Ultralight portable equipment

I have a weakness for minimalism, elegance. That's probably why my primary interest in military hardware these days is about the potential of ultralight equipment.
Many standard individual military equipment pieces is shockingly heavy. We don't even have to look at weapons, munitions or armour to find such shockingly heavy equipment: Things such as flashlights, jackets, entrenching tools and compasses often feel like lead-lined.

Fascinating dedication and interesting ultralight hardware solutions can be found in the ultralight backpacking/trekking community and their specialist stores.

They do put their pants on one leg at a time, though. Ultralight weight often comes with a price premium or (more troublesome) with poor durability.
I've come to terms with both. The costs would add up to less than 2,000 € per infantryman or scout, which is completely tolerable. The poor durability seems to be tolerable as well if one adapts the ways one uses the hardware:

The ultralight equipment should be in storage in the barracks and be used on one or two key exercises per year or in times of serious crisis. The ordinary equipment could be the more durable and clearly heavier equipment.

There are even ultralight firearms (not quite in trekking stores, at least not in Europe), such as a roughly 2 kg 5.56 mm NATO/407mm ultralight rifle loosely based on the AR-15 pattern and a roughly 4 kg 5.56 mm NATO/389mm (ultra)light machinegun.

I would expect the former to get real hot real quick, but that isn't much of a problem if you agree with my opinion that infantry should break contact within two (at most four) minutes of being detected by opposing forces (to dodge indirect fires). About two 30 rds mags would normally be spent in such an encounter, and three mags expended should be uncommon. This leads to a requirement that 60 rds/2 minutes should be within a tolerable dispersion and zero shift (such as enough to still hit a helmet-sized target at 200 m 90% of the time in otherwise optimum conditions) and 90 rds/2 minutes should not lead to relevant damage. The UL machinegun would have to rather consume 200/300 rds in that time while meeting expectations and avoiding relevant damage. 
The guns' durability until an armourer has to become involved would be acceptable as low as 1,000 rds for rifles and 3,000 rds for machineguns if really almost nothing fails (a few jams excluded) before those thresholds. Again, the training hardware could be heavier (same ergonomics and accessories, though) in order to achieve a better durability.

It takes some dedication (and for those not inclined to favour minimalism also a portion of self-discipline), but there appears to be a third path alternative to the current overloaded, partially armoured and partially digitised infantry on the one hand and exoskeleton-centric science fiction of fully armour plated and heavily armed infantry on the other hand: The agile ultralight infantrymen/scouts.
I really wish we would test this 3rd way alongside the current and mainstream prototype equipment.



Comment on the recent cruise missile diplomacy

The cruise missile strike was conducted by the three nuclear powers in NATO. Its influence on the 24 hrs news cycle is huge, while its influence on the future history of Syria will likely be limited to some people killed and some buildings demolished.
It looks like mindless great power gaming to me - and a most uninspired one, utterly lacking a strategy towards a desirable or at least acceptable outcome. The West didn't and almost certainly won't "win" in Syria - it merely participated in extinguishing the self-consuming daesh strawfire.

Regular readers know it, but I'll still repeat:
Such cruise missile diplomacy is illegal under article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty and other treaties that were signed, ratified and are in effect.

It's thus illegal in the United States as well. Article VI of the United States constitution says so.

The pro-war/pro-great power gaming folks assert that this isn't so because the president is commander of the armed forces and a mere federal law supposedly cannot limit his orders to the military, but those people cannot explain why the president then isn't allowed to murder just about every foreigner for no reason. After all, murder is but outlawed by a mere law.
Well, maybe they think POTUS can legally murder 6.7 billion people, but the 95% non-sociopaths of mankind surely agree that something would be utterly evil and wrong in that interpretation of the U.S. constitution.

I am in disgust of the reactions of those politicians of non-involved countries who welcome or even only tolerate such aggressive behaviour by allies. Such behaviour is 90% of what Germany did that led to the First World War; it tolerated aggression by an ally.

Maybe one or two horrible wars later mankind stands a chance of understanding that such aggressive, violent foreign policy is wrong regardless of faux or real legal excuses. Hopefully, some future generations will scratch their heads in confusion and disgust about the widespread toleration of killing by executive policy decision in peacetime.
We were at that point back in 1944 already. It's too bad that Western civilisation relapsed.



Two dominant battleship designs and the real sunset of battleships

There was a dominant design for battleships in the mid-18th century; the so-called seventy-four gun or 3rd rate ship-of-the-line. This ship was apparently an ideal compromise between firepower and sailing characteristics for great naval battles.

The even bigger 1st and 2nd rate ships of the line were superior in firepower and staying power (their thick wooden hulls were able to withstand a frigate's cannon shots at relevant ranges) which was most desirable as it led to a greater concentration of power in the line of battleships (the spacing between two ships of the line had to be about the same for any design, so a more powerful ship created a greater concentration of mass and was thus superior in raw power). On the other hand, their poor handling characteristics due to larger size and higher hull structures made them less efficient ships of the line, though.

A 74 was not as versatile as a frigate, but still very suitable for being sent on cruises and missions alone - which was hardly ever done with 1st and 2nd rate ships of the line.

The different 74 classes differed from each other, but there was an understanding that they were at a golden middle and a huge quantity was built by the great powers. There were 107 such ships of the Téméraire class alone.

It took one and a half century for another similarly dominant design to emerge after a bewildering variety of experiments - the pre-dreadnought, pioneered by HMS Majestic.

These steel warships used a main battery turret fore and one aft of the superstructure (often twin turrets with 11" or 12" guns), lots of secondary and tertiary artillery casemate guns, triple expansion steam engines, masts only for observation and signalling and a ramming-capable bow design. They were eventually superseded by the Dreadnought generation of battleships (all big gun battleships) which vastly improved the primary artillery firepower and reduced the other artillery to anti-torpedo boat defences.

This dominant design lasted for a mere decade, but almost all great powers followed it with some variations. Again, there was general global consensus about how to design a good battleship. One can appreciate how much the Majestic class led to standardisation by looking at the variety among earlier battleships and the similarity of the Majestic-mirroring pre-dreadnoughts.

Well, what were such ships good for?

A 74 was capable of frigate cruise missions, though rather expensive in operation for this. An important wartime mission besides fleet-in-being was the blockade of ports. Back in the day before there were effective coastal defence craft a squadron of such ships could blockade a port with a close blockade - anchor in sight of the port. Escape was practical at night, rower-equipped or very fast (or lateen-rigged) ships only.

This close blockade approach had become much less practical by the mid-19th century (long after 74s lost relevance): Armoured and steam-powered coastal defence craft were able to engage such a blockade force at will, and could inflict intolerable damage. Still, one could claim that a slightly less close blockade with battleships that had steam engines themselves for survival in dead calm was possible. The ironclad battleships weren't that terribly vulnerable to coastal defence gunships in the 70's and 80's anyway (hence a short-lived fashion in favour of ramming).
The very early (propelled) torpedoes had little capability. They had to be employed very close up and thus didn't change the general picture decisively, as battleships were able to sustain a blockade at least in daytime against the opposition of torpedo boats.

Yet something had changed by the late pre-dreadnought era just before the dreadnoughts arrived: Torpedo-armed submarines such as the Holland class became operational.

The presence of such submarines made it much too dangerous to maintain a close blockade in daylight; even cruising around in the port's vicinity would sooner or later lead to one or multiple torpedo hits as the battleship would inevitably come too close to the submarine sooner or later.

The battleship's utility had been reduced to coastal bombardment (which cruisers were capable of as well), intercepting slower ships on the high seas (cruisers were faster and thus better at interception) and finally escorting high value convoys against interception by other capital ships and cruisers. Great naval battles with lines of battleships facing each other  had no utility in themselves other than perverse entertainment of newspaper readers. They were a means to reduce the potential to do other, actually directly useful, activities.

The British "R" class super dreadnoughts were used for little more than fleet-in-being, coastal bombardment and protection of large convoys against surface raiders, for example. They exemplified the diminished utility of battleships.

The early "fast" battleships of 24-26 kts speed such as the Queen Elizabeth class were of little more utility, albeit used more in wartime efforts (with relatively little effect). They were still slower than the cruisers of their time and much less suitable as raiders than them.

Battlecruisers have an almost universally bad reputation because of the series of explosions of British battlecruisers at Jutland, but they largely devalued the slower and weaker armoured cruisers (which largely followed the "Majestic" pattern, but sacrificed much armour for a few knots of extra speed and more endurance) and led to their end without actually destroying more than a handful of them (ironically all by the flawed British battlecruisers).

Later battlecruiser designs and really fast (29 kts and more) battleship designs were not able to maintain a relevant (or any) speed advantage over contemporary cruiser designs in other than severe seas, though. They had no satisfactory 6-gun main battery salvo in all directions either and were thus not able to keep a preferred distance while delivering effective long-range fires.*

The commonly-held belief about the sunset for battleships appears to be that the rise of the aircraft caused the star of the battleship to plunge. It's true that aircraft excelled at destroying battleships (as did submarines), and a battle between a carrier and a battleship would usually be won by the carrier (HMS Courageous and early on in the Battle of Leyte Gulf being exceptions). What really changes the balance in favour of the carrier (and land-based aviation, but navies don't want to pay attention to this angle) is the much greater utility, though.

I prefer to call the early 1900's as the sunset of the battleship - this was even before HMS Dreadnought, in the late pre-Dreadnought age. Battleships were at that time reduced to superior convoy protection against large surface threats as their only unique selling proposition. Everything else became largely pointless or impractical because of submarines or done better by (battle)cruisers and/or submarines.
The relative uselessness of the ordinary (slow) battleships such as the 'R' class during WW2 and the utterly indecisive role of battleships in the First World War are powerful evidence.

Navies didn't fully recognize this until the undisputable mass destruction of battleships by non-battleship threats left no option of looking the other way any more.

So I draw two lessons from this:
  1. A confirmation that armed bureaucracies can waste vast fortunes on obsolete paradigms.
  2. People are overemphasizing lethality compared to devaluation. Hardly anyone notices that battleships became largely superfluous long before they faced mass destruction by dissimilar threats.



*: A salvo of six shots is needed according to a rule of thumb, as it's too difficult to observe the centre of the salvo's impacts with fewer water fountains.  This observation is critical to correction of aim for a later salvo and thus the probability of hit at ranges beyond about 10,000 m. Hence there were very few capital ship designs with less than six barrels of the primary calibre once centralised fire control was introduced. This six gun rule of thumb lost relevance in the age of radar and proper fire control computers.


Recruitment and retention in the Bundeswehr

There has been a lot of dissent to and even protest against the personnel policies of the Bundeswehr. The recruitment appears to aim at young people who don't want to leave their comfort zone and don't want any martial-ish job. Retention policies appear to focus on on-base luxuries in the era von der Leyen (=minister of defence) while lots and lots of problems that are most detrimental for retention are unsolved.
And then there's the issue that "retention" is almost a misnomer in regard to the Bundeswehr; the career models are still mostly about young people joining as "Soldat auf Zeit" (soldier for a fixed time period), with NCOs and officers maybe becoming career soldiers until retirement afterwards.

Here are my thoughts on the personnel system. I held them (mostly) back for a really, really long time because I actually haven't  had an insider experience in a long time.

In general:
Recruitment for air force and navy security unit personnel and army should be through a militia-ish system. Every German gets the invitation to join the militia for half a year and earn a really good pay there (easily squeezed between school and university, or a temporary gap filler after job training when the employer didn't keep the trainee employed). These six months would give a general military education and basic infantry skills to everyone. This pool of trained reservists would greatly accelerate a military expansion if there's a two-year arms race or even a war in the future. The training would be designed to be militarily worthwhile and individually attractive. It would typically begin in summertime a month after the end of the school year, and end early enough to allow them to join university at the following summer semester with a vacation before and after the militia service.
Some of those who do this would volunteer for another short period for reserve NCO training while others would join the regular army (which then doesn't need to bother with basic training and automatically has an "everyone a rifleman" ethos).
The recruitment for this militia should follow the "masculine" attraction of the job; it's better for their recruitment videos to show stuff blowing up and camouflaged bivouacs in snowy woodland than a daycare centre on the base.

The number one priority should be that the armed services are fit enough that their personnel is proud to serve in them.
Soldiers should not serve on a base where almost nothing is newer than their own age. No cheating about readiness - be ready! De facto 100% of nominal equipment strength should be achieved and maintained. Obsolete equipment is tolerable only for an at most three years long period when the successor hardware gets phased in. Red tape needs to be limited, and superiors who obsess about protecting themselves from consequences of mishaps need to be removed. Officers and NCOs who were promoted beyond their ability need to be demoted. Disaffected personnel that really wants out should be allowed to leave (with some financial disadvantages).

Recruitment for medical services should be cut severely. The military should not have any physicians other than general practitioners and surgeons with focus on trauma patients. The military could use conscription to get other needed specialists in times of war.

Job security after the military service is important; so far you better jump the ship soon enough, or you might end up being unemployed without a decent pension later in your life. So anyone who leaves the armed services after 20 years of service should have a job guarantee with at least 90% of the last military service monthly income in the civilian bureaucracy.

Some physically demanding jobs should be done at age 20-35, and the limits of acceptable ages are 18-38 for these jobs. These physically demanding jobs (infantry, scouts, many engineer jobs) make up less than one quarter of all army personnel, and likely less than half of the army personnel ever had or will have the physique potential to be good at those jobs for several years.
I would thus divide the army into those who have a career involving such physically demanding jobs and those who go through the others (office jobs, mechanics, drivers and so on). The former should stay in the physically demanding jobs (and militia leadership positions) till age 35 or till they really, really want a more comfortable assignment at least for a while. The more of these are in "cushy" jobs at age 24-38, the more internal reserves the army will have for the demanding jobs. The more of them are in "cushy" jobs at age 39-50 the more of an internal trainer reserve for basic and militia training the army will have. These men (yes, "men") would help to make non-combat, non-scout units more robust in combat situations.

The other (bigger) share of army personnel could be hired approximately the conventional way; the prospect of getting a not too stressful job and possibly some training such as mechanic, paramedic or electrician (or a qualification to join a civilian bureaucracy afterwards) would serve as effective incentives. Decent pay, not too many relocations to different bases, not too many off-base courses away from family, climate-controlled office spaces and driver cabs et cetera can make such jobs an attractive career option till retirement. That is, if one gets away from the "soldier for a few years" model and also makes the hierarchy less depressing for the lower ranks (it sucks if 90+% of the troops at your base are authorised to give you orders).

I'm not in favour of the continued existence of the German navy, but I won't have it my way, so here are my 2 Euro cents for personnel affairs of a not-disbanded German navy:
The pre-1900 recruitment appeal of the navy was enormous; join the navy and you'll see the world. Nowadays we can do so by flying, but hardly anyone can afford to travel past the Mediterranean before age 25. So let's exploit this for recruitment.
Build two dedicated training ships (NOT a refurbished sailing vessel!) with good accommodations (compact, but well-designed cabins), training facilities including a movie theatre and a gym. These two ships could cruise once around the world per year, completing the training from basic to sonar operator/administrator/cook/whatever in one year. Dozens of ports all around the world would be visited with long port call periods where the trainees could leave the ship for the evening or for several days.
That should do the trick of recruiting if combined with a four year total voluntary service. There will then be the need to achieve good retention rates with those troops who served well and showed potential.  This should be achieved by a combination of good pay, motivating service and concentration of the whole navy in  one Baltic Sea port (warships and boats could cruise to some saltwater port as a temporary base for saltwater training - the difference does matter for mine countermeasures and ASW).
Warships should be operated by 'seamen for life'; men and women who intend to and usually do serve on board of ships till age 50 if not beyond. Personnel turnover per year should be much less than 10% per year on a warship. Smaller units such as minehunters could be used for the start of a career at sea (to identify those suitable for a 'seaman for life' career), and the rather uncomfortable submarines could have the conventional personnel rotation.

Warships (other than training ships) should never be sent farther than Arctic and Mediterranean waters, and crews should be rotated every couple weeks between sister ships if there's a multi-month mission for a warship in the Mediterranean.

Air force:
Just about every air force world-wide has a reputation for a relatively comfortable service, save for the quasi-infantry security units.
The air force can thus do its recruitment and retention approximately as done or mentioned before. It has no special attraction other than the very small quantity of pilot jobs. Aircraft mechanics are special in my opinion; aircraft mechanic should be a job for life, with retirement at about age 60. The security units could recruit through the militia and rotate personnel with air defence batteries.*

The air force is a branch where attractive barracks features (yes, including daycare, but also a free gym), good pay, pride in functional and purposeful units and a decent work experience (no harassment, no feeling of being at the bottom of the barrel as enlisted personnel) could be the pillars for recruitment (partially through word of mouth) and retention. Over 90% of air force jobs could be done by women at age 50, so there's no need for a particularly young personnel force. A career at the air force could and should typically be a career for age 18-60.

- - - - -

The lack of details and detailed accusations and ranting about specific problems betrays my lack of detailed knowledge of post-2000 Bundeswehr personnel affairs.
This was thus rather an appeal to look at not utterly conventional approaches, farther away than today's approaches from the Cold War's Bundeswehr which rested on short-serving conscripts, recruitment in part through retention of conscripts as volunteers and generally very high personnel turnover in all units.


P.S.: I'd like to fire off ONE very specific rant and complaint, though: "Leichte Sprache" (simplified language for retards) and "Gebärdensprache" (sign language for deaf people) features are 100% unnecessary and indeed most embarrassing on a Bundeswehr recruiting website! WTF!?

*: Air defence small units and units often need to deploy far away from the protection of air base security units, and should be as capable of self-defence as "rear" field army units. Many NCOs in the air force security units appear to (in my experience) overcompensate and can be unnecessarily uncomfortable superiors. Periods of service away from such an environment could be welcome relaxation, so a rotation to units with rather technically-minded NCOs and officers as in air defence units makes sense.


The Russian "long game"

An unsolicited advice:

Apply Occam's Razor when someone asserts that Putin's Russia plays the long game to hegemony (or anything else).
Couldn't it be that this someone sees slowness, interprets it as a symptom of systematic and steady progress towards a long-term goal - but in reality that slowness is nothing but the symptom of resources too limited for any grand goals?



[Blog] Unpopular things, the big picture and blog (in)activity

I have  habit of telling unpopular things, such as telling warship fans that most warships are unnecessary, telling combat aviation fans that ground/ground missiles should be used more and air/ground attack is unreliable, or telling army fans that we actually have plenty land forces compared to the few threats, and the issue is rather in quality than in quantity or budgeting. I tell military-loving folks that all small and offensive wars are bollocks, war doesn't work and military spending should rather be slashed than increased.

It appears that I sought and found a niche that guarantees a failure in any attempt to reach a large audience; "unconventional" conclusions and opinions that hardly anyone shares among those people who frequent military blogs.

On top of that I mastered the skill of alienating many longtime readers by offering contradictions in comments or private correspondence.

Well, this isn't a commercial blog, so I got that one excuse at least.

Still, the obvious and seemingly unavoidable failure to bring much of a message across for want of a large audience is having an impact on my motivation. I've had my very motivating military theory-heavy times at the blog years ago, and hardware-centric writing was never particularly motivating.
Right now I don't have a single topic to write about on my mind that I didn't think of months or years ago already (and thus obviously delayed and avoided again and again).

The grand picture is one of government establishments and public opinion finally shifting back to collective defence from stupid wars of de facto occupation. This pivot won't be done in any economically or time-efficient way, but it's happening and I suppose it will suffice to deter any great power attack on NATO and EU members for at least a decade to come.

Turkey - a geostrategically very important country - is drifting away from the West and the Russians are back in the stupid great power game of messing up the Mid East, but this won't really change the daily lives of Europeans.

Comically inept and other psychologically compromised or simply authoritarian politicians pop up and disappear after a couple years or decades. We've seen that before as well.

Germany will sometime in my lifetime return to a government with an intention to reform the country to reduce well-known problems instead of being ruled by a coalition intent on almost nothing but maintaining its power and most other aspects of the status quo. 

NATO thought of itself as some liberal / free world alliance in the 90's, but now it's back to being a partially dirty and uncomfortable bloc as it already was in the 60's and 70's.

We Europeans shouldn't pay much attention to what happens in the Far East, except that all involved parties should think of us as readily available honest brokers should the need for one arise. The British appear to be somewhat tainted by the idea that they need to think of the PR China as a threat due to lacking a language barrier with the Americans and having strong links to the Australians,

Maybe sometime in a few decades I will be a grumpy old man who annoys people by pointing out that I was correct on certain conclusions all along (I would certainly not point out my mistakes - hardly anyone does, so why would I?).

So lange Rede, kurzer Sinn (long talk, little meaning): 

I intend to keep blogging, but I will likely write much less ever since 2009. I expect maybe 100-150 posts for this year, and lots of those will be low effort blog posts.
You have my promise that if I ever end blogging I will write a farewell if I still can, and not simply disappear as did all-too many mil bloggers that I more or less followed in the past decade.



Personal Defence Weapons

I do see I didn't write much lately, and in an expression of continued laziness I'd still like to give readers at least something:
A hint at a somewhat embarrassing hardware-centric website I did once create and maintain until I got tired of the hosting fee. It's all about personal defence weapons and was several times praised for offering a useful overview. It's still -unmodifiable and almost forever (the internet does not forgive!)- in the wayback machine of the Internet Archive:

It was created in a 1990's html editor software, and looks that way.

One of the most frustrating things in creating and maintaining the website was the inflation and seemingly endless quantity of extremely short-barrelled 5.56x45 mm weapons that was incompatible with the goal of comprehensiveness. I did totally not know about and thus also did not include handguns that used the .30 carbine calibre. They should have been mentioned.

Easter egg; I am really, really not creative in creating banners. ;-)

Anyway, feel free to visit that mirror above if you like to have a nostalgic look back at the pre-youtube internet and the time when I was still hardware-centric! :-)



Arms racing; escalatory or de-escalatory?

Weeks ago I made a case for an intermediate legal situation between true peace and mobilisation. The idea was that deterrence (which is assumed to preserve the peace) is more effective if a potential aggressor doesn't expect major time lag advantages from moving first.
Alternatively, we could look at it as a cost-saving measure; you don't need to have all the military expenses to counter what a threat has AND it can build up in strength over two years of arms racing if you can credibly expect to be effective at counter-arms-racing in those two years. That capability means you only need to deter against what capabilities the threat has plus what it can build up in six months of arms racing.

It's a bit odd for a German to write about this and on this side of the aisle because our news media, historians and politicians appear to have a consensus that arms racing is not deescalatory, but escalatory. 

That may very well be true (which means we should find ways to change this), but arms racing and being prepared to arms-race are as different as are warfare and deterrence. The ability to grow much military power during a short arms race may (should) discourage any plans of aggressions that would be built on the assumption of creating an advantage through a superior arms-racing effort.

On the other hand, the possibility of for example a 30% growth in military power during a mere two years peacetime might be perceived as threatening and provoking higher military expenses by another power. This could be mitigated if only countries known to be rather defensive (not meddling, bombing and invading on distant continents all the time) establish this enhanced arms-racing capability.

I'm not irritated in the slightest that this turns out to be an argument against participation in stupid small wars (= all small wars).


P.S.: I understand that I made up "arms racing" as a verb. I found no better alternative to express the concept.


Iceland security

I meant to write a normal-sized blog post about this for a while, but I'm simply not very motivated to blog these days.

So have a look at these




keep the previous post on OTH radars in mind and stuff like this

and this

and have your own thoughts about whether we (NATO) maybe neglecting the Northern flank's security these days and what should be done instead.



Why should we have a military?

"What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"
Madeline Albright, 1992

 Yes, what's the point of a military?

I suppose to answer this properly you need to go back to the question of what's the point of having a government.

The Western view since the the enlightenment is that government serves the people. We, the people, by majority agree to do things together for our own good - we are a community.

There were other reasons for governments in the past. Some motivations were
  • to seek security in greater numbers.
  • to do things together in order to be able to exploit others.
  • to organise an effort of many to worship some deities.
The enlightenment view  - as documented in the philosophical construct of the contrat social - has been the dominant in Western circles on the surface. Another rationale ("To do things together in order to be able to exploit others.") has been more of an undercurrent, particularly in countries that had a rather dysfunctional political culture or a dictatorial regime at the time.

"to seek security in greater numbers" became rather the motivation behind supranational alliances than behind individual governments.

The hawkish party (which is not necessarily congruent with a political party) tends to emphasise "to seek security in greater numbers" as a key purpose of government. This is particularly evident in the utterly ignorant nonsense that government is merely meant to provide security against criminals and foreigners. And I call this utterly ignorant because it is - the function of providing rule of law regarding properties is completely essential to any wealth, for example. There would be no private property and hardly any functional markets without enforcement of rules regarding property and trade.
So the hawkish party espouses that security is what government about (not social security, of course). The problem with this is that their actions betray them. They behave according to another paradigm - "to do things together in order to be able to exploit others" at any opportunity given, though with a minor variation nowadays: They're not so much proponents of exploiting as of harming, dictating and at times eliminating others. This variation is but a cosmetic one, though. Nowadays exploitation isn't about taking away more wealth than is effort required to take it. Exploitation is nowadays at best about exploiting the capacity of others top take a beating in order to make oneself more comfortable psychologically. Many "problems" that can supposedly be addressed with aggressive military power are not material problems to the hawkish party. Defiant loudmouths and people with a very much different culture seem to be outright favourite targets to the hawkish party.

To princes of old government served their own and their dynasty's well-being, to modern 'hawkish party' partisans it appears to serve to alleviate their psychological stress.

My line - as repeated again and again on this blog -  is a very different one, one rooted in economic theory. I follow the notion of government by and for the people
Government action for the people must not do more harm to the people than good - which leads to a simple (though only theoretical) criterion for judging government action: The net benefit (benefit minus costs) should be maximised.

To conquer in order to exploit is simply not profitable any more, and thus cannot be considered a subset of government by and for the people. The benefits that government can bestow on the people with military power are mostly keeping peace (sparing the people the damages of war) and in worst case restoring the peace at minimised costs. Deterrence and defence.
There's sometimes a little benefit to be gained by the entertainment factor - parades, fascinating videos of war (remember the 1991 war porn?), positive feelings of pride. There are also a few other benefits such as disaster aid. No such secondary benefits come anywhere close to the benefit of keeping the peace, and such secondary benefits can either be provided at lesser costs by civilian organisations or the military is the most efficient institution to deliver those because their costs are sunk anyway.

All this leads to another cornerstone of what I write a lot about; the benefits from military power are limited. You don't get much more benefit from spending more once you succeeded at keeping the peace without concessions. This leads to much criticism of overspending, inefficiencies and spending that's not cost-efficient for deterrence or defence.

There is one philosophical uncertainty in all this, though: Benefits are not absolute. Even famous economists like to pretend they are, and pretend that one currency unit means the same to one person as to another, but there's no evidence to back this up. It's merely an assumption that makes matters calculable.
Philosophers have not yet found a definitive answer to how to value benefits (or even only money). They have theories, but none are fully satisfactory. There's also the information problem - only a god-like being would know how much value goods and services truly have to a person.
This keeps us from being able to claim with 100 per cent certainty that the satisfaction from seeing things getting blown up is less important than the suffering of the people who used to live or work in those buildings, or lost friends and relatives in there.

The "for the people" aspect adds another complication; how would we weigh the suffering of foreigners in a cost-benefit calculation?

Philosophy, economics and rational thought don't necessarily matter to people, of course. Some people are simply locked-in in opinions that were built on fears, aversions, disrespect and emotional needs. They would be fine with giant government expenses to beat up some loudmouths on another continent if only the government dudes don't show up on the doors and take share of the costs right away. Abstract public debt (delayed and magnified costs) is a much more comfortable price to pay. The connection is rarely seen this way - just as a dog doesn't understand why it gets punished for something it did hours ago. We, too, are animals with limited ability to process complex affairs.

Maybe you - the reader - are one of those who think (and write) that I should stick to military stuff and stay out of political issues because I'm "idiotic" about those.
Well, I like to think that the gargantuan efforts that sustain governments should be worth it. I do not see any evidence that aggressive military/foreign policies are worth it - but I see a lot of people whom I do not trust when they pretend that they have solid, conclusive reasoning behind their opinions.


P.S.: This was meant to be about inter-state warfare. Wars of independence are much less clear-cut. 

P.S. again: Well, I attempted to keep this blog post at an easily readable length.  That was probably a mistake, there's much more that should have been mentioned. I'll think about other ways to get the thoughts across.