2017/12/31

2017

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At least no war was started in 2017* and the only NATO country that descended into dictatorship was Turkey. My expectations for 2017 were worse on both counts.

S O

*: Unless you count the conflict between the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurds as a (new) war.
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2017/12/29

A different perspective on military combat aviation

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There's a card game for children in which one vehicle, animal or whatever trumps another; it's called Trumpf cards. You win a small victory against the other player if you have the faster, heavier, better motorised or bigger thing on your card, and you choose what metric of the card you want to play.
It's an utterly infantile way of comparing different items - seemingly objective metrics.


Discussions about combat aircraft have a very similar impression on me; they're about range, g limits or turn rates, payload, radars, stealth. Those people who appear to be more knowledgeable do quite the same, just at greater level of detail. They also tend to neglect the importance of fleet efficiency; there's no point in comparing aircraft 1-on-1 if you have the choice between 100 F-15s and 200 F-16s at a given budget.

I'll present a different was of looking at combat aviation, and I'll use the extreme and interesting case of West Germany in the 1970's as the example.

Back in the early 70's we had two kinds of combat aircraft (F-104G Starfighter and G.91), later reinforced by a third kind (Sparrow missile-less F-4F Phantom II).

Now that I've mentioned you can actually pretty much forget about the hardware itself already. 

What was the mission?
The constitutional mission was defence, but the actual primary mission was to help avoid World War 3 by deterring the Warsaw Pact.

Well, how do you deter the Warsaw Pact?
Two ways are possible: To impress them with your ability to fight a nuclear war after having been attacked, and to impress them with your ability to fight a non-nuclear war after having been attacked.

The first West German minister of defence was apparently focused on nuclear warfare. He opted for the F-104G, an aircraft that was good for little but photo recce, lobbing nuclear bombs at targets and surprise kills in ground radar-assisted sneak attacks on enemy aircraft. Many hundred nuclear-capable Starfighters were available to lob nukes on Warsaw Pact mechanised forces, airbases and bridges.

West German F-104G
The G.91 was a budget solution of little importance; a little subsonic fighter-bomber for close air support. It was numerous, but not really prominent in the air war concept of the 70's.

Later on the F-4F Phantom II joined the club, but it was a VERY different aircraft. Bigger, better range, two man crew, much more effort required for purchase and operation per aircraft. The one saving grace was that it had a much more impressive conventional warload than either Starfighter and G.91, none of which exceeded WW2 propeller fighter-bombers' conventional ground attack capabilities. The F-4F carried approx. twice the bombload of a typical medium WW2 bomber when used as a fighter-bomber, but much of its employment would have been in fighter and photo recce roles instead.

The range and payload combination enabled the Phantom IIs to reach even Oder bridges from West German airbases, albeit this was at best at the limit of their practical abilities.

Still, this skill was important because of one fundamental consideration: 
The West German (FRG) government claimed to represent all Germans and did not recognize East Germany as anything but a Soviet-occupied part of the Federal Republic of Germany. War plans that required us or allies to nuke East Germany or even only Warsaw Pact ground forces that invaded West Germany were unacceptable in the event of actual WW3. Thus anyone who considered deterrence no safe bet would naturally be worried about the harm done to the own nation in the event of WW3.
A different equipment strategy (than the Starfighter/Gina force) would make sense -  one that enables the Luftwaffe to deal with Warsaw Pact mechanised forces, airbases and bridges and other targets without nuking our own people. The F-4F provided a little bit of capability in this regard, and the MRCA that became the Tornado IDS offered an approach that seemed realistic and thus deterring:


British Tornado IDS

The Tornado IDS would exploit good range (with droptanks), high subsonic speed at very low level and the terrain following radar to approach the targets very low (avoiding air defences and the ubiquitous MiG-21 fighters), destroy the target with their large conventional payload and try to return unscathed. (The MiG-23's and later MiG-29's look down radars as well as the few Soviet AEW aircraft were the Tornado crews' nightmares.) Additionally, they were capable of the very same things as the Starfighter, minus the rapid climbing.

This was an effective, both deterring and potentially defending, air war component that might have averted nuking German cities on the Oder (bridges tend to be at cities) and small towns (the Soviets built their airbases right next to towns, not spaced by multiple kilometres like NATO).

The downside of this was the susceptibility of the concept to modern pulse doppler look down radars (the approach was highly questionable by the time the Tornado IDS became operational in large numbers) and the immense expenses. A Tornado IDS had two engines with each 40.5 kN dry thrust and 71.2 kN thrust with afterburners. There was a two-man crew and the avionics were very sophisticated for their time, including two radars and commonly carried jamming pods.

The difference between a Tornado IDS and a F-4F or F-104G went well beyond metrics; it was about an altogether different way of risk mitigation. MoD Strauß (F-104G proponent) did not care much about the effects of dropping nukes all over the own country. MoD Schmidt (Tornado IDS proponent) did, and pursued an approach to air war that was meant to first keep the peace by deterring a Warsaw Pact attack and as a backup plan giving the own people a chance to survive by avoiding or at least delaying a nuclear inferno at home.

- - - - -

Meanwhile, the USAF was coined by its experience over North Vietnam where sophisticated strike packages pushed through defences and finally relearned the old lesson that precision guided bombs are extremely effective against fixed target structures. The USAF kept investing in Wild Weasels, anti-radar misisles and finally introduced the F-15E, which was less well-suited for Tornado IDS-like mission profiles but equipped with laser-guided bombs. The USAF thus had yet another concept for air war; one in which strike packages push through air defences and MiGs to knock out targets with PGMs. This concept eventually superseded the terrain following approach that was de facto doomed by look down/shoot down fighter radars and AEW. It also developed the stealth bomber infiltration concept for strategic (B-2) and tactical (F-117) bombers. These two USAF offensive air war concepts are still dominant for conventional warfare, but both of them are extremely expensive and above-average dependent on technological superiority.

- - - - -

Other approaches could have been sensible in the 70's and 80's as well. A focus on fleet efficiency in conventional warfare for maximum deterrence, for example.



The F-5E was available a decade earlier than the Tornados. It had two engines of 15.5/22.2 kN each, was more capable of using grass strips as runways, clearly superior in daylight air combat compared to both Tornado and Starfighter and as a strike fighter he could have provided sterling service in CAS. Its avionics were simple and cheap, and its operation was cheap as well. Its small size served it well in air combat (almost invisible to the eye head-on) and enabled its users to hide the aircraft under foliage and in buildings alongside highways.
The Luftwaffe could have afforded almost a thousand F-5E/F Tiger IIs instead of 212 Tornado IDS. Those Tiger II's would have generated about eight times as many sorties per day (almost exclusively daytime missions).* Five 500 lbs bombs would have been a realistic payload for CAS missions, and a Tornado would struggle to match a daily delivery of 120 500 lbs bombs (F-5E) with its daily delivery of 36 1,000 lbs bombs. The even more crude F-5A version was already known for excellent bomb placement.
Furthermore, it would have been toast almost every time a MiG-23 got a jump on the Tornado, while fivefour Tiger IIs would have been vastly superior in air combat to a single MiG-23.

This approach would have yielded a thousand fighters with air combat characteristics superior to MiG-21s** and with double or triple the ground attack effectiveness of a G.91 at about the same procurement costs of the Tornado IDS; without substantial R&D expenses.

The Soviets would still have been deterred by NATO's (non-FRG) nuclear delivery capabilities (small 1-5 kt TNTeq nukes on precise 1,000 km missiles could have dealt with the difficult bridge and airfield targets that the Tornado IDS inventors were concerned about - the civilian casualties would have been rather limited, particularly if the civilians had 12 hrs time to flee from settlemetns close to such obvious targets).

So there were three ground attack strategy choices;
- to focus on participation in nuclear warfare, effectively planning a genocide on your own people
- to focus on conventional interception (long range ground attack) with sophisticated, specialised and expensive aircraft
- to focus on conventional CAS with many cheaper but more versatile aircraft, without dealing with the far away targets directly (or keeping a couple old Starfighters for that role)

- - - - -

A comparison of F-104G, Tornado IDS and F-5E in a West German 1970's context should thus not be about top speed, range, bombload on a single sortie, avionics or turn rates. It should (have) be(en) about what can be done, what concept for offensive air war is or was behind such choices.
I have observed the Jäger 90 / Eurofighter debates since the 1980's, and I have not seen any detailed tech discussions until the 90's and the public discussions never outgrew that infantile phase. To date we (Germans) have Typhoons with marginal land attack capabilities that are optimised for very high altitude air combat in a modest radius around paved runwyay airbases. Neither the remannts of the Tornado force nor the small Typhoon land attack capabilities would matter much in regard to close air support, and interdiction would de facto be limited to blowing up bridges. It just happens that blowing up bridges isn't all that important to NATO defense in Eastern Europe. The Bundeswehr's Luftwaffe appears to be drifting in regard to its appraoch to alliance defence air war, and there's not even a hint of a public discussion about this.
You can easily find people playing Trumpf cards about Su-35, Typhoon, Rafale, F-22 and F-35 on the internet, though.


somewhat similar non-mainstream thoughts on military aviation:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2011/08/analysis-of-late-propeller-era-combat.html


S O

*: The realistic asumptions here are Tornado IDS three sorties with each 12 x 1,000 lbs bombs for CAS (CAS because of using similar mission radius for a fair comparison), F-5E/F six sorties with each five 500 lbs bombs. Four F-5E/F could be afforded instead of one Tornado IDS taking into account Tornado development costs and assuming F-5 license production in the FRG. Both Tornado and Tiger II were capable of a few more daily sorties for a few days, but not for a week or more.
https://theaviationist.com/2017/06/14/russian-video-of-captured-u-s-f-5a-tiger-jet-dogfighting-against-mig-21-in-tests-raises-question-do-they-still-operate-american-jets/ 

edit:
I shouldn't have mentioned so much hardware while trying to bring across an abstract thought. The main point was how hardware choices reflected fundamentally different approaches to (offensive) air warfare, as well as deterrence. The F-5 thing was meant to be peripheral only - it was meant to make the secondary point about fleet efficiency more forceful.
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2017/12/12

Comment on European investments in air power

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I wrote before about reasons to be skeptical of air power (platforms) in land warfare, and this time I'll explore one particular problem in greater detail.

A casual look at aerial imagery of Fliegerhorst Nörvenich (a Typhoon air base of the German air force) shows roughly two dozen hardened aircraft shelters and several other usual locations where one might suspect Typhoons. The main maintenance hangar of such an airbase usually has 1-4 aircraft at all times, for example. Or, well, that's how remember it.

https://mapcarta.com/de/18761032

So there's a total of about 30 very likely locations for Typhoon aircraft for a nominal strength of about 35 Typhoons. The Luftwaffe has a total of six tactical air wings (equipped with either Typhoons or Tornado), and I suppose there are a total of 200-230 very likely locations for the Typhoon and Tornado aircraft in peacetime, particularly at nighttime and on weekends. We can add roughly 20 more for hangars of the aviation industry where aircraft are for major maintenance and upgrades.
Air defence units' radar vehicle storage locations and other super high value target locations would easily add up to 50 more locations of great interest.

Now let's think about the cruise missile threat: Cruise missiles launched from ships (could be containerised in 40 ft ISO containers on cargo ships) have enough reliability and accuracy that one might expect about 80-90% of the locations hit with effect (including through hardened shelters - those things are not really hardened against direct hits of dedicated munitions) if each two missiles were ordered to be launched for every location.
 


That's less than 500 cruise missiles. The average price of a cruise missile in quantity production doesn't vary very much with size or range because the electronics and engine are the cost drivers. American cruise missiles cost anywhere between USD 0.5 and 1.6 million depending on type, order size and year. It's a safe bet that four cruise missile with 40 ft ISO launch container would cost less than USD 8 million. Let's set the likely lower prices of Russian cruise missiles aside for a moment; the capability to launch 500 cruise missiles would cost well less than USD 300 million, including chartering a couple small container ships and manning them for a couple months.

That's less than the price of three Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft.

That salvo of 500 cruise missiles could - if surprise is achieved - take out well over 100 Typhoon and Tornado tactical aircraft, with Typhoons priced around USD 100 million.

So essentially a proper aggressor who would seek strategic surprise and be prepared to exploit such a surprise effect could knock out maybe half, maybe three fourths of the Luftwaffe at the price of way less than 5% of its Typhoon inventory. And piling up more aircraft is no viable strategy to counter this, nor is better hardening of shelters a reasonable strategy.

On the one hand the hardened shelter approach that became so dominant after the 1967 Six Days War has been devalued by conventional cruise missiles (and likely also conventional ballistic missiles, but those are rare). There's no real alternative in use during peacetime, even though saturation fo airbases with dozens of additional sabotage- and somewhat blast/fragmentation-protected shelters would be possible.



On the other hand the extreme contrast between the expense for first strike munitions and their target platforms calls into question the entire idea of defence by (European) air power platforms. It's an 'all eggs in one basket' kind of problem.

The other major European air forces are affected by this as well - 1,500 cruise missiles could knock out most of the Typhoon, Rafale, Tornado ECR and Mirage 2000-5 inventories, dozens of destroyers and frigates as well as hundreds of other high value targets.

- - - - -

I have noticed again and again that internet discussions on air power are focused on 1-vs-1 comparisons of fighters (and in case of Brit; and obsession with Brimstone) and overall nominal aircraft type quantity comparisons.

Many relevant factors don't get their due attention, such as:
  • fleet efficiency (sometimes one should rather discuss 3-vs-1 situations because the aircraft costs are so very different)
  • sortie rates
  • time on station for fighters
  • effect of datalinks
  • effect of missing AEW support
  • advantage of flying over friendly area air defences
  • ability to operate from improvised airfields
  • ability to repair airbases
  • ability to withstand surprise attacks
  • comparison of first week effect between aircraft-launched land attack missiles and container-launched land attack missiles
  • readiness rate
  • inventory of high quality PGMs (such as later AMRAAM versions)
  • dependence on tiny active radars in missiles for air superiority
  • loss of efficiency from strike packages compared to all-strike fighter missions
  • loss of time (sorties) from fighting for air superiority and attrition of air defences
  • often poor hit probabilities of air combat missiles

The aforementioned risk of major knockout blows by surprise cruise missile attacks is but one issue. Still, it's probably the most important issue that doesn't get due attention in regard to air power for Europe.*

- - - - -

I may sound utterly continental and German here, but in my opinion land power has the charm that it's not so terribly on the all-eggs-in-one-basket trip. An entire mid-sized navy could be ruined by two dozen cruise missiles. An entire mid-sized air force could be ruined by a few hundred cruise missiles. It takes many hundred cruise missiles to ruin a mid-sized army. You would at the very least need to knock out a major portion of MBTs and SPGs to consider it a major blow.

Fleets have been surprised and ruined in harbours for ages - Cadiz, Copenhagen, Taranto, Pearl Harbour. Air forces have been dealt terrible blows as well - Barbarossa and Six Days war come to mind. Land forces on the other hand were terribly surprised only if they were within few hours cruising speed of opposing land forces. That's not the situation of the German land forces as of now.

From this point of view the Heer looks incredibly much more robust and incredibly much more budget-efficient for deterrence and defence than the Luftwaffe ever could. (The Deutsche Marine is useless anyway.)

So once again I tried to explain why I don't really care much about major flying air power platforms. I'm not stupid enough to believe that a single fighter fanboi would be swayed by this, of course.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: And no, the around 120 combat-coded F-22s (of a total 186) which may realistically generate 100...200 sorties per day would not save the day. They would become effective in Europe after several days only, and it's questionable if the USAF would want to operate them from airbases with already cracked shelters. Moreover, they could be reached by cruise missiles as well - especially once they're deployed to Europe. I see little reason to expect the Russians to pursue even only in theory a symmetrical strategy against the F-22s. That's what the F-22 has been optimised for at great expenses, after all.
Moreover, F-15C/D and F-16C/D don't look competitive with Su-3x threats unless the Russians badly slacked in the missile quality department. 

P.S:: In case you think that Western intelligence would reliably warn; a desensitization strategy could feature ships with such missile containers as replenishment ships of regular Russian navy exercises. It would also be most difficult to tell such preparations from ships being sent to export arms in containers. Moreover, an ordinary container ship may have about 150 40 ft ISO containers on the highest level of the stacked container load, which would suffice for roughly 600 cruise missiles.
Arsenal ship and SSGN concepts have always been idiotic warship-centric ideas. 
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2017/12/08

That stupid Little Cold War

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So Erdogan visits neighbouring NATO ally Greece as first Turkish president in decades and they end up refreshing the Aegean islands sovereignty dispute in front of the cameras.

This is about the dumbest thing possible in the region. Greece has well-known economic and fiscal issues and had to reduce its military spending dramatically.

Turkey experienced a 15-year catch-up economic boom, but certain parts of the economy seem to be in a bubble and the government's turn towards authoritarian rule and away from rule of law has begun dragging the economy down.

A revival of the utterly nonsensical Little Cold War about to whom the or certain Aegean islands belong may become extremely wasteful.

related:

I strongly propose to avoid such wasteful nonsense by giving a strong signal clarifying the situation:
The islands are internationally recognized as Greek, and Greece is a EU member, and in case of invasion would be defended and if need be liberated by Greek's EU allies.

7. If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.
Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.
Pro-Europeans, step forward and do something!

The Turkish politicians are aggressively loudmouthing and offensive against the German government and society anyway and the refugee issue has IMO to be dealt with through strategic demotivation (instead of by plugging one route after another), so there shouldn't be any real obstacle to clarifying the situation this way. Some Turkish politicians will spin and smoke, but that's what they do anyway.

Greece should after this clarification of the situation further reduce its military spending well below 2% GDP, avoiding the 'hollow forces' syndrome and being relaxed about Turkey.

further related:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2017/04/europes-defence-in-long-term-in-light.html

S O
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2017/12/05

Cooperation & solidarity vs. politics of aversions

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Back in the 80's there was much talk about the competition between capitalism/democracy and planning economy/single party dictatorship. During the 90's many people believed the thesis that Western liberalism had won for good.

I suppose this idea of Western liberalism is largely misunderstood. Its divisions are so extremely divergent since the 80's and have so very hostile partisanship divide between their followers that by now we could proclaim a new system competition within the Western world, in addition to the harassment by the relatively unimaginative authoritarian oligarchy with great power mindset in Russia.

The divide in the West isn't really about progressives and conservatives; few people truly deserve either label all-round anyway. The divide is different.

Germany's current society was built on a foundation of "us". "We" act together to solve our problems and challenges. Cooperation/togetherness and solidarity are the basic building blocks for this. Not everyone adheres to this foundation, but I suppose about 60-80% of Germans do.

The competing concept was revived in the 80's by Reaganism/Thatcherism, and became ever more extreme and rabid, but also ever more dishonest in the U.S. during the 90's and especially the Obama years:

It's a world view of "me, me, me!", in which one doesn't want a dime of one's taxes spent on helping 'brown people'. The central motivation in such politics is not to solve problems together, but to marginalize if not outright subjugate and hurt 'others' - brown people mostly, but also political enemies.

One group after another was declared to be 'takers', 'enemies', 'them', 'foreign'. Over time, this affected African-Americans, Hispanics (the supportive Cubans mostly excluded), Asians, Europeans, 'Leftists', more or less all government agencies, lesbians, gays, transgender, unemployed people, single mothers, women who had an abortion, medical personnel and consultants associated with abortions, journalists (up to the few actual news people on Fox News), Jews (though they are usually not targeted by those in high positions), Puerto Ricans and even Hawaiians.
The opposing political forces became more adversarial and hateful as well as the political culture deteriorated badly since the mid-90's with politicians obviously putting party before country most of the time.

This adversarial concept for politics solved few problems (though it did sometimes cut back errors made by the political opponent). Today, the U.S. has an unsustainable fiscal situation, unsustainably low savings rate, unsustainably low investment rate including public infrastructure investments, excessive spending on healthcare and 'security'/'defense', cannot solve pressing problems such as obesity rates/environmental issues/drugs/gun crimes/minority poverty rates and is rapidly losing most long-time friends in the world.
Still, there are plenty people who think that Germany needs exactly that kind of thinking.

It's obvious to me that switching to such an altogether different perspective on how to run a society would cause great transition harm to Germany even if the perspective as such was leading to superior policies.

For this reason there's a system competition between the U.S., Hungary, Poland and to a lesser extent the UK* (as well as minority political parties) on the one side and the cooperation- and solidarity-minded Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavian countries (as well as no doubt a couple other countries) on the other side.

Sure, the more mainstream interpretation views Hungary, Poland, Trumpism and Russia in one block that's threatening the Western liberal system. But I think this misses the point; Putin is merely amplifying the strength of antisocial ideas. The real competition if not conflict was there by the 80's already, then covered-up by the dominant Cold War that made Westerners close the ranks.


I fully expect comments calling me 'interesting in military affairs, naive in politics' and similar. There's nothing in here that would convert followers of the politics of aversion into cooperation- and solidarity-minded people, after all. This was just a diagnosis of how I see the fundamental problem of our time.

S O

P.S.: Years ago I wrote about current challenges to Germany. I did not think of this one yet. It's become much more obvious now. Three years ago the popular majorites of Germany and the United States still felt like real allies. That was before adversarial politics triumphed in the U.S. in 2016 and Germany had an political party that directed aversion against minorities (and the established order) and still mattered.

*: They're having particularly interesting politics now, with the left wing of the supposedly left party having become powerful and opposing a poorly-led right wing.
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2017/11/29

Another natural experiment about the defence of Europe

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I already wrote about the natural experiment of Greece crashing its extremely high military spending for fiscal reasons, but nobody invaded, bombed or blockaded Greece afterwards. The higher spending was not necessary for defence. It was bollocks from their stupid little Cold War with Turkey.

We saw another natural experiment this year; there's some reason to believe that Putin can blackmail Trump, Trump does absolutely no criticism of Russia, talks shit about NATO allies repeatedly and gives practically no signals that the U.S. would defend NATO members like Estonia.

Yet European governments did not rush to compensate the sudden unreliability of the U.S. as an ally. They surely could have done this. It doesn't take a year to stand up an alternative multinational HQ that makes do without Americans if you're in a hurry. A sudden expansion of land and air power is possible within a few months as well; you can quickly order more spare parts, improve personnel retention with big boni and - in the case of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - even a partial mobilisation would be possible. Practically nothing of this happened.

This leaves at least three realistic explanations:
  1. European governments do not REALLY believe that the U.S. is a necessary ally even only for the most vulnerable NATO members
  2. European governments just failed a lethargy test; the time lag between input and reaction is longer than half a year
  3. They simply don't care about the Baltics
I really hope it's #1, but #1 may be correct for some countries, with #2 or #3 being correct for others.

S O
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2017/11/27

The mechanisms of delaying actions (I)

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I mentioned a couple times on this blog (and elsewhere even more often) that I place a great emphasis on delaying actions in conventional warfare. The central reason is my opinion that battles should be won before they're being fought; the shaping of circumstances (the battlefield) prior to a battle between (temporarily) massed formations should predetermine the outcome. To not do so means to accept avoidable risk and avoidable losses (or to have failed to hone the battlefield-shaping abilities in peacetime).
It should be obvious that such shaping ops take some time before they achieve much effect. Efforts to cut off opposing forces from supply may take three days till there's much effect, for example. Efforts to tire out opposing forces' personnel requires to delay the battle for more than the four days that troops can go with "go pills" and little sleep until they become apathetic. As a rule of thumb you should expect anything from two days to three weeks (~the aerial bombardment that preceded the liberation of Kuwait).

The opposing forces' headquarters would notice if the shaping ops built up advantages for our side and would decide to seek battle quick. It might even be led by some Suvorov fan and rush with great haste, relying on pre-campaign preparations instead of shaping ops.

Either way, one would need to buy time for shaping ops to take effect. The tactics for this are deception and delaying actions (outright withdrawal only works if one has much area to give up).

A delaying operation trades land for time and tries to inflict losses. Ambushes and limited localised counterattacks are the typical tactical actions within a delaying operation.*

Sadly, even after years of studying the matter by reading literature including field manuals I'm still dissatisfied with my knowledge about delaying ops. So either the state of the art is unsatisfactory or  I missed something or I judge my knowledge incorrectly. Anyway; below is some of what I figured out:


How does a delaying operation buy time?
It relies on the opposing forces' fears and punishes first and foremost fearlessness!

One mechanism of delaying actions is that advancing opposing forces are motivated to maintain a security effort. To move with security elements on the left flank, right flank and a vanguard is noticeably slower than to simply drive forward in a convoy. The threat of ambushes and flanking counterattacks forces them to maintain such a security effort. The security effort in itself weakens the tip (an advance guard is usually small, typically one organisational level smaller than the main force - such as company-sized vanguard for a battalion battlegroup) and makes ambushes against it easier, which forces the vanguard to be more careful, which in turn slows it down. Entire battles were lost in military history  because powerful forces that had no proper security effort arrived too late after deploying against probing or even phantom flank attacks.

A second, very simple, mechanism is to force the advancing party to avoid the best routes. Harassing artillery fires on roads can achieve this, for example.

Yet another mechanism is to create obstacles (cratered road at bottlenecks, minefields, fake minefields, flooded areas, barricades (easily removed by MBTs, not so easily removed by autocannon-armed scout vehicles) and even crowds of civilians.

Another mechanism has its roots in the fact that battle-ready forces are typically slower than forces ready for an administrative march. This is not true on steppes and in deserts, but it's true in most more movement-restricting terrains. Ambush positions or nearby defenders force the advancing opposing forces to deploy for battle. They leave the road and instead of driving forward at 60-90 kph they go offroad, avoid the shortest route, wait till other elements report readiness and they may even probe, plan, disseminate orders, prepare ... and by the time they're ready to push forward against the delaying defenders the defenders are gone.

Delaying forces need at least two groups in most doctrines; one group is actively delaying, the other one gets ready to delay farther back. The forward delaying group withdraws before it becomes engaged in decisive combat, goes past the other group in a prepared fashion (no friendly fire if possible). Now the already prepared second group delays, while the other has enough time to find the next opportunity for a good ambush or counterattack threat.

Delaying forces can thus delay even - if not especially - when their ambush or counterattack preparations were detected by the advancing opposing forces. They just need to avoid getting engaged decisively - which includes that they should not be caught by accurate artillery fires.

A good tactic against delaying actions is to advance along several axes of advance. This may allow flanking actions against the delaying force, but the proper answer is to maintain parallel delaying action efforts - one on every axis of approach. Still, this parallel advance devalues some ambushes and counterattack threats, for a delaying force that delays better than its left and right neighbour forces would need to fall back due to the threat to its flanks.

A most interesting twist to delaying actions is that you do not necessarily have to follow the classic retrograde leap-frogging that I mentioned above.** You might also delay by get behind the advancing opposing force instead of falling back. Stay-behind forces could even achieve this without moving. To get behind opposing forces may compel them to turn and secure their 'rear' support services and supply lines first.*** This may even be an utter necessity if for example a pontoon bridge is threatened and the advancing force risks stranding on the far side of a major river.

Delaying actions done right can blunt the opposing forces' advance. Ambushes can take out some combat vehicles, but also some mobility enhancers such as bridgelayers and mineclearing vehicles. Counterattacks may be aimed at air defence vehicles (this may force them to prioritise survival against air threats, which may greatly affect how they move).

A few days (or even only hours) of delaying actions are extremely likely to reduce the dedicated scouting units and small units of the advancing force so much that regular combat units and small units need to be employed as scouts.

Opposing forces may even be 'trained' to become slower by punishing quick movements. Their scouts passed through a village and reported it to be vacated? Have some forces hide into buildings of another village. These forces can then wreak some havoc on a passing support unit, and those hasty scouts may then get orders to search villages more thoroughly.

The more the advancing force disperses to counter the risk of ambushes (and air/artillery attacks) the less it will be able to resist local counterattacks and break through temporary defensive 'lines'.


Part II: Much later.****

S O

*: I generally use the three levels of warfare that are strategic level, operational level and tactical level. "delaying operations" sounds like operational level and that sentence up there makes it sound so even more, but delaying ops belong to the tactical level, just as counterattacks and ambushes. 
**: I wrote about this before, but didn't find where. It's not a new thing.
***: This happened in 2003 OIF when some leave-behind Iraqi forces actually attacked support units and disproportionately more effective combat forces were afterwards tasked to secure this axis of advance way behind the tip.
****: This blog post had already more to say about delaying actions than many tactics field manuals that feature a chapter on retrograde actions.
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2017/11/23

Recruitment videos

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I'm in the mood for some videos, particularly funny ones:











Something serious for a change:



That's enough seriousness already!




S O
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2017/11/18

Link drop November 2017

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"Saudi Arabia’s Incompetence Would Be Comical If It Weren’t Killing So Many People"
https://theintercept.com/2017/11/17/saudi-arabia-incompetence-iran-rivalry/

"Navy grounds two aviators behind penis skydrawing"
https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/11/17/navy-grounds-two-aviators-behind-penis-skydrawing/
This reminds me of remarks about how 18 year olds are allowed to kill and die in war in the U.S., but not allowed to drink alcohol. There's an inordinate amount of immature crap in a normal military, and almost all of it is harmless IIRC.

"Over-friendly, or sexual harassment? It depends partly on whom you ask"
https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/11/daily-chart-14
This is about liberty; both society norms and laws can reduce the freedom of action, which equals a loss of some freedom. It's interesting how laid-back Germany is, though some people would probably call that chauvinistic (females in Germany are more laid-back as well according to the poll, though).
I suppose looking at boobs and other female curves is hard-coded male (non-gay) behaviour and a line between sexual harassment and things that one has to accept as a price for being alive has to be drawn someplace before that's getting people in trouble. We should probably draw that line even before sexually charged compliments, for the very same words are very different in their perception depending on how attractive the speaker is.

"Level IV Armor, and the Future of Small Arms: Brief Thoughts 001"
http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/11/16/level-iv-armor-future-small-arms-brief-thoughts-001/
Disasters like this happen when firearms fans think about infantry combat. Infantry combat is NOT all about infantry killing each other. In fact, there's lots of evidence that infantry repels infantry to some degree, and almost all killing (80+ %) is done by other arms in modern conventional warfare.
Infantry that's optimised to resist opposing infantry's bullets while penetrating opposing infantry's armour plates won't make much sense until exoskeletons become practical and affordable en masse.


"What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Fight For  Information’?"
http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/eARMOR/content/issues/2017/Summer/pdf/3Palisca17.pdf
Just an example of U.S. professional military journals trying to foster thought about doctrine even on a published platform. The majority of military theory writing before 1914 was likely written in German with a gazillion of Prussian, German and Austro-Hungarian military journal editions, books and widely circulated memos. It appears that the effort put into getting military doctrine right is nowadays much smaller. This is horrifying because even after all that effort the officers of the 1900's still erred badly and mostly blundered into the First World War.


A new training centre in Germany for training in settlements of different types, including sewers. It's still missing a lot of clutter, especially furnitures, balconies and fences.


Multi-mode radar with 360° field of view and on-the-move operation in a small package. The concept justified high hopes (except that "low cost" was a ridiculous claim coming from Northrop Grumman), but it's been years since and there's still no series production. A brigade designed on a blank sheet would certainly have something like this, but path dependencies and other reasons make sure NATO armies don't have many nice things like that. Personally, I wonder if the Swedish SAAB Giraffe 1X could be adapted for on-the-move operation. It should be possible.

"HISTINT: Unearthing declassified Soviet military journals in CIA archives"
https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/2017/07/28/histint-unearthing-declassified-soviet-military-journals-cia-archives/


S O
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2017/11/13

Sad!

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People sometimes ask me why I'm interested in U.S. politics.
The answer is always about the same; they start too many bad things there that eventually spill over the Atlantic Ocean and become Europeans' problems, too.

To pay attention provides early warning.

S O
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2017/11/10

2017/11/09

German nuclear participation

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There's occasionally a minor debate about whether the Americans should withdraw their about 20 nuclear bombs from Germany. This is more than a debate about the storage location for a handful of nukes; it's a debate about German nuclear participation.

So what's "nuclear participation"?

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty limits which ratifying countries may be nuclear powers and it does also prohibit transfer of control over nukes to non-nuclear powers.
The Cold War arrangement in NATO was that the Americans would hand over nuclear warheads (for example for ballistic Honest John, Lance, Sergeant & Pershing missiles as well as free-fall nuclear bombs) to allied non-nuclear powers such as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). This made a lot of sense because in the event of WW3 the NNPT wouldn't matter any more and the Central European front(ier) was divided by nationality of forces. There would have been impractical friction and lags if an American rocket battery or strike fighter wing would have been designated to support a German army corps with battlefield nukes.

Bundeswehr Honest John SRBM with launcher vehicle

What was the (West)German motivation?

The basic law (constitution) of West Germany pretended that the West German government represented all of Germany and East Germany was no state, but a mere Soviet-occupied zone. The FRG government thus strived to represent the interests of East Germans as well. American and British plans to blow up all of East Germany with nukes were not in the best interest of East Germans.
Nor was it in the best interest of West Germans that French, British and Americans planned to blow West Germany up with battlefield nukes in defensive land battles.

To participate in the nuclear warhead delivery chain of events meant to be able to abort it. To provide alternatives to nuclear strikes (such as a strong army and the otherwise rather inexplicable Tornado IDS interdiction role) did help to avoid some nuclear strikes on German soil in the event of WW3.

(From this point of view it might irritate that the Bundeswehr wasn't located in Northern Germany only, opposing East Germany and the Soviet armies there. There are explanations for the actual locations; 
(1) a conscript army is much more sustainable if the conscripts serve all over the country. Southern Germany would have been pissed if all its conscripts had to serve 100-900 km far from their homes while Northern Germans would serve never farther than 500 km from their homes.
(2) the federal nature of the FRG meant that the Southern German politicians had much influence on this affair, and military bases were considered a good way to help the economy especially in rural areas
(3) the Bundeswehr provided the backbone to all allied forces in West Germany through its territorial (mobilised) army logistical and security forces
(4) the locations of the British and American forces were path dependent on the original occupation zones; Bundeswehr forces were squeezed in between
(5) the early Heer (pre-mid-60's)was quite fragile with training and spare parts issues in particular. It would have been unacceptable to have the entire northern half of the FRG guarded by the Heer alone
(6) the Belgians and Dutch preferred to have their forces not far away in Southern Germany, but in Northern or in the Central FRG.)

It wasn't the only point of view anyway; the early West German minister of defence (insert expression of disgust here) Strauß was all-in on throwing around nukes. He apparently focused on deterrence, not on mitigating how very much devastating WW3 would be to us. This was one of his few reasonable stances, actually.

- - - - -


The original motivation for the German nuclear participation is gone. If WW3 or WW4 still happens in Europe, it would likely begin and have its most extreme effects in Eastern Europe. Germany might still be affected (airbases, airports, Oder river bridges, ports), but not by NATO's nukes. As of now it's fairly unlikely that NATO would nuke locations in Eastern European NATO members even if they were overrun by Russian forces.

I strongly suppose nobody is seriously contemplating to seize the handful of American nukes (B61 bombs) stored in Germany. 


So what's the continued nuclear participation of Germany good for?

I suppose there's no "pro" side here, save for nebulous "transatlantic" ideology.

related:


S O
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2017/11/03

Square or triangular - my two Euro cents

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Yesterday I wrote that I have very little if anything to add to that old debate, so this is a sorry excuse of "very little to add":


Nowadays battalion battlegroups are important as elements of manoeuvre. This begs the question what would a formation of four such battlegroups and one separate support group (with its own security effort) be? It would be rather too big for a brigade and too small for a (Western style) division.

The triangular or square issue may also be overridden by a completely different consideration.
Think of a brigade/division defined as the forces that operate in an area where the brigade/division support assets can cover entirely. Think of for example one area air defence missile battery, or one anti-J-STARS/ASTOR radar jammer, one field hospital with a radius of acceptable MEDEVAC/CASEVAC delays, or in an extreme case of motorcycle messengers as backup for jammed radio comms. There are support assets and they may be effective in a radius of for example 40 km.
Furthermore, a certain quantity of battalion battlegroups are a given and a certain area of conflict is given (such as Northeast & Eastern Poland + Lithuania for NATO deterrence/defence) as well.
With these fixated variables you might end up needing 20 divisional/brigade support assets of one kind to cover the region, and have only 43 battalion battlegroups of what's determined as ideal battlegroup size before.
The average would be 2.15, not three or four. The entire triangular or square structure debate would be moot in such a situation unless one is convinced that two support nodes per division and four BGs is the answer in such a case. But what if a different threat scenario leads to 15 support and 45 maneouvre elements?

These figures were arbitrary, but they show that once you look at a higher level and the resources constraints, you might end up with a whole different picture than a mere tactical debate about perfect fantasy formations would yield.

One might instead arrive at a doctrine in which the support nodes are kind of predetermined by the areas, and the manoeuvre elements would fluidly shift between benefiting form one node and then from another one.

This mirrors what I wrote about dedicated reconnaissance assets and how they shouldn't be organic, but rather defined by the theatre size and under theatre command.

Back in 2014 I wrote
An unusually blunt way of reinforcing the point of this text: "The demand for area reconnaissance is exogenous and independent of the strength and quantity of manoeuvre combat formations in the area." Think about this, for its consequences are huge!
Indeed, they are huge once you remember that reconnaissance is but one form of support to manoeuvre elements, and the principle may apply (to some degree) to other forms of support as well!

So in other words I'm moving in circles and merely applying an old idea of mine on a different issue. And that's why I have the feeling to not have anything substantially new to offer here.
Or maybe I have a lot to offer, it all depends on how good the old idea (or observation) actually was. I certainly didn't do much research on the voluminous triangular/square debate, so I could hardly debate someone who researched and wrote a master's thesis on the subject.



S O

P.S.: Clarification; battalion battlegroups are not perfect. Regular companies or mixed ad hoc companies may often be sent on independent missions. There's just not nearly as much combined arms integration in such independently manoeuvring units. They would typically not have organic indirect fire support better than light mortars and very little of engineers' capabilities, for example. On a theatre map it makes sense to pay attention to battalion battlegroups, and ignore whatever unit and small unit ad hoc elements of maneoeuvre these battlegroups dispatch temporarily.
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2017/11/02

The square structure issue

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There's a rare and very interesting category of books on military affairs that appears to be provoked by defeat in war: Veterans who write about the war with the intent to preserve knowledge for a future generation. German WW2 officers - mostly officers who served in higher HQs (such as Middeldorff) - and American Vietnam vet NCOs wrote such books.

These books are unique in touching on aspects that the entertainment books for enthusiasts, research books for historians and official military professional training literature do not cover.

I'll quote one excerpt here that's most interesting. It deals with mechanised infantry / Panzergrenadiere and is from "Die Panzergrenadiere" (1961) written by later Bundeswehr general Dr. F.M. von Senger und Etterlin, a low level aristocrat born into a family with hundreds of years of military tradition.
(German original from page 99 first, BE translation follows)

"Die 3 Grundprobleme

Mechanisierung bedeutet Einsatzmöglichkeit aller Waffen zum Kampf vom Fahrzeug. Mechanisierung bedeutet aber nicht die Aufgabe der Befähigung zu allen Kampfarten im Fußeinsatz. Die harmonische Vereinigung beider Fähigkeiten ist das Ziel der Entwicklung. Dabei ist klar, daß die Kampfweise mit Fahrzeugen  von der Kampfweise zu Fuß erheblich verschieden ist. Jene ist der Kampfweise der Kampfpanzerverbände sehr ähnlich und wickelt sich in der Hauptsache in enger Zusammenarbeit mit diesen ab. Jede Überlegung zur zweckmäßigen Gliederung der Panzergrenadiere wird daher auf die geltenden Grundsätze für die Gliederung von Kampfpanzerverbänden zurückzugreifen haben. Dabei tauchen im wesentlichen drei Hauptprobleme auf.
Einmal bedingt der mechanisierte Kampf erfahrungsgemäß grundsätzlich die Viergliederung, während sich für den Fußkampf die Dreigleiderung bewährt hat. Der Panzerkampf spielt sich zangen- und schachbrettartig ab, zur Raumausnutzung müssen die Verbände auf das ganze Gefechtsfeld verteilt sein und die Ausscheidung von Reserven spielt nicht dieselbe Rolle wie im Fußkampf oder in der Abwehr.
Zum zweiten ist der mechanisierte Kampf vornehmlich Angriffskampf. Das organisatorische Element der schweren Schnellfeuerwaffen in Gestalt von sMG-Einheiten wird hier nicht benötigt. Zudem ist es möglich, die Schützenpanzer mit einer großen Zahl von sMG als Bordwaffen auszustatten. Besondere sMG-Einheiten für den Kampf vom Fahrzeug sind deshalb überflüssig.
Beide Probelme heben sich jedoch gegenseitig auf, indem unter grundsätzlicher Beibehaltung der Viergliederung für den mechanisierten Kampf der vierten Einheit eine Zwitterrolle zugeteilt wird. Beim Übergang zum Fußkampf kann sie nämlich als sMG-Einheit zur Unterstützung der übrigen drei Einheiten auftreten.
Das dritte Problem liegt darin, daß die Gliederung und Ausrüstung zu Fuß kämpfender Infanterie gewöhnlich verhältnismäßig starr zu sein hat, während der mechanisierte Kampf vermöge der Ausstattung mit Panzerfahrzeugen eine weniger starre Gliederung erlaubt. So müssen für den Fußkampf jeder schweren Infanteriewaffe von vorneherein eine gewiße Anzahl Träger oder Munitionsschützen zugeordnet werden. Das Verhältnis der schweren Waffen zu Normaleinheiten muß ebenso bereits kriegsgliederungsmäßig festgelegt werden. Die Mechanisierung erlaubt es jedoch demgegenüber, z.B. schwere Waffen und Munition durch die Fahrzeuge bis in die Stellung bringen zu lassen. Der Munitionsnachschub ist sehr erleichtert, die Gepäckfrage kein Problem."
("The 3 basic problems
Mechanisation means the ability to use all weapons from the vehicle. Mechanisation does not mean to give up the ability to fight in all modes when dismounted. The harmonic fusion of both abilities is the aim of the development. It's obvious that mounted combat and dismounted combat differ very substantially. The former is very similar to the way of combat of main battle tanks and mostly happens in close cooperation with these.
All reasonings about the purposeful structure of mechanised infantry thus has to be based on the structure of main battle tank formations. Thus three main problems appear:
First, according to experiences mechanised combat does in principle lead to a square organisation, while the triangular organisation has proven itself for dismounted combat. Tank combat happens with pincers and chessboard-like, the formations need to be dispersed across the entire battlefield to exploit the space and to create reserves does not play the same role as in dismounted combat or on the defence.
Second, mechanised combat is primarily offensive combat. The organisational element of heavy support weapons such as heavy machinegun units is not needed for this.Its furthermore possible to equip infantry fighting vehicles with a large quantity of machineguns as vehicle weapons. Dedicated HMG units for mounted combat are thus dispensable.
Both problems neutralise each other if one keeps the square structure for mechanised combat and assigns a hybrid role to the fourth unit. It can act as HMG unit in support of the other three units after a transition to dismounted combat.
The third problem is that the structure and equipment of dismounted troops has to be rather fixated, while mechanised combat allows for a more flexible structure thanks to the equipment with armoured vehicles. All heavy weapons require a certain quantity of porters or munitions gunners in dismounted combat. The relationship between heavy weapons  to normal units has to be fixated in the wartime TO&E. The mechanisation meanwhile allows to move heavy weapons into the firing positions with the vehicles. The resupply with munitions is much easier, and the baggage issue no problem.")
There's a lot of obsolete things in this text, but the quality and obvious intent is remarkable compared to both the professional literature (which hardly ever explains anything and tends to simply present doctrine) and the entertainment literature (which would have neglected the "why?"as well, and the authors would usually not notice such issues at all).

I'll summarise the obviously obsolete things quickly to avoid disinformation;
- modern infantry battalions do not make use of HMG units
- modern mechanised infantry hardly ever uses its weapons while mounted
- modern IFVs hardly ever have multiple machineguns

The chapter still motivates me to write about the triangular/square structure debate after all.
There was a nice article by one of the usual suspects in one of the American journals - sadly I cannot find it again. Essentially, it made the case that a square structure offers much more tactical flexibility.
With a triangular structure you can distribute between left wing, right wing and reserves as follows:
1-1-1 / 2-1-0 / 1-2-0
With a square structure you can do
2-1-1 / 2-2-0 / 1-2-1 / 1-1-2 / 3-1-0 / 1-3-0
(v.Senger-Etterlin counted a triangular structure with a fourth heavy weapons support unit as still triangular, for only the manoeuvre elements are counted, not support elements.)

Much has been debated and written about this for over a hundred years, and I have little if anything to add. What I do want to comment on the issue is that there's a systemic bias in favour of the (nowadays dominant) triangular structure that may have caused us to deviate from a possibly superior square structure.
This bias is that even if you have a square structure based on experiences and reasoning, you may still end up with a triangular structure after a round of cuts. I already wrote that cuts are not necessarily done in a way that optimises efficiency or effectiveness. German mechanised infantry battalions even lost their heavy weapons (mortar) company years ago, leaving them with nothing in between 40 mm grenades and 155 mm divisional artillery in terms of high angle fires and even no brigade-organic high angle fires above 40 mm.

Neither any high ranking officer jobs nor any headquarters need be cut when battalions are changed from square to triangular structure in a round of cuts. Divisional and even army organisational structure charts still look the same, with identical quantities of battalions, for nothing changes at the formation level. It's only units (and possibly small units) that are cut if you reduce from four to three companies.


It's difficult if not impossible for an individual to make a case that the seemingly collective wisdom of professionals has lead to a wrong result based on pro and contra points only. Yet it's a fairly powerful tool to identify suspected inefficiencies based on looking at biases. Theories of bureaucracies can help in this, and this blog post showed another way.


S O

P.S.: In case you consider blogging; blogging doesn't need to be super time-consuming. I wrote this blog post in 70 minutes after occasionally thinking about the two main topics covered. Originally, I meant to describe more categories of mil literature, but that may become a different topic sometime.
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2017/10/28

Smedley Butler: "War is a Racket"

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"War is a racket" by Major General Smedley D. Butler is an antiwar classic by a highly decorated U.S. Marine Cops officer. There's still a USMC base in Japan named for this officer.

One quote of this remarkable officer sums his experience up, but isn't from his "War is a racket" text itself:

MG Smedley D. Butler, USMC, 1920's
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
The horrors of war, the unjustified profits of the war industry, the suffering at home, mutilated soldiers and especially his experience in many needless and corrupt small wars convinced MG Butler that war is a racket and evil. I read his book several times, and it's obviously applicable to our time as well as to the early and late 20th century.

He judged by his personal experience of his lifetime - the "Great War" and many small interventions against sovereign nations in Latin America.

He wrote "War is a racket" in 1935, in hindsight probably one of the worst times ever if you want to have lasting impact and fame for an anti-war work . The axis powers didn't allow peace for long any more (he warned only about Italy in his book) and showed that there are two kinds of war; those you can avoid and those you cannot avoid without submission.

This distinction is very important if we try to apply lessons learned from history for a better future.
Patriotism is a good thing if used to mobilize for unavoidable wars, and it's evil if it gets exploited to reinforce support for needless wars.
Furthermore, the arguments of pacifists should not be dismissed completely, but considered for each and every war in detail - they apply to some wars and not so much to others.

Not only the understanding of patriotism should be influenced by past experiences - the whole approach to war needs to be checked. Are our societies really prepared to repel attempts to lure us into needless small or major wars in the future? Or will we fall prey to such attempts as the British did in 2003, when their head of government was able to participate in a war that the majority of the British didn't even want and that turned into a disaster?



P.S.: It's worth repeating.
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2017/10/27

The truth is never offensive

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"It's weird because America is the kind of place where someone can get more offended at you calling them a racist than at the fact that they are racist. And that's become like a new thing that I stumbled across. How dare you call me a racist? How dare you be a racist? And that's the world that Donald Trump is in. People try to trap you into being afraid of saying what the person is doing as opposed to them acknowledging the world that they're living in"

I noticed this in American-dominated internet forums as well. So moderator thinks I was offensive by calling someone a liar? Does Moderator pretend that the exposed lie in itself wasn't offensive? The truth is never offensive where I live.

This twisting of (quasi)political discourse may be an important ingredient in at least one path towards destruction of a liberal society, destruction of democracy. It may be the path that leads to policy based on fake news.

S O
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2017/10/23

Brutes in warfare

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This is another attempt to draw on military history to provide insights for military theory.


Every now and then - often spaced by centuries - some "new" way of doing war proves disastrously superior, often creating empires or destroying existing ones. Not all such innovations (or revivals of long-known ways) have been coined by superior finesse. Sometimes the secret of success is rather that a brutish, savage approach to warfare proves superior to cautious, limited if not ritualised forms of warfare.

One such example was the success of probably the greatest warlord of all times*, Shaka Zulu. The paradigm that he faced emphasised javelins and long spears. The changed this by emphasising bigger shield and shorter spear, waiting for the javelin hail to end and then charging to a merciless melée. There was no mercy for the defeated; they either joined him or died, which enabled him to grow his army through victories.

Alexander the Great's** extremism in warfare came as a shock to existing realms and his savage treatment of Tyre ensured that hardly any other walled settlement dared to resist him later. His heavy cavalry charges aimed to slay the opposing king instead of defeating his army came as quite a shock, too.

There are more examples, but covering the whole facet of the history of war would go towards a history Ph.d. so, here's instead my suspicion:

There may be a systemic possibility that a new paradigm appears once warfare becomes too ritualised, too focused on avoiding close-up brutality, too focused on limiting the devastating effects of warfare. This new paradigm may change power balances and destroy realms.

The obvious question for a concerned observer is thus whether we might be in such a vulnerable, probably doomed paradigm.

The potential is certainly present if the entire pattern holds true:
  1. the dominance of cabinet wars with minor mobilisation. As a militarist he was unsurpassed, even
  2. the refusal to use nukes***
  3. the casualty aversion
  4. the idea that support fires can do the job before one is overrun by a more aggressively manoeuvering opponent****

Humans are used to expect a continuation of the past, not a repeat of sudden changes that occurred in the distant past. It's all-natural to not expect dictatorships that lasted for generations to suddenly disintegrate, to not expect a financial market boom to end tomorrow - or to expect a paradigm change in warfare that's not a mere jump forward on the road that's been taken for generations.


S O

*: That's no compliment. The guy turned nuts. He's also one of the greatest militarists in history, along with Lycurgus of Sparta.
**: What a fag. ;-)
***: And this was no criticism.
****: There are no support fires if there are no sufficient radio comms. How would a 90% indoctrinated infantry & 10% radio jammers army fare in East-Central Europe against a 15% combat troops & 85% support troops army?
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