. Then he demonstrated his art-of-the-deal skills by suggesting a modest cut to $700 billion, only to compromise with his national security chiefs on a new figure: $750 billion. That eternal flood of money into the Pentagon’s coffers – no matter the political party in power – ensures one thing: that no one in that five-sided building needs to think hard about the disastrous direction of U.S. strategy or the grim results of its wars. The only hard thinking is devoted to how to spend the gigabucks pouring in (and keep more coming).

Instead of getting the most bang for the buck, the Pentagon now gets the most bucks for the least bang. To justify them, America’s defense experts are placing their bets not only on their failing generational war on terror, but also on a revived cold war (now uncapitalized) with China and Russia. Such rivals are no longer simply to be “deterred,” to use a commonplace word from the old (capitalized) Cold War; they must now beovermatched,” a new Pentagon buzzword that translates into unquestionable military superiority (including newlyusable nuclear weapons) that may well bring the world closer to annihilation.

Finally, there’s overhyped. Washington leaders of all stripes love to boast of a military that’s “second to none,” of a fighting force that’s thefinestin history. Recently, Vice President Mike Pence reminded the troops that they are “the best of us.” Indeed you could argue that “support our troops” has become a new American mantra, a national motto as ubiquitous as (and synonymous with) “In God we trust.” But if America’s military truly is the finest fighting force since forever, someone should explain just why it’s failed to produce clear and enduring victories of any significance since World War II.

Despite endless deployments, bottomless funding, and breathless hype, the U.S. military loses – it’s politely called astalemate” – with remarkable consistency. America’s privates and lieutenants, the grunts at the bottom, are hardly to blame. The fish, as they say, rots from the head, which in this case means America’s most senior officers. Yet, according to them, often in testimony before Congress, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, that military is always making progress. Victory, so they claim, is invariably around the next corner, which they’re constantly turning or getting ready to turn.

America’s post-9/11 crop of generals like Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, and especially Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus have been much celebrated here in the mainstream media. And in their dress uniforms shimmering with colorful ribbons, badges, and medals, they certainly looked the part of victors.

Indeed, when three of them were still in Donald Trump’s administration, the pro-war mainstream media unabashedly saluted them as theadults in the room,” allegedly curbing the worst of the president’s mad impulses. Yet consider the withering critique of veteran reporter William Arkin who recently resigned from NBC News to protest the media’s reflexive support of America’s wars and the warriors who have overseen them. “I find it disheartening,” he wrote, “that we do not report the failures of the generals and national security leaders. I find it shocking that we essentially condone continued American bumbling in the Middle East and now Africa through our ho-hum reporting.” NBC News, he concluded in his letter of resignation, has been “emulating the national security state itself – busy and profitable. No wars won but the ball is kept in play.”

Arkin couldn’t be more on target. Moreover, self-styled triumphalist warriors and a cheeringly complicit media are hardly the ideal tools with which to fix a tottering republic, one allegedly founded on the principle of rule by informed citizens, not the national security state.

Can America Turn Defeat Into Victory?

Like Field Marshal Slim and his coalition army in Burma, America must find a way to turn defeat into victory. Here’s the rub: Slim and his forgotten army knew that they were fighting a war of survival against a ruthless Japanese enemy. Under his results-oriented leadership, his forces proved willing to make the sacrifices necessary for victory. In the U.S. case, however, no such sacrifices would matter as there’s no way to win thoroughly misbegotten wars by finding the right general or defining a new strategy or throwing more money at the Pentagon. The only way to win such wars is by ending them and, at some gut level, candidate Trump seemed to recognize this. On occasion as president, he has indeed questioned both the high cost and disastrous results of those wars, but so far he has been more interventionist than isolationist, greatly expanding air and drone strikes across the Greater Middle East as well as committing, at the urging ofhisgenerals, more troops to Afghanistan and Syria.

Endless war for any purpose other than the literal preservation of the republic isn’t a measure of fortitude or toughness or foresight; however, it is the path to national suicide. And the “war on terror” has proven to be the very definition of endless war.

A quick recap: what started in 2001 as a punitive raid and blossomed into endless war against the Taliban and later other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan shows no sign of abating; a war to rid Saddam Hussein of (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction cratered in 2003 when none were found, the Iraqis did not greet their “liberators” with flowers, and no preparations had been made to stabilize an increasingly ethnically riven country after a massively destructive invasion; a shortsighted operation to overthrow a bothersome dictator in Libya in 2011 led to the spread of death, destruction, and weaponry throughout the region; efforts in Syria to train “moderate” Islamic forces to counter extremists and overthrow the country’s autocratic ruler Bashar al-Assad only aggravated a preexisting civil war. These and similar interventions are already lost causes. There is no way for better leaders, cleverer tactics, or booming defense budgets to win them today.

In the future, the surest way to turn defeat into victory would be to avoid such needless wars. On the other hand, a surefire way to defeat is to persist in them out of fear, greed, opportunism, careerism, or similar motives. These are lessons America’s gung-ho defense experts have little incentive to absorb, let alone act upon – and because they won’t, we must.

winged victory of sam

A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and professor of history, William Astore is a TomDispatch regular. His personal blog is Bracing Views.