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  1. One of the interesting things about good books is that often their marginalia are worth a seperate look all on their own. I was reminded of this when reading Scheidel's "The Great Leveller"; which, in addition to being deeply depressing, also had a few interesting tidbits here and there on other matters. One that caught my eye was the point that armies were historically rather elite institutions. Less than 1% of the population would be on campaign in all but the most dire of circumstances, and the sort of men who made good soldiers in ancient times were by definition the young, strong and those well-resourced enough to afford at least a portion of their own kit. Our intuitions about ancient warfare are accordingly skewed by the comparitively recent emergence of citizen armies which peaked in the 20th century. Scheidel's other point here was that, in armies as in so many things, we're reverting to historical norms. This means that the slow proffessionalization of armed forces around the world is not actually a contingent or abnormal thing driven by external (read: polical) considerations - much as the return-to-conscription camp would like to believe otherwise. Instead it is simply a recognition that a modern, well-trained soldier wielding expensive and technologically sophisticated equipment, is an order of magnitude more effective than a conscript. Remarkably, there is actually some evidence from my country's own military history for just such a hypothesis. Here I'm referring to the battle of Kibati in 2013, where ~230 SANDF special forces and paratroopers faced off against ~5000 M23 irregulars. Thanks to our own disorganisation and the decay of our armed forces, there was not as much lopsidedness in terms of equipment as is usually the case. With more-or-less equal levels of equipment and no outside support (including heavy armour or air support), the SANDF forces killed 700 for the loss of 15. Even accounting for the inherent issue of attacking forces taking higher casualties, this still represents something like a 15:1 level of effectiveness per man. In the aftermath of the battle, the SANDF got its shit together and sent in a properly-equipped battalion with air support. Then they inflicted ~500 casualties for no loss. This seems to me like a pretty good natural experiment in how the tides have turned.
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