My Name Is Legion

by J.R. Mooneyham
(previously under the pseudonym S.C. Summers)
REVISED 6-24-2000

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"...the devil's in the numbers."
- unknown

For half a century two superpowers wrestled with one another in real wars by proxy and unreal ones by simulation, developing ever more powerful and advanced weaponry. But even as the technological wizardry and costs of their weapons systems rose to dizzying heights, the practical number of such weapons they could actually bring to bear and maintain in a given battle theater declined, until near the end they were both implementing systems so expensive they were essentially one-off projects-- single super bombers costing a billion dollars each, and similar spectacularly excessive items.
This ever escalating competition forced the economically weaker and less robust superpower to finally collapse.

But this consequence was by no means a foregone conclusion; for decades no one on either side could be absolutely certain as to which would survive such gamesmanship-- or, if any one would survive at all.

So you could say we (the United States of America) were lucky to be the victors.

Another thing we were lucky about was the lemming-like mentality of all the also-rans in the world during this time-- the lesser states: a few steadfast democratic friends and allies, but many others our enemies to one degree or another, mostly controlled by crazed dictators, and sometimes awash in cash from various sources with which to buy weapons.

The reason America were lucky was that everyone, friend and foe alike, pretty much agreed to let us (the two superpowers in the beginning, and later the U.S. alone) write the rules of war for everyone. That is, they agreed that if wars were to be fought, and weapons bought, all would be done exactly as had been seen from the lead of the superpowers; only the best and most expensive weapons were to be used, and damn the cost.

Of course, as state after state has discovered over the last few decades, owning state-of-the-art weapons is not worth much if you don't also possess state-of-the-art training, repair, maintenance, and resupply of those weapons. You also require matching sophistocated command, control, and intelligence gathering resources, and an overall tested blueprint of strategy and tactics to make it all work together. Only America itself and its frontline allies possessed such complete or near-complete advanced systems, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

Iran's Khomeni found all those deadly U.S. warplanes bought by the Shah before he was deposed were of little use when the supplier of their armaments and spare parts (the U.S.) decided not to sell to or train the new revolutionary owners.

Argentina discovered in the Falklands War that having a few high grade planes and missiles could score some points, but would ultimately fail against a more completely integrated, advanced system, and better trained personnel, like that possessed by the British.

Saddam Hussein learned in the Persian Gulf War that his magnificent fleet of expensive Soviet jets and French warplanes fared poorly with their inadequately trained pilots, chaotic direction from command central, and a malfunctioning communications system. Sure, they could drop nerve gas on their own defenseless Kurdish population well enough-- but hold their own against similar equipment in the hands of much better trained personnel, backed up with a total support system for waging war? Not a chance.

Yet still dictatorships and other rogue states continue to make the same mistake of being lured by the status symbols of owning "the best" warplanes, ships, etc., in the world, regardless of whether these items can actually perform for them as desired.

But sooner or later one or more of these agressive small states will wise up, and abandon this losing strategy for war. They'll realize that by simply playing by different rules they can easily become formidable opponents for even the greatest of superpowers, should such superstates decide to interpose themselves into a regional dispute in their vicinity.

For the whole premise of superpower military might is based on relatively few super weapons systems on one side dealing with relatively few super weapons systems on the other side.

Change the equation to a few super weapons systems on one side being faced all at once with many, many, many much dumber and less capable weapons on the opposing side, and the superpower system is quickly caught with its pants down.

A small state could easily prepare itself for such a conflict. Actually, preparing itself in this manner would be easier, simpler, and far cheaper than going the conventional route of buying a handful of super systems from a superpower somewhere.

Here's just one theoretical scenario:

The U.S. decides to intervene somewhere in the third world with an aircraft carrier group, and perhaps an amphibious division or two of Marines, with maybe a total of 125 assorted warplanes and helicopters. The force is just about ready to deploy towards the target beaches, when suddenly sixty or so wave skimming missiles (like the Exocets used by the Argentines in the Falklands to sink state-of-the-art British warships) come in from all sides, causing considerable damage to all the ships and aircraft in the group. Even as a frenzied damage control effort gets underway, some 1500 enemy planes are detected coming in low and slow, not far behind the missile wave. Let's assume these 1500 enemy planes are technically equivalent to the U.S. Army's original design for the A-10 Warthogs, but equipped with weapons specifically picked for this attack at sea. The Warthog is an old plane, cheap but very sturdy, and capable of meting out and taking a lot of punishment. Add a few good recently made, reasonable cost missiles from a country like the U.S., Britain, France, or even Russia or China, and you have a potential ship sinker for sure. Now multiply this by 1500, and precede it with a missile attack first as described above, and you've written a recipe for superpower disaster at sea.

But let's assume here that by some miracle not a single aircraft of the U.S. carrier group is damaged or destroyed before getting into the air-- but much of the command and control of them from the ships are. That's OK, as there's always a backup plane orbiting above such a group to exert auxiliary control. Only there's simply too many enemies, and not enough super-expensive U.S. warcraft. And of the original 125, perhaps only some 65 are actually relevant to the battle, with the other craft being designed primarily for force support like in-flight refueling, reconnaisance, troop transport, and search and rescue.

So we'll say each of the 65 warcraft manage to down an average of seven attackers before they themselves are destroyed or have to break off for reasons of fuel or ammunition depletion.

This still leaves 1,045 Warthogs to do what they will with a nearly defenseless task force, probably sitting dead in the water by now, and on fire.

But, let's give the superpower force the miracle of a second doubt about the attacker's effectiveness. And assume that somehow the task force, with all its own missiles, planes, and guns, has managed to destroy the remaining 1,045 attacking aircraft without losing its centerpiece, the aircraft carrier.

This is wonderful!

At least, it's wonderful until the next wave of 60 Exocet-like missiles arrive, gliding in over the waves.

But let's give the carrier force yet a third miracle; and assume all these missiles are duds, and fall harmlessly into the ocean. Everything's great, right?

Wrong. Everything's NOT great, because immediately following the dud missiles is another 1500 Warthogs.

You say this can't happen? That no third world state could afford to have so many missiles and Warthogs? Do your own research. For the enormous monies many states use on super weapons systems from America and other advanced military sources, they could easily buy ten, twenty, thirty times or more warcraft and systems, if only they were willing to go with something older and slower (and incidentally more reliable, rugged, and cheaper to operate and train for) than the latest super systems available on the market.

It's only a matter of time before some despot somewhere realizes this. And the very first time this strategy humiliates the U.S. or one of our similarly armed allies, all the other despots will switch over to this strategy as well.

And in the real course of events, the handful of miracles described above that enabled the carrier task force to survive far longer than it otherwise would, will likely be in short supply.

In other words, the U.S. could be completely impotent in as little as ten to twenty years, as far as projecting power in any meaningful way around the world is concerned. And the reason will be our whole superpower mindset about military spending over the past half century, and the present. We continue to trust and invest in super power class weapons systems, even as they rapidly diminish in real utility. Bombers, submarines, aircraft carriers, and their related weapons systems, that each cost one or many billions of dollars to produce, leaving us with only one or a handful of such super systems in our arsenal-- will render us effectively defenseless against the enemies we face in the early twenty-first century and beyond.

Some implications...

...for super power defense strategies
The first great humiliating defeats and catastrophic casuality numbers will bring about a sea change in U.S. defense strategies. This could happen as soon as 2000, or as late as 2025; but happen it will.

Unfortunately, massive defense spending like ours cannot be turned on a dime; so we'll be stuck with great gobs of horribly expensive but nearly useless hardware for at least five to fifteen years after we realize our mistake. This fact will force us to complete our withdrawal from our former role as world policeman, and nervously peer just over our own borders during that time, as we frantically overhaul our outmoded systems, desperately hoping that our better armed enemies do not decide to come for a visit.

Luckily, the U.S. will probably have adequate forces within its own borders to successfully stave off most possible attacks, since during the whole time we were lavishly expending enormous sums on what will by then be useless hardware, we were letting the older systems we were replacing go to regional home militias like the National Guard and Reserves. Fortunately for us, this older gear will be a lifesaver for protecting our national soverignty, when our top-of-the-line weapons prove to be fatally flawed.

But we'll be far from comfortable. Because for the first time since the end of the Cold War we'll again be faced with the serious possibility of an airborne nuclear strike on our soil.

I expect this particular window of vulnerability will last roughly around 30 years, beginning around the turn of the century and continuing until nearly 2035. I anticipate this lengthy period of vulnerability primarily for two reasons: One, the top Pentagon brass will not be quick to give up their shiny billion dollar toys (and accompanying huge budgets) for more cost-effective armaments. Two, the Congress won't like the implications for high dollar, high tech defense industries in their respective districts, either. The combination of these elements will result in our wasting huge amounts of time and money squabbling amongst ourselves, then burdening our own Warthog-class planes and similar systems with technology retrofits from our obsolete bins of stealth, F-16, F-18, and F-22 warplane parts and armaments-- and we'll be humiliated and frightened a second time when our Rube Goldberg contraptions fail to fight effectively against less expensive, less complex, less handicapped older technologies.

...for the other major powers
The other important and powerful developed nations will be as surprised by this turn of events as the U.S.; and only slightly better prepared to meet the challenge than their super power ally.

The one advantage these 'lesser' powers will have is a far smaller investment in superpower class weapons systems than that of the U.S.

One major disadvantage the lesser powers may have is direct national interests much nearer and therefore more susceptible to the new threats, compared to the U.S.

Naturally, caught with their pants down, many of these lesser states will clamor mightily for increased U.S. financial aid to overhaul their own inadequate defense systems, even as the U.S. itself is scrambling to revamp its own forces. And in any event, where such threats seem imminent, there'll doubtless be a banding together of U.S. forces with those of the lesser states, in an attempt to overcome their newfound weaknesses.

Of course, this strategy suffers from heavy limitations in the new scenario, and will more likely than not lead only to the same gross humiliations in battle as described earlier.

Just about the only hope for the U.S. and its allies to avoid such dire straits is if the frequency and simultaneous appearances of threats like these can be kept to a minimum during the several vulnerable decades we'll soon be entering.

This augurs well for the U.N. and other international forums of cooperation, as they and they alone may effectively perform the job of isolating and weakening threats such as those we are discussing here.

One glaring danger has been (and will continue to be) our continued sales of warcraft, and the growing international manufacturing base for same. These armaments are fluid, capable of being transferred to undesirable nations easily and quickly, or of being usurped in government takeovers of countries previously allied with the seller of the weapons (such as the case of Khomeni's Iranian Revolution)

There is also the growing danger of nuclear proliferation. Nuclear weapons technology is fast becoming an 'old, low tech' war technology, and therefore becoming as accessible to potentially threatening nations as any of the other items mentioned here.

Make no mistake about it; threat nations can and will be using nuclear weapons during the twenty first century. And the U.S. and its allies will be using them too; they'll have no choice in the matter, in many instances.

However, smaller threat nations will often enjoy a virtual refuge from the nuclear weapons of the major powers-- so long as they do not use them themselves, but only stockpile them. For the major powers will probably wait until the last possible moment before performing a pre-emptive nuclear strike; especially if it'll be the first aggressive nuclear strike by anyone since World War II.

This means a potential threat state may enjoy the initiative of having the first real move in this opera. But after it takes it, it better hope it's not the only threat around the globe at the time; for a single threat will be the most easily handled for the major powers. Whatever it takes-- nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, star wars technology, CIA assassins, Navy SEAL covert operations-- that threat will be handled, and handled swiftly and decisively, once it steps over a certain line of tolerance-- damn the fallout, diplomatic or otherwise.

Where the more dangerous problem will come from is multiple potential threats arising simultaneously, thereby raising the stakes (and disagreements) among the major powers.

Make one of these threats ostensibly an ally or major trading partner of one or more of the major powers, and you ratchet up the magnitude of the problem in yet another way.

Add in a strong possibility that the threat has managed to place nuclear weapons in the heart of major cities of one or more of the major powers too, as insurance against unwanted intervention in a remote land grab or 'ethnic cleansing', and the waters get so muddy on cooperative responses that unilateral action becomes the only practical option; but even that may be unacceptable, as that move could bring retaliations from the other major powers who lose cities after the event.

Yes, we're talking one fine mess here.

The new U.S. strategies and deterrence policies, circa 20X0

Extraordinary anti-missile, anti aircraft defenses will become extremely popular. By some point a resurgent Russia may readily agree with us to allow waivers on portions of past treaties prohibiting such things, because they too could be facing similar threats. On the other hand, if Russia doesn't manage to overcome the huge internal economic and political problems it was facing around 2000, becoming ever more introverted and less engaged with the rest of the world. they may vehemently oppose such treaty changes instead-- further complicating such matters for everyone else.

Such expensive anti-missile and aircraft defenses will for a long time be the major remaining refuge for U.S. multi-billion dollar defense contractors.

Support of research and development for other super advanced (and super expensive) weapons systems will evaporate almost overnight, moving from the scale of $billions to $millions. Those parts of the military industrial complex which cannot adapt to the new realities will collapse; and this collapse will occur in a free fall taking place over a period of weeks (delayed only by the curbs on trading volatility put in place years before). Despite the several week long collapse, the majority of shareholders involved will fail to sell in time (being unable to recognize the historic, if abrupt, shift in their fortunes), and so be ruined by this event.

Limited use of tactical nuclear weapons will become fairly common, occuring at its height perhaps once every couple of years. In some cases this may be done at an enemy's military base when certain high level officials are scheduled to review troops or be present for other reasons.

Aircraft carrier groups will no longer be deployed as broadly or aggressively as they once were, since they now will present inviting targets for low tech assaults. Rather, they will become remote staging areas-- floating air force bases-- which serve to extend our global reach, but don't themselves move into forward, exposed postions against potential threats. Carrier groups will tend to huddle near the centers of vast ocean areas, far from any land-based aircraft base-- and equally far from any possible target for their weapons-- thereby removing much of their potential power and influence from the situations they once kept in check so easily.

The focus on technology upgrades of our forces will radically shift from being 'top-down' as today, to 'bottom-up'. The lowly foot-soldier will become a fast moving, armored, strength amplified, near-omniscient and certainly more deadly combination of training, intelligence, and stealth, than the world has ever seen before. Some of the most elite troops will literally be cyborgs-- part man, part machine...

At the same time however, the total numbers of men enlisted in the armed forces will decline dramatically, as quantities make way for quality. A single soldier of 2030 may be more deadly than dozens of today's warriors.

Legislative changes
Congress and/or the President will make it legal for either the armed forces or intelligence agencies of the nation to seek out and terminate single individuals or small groups in other states if they appear to pose a threat to our national security. The reason? It'll be the best, most cost-effective, and least risky strategy all around. Plus, it'll make our enemies think twice about striking at us, or even seriously threatening our well being, once they've seen some of their peers taken out in this manner. We literally won't have any other choice in the matter, from a practicality standpoint.

Surprising NON-changes
Contrary to what might be expected for such times, support for subsidized sale of state-of-the-art weapons systems to allies or other favored states will not be diminished. Indeed, it may even expand, as such a policy has always been one of the central pillars supporting superpower military effectiveness, since it keeps all the players playing by rules which allow superpower weapons strategies to remain effective. Plus, we'll want these sales to blunt our own financial losses as we rid ourselves of surplus weapons we realize are no longer effective, as well as help cushion the blow of the imminent closure of related factories on general unemployment.

Unfortunately, more and more smaller states of the world will come to realize that such a system only perpetuates the military dominance of other states over their own, and choose to go their own way, making for a drastic decline in such sales.

For military equipment manufacturers
The new stand off policy for our carrier groups, as well as other changes, will augur well for cruise missile makers, and for expansions to procedures like in-flight refueling. In-flight rearmament, repair, and maintenance duties will be increasingly in demand. Do not be surprised to see our high tech defense industries desperately try to remain viable by offering spectacular in-flight contingency systems, possibly including remotely operated robots which may crawl outside bombers at supersonic speeds to repair damage, or even synchronized teams of human cyborgs which perform such tasks under equally extraordinary conditions.

In closing...
Couldn't we avoid the military disasters and related humiliations described in this article, by taking preventative action now? Couldn't we also save billions upon billions of dollars by factoring this scenario into our present and future plans?

Yes, we certainly could.

But we won't.

Stay tuned to CNN for details of how and when we decide to raise the curtains on this particular comedy of errors and miscalculation. It'll be quite a show, as we'll probably be providing the entire world with live video of this, our most stunning military defeat since Pearl Harbor.

The resulting video (and financial meltdown) won't be soon forgotten by anyone.

The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to are included.

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