Sunday, March 20, 2016
Why Putin's sudden pullout from Syria?
There are several reasons offered here but nobody but Putin himself really knows.
It seems to me that the biggest mystery was its suddenness. None of the proffered explanations really explain that. I think it can be explained from a military perspective, however. But to offer that explanation, I have to expound the concept of an "industrial base". And I think I can do that best by going back to WWII. I think the concept explains the outcome of WWII, in fact.
When WWII started, Britain was a major industrial power. Its innumerable factories churned out goods that were exported around the world. The days when Britain was the workshop of the world were gone but it was still a pretty big workshop. And of particular relevance, it manufactured and exported lots of motor vehicles. It still does but the nameplates on them these days are Nissan, Honda and Toyota, not Austin, Morris and Leyland.
And the aircraft of the day and the motor vehicles of the day had a lot in common. They both used piston engines, for instance. So when the war broke out the production of civilian motor vehicles was stopped and the factories were converted to make military aircraft. And the resultant productivity from all those factories was huge.
The experienced fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe sat in planes armed with cannon while the Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF were armed with machine guns only. Aircraft of the day could take quite a lot of damage from machine guns and still keep flying. But a cannon hit was mostly curtains. So the Luftwaffe pilots in their ME 109s made mincemeat of the poorly trained pilots of the RAF. The kill ratio was vastly in favour of the Luftwaffe.
Yet whenever a fleet of German bombers came over Britain with their Messerschmitt escorts, a flight of RAF fighters rose up to oppose them. How come? How come there were any RAF planes still flying after so many had been shot down? The answer: Britain's industrial base. Britain could build fighter aircraft as fast as the Luftwaffe could shoot them down.
The bombers still mostly got through -- witness the devastation of places like Coventry and London -- but there were of course some losses and it became clear to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht that they could use their planes to better effect elsewhere -- particularly in Russia, where it was in fact something of a turkey shoot for the Luftwaffe. So they ceased their campaign against Britain.
Mr Putin is not in anything like the WWII British position. Russia has quite a small industrial base. It is still mainly a primary-producing country. The Soviets knew that of course so over many years they laboriously built up an economy within an economy. They built up a vast complex of factories and maintenance facilities that was permanently devoted to military production and maintenance. So they could afford a war. They could to some extent replace losses in battle.
Even so, however, they did not rely on that. One of the interesting things revealed when West Germany took over East Germany was the very large stocks of all military materials that the East had built up. They had in stock as much as ten times as many bullets, shells etc as the West did. They were not confident that they could produce enough in a war to keep the troops supplied. And since their military was closely integrated with Russia's, there is little doubt that Russia had adopted similar measures.
But when Gorbachev became President of the Soviet Union he was horrified by how much the military establishment was draining out of the overall Soviet economy -- and it seems likely that he immediately started to put the brakes on the military economy. And when he fell in 1991, the military economy was virtually abandoned. Not only were Russia's ships, submarines and aircraft left to rust but the factories that produced them and the facilities used to maintain them were also left to rust.
So when Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin came to power in 2000, that decay had largely neutered Russia's armed forces. And a lot of the decay remains unremedied to this day. Most of the navy is still rusting in port and when Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov puts to sea it has to be accompanied by tugs in case it breaks down.
But Putin has slowly renovated enough of his forces to support limited interventions -- as in Georgia and Syria. But with the loss of the Soviet war economy he is up against Russia's limited industrial base. He has used up a lot of the bombs and missiles that he had stockpiled and reached a point beyond which he dare not go. He cannot soon replace the bombs and missiles he has used so runs the risk of Russia being unable to defend itself if he runs his stocks down any further. He has hit a red line in his stocks of war materiel. And when he saw that such a point had been reached, he immediately pulled the plug on his war in Syria.
So I think the suddenness of the pullout was motivated by a sudden realization of how far he had run down his stocks of war materiel. I was actually waiting for that to happen because it was clear that Russia was using up a lot of bombs and missiles that it could not rapidly replace.
UPDATE: Two more thoughts about industrial bases.
With the vast U.S. industrial base and large population, both Germany and Japan were doomed as soon as the U.S. entered WWII. That was most vivid when the allies started bombing Germany. The heavily armed ME110 night-fighters and the skilled German anti-aircraft gunners were very good at knocking allied bombers down. The average life of a bomber was about 4 sorties. An uncle of mine died in one. But great waves of bombers just kept coming. Civilian motor vehicle production had been converted into military aircraft production in the USA too. Japan's Admiral Yamamoto actually foresaw that Japan could not compete with America's industrial base and large population when he opposed the strike on Pearl Harbour.
In the 21st century the world once again has a country that is the workshop of the world: China. So combine that huge industrial base with China's almost limitless manpower and it becomes clear that China could not now be opposed in a conventional war. The war would have to go nuclear almost immediately.
Australians come out in support of Donald Trump
Online polls are not very reliable but Australians are much less puritanical and uptight than are Americans so it seems possible that Trump has broader support in Australia than he has in America
AUSTRALIANS have come out in force to defend billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump and have even called for a like-minded personality to lead our country after warnings that a Trump White House would be bad news for Australia.
An online poll on The Daily Telegraph showed a surprising 71 per cent of respondents answered ‘No (Donald Trump is da man!)’ when asked ‘Are you worried about Trump becoming US President?’ There were more than 32,000 votes cast in the poll.
It came after a number of analysts and commentators suggested a Trump win in the November US presidential election would be dire for Australia.
"The words ‘President Trump’ should give Australians pause," Lowy Institute executive director Dr Michael Fullilove told The Daily Telegraph. "Mr Trump reflects few of the values that have made America great. And judging from his speeches, he fails to see the advantages that flow to his country from being at the centre of the global liberal order."
His sentiments were echoed by Associate Professor Brendon O’Connor from Sydney University’s US Studies Centre who said Trump’s isolationist views were ‘an absolute disaster’.
But the comments from readers came thick and fast and overwhelmingly supported the billionaire. Some Aussie supporters even called for a personality like him to lead the country.
The story struck a chord with US readers and was picked up by a major news aggregator so many were supportive comments were from Americans, but there was no shortage of love from Aussies.
The story saw more than 800 comments posted
Is the Communist Party of China still communist?
Comments below by a Western man who has been in China for many years. He arrived there in the days of Mao. He is an old friend of mine. He says that envy is still strong in China but all Chinese have learnt the hard way that Communism is not the way
I assure you there is not a single person in China that believes in communism. Not even the leaders. Especially the leaders.
Chinese universally are driven by one imperative, to advance the interests of their family. They will give their lives for that if nothing else. Ok a few say they miss the old days. But what they miss is not the poverty, but the lack of a rich class.
People can stand poverty so long as it is equally shared. But they cannot stand wealth if it is not equally shared. Chinese suffer from the "red eye disease". When land reform came and they we encouraged to give the old landlord a bit of a beating, 100,000's of thousands were beaten to death. Their sin? Being rich without working for it.
Now over 80% of Chinese "own" their own land and house/apartment. You can beat to death a few hundred thousand, but who would be foolish enough to try and expropriate 80% of the population? Even the US destroyed its economy by driving for home ownership over 65%.
You can indulge your idealist dreams of communism, but don't expect support from anyone in China.
A man who knows
Why Ireland's Economy Grew by 8% in 2015
March 17 was St. Patrick's Day, so it's worth taking a look at the state of the Irish economy to see how impressively the Celtic Tiger has made its roaring comeback.
According to the recently published 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, a handy cross-country annual analysis of economic policies by The Heritage Foundation, Ireland is the world's eighth freest economy.
The Irish economy has made impressive progress over the past three years. Undertaking politically difficult reform measures, including sharp cuts in public-sector wages and restructuring of the banking sector, Ireland has regained its fiscal health and become the first country to exit a European Union bailout.
The Irish economy had gone through acute and painful contractions during the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent recession. The Celtic Tiger almost went bankrupt.
Credit for the notable turn-around and ongoing recovery goes to the conscientious policy choices the Irish government has made in downsizing a bloated public sector, reducing the budget deficit, regaining fiscal health, and firmly adhering to polices to promote economic freedom and entrepreneurial competitiveness.
As documented in the index, Ireland has maintained an unusually open economy, buttressed by institutional strengths such as strong protection of property rights, efficient business regulations and competitive tax rates. Given all that, the government's fiscal restraint has been just what was needed to unleash faster growth.
Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has joined in the praise, saying in a recent report that the Irish recovery remains strong and the economy is "starting to fire on all cylinders." In an IMF conference entitled "Ireland-Lessons from Its Recovery from the Bank-Sovereign Loop," a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank remarked that "the Irish economy has been an outstanding success over the last years and months." The official warned against complacency but lauded the flexibility that has become the key component in Ireland's economic rebound.
No wonder that Ireland's economy grew by 7.8 percent in 2015, making Ireland the fastest-growing economy in the European Union for the second successive year. Time to give a toast to Ireland, indeed.
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Posted by JR at 1:21 AM