I So Fucking Do Not Approve


Trump wants to bump defense spending another 10%.[wp]

That will make America Great Again. Our current defense spending is:

billions

 

The rest of the world, combined, spends: $843.5 billion. If we spend another 10%  ($60 billion) on top of what we’re already spending: Trump thinks the US should be spending $656 billion dollars. We’re creeping up on spending more than the rest of the world combined.

usa

my mad photoshop skills

We’d be spending more than the other top 10 countries in the world, combined. That’s more than: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France and Germany. Combined. You’ll note that all of those except Saudi Arabia are nuclear powers; the US won’t go to war with them under any imaginable circumstances. So the military Trump wants to build will be aligning against non-nuclear powers, which we out-spend (even if we add North Korea’s paltry $510 million) leaving out Israel (nuclear), the total expenditure by countries we might actually go to war with is: about $250 billion. That’s assuming Canada and Australia are possible forces the US might want to conquer. Most of the countries the US is chest-thumping at are non-players who we’d still lose against: Iran $10.3 billion, North Korea $1/2 billion, Algeria $10.4 billion, Mexico $7.7 billion. When you look at US expenditures on its military, compared to Mexico, it’s Bambi Vs Godzilla.

But sure: let’s spend more money on war. After all, Trump must think that we’ve been losing wars because we didn’t spend enough. That’s wrong. The US has lost wars because it went to war without political objectives that were achievable through war. They were unwinnable wars. The wars that the US has won were only the wars where there were politically achievable outcomes: e.g.: the 1st Gulf war (“get Iraq out of Kuwait”)  The wars that the US wins (Grenada, Gulf War I, Panama) are quick hits where overwhelming force is successful, but there was no political will to resist, anyway. The wars where the US faced an insurgency or a stubborn enemy (Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War 2, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya, Syria) the US has won many of the battles but lost because of politics – not domestic politics, but the reality of fighting counter-insurgency operations in a place where the population is not interested in cooperating. Worse, the US doesn’t even understand what “victory” would mean in most of those conflicts. Optimistic naivete aside, the US seemed to genuinely expect that it could create a democracy in Iraq by imposing a sectarian government into one side of a religious (and territorial) civil war. Trump seems to think that bombing the shit out of ISIS is going to “defeat” them but that’s the same problem as the US bought in Iraq: even if ISIS is completely obliterated, whatever replaces it will split in the same direction. Basically, the US’ idea for how to “win” in the middle east is to install dictatorships – which has been the strategy of imperialists since the Assyrian Empire: just keep churning the satrap supply until you find one who is biddable, not too corrupt, and who won’t get too far out of line. If we actually went into these wars with that as an objective, we might be able to succeed, but we’re too inefficient because not only do we need to set up a dictator, we have to feed our army of carpetbaggers who latch tick-like onto our strategy and make everything the US military does mind-bogglingly expensive.

You can be fairly sure that the moment Trump said he wants to spend 10% more on the military, the money had already been spent: the strategic geniuses at the pentagon, Northrup Grumman, Los Alamos National Labs, General Dynamics, Halliburton, et all – they’ve already calculated how much they are “in for” and have raised their prices just enough to absorb it. So Trump, the con-artist who claimed to have saved $700 million on the F-35 (that was a lie) now wants to blow $60 billion. How can I say “blow” without knowing how Trump wants to spend it? It’s easy: disciplined financial analysis does not result in flat percentage increase. If Trump came back with a line item budget on where he wants to spend what, in order to accomplish this, or that, then it’d be believable. He’s basically asking for a great big yuge gym bag of money that he’s going to throw in all directions. That will actually lose more wars than it wins, because that’s exactly the kind of undisciplined approach that gets the US into unwinnable wars.

Put differently: if you have a pentagon that’s financially out of control, giving them more money makes them out-of-controllier.

Speaking of unwinnable wars: the US is currently chest-thumping about China, which spends half as much annually on its military as we do. And Russia, which spends about one tenth. If you want to think of militaries in terms of cost-effectiveness against enemies, the Chinese army, because it doesn’t have to try to project force around the globe, is in place with interior lines. That brings an inherent 3:1 (or more) advantage if we were talking about traditional strategic thinking. The US force structures are over-extended, over-priced, command top-heavy, and tied to bases all over the world: the US can project force like nobody’s business but the last time it tried to assemble a knockout punch (against an army that had a $4.3 billion dollar budget!) it took 6 months just to get all the troops in position and staged – and that was against an enemy that was essentially helpless with no satellite intelligence or long-range strike capability. The US military in the Gulf War was like a boxer who trained for 6 months to punch out a blindfolded toddler. The US/China strategic situation is reminiscent of a murder of crows flapping around and threatening a bulldog. The bulldog is probably wondering “WTF is your problem? I’m not running around chasing you, get offa my lawn.” A showdown with China is a really bad idea. Not because we might lose, but because there is no option that leads to winning at all.

The US “strategy” toward China is another example of strategy and tactics that lead toward an unwinnable war. Why is the US pushing to contain China in the South China Sea? The Chinese aren’t threatening to close any trade routes (not even trade routes to China!) and they’re doing what powers do: determining fishing rights and mineral allocations within their sphere of influence. The only strategic reason the US might want to intervene in the South China sea is because ….?  I can’t come up with something silly enough: maybe Vietnam’s fishing rights are threatened? And a show-down with China would help rectify that, how, exactly?

A 10% shift one way or another in the US’ military expenditures doesn’t even move the needle visibly with respect to our strategic options.

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Most of my estimates of military expenditures are from Wikipedia. [wik]

Some clarification on my point: “the US won’t go to war with them under any imaginable circumstances” – what do I mean by “imaginable circumstances”? My vocabulary runs thin because I want to use words like ‘rational’ and ‘practical’ which don’t fit well into a discussion about strategic nuclear war. But, briefly: imagine the US finally does decide to deal with a small nuclear power; let’s say: France. It would have to be a strategic pre-emptive strike including attempting to overkill enough to defang their counter-strike capability. The only practical scenario that entails is a decapitation pre-emptive strike, which would kill about a million people. The US is clearly morally and militarily capable of doing that, what we’d find unacceptable is the result if a single one of France’s 290 nukes was not destroyed and wound up over Washington, DC, LA, or New York. All of the nuclear powers except North Korea, and maybe Pakistan and India, have good enough deterrent counter-strike capabilities that a pre-emptive strike would not be a sure thing unless it was an obscene overkill bombardment. So, I’m willing to posit that the US’ strategic nuclear strike force is off the table as a realistic option, but as a deterrent, any of the US’ potential nuclear-armed enemies are safe against purely conventional large-scale war. It’s credible that the US might swap a lot of lives with, say, Russia (I hope not!) but we’d be crazy, too, to get nuclear with them. In fact, we’d be crazy to get into a conventional war with them for the same reason Hitler and Bonaparte discovered – the logistics of winning a land war in Russia favor the Russians. Again, that makes no strategic sense at all, because a non-genocidal conquest of Russia (or China) is utterly implausible – and the nuclear deterrent rules out genocide. We need to look at this stuff in its strategic context: our nuclear weapons arsenal wouldn’t be more or less effective if it was half or twice its current size. That would, simply, not affect anything.  So: don’t bother.

Re: conquering Canada, Mexico and Australia. Of course the US would mash them flat in a hurry. But they’d be even harder to hold than Iraq was. Can you imagine the kind of insurgency Canada could kick up, right up north of us? And the logistics of conquering Australia – horrifying. The British only succeeded because of a ridiculous technological imbalance. That leaves Mexico. An insurgency in Mexico is also horrifying to contemplate, so let’s not. Please.

Given my perambulations above: you ought to understand why the North Koreans are scared.

Winning a war with China: since China would be on the strategic defensive and would have interior logistics, the US is basically doomed to lose. The only realistic way to win would be nuclear genocide, and they’d see that coming and things would be very bad for everyone. If you want to imagine a limited conventional war what does that look like? Given China’s logistical advantages and geopoliticial position, I think the US would need about a 10:1 advantage, which would entail a force-buildup on the order of $2 Trillion annually. And, while we were doing that, the Chinese (who have pretty good intelligence!) would be going “whooooah!” and preparing, as well as engaging in economic warfare. The US would collapse financially before it could field a credible military force to defeat China in a conventional war. That leaves: chewing on eachother really hard in some horrible proxy wars. That’s plausible. But that’s also unwinnable. The Chinese would respond to a massive US force buildup by destroying and isolating bases, which would increase the US’ cost to defend them, and could plausibly take out a few allies to further increase US costs (what would happen if the US suddenly had to divert its build-up to defend Australia?) The Chinese are not a civilization to be dismissed casually as warriors and definitely not as strategists- after all: they wrote the book on strategy. US war-makers are puppies in the woods with high tech toys yapping at the descendants of Sun Tzu and Genghis Khan. For fuck’s sake, it’d be funny if it weren’t so damn dangerous.

One more point to ponder: India is about 7,000 miles from New York City. The Indian latest/greatest intercontinental ballistic missile has a maximum range of 5,000 miles. I have often wondered if the US’s tacit “whatevurrrr” policy toward India nukes has anything to do with some backroom negotiations guaranteeing that if they even have a dream they made a missile with 7,000 mile range, they’ll wake up and apologize.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    Why is the US pushing to contain China in the South China Sea? The Chinese aren’t threatening to close any trade routes (not even trade routes to China!) and they’re doing what powers do: determining fishing rights and mineral allocations within their sphere of influence. The only strategic reason the US might want to intervene in the South China sea is because ….?

    Because the US regards the entire globe (and a fair chunk of nearby space) as its sphere of influence. The US is no longer willing to tolerate the existence of other powers. The major (strategic) problem with this is that it gives China and Russia a very powerful shared interest, when they would otherwise be rivals.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    imagine the US finally does decide to deal with a small nuclear power; let’s say: France. It would have to be a strategic pre-emptive strike including attempting to overkill enough to defang their counter-strike capability. The only practical scenario that entails is a decapitation pre-emptive strike, which would kill about a million people.

    How do you figure the kill-count that low? What/where are the targets? There are 66 million people in France, 2.2 million in Paris. Just a million dead from a strike that decapitates them seems an underestimate, unless you know something I don’t (Iikely) about the distribution of their counter-strike capabilities and where the bombs would fall.

    Another interesting figure – there are two MILLION people who live in the USA and speak French at home. Do you intern all of them first, before launching your decaptitating strike? Or do you subsequently work out some way to deal with two million pissed off and (thanks, Fourth Amendment) possibly heavily armed people inside your own country who suddenly have a very good reason to kill every stinkin’ Yank they see?

    See also the US population of Jews (largest outside Israel at about 4 million), Indians (about 3 million), Chinese (about 4 million), Pakistani (about 400,000) and Russians (750,000). Even if only 1% of those people get annoyed when the US starts bombing and killing their compatriots, that’s a lot of very hacked off people right in your midst. You’re rubbish at dealing with insurgencies abroad – how about at home?

    I don’t understand the idea of going to war with China in any case – they’ve got all your money. This cartoon sums it up neatly: http://bridge2china.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/money_talk_uschina.jpg?w=595

  3. cartomancer says

    It seems to me that the only way to justify huge additional military spending is as a Keynesian job creation scheme. But, of course, it’s not going on employing extra infantrymen, it’s going to the corporate coffers of the weapons companies.

  4. cartomancer says

    One can imagine that simply giving the poorest sixty million Americans a million dollars each would be a far better use of that money.

  5. quotetheunquote says

    Cartomancer #3:

    Well, yes, that is rather the point – I imagine the reaction of the republicans to the argument in the OP will inevitably end up as something like “But… but… jobs! What about all those hard-working families employed at Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon….?”

    Their idea of “infrastructure spending” is make lots of things that exist solely for the purpose of blowing up other things.

    To which congress says, in large part, “Hear, hear!”

  6. johnson catman says

    cartomancer @4:
    In the US, a billion is a thousand million. So, $60,000,000,000/60,000,000 people = $1000/person.

  7. says

    Dunc@#1:
    Because the US regards the entire globe (and a fair chunk of nearby space) as its sphere of influence. The US is no longer willing to tolerate the existence of other powers. The major (strategic) problem with this is that it gives China and Russia a very powerful shared interest, when they would otherwise be rivals.

    Yes, I agree.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 sonofrojblake

    And I was thinking of Marcus’ point about invading Canada or Mexico. I think there is an estimated 1 million Canadians living in the USA most of whom look and sound a lot like a steriotypical American. And a good number of Canadian military have served on secondements with the US military so they know how it works and thinks.

    How many Mexicans both legally and illegally live in the USA?

    I would not worry too much about insurgencies north or south of the borders. I’d worry about what might happen at home just as you suggest with other nationalities.

    At the momen, and for the last several years, even decades, it appears that US strategic geo-political thinking has been done by a bunch of not-very-bright kindergarten inmates.

  9. says

    Winning a war with China: since China would be on the strategic defensive and would have interior logistics, the US is basically doomed to lose. The only realistic way to win would be nuclear genocide, and they’d see that coming and things would be very bad for everyone.

    “Facts are stupid things – stubborn things, should I say.”
    – Ronald Reagan, 1988 Republican National Convention

    Reagan was not the sharpest grecian formula bottle on the shelf, but he changed his tune on dealing with the Soviets after watching “The Day After” (1983), a very realistic (but still fictional) depiction of what a nuclear war would bring. Sometimes, he actually did get it.

    I doubt any amount of facts other than undeniable economic, environmental or political collapse and catastrophe would get Trump’s attention. Even if the US military didn’t accept the $596B bribe and a military coup happened, Trump would still be giving orders and expecting them to obey.

    When “consequences are for other people” and you have a resident (not a typo) who actually believes facts are stupid things, any bad decision is possible. “Commander in chief”? Commandeer in chief is more like it.

  10. says

    cartomancer@#3 and #4:
    It seems to me that the only way to justify huge additional military spending is as a Keynesian job creation scheme. But, of course, it’s not going on employing extra infantrymen, it’s going to the corporate coffers of the weapons companies.

    There’s a lot of truth in your comment. I’d go farther: one of the main mechanisms of upward mobility from WWII to the 80s was the military. It was possible for a poor person to join the military, learn skills, get promoted to senior rank (if they were amazing, and durable) and retire with a pension, then raise kids as middle class. Now, the military is focused on spending money on tchotchkes like the Zumwalt and F-35, which only provide meaningful advancement for the executives of weapons companies, who are already rich. So the shifting of the purpose of the military to being a Keynesian feeding-ground, instead of – you know – military, has profound knock-on effects that are being swept under the carpet.

    I agree that the military/industrial/congressional complex can be seen as a “make work” project but as such it’s not very efficient – it’s got a huge built-in top-skim that just goes into pockets that are already well-lined, and it mostly serves the technocratic elite. If we were going to try to do something that would boost the economy, it would look more like a massive investment in alternative energy businesses (like the Chinese have done) or infrastructure, or software or all of the above.

    My favorite fantasy scenario revolves around cancelling the Zumwalt, LCS, F-35, and nuclear “refresh” and doing a Manhattan Project-style “money is no object” push to try to crack sustainable fusion. I’m not good enough with the physics of fusion and am not familiar enough with the problems (other than reading Seife’s “Sun in a bottle”) but it falls in the category of “expensive research that might pay off unbelievably, that would grant us ownership of the planet, and would doubtless result in all kinds of interesting and useful ancillary technologies” We might even need government programs to recruit and train theoretical and experimental physicists and computer scientists – the whole thing could be a gigantic high-tech research money-pit (like the F-35 or Zumwalt …) but it’d actually have a potential for strategic success and global dominance through the purchasing-power of unlimited energy.

    One can imagine that simply giving the poorest sixty million Americans a million dollars each would be a far better use of that money.

    I remember back when Gulf War 2 was spinning up, some of us jokingly proposed that the US could estimate what it would cost to depose Saddam and offer everyone in the Iraqi military money, based on rank, to simply “change the regime.” Instant middle class, instant stability, instant financial collapse due to inflation, but it’d stabilize a lot faster than it would after a war. (Besides, the inflation would make it cheaper to buy everyone off, if you staged the payments…) I think the math worked out that a major would get $16m, a colonel $8m, and a sergeant $250,000…

  11. says

    sonofrojblake@#2:
    How do you figure the kill-count that low? What/where are the targets? There are 66 million people in France, 2.2 million in Paris. Just a million dead from a strike that decapitates them seems an underestimate, unless you know something I don’t (Iikely) about the distribution of their counter-strike capabilities and where the bombs would fall.

    I pulled that number out of my butt. But I think it might be defensible as follows
    T-15 minutes: ‘cyberwar’ crash and degradation of target telecoms
    T-2 minutes: decapitation strike on elysee palace and major places of government, damn the French for using human shields by putting their rulers in the middle of a cultural cornucopia! The strike would be done with B2s followed closely by B1s, using conventional ordnance. Knowing the US Air Force some dipstick would probably drop a 1000# bomb on the Louvre…
    T-0: nuclear strikes on the 3 main military air bases and the former(?) ICBM sites in Vaucluse. nuclear strikes on the refuelling fleet air bases (they’d probably go down with the 3 bases but there might be more; have to hit everything capable of carrying a refuel for the French extended range Mirage2000s) also nuclear strikes – surface strikes – on the command structure at Brest and the naval base.
    US hunter killer subs would have to go weapons-free to try to get the remaining boomers. There are not that many.

    Since we’re talking an imaginary scenario, it’d be interesting to ponder whether the French missiles would work at all – was the US smart enough to have NSA malware in their control systems? Could the US’ cyberwarriors access the comms of the French strategic forces and learn where the boomers were, then schedule a few underwater nukes on their locations? And would an aegis missile boat really be able to shoot down an incoming missile (doubtful but worth having them stationed outside New York and in the Chesapeake to give it a try…)
    So, considering a complete wipe of Brest and the bases, yeah “a couple million” is defensible.

    It’s an absurd idea. But we are living in absurd times.

    Another interesting figure – there are two MILLION people who live in the USA and speak French at home. Do you intern all of them first, before launching your decaptitating strike? Or do you subsequently work out some way to deal with two million pissed off and (thanks, Fourth Amendment) possibly heavily armed people inside your own country who suddenly have a very good reason to kill every stinkin’ Yank they see?

    Are we assuming the Trump administration is behind this? Then they’d all be presented with credible-seeming evidence that “we had to do it” because the FBI said French IP addresses were involved in a plot with the North Koreans or some goofy bullshit, and then round up and deport anyone who complains.

    Again, I am not trying to defend this absurd idea. The whole reason I threw it out there is to illustrate the absurdity of the US thinking that any of the crap they are spending so much $$$ on has any practical application.

    Even if only 1% of those people get annoyed when the US starts bombing and killing their compatriots, that’s a lot of very hacked off people right in your midst. You’re rubbish at dealing with insurgencies abroad – how about at home?

    The US is heading toward discovering how well it handles domestic insurgencies. My guess is that they’ll see it coming and back away, but maybe not! (Yes, the US handles insurgencies really badly – its current approach consists of “bomb stuff” which doesn’t work very well. Ask Assad.)

  12. says

    quotetheunquoute@#5:
    Their idea of “infrastructure spending” is make lots of things that exist solely for the purpose of blowing up other things.

    You know the not very funny joke: “what’s the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?” One builds targets, the other builds weapons systems.

  13. says

    jrkrideau@#8:
    I would not worry too much about insurgencies north or south of the borders. I’d worry about what might happen at home just as you suggest with other nationalities.

    I think the point is that the borders are long and porous. A lot of Americans currently think they are not, because the people currently crossing them are trying to do so in peace. Imagine how effectively ICE would handle border-jumpers who had snipers and light artillery, or who were not afraid to use land mines and establish ambushes.

    At the moment, and for the last several years, even decades, it appears that US strategic geo-political thinking has been done by a bunch of not-very-bright kindergarten inmates.

    Exactly.
    But it’s not that they are stupid, as much as that they are incredibly naive – they assume that everything will work out as they imagine it will. I think it has something to do with America’s tendency to elect bullshit artists – you get leaders that, first, and foremost, bullshit themselves.

  14. says

    Intransitive@#9:
    When “consequences are for other people” and you have a resident (not a typo) who actually believes facts are stupid things, any bad decision is possible.

    That is one of the downsides of living in the “post truth” world.

  15. jrkrideau says

    @ 13 Marcus

    it’s not that they are stupid, as much as that they are incredibly naive

    I suppose that is more accurate. Unfortunately they do believe their own fairy tales and I get the feeling that not enough of them actually have enough experience of the rest of the world to understand just how naive (and often staggeringly wrong) those fairy tales are.

    Americans still seem to see themselves as a shining beacon for freedom while I get the impression a lot of countries are terrified of the USA. Ask Yemen or Iraq. Or Syria.

    While probably not terrified, bloody worried: Russia and China. And come to think of it, since the election of Trump probably every other county in the world.

  16. Johnny Vector says

    In fact, we’d be crazy to get into a conventional war with [Russia] for the same reason Hitler and Bonaparte discovered – the logistics of winning a land war in Russia favor the Russians.

    Crazy, you say? I think the word you’re looking for is inconceivable!

    And yeah, a sudden, unexpected influx of $60B is going to be impossible to use in any way other than siphoning directly into the bank accounts of aerospace executives. You want to actually build new things? You need to hire the infrastructure first, and that takes time.

    I kind of slightly suspect it may be possible that this plan might not have been thought through completely. But hey, what could go wrong?

  17. keithb says

    While I agree with most of what you said, the money for Los Alamos comes from the DOE, not the DOD. While Trump might be confused and might be lumping them together, I would guess that he wants *another* few billion for his nuclear goals.

  18. says

    Giliell@#17:
    Wait, Germany is a nuclear power now?

    It’s probably a mistake to have counted them as such; they fall into the category with Turkey and a few other places like Qatar, where the US has forward-staged nuclear weapons and the locals have NATO delivery-capable aircraft. So, technically they are US weapons, but it’d be hard to say they’re entirely under US or German control. Let’s say Germany’s not a nuclear power. My brain probably slid right by the little detail of who’s custodian of the arsenal.

  19. says

    keithb@#18:
    While I agree with most of what you said, the money for Los Alamos comes from the DOE, not the DOD. While Trump might be confused and might be lumping them together, I would guess that he wants *another* few billion for his nuclear goals.

    I believethought Los Alamos’ research budget is DOE; I thought the manufacture of the actual weapons came from another gym bag of money. It’s hard, with all these gym bags of money floating around, to tell from which one any particular fistful of bills is being grabbed. And that’s deliberate.

    I just did a little research, and you’re right: it’s DOE, under the Orwellian-named National Nuclear Security Administration. From the sound of it, they’re flipping the cash over their shoulders to contractors to build the actual monsters. But the gym bags of money are logoed with DOE logos, you are right.

    By the way, that little bit of research came up with a rather odd tidbit: DOE has $1.8billion in their budget for keeping Iran from acquiring nukes. Wow, that’s a lot of money – I guess that’s being spent on some kind of covert sensor grid and analysis of the flow of materials worldwide, or something.

    Another one of the anonymous gym bags is the intelligence community – which is also not under DOD but has a budget somewhere between the total defense budget of France ($40bn) or Russia ($60bn) depending on how you count it. Presumably the CIA’s killer drone program is paid for out of that gym bag of money, and it’s certainly being spent on covert operations which are at the very least paramilitary. I’d be inclined to say we should treat the US intelligence community’s budget (less the $10 billion of the US Coast Guard) as part of the DOD, but the intelligence community wants to be kept separate so as to avoid taxpayer scrutiny by classifying its fraud, waste, and abuse and to help artificially lower the DOD budget. (I do wish we could require separate budget accounting for intelligence surveillance: foreign versus intelligence surveillance: domestic except they have already resolved that by deciding that everyone who does not work for the intelligence community is foreign)

  20. invivoMark says

    Well it’s good to know that Trump is finally making proposals that mainstream Democrats can agree with.

  21. sonofrojblake says

    Could the US’ cyberwarriors access the comms of the French strategic forces and learn where the boomers were

    That conflicts with my understanding of how boomers work, at least the UK versions. AIUI, at any given time almost nobody knows where they are. A committee decides on their mission profile, and that profile is literally written down on paper or similarly physically embodied. It’s physically carried onto the sub when in port and placed in a safe in the captain’s quarters, and he only retrieves it once they’ve put to sea. At any given time, most of the grunts living on and running the thing have absolutely no idea where it is – that knowledge is restricted to a relatively few of the Ruperts and presumably some of the people with their hands on whatever passes for a wheel. Ashore, hardly anyone knows where they’re even supposed to be, and literally nobody knows for sure where they are. Communication, such as it is, is almost entirely one way, with the sub on the receiving end. There’s also the urban myth about sub commanders listening out for the shipping forecast/the news/Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4, and assuming if they don’t hear it that the UK has been destroyed and that they should light the touchpapers. I would assume that the French sub captains would have similar standing orders, since a large part of the point of their existence is to be in a position to effect a retaliatory strike in the event of pre-emption.

    This information is probably out of date. I know that within the last couple of decades at least a couple of the historic long-wave comms arrays have been decommissioned, and I’ve no idea what (if anything) replaced them. I’m also keenly aware that our sub fleet isn’t what it was, and might never have been what we were told it was.

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