Exotic ancient weapons: (IX) Penobscot double bow

First, an engineering view of the double bow.

The Penobscot bow / Wabanaki bow / Mi'kmaq (double) bow is an advanced version of a cable-backed bow with very different mechanics. It's different in its performance from bows that simply use wider or thicker limbs or more limbs.

photo uploaded by "Judson"/"Judson127", taken from here

Mechanical engineers learn that everything can be considered to be a spring; even a solid block of steel is a spring. We can apply a force to it and it will either compress or elongate. We usually cannot see the tiny change in its dimensions, but it happens. Its spring constant simply requires a powerful force for very little change of its dimensions. Spring steels in coil spring shape make it much easier to experience how steel yields to mechanical forces.

A bow can be considered a spring as well - you pull harder, it yields more - and just like a spring, it stores energy in the process. This energy can be released for the purpose of accelerating the arrow (or with an arrow guide, the dart).

Bows (and many other spring arrangements) have no spring constant, though; the amount of force required to pull the arrow back by one more centimetre depends on how far you already pulled it back. The bow design doesn't simply compress or elongate, but changes its shape as it yields to the pulling force (the string notches approach each other).
The ideal bow design would accelerate the arrow with about the same force regardless of how far it's still drawn (= have a spring constant). The force must not be excessive (or the user couldn't draw and hold the drawn bow well or at all) and should not be low (for the sake of accelerating the arrow well).
This cannot be done with a single spring; you need a set of springs to approximate this ideal.

Springs of different spring characteristics can be arranged to  create a non-linear spring curve; this way compressing or elongating by a certain distance doesn't require the addition of the same force regardless of how much the spring system has already been manipulated.

The double bow is such a two-spring-ish system in spirit. The small front bow is not just an overly elaborate way of making the bow stiffer; it actually modifies the spring curve (requires more force to draw at first, thus also accelerates the arrow more) as a parallel spring, and by consensus of double bow users, it does so in an advantageous way compared to a self bow of equivalent technology. You get more performance out of such a bow for the same maximum (28" draw) draw 'weight' than with an otherwise equivalent technology self bow.

That, by the way, is the reason why people who create double bows with the front bow almost as long as the main bow either didn't get what the design is meant to accomplish or are merely trying to create a bow that can make do with poor material (poorly suitable woods). A proper performance double bow has a short front bow that gets fully drawn fairly soon in the drawing motion.

(BTW, the Penobscot double bow is supposedly not really "ancient", supposedly it's just over a hundred years old - I doubt this, but don't have sources that mention it earlier.)
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Second, this video on African martial arts (unrelated to double bows):

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Third, some general remarks on non-firearm weapons:

It's amazing how after some study one becomes mostly able to tell the way a weapon was meant to be used by merely looking at it, including some requirements for the associated armour.

The hilt of a blade weapon in itself can be formed to almost force the user to use a certain motion for slashing. This particular hilt design alone tells the observer that the blade will be very curved sabre's blade.

Curved blades typically require a relatively high quality material because they almost never have two edges, and one edge could quickly become dull in an extended battle. Curved blades are especially meant for cutting, so holding a good blade is important (harder edge allows for a sharper edge) and difficult (harder edge ~ more brittle edge).
The one exception I'm aware of are the bronze age sickle swords, and their users were probably prepared to sharpen their weapon with a grindstone on their own as in agricultural use of sickles.

Curved blades are never made for thrusting into the body; they are made for cuts and slashing motions. The cutting motions may include a pushing and pulling motion, but only to cut along the side of the target. The pushing cut isn't really an option with forward-curved blades such as sickles, romphaia or falx.

Straight blades can be built for thrusting into organs, but don't necessarily have the point for it (Celtic swords were largely limited to slashing, as the point was often dull). Very fine points give away the intent to penetrate an armour type that's not very good against thrusting attacks (typically mail), and are thus uncommon in areas where such armours that are vulnerable to thrusting attacks are rare (example East and South Asia).

An extreme case are the smallswords and the like - straight sword-like blade weapons meant exclusively for thrusting with the point, without a shard edge. These continued to be in use after mail armour fell out of fashion in almost all of Europe (Balkans excluded). Frankly, my suspicion is that they were optimised for light weight, as respectable sidearms that aren't too much of a burden on their user.

Large handguards tend to be associated with no use of shields, or use of shields very unwieldy (pavise) or very small (buckler). Handguards can then help protect the hand when you cannot do it with a shield. An exception is the customary retention of large handguards along with late medieval plate armour, but one should keep in mind that swords were sidearms and thus also (if not primarily) used when the wearer wasn't fully geared up.
Blunt weapons such as maces and hammers (also hammer components in weapons such as the pollaxe) were either an extreme budget solution (clubs) or a response to very effective armour. Blunt force can even be effective against plate armour and equivalent helmets when blades and pointy weapons fail. The latter are usually built to be nimble in their use and thus quite lightweight. Axes and blunt weapons require a lot of mass where it matters the most; at the end of a pole or short shaft.

Single-handed weapons that are quite long among their kind (mace, sword, sabre) tend to be cavalry arms. Their increased length compensates for poor riding skills* or a loss of dexterity caused by the user's armour.

Lances and pikes were usually held low, while spears were held high (if used single-handedly) for a greater choice of movements.
Polearms with oval pole cross section and/or dedicated axe head, spike or blade elements (examples pollaxes, halberds, naginatas) were meant for slashing and/or swiping movements. This in turn indicates that they were meant for two-handed use, and thus lead to an emphasis on good armour protection for the user, since shields would be quite impractical.**

Javelins are particularly interesting; the very light ones were used in great quantity by dedicated skirmishers and cavalry, while the more elaborate ones such as the famous Roman pilum (no doubt the most advanced and most capable javelin design ever despite lacking an amentum or spear thrower) were carried in small quantity (one or two per legionary; that's still up for debate). The pilum's purpose was threefold; a demoralising/shocking salvo, disabling shields by sticking to them (making them unwieldy and enabling the enemy to push the shield sideways) and finally an emergency use as a spear, particularly against cavalry.***

Spears are capable weapons for one-on-one situations unless the enemy has good armour. Their use was typically rooted in at least one of three motives; poverty (spears as versatile budget option), horsemen threat (spears as anti-horseman weapon,**** obviously not helpful against missile horsemen) and third, disciplined forces employing closed order tactics (example Greek phalanx).

As with swords, the width of the spear tip usually indicates whether a spear was meant for use against armoured opponents or not. A wide, leaf-shaped spear tip would be for use against unarmoured opposition (example iklwa), or for the hunt. Boar spears and some other spears had some guards to limit penetration.

Particularly short stabbing blade weapons such as the Spartan short xiphos versions or Germanic seax were associated with very restricted close quarters combat, such as fighting in a phalanx or shield wall where the gaps between shields and the air above could be used for very short stabbing motions. Another use for such short sidearms was on board of warships (for boarding actions), usually with a blade that's well-suited to slashing (which makes it useful for cutting tows).

Likewise, the design of shields allows conclusions about their use.


*: Not all horsemen were good at horsemanship games and thus capable of picking stuff up from the ground while riding, so they needed longer weapons to strike targets lying on the ground. That in turn is important because to simply lie on the ground is a reasonable approach to protect oneself from a cavalry charge; horses will avoid to step on such irregularities to avoid injury.
**: This requirement finds in exception of the very late halberd-ish weapons such as partisans of the firearms era, about 17th and first half of 18th centuries. The same applies to bayonets. The requirement may not be met because of economical reasons, but two-handed polearms were rare when good body armour was unaffordable unless the use of powerful halberd-like weapons made it quite pointless anyway (example Japanese warrior monks with Naginatas).
***: The pilum slowly fell out of use when the longer spatha sword gradually replaced the gladius sword. The disciplined Roman infantry (even auxiliary infantry) was able to resist shock cavalry with disciplined closed order formations (horses don't run into spear tips, but the don't run into shield walls either) and a longer sword made the need for some spear-ish weapon against cavalry less pressing. There may thus have been such a relation between the rise of the spatha and the decline of the pilum (in favour of plumbata and cheaper simple javelins). Alternatively, the increased use of light javelins by horsemen may have led to a better opinion about them, eroding the pilum's role. Last but not least, the late imperial Western Roman infantry faced much more cavalry and actual spears became much more common in service again. Spears and pila don't go well along because spearmen tend to keep close formation, whereas pila require some more space for the user to throw. In the end, the pilum+gladius combination was unique to late Republican and early Imperial Rome, and a hugely successful approach that seemed to have been suboptimal in other times and places.
****: Long straight swords could be used to deter cavalry as well (Pallasch weapons were used by cuirassiers of the 18th century almost as if they were spears).


[deutsch] Dipl.-Ing. Rolf Hilmes: Überflüssig oder unverzichtbar? Zur Zukunft des Kampfpanzers


A presentation (in German) of the German 'tank pope' Rolf Hilmes (the German equivalent of Ogorkiewicz in authorship).

Sorry, I had nothing really to blog about this week. I've been too busy with other things for weeks (the past three or four blog posts were pre-scheduled).



Some science stuff of interest


The haemoglobin alternative was found in those sea worms around 2003 or so, and it can be produced in powder form. The powder combined with sterile water (I suppose boiled water cooled down works fine) can be transfused as replacement for blood. This could have a noticeable impact especially on combat medics, and make enforcement of water discipline (water instead of other beverages carried in canteens & bladders) even more important than before. It's likely a much better blood substitute in emergencies than saline solution because it actually transports oxygen instead of merely averting a volume shock.

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Microsatellites / Cubesats

Up to 500 commercial imagery satellites planned by in one service alone. The company "Planet" has already 285 satellites in space. 88 of 104 microsatellites launched by a single Indian PLSV rocket in early 2017 were from that company; 4 kg each.
Such satellites would matter a lot to warfare (a tiny quantity of commercial imagery satellites already proved valuable in the 1991 Iraq War), and it appears that anti-satellite munitions (=rockets) would not be a suitable approach against them.
Moreover, they appear to be affordable to almost any potentially warring government by the dozens at least.
A great power would either need blinding (not just dazzling) lasers or near-continuous radio data link jamming to defeat such a reconnaissance capability in space. Anti-satellite missiles that cost millions of Euros each are no appropriate countermeasure. The most affordable countermeasure might be to simply disable the operator's control capacity on the ground and hope that the adversary has no backup plan to counter this move.


The use of lasers for communication would of course make communications activity much safer for those on the ground, which might be a huge boon to clandestine agents (and assets), long range recon patrols and armoured recce guys.
The optical receiver would be highly susceptible to damage by hostile lasers, of course.

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Interesting. I suppose much of what seems to be loss aversion may furthermore be framed as  imperfect information (better information about potential losses than about potential gains).
Imperfect information and its consequences are very important in most fields, including economics, engineering (which works with much more rules of thumb, approximations and guesswork than would be comfortable to the end user) and military theory.
Math, most of physics and IT are largely unaffected by uncertainty and imperfect information, though even there it's often but a question of how close you look.

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"[...]deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind."



Link dump September 2018

As usual, here are links and commentary on first Saturday of the month:

F-15X proposal
(I haven't found any definitive illustration of a F-15X.
This image is about the AMBER missile racks from 2015.)

Boeing pitched a new F-15 version to the U.S.A.F., presumably at a lower fly-away price than the F-35 and supposedly loaded with up to 22 air-to-air missiles as the most striking feature.

This looks like a design that takes a heavy strike fighter and adds a niche capability for air combat. This 'missile truck' approach fits well into a concept in which F-22's are up front on combat air patrol in an air war, and make use of farther to the rear F-15s as missile launchers. There aren't enough F-22s to maintain large numbers of them up front 24/7 (particularly not far from the air base, as in a pacific air war scenario) and they carry but eight missiles (only six AMRAAMs) each on an air superiority mission. Things such as towed decoys* ruin the probability of kill of such missiles, so the entire air superiority missile load of a F-22 may very well be worth less than one kill against sophisticated opponents.

There's a segregated hunter/killer approach with low observable F-22 up front detecting targets while trying to avoid detection and sending targeting data to farther behind F-15s that serve as killers (missile trucks). It's a tailored approach to compensate for the small quantity of missiles carried by F-22 (and F-35) inside and the small quantities of on-station F-22s. It might work because the missiles' no escape zones are much greater than the detection ranges against LO fighters. The F-15X would still be an all-round capable strike fighter in a 'let's beat up some poor small power again' scenario.
The high quantity of AMRAAMs carried may also allow for a routine launch of two or more missiles per target, in an effort to wear down the target's (towed) decoys and kinetic energy (the latter through its evasive manoeuvres) for a final, lethal missile approach.

This entire niche depends on the F-15X's ability to withstand the threat of long-range missiles itself. This and the likely quite high maintenance costs, obsolete looks (first flight 46 years ago) and unusually high RCS (apparently an order of magnitude bigger than of Typhoon or Rafale) of the F-15 will likely kill the proposal. It's also questionable how F-15Xs could help F-22s against LO fighters.

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This means some extra weight, but maybe there are at least some real world uses for this weird-looking tech.

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It's interesting to see them swarm the bull like bees swarm a hornet to overwhelm it in defence of the hive. I wonder if there's some hidden instinct left over from the prehistoric times. It may have been a random outcome, of course.

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Oldie, but goodie. I wish I had this file when I wrote the warship article series. It didn't add anything noteworthy to my knowledge, but it would have been a very nice link to offer.

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DIRCM (lasers that dazzle incoming infrared-guided missiles) have become really small. I think this size is OK for installation on the topside of combat aircraft.** The next generation of IR-guided missiles really needs to be able to deal with DIRCM (there are several countermeasures to lasers known).

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So the Chinese copied the German Troika approach of naval minesweeping (more accurately; "minebreaking") as well. I didn't know that so far.

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Quick mention (no link):
It's a blast from the 80's. Soft kill protection for airbases and such hasn't caught on as far as I know, but I suppose it should in light of conventional cruise missiles. This isn't the 80's when we thought an attack on an airbase would probably be done by a 20+ kt nuke on a ballistic rocket.
Isn't it weird that they had developed what it likely takes to defeat conventional cruise missiles in the 80's, but that kind of missiles really only became an issue to the West long after the Cold War?

related: smoke used to conceal targets from bombers in WW2
German smokescreen use at Wilhelmshaven in June 1943
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I wonder what kind of people such implausible Fox News propaganda does address.


*: Such as Lobushka towed decoy, more details on this kind of countermeasures are here if you can read it (or use an online translation service). A towed decoy can be considered to be a lure, but towed between missile and target it can also trigger the missile fuse at a safe distance (even if the missile is locked on the aircraft).
**: Such an installation could still defeat threats coming from below; simply roll the aircraft. The advantage of topside is that the field of view would not be obstructed by external payloads, the laser might be used as emitter for laser-based SATCOM and the topside is a less troublesome regarding the RCS of LO aircraft.


German politics (2018)

German politics appear to keep shifting, albeit slowly. The old extreme form of stability of the Kohl era is gone, nowadays parties can lose giant chunks of their base in a few years, or multiply their votes for no apparent reason.

Here's my summary of the current situation:

Still the biggest party, and apparently the only one that still maintains the "Volkspartei" reputation; trying to represent (almost) everyone, in principle electable for all population groups (though the "C" as "Christlich"/"Christian" is a bit of a deterrent to non-Christian people of faith). They are still allied with the CSU and thus present only in the 15 states where there's no CSU.
The CDU is facing three fundamental issues:
1) An entire generation of politicians who want to get rid of the career glass ceiling that's the Merkel establishment.
2) Voters who slowly notice that the CDU didn't solve a single problem since the early 90's.*
3) The CDU is not seeking to trigger, magnify and exploit fears among the electorate due to the "Volkspartei" approach, or at least not much. Their half-assed exploitations of the organised crime, terrorist, salafist, Reichsbürger (anarchists), Identitäre (neonazis) and paedophiles bogeymen is peanuts compared to the staple of fearmongering, scaremongering and hatemongering that conservatives exploit in many other Western countries. This leaves opportunities to other right wing parties.
In regard to military affairs it's noteworthy that soem CDU politicians haven't really gone past the end of the conscription. That topic was brought up again, but I don't think it will go anywhere. Keep in mind it was brought up during the low news summertime.

Bavarians, the Texans of Germany. The CSU is present in but one of 16 states, and though quite competent at governing it (some corruption in the CSU is completely understandable given that they governed Bavaria for 60 years without any other government ever cleaning up).
They share issue #1 with the internal opponents of Merkel, do not share issue #2 with the CDU (I don't like many of their policies, but they do occasionally solve or even prevent problems) and they understood issue #3. The CSU has a history of loudmouth and aggressive behaviour anyway, so exploitation of fearfulness is second nature to them.

These supposed social democrats are rather Blairites and as far as I can tell nobody seems to consider them to be champions of the poor and lower middle class any more. The entire party's existence appears to be due to inertia, and it's withering away rapidly. The left wing of the party deserted in disgust of Schröder's policies long ago (mostly to LINKE and greens, I think), and the remnants have hardly anything to offer to anyone. Regardless of who you are; you can find a party that represents you better than the SPD. I suppose that almost all of the remaining SPD voters vote for the SPD out of habit or because they know some particularly convincing SPD politician.

The greens have a reputation as a party of academics rather than as an environmental protection party nowadays.
They keep shooting themselves in the foot by means of their reflexive siding with minorities and thus with what's in English widely called "social justice warriors". There's hardly ever any underdog or minority that the German greens do not side with, which doesn't exactly sound like smart politics. They could probably be a 30...40% party nation-wide if they hadn't this "pro-minority" reflex. They're still doing quite fine, as they don't have many no-go issues for voters save for the reflexive siding with minorities. In fact, they are en route to become the biggest party in some particularly wealthy areas and appear to become the second-largest party in some more states. Their minority focus may actually fade as and if they grow into a "Volkspartei".

They are liberals in the literal sense (not "liberals" = social democrats, as in the U.S.), and this party of liberals is extremely close to "business", not at all close to "employees" or even "unemployed people". They could have joined the governing coalition, but bailed out of the coalition talks for still not really publicly understood reasons. The FDP is notable for its extreme volatility. Anything ranging from not passing the 5% threshold and thus not entering the Bundestag up to 20% of the Bundestag seats appears possible with the FDP.
Politically they do little but providing stalwart defenders of civil rights and rule of law for the ministers of justice offices and helping the wealthy and rich.
Corruption may be at work in the background; the party has some extreme finance issues and some of their pro-business policies such as the infamous VAT tax break for hotels were fishy.

They're dead. They didn't get their internal party workings right and eventually failed for good in elections.

The one relevant left wing party. They're in governing coalitions in some Eastern states, but at the federal level they haven't been in power ever and thus bathe comfortably in ideological purity, which makes them quite insufferable to most people regardless of how well they point out actual problems of workers, retirees and unemployed people. The orthodoxy wing appears to be winning against internal efforts to steer towards 'realpolitik'. I suppose they won't become part of a governing coalition at the federal level unless they would be needed to keep neonazis from power (which won't happen). Last but not least, their majority loves to side with minorities.

Founded as a party with a weird predominance of economics professors that rebelled against the common European currency and CDU inactivity, they suffered two waves of hostile takeovers first by the far right and then by the even farther right. Nowadays they're still maintaining a minimal deniability regarding their neonazi party nature, but that may break away any time. Ever since the takeovers they went all-in on fearmongering and exploitation of fears, but most of them are stupid enough to be true believers. Those are no cynical politicians who exploit fears of dumb people to gain power and then redistribute income from the middle class to the rich.
They have the stable roughly 4-6% neonazis-in-Germany base plus a fluctuating and not really predictable base of protest voters. Anything ranging from 4-20% of the vote seems possible for them, and 6-16% is probably what one should expect in the next elections.
The AfD could easily collapse from infighting or if some other party succeeds at attracting the protest voters (the Realpolitik wing of the far left tries such a thing). Fearmongering is always possible, so actually solving any issues that the AfD fearmongers about is rather not going to make it go away. Nor should any sensible person expect a fearmongering-based party to actually solve any problems; to solve actual problems would debase the party (which discourages the not-so-true believers), and all-too often the fearmongering isn't about real problems anyway.

Polls about how many votes the parties would get if there were federal elections next Sunday:
The next federal elections will be no later than 2021, but the elections in the states could in the meantime change the 2nd chamber of the parliament (the Bundesrat), which has powers in regard to legislation that burdens the states.

There's no sensible coalition in sight that would address real issues with real, competent reforms. I suppose that Germany is going to enter the 2020's on autopilot.


S O,

*: This is but a slight exaggeration.
A top CDU politician, Schäuble, recently said in an interview: "Wenn die jungen Leute sich nicht wehren gegen uns Alte, dann geht es schief. Wir Alte können bei jedem Problem gut erklären, warum eine Lösung im Prinzip nicht möglich ist." (Something goes wrong if the young people don't push back against us old ones. We old [politicians] can explain for every problem why a solution isn't possible in principle.")
THIS is the problem with the CDU conservatives in power in Germany: They don't think that problems can be solved, thus they don't try to solve any problems. Why don't they think that problems can be solved? Well, many problems could be solved by accepting some other, smaller problem to pop up. That would be an improvement (just as buying food solves the hunger problem, but costs money), and it's also a change. Those people are real conservatives; they abhor change. Thus they cannot solve problems whenever this requires change.
Again; German CDU conservatives are real conservatives; they don't want change. Just stay the course. They're not like American conservatives who want radical change towards some unworkable 1920's gilded age-like fantasyland.


War as a continuation of policy? (II)

The first part showed that CvC did not cover all political motivations for waging war; war isn't always about making others yield to your demands.

I suppose he wasn't able to fully describe the core of the nature of war because he looked at it from the wrong angle.

CvC looked at what could be achieved through warfare.

He should have been aware that only a small minority of those princes who waged war in his era and earlier eras actually achieved much or anything by waging war.

War is worse than a zero sum game; it first reducing the cake, and then presumably changes who gets how large a share of it. That's because warfare is destructive, not constructive.

You don't win it by competing about who can build something quicker or drive down illiteracy or child mortality rates the quickest. Instead, it's about destroying, killing, maiming and taking away.
It should be deeply unintuitive to think of it in a 'who achieved what' framework.

Instead, let's look at the true nature to describe and understand what war really is.

War is the absence of peace. This sounds trivial, but it isn't.

Humans are a social species. We're not loners who only meet up for mating as many other species do. The burdens of late pregnancy and of the long upringing of children to the point where they are self-reliant (producing more than consuming) are so heavy that humans need to stick together to afford them, and accordingly need to be able to coexist in proximity to each other (in a social group).

Nature has prepared us well for life in small clans, and such small groups have an easy time maintaining good enough relations to other insular clans for evolutionarily advantageous interbreeding. Evolution did also prepare us to fight other groups / clans to gain or protect access to essential resources (and sometimes also fight for breeding opportunities as described in the legend of the Sabian women, for example).

Evolution did not optimise us for life in megacities, and the understanding of a nation of millions to billions of people as the own community is overburdening many human minds as well. They think of smaller groups as their own community (or focus on the looks of people), and refuse to feel kinship to more or less arbitrarily defined "others" even in their own "nation". This refusal to accept fellow nationals as kin undermines the illusion of a nation, and thus the effective working of that illusion. It's truly unpatriotic, as true patriotism is all about bolstering the notion of national community and kinship.

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It's culture that allows us to nevertheless function as larger communities, even as nations - without too many destructive conflicts with each other. Culture even allows us to maintain peace with other groups (clans / nations); the highest level of culture is probably international law.

War is essentially a slip from this peaceful coexistence. It's a slip that allows us -in narrowly defined ways- to cease being social and instead start killing and generally display destructive behaviour. It's a relaxation of cultural norms that enable us to live in a community (of nations). This release can be fun especially to men, who once in a while plainly enjoy to destroy things (even blow them up) - just as a 3-year-old prefers destroying toy block towers over building them.*

War - the absence of peace - is a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction (of what's not yours).

This relaxation of cultural taboos doesn't necessarily have a real objective.

It may happen because those in positions of extraordinary power did let their guard down and did simply not maintain the taboo. The German government of 1914-1918 could not point out what exactly Germany was fighting a bloody war for, for example. There was no approved, much less communicated, list of objectives or demands against the Western Entente powers. Demands were made up for the Russian government only when the Russian forces began to fail. War had happened because peace wasn't protected. The cultural taboo of killing and destroying was not maintained.

There are wars in which openly communicated and/or secret lists of demands existed, but they're merely one subset of all wars. The demands were not necessarily the reason for or cause of war.

War is first and foremost a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction. Warfare goes on until all sides re-established this taboo (or escaped** or were eliminated), not necessarily until at least one side yields to demands of at least one other side.

The whole 'war as continuation of policy with different means' way of thinking frames war as an activity pursued to achieve something. Achievement is the exception; net achievement (actually "winning" as "gaining") is extremely difficult because of the destructive rather than productive / constructive nature of warfare. The framing doesn't properly describe war.
I claim with great confidence that less than half of all powers participating in all of mankind's wars have actually achieved more than lost. To think of warfare in the framework of achievement is about as much a folly as to think about betting in a state lottery in the framework of winning.

The "achievement" framework is deceiving, leading to a misunderstanding of the nature of war. It's not even a satisfactory description of the mere political purpose of war.


**: This applies to nomadic people and those who migrated (such as the Goths) to evade an enemy. 


War as a continuation of policy? (I)


"At the decisive battle of Fleurus on 26 June 1794 the Austrians even began by launching a series of assaults which, after a very hard-fought day, held the French to at least a draw. However, the Austrian commander then consulted his secret political orders and realized that he had no need to fight at all. Tired of the game, he retreated without being forces to do so. (It transpired that the core Austrian war aim was to allow the French to capture Belgium so that the Austrians - through the arcane workings of 18th-century diplomatic logic - would be awarded Bavaria as compensation. Oddly, in the event they weren't.)"
"French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815", by Paddy Griffith

This is a curious episode.
On the one hand it supports von Clausewitz' conclusion that war(fare) is the extension of policy. On the other hand it adds to the cases that do not align with his conclusion that the aim in warfare is to disarm the political opponent in order to force him to yield to your demands.

Other examples where this conclusion isn't confirmed are wars of extinction (such as many of the Indian Wars in North America or the hunt for anyone loosely affiliated with AQ) and a couple wars that happened for no other reason than revenge or payback for insult. It's also very much possible that the Franco-German war of 1870/1871 was at least initially about unifying Germany (minus Austria; "kleindeutsche Lösung") rather than the eventually huge French reparations.

The question of the objective of warfare is one of the weakest spots in Carl von Clausewitz' theoretical work.*


*: Let's ignore his brain-melting terrible grammar and non-existing prosaic qualities here.
He would never be this popular if the people actually read his works at length. I'll happily read "the art of war" for the 10th or "Principles of War" for the 5th time, but certainly never read my "Vom Kriege" edition a second time from front to back! I heard it's going to be translated to yet another language from the German original, and I pity the translator.


Link dump August 2018

I saw some bloggers scaremongering about China's "expansion" by military basing etc.. I had to think of these:

(the use of the NATO symbol isn't quite accurate, of course)

(a few locations are inaccurate, but the overall picture is valid)
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The government of Israel has been accused of having Apartheid policies that discriminate against Arabs in Israel, and its response was to make exactly that -an Israeli version of Apartheid- official policy.

There was the nice idea of clash of civilisations and victory of Western liberalism in the 90's. Sadly, it was utterly incorrect. The "West" is now littered with non-Western countries that substantially deviate from Western values:
  • Hungary (approaching "controlled democracy"),
  • Israel (Apartheid light, routine disregard of international norms),
  • Poland (undermined judiciary branch),
  • Turkey (de facto "controlled democracy" by now, close to theocracy),
  • United States (torture is considered debatable, capital punishment, partially turned away from enlightenment and science, government favours zero-sum games over cooperation, head of government and state openly favours dictators, routine disregard of international norms, racist politics, federal government demagoguery against the press).
Two of them are in the EU and three of them are in NATO, undermining these organisations' claims and pretensions of being champions of Western values.

Additionally, one should pay attention to the future trajectories of the two important countries UK (disengaging from cooperation, xenophobic campaigns) and Japan (still has capital punishment, intensifying nationalism/jingoism). Furthermore, Italy could turn for the worse at any time considering its media concentration, nationalist to fascist political parties, unsolved organised crime issues and economic & fiscal instability.
France deserves mention for its drift towards state of emergency-ish legislation. (This is a quite widepread issue, though. Germany still has laws in effect that were meant to counter the RAF in the 70's. Such anti-terror and anti-organised crime laws should always have a limited duration, and should not be extended without an intense public debate).

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"Russia admits defeat on its 'stealth' F-35 killer by canceling mass production of the Su-57 fighter jet"
Alex Lockie, Business Insider

The issues regarding the Su-57's (lack of radar) stealth - especially the lack of s-ducts - were discussed in public. The Su-57's radar cross section is probably in between the Rafale and Chinese LO jets. It would be a huge development if Russia gives up competing in combat aircraft technology for the 2020's and 2030's. Their current arsenal isn't superior to the European arsenal and is projected to fall behind (further). To give up on competitiveness in such a critical field as air combat would be a strong signal that Russia is no conventional threat to NATO in the 2020's, and Western efforts to introduce the next combat aircraft generation in the 2030's may actually be on time.
Then again, maybe they simply give up on symmetric competition and expect more from a dissimilar air war force consisting of area air defences, surface-to-surface missiles and drones?


I suppose they either understood that the economic realities are keeping them from healthy great power status (=a success of sanctions?) or they follow indeed a very unconventional route.

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I hope it's OK I quote them at this length:
"Prior to and during the NATO summit, there was much hand-wringing over member states’ military spending as a share of GDP. Each member is expected to increase its spending to 2% of GDP by 2024, but Trump seems to think that this already should have been done. And at the summit last week, he suddenly called for a new target of 4% of GDP—which is more than even the United States spends. (...) But this attitude changed in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and launched secretive military incursions into Eastern Ukraine. (...) More fundamentally, Trump’s complaint that the US is shouldering an unfair share of the burden for NATO’s collective defence is dubious. While the US military budget equals roughly 72% of combined defence spending by all NATO member states, roughly three-quarters of US military spending is directed towards regions other than Europe. Around half of the US defence budget is spent on maintaining a presence in the Pacific, and another quarter is spent on operations in the Middle East, strategic nuclear command and control, and other areas.
Moreover, although the US has increased its defence outlays in Europe substantially over the past few years, it is worth remembering that most US forces and facilities there are actually focused on the geostrategic arc from India to South Africa. With facilities such as Ramstein (...), the US has long used Europe as a staging ground (...). And the early-warning and surveillance facilities that the US maintains (...) are there to defend the continental US, not Europe.
The fact is that total European defence spending is (...) roughly twice what Russia spends on defence (...). The critical importance of US command, control and intelligence forces in Europe (...) should at least be put into perspective. Although the US Army recently rotated heavy brigades through Europe for military exercises, its permanently stationed troops are equipped only for limited interventions."
"The end of NATO?", Carl Bildt, The Strategist (ASPI)

A fascinating description of the astonishing quality that side looking airborne radars had in mapping and moving target indicator modes during the 1960's already. I'm not sure what they were used for (maybe monitoring the Ho Chi Minh trail), but such technology was extremely handy for reconnaissance of hostile road marches in the often very cloudy Central European weather. The RF-4s had a less capable SLAR since the 1960's (they were probably meant for Central Europe) while the normal reconnaissance aircraft such as Mirage III 'R' series had little more to offer than Mk.1 eyeballs, radio and photochemical cameras.
Regrettably, my knowledge of 1950's to 1970's aerial reconnaissance technology still isn't exactly a strong point of mine. I'm not aware of any good literature on the subject

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"Godzilla on World Tour"

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It's the "Short Airfield for Tactical Support" (SATS). I never understood why this approach (or a ski jump + arresting gear combo) wasn't used a lot during the Cold War when everyone was (correctly) fearing that one's airbases would be destroyed in the event of war. Ski jumps reduce the take-off runway length requirement by half. Land catapults reduce the need to less than 600 m and arresting gears reduce the landing runway length requirement to less than the take-off requirement (and rejected landing would be helped much by a ski jump).

A ski jump for airfields is no particularly heavy or demanding design and I suppose it would take but two 15 ton 8x8 vehicles to recover, transport and install such a ski jump.

The runway length required for take-off with a ski jump is furthermore quite similar to the runway length required for landing with thrust reversers AFAIK. Thrust reversers appear to have fallen out of fashion just like variable geometry wings, though. Nowadays you want a thrust vectoring nozzle or a stealthy nozzle, not a thrust reversing nozzle on a combat aircraft.

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The Americans had similar EW helicopters much later (among the EH-60 versions), but their approach to standoff jamming appears to be mostly reliant on fixed wing aviation. This makes sense if you want to support strike packages far away from friendly terrain (the Russians also had standoff jamming fixed wing aircraft), while EW helicopters make a lot of sense if you think continentally.
Such helicopters can start their engines, fly for a couple km distance at treetop altitude, climb to operating altitude 30...60 seconds, jam for a few minutes, descend to treetop altitude, return, land, stop the rotors and are mostly safe from air threats unless some airborne radar tracked them. That would typically be some hostile AEW, but those could be jammed by ground-based jammers. So in the end a sufficiently sophisticated combined arms effort could actually keep such helicopters quite survivable and they in turn could keep some strike fighters alive while they knock out radar-dependent air defences.

Some more about the Mi-8 ELINT versions: http://www.16va.be/4.5_les_mi-8_part6_eng.html

About AEW jammers: example here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krasukha_(electronic_warfare_system) IIRC the claimed footprint (area protected against radar observation) is about 50 km radius for Russian anti-AWACS and anti-J-STARS jammers.



The early FRG Luftwaffe

I read a book about the history of the (West) German air force in 1950-1970 recently. The corresponding military history book about the army in 1950-1970 was very interesting. I can summarise this Luftwaffe 1950-1970 history book for you:

Nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, *breathing* nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes, nukes.
And then some considerations about organisational issues and such, but seemingly mostly about nukes.

Seriously; the two main themes of the Luftwaffe in those early years were the "strike" role  (nuking targets especially in Eastern Europe, primarily using F-104s) and stopping about 95% of all red strike bombers (presumably mostly with Nike Hercules and HAWK missiles, since even F-104G would rarely intercept in time) before they destroyed our strike assets on the ground.
Both were utterly stupid, nonsensical ideas for a long list of reasons each */**.

A single hardware argument sufficed as a knockout argument against both roles at once; ballistic missiles reached their targets with a nuclear warhead at all relevant ranges, and were impossible to intercept under wartime conditions. They were furthermore practically impossible to destroy prior to their launch except with strategic surprise, and aircraft on airbases would have suffered from such an attack even more.

The F-104s, HAWK and Nike Hercules batteries constituted almost the entire combat power of the Luftwaffe by the late 60's, so almost the entire Luftwaffe followed an idiotic design.

This isn't really about hindsight; the basics about ballistic missiles were understood early on. The mistakes made were utterly ordinary and plausible ones:
A Luftwaffe dominated by pilots was able to understand the capabilities of ballistic missiles, but not willing to yield to the conclusions. Second, they were fascinated by the destructive power of nuclear warheads and simply had not thought the whole World War Three thing through.***

The book mentions  that the young new pilots weren't too much irritated when an exercise demanded them to nuke an airfield right next to an East German town. The more mature senior officers may have expected more scruple from them, but they themselves failed to have enough scruple and to think rationally about nuclear warfare at their level. The understanding of nuclear war appears to have remained patchy instead of being clear and calling for clear, sweeping consequences.

In other words: The early FRG Luftwaffe did not serve the people, it was full of shit. We were really lucky that we got through the Cold War alive with such dumb Cold Warriors. I don't even blame these officers; I blame those who allowed such men to be in such positions. More mature men with more analytical minds were needed. The ones who ran the early FRG Luftwaffe were former nazi air force generals and former nazi ace fighter pilots; neither did a good job.

The more history I learn about the Cold War the more I get convinced that the reason for why the Warsaw Pact never attacked wasn't our deterrence, but that the pseudocommunists were not all that motivated to conquer Western Europe to begin with.


*: Strike was nonsense: It was all-or-nothing deterrence, and its employment in actual war would have led to the destruction of the German nation. Ballistic missiles were more reliable means. Ballistic missiles were not dependent on long runways. BMs could be dispersed for survivability in times of crisis or war. BMs were single purpose (de facto nuke only), so they didn't suffer from attrition in a conventional role until used for nuclear strike (quite a concern with the Starfighters). Many nuclear strike targets (and most tactical nuclear strike targets) were on German soil, those missions would have been perverse.
**: Radars of the time didn't reliably detect strike bombers below 1,000 ft, so intercept was nonsense. Strike bombers at Mach 2 and at very high altitude were almost impossible to intercept with the required reliability. Surface-to-air area defence missiles (Nike Hercules, HAWK) were considered the mainstay of bomber interception, but they were easily saturated, due to their de facto or complete static setup easily targeted (similar to what happened to Egyptian SA-6 late in the Yom Kippur War), and the missiles were initially useless below 1,000 ft especially in the hilly Southern Germany. Missile stocks would have been expended in less than an hour of intense defence. Starfighters had a radar, but it wasn't very good and indeed useless against low-flying aircraft at night. There were SAM belt gaps in the north at sea. The SAM systems could be defeated by jamming. Nike Hercules wasn't really effective without using a fallout-producing 2 kt or bigger nuke of its own against incoming bombers. HAWK didn't reach up high enough; all combat aircraft were able to overfly its engagement zone.
The nonsense was clearly to hope for an almost impenetrable shield that would protect the strike assets till they take off to their strike missions. All that SAM belt effort was thus meant to partially compensate for the wrong choice of strike platform; BMs would not have needed that kind of protection. The way to go was to think about air superiority; exchange ratios should have been at the centre instead of '% of strike bombers stopped on their first sortie'.
***: They weren't exactly intellectuals and seemed to have overemphasised the protection of Germany from being a conventional battlefield, at the expense of risking it would become an uninhabitable nuclear battlefield.


Russia's moderate wars

None of the originally envisaged texts is ready for primetime, so let's ponder a bit about something that's more important anyway:

Russia employs a completely different idea of warfare than the West does.

Western wars have had maximalist objectives ever since the neocons couldn't stop whining about a supposedly "incomplete" job on Iraq in 1991. The objectives were maximalist ever since, and the missions kept being renewed or replaced.

We weren't satisfied by Yugoslavia toning down its measures against UCK rebels in Kosovo; we had to rip Kosovo out of Yugoslavia, and then kept it occupied it. Kosovo is occupied to this day, by about 4,000 NATO-led troops even though there's no real risk of Serbia trying to invade and annex Kosovo.

It wasn't enough to defeat the government that gave sanctuary to the terrorist who had motivated and supported the mostly Saudi 9/11 terrorists. Ordinarily, wars where you have an issue with a government and its actions end when you have destroyed the former and ended the latter. No, in the case of Afghanistan we had to launch a 17+ year occupation, install an utterly corrupt new government and pretend that not only the actual terrorist group, but also the political faction that once had given it sanctuary would have to go extinct. Except next door in Pakistan, of course. There they could dwell for eternity, which of course eliminated the prospect of it ever going extinct. The de facto mission wasn't only maximalist, but also obviously impossible to accomplish. A recipe for a never-ending involvement in a distant civil war.

It wasn't enough that Iraq had lost most of its conventional military power in 1991-1996 and had its NBC programs disassembled, with frequent and intrusive inspections. It just had to be destroyed as a government. And then be occupied for 13 years.

Daesh? Had to be destroyed. It wasn't enough to simply tip the scales towards their destruction - they had to be destroyed (in Syria, where the real deal sat), and several cities with them. Of course, the Western troops weren't withdrawn from Syria because the West is really crappy at getting stuff wrapped up, ever.

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Let's compare Russian warfare: They, too, have their neverending missions (Abkhazia, South Ossetia), but their objectives aren't that maximalist (except in the Crimea).

They didn't rip Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia - even in the moment of total Georgian defeat in 2008 Putin didn't move his troops into Tiflis, forcing the Georgian government to cede those territories into independence.

Crimea was invaded and annexed, alright - but Donbass was but invaded, not annexed. And the war in Donbass was fought with some restraint by Russia. Russia could have used its air force for air/ground attacks - it didn't. Russia could have gone for Kiev and taken it, and dictate a peace treaty - it didn't. Russia could have gone all-in with its conventional forces in the area - instead, it rotates its forces in and out. The Neocons would have annexed not only Crimea, but also Donbass by now - and they would have installed some puppet in Kiev, maybe even helped it to maintain power with an occupation force of 100,000+, calling on CIS governments for auxiliary forces.

Russia's involvement in Syria appears to tip the scales in Assad's favour, but it's far from all that Russia could do. Russia did not send a single brigade of ground forces, and it could muster much more ground attack aircraft. It didn't even only bring much artillery to the fight.

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Russia certainly has less resources and much greater security challenges at home than the U.S. or even NATO as a whole, but the pattern of limited objectives doesn't seem to be explained by resources alone. This is most evident in Georgia (though that episode may have been unintended as a whole).

There's no extremist or maximalist faction comparable to the Neocons steering Russian foreign policy. The whole pattern rather looks like typical great power games, with a certain emphasis on the own periphery. That emphasis is often interpreted as Putin intending to re-create the Soviet Union (or Russian Empire). I have written such an interpretation before myself, and it makes a lot of sense from the partisan view of NATO and EU; better safe than sorry regarding the Baltic members.

Yet we might actually see a Russia that's -at least under Putin- not maximalist or extremist in regard to war as we in the West have become used to be under the influence of American extremism since 2001. It may be all about playing great power games instead, which opens the door for entirely different dissuasion efforts to succeed.

One example is that we could threaten a set back in one of their great power games (such as helping Georgia to push out Russians from Abkhazia and South Ossetia) as countermeasure to some new Russian aggression elsewhere. This would be considerably less promising if imperial restoration was really the end goal, for then it might escalate the conflict into a stupid Russian attempt to gain everything desired in one war.