Reexamining Corruption

It’s hard to make a pro-corruption argument. This might seem like a banal point to make, but it goes a long way to explaining its role as a rhetorical tool to delegitimise incumbent elites. Any system increases the power of a subset of the population – thus creating an aristocracy, which might be either in line with natural aristocratic tendencies, or an artificial creation made by fiat. Therefore a common tactic to be aware of; particularly in this new world of information warfare and astro-turfed revolutions, is the use of the term “corruption” to do most of the work necessary to convince people that the corrupt oligarchs (read: current aristocrats), need to be removed, and replaced with their champions of the people, experts, civil servants, meritocratic representatives or whatever else they might be sold as (read: their aristocrats).

If a prominent firm or aristocrat is given sole rights to import a particular commodity, or given a monopoly over trade with a particular region of the world – is that corrupt? Most would probably say yes, but it is a frequent feature of trade historically, and usually discussed without this moral dimension. In discussions on the history of these topics it has been seen in the cold light of either political or economic necessity. When pursued by the various national East India Companies, as well as the West Africa companies, and others; a monopoly may have been necessary to reduce risk and thus make the enterprise sufficiently profitable and attractive to generate capital. The risk of total asset loss was so severe that even despite the significant resource availability and autonomy of these East India Companies, they were unable to secure total dominance – as they still competed with each other East India Company. Had the Dutch East India Company had to face even just two or three English East India Companies with either outright force or predatory business practices; they would be unlikely to help one another, and thus leave one another to fall one by one. It’s even worse than that on the domestic side, because they would undercut one-another in prices, and thus diminish the profitability of the goods overall. Between these two pressures, they would have to eventually simply buy from the Dutch East India Company instead. Based on the effects that economic dependence on Chinese trade had on British foreign policy (sparking the Opium Wars), and the actual historical examples of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, we would be faced with a series of wars wherein England occupies a much more disadvantageous position thanks to less access to ships and a shipbuilding industry (after all, if there is little peacetime need for it, what would sustain it outside of wartime?). All the while, access to foreign commodities such as tea and spices would be sporadic, and pricier when available. Was the granting of these monopolies to certain aristocrats a matter of corruption then, or prudent policy in the national interest? If one were to ask domestic producers and aristocrats with little investment in the new companies, it would most certainly be still considered a matter of corruption.

A more contemporary examples then: was the privilege that seems to have been given to Russian or Russian-affiliated aristocrats in Armenia corrupt? Many seem to have thought so, based on polls, street demonstrations, and the like around the time of the 2018 revolution (if we trust such metrics). It should be said immediately that there are more facets to the corruption accusations than that single point (and this caveat is necessary because it is more contemporary), however this is one of the points which was seized upon most diligently by the revolutionary government. Russian influence was purged rather ruthlessly, but fast-forward two years and Armenia finds itself in the midst of a war which was entirely predictable, but one which they were woefully underprepared for, and their only ally – Russia, sits on the sidelines. Perhaps all that ‘corruption’ served a purpose after all…
More than that even, much of the ‘corrupt’ government’s claim to legitimacy in prior years had been the preservation of their perilous position. In the west this has been portrayed as a flimsy excuse to preserve their power and position. Recent events seem to show that they were entirely correct, and we were entirely wrong. Who is the corrupt party in this formulation then?

Only after laying out these examples does it seem appropriate to define corruption, because many of us have an inherent sense of what corruption is – which I wanted to prick at before discussing it in detail. According to a quick google, the following two definitions are most appropriate here: 

  1. dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
  2. the action or effect of making someone or something morally depraved.

Transparency International gives a slightly different definition:

We define corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

Between these three definitions, we get the sense that corruption is the profaning of sacred power by using it for private gain. This is not a terrible definition, we can, I’m sure, all agree that Dick Cheney personally profiting from the Iraq War was indeed corrupt, as would be supported by the definition. But what about the repeal of the Corn Laws? The anti-corn law league was immeasurably better funded than it’s pro-corn law counterpart, and it was rather transparently funded so that the factory owners could lower the wages of their workers; hardly an altruistic aim, despite all the high-minded rhetoric. Was the eventual success which they achieved, corrupt? By this definition, yes insofar as the better funded party won out (despite the theoretically pro-corn law party being in government at the time – indeed the issue split the party), but we tend not to see it that way. Perhaps it is simply too far in the past. What about the overruling of a referendum result through legal challenge? It’s not quite buying a politician, but it’s often the next best way of buying policy. Desegregation, and same-sex marriage were both pushed through this way, but these two points are often considered some of the most significant achievements of Liberal Democracy – to call them products of corruption would be contentious to say the least. But these weren’t for personal gain, right? Not financially, certainly, but in terms of non-financial profit, perhaps. 

Let us emphasise the private versus public gain side of the equation then, dropping the moralist implications, and the financial element. Already we run into problems defining what this public good might be, and how to deduce it – as it is one of the core questions and divisions of the Enlightenment. Instead, let me sidestep that consideration for a moment, to instead talk about what is definitively not part of the public good:

  1. The good of an individual at the expense of the rest
  2. The good of an organisation or small cadre at the expense of the rest
  3. The good of a faction or segment of the population at the expense of the rest
  4. The good of the present populace at the expense of the future populace

Obtaining one of these conditions tends to be the goal of enterprises which encourage corruption. Points 3. and 4. however, are tricky because they bring a lot more to mind than stuffed brown envelopes and undue favours. Our general Pluralist view of modern Liberal Democracies usually says that this is a good thing; to have many disparate pressure and interest groups vying for influence. And despite the fact that they often come armed with either cash or near-cash assets for politicians to enjoy (that is to say, if a politician planned to use funds for adverts or exposure to voters, then being given those services is just as good as the cash), we tend not to view them as corrupt or corrupting entities. Unless of course it’s the other political wing’s interest groups. And again we run into the spectre of corruption as a rhetorical device. 

The full implications of the above statements are much deeper however, as they imply that even an idealised version of modern Liberal Democracy is corrupt. Mostly only the naive and the rhetoricians maintain that their program would be better for all, rather than merely their own chosen groups. At this point the criticism may be rightly raised that we have moved on from corruption, and are instead onto the topic of determining what is within the national interest, but this concept is, I would suggest, deeply tied to that of corruption – as it is to act against this national interest for the sake of private interests.

If then, we are to insist on continuing to use corruption as a meaningful concept, it must be to distinguish between particular benefits, or general benefit: those policies that empower only a fraction at the expense of the rest, versus those that – perhaps even disproportionately benefiting some, nonetheless grant general benefits either overall, or in the long term. If we also accept the findings of the Elitist School, and in particular, the Iron Law of Oligarchy, then this also means that accepting the privileged positions of aristocrats is necessary, but must be aligned with the national interest (rather than parasitic). This is clearly not an obvious picture to parse however, as demonstrated by the aforementioned examples of the Armenian Revolution in 2018, or the merchants and investors of the East India Company, because in both cases, the privileges served vital strategic interests which either would have, or did impoverish the nation at large by their disempowerment. Most other cases are more murky however. Did the abolishment of the Corn Laws and thus the disempowerment of the landed aristocracy in favour of the burgeoning merchant, financial, and industrial aristocracy – help or hurt Britain’s interests? It’s a mixed picture, and while I would personally say that it did more damage than good in the long term, I will readily admit that this is a difficult case to make. In the present it is even more difficult; particularly when factionalism is rife which encourages a mindset of wanting to raise our own and tear down those of the political opposition. But under such conditions, perhaps even the basest claims of awarding top jobs to loyalists alone to ensure loyalty and governmental coherence is valid, in which case all talk of corruption would be moot.

Only when we have solved this problem of ensuring that intentions are rightly guided – can we begin to interpret and weigh the conflicting needs of the nation. Before a national need can be established, there needs to be an unbiased or correctly biased (as in biased towards the good of the nation) entity which can produce these judgements reliably, rather than coincidentally. Athens stumbled into the fleet they used to win the existentially vital battle of Salamis. We probably shouldn’t, as a matter of course, rely on such unlikely fortune to obtain good policy.

Who Lost the 2020 Armenia-Azerbaijani War?

To explain the nuance of the above question; clearly the Armenians have lost the war, and while there have begun to be breakdowns of what exactly happened, which I will shortly summarise, the question remains: whose fault was it?

Armenia had world opinion largely on its side, the advantage of defence, the mountainous terrain advantage, and 26 years to prepare for what – in retrospect – seems inevitable. To their credit, the Azeris seem to have fought quite well overall, and made effective use of new drone technologies, existing stocks of weaponry, specialised troops (mountaineers particularly), and perhaps most importantly; effective leadership and long-term planning. Nonetheless, it appears that this is a war primarily lost by Armenia on the diplomatic and political front, because that is what provided Azerbaijan with the opportunity. Armenia is a member of the CSTO, a Eurasian mutual defence pact, and effectively Russia’s answer to NATO, yet Russia failed to join the conflict, despite treaty stipulations that suggest they ought to have. In 2013, the commander of the Russian 102nd military base in Armenia gave a statement that: “If Azerbaijan decides to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno-Karabakh by force, the [Russian] military base may join in the armed conflict in accordance with the Russian Federation’s obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.” The word ‘may’ could be considered relevant here in light of the fact that they opted not to, but the spirit of the message is that they would do so, what happened between then and now? A revolution of course!

In 2018, protests and civil disobedience broke out in response to the reelection of the Prime Minister, eventually generating another election wherein the traditional ruling party did not even field a candidate, and has been subsequently removed from power entirely. Despite this move being tentatively welcomed by Russia, and the new revolutionary government claiming to have no interest in distancing themselves from Russia diplomatically, it seems that their actions have been telling a different story. Russian advisors have either been removed, as have personnel with close ties to Russia, both diplomatically and militarily – meaning that officers that trained in Russia were either removed or sidelined. Being that Russia is Armenia’s only major ally, this represented a significant loss of expertise in the use of integrated equipment, and a loss of experience and institutional memory. There was no replacements for these losses, and all the while, Azerbaijan was fostering greater relations with Russia, Turkey, and Israel particularly, but certainly not burning any bridges. So we have a framework for poor leadership, disastrous diplomacy, and haphazard use of equipment setting up the loss. Armenian actions seem to have been mostly reactive, and lacking in doctrinal sophistication, while equipment was scarce for Armenia, and insufficiently used. Azerbaijan were able to take the initiative after some early setbacks – learning from their mistakes, and breaking the brittle defences, which the Armenians had no hope of regaining in the short term. This is all to say nothing of the manpower and quantitative equipment differences. So; upon whose shoulders can this be blamed?

The revolutionary government stands out immediately as the prime suspect, because clearly many of the leadership faults, and the purge can be blamed on them particularly. However, the “Velvet Revolution”, it must be said, has many of the tell-tale signs of being at the very least, significantly influenced by US groups and interests. The Armenian lobby in the US is famously strong, and they contributed significant funds as a community during the war to support Armenia, but if the intention was to bring Armenia out of the sphere of Russia, and into that of the US – then it appears to have only damaging effects. To clarify, the method of applying pressure to an existing government through NGOs and organised mass civil disobedience – was the general structure of all of the revolutions of the Arab Spring movement. In particular, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. In the case of Egypt and Tunisia particularly, it is an open secret that US interests played significant roles in the organisation of the revolutions. It is worth noting however that the 2018 Velvet Revolution did not occur within the same period as the rest of these, and so if they all were part of some coordinated plan, then Armenia seems to fall outside of the purview of it. So is the US to blame?

As alluded to previously, the US is not a single player in this regard, and so different groups will have different interests, and act accordingly – perhaps even in ways that are contradictory or conflicting. If NGOs and informal networks within the US were supporting the dissident movement in Armenia, then it has no particular place in US foreign policy as far as the government is concerned. In responding to it however they were more than happy to ‘assert the sovereignty of Armenia’, which in practice means cooling of relations with Russia; portrayed to all as an anti-corruption crackdown by removing individuals associated with the previous puppet regime. All of this is made more likely by the status of the Armenia diaspora’s traditional political ties with the Democrat party, who were out of power at the time of the revolution, and during a period of Russo-phobia in the US, particularly the Democrat party.

So, speculatively; a subgroup of US interests including Armenian diaspora elements supported a revolution against the pro-Russia government in Armenia. Why would the Armenians themselves get on board with it? Being that the previous governing party had governed solely since independence, it can easily be blamed for all of the problems in Armenia, and particularly the actions of the elites. With a great deal of perceived corruption present, and no doubt a great deal of actual corruption, along with the realpolitik considerations which have them functionally subservient to Russia on many issues. The dissidents could therefore claim support from both the Armenian right wishing to strengthen Armenian sovereignty, and the left for its promises of greater openness, democratic freedom, and a number of other low-level grievances. Of course, on top of all that, corruption is seldom popular to anyone other than the beneficiaries, so everyone is happy to oppose that point in particular. Being that this had such dramatic implications on the stability of the country in its precarious situation – open to attack at almost any time if the situation deteriorated enough, or even the perception of deterioration by the Azeris, then is it reasonable that all parties be expected to take this into account? To reiterate: is it reasonable that those either pushing for, or taking part in the revolution, be expected to take the foreign policy implications into account? The support – both from the people themselves, and the Armenian diaspora seems to suggest that the Artsakh issue is a very prominent and important one, but both seem to have pushed for the situation that made its defence untenable. Perhaps it is their fault if we assume they are rational actors who either prioritised domestic issues higher than foreign policy concerns, or miscalculated the danger, but I don’t think that’s a fair assumption.

Instead, I would point to the actions of the revolutionary government, which read like a game of brinksmanship with Russia – trying to gain both western (and particularly US) backing, while maintaining the good relations with Russia despite the obvious provocations. The pitch for involvement with the movement which was presented to the public seems to have been simplistic, and although ‘if something seems too good to be true – then it probably is’, one cannot blame the public too harshly for jumping on board with an exciting, well-funded and well-marketed movement which promises to solve their problems with no obvious or mentioned costs to the whole affair. Like a drug to which they are only-now feeling the after-effects and the low which follows the high. It remains to be seen whether they will double down, or turn away from this new revolutionary drug, replacing the government with something new, or simply reverting to what protected them from external threats. What most recognise in such situations however, is that the peddlers are more culpable than the addicts. Not all are in the government of course, but as with any revolution, a change of the governing apparatus and some of the political elites has inherent benefits to those new guard who fill the ranks. Regardless of whether the overall situation is better or worse for the country, it is usually better to be an incumbent elite in a diminished state, rather than an internal exile of a powerful state. No doubt the external players and supporters get some benefit from the whole affair also, but that matter is less clear. What is clear is that the blame ought to rest solely on the current revolutionary government, and those who gave support to it in its nascent state. They played with fire, and got the whole nation burned in the process.

Sources and further reading: (If the revolution was due to inequality or economic failure, they don’t seem to have received much for the change)

Critiquing Critical Theory

Critical theory builds on the theories of psychoanalysis put forward by Freud, and applies them to areas of literary analysis (among other areas) and has yielded a number of fields which take specific framings to deconstruct entities and relationships which claim to reveal realities about power imbalances. An oft repeated maxim of the use of models is that: the outputs are only as good as the inputs. This is one case where a whole field is corrupted by the systematised proliferation of models which encourage bad inputs derived from unstated and often undue assumptions.

The exact framing and assumptions used in each case vary slightly depending on the specific subject, but to take a critical gender theory lens; the representation of femininity and women, as pitted against men and masculinity – will be used to generate conclusions pertaining to the writer, the reader, and/or society at large. For example: Romeo and Juliet may be said to provide encouragement to a view of masculinity which is aggressive, and domineering, whereas femininity is demure, accommodating, and subservient. The prevalence and wide readership of this book thus subjects many to this categorisation and way of being – which reinforces existing stereotypes, and guides men and women into discrete positions in society in the dominant and submissive positions respectively. The conclusion might then be something like; Romeo and Juliet thus needs to be removed as a central pillar of literature if women are to be equal – else successive generations of girls will continue to be subjugated by the patriarchal encouragement of the text. In this example then, how many assumptions have been smuggled into this (admittedly rather basic) analysis?

As in most such instances, a social constructivist approach is assumed, by the implication that this piece of media is informing interactions and expectations of conduct; where there had prior been, and thus where there would otherwise be: equality. It is assumed that equality is either preferable, or ‘good’ in a metaphysical sense. It is assumed that the portrayals of these characters are designed to be taken as uncritical recommendations of conduct by the reader/viewer, and that they are indeed viewed that way. This list is far from complete, and only covers the elements which are known to be questionable, but nonetheless – many of these broad assumptions apply in other critical theory fields. Whether through the lens of race, sexuality, class, or potentially any other characteristic, a dichotomy is set up between the two considered categories, and observations drawn out with relevance to prevalent attitudes or historical relationships. This would be the more neutral view of what is taking place during these analyses, though this neutrality – again, makes certain assumptions about ideals and preferences.

Drawing all of these presuppositions into an entire field of study is justifiable perhaps – if these presuppositions are either continually reinforced and proven, beyond doubt (and/or true by definition), or engaged with in the full knowledge that they may be incorrect – or indeed are subject rather than objective assessments. None of these options seem to apply to the outputs of critical theory.

In order to reverse this issue, and prevent the products of this flawed methodology damaging our collective understanding, quite simply the reverse of the above stated problems must be implemented. If a charitable interpretation of the conduct is maintained, then it ought to be simply encouraged that the practitioners of critical theory make themselves more aware of the totality of the justifications for their subject, rather than accepting tenuous conclusions as fact for their starting point. Or even merely that they acknowledge that their presuppositions are flimsy, and factor that into the analysis. If these practitioners are not trusted however, then the issue becomes more difficult – as it must be tackled from the outside.

In the past, study was rarely consigned to a single specialist subject, and most academics would have a basis in philosophy (or generally the foundational building blocks of their subject) which would then allow them to construct their own contributions atop this more foundational understanding. This was particularly true in Ancient Greece, but so too during the Enlightenment and Victorian eras, though ever less so in these latter two periods. In light of this, while it might be perhaps desirable to reimplement the same expectations of a more complete academic education in order to be considered a serious contributor to the academic world – the requirements this would impose on the sciences may be considered intolerable compared against current needs. If this is not an option then, a specialist response may be required.

The mistakes made in the fields of critical theory are elementary in the sphere of formal logic and philosophy, and so the expertise developed there might be drawn upon. It is however, not an issue solely possessed by critical theory, as many more fields (of the social sciences particularly) make certain presuppositions of sometimes dubious merit. Therefore, a refined method of observing and perhaps even criticising the connective tissue of these fields – could be a field in itself (if we must make it a separate field). The issue of how a subject is framed, what are the devices used to frame it, and whether the frame itself leads to certain conclusions; are all meta-topics which need to be discussed and considered for all subjects as a form of audit, which might prevent the runaway self-replicating but ill-founded authority of an academic field which has an illogical founding. If this proposal requires a name, then perhaps something akin to; Skeletology, or Framology – the study of frames and frameworks.

The obvious structural issue here, and a potential barrier to this subject having any real success is that it – by design – treads on the toes of vested interest groups within these institutions. There is little reason to think that any field of academics will willingly accept the judgement by an outside entity – that the subject of their life’s work is illegitimate, but this is a necessary outcome if the newly proposed field is to have any meaningful effect. In all likelihood then, any attempts to manifest this suggestion will have to take place outside of the established academic context if it is to be honest, truth-seeking, and unconstrained by institutional pressures which have thus far been the purview of the administrative university apparatus.

To gather this all together then: to untangle the web of assumptions, presuppositions, and accumulated baggage of academic specialisation, a field of study perhaps ought to be introduced which can conduct itself across the range of all these disciplines to take a wider view of whether their core assumptions and by extension sometimes their currently constituted existences – are warranted. To take some examples outside of the aforementioned and subject of this piece: is it reasonable to separate business as a distinct entity of study, rather than one of a number of forms which all function similarly given certain conditions? Is there such a thing as a psychological baseline ‘norm’ from which deviations can be measured, or are there merely observable characteristics of individual or group-level psychology? Are the assumptions of materialist rational self-interested individuals in economics – reasonable? Many of these sorts of questions are posed within the subjects themselves, but their conclusions are often leveled merely as criticisms of certain models, rather than being taken to their paradigm-shifting logical conclusions (where they are sufficiently significant, of course). Unifying these efforts under the microscope of philosophers with the appropriate training ought to, as previously stated, streamline these efforts, and escape the muting of the implication of their findings.

Therefore, let there be a cadre of philosophically trained, rigourous, and clear-thinking analysts; who can state with clarity and categorise the assumptions, presuppositions of different fields and subjects, and how topics are grouped, with an eye to streamline and clarify these disciplines now that centuries of specialisation have siloed them, despite their ever increasing authority and prestige.

Geo-economics and the Availability of Skills

One of the core ideas of geo-economics as an evolving discipline is the promotion, and nurturing of certain skills and competencies which can further economics and geopolitical interests down the line. This also has significant military implications in a way that has been casually observed elsewhere, but deserves more specific attention as a factor of grand strategy. Not only this, but the interplay between fostering skills in a military capacity also creates opportunities for the civilian economy – showing a close relationship generally between these two entities.

One of the most clear places where this relationship appears is during the Second World War. Despite overestimations as the extent of such – this war was indeed a highly mechanised one, with large maneuvers by motorised formations playing decisive roles in numerous battles. Therefore, both in the case of maintaining these frontline vehicles, and the logistics vehicles behind them, a great deal of skill is needed. These skills can and will be taught through official channels, but the availability of these skills will then be restricted to those who are expected to use them most frequently. However, in an industrialised society, the skills of maintaining a motor vehicle will be more generally proliferated at random, which can have a strategic and operational effect in war. This is because although major faults will still require attention centrally, more minor issues may be resolved at a more local level with greater regularity, or with less experienced units.
As a hypothetical example; a freshly assembled motorised unit is advancing on a position in preparation to support an attack, but a breakdown occurs as a result of something as simple as a flat tire. The likelihood of resolving this issue changes with the level of industrialisation present in the country from which these soldiers are drawn. In the case of the US or Britain, there is a higher likelihood (due to greater industrialisation, and in particular, larger automotive industries) of the skills to resolve this problem as it arises with minimal time lost – compared to Japan, the Soviet Union, or Germany, which were all more agrarian in structure. After it is realised how simple the problem is to resolve, the driver will likely learn what is required, but the baseline competence level in this area is not readily available coming straight from the civilian world. This will have a host of downstream effects, from unexpected troop shortages during this particular attack, to increased strain on the maintenance support services tasked with keeping these vehicles running (and using their time on tasks which they are vastly overqualified for). In the extreme, it can also have the effect of providing a more well-rounded working knowledge of mechanical maintenance, rather than the application of drill. This could be one of the factors in the success of damage control efforts conducted by the US Navy, particularly in the case of the USS Yorktown – which was present at the Battle of Midway largely due to effective damage control. In this same battle, the IJN carrier Akagi was lost, in part due to insufficient damage control, which may have benefited from greater access to a wide breadth of mechanical skills which were less available to Japan at the time.

Of course, here the focus has been on the skills availability, but there are more obvious benefits in these same examples, relating to raw industrial capacity – which meant that the ability to produce these vehicle in the first instance was greater, as were the supplemental industries which could produce all of the physical capital and tooling necessary to increase production rapidly.

It is also worth noting however, that in some cases, the presence of skills and capabilities can preclude access to others. For example, in this same example of the Second World War, more agrarian economies tended to produce more skill with the handling of livestock, and of particular relevance – draught horses. At the time, even the most industrialised economies will have still had sizable contingents which could handle and care for these animals effectively – in the modern day this will not be the case. If the use of draught animals for logistics networks became necessary, modern western populations would not have the same amount of baseline and readily available experience to get the most out of the animals and care for them properly.

In a similar regard, competence with firearms, in much of Europe particularly, is less of a widely maintained skillset than in the past or compared to the US. This has been a result of both cultural and legal factors, but the end result is that the US population exhibits a significantly greater baseline competence with firearms than do their European counterparts. Not only this but the physical capital is also more readily available to service these firearms, and even to produce ammunition – which will drastically shorten the timeline of any required increase in production in a case where this becomes necessary. Furthermore, due to domestic demand and financial support of these industries, a much greater level of capacity is maintained in peacetime, with a clientele that retain non-political (albeit consumer, rather than strictly military-based) priorities which can drive innovation and effective competition. This is contrasted against the European markets, which have largely become a set of national (and sometime international) monopolies. Likely this has been a result of the need to remain competitive and profitable in a near-monopsony market. As previously stated, this has the effect of ensuring that a new US soldier will have a greater average level of competence in this area, compared to their international counterparts – with clear military (and by extension, geopolitical) implications.

To take another facet of this skills issue: the lack of an ability to maintain or reward certain exceptional skills domestically – can be disastrous for the geopolitical position of a country. This ranges from the minor examples of Swedish merchants being drawn into the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), to the catastrophes of individuals like the Transilvanian cannon-maker Orban (or Urban) offering his services to Byzantium – only to be refused and find himself in the service of the Ottoman sultan – building the cannons that will end Byzantium’s existence as a polity. Likewise, the example of Christopher Columbus who, despite being a Ligurian of the Italian merchant republic of Genoa, ended up in the service of the Spanish – trying to undermine the mediterrenean leg of the silk road which had made his home so prosperous.

Finally, although difficult to predict by so many degrees of removal, the creation of national champion companies can have significant downstream consequences for a country’s geopolitical position. The poster child for this is the English East India Company which; thanks to its domestic monopoly position on the highly lucrative East India trade — was able to expand in ways that were so capital intensive and risk-laden that they would be near impossible under different circumstances. The vertical integration strategy of the EEC quickly came to strengthen England, and later Britain’s geopolitical position by extensively patronising her shipbuilding industry, while also being able to maintain this fleet in peacetime (thus granting access to the fleet during war) and pioneering several technological developments in this area – notably the first metal-hulled warship the ‘Nemesis’ (which was not, in fact, a Royal Navy Warship). The actions of the EEC at land were perhaps even more extensive – performing much of the work in the acquisition of the Indian subcontinent within the empire, and with very little attention or money required by the British government, excepting once the company’s holdings were transferred to the British government as it became insolvent. On the contrary to the acquisition of India being a draining exercise, it provided a training ground for many officers, statesmen, and merchants, who could spend a time in the employ of the EEC before taking on the more honourable national service, most notably in the case of the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. No one could have predicted it when the charter was first established, but thanks to the margins and capital available, the EEC was able to explode the size of the navy, naval construction capacity, and supporting industries, bring a subcontinent definitively within the British sphere, and; provided a ready source of skills, capital, and even an army to the service of the British government which was used to open markets, and expand the opportunities available to British exporters – thus further driving British economic power.

The Okhrana – Cheka Continuity

Of all of the historical oddities, one of the more fascinating is the similarity of the Tsarist ‘Okhrana’ secret police, to the early Bolshevik ‘Cheka’. This is odd both because the government of the early Soviet Union – with Lenin in particular disdaining the Okhrana, and; by the nature of the two opposing ideologies, one would not expect them to take such direct inspiration, nor for there to be a continuity of methods or personnel inspired by Tsarist loyalty. Where did this continuity come from therefore? Being that the Okhrana methods are far from the only viable ones – as shown by the divergent development of British, French, American, and German intelligence services. There is one major difference however – that the actions, and in particular the terror inflicted by the Okhrana in totality, were less significant as a part of the state than the Cheka and their ‘Red Terror’.

To take the earlier question then: there are two ways in which an organisation can maintain and continue an organisational memory – and thus the practices and norms which we seem to see carried over between the Okhrana and the Cheka. These would be through personal transmission, or through emulation. Under normal circumstances; personal transmission is preferred, as it allows a much greater scope of information to be conveyed, not least through the correction of misunderstandings, and the ensuring of a total rather than partial understanding. The lack of this personal connection is often enough to kill an organisational memory outright, if the tradition is held in sufficient regard to disallow new interpretations of the foundations, (perhaps even unwritten foundations,) thus meaning that the available scope of action will be limited to reactions according to a pre-set ‘script’. There is the other possibility however, for the interpretations to be used as the basis of a new organisational memory atop the base of the previous one. Thereby creating a new tradition inspired by the old. This is the mould, it seems, that shaped the early Cheka.

Even with this being the case, there is the matter of how this reformulation was generated. In other words; which basis was set, and informed by what?
The options are as follows:
The formerly dissident leaders projected their own perceptions of the organisation onto the new organisation.
The response to a threat to the regime remained the same, but the perceived number of threats to the regime increased.
The propensities of individuals involved in the organisation changed, such that more severe reprisals was considered desirable or acceptable for external reasons.
These will be discussed in turn, however there is much more to discuss in regards to the first point, so that will take centre stage.

The Cheka inherited much of the paperwork and written material – both internal and external – of the Okhrana but not so many of the staff due to major ideological differences. It is worth noting that some stayed on, but only those whose position within the organisation was either invaluable (as was the case with Ivan Zybin, head of cryptanalysis under both the Tsar and Lenin), or purely administrative. The similarity of decisions on tactics and strategy therefore, are derived more from the continuity of training manuals, some of which continued to be used from the Okhrana, through the Cheka, and into its successor organisations into the 1990s. This is not the only element however, as those materials could only form the basis of the new organisation, which would have to be augmented by the people inhabiting the new positions of power – thus putting their own stamp on the pseudo-new organisation. It is at this point that more fuzzy elements like perception can begin to play a part – because the reputation of the Okhrana in particular, was always much more substantial than its actual capabilities.

There are however, a select group of people who would know with significant clarity what the harshest edge of the Okhrana, and by extension the Tsarist state could be: the revolutionary dissidents, with the Bolsheviks among them. In this context then, those later tasked with remaking the intelligence apparatus, without the use of the staff who determined how existing capabilities were to be used; had a skewed perspective on what the appropriate methods of dealing with perceived dissidents were to be. Being that many of them had experienced siberian internal exile, they would be less hesitant about using it – albeit under worse conditions than the comparable laxity of Tsarist internal exile.

If this were to be extrapolated as a rule into other areas, then we would expect to see organisations founded under similar pretenses of emulation of perceptions rather than substance. An imperfect example of this can be found in the ancient Kardaka – the Acheimenid Persian copy of the Greek Hoplites. Their unimpressive record is perhaps testament to the misunderstanding of what lent the Hoplites their effectiveness – be that equipment (which seems not to have been copied fully, with helmets and body armour being potentially foregone), or the training, morale, and cultural elements which made much of the difference when Hoplites were fighting other Hoplites. The weaponry, shield, and method of fighting seem to have been copied, which would form much of the impression of the effectiveness of the Hoplites when witnessed on the battlefield on the opposing side – but not the training which took place beforehand, nor the cultural impetus that strengthened their morale. Another imperfect example might be the creation of the South Sea Company, which took on many of the exterior characteristics of the East Indian Company founded earlier, but lacked the fundamental basis which lent the latter strength as a profitable and relatively stable company, which created the famous bubble. This example is imperfect because there is good reason to believe that the purpose of the company was not to be a trading company, but instead a financial entity, wearing the clothes of a trading company to lend it an undue reputation. There may well be more appropriate examples which I am unaware of, so I would encourage you, the reader, to give them if you know of any, as most such emulations occur through a personnel transfer – not simply copying a reputation or impression.

There is not much to say in the case of the second point: the Bolshevik movement was quite small prior to its successful coup of the Provisional Government, and faced a great deal of opposition from every sector of the political spectrum. This is in contrast to the Tsar, who could rely on the united support of the political right, and often that of the liberal near-left for almost all of his reign (though notably it is when this support evaporated that he acquiesced to the demands being made of him, both in 1905 and 1917). Ergo the amount of dissidents posing a threat to the regime was much greater during the tenure of the Cheka, and so many more dissidents had to be treated with the same severity as the most hardened revolutionaries under the tenure of the Okhrana. This does not fully explain the phenomenon however, as the Cheka either had a much lower threshold for execution than the Okhrana, or were more liberal with the actual application of it. The Chekist Gleb Bokii claimed 800 executions in Petrograd alone during the official six week ‘Red Terror’, with the casualty total being somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 according to lists in official outlets. whereas in the period 1876 to 1912 under Tsarist rule, 3,767 were executed under military juridictions, (though some were for crimes unrelated to political activity) and 12 under civilian codes (all of which were for attempted assassination of the Tsar – one of which being Lenin’s brother). There is clearly a fairly significant discrepancy here, and when we take a look at the later history of the Cheka beyond its immediate succession from the Okhrana, and on to the Cheka’s own successors, it only gets more bloody until de-stalinisation (though not much less repressive).

This leads into the other possibility then; that the people tasked with filling the decision-making roles in the Okhrana were more personally moral than those who later replaced them in the Cheka. This is not something that strongly comes through however, based on the sources I have seen. The head of the Cheka for the period we are concerned with: Dzerzhinsky appears ideologically committed and capable of killing personally, but not sadistic or vicious in the way that his successors such as Yezhov, and Beria were. Meanwhile, although the Okhrana did not have a separate head, instead functioning under the portfolio of the Minister of the Interior, local commanders seem to have had some amount of autonomy. Figures such as Zubatov seem to have been personable enough to win over leftists during interrogations, and hold a genuine regard for the welfare of the poor. Meanwhile at the top level, people like Von Plehve were willing to turn a blind eye to things like anti-jewish violence as a means of achieving policy objectives – particularly Russification.

While the caveat must again be made that I am limited by the information I have to hand; it seems we are left with a question mark as to why this continuity seems to exist. It could be that the Cheka was formed based on the impressions of those who had suffered under the Okhrana. It could be that the methods used are the optimal or most logical for running a Russian secret police organisation, or simply that they lacked the time to develop new methods, and so used the ones that they had access to through the documentation and manuals that were available. The ideologies themselves may have something to do with the difference in severity however, as the overt rejection of religion, and thus consequences in the afterlife present in Bolshevism, compared to the state Orthadox Christianity of the Tsarist regime. This does seem to have, at the micro level created some differences in conduct, comparing people like Zubatov or Gapon to Dzerzhinsky, and observing their different versions of how best to help the working man. The former two dealt in empathy and practical measures, while the latter dealt with abstractions of the working man and a revolutionary class war, and thus all of the spilled blood deemed necessary.


RAWSON, D. (1984). THE DEATH PENALTY IN LATE TSARIST RUSSIA: AN INVESTIGATION OF JUDICIAL PROCEDURES. Russian History, 11(1), 29-52. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from

Ward, A. (2014) “The Okhrana and the Cheka: Continuity and Change” College of Arts and Sciences of Ohio University!etd.send_file?accession=ohiou1398772391 Accessed July 24, 2020.

Sources on the Red Terror:

Sources on Individuals:

Tidmarsh, Kyril. “The Zubatov Idea.” American Slavic and East European Review, vol. 19, no. 3, 1960, pp. 335–346. JSTOR, Accessed 23 July 2020.

Heroic Warfare

At some point during World War One (I cannot say for sure when, based on my reading), the German ace Ernst Udet encountered French ace Georges Guynemer in a duel. During the eight minute spat, despite finding the frenchman in his sights, Udet could not fire – for his gun had jammed. Upon passing him, and seeing the german struggle with his weapon, Guynemer raised his hand to wave, and then set off towards his own lines. 

In World War two, during early December 1941 in the North African theatre, the Special Air Service were mounting their second raid on Axis airfields to cripple their airpower. The unit’s objectives were to destroy equipment and aircraft, however after a series of early setback en route, Robert ‘Paddy’ Mayne was left in charge of the detachment in a position to complete their objectives. In the process of doing so, he came upon a tent full of Italian and German personnel, enjoying some kind of party – and proceeded to gun them down. 

In the macro view, and often according to commanders, incidents like the latter are much preferable, due to the fact that in these cases, the pilots are harder to replace than the planes, and thus inhibit the enemy’s war effort more greatly than the loss of aircraft – as intended by David Sterling (commander of the SAS). An ace like Ernst Udet is even more irreplaceable, yet there is a nobility in the action of Guynemer, and a certain barbarity to those of Mayne (though he did possess other warrior virtues). 

If there is to be some form of civilised, perhaps even noble war, then instances like this ought to reveal some of those repugnant and inspiring elements. 

The framing of this is important then, and likely the most contentious element. It arises in my view; from the scope of options available which demand an act of will, and can then be informed by virtue to create a noble act. The capacity must be there to make either choice, but the decision is made to pursue the more noble, rather than that which is more barbaric. It cannot remove the threat of pain, struggle, and death, else it would cease to be war, and would instead become a kind of sport. Elements of this are embodied in what we popularly understand as chivalry, but there are elements which escape the popular consciousness which need to be addressed – particularly in the modern day.

The axioms of noble war are as follows then:

  • Maneuvering in order to force a surrender without bloodshed is the noblest form and aim of strategy.
  • Where subduing by maneuver is impossible, the duel is the most noble form of combat, though unobtainable in most situations.
  • Attrition warfare is the least desirable method of conducting war, and ought to be avoided at all costs.
  • The deliberate ending of a life ought to be avoided where possible.
  • Inflicting deliberate discomfort for its own sake ought to be avoided where possible, but is preferable to outright killing if a surrender can be invoked.
  • Killing without the ability of the opponent to respond or protect himself is simple slaughter, which ought to be avoided where possible.
  • Non-combatants are – by the nature of their not taking part in combat – not a target. They are to be spared the privations of war in as much as possible.
  • While war is waged against a state, and by extension – a population, the impact on any civilian population is to be minimised to the extent that it can be while invoking a surrender.

Under slightly different pretenses, many of these cross-over with the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, but unlike in that instance, what is proposed above is more a statement of universal ideals to be strived for, not a multilateral treaty with enforcement mechanisms. Clearly however, if all of these were to be applied, then war would appear as something completely different, and more like a game or a sport – waged on a huge scale. These points should instead be taken as a form of guidance towards an ideal – one which maintains the primacy of the struggle, and the urgency of the goal. There is, however, little expectation of these ideals being met in the majority of situations. The necessities of victory will always work counter to the ennobling impulse, as an enemy slaughtered can neither aid the enemy cause further, nor put strain on one’s own logistics network. So too is the pressure of technology towards ever more distant and riskless killing, thus far culminating in drone strikes, nuclear weaponry, and the deliberate use of tactics which expose civilians to danger. This would necessitate that, in order to be effective, they would have to be practiced by organisations or individuals which have a slightly more distant relationship to the state utilising them. This may go some way towards explaining why examples of this are found where they are.

Before examples are further discussed, it is also worth noting that there are some additional downsides which may hinder the long-term applicability of such principles:

  • In the rush to attempt to avoid slaughter by ethical means, the need is removed that it be averted by technological or tactical means – which is a prime driver of military technological advancement.
  • The autonomy of armies and warriors from their state may encourage corruption, treachery, and perhaps even political ambition.
  • Even according to current doctrine, the most effective ways of waging warfare may be disregarded in favour of alternate, more efficient methods.

All of these were evident in the later stages of Italian Condottiere, or Condotta warfare, albeit often for different reasons than pursuing noble warfare. In their final iteration, their armies were largely composed of cavalry, at times focused more on maneuvering, pomp, and negotiations over combat (much to the frustration of their employers), and were reluctant to adopt the new technologies over the older prestigious methods. Consequently they were largely swept aside by successive French, Spanish, and German armies who conducted themselves more practically. 

There is an additional consideration however, as this mindset has often been adopted in the context of a more select group to whom certain expectations apply, but all others are to be treated as fodder. This may seem comparably inapplicable for modern times due to prevalence of egalitarian attitudes but in traditional societies this is not the case. The knights of medieval Europe, the Samurai of feudal Japan, and the officers of later European-style warfare in particular, but likely others as well exhibited this phenomenon. In all of these instances, a select group of warriors are treated as the primary battlefield entity to be respected and captured, while the rest of the soldiery are to be slaughtered at will. There had been instances where these rules had been transgressed due to battlefield requirements, such as during the battle of Agincourt where the English killed the captive French knights for fear of being unable to keep them hostage under the pressure of a second attack which never came. Likewise during the American Revolutionary war, later in the war there were instances of officers being targeted specifically by riflemen and sharpshooters – a trend which was continued during the American civil war, and reached its disgraceful peak during the world wars, wherein officers were suffering casualties at up to twice the rate of the enlisted men. The criticism may be raised that this is more a factor of development of technology which allowed officers to be directly targeted – and it is a valid one, it seems to miss something about the conduct of post-30 years war, pre-napoleonic war conduct. Here warfare became elitist, officer centric, and relatively limited in scope – contrary to the mass mobilisation of later wars, and totalising scope of prior reformation-era wars. Once again, this only applies to those considered peers, and definitively not to those considered savages – where effectiveness ruled. 

As previously stated, it may be raised that these stipulations, if achieved; would sanitise war to such an extent that it becomes more like a dangerous sport. This is true, and vital to avert, because to do so would be to deprive war of its primacy in the realm of experience, and its nature as the extreme pole of recourse and conduct. There would need to be invented a further state beyond war which would replace it as the point of total freedom, for both the state and the warrior. Perhaps for that reason it is not to be considered a universal, but the realm of a particular warrior caste or type, not necessarily identified formally, but one which has a de facto conception of itself as a separate group qualitatively. The presence of the more vulgar type however, is necessary – because it maintains the stakes as being the highest possible, and prevents (as previously stated) the whole affair descending into sport. In addition, while the intentional murder of a man (another warrior in particular) is a vulgar act if it can be avoided, to give one’s life in service of a higher purpose or calling is a great and noble thing. To be deprived of this ability is a significant blow to the ability of any martial tradition to generate meaningful heroes, and to maintain its own mythos and ethic of service.

This contrast was amply noted by Ernst Junger during his recollected experiences of the First World War in his work: “Storm of Steel”. He notes the contrast between his warrior spirit which encourages the kind of civility and chivalry discussed here, as well as a commitment to higher virtues of honour and duty, but this is ever more as the war continues – conflicted with the expectations of the Prussian system of officer training to emphasis the subservience to effectiveness and efficiency of prosecuting the war, regardless of what actions this may entail. Despite the final triumph of his warrior ethic, along the way he is privy to and active in the downward spiralling of his men from respectable gentlemen to bloodthirsty savages, engaging in the slaughter of a valourous but defeated enemy on numerous occasions. 

A modern version of this elitist phenomenon may be appearing in the utilisation of unmanned and robotic implements of war. These are thus far outside of the realm of person-hood, and therefore could form the supplemental material which is vital to a warrior, but as readily discardable as the serf would have been thought of in the past. In such cases, once the warrior has been disarmed of his robotic force multipliers, he can be forced to surrender honourably. This is the most amenable method to current sensibilities, but I would suggest more ideally that the 18th century method is preferable overall: the officers are to maintain a strict gentlemanly ethic – schooled in the art of proper warfare developing on the positional theory of strategic theorists like Antoine-Henri Jomini, but aimed at minimising the need for applied force in the case of mastery. Meanwhile the ranks are filled by volunteers and outcasts – unwilling or unable to take part in polite society, and so instead existing on the peripheries of it, enjoying all of the danger and freedom that comes with it. Should these gentlemen-warriors be able to exert some amount of power over which wars are conducted and how, they would cease to require a frenzied appeal to the lowest impulses of democratic mass mobilisation warfare, and could instead be waged on a more limited basis. In such an environment, the above suggested idealised codes of conduct might be able to thrive, but even if a mass mobilisation is required – as would likely be the case if two major powers were to come to blows over a matter of vital national importance; even then the established cadres of warriors can impart their ethic and discipline onto the men they lead, despite these men themselves not being immersed in it. Let us hope then that such a situation does not once again last long enough that it can hollow out the warrior class to such an extent that such ethics are near forgotten.

Morale and Victory Conditions

In war, there are two means of ending the fighting, either in one’s own favour, or to one’s disadvantage: a negotiated settlement, or an unconditional surrender. In order to achieve this, a decision needs to be made early, based on available capabilities, which of these will be sought. The result of this decision will dictate the approach taken by each party. The side which possesses material and/or numerical advantage will tend to seek the unconditional surrender of their enemy through a war of annihilation – hoping to disarm them completely. The weaker party, however, will seek a more limited war – which seeks to generate a negotiated settlement through putting the enemy in a position where the costs of continuing the war are so unpalatable that the negotiated demands of the enemy are preferable. Therefore, while the materially weaker party finds its weakness rather obviously in the lack of force, the stronger will often find its weakness in morale damage caused by the potential losses of continued fighting. This is, on the assumption of all other things being equal, it should be said, because the availability of force multipliers such as favourable geography, or technological advantage would constitute a material factor in determining which side is the stronger of the two.

This morale discrepancy arises from two primary sources: firstly that – for the stronger party, there will often be more geopolitical opponents waiting on the peripheries which would require consideration, or even smaller powers which will gain the chance to increase their own power through intervention; should the forces of the stronger power be reduced too much by the exertions of war, or a particularly disastrous battle. Secondly, by the very nature of the discrepancy, it is far easier to motivate a population and an army against a larger foe, which can more legitimately be portrayed as tyrannizing the smaller nation, and posing an existential threat. The inverse is also true, that all other things being equal, a population will tend to question their cause more if the nation being conquered is obviously weaker. This is cumulative with the fact that smaller combatants will tend to level much more reasonable terms for peace, and due to the previously mentioned tendencies towards waging warfare on the morale front primarily, they will also often tend to make efforts to preserve their own morale as well.

It is imperative that within this context, the strategic leadership of all levels is aware of the strategic direction being pursued, particularly between civilian and military authorities. This is because distinct policies or methods may exist for each strategy, with measures such as civilian priming for a drawn-out war being counter-productive if a state is attempting a short war with limited aims. It should be added that this applies in the case of both the weaker, and the stronger nations, as is the case when one army is defeated and functionally at the mercy of the other. Although this point will vary from case to case, it will typically be such that a limited set of war aims might encourage the army to be allowed to flee is disarray, while the war of unlimited aims would seek to destroy the army totally. This is because the cost of rearming the force, combined with the experience of having nearly – but not actually – lost the army, would make soldiers and civilians alike demoralised by the spectre of loss. If they are destroyed however, there is a risk that it would strengthen the morale of the nation suffering the loss, because the cost has already been absorbed, thus they will be resigned to it, rather than fearful of it. So too would it create a sense that to end the war now would be to have lost those lives for nothing when the option existed to continue, as well as realistically increasing the intensity of the threat. Therefore, should a small nation succeed in such a maneuver, it may actually strengthen the resolve of the larger one, placing them further from achieving their strategic goals.

The most prominent examples of this are the Confederacy during the American Civil War, more or less any guerilla war, the Irish War of Independence, the Russo-Japanese war, and the Crimean War (to an extent). Most particularly in the case of the US Civil War, the actions of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia can, and usually are seen as pursuing this goal of demoralising the Union public and civilian leadership into a settlement – by attacking areas with large population concentrations to maximise disruption, and targeting political symbols such as Washington DC. Conversely, the Union pursued a strategy of capability reduction, through measures such as the Anaconda Plan, and Sherman’s March to the Sea, both of which served to decisively reduce the stocks and flows of resources to the Confederacy, and thus their ability to wage war – until their ultimate capitulation resulting from their hopeless situation.

Likewise during the Vietnam war, the asymmetric availability of information, and requirements of conduct meant that the North Vietnam-aligned forces merely had to continue applying pressure, while enjoying the morale advantage afforded by suppression of their own news sources which might diminish morale, while the same does not apply on the US side – the media outlets had free reign. This contributed to the perception that the US was a malignant force in the region, and thus an immoral actor which ought to be opposed (to the end of capitulation to the demands of the North, in effect). The US meanwhile largely sought to create a favourable casualty ratio (particularly under Westmoreland), thus depriving them of their ability to keep forces in the field, however in doing so, morale was not taken into account; and so although the US was trading favourably in the material sense, the morale losses taken were disproportionately in-favour of the North Vietnamese-aligned forces. In the end this turned political will in the US away from continued involvement in the war.

In both of these cases however, there are foiling factors to this analysis – it should be noted. The strategy of the Confederacy was not solely devoted to the morale-diminishment strategy, as the aid of European powers was also sought via the ‘King Cotton’ stratagem which would have given the Confederacy at least implied parity/superiority of force in order to settle a treaty – or even outright intervention. While this strategy was unsuccessful in enlisting European aid, it did hurt the ability of the Confederacy to wage the war as it required, due to the stockpiling of cotton (which would otherwise be exported) while the blockade was not yet truly in force. This missed opportunity could have bolstered the reserves of supplies early in the war, and helped to empower the crucial early armies. The war did however, help to induce the Second French Intervention in Mexico – an overt move into the US sphere of influence while the Union was occupied with the US Civil War. Had these two forces been able to coalesce, the fear of demotion from their otherwise strong position might have persuaded even the more bellicose voices the Union to come to terms with the Union – for fear of both a diminishment of their position internationally, and a general expansion of the war into a more general affair which permits other countries to get involved without the public-relations damage of seeming to defend slavery (which is part of what forbade such intervention prior). This latter outcome would pose an existential threat to the US, as it would open the door to a European partition of the Union.

In the case of the Vietnam war, the analysis may not work as it is unclear how conscious the strategy was on the part of Northern Forces until it was in full swing and generating tangible results. It would still qualify as an emergent strategy under these circumstances, but it might put a question mark over the applicability of the strategy as a deliberately applied guide to action.

As a counterpoint to the Vietnam War, the similarly sized partisan groups of the Baltic countries (most notably the Forest Brothers) were successfully suppressed by the Soviet military due to a strategy of extreme supression, punitive punishments, and regulation of information. As such the partisans were given few avenues of achieving independence through a negotiated settlement, as the Soviets had no reservations about waging the war in as brutal of a fashion as they deemed it to require, and they lacked the material means to make the war sufficiently costly that a rational disentanglement could be sought. The Soviet-Afghan War was something of a reversal of these factors, which allowed them much more success than the Forest Brothers before them.

The Irish War of Independence is perhaps a better example of the strategy generating results for a materially weaker force – the IRA and affiliated forces. From the beginning it was undertaken predominantly as a guerilla war, taking advantage of the divided attention and precarious position of the British Empire in relation to its rivals. This is particularly true if the Easter Rising in 1916 is taken as a preliminary stage of the conflict before its second flaring up in 1919. The conflict primarily involved ambushes of patrols, and assassinations, which clearly had no hope of reducing the British Empire to a state where it could no longer protect its interests, but made it unwilling to do so for the sake of a costly and relatively unimportant but troublesome province, at a time when it was important to give attention to matters elsewhere such as the Greco-Turkish War, the Russian Civil War, and the Polish-Soviet War, all of which had the potential to damage British geopolitical interests much more (should they be resolved unfavourably) – than the loss of direct control over Ireland. As a result, Britain’s willingness to continue the fight abated first, and terms were agreed.

In the cases of both the Russo-Japanese War, and the Crimean War, the totality of the resources available to Russia, particularly manpower, overshadowed those of their rivals (though more dubiously so in the case of the Crimean War). Japan in particular could not hope to match the reserves of manpower, or war material available to Russia if it came to total war. Instead then, in both cases a series of short sharp blows were delivered, which made continuing the war a highly expensive prospect, and one which might contribute to a destabilisation of the domestic political situation (as eventually did take place during the First World War). Therefore, despite not having disarmed the Russian state, it is brought into highly disadvantageous negotiations by the erosion of its will to continue the fight. As an aside, with the exception of the Mongol Invasion, this has been the only way that a conventional offensive war against Russia has been conducted successfully. Although, as per a previous essay, if we consider unilateral government replacement, then there are other successful examples and methods.

In conclusion then, for a smaller power attacking a larger one, in material terms, it is often necessary to maintain a morale advantage, and use this to attack the enemy, as it is often the weaker link in a strong nation’s ability to wage war. Existing internal divisions can be weaponised, as can the precariousness of relationships with existing international rivals. For both parties it is necessary to have all strategic parties made aware of the strategy, as decisions may otherwise be made which would compromise the overall strategy, either weakening one’s own morale, or strengthening the enemy’s. For the stronger power then, it is important to focus on morale in a defensive capacity, through information control primarily, but also demonstrating to the opposing force that continued resistance would only deteriorate their negotiating position, and do everything possible to extinguish the hope of an improved situation by isolating them from potential allies, and removing capabilities. Under these circumstances, a generous offer such as amnesty for all combatants will often be accepted.

Guest Article: An Open Letter to the Neofascists and Other Revolutionaries

Credit to Roman Sandino (@sommerwild)

This letter is addressed to the rational fascists, reactionaries and dissident conservatives. We didn’t want to go this far, but we are forced to speak out and condemn a certain group of people who are doing us more harm than good in our struggle

A spectre haunts the dissidents: the spectre of modernity. After the wars of the past century, with their mass movements dissolved and the impulses of reaction appeased, a pathetic and, without sounding light on the epithet, degenerate figure stands over the grave of the projects parallel and opposed to liberalism. We are referring to the ideological resurrection of fascism or, more fundamentally, of two of its constituent traditions: Futurism and Socialism, in the current spaces of dissident thought.

We can say several things about futurism. Bastard son of the Enlightenment, its aesthetic obsession with movement also permeated its ideological contributions, clouding the perspective of its adherents to the point of making them worship war as an end, bringing them closer to a kind of decadence. At its root it possessed that progressive impulse of irrational advancement and destruction, as Marinetti’s words in his 1909 Manifesto of Futurism denote:

“…a roaring car that seems to run on shrapnel, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace… Why should we look at our own backs, if we want to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday; we already live in the absolute, since we have already created the eternal omnipresent speed…”

That “absolute” that they inhabit represents the foundation of their modern inheritance, the separation of the human being from higher notions that subordinate him. Implicitly, the ideal of speed presupposes an individual being separated from all structures that govern him, previous structures above them all, and part of an escape is precisely how fast one runs away from something. Thus, the Futurists’ hatred of museums and academies is manifest, showing a disdain, perhaps unacknowledged, for traditional forms. It is an artistic avant-garde without direction that influenced the fascists in their aesthetic search, who dressed it in Roman attire and thought it was a distant heritage, when in reality it was a cold, rectilinear, inhuman innovation.

It is precisely this inhuman aesthetic character that the new fascists apply to their ideas about the role of authority over man. They renounce progress only because it is not violent and savage enough, and also because it goes into matters that are alien to the demos, because at heart fascisms are nothing but the intoxication of the masses, and therefore give the impression of elevating them, of putting them at the service of higher questions such as the nation and the fatherland, while in reality it leaves them stranded in ruins, and leaves them lost in materialism because, however noble the struggles in the name of the land of the fathers may be, they are still earthly struggles.

The denial of transcendence metastasizes to the rest of the intellectual edifice, and that is where we find the intersection between the new fascists and communism. By declaring themselves heirs to modernity, by celebrating the beheading of kings and placing an amorphous mass at the centre of the state, imitating the blurred notion of speed that they put at the centre of their aesthetic, and the chaotic emptiness of their non-existent religious sensibility, they have denied any idea of stable governance. Power is not sacred in their eyes, but is like a mushroom emerging from the ground, the result of republican agreements, and as such is fragile. There is no distance between the ruler and the ruled, their union lies in something that in turn does not distance itself from them, again it is brought to the earth, but the earth is only that without a notion of divinity. Indeed, all citizens are equal as long as they share a number of particularities and exist in a given space. We only have to deny the nation to find ourselves, again, at the end game of modernity.

As with its modernist relatives, the new fascism seeks to destroy the intermediaries of governance. In its attempt to subordinate all social authority to the power of the modern state, a product of its own informal act of state forging that does not admit the sacred nature of power, its defenders develop ideas to mobilize the periphery against institutions of order such as the Church. Hence, their dysfunctional concept of atheological meritocracy attacks particularly the nobility and the clergy, strengthening the position of Power as the only centre around which they are all one and the same. This is a recipe for chaos, since it cancels out any idea of continuation, of legitimate transmission of Power, and puts society in conflict. Their blindness to the past also blinds them to the future. We did not get to see the Duce’s death in a peaceful environment, nor that of Hitler, but neither possessed a formal heir and the question of who would end up leading the project was so open as to allow cataclysms within the structure.

These governance complications coexisted with reactionary impulses, no doubt, but that is the difference between the old fascism and the new one. Now it renounces what made it tolerable, what gave it a certain benignity and what could make it useful as a mechanism of political stability. It is among the most perverted and ignorant men of historical fascism that the new fascists draw their materialistic, pro-anarchic, Jacobin ideas, and even in some communist butchers they see models to follow. If the old fascism united the figure of the rex with that of the dux, or subordinated it, the new one denies that auctoritas is in any way subject to divine imperatives. It is born and dies with a sadistic leader, whether at the hands of liberals, reds, or its own brothers.

That soft progressivism is not solved by tantrums and wanton killing is clear to any reactionary. That is why we must distance our political identity from fascism and turn to more worthy forms of reaction to liberal hegemony. We must formulate our ideological claims outside of fascism as fascism is too neurotic, too unstable; it is another aggressive expression of fetishist modernism, another degeneration of the concept of authority. The fascist state is totalitarian not because it is strong, but because its power is insecure. It controls everyone, militarizes everything and intervenes everywhere because it is afraid that somewhere a suitor will appear, and the suitor appears because of the instability of his own materialistic premises that do not recognize in a coherent way the sacred principle of authority. This is a huge point of contention for the reactionary.

The traditional state is organic and not totalitarian, several have correctly claimed in many ways. In its empire it admits zones of partial autonomy because it coordinates and integrates into a superior unit of forces whose freedom it recognizes as subordinate to this concept of divinely delegated authority. It is his strength and security of command that allows him to assign responsibility as he sees fit, and not as his own insecurities impose. If he resorts to brute force and centralization, he does so at critical moments, and it is a formally recognized centralization to defend the whole against greater threats; the fascist state, by contrast, is dominated by the masses and lives for the masses, it fears anyone who stands between it and the masses, and uses them to destroy.

In other words, the traditional state is omnia potens, not omnia facens; it occupies the center, acts without complexes, asserts itself when needed, but does not intervene in every aspect of life, nor does it attack everything. The general idea is that of a centre around which other centres that shape the social fabric revolve, all of them denying themselves before the absolute when necessary, all of them sharing a common tradition. The center directs everything with true auctoritas, as God would do, and in the name of God, above all.

Now, historically, we could say that the so-called social nationalism, or revolutionary variant, which was conceived as a skeleton or complement to the fascism of the 20th century, failed spectacularly, and by existing within fascism itself, it did so doubly. Radical ideas were largely purged by the Germans by 1934, when Hitler, like the pragmatist he was, decided to massacre the Strasserites and other remnants of Prussian socialism. He saw them as a threat to the policies he wanted to impose, such as the privatization of businesses, which he could not do for logistical reasons, but that is another matter. The reality of power saw that utopia was more of a massacre than was needed.

In France, the so-called “neo-socialists” of Marcel Déat, who gained some prominence in the government of Marshal Pétain, despite the more religious approach of the latter, pressed for the application of neo-Jacobin and revolutionary policies, trying to reignite the flame of the unstable and nefarious first republic. This caused the marginalization of reactionary ideals, as they pressed on totally with the German occupation, as well as alienating the traditionalist axis at the top, which at that time saw the French nation in danger, as we explained in another article. This is why the reactionary leadership trusted de Gaulle along with other disillusioned Petainists, who saw in the General the true French Catholic values.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the overvalued Jonsian branch, led by Ramiro Ledesma Ramos, was more of a hindrance than a help in the effort of the dissidents to build a benign Spanish fascism. The JONS proposed things contrary to the policies really needed, because of their absorption of modernist futurism. They argued that anarchy was Spain’s true spirit in an attempt to ally with the anarchist CNT, and that the USSR was friendly to their ideals. After the estrangement between Ledesma and José Antonio in 1934, Falange fell into irrelevance, and with Falange went the resentful Jonsians, too. That rupture amply demonstrated that the tendency with the greatest ideological consistency, and with the greatest stability and true statesmanship of the Spanish dissidents, was that sponsored by Carlism; it should be added that the only Jonsian in the victorious government, Girón de Velasco, was a staunch traditionalist and loyal to Franco until his last years of life, while young he was a Jonsian militant.

To conclude this open letter, I urge our opponents to ask themselves: Why should you believe in an idea that corrupts the objective you are aiming for, and that in the long run will harm your nation more than the efforts of any doctrine declared ‘enemy’ of it? Why will you make it prey to terrible scourges on your people for an infantile fetish for aesthetics? What is wrong with millennial wisdom of our ancestors, with the acceptance of tradition as the generating and ordering model of human orders?

And to our fellow dissidents with brains: what are you waiting for to act as one? There are now many who are confused, whom we can help. This is really the time to define a true dissidence, one that can break with the liberal order once and for all, and effectively so.

Let there be no return to killing and terror; let the Robespierres be purged of our restoration projects so that we are not dominated by the perfidy of sociopaths and false Caesars. Although many may consider it so, the struggle for good, beauty and truth, today transformed into politics, is not a game, nor a source of identities, of -isms to put in a social network to make offensive jokes with a group of socially dysfunctional strangers. It is about building real community and real alternatives to discourage the powers that be, or constituting new centres of power that will foster our aspirations to raise all that is good and to bring the good closer to our own peoples, to that which is ours.

‘Reactionary’ is not an insult, we know well, but a compliment well received by those who admit the tendency to entropy, the drift of the so-called third position, the rottenness in modernity. For well-being is not measured only in the capacity of our machines, nor in the speed of cars, nor in how mixed up are the people of better or worse dispositions. Well-being is defined by authentic order and coherent authority. Well-being is religion, the well understood and well loved homeland; well-being is reaction, and all that is good is reactionary.

Let the standard-bearers of the revolution drown in their own anger, as their predecessors did. We will keep reacting!

Kathleen Kennedy’s Lucas Film – A Case Study in Fractal Empires

On 22nd April 2020, featured by Variety; there was a leak of a supposed ‘Star Wars’ project in the works by Lucas Film, with a female centric cast – headed by Leslye Headland. The details around this are particularly interesting, such as the lack of a set script, or near enough anything other than the identities of those involved set in stone; and the fact that it seems to be the case that no one in the upper management of Disney seems to be aware of such a project. However, the fact that this has generated a lot of media attention – is itself enough to lend the project some clout. This would appear to be quite clearly an example of Conquest’s third law of politics: “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies”, and more generally: the fractal nature of empires, as laid out in Samo Burja’s “Great Founder Theory”(

The background first then, drawing from two videos on the subject (, after the recent slump in revenue generated by the Star Wars releases, the head of Lucas Films – Kathleen Kennedy (a long time assistant to well known creators such as Spielburg,) has much of her authority and autonomy stripped when then CEO of Disney – Bob Iger, took personal blame for the failure of the projects publicly, and ensured that all future projects would require his approval. Although speculated on at length, the reason for the failure of Kennedy’s overseen Star Wars films is not tremendously relevant here, merely that she has been stripped of power, and likely expects to be removed from her position entirely at the next convenience. The primary power at her disposal to prevent that is her preferential relationship with various media outlets, which would – thanks in part to their common ideological leanings – be able to hurt the brand image of Disney at large, but Bob Iger in particular. Therefore, it seems likely that the leak was not incidental, but was instead planned by, or at least conducted with the approval of Kennedy. At time of writing there is no concrete evidence for this, but the timing, and the way that this slots into the overall power struggle is so perfect and logical that it will be treated as fact for the purposes of this essay.

An empire, as defined by Burja, is a group of coordinated actors working around a central power. However, empires are fractal, meaning that an empire may have sub-empires within it. Within each of these contexts, there will be an arrangement of actors, according to their power: High, Middle, Low, and Outside. In this case, High would be the final authorities of any given production decision, and those with the authority to install or remove candidates for project level authority. These individuals with project level authority, such as directors, writers, and producers, or with the power to alter the project level product – would be the Middle. Meanwhile the Low constitutes production staff with minimal decision power on the direction of the project, and Lucas Film at large. The Outside consists of actors outside both Disney and Lucas Film.

In the earlier stages of Disney Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy seems to have enjoyed near undisputed rule over her empire. Therefore she was able to use the property to further her own ideological ends, and in doing so, and solidify her power base. This seems to have been one of the primary goals, and means of ensuring loyalty; made evident by the fact that although the trend was extant in the first of the new films – the financial success gave her more confidence and freedom of maneuver. Using this freedom, and having placated the High actors in the wider Disney empire, she was able to stack the Middle with candidates more purely aligned with her goals. Through this mechanism, she could both expand her power base inside the empire by creating a cadre contingent on her continued patronage to thrive, and reduce coordination costs through delegation built on trust – established and maintained by the continued signalling that they have the same goals. Crucially however, these goals are not aligned with those of the wider Disney Empire, and may have been partly to blame for the subsequent reversal of fortunes. Perhaps due to this emboldening, the second film was rejected by a significant portion of the audience, whose brand loyalty was significantly damaged – to the extent that later films began to suffer. In the short-term however, there was simply some backlash, somewhat covered by another group which Kennedy has managed to add to her roster of allies: media outlets (an Outside in this case). Through shared goals and signalling, she was able to amplify her message through reputable media outlets, and identify herself as an ally to them – whom they would defend. Unfortunately for Kennedy, whether through the incompetence of her subordinates, or a rejection of her preferred messaging in the films, or general mismanagement, the viewership numbers began to rapidly plummet to half of their original levels which had allowed her such freedom. Consequently, the original plans for the final film of the primary trilogy were altered, either by her scrambling to avert the consequences, or Disney executives trying to salvage what they could, which included bringing back the director of the first film of the trilogy to hopefully repeat the same success. Regardless, by this point Kennedy’s sidelining had already been completed, as any of her projects required approval by Iger. She had therefore been turned from a near unchecked high, with the functionally owned power to green-light projects as she wished, to a supervised high – lacking the power to push through any projects without permission from above. Not only that, but her contract was approaching its end, with almost no hope of having it renewed.

In that context then, she had two assets left: her Middle loyalists, and her Outside supporters in the media. Her loyalists are her best hope at continuing influence of a sort, or at least maintaining some momentum towards what are ultimately her ideological goals, and so she oversaw the leaking of a yet non-existent project which would ensure a powerful medium-term position for an close ally – helping to stack the Middle with her loyalists into the future. Her media allies then generated a storm of interest in the project, making it difficult for Iger and Disney executive management to deny the leak without provoking backlash – which would potentially hurt the wider Disney brand through exposing it to attack by these same media outlets, and also may hurt Iger’s image on the eve of a speculated political career. Kennedy’s hope, as implied, would be to pressure Iger and Disney into accepting this new project – effectively ending her tenure, but giving her aspirations the best chance of fruition going forward, as whomever replaces her has to contend with an entrenched Middle wishing to continue on towards Kennedy’s goals.

Through all of this, Kennedy’s empire has functioned as one with its own set of priorities, power dynamics, and goals; nested within the wider Disney empire. The divergence of these empires was so great that Disney was forced to reassert authority over Kennedy in order to ensure coordination between the two, as profitability (the central aim of Disney) was being subordinated and outright neglected in favour of ideological messaging and loyalty to Kennedy (thus attempting to secure her own position and internal freedom of movement). To her credit, internal freedom of action seems to have been maintained, but this came at the cost of a loss of independence, and severe brand damage. Her dismissal will likely not be lamented by either long time fans of Star Wars, nor Disney’s executive management, but it remains to be seen whether her final gambit to leave a lasting impact on Lucas Film will succeed, and allow her influence to be carried forward, potentially striving towards her goals for a long time to come.

A Broader Perspective of Warfare

If I may, let me be provocative for a moment. We may have been too hasty to dismiss an idea raised by Hillary Clinton. Having read the title of this article, it is likely no surprise which, but I shall state it more plainly – we require a broader perspective of warfare, and Clinton may have been correct in her assessment that a government sanctioned hack or digital attack of some kind – does qualify as an act of warfare. The term war has been defined variously, so I shall take one of the most famous examples: that of Von Clausewitz’s On War; (Book 1, Chapter 1, 1909) wherein it is defined as: “…an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will”. It is also, however, “…a duel on an extensive scale [where] …each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will.”
I shall pose a question then: if it is possible to achieve the desired unilaterally acquired ends, without the necessity of outright physical violence, is it still warfare? I would suggest that it is, yes.

Our collective sensitivity to organised outright violence as an aggressive action, and act of warfare deserving of a response has been heightened over time. So too has, at various times, the sensitivity to perceived imminent threats, or threats to the international order, such as that presented by the Second Defenestration of Prague, the French Revolution, and Russia’s involvement in the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. However, in all of these cases, the objective has been to remove a government. What about if this is achieved without state sanction?
The picture here becomes immediately more murky, as in the case of the Barbary pirates of Algeria, the central government being either unwilling or unable to stop raiding for slaves by Algerians was seen as reason enough to annex Algeria to France in 1830 – which did stop the raiding. Meanwhile, in the case of the banana republics of Honduras and Guatamala, the coup d’etats of national governments with the tacit approval of the US government are typically not considered wars, or warfare.

Next there is what is commonly referred to as a proxy war, which we are somewhat more sensitive to – wherein a party or faction is supported, often with arms, in order to achieve the desired objective of government replacement.

Finally then, there is the last type, wherein a government is toppled or instated without violence – such as in the case of Boris Yeltsin, who was aided by the CIA, and the long list of widely accepted examples of election interference, along with all of the other instances which are less readily acknowledged – perhaps because they are still relevant to the state of play at time of writing.

A further wrinkle was raised earlier however, that if a private individual or faction is operating from within the control of a state, possibly furthering the strategic aims of the state, and the state does nothing to impede these activities, can that be considered an act of warfare?
The haziness of these relationships becomes an important tool to those involved in these decisions, as they are surely well understand, but if the strategic result is the same – unilateral acquisition of power, or concessions, then we surely must consider it as existing on the continuum of warfare.

With this context established, however, we are able to put to rest the myths that pervade around the supposed peacefulness of the late 20th and early 21st century. The needs of the state did not change, but the methods and options available did. Both the US and the USSR in particular engaged in a lot of this kind of activity, that much is uncontroversial, but there are two additional dimensions to this which might be. Firstly, this clearly changes the nature and structure of warfare. Far from the mass citizen armies of the 19th and early 20th centuries, if the desired aims can be achieved via subterfuge instead; using extensive information networks, internal disloyalty, and one or two highly leveraged individuals – then the dynamics of warfare have taken on a significantly more elitist quality in the vast majority of cases. And secondly that; in effect, warfare can be conducted with much less reliance on public opinion, or even public knowledge. An army, instead, becomes one tool among many available to a government which is not necessarily estranged – but has the capacity to become increasingly distant from those it rules.

There are a number of reasons for this development, I dare say. As previously alluded to, developments in communications and information technology have allowed for much more precise applications of force, and a more complete understanding of where to apply it. In combination, the fractured and internally divisive nature of democratic and republican government creates many natural avenues and cover for these activities under the guise of genuine opposition. Therefore the explosion of republicanism in this same period from the late 20th century into the early 21st, and associated rise in the aforementioned style of warfare are – if not related, then certainly complementary to one another. Mutually so, because a useful strategy for ensuring the constant possibility of launching an attack of the former kind remains an extant option should the government and population remain internally divided. Conversely, then states with more internal unity, and authoritarian governments are much more resistant to these attacks, not only because the resources at their undisputed disposal are more numerous, but all other things being equal; they can more easily identify where an attack is taking place, due to the sudden appearance of, for example: an extremely well funded and highly skilled opposition group.

Possibly the most famous example of this defensive advantage is displayed in 1917 Russia with the German-sponsored arrival of Lenin, among other revolutionaries supported in the same manner. This was understood, and correctly identified as a threat at the time, but the government had been weakened so much by that point that the attack was ultimately successful (though with a lot of other relevant factors playing a part). Conversely, in post-war Japan, on the assurance that the leftist parties were receiving funding from the USSR, the US gave funding and support to the centre-right Liberal Democratic Party to maintain US influence. I have deliberately tried to avoid claims of more recent election interference, as that particular accusation has become a popular one to level for political reasons over the last few years, but I don’t doubt that in light of what I have already laid out, at least some of these accusations are correct, or perhaps even more than are accused – for a competently executed attack would not be detected.

One final point to note is that, despite both this described form of precise warfare, and conventional warfare; falling into the same category of unilateral extra-legal state-level action, they are typically handled as separate entities. This can be explained in a number of ways, with possible explanations including; the timeline of the development of these capacities, to the siloing of capabilities to minimise the hard power of particular officers and/or bureaucrats (particularly when those capabilities include controlling the outcomes of elections and toppling governments). With this in mind, however, it is a restriction which has the effect of creating two distinct organisational perspectives (and thus institutional pressures on policy outcomes) which will view the issue through very different lenses. For example, being that the purpose of both the current war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq war were ostensibly a change in government, then a unified command structure may have come to the conclusion that a more limited application of force would have been more efficient, and possibly even more effective. In addition, it may have averted whatever internal political pressures were taking place which would have pushed for the deployment of military assets and personnel.

To conclude then, pending further discussion on this topic; warfare ought to be considered as unilateral action (or lack of action) taken by a government in aid of strategic aims. Therefore, matters of election or government interference via espionage, conventional warfare, or selective legal prosecution (in some cases) ought to all be considered within the purview of warfare. Integration of all of these capabilities will therefore likely yield a great deal in effectiveness and efficiency of achieving strategic aims. Institutional barriers may exist, due to the reluctance to centralise such power, but doing so will clearly grant a strategic advantage. As well as the obvious counter-intelligence efforts, undisputed, centralised, and non-elective governance provides a significant defensive capability, and thus a strategic advantage within this paradigm. Going forward, therefore, all other things being equal, republics and democracies will face a competitive disadvantage, and risk becoming a battle-ground between groups wishing to capture the government – to the strategic disadvantage of the republic.