Review: The Rods and the Axe

If you’re in the target market for Tom Kratman’s The Rods and the Axe (Baen) you probably already know you’re going to like it. Though nominally SF, this is in reality pretty straight-up military fiction. Bimpty-bumpth in his continuing series on the wars of Patrick Carrera on the colony world of Nova Terra, it delivers Kratman’s usual goods.

The usual goods are detailed, gritty war-nerd porn laced with conservative political satire – the latter rather heavy-handed, but sometimes wickedly funny anyway. I call it “war-nerd porn” rather than “war porn” because Kratman is less focused on thalamic narratives of carnage and courage than he is on the mechanics, tactics, logistics, and strategy of war. This is military fiction aimed more at wargamers and history buffs than anyone else; it’s easy to imagine the author and a handful of ex-military buddies roughing out the plot over maps and sand tables.

Stylish writing this is not, but Kratman is competent enough to do what he intends. This wargamer and history buff gives it a thumbs-up, while noting some problems. Kratman has never been great at characterization and the effort he puts into it here is pretty perfunctory compared even to the previous volume (Come and Take Them). If he doesn’t budget more attention to this going forward, the human-interest aspect of the series is likely to evaporate, leaving only the elaborate wargaming and the forward ratcheting of his series uberplot to attract readers.

For Kratman’s target market, that might be enough. Still, I hope for a bit more psychological life in the next one. Finally, fair notice that the book finishes with a pause in the action rather than any actual ending.

45 thoughts on “Review: The Rods and the Axe

  1. Either you’ve been doing a LOT of reading lately, or else you’ve had these pent up for a while…

  2. How would you compare Kratman with Jerry Pournelle’s war-based fiction, such as the East of Honor/Prince of Mercenaries/Go Tell the Spartans/Prince of Sparta sequence?

    I’m fond of that stuff and haven’t had a good fix in a while.

    Cathy

  3. Having read and enjoyed both, I think if you enjoyed one you’d enjoy the other.

    Kratman has more military ‘inside baseball’ as he brings along years of experience as a professional soldier.

  4. >How would you compare Kratman with Jerry Pournelle’s war-based fiction,

    I think Kratman’s stuff is better, overall. Unlike Pournelle he’s been in the military himself; he has an insider’s eye for the telling detail, and he romanticizes military service and the military ethos less than Pournelle does. On the other hand, Pournelle is a somewhat better writer as such skill is usually reckoned, and thus more able to appeal to people who aren’t war nerds.

  5. How would you compare Kratman with Jerry Pournelle’s war-based fiction

    I’m not sure that is an entirely fair comparison to either man. Pournelle tends to write war/military fiction as a hook upon which to hang a story about something scientific. Kratman tends to get all wrapped up in the combat indelicacies because creating insightful and emotionally compelling characters conflicts with his generally shy and retiring nature.

  6. @Kathy: It’s sort of like the difference between Tom Clancy, and, say, Larry Bond.

    Bond was Clancy’s co-author on Red Storm Rising, and had a best seller of his own in Red Phoenix, about a second Korean War. Both were good at the technological nuts and bolts of modern armed combat, but Bond was all nuts and bolts. Clancy had a much better touch with character, and wrote far more convincing people.

    Kratman is a Baen author. Baen likes to have their authors collaborate, and uses the collaboration to develop newer writers. Kratman began as a collaborator with John Ringo, and then went solo. I can’t say where he’ll go, but he hasn’t yet developed subtlety, and his in-your-face conservative politics are a prominent trope and something of a signature. It can get a little wearing even if you tend to agree with him.

    One of the things I appreciate is well drawn villains. Clancy had a deft hand with that, and various of his bad guys were fine, honorable people, who just happened to be working for the wrong side. You wished *them* well, even while you rooted for their side to lose. Bond lacked that knack.

    I feel roughly the same about Pournelle and Kratman. While Pournelle’s work you cited can be considered military SF, and have their action sequences, the action sequences are in support of the story, but not the point of it. In Kratman’s work, I think they are the point.

    The problem with any type of genre fiction is that it can become no more than a collection of tropes. Years ago, I read Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus, a collection of erotica she had written for a wealthy patron. The patron wanted action above all else, and Nin’s stories read like outlines for the stories she wanted to write. I wished I could have read those stories. While the tropes define the genre, the genre needs more than tropes to be fulfilling.

    I may get to The Rods and the Axe at some point, but won’t miss it if I don’t.

  7. “Unlike Pournelle he’s been in the military himself;”

    ? Pournelle served as an artillery officer in the Korean War.

    The larger point is valid, though. Kratman was career, Pournelle wasn’t.

  8. Pournelle is a Korean War Veteran, and has used two actions he was in as the underlying terrain, tactics and decision-making (including “what ifs”) for a large number of his battle scenes.

    Pournelle has, by and large, stopped writing in the settings that made his bones, because historical events have pretty much been less dystopic. When he got his career started, in the late 60s to late 70s, he envisioned his generation as being the last centurions on the battlements as the lights of the West winked out one-by-one.

    The West has proven to be much more resilient than he had envisioned, and less prone to Great Man syndrome, and his core story and ethos is of the Great Man protecting Western Civilization’s virtues against the creeping forces of barbarism…while those who sleep comfortably in their homes safe abed remain ignorant of the grubby men willing to commit murder on behalf of their innocence.

    It’s a romantic notion, it’s a through-line to Kipling…and it stopped really feeling right around 1987 or so.

  9. @Ken:
    >Pournelle has, by and large, stopped writing in the settings that made his bones, because historical events have pretty much been less dystopic.

    Maybe it’s just the sensationalism of youth (combined with a tendency to depression) talking, but the chances of the West lasting another half-century look rather grim to me. The type of collapse I expect is probably different from what Pournelle expected, but it seems to be coming fairly inexorably, and I wish I could expect my generation to be the “last centurions” rather than the “last straw”.

  10. >? Pournelle served as an artillery officer in the Korean War.

    Thanks for the correction. That wasn’t in the thumbnail bios I’d seen. An odd omission, considering the kind of fiction Pournelle is associated with.

  11. “Kratman is a Baen author. Baen likes to have their authors collaborate, and uses the collaboration to develop newer writers. Kratman began as a collaborator with John Ringo, and then went solo.”

    That Ringo’s name was also on the Posleen series books that Kratman wrote was purely marketing; Kratman wrote everything in those books (“Watch on the Rhine”, “Yellow Eyes”, “The Tuloriad”) with little to no imput from Ringo.

  12. Eric, I seem to recall reading a few years ago that you were working on your own sf novel. Do you have future plans in that direction?

  13. Maybe it’s just the sensationalism of youth (combined with a tendency to depression) talking, but the chances of the West lasting another half-century look rather grim to me. The type of collapse I expect is probably different from what Pournelle expected, but it seems to be coming fairly inexorably, and I wish I could expect my generation to be the “last centurions” rather than the “last straw”.

    50 years? Imperial decline takes longer than 50 years. Even after Alaric sacked Rome in 410 it took another 70 years or so until Odoacer took Ravenna and the Western Roman empire was gone and the Ostrogothic Kingdom replaced it in Italy. The Eastern Roman Empire lasted quite a bit longer than that.

    It took two world wars and an ascendent US to eliminate the British Empire. They lost the better part of two generations and were deeply in debt to us. Granted that was only 40ish years but it took TWO world wars supporting the French to do that. If they sided with the Kaiser and took Calais as their pound of flesh they’d likely still be a world power. And what finally killed the Empire was US intervention in Suez.

    The decline and fall of the Qing Dunasty in China lasted from the late 18th century until the early 20th with European powers kicking it around for nearly 100 years.

    The only ways Western civilization ends in 50 years is nuclear war, zombies or aliens.

  14. The end of Western Civilization is not the problem. The issue is the survival of the USA as a constitutional republic.

  15. Kratman is a Baen author. Baen likes to have their authors collaborate, and uses the collaboration to develop newer writers. Kratman began as a collaborator with John Ringo, and then went solo. I can’t say where he’ll go, but he hasn’t yet developed subtlety, and his in-your-face conservative politics are a prominent trope and something of a signature. It can get a little wearing even if you tend to agree with him.

    Ugh…I may pass then. Ringo is bad enough when he gets in that mood. Pairing him with Flint would have been better perhaps…

  16. >Eric, I seem to recall reading a few years ago that you were working on your own sf novel. Do you have future plans in that direction?

    Nothing more specific than “gotta finish the thing sometime”.

  17. ” he has an insider’s eye for the telling detail, and he romanticizes military service and the military ethos less than Pournelle does.”

    I suggest there is a real difference between the world as sand table view of Colonel Kratman and the view from the trenches that is closer to that portion of Dr. Pournelle’s writing about uniformed people in a military hierarchy . Myself I am inclined to think of Colonel Kratman’s books as more space opera than military fiction despite the setting. That may be related to the difference in viewpoint: Dr. Pournelle wrote ” be rear guard at Kunu-ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead drill; these are not rational acts.

    They are often merely necessary.”

    Dr. Pournelle writes about people – to that extent perhaps more romantic than Dr. Kratman’s movie standup posters and perhaps not -

    Either of them might have written from personal experience:

    “Through history, through painful experience, military professionals have built up a specialized knowledge: how to induce men (including most especially themselves) to fight, aye, and to die. To charge the guns at Breed’s Hill and New Orleans, at Chippewa and at Cold Harbor; to climb the wall of the Embassy Compound at Peking; to go ashore at Betio and Saipan; to load and fire with precision and accuracy while the Bon Homme Richard is sinking; to fly in that thin air five miles above a hostile land and bring the ship straight and level for thirty seconds over Regensberg and Ploesti; to endure at Heartbreak Ridge and Porkchop Hill and the Iron Triangle and Dien Bien Phu and Hue and Firebase 34 and a thousand nameless hills and villages”

  18. Esprit de l’escalier. Colonel Kratman has his good guy military forces aligned with his good guy national interest – ,” if we should have to leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain” is not an issue on New Earth which has avoided the fate of the world in Caliphate by thumb on the scale. In the world of Dr. Pournelle’s Janissaries – which again is a sand table game no doubt hoisted to the ceiling between books so to speak the good guys again are fighting for the right. On War World the cyborgs the brightest of the bright and augmented are all pessimists seeing their future as they do. John Christian Falkenberg has in effect lost a couple women as a rear guard to buy time. And google burning the colors at Kunu-ri.

  19. Ah, I have read two of his collaborations: Watch On The Rhein…That was an odd book…I dunno that anyone would think the bundeswher were pansies that needed rejuve SS to learn how to fight. Even if most of them were off planet.

    Yellow eyes wasn’t bad.

  20. >I dunno that anyone would think the bundeswher were pansies that needed rejuve SS to learn how to fight.

    Kratman has pretty much admitted that he wrote that premise to put lefties’ knickers in a twist. I can understand the impulse, but that’s more work than I’d put in to do it.

  21. Kratman has pretty much admitted that he wrote that premise to put lefties’ knickers in a twist. I can understand the impulse, but that’s more work than I’d put in to do it.

    Near as I can tell lefties don’t read military fiction (except where the natives win). The only folks that seemed to get their knickers in a twist were Germans. I dunno if they were lefties or not and who cares? We don’t live in Germany.

    /shrug

  22. >The only ways Western civilization ends in 50 years is nuclear war, zombies or aliens.

    That’s very true…. but what makes you think the clock hasn’t already been ticking for, oh, a century or so?

    I agree with what you wrote about the British Empire, and naturally I think it’s very insightful. :) Most people don’t seem to appreciate just what making themselves the tail to France’s dog cost them. Most literature on WWI from the English perspective refuses to even consider it.

  23. Near as I can tell lefties don’t read military fiction (except where the natives win). The only folks that seemed to get their knickers in a twist were Germans. I dunno if they were lefties or not and who cares? We don’t live in Germany.

    There’s been a bit of an inside fight going on in SF between the leftist fucknuts who think that art (including science fiction) should be about pushing a message and telling the right kinds of stories, and those who would rather write good stories that people want to read that may or may not contain a message, and might even contain a non-left-wing message.

    Col. Kratman was forcibly ejected from the SFWA for some sort of political sin (something like “Being an unrepentant white male” or something). He knows that most won’t read his stuff, but he knows that a few will to find stuff to hang him with and they’ll share.

  24. > Nothing more specific than “gotta finish the thing sometime”.

    Ah, ok.

    (Take a sabbatical and finish it!)

  25. That’s very true…. but what makes you think the clock hasn’t already been ticking for, oh, a century or so?

    Mmm…because we’ve only had nukes for 70ish years now? ;)

    I forgot asteroid impact. Of the four, zombies (pandemic), is highest probability but also lowest likelihood of ending Western Civilization when it occurs. If severe enough it could bookend the dominance of western civilization but doubtful. If severe end Western civilization it may be a long while for anyone to pick up the pieces.

    I agree with what you wrote about the British Empire, and naturally I think it’s very insightful. :) Most people don’t seem to appreciate just what making themselves the tail to France’s dog cost them. Most literature on WWI from the English perspective refuses to even consider it.

    It would be an interesting alternative history wouldn’t it? Did Turtledove do that yet? He got into a Civil War schtick and I stopped following him for a while. I should see what I’ve missed.

  26. There’s been a bit of an inside fight going on in SF between the leftist fucknuts who think that art (including science fiction) should be about pushing a message and telling the right kinds of stories, and those who would rather write good stories that people want to read that may or may not contain a message, and might even contain a non-left-wing message.

    I spent 15 mins googling and realized “I’ve been reading SF for 40 years and I have no clue who any of these SFWA authors are aside from one or two names of folks I think are now mostly retired”.

    As near as I can tell the modern SFWA is mostly irrelevant to the SF I read (space opera and war porn…but hey I read to relax). I guess if I were a SF author I might care. On the other hand the modern OSI strikes me as mostly irrelevant to the open source I use so doubt that I would.

    Was Kratman ejected? I thought it was some guy with a nickname Vox.

    The primary trend I see is that they authors I like have atrocious websites that look like they were created in 1999 using frontpage. The authors I have no clue about have nice websites created by folks with a clue.

  27. >Was Kratman ejected? I thought it was some guy with a nickname Vox.

    I looked into this and can find no evidence that Kratman was ejected from SFWA. though I have little doubt the SJs there would love him gone.

    Kratman is amusing. He loves his self-chosen role as the worst nightmare of silly lefties so much that his antics almost obscure his actual politics, which aren’t very far right even by my libertarian standards, let alone a true social conservative’s.

    No religious fixations; the Tuloriad only argues that you need a religion, not any particular one, and only the bad guys try to pull God into their foxhole in his other fiction. No sexual prudery. No racism – he actually makes something of a point of finding warrior virtue in brown people. If anything I think he may be a bit too optimistic about the capability of female warriors.

  28. Well he apparently sells enough books so I guess it’s working out well for him.

    One comment I skimmed that I thought was amusing was: “I wonder if H Beam Piper would belong to the SFWA today. I doubt it.”

    Cathy: If you haven’t read H Beam Piper and you like Pournelle he might be a enjoyable. Some anyway like Uller Uprising. Most fans of Pournelle have already though.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/8301

  29. The fellow expelled from SFWA was Vox Day (Theodore Beale); I don’t think Kratman ever was a member, nor would they have had any pretext for expelling him. (Several Baen authors have recently mentioned they’ve left, or never joined, SFWA; dealing with Baen they had no need for Griefcom, and the internal politics of SFWA are apparently fairly toxic.)

    Regarding women in combat: After reading his The Amazon Legion and “The Amazon’s Right Breast”—you think Kratman’s “a bit too optimistic about the capability of female warriors”? I’d be curious to see an analysis of where your opinion differs from his (in your copious spare time, of course).

  30. >No racism – he actually makes something of a point of finding warrior virtue in brown people.

    His wife is Panamanian.

  31. Will Brown wrote:
    “Pournelle tends to write war/military fiction as a hook upon which to hang a story about something scientific.”

    Mmm, depends. Think about chapter 19 of The Mercenary, or the march-and-battle that opens West of Honor. These are pretty much straight military fiction. I would argue that just about everything he wrote in the near-future Co-Dominium (rather than the farther-future Empire of Man) is really military fiction, with the tech deliberately held down to the point that it doesn’t invalidate 20th century tactics.

    Cathy

  32. “Cathy: If you haven’t read H Beam Piper and you like Pournelle he might be a enjoyable.”

    I’ve read and enjoyed the Paratime series, but haven’t read his other works.

  33. “There’s been a bit of an inside fight going on in SF between the leftist fucknuts who think that art (including science fiction) should be about pushing a message and telling the right kinds of stories, and those who would rather write good stories that people want to read that may or may not contain a message…”

    History may not repeat, but it does rhyme.

    This debate already occurred over a century ago, with supporters of Longfellow (fiction must contain and support tradition and morality) opposed to Poe (the purpose of fiction is to entertain).

    Longfellow was far more popular in his day and he appeared to have won the battle, but in the long term, far more people read Poe today than read Longfellow.

  34. Ken Burnside wrote:
    “Pournelle has, by and large, stopped writing in the settings that made his bones, because historical events have pretty much been less dystopic. When he got his career started, in the late 60s to late 70s, he envisioned his generation as being the last centurions on the battlements as the lights of the West winked out one-by-one.

    “The West has proven to be much more resilient than he had envisioned…his core story and ethos is of the Great Man protecting Western Civilization’s virtues against the creeping forces of barbarism.

    “It’s a romantic notion, it’s a through-line to Kipling…and it stopped really feeling right around 1987 or so.”

    Ken, I have a lot of respect for you, but I’m going to have to disagree. Yes, the Decline of the West stopped feeling right about 1987…and then started feeling right again after 2008.

    The posters on this board who followed up your post seem to be hung up on nuclear war, asteroid impact, epidemics, etc. A far greater threat is internal rot, i.e. collapse from within. And we seem to be well down that path, as we cannot pass a balanced budget (current government income only covers 40% of expenditure? In peacetime?), cannot control the explosive growth of the welfare state, serious political leaders are discussing changing the First Amendment to limit political speech, etc., etc.

    Am the only person here who feels like she is reliving the 70′s, minus the inflation? Obsession about green/sustainability/Earth Day, Democratic part run by the far-left, anti-business policies considered mainstream government, speech codes in universities… Bread and circuses.

    When thinking about the collapse of the West, think Spengler, not invasion. Think about a West comes to pattern itself on all the things it used to opposed. I am becoming increasingly concerned about “watching the lights wink out one by one,” as you put it.

    While I don’t identify with the Dark Enlightenment, and I look forward to seeing Eric write more about it, I was struck by a Mencius Moldbug essay in which he pointed out that the type of political revolution we tend to revere in the U.S. has always involved a move to the left, to more populism, revolt against the elites. Apparently there is little precedent for revolt from the right when a nation moves too far left. Since reading that, I’ve been trying to come up with a historical example, and failing. You get military coups, you get movements like fascism (a weird mix of left and right), but you don’t get American-Revolution style movements that pull a country away from collapse.

    Cathy

  35. >I’d be curious to see an analysis of where your opinion differs from his (in your copious spare time, of course).

    I agree with almost all of Kratman’s analysis, but I think he is a little too sanguine about women as offensive troops in line formations.

    The way I read the historical evidence, most women can (a) defend fixed positions well, (b) function as effectively as missile-weapon auxiliaries (archers, snipers). But most women make terrible line troops; they lack the native aggression and strength required.

    If you have a large enough population to select from and are willing to accept upward of 85% attrition in training, you can put together a something like the Dahomeyan Guard or the Soviet Womens’ Regiment, but it will be so much less effective than a similarly costly formation of men that it is only rarely done, and that for propaganda or symbolic reasons.

  36. … which is almost exactly Kratman’s thinking, though the two of you come at this from slightly different places: the Tercio Amazona exists almost entirely for propaganda, secondarily as last-resort reserves.

  37. The posters on this board who followed up your post seem to be hung up on nuclear war, asteroid impact, epidemics, etc. A far greater threat is internal rot, i.e. collapse from within. And we seem to be well down that path, as we cannot pass a balanced budget (current government income only covers 40% of expenditure? In peacetime?), cannot control the explosive growth of the welfare state, serious political leaders are discussing changing the First Amendment to limit political speech, etc., etc.

    Lol. If you can’t have a small efficient government then the next best thing is a mostly ineffectual one.

    And no, it’s not peacetime. We had 88,000 troops actively engaged in a hostile country in 2012. We haven’t been at peace for a decade. It’s expensive as hell to keep some semblance of conventional readiness while fighting an asymmetric war.

    And given the conservative SCOTUS the idea that the 1st amendment is under some risk from liberals is amusing.

    Am the only person here who feels like she is reliving the 70?s, minus the inflation? Obsession about green/sustainability/Earth Day, Democratic part run by the far-left, anti-business policies considered mainstream government, speech codes in universities… Bread and circuses.

    Minus inflation, gas lines, oil embargo, a damaged post Vietnam military, Kent State, Watergate, continued racial unrest, fall of Saigon, boat people, Sandinistas, the hostage crisis and atrocious taste in clothing?

    Environmentalism and conservation was the best part of the 70s. You don’t like clean air and clean water? Conservation is far better than increased production for energy dependence. The large majority of our enemies are funded through oil money whether that’s a Middle East terrorist or Putin. So hell yes to Tesla. And hell yes to solar on every house. Our infrastructure is very vulnerable to disruption by natural events or hostile act. The more distributed power production capability the more resilient we will be to attack or just bad weather.

    And given I have kids, hell yes to sustainability in general.

    Anyone that thinks the state of the union is anywhere close to as bad as it was in the 70s was living in a sheltered environment back then. We didn’t have legal abortions until 1973 and the KKK was still killing people in 1979 (Greensboro) and getting away with it. The last lynching was in 1981. Not to mention the vast difference between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan.

    Reliving the 70s my ass. We were getting our asses seriously kicked in the 70s. It’s nothing like the 70s. Whether we’re beating the Islamists is arguable but the fucking commies were winning in the 70s.

  38. >The posters on this board who followed up your post seem to be hung up on nuclear war, asteroid impact, epidemics, etc. A far greater threat is internal rot, i.e. collapse from within. And we seem to be well down that path, as we cannot pass a balanced budget (current government income only covers 40% of expenditure? In peacetime?), cannot control the explosive growth of the welfare state, serious political leaders are discussing changing the First Amendment to limit political speech, etc., etc.

    Indeed. I agree that the West won’t fall in anything like as quickly as 50 years (that would take the nuclear war, etc, and was in fact the whole reason those were brought up), but the decline of the West doesn’t start now. The clock on that started ticking a century ago, for most of the West, somewhat farther back in other areas (ex. France had already tipped into decline before WWI).

    Now the decline is so far along that it’s becoming obvious. When you give up enough to stop having children, it’s pretty close to game over.

  39. >Anyone that thinks the state of the union is anywhere close to as bad as it was in the 70s was living in a sheltered environment back then. We didn’t have legal abortions until 1973 and the KKK was still killing people in 1979 (Greensboro) and getting away with it. The last lynching was in 1981. Not to mention the vast difference between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan.

    The fact that other people may be underestimating the awfulness of the 70′s (and I agree with you there) doesn’t mean you can’t be underestimating the awfulness of now. We have corresponding awfulness to match all that.

    >Reliving the 70s my ass. We were getting our asses seriously kicked in the 70s. It’s nothing like the 70s. Whether we’re beating the Islamists is arguable but the fucking commies were winning in the 70s.

    Yes they were. And the fucking commies are winning now, too. They may not have a nuclear-armed superpower of their own now… no wait they do. It’s not exactly uncontested ownership, but they’re busy boiling the frog right now. (Not to sound alarmist, but if you pay attention to even half the scandals going on right now regarding deliberate conscious abuse of the power of the gov’t for partisan advantage and the undermine any possible competing institutions… yep, boiling the frog.)

    The fact that our current policies will leave us as ruined as the Soviet Union is small consolation.

  40. ndeed. I agree that the West won’t fall in anything like as quickly as 50 years (that would take the nuclear war, etc, and was in fact the whole reason those were brought up), but the decline of the West doesn’t start now. The clock on that started ticking a century ago, for most of the West, somewhat farther back in other areas (ex. France had already tipped into decline before WWI).

    If the decline started a hundred years ago then our high water mark was before WWI?

    What’s/Who’s going to replace us?

    Now the decline is so far along that it’s becoming obvious. When you give up enough to stop having children, it’s pretty close to game over.

    Hmmm…if total fertility rate is a significant measure of tipping into decline then every 1st world nation and quite a few of the 2nd world nation has pretty much started that slide. That includes China with a TFR of 1.55.

    As a note, France’s TFR (2.08) is higher than ours (2.01). Thank goodness for immigrants, legal or otherwise…

    From the perspective of military power our population is still growing and we have sufficient wealth to have robotic Janissaries (MQ-9s and more). That helps with productivity as well. At least the Japanese fervently hope so.

  41. >If the decline started a hundred years ago then our high water mark was before WWI?

    For the West as a whole? Yes.

    >What’s/Who’s going to replace us?

    That’s a very good question. Though it would be a mistake to argue that because there’s no good answer to that question, that the premise (of decline) must be incorrect.

    >>Now the decline is so far along that it’s becoming obvious. When you give up enough to stop having children, it’s pretty close to game over.

    >Hmmm…if total fertility rate is a significant measure of tipping into decline then every 1st world nation and quite a few of the 2nd world nation has pretty much started that slide. That includes China with a TFR of 1.55.

    Well yes. Fertility sliding below replacement is a classic historical measure of decline, if not *the* historical measure of decline.

    >As a note, France’s TFR (2.08) is higher than ours (2.01). Thank goodness for immigrants, legal or otherwise…

    Er, no. You ought to realize, that makes France’s situation even *worse* as they not only have no children of their own, they have a hostile unassimilated foreign population (under other circumstances those would reasonably be called “barbarian invaders”) inside their borders that is outbreeding them. ISTR that’s how France came to become Frankish.

    >From the perspective of military power our population is still growing and we have sufficient wealth to have robotic Janissaries (MQ-9s and more). That helps with productivity as well. At least the Japanese fervently hope so.

    Yes, the Japanese desperately need robotic labor. Their nursing homes (aka their cities) will depend on it.

  42. Some people think much of the political class has given up. Peggy Noonan wrote A Separate Peace in 2005. Nine years later it still disturbs me.

    The federal government doesn’t seem to cover the basics any more. Congress has to “pass it before we know what’s in it”. They don’t even pass a spending plan, let alone an actual budget. They do Cargo Cult imitations of legislation, only it’s starting to interfere with food gathering.

  43. nht: “I dunno that anyone would think the bundeswher were pansies that needed rejuve SS to learn how to fight.”

    I’m not sure what’s hard about this. What makes someone think that _I_ think the Bundeswehr are pansies? Is it really that difficult to grasp that characters can have opinions different from the author’s? Or that, from the POV of a Waffen SS general, the BW might look like pansies but then so would everyone else? Or that an honest author who thinks about his work gives characters the opinions _they_ are likely to have?

    The other thing is, do you think there is no benefit in having a combat experienced cadre? If so, why?

    esr: “Kratman has pretty much admitted that he wrote that premise to put lefties’ knickers in a twist. I can understand the impulse, but that’s more work than I’d put in to do it.”

    Nah. The entire book was to annoy the left. Muehlenkampf’s opinions on minor matters weren’t central to that.

  44. @Kathy: “I’ve read and enjoyed the Paratime series, but haven’t read his other works.”

    Uller Uprising was originally published as part of a Twayne books edition, and based on an essay by Dr. John D. Clark postulating life forms using silicon instead of carbon in their organic molecules. UU was Piper’s take on it. I don’t recall who did the others.

    UU is set in the Federation universe that includes Little Fuzzy and Space Viking. Uller is a colony planet set up by the Chartered Uller Company. It has sentient indigenous humanoid inhabitants with a silicon based metabolism and four arms. The protagonist, General Von Schlicten, is a former Federation military officer who joined the Uller Company for better pay and advancement opportunities. He confronts a native uprising which Piper loosely based on the Sepoy Rebellion in India, with the humans on Uller as approximately the British.

    It’s not Piper’s best work – that nod goes to Little Fuzzy and Space Viking – but it’s a fun read. There are fun details, like the idea that four armed soldiers can maintain an astonishing rate of fire with bolt-action rifles, when you have one hand each for pulling the trigger, supporting the barrel, working the bolt, and changing magazines. And there is some obligatory eye-rolling at do gooder liberals from Earth investigating conditions on Uller while having an entirely erroneous idea of what the conditions *are*.

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