Do people realize that they are legends?

We look at the past and think of great Men and Women of legend and subconsciously we believe that they must have known that they are exceptional in some way. In many cases it may actually be true but in most cases they would not have realized it. Some great people of the current era, are they future legends? Would Elon Musk be equated with the likes of Columbus and Vasco Da Gama? Does he realize that may be in five centuries from now, our descendants on different star systems look at him as the guy who started it all? How it would be to look at today’s age as history? How will the Syrian Civil War be looked 50 years from now? Will the Syrian people look at it as the great war of liberation or as the crushing of a rebellion? How will Obamacare be judged? Will it be looked as the Great Deal of the 21st century? Will the current Korean crisis be looked as one of the catalyst for the next World War, the way various Balkan crises during the beginning of the 20th century plunged us towards the First World War?

How will History judge us?

The Boon

Ramsharan was 60 years old. In an age when the average life span was less than 30, he was positively ancient. And 40 years of those 60 he had spent meditating and praying to God and asking Him to fulfill his wishes. Now at the sunset of his life, he was finally going to get his wish.

“My Son. Open your eyes. I am happy with you. Ask what you desire and it shall be.”

Ramsharan was never so angry in his life.

“God! You are late. I am at the end of my life. You are not going to give me immortality and even if you were, I would not want immortality in this decrepit body. I wasted my entire life praying to you. If only I had worked rather than praying, I could have changed the world. I could have made a difference!”

“Tathastu! Your wish shall be fulfilled.”

And God vanished, not in puff of logic, but in that of disbelief and incredulity.

Ramsharan died later that day.

————-

Hariram was old. He had not done anything remarkable in his life. And now on the side of the road, he was dying.

And then on the last day of his pitiful life, the crown prince of Kapilavastu saw him.

————-

“Henry! Get down from the tree lad!”

Henry like any other eight year old was not going to listen to his mom. He continued his stay on the tree. And like any other eight year old, he was greedy. So even though he had an apple in his left hand and one in his pocket, he was still trying to reach for the red ripe one that was just outside his reach. As he was trying to grab it, he fumbled it.

And an apple dropped.

————-

Prof. Andrei Stein was angry. His wife, as was her wont, was pestering him again for getting the repairs done on their house. Andrei was the dean of modern painting in the Vienna Academy of Art and as was the case with all the professors of Arts, rather lacking in monetary benefits. In addition to his wife’s bad temper he had to sit again today interviewing potential students. He hated his wife, his job and his life. He remembered the next student who came in the door. He had rejected him once already.

Even before he saw his work, he had decided to reject him. Again.

A layman’s view on US vs China

China concentrated on economy in the past few decades learning from the mistakes of Soviet Union that it is not worth competing with US over military expenditure. China, in the immediate future, is more concerned about its neighborhood. i.e. India, Taiwan, Japan, South China Sea. Chinese plan seems to be to reach a stage where it would be very difficult for US to interfere in any action that China takes. China also has a very effective stooge in the form of North Korea. The Chinese economy is so intermixed with that of US that China believes that in the future, in any conflict in the region, US will think that it is not worth interfering. Thus effectively giving China a sphere of influence encompassing most of East and South East Asia.

To achieve this parity, China needs to neutralize the US Navy, US AirForce, US technology, US allies. Lets look at each.

US Navy:
The primary US naval weapons are its carriers. China knows the results of the big carrier battles that took place between the US and Japan during the second world war and knows that building a carrier force to counter US carrier fleet is not sustainable. For one, you need to build at least 10 carriers. US has 12 in its fleet. Allowing for the chance that at least half of them would be at home ports or deployed elsewhere, China can expect that in extreme conditions US will put 6 carrier in the pacific. In the gulf wars, US had deployed 3 carriers. Given the strength of China, we can expect 6. Building a naval fleet of 10 carriers to have a chance of defeating US 6, would take a long time and a lot of money. Besides just building a fleet is not enough. You need the carrier air wing and the experienced pilots to fly the planes. PLAN knows that it cant match the skill of US navy pilots who have an experience of more than 70 years in carrier operations. So carriers are out.

Flight deck of USS Harry S Truman

 

Chinese Aircraft carrier Varyag in 2005

To neutralize the US carriers, China is developing/deployed carrier killers. Intermediate range ballistic missiles accurate enough to hit a floating carrier. Aegis missile cruisers with their SM2 and SM3 missiles can counter it, but a large number of missiles can still overwhelm them. It just takes one missile to breach the shield. Carriers will have to come inside the range of shore based fighters to hit targets on the mainland. Shore based fighters armed with harpoon like anti ship missiles could be another option. Swarms of anti ship cruise missiles are another option. Chinese Song class diesel submarines and newer nuclear submarines are also another weapon. Remember the incident when a Song class submarine surfaced near a US carrier and none of the 18 carrier group ships detected them? If not sink the carriers, it can at least neuter their effectiveness.

USS Lake Champlain - A Triconderoga class Aegis missile cruiser - The light gray squares fore and aft are the Vertical Launching System containing various missiles including the Standard Missiles

US Airforce:
China is developing its own fifth generation stealth aircraft which experts believe would be somewhere between the capability of an F22 Raptor and an F35 Lightning II and much much cheaper. With the F22 facing serious issues (The entire fleet was grounded recently) and Chinese Chengdu J20 being ahead of schedule (Estimated time for deployment 2017-18), the US air superiority is questionable. The cost of F35 has ballooned beyond the wildest planning and it is now the most expensive weapons system in the world history without the number or the quality associated with it. China can purchase far more of its homegrown stealth planes and would have far larger number of bases out of which to operate. The number of bases that US has in the region is limited. These bases would also be susceptible to missile strikes. Taking out Kadina in japan would itself take out the entire F22 fleet of the region. Obviously US will disburse its air wing. With the superior number of its stealth airplanes, Chinese could overwhelm any US air wing within 30-40 sorties. One of the main reasons for US air superiority in recent wars have been its AWACS. The US war plan has these AWACS operating outside the missile range of enemy fighters and directing their own fighters against the enemy ones. No enemy fighters could reach the AWACS. Chinese stealth fighters could sneak up on the AWACS and take them out resulting in the US stealth fighters having to turn on their own radars instead of relying on AWACS making them easier to find. China also will be operating close to its own territory thus can use its own shore/ship based radars. Compared to the size of Chinese armed forces the other forces in the region would have fewer shore based radars that could help USAF. Also, the sheer number of cheap home built radars would help the non stealth Chinese fighters (Cheaper and older home built J7 and J8 and more modern SU27, SU30 MKK, Shenyang J11 and Chengdu J10) to take on the US F15s and F16s.

F22 Raptop

 

J20 Vs F22 Vs T-50

US B52 bombers used so well in Iraq and Afghanistan, can only be used where there is complete air superiority otherwise they are just lumbering easy targets. 30 of them were shot down in the Vietnam war by the much inferior Vietnamese air force. Imagine how many of the 74 remaining would be shot down by the Chinese. Only the B2 and B1 would be able to pose a serious challenge. But their effectiveness in turning the war would be limited considering their small numbers. Plus one B2 costs more than a billion dollar. China would have to just destroy 4-5 of the 20 B2s for them to have a loss rate of more than 25% and then being confined back home.

US Technology:
Chinese Cyber soldiers have been stealing secrets from the US government and contractors for years. Chengdu J20 looks surprisingly similar to F22 to realize its origins lies in Lockheed Martin (or may be the design is too optimal to be ignored). China is building its own GPS network to not rely on Glonass or the US GPS. With its anti sat missiles, blinding lasers China could at least attempt to take out US GPS and recon satellites to at least limit their usefulness.

US allies:
None of the US allies in the region, Japan, Korea, Taiwan have the kind of strength to take on China. Their contribution would be mostly more as a support and base locations. The only US “Ally” that could change the course of war is India. If in a full fledged US-China war, India enters on US side, they could tie up a lot of Chinese airforce plus threaten Chinese bases with their carriers.

One thing that goes in favor for US is experience. US armed forces have continuously been involved in one conflict or the other for the past 200 years. That sort of experience counts a lot. A single veteran soldier is worth more than a few rookies. US is not going to fight the war with a fixed play book. They are smart and will figure out ways to counter Chinese strengths during the war. US commanders are experienced and have sufficient freedom to operate independently. Chinese military leaders lack that. In addition, US armed forces are well integrated. Navy, AirForce, Army are used to heavy coordination with each other. China is still to learn that. US also does regular military exercises with its allies thus interoperability in war is improved. Plus we are not counting the other US allies, UK, Britain, France, Germany. They can turn the war. China does not have an ally except North Korea, which would just want to fight with South Korea and cannot be relied on to go by the plan. Russia can get enough spooked by a rising china on its southern border to support the allies, if not by actual force, at least by mobilization. That will tie up a lot of Chinese assets on their northern border.

The conclusion of the long writeup: China – US one on one can go either way. With everyone involved, the allies win.

Disclaimer: The views are my own and I am neither a military strategist nor related in any remote way to armed forces of any nation.

Memento Mori

Sometimes you remember things. Long forgotten things. Things from your childhood. Things from the time when you had just started making memories. And you remember them and may be smile or frown at those memories. And may be you are the only person who still remembers those moments. There may be many people who were part of those events but it is unlikely that anyone else would still have a memory of that event. Does it make those events less real? Did they actually happen?

There are events that have left behind proofs that they happened. So we know that Titanic sank because of all the documented proofs. Newspapers, living testimonials, physical evidences, newsreels etc. And then there are things which can be inferred. So we infer that dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor by the geological evidences. And then there are things which only exists in the memory of one person. Do you remember the time when the girl you had always liked sat next to you in the bus and talked about how bad her work is? Do you remember when you raced your father every morning when he dropped you to school and every time you won? Did it really happen? Or is it something that you just made up? Where is the proof?

Those events exists only in your memory and once you are gone, those events are gone too. They never happened.

Life, Death and Time
Life, Death and Time

Love

“Take me somewhere far away.”

He could not help but smile. “Where do you want to go?”

She looked petulant. “Anywhere. Just you and me. Take me to another universe where there wont be anyone else.”

She rested her head on his shoulder. Her breath on his neck tickled him but he also liked it. He held her in his arms while she watched the sunset. She started humming. “Enmeedu anbu kolla…. Ennoddu serndhu sella…”.

“What was that?”

“You dont understand anything idiot. It is a Tamil song.”

“So what does it mean?”

“Love me… Walk with me…”

He became serious.

She then said. “I will miss you.”

He just stared at the sun.

“Dont you dare worry about me. I will be alright. I will have a great husband and he will love me and I will love him. You will get a great wife and you will be happy too.”

“I know. Tell me, who created God and who created Religion?”

She could just fake a smile. “If there is an afterlife or rebirth, I will be there with you then. I am not going to let you go.”

“I love you.”

She hummed, “Enmeedu anbu kolla… Ennoddu serndhu sella…”.

—-

He was lying on the bed surrounded by his extended family. His favorite grandaughter was lying next to him with her tiny arms on his frail body. He knew that his time was limited.

He could still see her hair blowing in the wind and her beautiful face smiling at him.

He hummed, “Enmeedu anbu kolla…. Ennoddu serndhu sella…”.