Jul 252019
 July 25, 2019  Posted by at 1:43 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Salvador Dali The knight of death 1934



Another article from Alexander Aston, from whom I published among other things the series Quantum, Dada and Jazz this past November.



“Dulce et Decorum est” is a poem written by Wilfred Owen during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. The Latin title is taken from Ode 3.2 of the Roman poet Horace and means “it is sweet and fitting …”. It is followed there by “pro patria mori”, which means “to die for one’s country”.



“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again.”

– Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August


Alexander Aston: If you have not read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August you should do so, it is one of the great, accessible works of history. Tuchman details with great clarity the diplomatic failures, miscalculations and political logics that ensnared the imperial powers of Europe into the cataclysm of the Great War. It was the book that Kennedy drew upon when navigating the Cuban missile crisis. Just over a century since the guns fell silent in Europe, and nearly fifty years since nuclear holocaust was averted, the world is teetering on what might very well be the largest regional, potentially global, conflict since the second world war.

The United States is a warfare economy, its primary export is violence and it is through violence that it creates the demand for its products. The markets of the Empire are the failed states, grinding civil conflicts, escalating regional tensions and human immiseration created by gun-boat diplomacy. In true entrepreneurial spirit, the United States has repeatedly overestimated its abilities to control the course of events and underestimated the complexities of a market predicated on violence. However, since the beginning of the twenty-first century the American Imperium has proven itself as incompetent as it is vicious. After nearly two decades of intensifying conflicts, a fundamentally broken global economy and a dysfunctional political system, Washington has turned feral, lashing out against decline.

The points of instability in the global system are various and growing, and the only geo-political logics that the Imperium appears to be operating under are threats, coercion, and violence. It is at this moment, with the most erratic president in the country’s history, surrounded by some of the most extreme neo-conservative voices, that the United States has been belligerently stumbling across the globe. In the past few months we have witnessed a surrealistic reimagining of the Latin American coup, the medieval melodrama of Canadian vassals taking a royal hostage from the Middle Kingdom and British buccaneers’ privateering off the coast of Gibraltar. The Imperial system is in a paroxysm of incoherent but sustained aggression.


It has long been clear that if another Great War were to emerge, it would likely begin in the Middle East. Just over a century later, we have found ourselves amidst another July crisis of escalating military and diplomatic confrontations. European modernity immolated itself in the Balkans though miscalculation, overconfidence and the prisoners dilemma of national prestige. The conditions of the contemporary Middle East are no less volatile than those of Europe when the Austro-Hungarian Empire decided to attack Serbia. If anything, conditions are far more complex in a region entangled with allegiances and enmities that transgress and supersede the national borders imposed in the wake of the first world war.

The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the stated aim of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero has enforced a zero-sum logic between the American Imperium and Persia. With each move and counter move the two countries are further entangled into the dynamics of a conflict. Much like the run up to July 28th 1914, tanker seizures, drone shoot downs, sanctions, military deployments and general bellicosity reinforce the rational of the opposing sides and make it harder to back down without losing face and appearing weak.

Due to the asymmetry of the two powers the Iranians have the fewest options for de-escalation while the American establishment perceives the least incentive. This dynamic is further exacerbated by major regional powers agitating for a conflict they believe they will benefit from. Indeed, the slide to war might be inexorable at this point, the momentum of historical causality may have already exceeded the abilities of those in power to control. Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm were cousins that desperately wanted to avoid war and were nonetheless impotent to avert disaster. There is nowhere near such intimacy, communication and motivation in our current context.

If war with Iran erupts, the Pax Americana will come to an end and humanity will fully enter a new historical epoch. The most unlikely scenario is an easy victory for the United States, yet even this outcome will only exacerbate the decline of the Empire. The other great powers would expedite their exit from the dollar system and drastically increase investment into the means to counter American hegemony. Likewise, victory would further reinforce Washington’s hubris, generating more serious challenges to the Imperial order and making the US prone to take on even bigger fights. Ironically, easy military success would almost assure the outbreak of a third world war in the long-term.


War with Iran would likely ignite violence in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, re-energise and expand the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen as well as generate sectarian violence and domestic insurgencies across the Middle East. Under such conditions regional actors would likely utilise a dramatically intensifying conflict as cover for their own agendas, for example with a renewed Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurds. The conditions for rapid escalation are extremely high in which non-linear dynamics could easily take hold and quickly outstrip any attempts to maintain control of the situation.

Pyrrhic victory for either side is the most likely outcome, making the parallels to the Great War all the more salient. Global conflagration is a possibility, but with “luck” the fighting could be contained to the region. Nonetheless, amplified refugee crises, supply chain disruptions and immense geopolitical realignments will cascade out of such an event. Undoubtedly, there would be concerted efforts to abandon the dollar system as quickly as possible. Furthermore, rapid increases in the price of oil would all but grind the global economy to a halt within a matter of months, tipping citizenries already saturated with private debt into financial crises.

Furthermore, the entanglement of the military-industrial complex, the petrodollar reserve currency system and the omni-bubble generated by quantitative easing has left the Empire systemically fragile. Particularly, the bubble in non-conventional fuels precipitated by QE, depressed oil prices with scaled down exploration, R&D and maintenance makes the possibility of a self-reinforcing collapse in the American energy and financial systems extremely plausible. It is a Gordian knot which war with Persia would leave in fetters.

The most likely long-term outcome of a war with Iran would be the economic isolation and political fragmentation of the United States. What is assured is that whatever world results it will not look anything like the world since 1945. The first world war collapsed the European world system, dynasties that had persisted for centuries were left in ruins and the surviving great powers crippled by the overwhelming expenditures of blood and treasure. We are on the precipice of another such moment. The American world system is fundamentally dependent upon the relationship between warfare, energy dominance and debt.


Conflict is required to maintain control of the energy markets which prop up a financialised economy. A dynamic that puts the nation deeper in hock while amplifying resistance to financial vassalage. Losing energy dominance undermines the country’s reserve currency status and weakens the Empires ability to generate the debt necessary to sustain the warfare economy. Likewise, the system of national and international debt peonage parasitizes global populations to work against their own best interests. This fuels resentment and resistance which further drives the warfare economy. It is, in the inimitably American expression, a “self-licking ice cream cone.”

On August 3rd 1914, one week into the war, the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey famously remarked that “the lamps are going out across Europe and we shall not see them relit in our lifetime.” At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we face similar, terrifying prospects. Indeed, we could witness the collapse of democratic societies for a very long time to come. If we have any hope of averting calamity we need to generate loud opposition to imperialist warfare.

This does not mean some hackneyed anti-war movement based on past glories and the parochialism of domestic politics, but earnest effort to find common cause in resisting the insanity of those that seek profit in our collective suffering. This means working with people that we have very deep disagreements with by respecting our mutual opposition to the masters of war. It also means serious commitment to strategies such as tax and debt strikes as expressions of non-consent as well as other peaceful means of direct action. Indeed, it is from a place of agreement that we can potentially rebuild civil discourse and renew our trust in the ability of democratic institutions to mediate our quarrels. Perhaps it is too late to change course, but how sweet and fitting it is to face madness with dignity.


“What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? …power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand. ”

“Kings are the slaves of history.”

– Tolstoy, War and Peace



Just a thought from Beau of the Fifth Column:



Dulce et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.



Alexander Aston is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Oxford and is on the board of directors with the Centre for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He has prior degrees in philosophy and history. His work lays at the intersection of Cognitive Archaeology, Deep History and Natural Philosophy, examining the relationship between ecology, material culture and social cognition. Alexander grew up between Zimbabwe, Greece and the United States.





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    Salvador Dali The knight of death 1934     Another article from Alexander Aston, from whom I published among other things the series Quantum
    [See the full post at: Dulce et Decorum Est]

    Dr. D

    They’ve said nuclear war is equally inevitable for 70 years, if a leader is pushed (Israel), if they are mad (NoKo), if they are fanatics (Pakistan), if they are careless (India), expansionary (U.S. and China), or if they collapse (Russia), or if nukes are everywhere (all of the above). Yet here we are, and no one notices. All the arguments are the same, despite generations of proof.

    “general bellicosity reinforce the rational of the opposing sides and make it harder to back down without losing face and appearing weak.”

    Sure, but we just did back down without the slightest hesitation and either didn’t look weak or didn’t care if we did. And then this opened a dialog as Iran called to negotiate. You could equally argue handing Iran $6B in cash-pallets while they are (by their present admission) over the line in refining Uranium would equally cause a war. We don’t know what will happen, but this is the same model as NoKo. I’d guess that war is more likely to occur where no one is looking than where everyone has war-gamed a thousand plans with supercomputers.

    But then, I also think that WWI was not an accident. The British were desperate to stop large young rival Germany from unifying under MacKinder’s “World Island” by joining Germany and Turkey with a heavy railway. This would inevitably add Russia and spin East. They used their influence to create a financial backstop in their allies, the U.S. Federal Reserve, and therefore limitless money and limitless war material, if necessary. They warned in diplo-speak many times. A few months after that railway was completed and their idiot-bully-U.S. backstop was in place, they had their “unforeseen accident,” you know, one that diplomats could have avoided during mobilization at any time if they wanted. They didn’t, and although Britain came off much worse than expected, you can see why they felt it was necessary to risk all or lose to a Pan-German Europe + Asia for a thousand years. They are still running the same plan, first in WWII by “ignoring” or actually helping a Hitler they thought would attack Russia, and now with the Skripals, German-Russian sanctions, and “RussiaRussiaRussia.”

    We’re not going to fight Iran, or at least in the way is thought of, because they would kick us back to our hemisphere. Americans always prefer isolationism and it’s hard enough to keep anyone on board even now. While we wouldn’t take much harm in military terms, this isn’t what they want, because the people would crush them from meddling for 50 years, and they don’t want that. D.C. can’t conquer the people, they’ve run the war games always lose thanks to 2A. This is as far as they can get, and probably a bit too far.

    “The most likely long-term outcome of a war with Iran would be the economic isolation and political fragmentation of the United States.”

    This is the most likely outcome without a war with Iran, so the war makes no difference. Further, by law the U.S. is supposed to be politically fragmented into 50 States, so that both that, and the actual enforcement of law would be a pleasant change of pace. Economic isolation would mean both domestic jobs AND the collapse of the globalist wealth-pump and war intervention, and we’re supposed to have “commercial policy [of] an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences…forcing nothing,” in our neutrality, which would be another win for everyone.

    In fact, there’s so much good to be had for the American people and the world at large perhaps we should have this war as quickly as possible. I doubt we will, although the end of empire, the monetary reset, and the fracturing multi-polar world will happen. We are going to negotiate an out for Iran despite Israel + Saudi Arabia + possibly their servant MI6/Britain doing everything they can to cause a war as we see daily, and only the most erratic president in the country’s history backing down, consistently calling for peace, and setting matters at the negotiating table. Odd, that.


    Historic analogy always has it ‘s limits. Nevertheless, excellent article, I couldn ‘t write it! And excellent comment by Dr. D also. And yes, everybody should read Barbara Tuchman!


    Pompeo said Washington was building a coalition to patrol the Strait of Hormuz to keep shipping lanes open.

    How to avoid a nuclear war …. too big to start fighting
    The first countries that should volunteer to be part of the coalition are China, Russia, and Iran.



    Unfortunately, the Empire and ruling elite have become detached from reality. Boeing was going full throttle transferring corporate wealth to its executives and shareholders by cost cutting until the two crashes. This will likely stop production of the 737 Max next week. The subscript of the debacle is that outsourcing expertise makes fixing the defective flight control system and getting global regulatory approval too much to accomplish in the short term. Boeing will need to be bailed out if the global economy hasn’t crashed first from the Trade Wars or a War with Iran. Likewise, Democrats and the corporate media scapegoat Russia and push for the removal of Donald Trump but are so incompetent that they didn’t know that their white knight was senile. Boris Johnson will get his Brexit for Halloween. The Atlantic Alliance will cease to exist as the United Kingdom splits into its component states; City of London, England, and Scotland. Ireland becomes one nation in the EU unless the Troubles restart. Piracy off of Gibraltar can only be explained by intelligence operators out of control – government ceasing to work. Greed rules supreme.

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