Obsession with big and expensive – the psychology of military procurement

Humans have been obsessed with biggest, largest, most expensive, and other ways to blow resources, since the time immemorial. Earliest religious mythology refers to the attempts to build a tower to heaven – typically unsuccessful. Early civilizations around the world undertook giant constructions – Taj Mahal in India, pyramides of Egypt, various temples and churches of the Mediterranean. Even today we are doing it, despite their waste – because humanity in general has always been excellent and fooling itself; this goes for individuals as well.

Projects costing more than 1 billion USD almost always face large cost overruns. Only one in a thousand mega-projects succeeded within time and on budget. Yet they are seldom – if ever – predicted. Engineers and technologists are always excited to build “newest”, “largest”, and “best” items of the kind. Politicians receive publicity and money; unions delight in generating jobs, and public enjoys the spectacle. All this optimism leads to overestimation of benefits and underestimation of costs. At the same time, huge projects serve to shift public attention from failings in other areas, from broken promises and real problems. They also often serve as an ego trip, making people feel good about themselves even when they are in deep problems otherwise.

Large dams are one example. They cost a lot, face large cost overruns, and often do not return the investment. In fact, while dam builders forecast the cost-to-benefit ratio of 1,4 (that is, benefits exceed the costs by 40%), half of the dams built have cost overruns that exceed that factor. Another example are large weapons systems – majority of weapons in procurement have faced cost overruns, and militaries have resorted to cooking the books to keep true overruns secret. Overall, experts making forecasts about megaprojects can be grouped into “fools” and “liars” – fools are optimists who look at future through rose-tinted glasses, ignoring hard facts and uncertainity. Liars deliberately mislead the public for private gain.

Western navies are currently facing similar issues. United States and other NATO navies lack small ships that can chase Somali pirates or defend against ongoing Muslim invasion of Europe. But they have ample multi-billion aircraft carriers, destroyers and large frigates, which either sit around uselessly or get used for tasks that cheaper vessels could do far more effectively – not to mention more efficiently. United Kingdom, with its two aircraft carriers and numerous destroyers and submarines, lacks patrol ships it needs to protect its shores from illegal immigrants. It had to send one of modern frigates into Mediterranean to deal with migrants in rubber dinghies.

One reason is that expensive weapons are seen as an example of prestige. Battleships were kept in full-tilt production for over half a century, even though major fleet action was very rare. At the same time, all major navies have underfunded production of far more crucial ships such as submarines, merchant escorts and similar. One exception to that rule was the German Kriegsmarine of World War II (but not the World War I Kaiserliche Marine). That, however, was not because of a doctrine – but rather because, with earlier-than-expected onset of the war (Hitler expected war no earlier than 1946), and most resources being soaked up by the Heer and Luftwaffe, it could not afford building large capital ships. In 1941., aircraft carrier supplanted battleship as the main signpost of naval power, as well as the naval capital ship – only to be replaced in the latter role by no later than 1950. with the advent of nuclear attack submarine. Yet even today navies are spending billions to build aircraft carriers that serve no real purpose, because carrier is seen as a symbol of power and prestige. Stealth aircraft serve the same purpose.

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20 thoughts on “Obsession with big and expensive – the psychology of military procurement

  1. “United States and other NATO navies lack small ships that can chase Somali pirates or defend against ongoing Muslim invasion of Europe.”

    No they don’t. They just, for the most part, have such fleet under different government agencies, like the coast guards and such, and not under armed forces’ navies.

    “But they have ample multi-billion aircraft carriers, destroyers and large frigates, which either sit around uselessly or get used for tasks that cheaper vessels could do far more effectively – not to mention more efficiently. ”

    While having two different vessels can sometimes be cheaper, in medium/smaller navies it can be more expensive to have two sets of crews trained for two different ships then to have less manpower within the navy and operate larger ships. Those ships often have to go out to the sea anyway, even if we’re not talking about large scale warfare training.

    “United Kingdom, with its two aircraft carriers and numerous destroyers and submarines, lacks patrol ships it needs to protect its shores from illegal immigrants. It had to send one of modern frigates into Mediterranean to deal with migrants in rubber dinghies.”

    It is not true UK lacks such vessels. They sent a frigate as it was decided it was more cost effective. But UK does have quite a potent force of smaller vessels. Royal navy has four large 1,700 ton patrol vessels. Border force has five 250/400 ton cutters. Royal navy has further 18 fifty ton patrol vessels. (and 15 more 700 ton mine warfare vessels if push comes to shove and every available ship becomes needed for patrol role) Finally, there are many boats and large RHIBs available as well, courtesy of police and coastguard.

    “In 1941., aircraft carrier supplanted battleship as the main signpost of naval power, as well as the naval capital ship – only to be replaced in the latter role by no later than 1950. with the advent of nuclear attack submarine. Yet even today navies are spending billions to build aircraft carriers that serve no real purpose, because carrier is seen as a symbol of power and prestige.”

    Navies are spending billions to build carriers as carriers provide best means for sea control. At the same time they can help with providing support during overseas offensive ops. Submarine, even today, can not control the seas. It can lurk, it can periodically receive outside info, it can harrass enemy merchant and combat navies and it can indeed inflict heavy casualties to both, even to best guarded carrier groups. But it can not be relied on doing that successfully in a regular manner nor it can identify ships to the degree often needed in warfare. It is a weapon of attrition, a weapon of fear and definitely a very potent adversary but not the keystone of naval combat ops.

    “Stealth aircraft serve the same purpose.”

    Right. Which is why Russia is building two kinds of such planes. Which is why US has used or will use 5 different stealth planes. India will be using one. Japan will use one and is currently prototyping another one. China will be using two or three different kinds. Korea is possibly making one (unclear how stealthy their project in its final incarnation will be) and so on. Not to mention other countries that will use bought stealth planes. Plus pretty much any serious UCAV of the future is bound to be stealthy.

    We’re not talking about one side having a stealth craze that may not be founded. We’re talking about the whole world – every possible warring side – Russia, China and US, alongside their possible allies, going after stealth planes. So what is more probable? That a single person claiming stealth is useless is wrong – or that leading strategists/engineers/commanders of every country in the world are wrong?

    • “No they don’t. They just, for the most part, have such fleet under different government agencies, like the coast guards and such, and not under armed forces’ navies.”

      Fact that there are such ships doesn’t mean there are enough of them. Why do you think Britain deployed a destroyer into the Mediterranean?

      “While having two different vessels can sometimes be cheaper, in medium/smaller navies it can be more expensive to have two sets of crews trained for two different ships then to have less manpower within the navy and operate larger ships. Those ships often have to go out to the sea anyway, even if we’re not talking about large scale warfare training.”

      Agreed, but they still have two different types of ships. It is just that they do not have enough of either.

      “It is not true UK lacks such vessels. They sent a frigate as it was decided it was more cost effective.”

      I’d really like to know how they concluded that…

      “Navies are spending billions to build carriers as carriers provide best means for sea control.”

      Actually, submarines are the best sea control vessels, at least in the wartime. And while carriers are indeed useful in many roles, modern navies are placing too many eggs in too few baskets by building carriers capable of carrying 50-100 aircraft. Not to mention the insanity of building nuclear carriers… and having to use conventionally-powered ships as the escort, which negates the entire point of nuclear propulsion.

      “Submarine, even today, can not control the seas. It can lurk, it can periodically receive outside info, it can harrass enemy merchant and combat navies and it can indeed inflict heavy casualties to both, even to best guarded carrier groups.”

      During the Falklands war British submarines did establish control of the seas, in terms of sea denial at least. More specifically, Argentine fleet stayed in the port, and did not even try to approach area patrolled by British submarines after General Belgrano got sunk by the HMS Conqueror. Because of that Argentine carrier Veintinco de Mayo did not leave the port, which meant that Argentine planes had to fly from the mainland. This in turn meant that Argentine aircraft had no fuel left over to maneuver, and long flight near the sea made canopies opaque due to salt encrustment. As a consequence of that, British enjoyed a turkey hunt, shooting down Argentine aircraft at their pleasure.

      Submarines are the best sea denial weapon in existence. Maybe they can’t “control” the sea in traditional terms, but it certainly can prevent enemy surface ships from using said sea.

      “We’re not talking about one side having a stealth craze that may not be founded. We’re talking about the whole world – every possible warring side – Russia, China and US, alongside their possible allies, going after stealth planes. ”

      Which does nothing to counter the point that stealth aircraft are seen as a sign of prestige.

  2. I put a “like” because i appreciate the effort, and considers the view point to be valid. However, I do not fully agree. The fact so many mega project fail is basically irrelevant.

    What matters is that some work splendidly. Take the Apollo program. Or the Manhattan project. OK, the latter was just a fraction of the cost of the F35. F35 is a crazy mega project of potentially strong negative military value, agreed. Another mega project that worked splendidly was Roosevelt’s decision, in 1933, to launch a 24 FLEET carrier program. The fascist Imperial Jap high command did not expect that one: they were reduced often to scramble by converting several fast big battle cruisers into poorly designed aircraft carriers. All in all, the Japanese Navy built 15 fleet carrier (the largest and biggest was sunk as it came out from a protected bay for the first time in 1945).

    By the way, both the first automobiles and planes were French military programs. Athens was saved from the Persian invasion, 25 centuries ago, by a massive military construction program of a 200 trireme navy.. It ruined Attica ecologically and financially. However, the Persians were defeated.

    An example of slow motion failure is the thermonuclear project ITER. It is slowed down deliberately because it’s feared to be too mega! So the fear of “mega” brings failure.

    Stealth debates should mention there are two types of stealth: the old type, already used in World War Two, and the new type, electronic stealth (Rafale’s Spectre)

    • “I put a “like” because i appreciate the effort, and considers the view point to be valid. However, I do not fully agree. The fact so many mega project fail is basically irrelevant. ”

      I don’t think so. Mega projects that fail, and even those that succeed, soak up many funds that could have been more useful somewhere else. Sometimes megaprojects are necessary, but many are not.

      “Take the Apollo program. Or the Manhattan project. OK, the latter was just a fraction of the cost of the F35. F35 is a crazy mega project of potentially strong negative military value, agreed. Another mega project that worked splendidly was Roosevelt’s decision, in 1933, to launch a 24 FLEET carrier program.”

      These were all mostly a necessity, excepting F-35. Problem is not with projects that are large because they need to be large; point here is that many projects are large because somebody wants them to be large, and that cost of such project is typically underestimated, and benefits overestimated. Apollo program and Manhattan project actually were not expensive… compared to some other things. NASA’s budget was never more than a fraction of Pentagon’s. On the other hand, F-35 is basically an ego trip project, as are aircraft carriers. Or some Nazi mega-projects – V1 and V2 bombs, which if anything shortened the war by hastening Germany’s defeat.

      “The fascist Imperial Jap high command did not expect that one: they were reduced often to scramble by converting several fast big battle cruisers into poorly designed aircraft carriers. All in all, the Japanese Navy built 15 fleet carrier (the largest and biggest was sunk as it came out from a protected bay for the first time in 1945). ”

      Japan was defeated primarily by American submarines, which never had more than measly 2% of the personnel of the US Navy. Fleet is useless without fuel, and Japan imported all its oil crude from Filippines and Indonesia. US submarines cut off that vital line, and once they did, Japan’s defeat became assured. Carriers helped, sure, but island hopping could have replaced them. Nothing could have replaced submarines. And escort carriers were also more important than fleet carriers, as they were numerous enough to counter submarines.

      “Athens was saved from the Persian invasion, 25 centuries ago, by a massive military construction program of a 200 trireme navy.. It ruined Attica ecologically and financially. However, the Persians were defeated.”

      Agreed. But that was against a clear threat. But the F-35, Olympic games… they don’t have any actual value. Neither does the Tower of Dubai.

      “Stealth debates should mention there are two types of stealth: the old type, already used in World War Two, and the new type, electronic stealth (Rafale’s Spectre)”

      Actually there are many types of stealth*, but thanks to the media most people only consider passive RCS reduction. So that is the meaning I used it in. And it is interesting how many things considered “new” are actually old (radar stealth, RWR, radar frequency hopping / LPI radars, active IR sensors – all used in WWII; unmanned aircraft – used even before WWI…).

      * EMCON, passive RCS, active RCS, IR, visual, acoustic…

      • So we basically agree to all. I have long read about the Pacific War, and I knew about the submarines. First their torpedoes did not work… at all. Island hopping was the hope of the Japs, but the US carrier groups task force allowed to leave behind isolated Japan held islands.

        The ultimate mega project of apparent dubious utility was the Great Pyramids. They cost enormously, 4 centuries ago. The largest of them all was the world’s highest monument until recently, and certainly still the heaviest stone artifacts (excluding dams). It is easy to scoff, and evoke the folly of religion. Yet, on second thought, the truth surfaces: the pyramids were a colossal symbol of Egypt power. A way to tell the world: look at what we can do, imagine what we could do… to you.

        Hence the Celtic oppida in North Western Europe (some have been mistaken for hills until recently). True, those could be used for defense, but those on top of mountains could not sustain a long siege. Or then the New World pyramids. Prestige is the ultimate weapon. Something the Islamist pseudo-state will soon lose…

    • I suppose the Tower of Dubai has some tourism value, but that is unlikely to ever earn back the construction costs.

      There are some infrastructure projects that I would argue are worth it. Underinvestment is actually a huge problem IMO with the US right now. Same with basic research spending – not enough.

      It depends on which projects I guess.

    • Infrastructure is worth the investment, even if there are cost overruns. High speed rail, nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, continental highway systems – these are all projects that require huge lead times and massive co-ordination. But the results are worth it.

      When France went 80% nuclear in the 1960s to 70s, it wound up having the lowest electricity prices AND lowest CO2 emissions in all of Europe, insulated itself from further oil shocks (thus making it less interested in the Middle East), and allowed it to reduce also the health burden of indoor air pollution from fossil powered home heating. http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx . Interestingly, anti-nuclear Germany is increasingly reliant upon buffering the seasonal intermittency of its solar and wind using nuclear imports from France. http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060021065 . Both are turning to Russian gas for peaking power as renewables increase; since nuclear and coal cannot ramp fast enough. Green thinking in France has also resulted in a long term policy of downscaling overall nuclear contribution from 78% to 50%. Putin will be laughing all the way to the bank, if he is still around by 2050; because his gas fields will be powering Europe for the foreseeable future.

      When Norway built its dams, it became the largest “buffer” in the Nordic countries. Denmark, with the biggest installed wind capacity, relies extensively on Norway to buffer the intermittency of its wind turbines. Now that there are interconnections to Europe, Norway’s hydro is providing the backup necessary for renewable electricity to be installed without threatening grid stability (or extensive new builds of gas turbines running on Russian gas) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Norway .

      When Japan built its high speed rail, it too, helped break its dependance upon road (and therefore oil) based transport. Increased transit speeds increased productivity and also led to the development of a new city; while reducing primary energy demand in transport from oil from the 98% international average to 61%. For a nation that has no fossil resources, that is a huge, huge saving. http://www.ejrcf.or.jp/jrtr/jrtr03/f09_oka.html . Now with the post Fukushima shutdowns this 61% would probably be closer to the international average since they are now the second biggest fossil energy importer in Asia. But they had a pretty good thing going there for a while.

      I do agree that when it comes to defense, megaprojects aren’t a good idea. Lanchester’s square means that distributed firepower across more platforms is inevitably more valuable than concentrated firepower into a few, highly expensive, highly capable platforms. The problem is that civilian politicians aren’t engineers and they (often) aren’t scientists. So its very easy to mislead them with promises of increased capability. The Western concern over casualties probably worsens this – it is difficult for politicians to justify sending their boys to war in 80% platforms if 10% of them don’t come home.

      I suppose the central point is that megaproject spending for “prestige” – megacarriers, skyscrapers, stealth aircraft – aren’t really worth the investment.
      But when you are talking about megaproject spending for infrastructure that will see intensive use – highways, dams, power stations, state owned factories – they are worth it. Their economic costs are almost always outweighed by their direct benefits (profits) and indirect benefits (health, transit speed, power generation, domestic manufacturing). They may be difficult to quantify, but they are there.

      For a more in depth look into the challenges of decarbonising a nation (now THAT’s a megaproject) here’s a report by Smil and Cembalest: https://www.jpmorgan.com/jpmpdf/1320687247153.pdf . Will the results be worth it?
      Personally, I think it is worth, at least, abandoning fossil fuels for power generation due to air pollution.
      For Australia that derives 98% primary energy from fossil fuels, the health burden is $2 billion annually (ATSE 2009): https://www.atse.org.au/Documents/Publications/Reports/Energy/ATSE%20Hidden%20Costs%20Electricity%202009.pdf . Not all of that will be from power generation, but a lot of it is.
      It would be worth reducing some or all of the primary energy that oil plays in transportation; for nothing else than for propping up some pretty unsavoury regimes: http://www.crudeoilpeak.com/wp-content/gallery/ozy-graphs/australian_crude_oil_imports_jan2004_jun2010.jpg .
      Finally, it is of note that fossil fuels are a valuable commodity that form the basis of a lot of the products we use. Plastics. Pharmaceuticals. Electronics. Even Wind turbines and Solar panels. Preserving (or extending) them for future generations should be valued; because it preserves also the associated domestic industry, expertise and infrastructure instead of letting them go overseas.

      • “Infrastructure is worth the investment, even if there are cost overruns. High speed rail, nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, continental highway systems – these are all projects that require huge lead times and massive co-ordination. But the results are worth it. ”

        Agreed. Not everything can, or should be looked at in terms of price and payoff. But point is that large projects typically do face cost overruns, which has implications for projects such as F-35.

        “When France went 80% nuclear in the 1960s to 70s, it wound up having the lowest electricity prices AND lowest CO2 emissions in all of Europe, insulated itself from further oil shocks (thus making it less interested in the Middle East), and allowed it to reduce also the health burden of indoor air pollution from fossil powered home heating.”

        Yes, nuclear energy is good thing, albeit I hope fusion reactors will be a thing soon.

        “I do agree that when it comes to defense, megaprojects aren’t a good idea. Lanchester’s square means that distributed firepower across more platforms is inevitably more valuable than concentrated firepower into a few, highly expensive, highly capable platforms. The problem is that civilian politicians aren’t engineers and they (often) aren’t scientists. So its very easy to mislead them with promises of increased capability. The Western concern over casualties probably worsens this – it is difficult for politicians to justify sending their boys to war in 80% platforms if 10% of them don’t come home. ”

        Agreed. What also plays a part is that many defense projects are basically social security for corporations (e.g. F-35). So actual military value is hardly even a factor in determining which projects go forward.

        “I suppose the central point is that megaproject spending for “prestige” – megacarriers, skyscrapers, stealth aircraft – aren’t really worth the investment.”

        Agreed.

        “Finally, it is of note that fossil fuels are a valuable commodity that form the basis of a lot of the products we use. Plastics. Pharmaceuticals. Electronics. Even Wind turbines and Solar panels. Preserving (or extending) them for future generations should be valued; because it preserves also the associated domestic industry, expertise and infrastructure instead of letting them go overseas.”

        Indeed. In fact, there is literally nothing which cannot be produced from oil crude (naphtha). Even food can be produced.

      • I would agree with this.

        Most public works do pay off for themselves – often many times over. They often have secondary benefits. Of course, you could argue there are sometimes costs – the highway system did lead to the increased dependence on oil, and in the case of North America, the rise of the suburbs. Net though, I would argue that most spending for public investment is a good thing.

        Perhaps the way to say it is that massive spending for the benefit of society is a good thing, in most cases. Most prestige structures and projects though, which benefit a small portion of society are just that – they take the wealth of society and give it to a small number of people at the expense of everyone else.

        Neoliberalism is a good example of theft of public wealth as well, if you think about it.

    • Woozie: “We’re not talking about one side having a stealth craze that may not be founded. We’re talking about the whole world – every possible warring side – Russia, China and US, alongside their possible allies, going after stealth planes. ”

      Have you ever heard of franklin spinneys ‘defense death spiral?’ This is an organisational problem affecting the military industrial complex, to the result that they produce increasingly expensive and inefficient weapons systems. Its consequences are most strongly felt in the aerospace industry, as exemplified by the F-22 and F-35. Common sense procurement policys were not exercised, and as a result, these fighters were both more expensive and less effective than projected. The united states is theoretically capable or producing much better systems, but in practise they weren’t able to because of massive, inherent corruption within the MIC. Many of the subsystems were built according to the doctrine of planned obsolescence.

      Patrice Ayme: “Take the Apollo program. Or the Manhattan project. OK, the latter was just a fraction of the cost of the F35. F35 is a crazy mega project of potentially strong negative military value, agreed. Another mega project that worked splendidly was Roosevelt’s decision, in 1933, to launch a 24 FLEET carrier program.”

      Actual mega-projects of the scale and kind you imply have vanishingly few applications. The reason why the manhattan project was so important was because it enabled america to build an entirely new industry from nothing. Processing uranium and plutonium required infrastructure and job sectors that didn’t exist at that time. Recruiting the most qualified scientists and occupying them with R&D was actually of secondary importance. In any case, the project was implemented with such success that it enabled the U.S. to quickly surpass germany in nuclear physics, even though they’d had a 2 year head start. There were a number of reasons for this, only some of which was financial. You can read more here: http://mitchellhowe.blogspot.ca/2006/02/want-manhattan-project-take-number.html

      • Manhattan project was called Manhattan, because… Because the British nuclear bomb program was safer in Manhattan… And who got that started? The French, in January 1938. The Germans never thought a nuclear chain reaction was possible, until Irene Curie (who was already a Nobel Laureate) taught it to Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner, who kept it away from Heisenberg, scientific head of the vague Nazi effort…

        It goes without saying that nearly nobody knows that the Manhattan project was actually started as a French nuclear bomb project…

  3. The Dubai tower is more than a tourist attraction: it puts Dubai on the map, make people aware of Dubai, and of Dubai’s modernity. So it creates a positive image of Dubai in places such as the French Republic, which is the main front line and strategic defense of the United Arab Emirates. So the Dubai Tower is actually a DEFENSE investment (even more so than the Statue of Liberty, a subtle double entendre gift of same republic to the USA).

    A hyper important mega project right now is ITER, “THE WAY”, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. To humor the USA, the project has been put on life support. So it would come on line in 2035… whereas a crash program should see it laden with Tritium in half a decade. That gives the USA more time to frack, and others more time to burn coal. Japan and Korea, which intended to build energy producing reactors from the ITER revelations… are furious. Rightly so.

  4. It does seem like the US is in rapid decline. This unwillingness to invest in basic research spending is just part of it.

    Infrastructure is another example. I will note that the US has no high speed rail, apart from the Acela, which doesn’t compare to say, the French TGV system, even in the most densely populated areas. Much of America’s roads are in need of repair. The US will also have to replace much of its water and power delivery systems in the coming decades.

    I suspect that you could argue that other mega projects have. China’s rapid rollout of its high speed rail project was impressive.

    The collapse of the American manufacturing sector outside of the military is also very noteworthy. Manufacturing is the base of a lot of prosperity.

    The long term trend in the US, barring a big turnaround is downwars. Perhaps the best way to measure a country is its standard of living. That said not looking good at all, relative to other Western nations.

  5. What are your thoughts about the UK leaving the EU?

    I would argue that the EU had in many ways become too big for its own good. Plus there is also the matter that the EU’s senior leadership did not serve the people. They served themselves and the very wealthy special interests at the people’s expense. A backlash was inevitable. Sadly this will not lead to the needed introspection in the EU and they will dismiss it as the arrogant British.

    Equally inevitable was a backlash in the UK due to the decline of British manufacturing and with it, job prospects. This is the ultimate consequence of Thatcherism, Blairism, and neoliberal economics.

  6. I broadly agree that infrastructure is one of the few grandiose projects which actually pays for itself over time, and it seems that the Chinese agree.

    If anyone hasn’t reads up on their One Belt, One Road strategy then it is worth a good look. Very clever and foresighted idea that has grave implications for the shape of the world to come.

    Over the coming years you will hear about lots of infrastructure being developed between China’s western hinterland which is currently decidedly empty and the rest of Asia and even Europe. The Chinese economy is all focussed on the South and East along the coasts for access to the sea, though they are finding that the market forces of available manpower and the tastes of the workers are resulting in inflation, particularly in foodstuffs and protein as they can afford to eat more of it.

    This is contrary to their wider strategy of exporting deflation to the West in order to prevent us from inflating away our huge debts, most of which is held by the Chinese. Hence by dumping cheap goods on our markets they keep inflation low and our interest payments high. Ideally every central bank would like to force inflation up such that every billion worth of debt becomes far less in real terms. Our parents might have thought that their mortgages were huge in the 70s but given the inflation though the 80s they became negligible as debts and easy to service.

    The geopolitical effects of China’s huge overland Road to Europe are interesting too. Currently they know they are at the mercy of the US Navy should a shooting war begin hence by going overland they completely negate this. So too their shipping routes which will be purely within range of land based air and protected by Naval bases at every hop.

    The level of infrastructure they are willing to invest in is massive, far bigger than anything from the past and it shows their dedication to both maintaining their position and increasing it as the century plays out. It is difficult to see the woefully poor and weak nations to their West refusing money and infrastructure, or even those as far afield as Greece and Italy. Further yet the East African coast has already been economically colonised and they now seek to link up their investments with yet more infrastructure.

    They’ve been aided and abetted in this by the Obama doctrine, which basically refuses to intervene whilst seeking European integration as a hedge against Chinese power. This docrine however is now in tatters.

    The only sticking point in the Chinese plan is India. Already more than an emerging nation their economy is not built on exports as per the Chinese model. They are being pulled in all directions at once. Considering infrastructure and trade proposals from China whilst building up their own Navy and seeking enhanced military cooperation with the US. Still though they get most of their major equipment projects from Russia and their technology transfers from France.

    Brexit has had some huge ramifications outside the British Isles. Abe’s economic illiteracy has been shown up as the Yen soared post Brexit. This is catastrophically bad for their economy and with article 9 redacted opens up the possibility of war. German and Italian banks now appear bankrupt and borrowing rates for the Southern Euro countries rose as the UK’s smashed through any previous lows. With Germany being the only net contributor of note to the EU left and the north / south economic imbalance only likely to exacerbate it is difficult to see the EU remaining intact.

    The UK funded the EU in many ways other than direct contributions. Common defence projects were designed to leach industry and money away, the once rich fishing grounds which make up 90% of the EU total fished close to extinction and London’s money markets were quite capable of syphoning money from the taxpayer without them even knowing it to prop up failing banks.

    The UK is now potentially a loose cannon, it could turn in many directions. Increased reliance upon the US is one fairly likely scenario.

    The scenario I’d particularly like to discuss, and would suggest as a separate topic, is thus…

    The EU maintains it’s attitude that the UK must be punished in any trade deal hence the UK looks further afield. Signs deals with India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa amongst others. Additionally it elects to represent India’s interests through it’s permanent seat on the UN Security council ( something that India covets above all other things) and starts common defence equipment programmes with the Anglosphere.

    Hence India’s new carriers would be Queen Elizabeth class. Frigates a common hull based on the T26, the UK replaces it’s Challengers with updated Arjuns etc.British technology, 5 eyes intel, Indian manufacturing base and manpower all acting as a counter weight to China.

    Basically the commonwealth strikes back…

    I’d suggest a naval focus on amphibious warfare and submarine interdiction with a powerful carrier strike capability. A relatively small but superbly equipped land force with a heavy emphasis on conventional and chemical artillery and a numerically superior air force with an as yet undeveloped strategic inderdiction capability ( something along the lines of Taranis though mass produced).

    • That is why neoliberal policy of keeping inflation low is moronic in economic terms. Moderate to high inflation is healthy, as long as it doesn’t develop into hyperinflation. But inflation would also, as you point out, reduce real value of debts, which is not in capitalists’ / bankers’ / plutocrats’ interests. Ergo, economic suicide for the sake of the wealthy.

      European integration too is problematic, as diversity – which has been historically Europe’s greatest strength – prevents easy integration. And forced integration is counterproductive.

      Regarding military, chemical artillery is a no-no, as chemical weapons are WMDs in the same category as nuclear weapons, albeit slightly easier to defend against.

      • It is just another weapon, and one specifically designed with the Chinese in mind if a chat I had with an American MLRS commander is anything to go by. Hasn’t it ever struck you that the MLRS is rather over engineered for it’s role? The VX filled stocks in the American arsenal are the answer, though the UK never bought them.

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