CRY HAVOC

Why do people compare COVID with war, and why is that wrong?

In #Italy, partly due to the fact that the present #COVID tzar is a military man, some people  in the ruling classes have started uttering that “Covid is like a war”. Now, I served for my rather uneventful year as a conscript, albeit in the Carabinieri, which meant police/public order duties, and while there are a lot of Veterans in America, many of which I follow and admire, let me venture out on a limb and say that “Covid is like a war” is [$%&£&%] wide off the mark.

Partly I can understand the sentiment. The “wars” that the western world has experienced were since 1945 far away things. While Eastern Europeans paid in blood and tears their subsequent attempts to throw the Communist yoke, the thing was and is sheepishly ignored by the glitterati. So, they grudgingly celebrate Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II, know that Dubcek never played for Manchester United and think that Pel Maleter was the lead singer of a prog rock band of the late 60ies. Nothing salves the conscience like oblivion.

But, if you go back a bit, Wars did not work as COVID does, far from it. While usually top dogs and capital cities are spared too much horrors, especially now with Nuclear weapons lying around, military/political leadership doesn’t go unscathed, and in particular the SUCCESSFUL parts have an alarming tendency to fire people left and right.

Why leadership are spared has been told very well by my Sensei Harald Malmgren, who in an  interview recalled being in the US team that reviewed nuclear options and told “you wanted to have someone to negotiate with afterwards” , And should someone want to  listen to a good lecture on firing people in an organization, look no further than Thomas E.  Ricks  Nimitz lecture .

But that is NOT what war is about. Destroying command and control infrastructure, plus prductin capacity, is always the big payoff, and in fact that was the BIG difference between WW I on the western front and WW II I the same region up until the Blitzkrieg. Fast forward four years after that, and German Luftwaffe units were largely part of a federated air forces where the commanding officer was responsible for defending a particular sector without having to report much to the upper echelons.

Instead during COVID we not only have preached the opposite, central control, but we are practicing it as well. The first thing the EU did was not to try and start as many lines of research as possible while trying to set up early production sites for whatever vaccine would come out: the first thing was to claim supremacy in negotiating with the big pharma companies in an orderly and economic manner…. while enduring lockdowns whose full bad consequences will take decades to be fully assessed, at the same time setting up a 750 BN additional debt to salve the hardship. Talk about “Penny wise and Pound foolish”.

Moreover, wars breed leadership, for one simple reason: unless you are prepared to use a  number of “Zampolit” to machine gun the people who don’t comply with orders, you have to convince your troops that what they are doing  you are doing as well, and it’s worth risking life and limb. You know, “Leadership”. 

The punishments for lack of leadership vary with rank and damage inflicted to the cause, and they range from dismissal, removal (which can also lead to eventual reinstatement, see Ricks et al.), or in extreme cases…. receiving a bullet from the wrong side. It’s not a suicide pact, or rather, it’s not a SENSELESS suicide pact.

What did we have instead? The ones who suffer most the consequences of the lockdowns are in the private sector of the economy, the same which is expected to pay back the debts incurred to throw breadcrumbs at them while retaining AND INCREASING the payoff for those governing and their minions. So, industries, shopkeepers, restaurants etc. must make do with what little money is thrown that way in a very bad year for the economy, but the resulting FALL in all kinds of pollution is not seen as enough to push off correspondingly the huge Gosplan expenses on whatever the glitterati think helps the Climate war. Of curse, none of those have any economic sense per se: under QE, there is a cutthroat search for viable investment similar to lowering water level in a shark tank.

So, you can take it as a given that whatever might be said in Brussels abut “Climate job creation”, “investment opportunities” etc, it’s basically rubbish: these are stranded assets waiting either to be fed tax money or to be eventually scrapped and disposed of, at an equivalent cost. Of course, there is a kind of method to the madness in investing in those: any taxpayer will be billed to fed the White Elephants, he might as well do a tour on their back  and enjoy the scenery, he’s paying. But that’s banging rocks.

What is happening is VERY similar to a Cashflow CDO structure: money gets poured in the top bucket by Central Banks and tax revenues, but those actually adding value to the economy, who at least once had a direct tap through interest income, are deep down in the subordinated and equity tranches.

Once COVID goes away we might have a very interesting political period. Alas, I had two sensor arrays into that, and both are flashing danger.

One, being Italian, is the usual suspect, Alitalia. The company is not strategic, conveying only 8% of the total traffic either within or to/from Italy, and it’s a cash black hole. Yet, the Draghi Government, through a minister coming from Salvini’s Lega no less, is not only trying to save the company in some diminished form, but thanks to some accommodating moves by the EU it is succeeding.

The second is if anything even weirder: Strasbourg, as a second seat of EU government, has survived not only an official EU review saying that it was a useless luxury, but even COVID. Maybe the Institut Pasteur, so far unsuccessful in finding its own vaccine, should relocate there.

Unless politicians find it in them to have governments share in the hardship of suffering FIRST loss,  and presto, the situation will only worsen.