Si Vis Pacem, Para Scientiam: Science For War, War For Science

Si Vis Pacem, Para Scientiam? If you want peace, prepare for science? The original Latin proverb is: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. If you want peace, prepare war. Cute, but not enough. My proverb is more to the point.

At first the original Roman proverb, want peace, prepare war, sounds pretty deep, in the philosophy of military science, and so did I feel, for decades…

However, in the end the Romans were defeated. They didn’t get defeated once, or a few times, and then ultimately won the wars… As the Franks/French did so many times. No, the Romans, starting under Marcus Aurelius, started to lose… and lose, and lose, didn’t not recover very well, and finally, two centuries later, by 406 CE, four years before the fall of Rome to the Goths, the empire was riddled with armed German nations [1].  

So the proverb was nearly right, thus still wrong, a near-miss, the equivalent of the big splash the Bismarck succeeded to land next to one of the two British battleships assaulting it, drenching the command deck of its enemy… but failing to score. The British did score, though, and, within minutes, the Bismarck had lost the ability to aim its fire, becoming just a big fat target for the Brits.

By 406 CE, the Roman empire was also a big fat target for the Barbarians. To try to defeat the Goths later, the Romans had to muster an army mostly made of Huns at Toulouse. The Goths still won and killed the Roman general. That defeat of  Litorius was in 439 CE. In 451 CE, after being chased and harassed by a Frankish army, a coalition of Franks, Goths and Romans (under the plausibly double dealing generalissimo Aetius) defeated the Huns spectacularly.

Clearly the Romans were fighting a lot, prepared or not, and prepared to this mess, they were not. Something deeper had gone very wrong. Actually Aetius was assassinated later in palace intrigue.   

Because they only prepared for war, the Romans lost to the other guys, because the other guys had also prepared for war; the Parthians, then the Sassanids, and finally, worse of all, the Arabs. The Romans should have prepared for (more) science.

Greek fire was a sort of napalm spewed from metallic machines which could spew enormous fire at great range, from 15 meters to up to 450 meters when loaded on catapults. In the first battle which saved Constantinople, more than 2,000 Arab ships were destroyed, and only seven (7) survived! There was a repeat of that latter. Then the Arabs launched the plan of taking Constantinople from behind (as the Turks would o, seven centuries later!). So the Arabs conquered North Africa, Spain… Only to see three successive invasions of Francia crushed to smithereens, causing the fall of Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus… Greek fire was used to destroy the Arab fleet in the Gulf of Saint Tropez in the Tenth Century, while a Frankish army was pressing inland on the Muslim redoubt at la Garde Freinet. The Arabs never figured out how it worked… And we still don’t know, actually, so well guarded was the secret. In comparison, how to make nuclear bombs is no secret…

Greek Fire had saved the Oriental empire. It was then superseded by black powder. French engineers (more exactly the Bureau brothers) were able to make field guns, guns which could be wheeled into a moving battlefield, with which twenty years after roasting Joan of Arc, the “100” Year War was won…

To make sure one will win, one doesn’t just need overwhelming force [2]. One needs overwhelming smarts. Heraclius, the Roman emperor who defeated the Sassanids, was one of humanity’s greatest generals, achieving an incredible Blitzkrieg. However, Heraclius had fallen ill and was unable to personally lead his armies to resist the Arab conquests of Syria and Roman Paelestina in 634 (he was sick in Alexandria). An incredibly stupid tactical engagement of the vastly superior Roman army, in a place that put it at a heavy disadvantage, using impatient, foolhardy tactics, led to its defeat by the much smaller (40,000) Arab army. The Arabs then did something no one expected: they killed all males in age of bearing arms. (So here we are!)

But the really deep question is: why had it become a fair fight between Romans and Barbarians? How come Barbarians had achieved military technological equality? In short: because Rome had become a stupid dictatorship. Excuse the pleonasm: all dictatorships are stupid, my dear Marx! 

What keeps the peace nowadays? Some erroneously believe that’s because we are all so civilized. They look at the plutocrats who feed them to say such inanities, and they love themselves for being so smart.  A casual look at leading politicians show that this is not the case: civilization is not improving, just Machiavellianism (as happened in Late Rome). 

Peace is kept, because the three leading military powers of the West have no interest to wage war; they already have what they want, profit from the status quo… And the leading Western military powers have had, recently, huge military technological superiority (now quickly fading, though…) 

***

Fourth Spy Unearthed in U.S. Atomic Bomb Project
His Soviet code name was Godsend, and he came to Los Alamos from a family of secret agents.”

The New York Times just ran an article exposing still one more spy at the heart of the Manhattan project, the nuclear bomb. A spy no one knew existed before, a physicist who was spying with the apparent help of his brothers. When the spies fled to the USSR in the early fifties, the FBI kept it secret (to keep the existence of its own informants secret). 

In any case, the Manhattan project leaked a lot; there were a lot of “Communists” at the time among intellectuals (“Communist” meant, in practice, at the time, infeodated to the fascist Stalin…) Carried over, the ebullient PM Churchill wanted to imprison indefinitively the top French atomic scientists… because they knew so much [3] 

The Manhattan project’s ancestor was launched in France in January 1938, thanks to the discovery by Nobel Irene Curie of the nuclear chain reaction with U235. [6]

Differently from the French, German scientists didn’t know a bomb was possible. French scientists and their plans fled to Britain, part of the materials was sheltered underground with the Crown Jewels, then the entire project transferred to Canada and the US. 

Secrecy in military matters is crucial: had the Nazis known in 1938 what the French knew, they would have developed a nuclear bomb. A better way to slow down neutrons was found (boron); then Plutonium created in reactors, the implosion pit invented with neutron triggers, etc. Lots of crucial details.

Too much Western (military) tech flows to the regime of dictator Xi, through armies of dual use spies, and Chinese investment in universities related startups.

Military superiority of (representative pseudo-) democracy, is a war the West can’t lose against blatant dictatorships. Rome, initially equipped with Gallic (!) weaponry, lost military superiority to Parthians, Sassanids, Goths. Yet, 

Constantinople was saved by Gregian fire (700 CE). Ever since Franks and their successors kept military technological superiority; that’s how the West (“democracy”) won!

Science for war, war for science. It has been going for millions of years. Progress doesn’t come cheap. It first have to fight those who want none. For a whole bunch of reasons. From the prosaic, to the most petty [4]. Those in power find progress hard, because, by definition, it means a move forward (forward (pro)-walk (gradi)), Any move is a threat to the establishment [5].

Science, and the scientific method, are as old as the genus Homo (and certainly older). How many today could go naked in the bush, and survive? Not many, because they don’t know much, starting with making and feeding fire… War rewards smarts, and reciprocally. Is it mean, is it hopeless? No, it just is. Science is about what is, and war about creating more of what is [7].

Progress is not innocuous: it’s a war, war against the unknown, war against the certainties of the past, and an understanding moving forward. In any case, it messes minds up, and many don’t like that… Especially when someone else starts the mess [8]. Well, they will still be pushed out of the way…

Ultimately, the giant walls of Constantinople fell to the giant guns of the Muslim invader. And a civilization fell. Did the famed (and imaginary) “Muslim science” (Islamophiles love to promote) succeed that feat? No. The engineers who made those guns were Hungarians. The assault troops who stormed Constantinople were “Janaissaries” Islamized slaves who had been captured as the Christian boys they were… and then brainwashed, imprinted, indoctrinated, and made offers they couldn’t refuse (everything they want, or impalement).

Dictatorships don’t play nice. Later printing was enough to earn the death penalty in Turkey, and that lasted centuries (in France too, but only if unauthorized, and it didn’t last; thanks Francois I for that). Right now the West’s technology is leaking to Xi, a dictator (he says it himself…) OK, maybe he is a “friend” of Trump, but that is still no excuse, let alone a guarantee, and the West should meditate the preceding…

Patrice Ayme

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[1] Ironically, in the Seventh Century, after a horrendous war, the Romans, launching themselves south from Armenia, destroyed the Sassanids. However, this is just after this that the crafty Muhammad attacked… an exhausted Roman army, and a devastated Sassanid army and schizoid, civil war government. So, weirdly, Roman triumph was quickly followed by the destruction and occupation of ⅔ of the empire… 

***

[2] Overwhelming force failed during the Battle of France of 1940: all together, it looked as if France and Britain couldn’t be defeated. And actually the French Foreign Legion had put to flight, after two combined air-sea landings, elite Nazi divisions to flight in Norway. At the famous Midway battle. A small US fleet sank a more than twice bigger, in aircraft carriers alone Japanese fleet (and the Japs had a whole battleship fleet on top of that).

***

[3] Irene Curie and company were indeed dedicated Communists… until at the world intellectual Communist Congress in 1953 the Soviet delegate called Sartre a “dactylographic hyena”… The French delegation, headed by Irene, stormed out…

***

[4] A friend of mine a research Quantum Computing pure mathematician with chair and all the bells and whistles, medals and paid CO2 travelling, sent me a cartoon of Scott Aaronson, a revered figure of Quantum Computing software. The idea, apparently was to make fun of the ideas I proposed on Quantum and Brain. I am used to being made fun in that domain (50 years and counting)… And I sort of count Penrose among my students, so I am used to scoff.

However, why are paid intellectuals so motivated to be offensive to others, even at the price of being idiotic? It’s the old monkey coming out. They are looking for prestige, and want to pull rank. It’s not enough that they are paid to think. It’s even actually, a secret flaw: in spite of all the honors, isn’t it what prostitute do? Money for posing?

Oh, and the cartoon shows Aaronson either doesn’t know Quantum Physics at undergraduate level, or doesn’t hesitate to mislead the public about it… Just to claim he has the awe and mystery, with his Quantum computing algorithm, and others have not. Hopefully more on this later… Got me to think about the axioms of Quantum Physics…

***

[5] This is why the establishment hates Trump so much; because he moves things, and ask why is it the son of Biden gets diamonds from a Chinese plutocrat? And the like. Amusingly, when Macron started to tax tech giants at 3% revenue (as yours truly had begged for for more than a decade…), Trump went all enraged… But apparently Macron was able to talk him out of reprisals against France… Trump, a pure product of the financial establishment and its entanglement with subsidized construction, has been so vilified over the years, that he turned into an enemy of the establishment, where it hurts. The opposite can happen, the most famous case being Perikles… who ended up passing anti-immigrant laws who hurt Athens and himself, and were completely contradictory to the start of his political career… Also, he destroyed Athens in the guise of saving it… Powerful men turn into rogue rockets at the drop of a pin. That’s why we should organize the world to do without them…

***

[6] Maybe because I pointed out the origin of the Manhattan project in France, the New York Times censored my comment in the article linked above. But that was so true the nuclear business with Norway was probably a factor in Hitler’s invasion. In any case, when Norway fell to the Nazis, so full of spies Norway was, that the flight carrying, supposedly, heavy water to France was intercepted by the Luftwaffe. However, French agents had secretly transferred the heavy water into another plane on the airfield, and the heavy water escaped the Nazis…  Long live the new York Times and its Uber Alles view of history!

***

[7] Civilization, as it is, was created by war (in particular, the USA, in its extravagant beauty). The PC establishment doesn’t want to be reminded of that, because it’s sponsored by the plutocratic establishment, which itself, would prefer to see everybody asleep, far from any rebellious passion…

***

[8] I have seen individuals who make a show to project equanimity, gravitas get all enraged… when I proposed to change something to the US Constitution… It’s funny how something so small spiritually can engage minds: Homo takes thinking seriously, even fatally… That’s actually a strength of the species as it provides an environment in which mental progress can thrive…

 

 

 

 

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