Why Are Arab Armies So Generally Worthless?

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Mon, Sep 1 - 9:00 am EDT | 3 years ago by
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    Lines of Departure - Arab Soldier

    As an American soldier, I found that one of the best and most satisfying things about the first Gulf War, the liberation of Kuwait, was that we’d never again have to listen to how great the Israelis were. We’d seen the Arabs, met them, and went through them like a hot knife through butter. What did Tzahal have to teach us?

    It’s a complex set of problems they have, the armies of the Arab world. Here’s a true story that will illustrate a lot of that why. It’s also a story I’ve told before in the essay, Training for War1:

    During Bright Star 85, the Egyptian Army, which is one of the better Arab armies, set up some tents for us as Wadi Natrun, northwest of Cairo. The officer in charge of the detail looked at the Americans, looked at the tents (which were, by the way, better than ours), looked at the Americans…

    He was thinking that an American’s signature on a hand receipt would do him no good if one of those very good and very expensive tents grew legs and went to hide in a shipping container. He put his platoon in formation, held up three fingers, and announced, “I need three guards.”

    Every man reached into his back pocket, pulled out a wallet and began peeling off notes. That is to say, they were offering bribes, baksheesh. The three who came up with the smallest bribes were picked to guard the tents. These three then proceeded to squat by the road, hold hands, and cry like babies.2 And it was sort of understandable that they cried because for the next four days they got no food or water except what our men gave them out of pity; their officer just didn’t care.

    That’s what you fight when you fight Arab armies, and that’s why we went through them like lightning. They’re a collection of demoralized bipedal sheep, usually led by corrupt and connected human filth. Exceptions? Sure there are exceptions; I’ve met a few. That’s why we call them “exceptional.” Shazly, the Egyptian general who got the army across the Suez, was an exception. He’s dead. Baki Zaki Youssef, the then young lieutenant of engineers who figured out how to breach the sand wall on the eastern bank of the Suez is old now. That he’s also a Copt, a Christian, may also suggest something about the problems of the Muslim mass.3

    The Arabs are what the sociologists like to call “amoral familists.” This means that they are nearly or totally incapable of forming bonds of love and loyalty with anyone not a blood relation. Even then, the degree of blood relation determines where loyalty legitimately lies. The saying in the area is: “Me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the world.” This not only allows a superior to extort baksheesh from non-relations, but identifies him as an idiot – a weak idiot, actually – if he does not.

    The Arab private? He’s no more a coward than anybody else. Indeed, as an individual, I might rate him above, or even substantially above, the human norm. But he is just one man, alone.

    With us, the very broad us within the western military tradition and some eastern military traditions, or with Israelis, who are very western, “It’s all of us against all of them. They’re toast.” With him? With that poor dumb-shit Arab private? “It’s all of them against me alone. I’m toast.” He knows no one in his unit cares about him; after all, he doesn’t care about any of them, either. They’re just not family. So when that private is placed in the loneliest position in the world, the modern battlefield? He runs or surrenders at the first sign things are going badly. (He’ll be fine as long as they are going well, though. Note: Things rarely go well.) Defeat is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that has been fulfilled so often at this point that an Arab who didn’t expect it probably ought be locked up for his own good.

    Add in the fantasy mindset. Don’t forget “Insh’allah,” (Which is like “mañana,” but without the sense of urgency) which makes it somewhat impious to train really well since it is all the will of God anyway. Insh’allah also provides an excuse for bad behavior on the battlefield. Add in a set of social values that despise and loathe physical labor.

    Militarily, they’ve got nothing going for them.4

    This may piss some people off; the Israelis have routinely stomped the Arabs so badly not because the Israelis are so great. In fact, outside of a few units the Israelis are just decent citizen soldier militia, nothing very special. But fighting the Arabs even just decent militia can shine.

    I suggested in footnote four, below, that there is a way to make better Arab units, but it has three severe limitations and problems. The first of these is closely related to what I said above, Arabs rarely if ever can form bonds of loyalty and love with non-blood relations. Hence, one forms units of blood relations. They will fight like hell for each other, their fathers and uncles, their brothers and cousins, and for the glory of the clan. What happens then, though?

    The first problem is that the units so formed are also the power, standing and security of their clan. They can only afford to lose or to risk so much without damaging that power, standing and security. They won’t usually run. Surrender is rare indeed. Still, there comes a point when they simply have to retire in good order.

    The second problem is a problem from the point of view of the government that raises the blood-based units. In an organization that is formed from a clan or tribe, the loyalty of everyone, from the rank and file to the commanding officer, is not to the government. It isn’t to the country, which is a pretty weak concept in the Arab world anyway. Family and faith matter there a great deal; countries little or not at all.

    I don’t know if the third problem is inevitable, but I’ve seen it just about enough to suspect so.

    Watch the commander of a battalion of the Saudi Haras al Watiny, the National Guard.5 Watch how he acts with his driver. Tactfully nose about to see what the familial relationship is with that driver. Odds are, the driver – driving, not being driven, is the prestige and power position amongst the Saudi Arabs – is the battalion commander’s uncle, hence senior in the clan. He is the real battalion commander. He exercises real political control over the battalion. He may let the youngster pretend that said youngster is in charge. The above may differ in details, but the trend generally holds.

    __________

    1 http://www.amazon.com/Training-War-Essay-Tom-Kratman-ebook/dp/B00JQI9TH2/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_d_3 Note the temptingly low price.

    2 Although there does appear to be a fairly strong element of bisexuality in the Arab male’s makeup, no, men holding hands doesn’t mean that.

    3 I’m really not a huge fan of most people, but I’ll state for the record that if there are any people living I’d go out of my way to shake the hand of, Lieutenant Baki Zaki Youssef is not least among them. Neither would Shazly have been.

    4 The Arab Legion is a partial exception to this, as is the Saudi National Guard, but they are highly limited exceptions.

    5 The Haras al Watiny is the Saudi version of balance of power/separation of powers. They’re not as heavily equipped as the Saudi Army, not nearly, but they don’t need to be because they’re much tougher. Much. Personally, I quite like the Haras as, indeed, I like the Saudis.

    Don’t miss last week’s column: Iranian Nukes Aren’t Israel’s Biggest Problem.

    Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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      • Mavwreck

        Three questions:
        1. What can Arab states do to change this?
        2. How does this apply to more “modern” types of warfare that require higher-tech components (i.e., air combat or armor)? My suspicion is that it’s a wash – while the more impersonal nature of combat might mask some of these issues, the effectiveness of non-combat tasks (like maintenance) is hurt by those same problems.
        3. Does this effect the Iranians (who aren’t necessarily Arabs)?

        • James

          my view,

          1) Not sure its possible. Arabs don’t do change. There culture really has changed little sense before Islam existed. Hell you can see the main structure there before the time of christ. Add in how Islam has become a force to stop change and stifle anything like a reformation and you see the problem.
          Changing a entire culture is damn hard for anyone. For them?…

          2) I know most of the maintenance issues are massive. The Saudi’s and some others just pay foreigners to do it. Performance wise its a mixed bag. Like many places jets or helicopters are more status symbols and play things for powerful young sons that what we see them as. Some may be great most are OK at best i figure.

          3) The Iranians are really culturally mixed with the Arabs now. Many of the same habits. Also much of what we know of as Iran is in the hands of people who are Arabs. Iranians are really only from the area around Tehran and the plateau.

          One thing to realized about islam is that is has in effect been a way to spread Arab culture. Anywhere Islam goes Arab culture goes with it. Especially with both Iran and Saudi arabia shipping their own particular brand.

        • Tom Kratman

          Nothing; the history of social engineering, worse, of social engineering in opposition to culture, is a history of failure. They cannot fix; they can only accomodate.

          With air, you may presume that pilots are sons of important people. Armor is more mundane. But both still have the problem of Insha’llah.

          The corruption will. They’re got more of a close combat ethos than the Arabs, who are traditionally and memeticly raiders and skirmishers. On the whole, I’d expect the Iranians to be better, all other things being equal.

        • sconzey

          Slightly off-piste: how do you feel about mercenaries? Could a wise Arab ruler supplement tribally homogeneous militia with hired foreign mercenaries with a more marital ethic to form an effective force (at least for national defence and internal police action)?

        • Tom Kratman

          Yes, and I already have the TOs, pay scales, etc. drawn up. ;)

          There are a lot of mercenaries floating around the Arab world. Some are even pretty fair.

        • Rick Randall

          Basically, British colonial forces did that. British officers (or locals with enough British indoctrination that, combined with the approbation of the Anglo officers they served with, kept them effectively “British”), some British NCOs, and local troops (including most NCOs) worked fairly well IIRC.

        • akulkis

          1. Completely overhauld their culture.

          2. Unit cohesion is an issue, regardless of technological level … in fact, I would say that with higher technology, it’s actually MORE of an issue. In the day of shields and clubs, you and your fellow soldiers are together, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. With today’s modern battlefield, the only soldiers who are within a couple meters of their fellow soldiers are those in a vehicle, those whose job is to man a crew-served weapon, and RTOs (Radio-Telephone Operators — it’s generally better to have any radio that can transmit more than a mile to be carried by a dedicated RTO rather than on the leader who it primarily serves — this leaves the leader to worry about the battle, while the RTO worries about which channel or freq is needed to talk to sister elements, to talk to higher, to talk to the mortar section, to talk to brigade arty, to talk to medevac, to talk to air support… and which of those the radio is tuned to at the moment.)

          The modern battlefield is a lonely place, with a LOT of empty space, even in between men of the same squad. Any man who does not feel a strong sense of cohesion to his unit is much more likely to break and run at the first sign of contact* with enemy forces.

          (*) Vietnam-war era saying: “War is hell, but contact is a bitch.”

        • Tom Kratman

          Of course 1 is the bitching hard step.

        • akulkis

          Yep.

          And NOTHING will improve until they eliminated “Inshallah”

          It’s every Saudi soldier’s excuse, even before a meeting is through, for not doing his damned job.

          Lt. General Pagonis had to put CAPTAIN’S RANK on his driver (a PFC) just so that the Saudis would give that poor boy the slightest bit of cooperation.

        • Mavwreck

          I’ve been thinking…how the heck _do_ you change a culture for the positive?

        • Tom Kratman

          Kill and kill and kill some more.
          Then find out you failed anyway.

        • http://causalitysend.mee.nu/ Kristophr

          The Persians in Iran are not in charge there. If they can wrest control from the ethnic arabs, Iran would become pretty formidable.

        • Tom Kratman

          Ummm…yes they are.

        • http://causalitysend.mee.nu/ Kristophr

          Oh? I was under the impression the ethnic arab majority was running things these days?

          Never mind then.

        • William Jackson

          What ethnic arab majority, estimates are that 60 percent are of persian ethnicity.

      • James

        So what makes the SNG so tough?

        • Tom Kratman

          Hard lives to begin with. Immense social cohesion. To the extent these differ from that, absolute unwillingness to fail ones relatives and vast confidence in ones relatives.

        • James

          Are these mainly the city dwelling Saudi’s or the more nomadic tribes?

        • Tom Kratman

          It’s not that easy a classification. Memes and values carry over, so even city-raised Saudis from old time Bedu clans are going to be a little different from non-Bedus. And the clans themselves tend to be split, with some roaming the desert sometimes, sedentary at others, some rarely coming in from the desert, and still others who rarely venture out. Yet they will still be member of the same blood line, married to each others first cousins, with a stake in the clan, a belief in the clan, etc.

      • Rickyspanish #Rogersquad

        YO SON DEM CURRY BOYS BE TRIPPIN CUH

        • Tom Kratman

          Was this supposed to mean something?

        • KenWats

          Translation: I say, dear sir, those olive complected gentleman are a bit unhinged.

        • Tom Kratman

          Ah,

      • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

        http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars – another excellent analysis.

        • Tom Kratman

          It is, actually.

      • Allston

        An AF pilot I’d known, decades ago, made the point that Arabs are (in general) far too emotionally not in control of themselves. How true that is I can’t say, but he was fairly adamant about it.

        • Tom Kratman

          That may be true though I don’t know that I’d generalize that much.

        • akulkis

          A Saudi officer told me this story.. (parable?)

          An arab man is sleeping under a palm tree, but is awoken when some children come by and start playing, as kids do, running around & making noise.

          So, to get them to go away, he tells them, “Don’t you know that in the next town, there is a man giving away oranges?” And so, the chilrdren run off to get free oranges, and the man returns to the shade of the palm tree.

          But after laying there for a while, he can’t get back to sleep, because he keeps thinking to himself, “What am I doing laying here under a palm tree when there’s a man in the next town giving away oranges.”

          The Arabs make up lies, and then are foolish enough to believe their own lies.

      • KenWats

        I had the joy of going through Scout Platoon Leader course with a Saudi officer. We had to pull guard on the Humvees overnight and it was a fairly cold spring night. So, we drew up a guard roster so everybody got a turn on guard and we all should have gotten a decent amount of sleep.
        The young lieutenant who was before the Saudi goes to wake him up at the end of his shift “Saheed (I have no recollection of the guy’s name anymore so sue me), it’s your turn for guard. Time to get up.”
        “You must pull my guard duty for me.”
        “Bullshit, it’s time for your guard duty. Get up.”
        “In my country we have no wind like this. I am weak to the wind, you must pull my guard duty for me.”
        I’ll let the reader guess what happened next.
        That Saudi officer was the only exchange student that I saw that actually failed a course (not quit, but failed). I made the mistake of telling my platoon that story when I got back. For weeks, my driver would tell me, “Sir, I cannot PMCS your track today, I am weak to the wind. You must do it for me.” It became a running joke.

        • Harry_the_Horrible

          What really beggars the imagination is that he though this would work…

        • Tom Kratman

          You have to have dealt with them….

        • KenWats

          I could tell the story that I heard from his Armor Officer Basic co-students about the time he asked the NCO grading him on his PFT to finish the push up section for him. But I heard this second or third hand. As I said above though, one example doesn’t really prove much and I’m sure given time I could come up with equal levels of stupidity from US Officers, possibly even with myself in the starring role (equal *level* of stupidity – not the same *kind* of stupidity).

        • akulkis

          Well, you see, Saudi officers aren’t generally “commoners” .. or if the are, they are socially well-connected. The Saudis know that this is not so for American officers. Basically, he was trying to pull “I’m nobility, you’re not” in a round-about fashion.

        • Harry_the_Horrible

          Hmmm. They don’t know us very well. By Act of Congress, officers are Gentlemen and that is as close to real nobility as we have in this country.
          And Gentlemen still pull their shifts.

        • Tom Kratman

          And yet,,,and yet…sometimes you _will_ find an Arab officer you would be proud to call “brother.” The problem there, though, is that they’re usually not connected and get nowhere. I’ve seen two like that.

        • James

          So what would happen if you took many such men and formed a unit out of them?

        • Tom Kratman

          I suspect the overarching culture would kick in and they would have all the same problems. Presuming you could identify them, of course, which is an iffy proposition because people will lie.

        • James

          God damn. Not even taking them out of their family control would work? Jesus.

        • Tom Kratman

          You could take them and plop them into our army and they’d be fine. I’ve seen that, too.

        • Rick Randall

          Seems the Brits managed to do OK with them – but the officers were all British. PVT Ali might still be convinced that his *buddies* will scarper on him, but that poncy bastard seconded from The King’s Own Queens isn’t going to go anywhere…

        • Tom Kratman

          And will shoot as many of the others as necessary. It’s not just the Brits and not just the Arabs, though. Almost any amorally familistic culture has trouble making decent military units that are reliable both on the battlefield and politically. But they often do better when the leaders are not bound up in the spider web of family ties, alliances, mandatory corruption, etc.

        • Rick Randall

          Oh, I just used the British officered Arab forces as the most on point example.

          I could use Sub-Saharan African colonial forces just as easily. Say, the Belgian Congo prior to independence. Or French African forces.

        • Charles Martel

          Well the good news is there are enough unicorns for all of them to ride.

        • KenWats

          Good point, one anecdote does not prove the worth of a people. I could tell many more about dumb good old American officers too (and saw a couple of them not make it through SPLC as well). Maybe not quite as funny.

      • Harry_the_Horrible

        So, how can we aggravate the issue and exploit it?
        It isn’t like any of them are really our friends….

        • Tom Kratman

          I don’t know that we can or should do anything with it.

      • Lawrence F. Greenwood

        I just have one question and its an important one. Did the three lowest crying baby’s also lose there bribe money?

        • Tom Kratman

          IIRC.

        • James

          WOW thats shit.

          I wouldn’t treat people i hate like that.

        • Tom Kratman

          The rank and file don’t even seem to think it’s remotely wrong, inherently. They know they’d do the same were circumstances reversed.

        • James

          No wonder that region seems to just have stopped a few thousand years ago culturally.

        • Tom Kratman

          Oddly enough, Islam represented a massive improvement in many ways. Although largely a commercial code, suitable for fair dealings among merchants, still women and girls, who had no rights, really, picked up a bunch. Some horrible practices were pretty much ended. One example; you can find in the Quran the words (and remember here that God, Allah, is almost always the speaker), “When the infant girl, buried alive, is asked for what crime she was slain…” What Allah is saying there is, “When I ask the inniocent girl child, who could not have committed a crime, who her murderer was, and then send the bastard to Hell…” It’s a blanket prohibition on a common form of population control, female infanticide by burial alive.

          I strongly suspect that, were Mohammad to return, among the first of his acts would be to order the death of a whole bunch of fanatics who’ve perverted his religion. He was a hard man, yes, and sometimes ruthless, but rarely if ever more ruthless than that time and place demanded.

        • James

          Yes basically the view I have gotten of Mohammad.

          Frome what I have seen Mohammad changed some things but Arab culture came back with a vengence after his death. Human and cultural nature came in and wreak everything he did.

        • D.L.

          “I strongly suspect that, were Mohammad to return, among the first of his acts would be to order the death of a whole bunch of fanatics who’ve perverted his religion.”

          ‘And Yeshua entered The Temple of God and cast out all of those who sold and bought in The Temple and upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

          ‘And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called the House of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.’ “ ‘

          [Matthew 21:12-13]

          >:)

      • Jason C.

        One of the reasons why Janissaries were so very important.

        • Tom Kratman

          And Mamelukes, who were similar.

      • Luis Cedeno

        Again, a good article telling me something I did not REALLY know. Thanks

        • Tom Kratman

          De nada.

      • Eric Oppen

        Assuming that they’ll _always_ be like that reminds me that I have pointed out, _to no goddamn avail,_ again and again that it was perfectly reasonable for Macarthur to dismiss and ignore reports that the Chinese were upset about him going north of Pyongyang. For more than a century before the Korean War the Chinese military had been a joke, kicked around the landscape by any “Western” army.

        • Tom Kratman

          If you read the entire thing, to include footnotes, you will see that I’ve already given a limited way for them to improve.

          However, when you figure out how to make someone who values only faith and family trust non-family members enough to stand in line of battle against the 3rd Infidel Armored Corps, do let the Arabs know. They’ll pay big money for that trick…if they believed you…if you could do it without changing anything else.

          However, your observation admits of two possibilities. One is that they change. Not likely in the next several centuries. They other is that we change. We are. We are rotting. We are weakening. We are becoming just as corrupt and amorally familistic as they are.

        • http://causalitysend.mee.nu/ Kristophr

          They already have a working model: A trust based civilization based on religion, and Jannisaries.

          But that can only happen under one religious leader.

        • Rick Randall

          The Chinese Army (at the command level) had undergone a complete paradigm shift from the Chinese Army MacArthur knew. The problem is the Arab problem isn’t one *caused* by corrupt, weak, power borders – it is the *consequence* of the underlying culture.

          To undergo a similar paradigm shift would necessitate one of two things:

          1. A brutally enforced realignment of the entre military culture to a basically “Western” mode (which *will* carry over into post-sevice life; the basic flaws in the day to day Arab culture that inhibit progress would be anathema to the veterans who had lived in an world where non-familial trust and basic honesty were taken for granted. (This will, with a high enough “military participation ratio” for long enough, lead to #2.)

          2. Arab day to culture would have to change so that oncoming soldier are *already* in that mindset. This would destroy the current Arab culture, turning them into something like Turks…

          Either

        • Tom Kratman

          And, because people will fake it, convincingly, I doubt you ever really get very far into 1.

        • Rick Randall

          Yup. Look at the problems Turkey had… And they aren’t Arabs.

        • Tom Kratman

          No, but they did have some advantages. One was that their base loyalty – going way back – was (I think) to Turks as a people, rather than their own particular clans. Secondly, though springing from a nomadic, skirmisher / horse archer culture themselves, they were a small minority of the Anatolian population. The rest were bloody Greeks who converted, but likely retained all the memes and instincts for close combat the Greeks have had since we’ve had decent history of them. Thirdly, they were closely surrounded by non-Turks, which tended to increase their sense of Turkishness.

          Fourthly, they had Ataturk, and thus their reforms could spring from inside them, rather than being imposed from outside.

          Course, those reforms look increasingly iffy of late.

        • http://causalitysend.mee.nu/ Kristophr

          Thank the EU tranzies for that one. They insisted Turkey change its constitution to end the military’s traditional role of enforcing secularism through periodic coups.

      • Neil

        There’s only one thing that ever got all the Arab tribes to pull in the same direction: The system of conquest, plunder, and preferential taxation known as the original Caliphate (through the Umayyad caliphs). They overran the weakened and over-taxed Byzantine and Persian empires.

        Which is why the neo-Caliphate is somewhat unnerving.

        • Tom Kratman

          Arabs exemplify this, but it is generally true that under Islam no state that doesn’t encompass the entire ummah is quite legitimate. Some are more legit than opthers, but still God is king, after all, and any petty human beneath Him is, well, beneath Him. So why not favor your family at society’s expense? Why not steal from the state? However, it is possible that when the state and the ummah are the same that the rules change, because then you’re not just ripping off some petty dictator, but stealing from, God Almighty.

        • Neil

          I always figured it might also have had something to do with having more than enough loot to go around. Why bother stealing from the state when it’s so easy to take from the unbeliever?

        • Tom Kratman

          Not exactly. Once the infidel becomes a Djimmi, the rules change quite a bit and, for the most part (universally? no.) the Moslems adhered to the rules. There was also another factor that kicked in. If they abused the Christians or Hindus too badly, more of them would convert and would be able to stop paying the tax. This was, from the state’s pov, fiscally disastrous.

        • Neil

          You call it a Dhimmi tax, I call it “taking from the unbeliever”. Either way, it buys a lot of loyalty from the tribes.

        • Tom Kratman

          The point is that it can only get so high before they stop being Djimmis and become Moslems, when the tax stops.

        • Neil

          Yup. And the Caliph can only buy the tribes’ loyalty for so long before the price exceeds the Dhimmi’s willingness to pay taxes. Thus, the Ottoman Caliphate succeeded the Arab dynasties.

          And, perhaps, fracking holds down the price of oil and results in the ISIS succeeding the Saudi-backed Al Qaeda.

        • Tom Kratman

          Might. There are, I think, two things the current war is about. One – a biggie – is the position of women, free, independent, on their own two feet, or on their knees or all fours, prepared to receive? The other is resentment of the corrupt clan-based governments of the oil states.

        • Neil

          I’d be most interested to know the demographics of ISIS. When all those pictures came out of ISIS units showing off captured American equipment, I noticed an awful lot of red hair and pale skin. Chechens? Kurds? Albanians?

          Not sure exactly who mans their assault units, but it looks to me like the next best thing to Mamelukes.

          If we’ve got an honest Caliph with committed legions taking over the oil fields, we’ve got big trouble.

        • Tom Kratman

          Nah. Between efficiency, fracking, thorium, solar towers, etc., we’re on the cusp of energy independence. Even idjits dismantling our hydroelectric system can’t wreck us faster than we can find and develop new sources of energy. The oil Arabs are beginning to realize we don’t really care about them anymore, and why we don’t.

        • Neil

          I’m in the “getting rid of oil” business, and I figure it’ll take 20 years to knock the pins out from under the revenue streams associated with oil.

          If you’re wrong, that’s 20 years worth of neo-Caliphate. Hope you’re right.

        • Tom Kratman

          They couldn’t get it set up in 20 years without God Almighty giving the specific orders.

        • Neil

          20 years is my “low” estimate. Hitting that one requires, as you say, divine intervention. 50 years is my conservative estimate, with mini-nukes and lots of (bio)diesel-electric or natural gas hybrids.

          My pessimistic estimate is 100 years, but you may as well read that as 1000 years, ’cause we’ll enter a new dark age if we don’t solve this before then.

          Edit: Don’t rule out divine intervention. Inspiration strikes at the strangest moments.

        • Tom Kratman

          Do some calcs. You know that experimental solar chimney in Spain, the one the Aussies are allegedly building a rather large version of? In the ADCP series, I had several of them built, too, but figured vast money, time, and trouble could be saved by running the chimneys up the side of a mountain rather than making them free standing. Our country is not generally oriented – rather, our highest mountain ranges are not – but what could be saved by building the greenhouse at, say, the south facing side of such as we have that face south?

        • Neil

          Sure, there’s a zillion ways to successfully harvest energy if you’re willing to put enough resources into a big-enough harvesting plant. Think gigawatts.

          The problem is transmitting it. Intermittently. Think zillions of dollars of grid infrastructure lying dormant waiting for the sun, or the wind, or the tide. We can do it, but it’ll take 100 years. That’s the stuff of my “high” estimate. Like I said, may as well call it 1000 years.

          You either need a more even method of harvesting energy, or a batch-capable means of transporting it. Both would be better. A constant source of energy converted to an energy storage method that you can load into a tanker truck or a pipeline would be ideal.

        • Tom Kratman

          The solar chimney apparently uses some form of thermal mass in the base, under the greenhouse, to keep the updraft going even well after sundown and possibly until sunrise. But I was mostly interested in the cost saving between a free standing concrete chimney of amout 1000 meters and one going to the same height, but resting, as it travelled up a mountainside. Since the efficiency of thing allegedly depends on the heights, one can imagine one getting to several kilometers in height by going up a not especially large mountain.

        • Neil

          Such a thing could work, if you happen to have an appropriately sited and sized mountain nearby. Climate and latitude would be important, too. Sounds like it could have a similar impact to hydropower, but perhaps less widespread.

          I’d have to do a detailed study to know whether that system is on the 20-year schedule, the 50-year schedule, or the “energy of the future–and always will be” schedule.

        • Tom Kratman

          Well…the best site for it I know of, Panama, already has abundant hydroelectric. Still, I wonder if there aren’t places good enough across northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

        • Neil

          I’m not sure–it depends on the desirable gradient. Too steep, and the construction costs go up while the vertical support goes down. Too shallow, and the chimney gets too long for a given height.

          At any rate, it’s a big installation, requiring lots of new transmission, with lots of environmental impacts. Lawyers will make their careers preventing the construction.

        • Tom Kratman

          Well, one factor would be that, if replacement of defective sections is possible, then cheaper materials can be used.

        • Neil

          Dunno. Large-scale structural engineering is way outside of my expertise.

        • Tom Kratman

          Mine, too. My reaction is more or less instinctive: If I can’t get at something to fix it, it must be very good indeed, but if I can, we can start doing some cost-benefit analysis.

        • Rick Randall

          Best way to get the grid as hydrocarbon free as possible (probably smart to leave at least *some* plants that run on dinosaur squeezings in play, for rapid surge capacity; not even counting non grid uses like remote site and backup power) is to, as much as possible, localize your power production, to avoid really long range transmission where you can.

          This means a lot of “location fairly neutral” sites (i.e., nuke) for those places notondisive to tidal, solar chimney, etc.

        • Rick Randall

          “…places *not condusive* to…”

        • Neil

          That’s probably not true, if you include long-distance shipment of stored energy (including liquid fuels) as “transmission”. It’s a very good thing to have a market for energy that is as widespread as possible. It’s nice to be able to purchase energy from elsewhere if you have a local problem.

          If we continue to use the grid, it would also be very beneficial to have some sort of local energy storage, so the grid does not have to deliver *only* instantaneous power–it could deliver power for future usage.

        • akulkis

          Uh… no. Long-distance energy transmission isn’t very lossy. They boost the voltage EXTREMELY high.. the trade-off being extremely LOW currents. And low currents are good for limiting resistive losses.
          Voltage is then stepped down for local use..which increases the current back up to usable amperages.

        • Charles Martel

          Perhaps the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky & Tennessee would be a good site.

        • Tom Kratman

          Not familiar with it, that I can recall.

        • Rick Randall

          20-50 years is actually quite encouraging. Short of us doing something so mind blowing my stupid as to truly unite Shia and Sunnis to the point they are actively willing to work together in a true ummah (like, say, nuking the Kaaba, or handing it to Israel; no, Jerusalem or even the entire West Bank wouldn’t be close), there is no way in Hell that the Middle Eastern Muslims could create a self sustaining Caliphate in 20-50 years.

        • Charles Martel

          White nations are being flooded with the 3rd world and the avg IQ is going down with it. In the 1960s we walked on the moon last year we had 2 failures to make it in to orbit.

        • epyon2005

          “I’m in the “getting rid of oil” business…”

          Well then, get ready to embrace Neo-Pastoralism! :P

        • Tom Kratman

          Oh, and wrt ISIS, I think – not sure, just think – we’re seeing two things going on. One is a bunch of Islamist fanatic loons with no small increment of sociopaths, who resemble nothing so much as an Einstazgruppe following Army Group C. The other, the group actually fighting, are the Sunni _tribal_ militias, fighting for their clans to get a better cut of the oil revenues, development money, graft, and – to the extent this differs from the above, which is little – a larger share in government. When I hear of recent Iraqi government / military success in the field, my first thought it, “Aha, the government met the price of another Sunni tribe.”

        • Neil

          Hope you’re right. That would be just more of the same. Still, I’m suspicious that the whackadoo einsatztruppen might be backed up by the Red-Headed League.

        • Tom Kratman

          Not mutually exclusive, no, but their advance, I think, is dictated by what the tribal militias do. And likely every atrocity ISIS perpetrates drops the price of any given militia to change sides.

        • Neil

          I once saw a quote from a captured officer of the German Heer, circa 1945: “We lost the Eastern Front when we raised the Nazi flag over Kiev instead of the Ukrainian flag.” Evil will oft shall evil mar.

          Let’s hope they’ve studied all the wrong history.

        • Amir

          The very religious dye their beard ( mustachless) red with “henna”

        • Tom Kratman

          Just out of curiosity, why the henna?

        • Charles Martel

          Moslem refugees like the Boston marathon brothers in the US consider welfare, sect 8 & food stamps to be Jizya.

      • Rick Randall

        You want a lot of fun on a much lower echelon? Try teaching Arabs how to shoot and do basic weapons maintenance.

        Even their “elite” forces use “Insh’Allah Marksmanship”. I watched a large group of Saudi military in a security type unit on a pistol range. I’d say roughly half of them slammed both eyes shut and did mag dumps on the been in the general cardinal direction of the target. ” Allah will decide where the bullets land. If Allah wishes a man dead, a bullet will find him. If not, no bullet will touch him.”

        Aiming is impious. PMCS is impious. Preparing for the future is impious – you are doubting that the Will of Allah is supreme and his knowledge is omniscient. What are you, an atheist? ;)

        • akulkis

          exactly. Inshallah is the ever-ready excuse for not doing shit…ever….that the Arab soldier doesn’t want to do for his own personal reasons.

        • epyon2005

          Yeah… it’s occasionalist metaphysics like that that is the reason the scientific method didn’t get a hold in Muslim countries despite having a similar philosophical starting point.

      • http://causalitysend.mee.nu/ Kristophr

        Yup. Standard tribalism.

        Self-> family -> clan -> tribe. If you are not in that trust chain you will be screwed. If you are near the end of that trust chain, you may be screwed, depending on how far along it you are.

        Soldiers from trust-based civilizations can generally stomp tribals. Unless the trust inside that civilization has been rotted out, in which case that civilization can be knocked over with a feather.

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