Given the scale of supply constraints across the spectrum of traditional energy sources, we may find it very difficult to scale-up a viable supply of energy to replace cheap, conventional oil in time to avoid the collapse of critical infrastructures. The converging complexity of major stresses including energy depletion, climate change, food insecurity, economic instability and violent conflict – combined with the increasingly obvious inability of states to keep up with and respond to these crises meaningfully – could create a perfect storm culminating in “synchronous failure”, leading to collapse. And a short-sighted reversion to traditional military solutions would more likely accelerate, rather than avoid, this collapse.
When might such “synchronous failure” occur? In mid-2009 the UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir John Beddington warned that we could expect a ‘perfect storm’ of food, water and energy crises by 2030. However, my own assessment of ‘crisis convergence’ – based on six years of interdisciplinary research poring over thousands of academic studies and industry reports – suggests that “synchronous failure” could arrive as early as 2018 on a business-as-usual model.
• Up to 80% of Nato supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan
• Majority are driven 1,200 miles (1,931km) from port of Karachi to Kabul via Khyber Pass
• 1,000 container lorries and tankers travel daily through the pass to Kabul
• Khyber Pass is 53km long (33 miles) and up to a height of 1,070m (3,444ft)
• About 150 lorries go via the southern supply route through Chaman to Kandahar.
Phi Beta Iota: Now here is the big picture. First, never get in a fight on the Asian landmass. Our politicians do not read a lot and can be considered very isolated from both reality and history. Second, understand your supply line vulnerabilities. This story tells the tale of the very contractors being hired by NATO bombing their own trucks, in part to conceal the fact that the trucks are near empty when bombed–they are optimizing profits three ways: sell and then burn; reimbursed for old trucks as if new; and premium pricing for risk they create themselves. Doesn’t get much better than this.
POSTSCRIPT: The US and NATO are stuck with land routes because the US Air Force has for decades refused to be responsible for long-haul airlift at the same time that the US Army has been logistically insane and built a force that is not air mobile. We could not do a Berlin Airlift today, nor can we lift the minimal needed forces to a distant theater in anything near the Marine Corps 911 standard that we defined in 1992: a platoon with two Cobras in 24 hours, a company with Harriers in 48, a light battalion landing team with organic air in 72, and a full up Marine Amphibious Brigade in 96 (four days). The Navy is not much better, big ships and few of them mean that the Navy remains 5-7 steaming days away from anywhere that matters, and when they get there, they are out-gunned by Third World coastal artillery and missiles and have no Naval Gunfire capabilities because a series of Marine Corps Commandants have rolled over and played dead for the sake of getting along with the Chief of Naval Operations. Bottom line: US global strategy is non-existent; US force structure is incoherent, and the people responsible for it, past and present, lack integrity in the holistic sense of the word.
SharpInsights #53: Modern Advice From a Long-Dead Roman
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman dramatist, Stoic philosopher, politician, and history’s earliest proponent of competitive intelligence. Wait…what?
One of Seneca’s most famous quotes is a management mantra: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” For executives making decisions in a recession-battered marketplace, “preparation” means more than skimming last year’s sales figures or catching up on trade magazines.
Competitive intelligence reveals the current, comprehensive, objective truth about your product or service, brand, company, customers, and industry. The cold hard truth can lead to a warm fuzzy feeling for managers who apply their CI preparation to opportunity.
India-Russia: India will buy 250 to 300 advanced stealth fighter aircraft from Russian, according to Defence Minister A.K. Antony, as he announced the deal worth nearly $30 billion. Antony and Russian Defense Minister Serdyukov said Russia would supply the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) as well as 45 transport aircraft. India also will jointly manufacture the fighters under license for ten years.
NIGHTWATCH Comment: The future of the Indian Air Force appears to be linked primarily to Russian rather than US firms. This agreement thinly hides an Indian strategic judgment about the threats it faces from China and Pakistan, about the US as a supplier for coping with those threats compared to the Russians.
India is making long term preparations to be ready for a major war after ten years that will require fifth generation fighters because the most likely enemy – presumably China – also will have those air capabilities. The Russians are willing to sell India the aircraft and to license the technology. The US is not building significant numbers of fifth generation fighters and will not sell them even to Israel.
The Indians, Russians and Chinese do not share the US strategic outlook favoring small wars and counterinsurgency forces.
Phi Beta Iota: Since the mid-1990’s, when the best minds associated with the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute turned decisively away from the two-major theater war model, and we presented the 1+iii (One Plus Triple Eye) strategy, the US has been incoherent with respect to strategic policy, acquisition, and operations. Ideology is not a substitute for intelligence, and technology is not a substitute for thinking.