Notes on the Terrible Coming War

Black Cat on 2020-01-03

Still from here.

As I write this, it very much appears that there will be a war between the US state and the Iranian state.

Predicting the future is a sucker’s game — by the time you read this, the threat may have passed. It seems, though, that we are currently in one of those eras where war will be seen as inevitable in retrospect — no divergence after the death of Bismark could have averted WWI. No divergence after the end of WWI could have averted WWII. So, even if Father Time laughs at my rough draft of the future, some of this article will retain usefulness. That is my intention, at least.

In the event that the US declares war on Iran, Russia and China will be faced with a choice: to intervene or not intervene. China buys from both Saudi Arabia and Iran and will be caught between them. Russia and Iran have closer relations, though Russia is an energy exporter and would have less clear financial incentive to involve themselves. Both powers face the choice of either risking nuclear war, or risking no longer being seen as credibly able to project power.

I will be assuming no direct intervention by either Russia or China, but allowing for military and non-military aid. I am assuming this for two reasons: firstly, I find it more likely; secondly, in the event of full Russian and Chinese involvement (the involvement of one will likely open the door to the involvement of the other) the situation will quickly grow too chaotic for any predictions to be meaningful.

Iran has been preparing itself for this scenario for the past 50 years. It has every advantage that it possibly could. It is, however, undoubted that millions will die. Turkey will likely withdraw from NATO to fight on the Iranian side, after which it seems that Russian involvement becomes even more likely. The Syrian civil war will likely be folded into this conflict, resulting in the final triumph of Assad and the horrific crushing of the Rojavans. Israel may involve itself in this Syrian theater — making the situation more uncertain. Even more refugees will likely spill into Jordan. Iraq will almost certainly declare for Iran. Kuwait will be the first US ally to fall, and will — one can only assume — be annexed to Iraq. The Saudis have no particular loyalty from their people beyond religious ties, and it is doubtful that they could raise much in the way of guerillas — their religious extremists are mostly rich and soft. Their significant class tensions will likely backfire — their enemies will certainly fund large heretical and slave revolts on Saudi soil.

The only asset that the Saudis have is American military support. But, America is a fading power, and has failed to conclusively win the Iraq or Afghanistan wars after nearly two decades. There is no particular reason to believe that America will win. They will almost certainly lose all presence in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, though — even a victory here will result in that.

Aside from the machinations of Empire, there are linings in this oncoming war.

Firstly, and most obviously, these events bear a rereading of Carson’s Bring on the Drones!. This is the first global-scale proof of concept of asymmetric drone warfare, and it is an explosive success. Think of a world in which this sort of thing becomes common: it will mean the end of all centralized infrastructure. Goodbye, large gas power plants. Goodbye, large oil refineries. Goodbye nuclear reactors. Goodbye, river dams. Say hello to wind turbines, to buried geothermal, to home solar, to small turbines in small creeks. The long-term effect of this is a huge environmental win — and a huge social ecology win. This adjustment of the relationship of humanity to energy will lead to adjustments in the relationship of humans to each other.

Secondly, chaos in the middle east will likely open up some amount of possibilities for liberation. The slave revolts in Saudi Arabia will be something to see. However, there is a lead lining to even this silver lining, in that the situation will also likely close out certain possibilities — the Kurds, foremost amongst them. The Kurds were going to eventually lose anyway, though.

Thirdly, the whole scenario may lead to imperial collapse elsewhere in the world. This is going to, likely, be the most long-term significant outcome — but also the least predictable. If this war drags on without US victory, but with continual US losses, other states may smell the death of a great predator and come hyena-like to the feast. Every state is an empire in ambition if not in reality, and we may see the growth of little empirelets.

This may be the event that is remembered as the end of the Pax Americana and the start of a new, bloodier, multipolar world.

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